Tuesday, February 10, 2015

life missions, life paths: who's to judge?

Mormons are among the most likely to believe that one true religion exists, but also that those outside their faith can attain salvation or reach “heaven.”
The scholars behind the study conclude that while many American religions make claims to being exclusively “true,” few religionists in the United States actually believe that “one true religion” exists. Of all American faiths, Mormons are most likely to affirm that there is a “true” faith (546). However, in what might seem a paradox to those unfamiliar with Mormonism, study data also indicate that while many Mormons believe that there is a “true” religion, Mormons are also the most convinced of any group that those outside their faith — including non-Christians — can “go to heaven” or gain salvation (535-537). While this belief is general among American believers, it is, according to the study, strongest among Latter-day Saints.
- Major New Study of Religion Has Much to Say About Mormons

It is really easy, once you've found some Truth, to start assuming that everyone needs it and everyone needs it right now in just the way you think.

Divine path. From here.
I have been this way a lot over my lifetime myself. It's hard to find something you believe is True and not want everyone to believe the same thing. And yet, not everyone's path is the same when it comes to things that are True.

As an example, I had a friend who studied the gospel, decided she believed, and prayed about it--only to be told not to pursue baptism until her mother decided to be baptized too. Her mom was not open to the idea of baptism at the time. When my friend told me about God's response to her prayer, I thought: no way. The Holy Ghost doesn't just tell people not to get baptized right away. God wants everyone baptized RIGHT NOW! And so I just assumed in my heart that my friend was being misled.

Of course, she wasn't. God's ways are higher than our ways, by a lot. In the end, her mother did get baptized before she did. And it was a beautiful thing and happened just the way God surely planned that it would. I had just been too small minded to realize that everyone's path is different.

Everyone's path is different.

I believe that everyone is led to what they are ready for. The gospel teaches that numberless amounts of God's children will not choose Him in the end. But I suspect the Holy Ghost and other unseen helpers are still leading those people to as much light as those people are willing to receive. Not everyone wants a Mormon lifestyle. Not everyone wants a celestial afterlife. God is happy to lead those people to as much as they're willing to receive (see D&C 88:32).

I bring this all up because I feel that it is important not to judge others for the paths they are walking. You might disagree with someone's path, but that doesn't mean it is inherently wrong, or inherently wrong for them. God works in mysterious ways. He knows more than we know. And even among faithful members of the church, people have widely varying life missions, and that is okay.

Divine path. From here.
One person's mission might be to be a voice of comfort. Another person's mission might be to spread the cry repentance. Another person's mission might be to be a voice of warning. Another mission might be to reach out to the poor and needy. We are all called to do many things--no one's mission is ONLY to cry repentance and never to reach out to others in kindness and love, for example--but at the same time, the Bible has that beautiful passage about the Church being the body of Christ, and every different part having a different mission and yet being indispensable. See 1 Corinthians 12:12-27.

Do the hands of Christ's body respect the bowels? Do the feet respect the elbows? Does the stomach respect the knee? Not all missions seem equally glamorous, but they can all still be valid. The stomach might sit there and look at the foot and judge it for walking instead of digesting, but that doesn't mean either part is doing a wrong or unnecessary thing. It means that their missions are different and sometimes from one perspective one mission looks lamer or worse or even unnecessary in comparison to the other.

We are the body of Christ. Do we all treat
each other's assignments appropriately?
Image here.
I think of our many modern prophets, and how varied their messages have been, even as they stay the same on matters of doctrine. Some prophets focus on missionary work and some focus on love, some focus on matters of political and spiritual freedom, some focus on matters of tolerances and bridging ideological gaps. Their different focuses don't make each other wrong; it just goes to show that two inspired people can be called to speak and write about things of the Lord, and He will use them and their strengths to accomplish His various purposes.

Which is another important thing. The Lord has various purposes. It is this way for a reason. That's why you might get one bishop who focuses heavily on addressing pornography addiction week after week in church, or you might get one who doesn't ever talk about that but who talks a lot about the importance of the pure love of Christ instead. It doesn't mean one bishop is necessarily less inspired than another; people are all just on different paths.

I'll admit it can be frustrating when it feels like you have something True and other people are just plain not interested, or don't take it seriously, or are just not as good about it as you are. But what I am learning is that it's almost impossible to judge accurately on whether or not another person is doing what is appropriate for their life plan or not.

I got a blessing last night that was very clear about the importance of not taking other people's opinions of my life path too seriously. I think that probably goes for everyone. You should obviously pray about it. But in the end, the two authorities on your life are you and God. Period.

That doesn't excuse us from looking at ourselves honestly and taking criticism objectively. But it does mean that before we take the opinions of others too seriously, we should take those opinions to God first.


1. Everyone is walking a different path. Life paths tend to not make sense even to the people whose paths they are: who are we to judge if they are walking their path appropriately or not?

2. Following the Spirit looks different for everyone. The Spirit might lead one person to do one thing, and another person to do another thing. That doesn't mean that anyone is necessarily wrong. Sometimes what looks like a series of uninspired decisions from the outside can actually be the complete opposite. God knows what we need; pretty much anyone else's opinion is imperfectly informed.

3. It's important to take criticism of our lives as honestly and objectively as possible, while remembering that the true authority on the matter is always God, and no one else.

1 comment:

  1. This is so good! From a different angle I think it's important to remember to not judge ourselves for not being on a path we would prefer to be on. Sometime I look at people (maybe like you) and get down on myself because I'm not "as advanced" or "gifted". But I have to remember that God has different intentions and purposes for me right now. i think you're awesome! And I wish there was a "like" button on blogs so you would know that I read and enjoy even when I don't comment. :)