Luxuriating in Lies

I've noticed something huge that I haven't really seen before and I think it's a real problem...for me, for you, for Latter-day Saints as a people.

You see, we Latter-day Saints have lots of standards and commandments that number beyond the don'ts.  We have so many truths that, if truly believed, necessitate a change in the believer.  We have a covenanted responsibility to allow them to change us; to change our thoughts.  To change our behaviors.

Catholic Sister Estrada writes,"Belief begets behavior."  To this statement I would add the caveat, incorporated belief begets behavior.  Why the caveat?  Well, excuse me for the blunt delivery, but we Latter-day Saints are not the people that we should be, given the beliefs we proclaim.  Either we don't really believe these things or we have built mechanisms for excusing our meandering behaviors.

So, this is the crux of the problem:  I really am not positing that Latter-day Saints don't believe our most beloved truths.*  What I am asking is this:

What are the stories we tell ourselves to make our actions compliant with our stated values?

Let me illustrate my point with a fictional hypothetical:  Imagine a faithful person who believes in the value of and truthfulness of the principle of prayer.  This person is faithful; this person loves their God.  This person has had several experiences wherein the truth of prayer has been made manifest.  And yet still, this person does not pray in the morning before leaving their home.  This person crawls into bed without kneeling unto their God. The morning negligences, perhaps, are explained away by saying they are too busy; the evenings, too tired.  

Now, let me ask this:  Does the failure to actually engage in prayer indicate this person does not believe in prayer?  Maybe, maybe not.  It certainly does not invalidate their evidences of prayer as true.  They may, however, have an imperfect understanding.  

That being said, I have another question:  What about the excuses leveraged to explain away these behaviors?  Is this person actually too busy or are they prioritizing their mornings in such a way that makes it seem like there is no time to engage in prayer?  Is this person actually too tired, or rather neglecting to get on their knees before their eyes become weighted with fatigue?  

And, perhaps more importantly, what role do these explanations play in keeping us safe and comfortable in our errant behavior?  Asked in another way:  am I, as a believing Latter-day Saint, unthinkingly telling myself lies so that I can justify increasingly imperfect behavior?

If the answer is no, then that's wonderful!  But, we still have to explain our behaviors clearly not founded in the Truth.  

If the answer is yes, then... then we have a lot of work to do, individually and as a community.  The discomfort of our sins prick us to change.  The whole repentance process is about seeking out the behaviors that are not in line with our Gospel beliefs and forsaking them.  Here, in this instance, though, we find ourselves sitting quite comfortably in our sins, thereby robbing the Spirit, the light of Christ and the consequences of misdeeds from making us uncomfortable.  The danger of unintentionally, unthinkingly rationalizing noncompliant behavior is that we have no motivation to change.  To become like Christ. 

What's the solution?  Well, I don't really know.  My solution might not be yours, because you and I?  We're very different people.  I think that only the Godhead really knows how to change us.  A thought, though - or, perhaps a starting point - might be this:  when we're not doing the things that we should be, whatever those things are, let us ask ourselves why.  Why am I not doing FHE?  Why am I not praying?  Why am I not reading my Scriptures?  Whatever it may be, ask why? and then really, truly look at the answer you give.  Can I ever really consistently not have time for something?

The point is not to fit the Gospel into our lives, but to fit our lives into the Gospel.

*I wrote about a similar topic last year, and I think I got it wrong.  In this post, I asked whether we just think we believe or whether we cognitively understand doctrines, but don't actually believe them.  While I think there's something there, some principle that can help us to examine our beliefs, I think that I only got half of the solution.  The other half is what I talk about here.


Merinmel Caesg said...

My comments here are offered in a spirit of sincerity and conversation, and not contention.

The first image/thought that came to mind while reading this posting was of sitting in a meeting listening as a Relief Society President explained her concern for the women of our ward. "As a Relief Society President," she explained, "the way that I listen to Testimony meetings has shifted. So many of the girls expressed feelings of insufficiency. I trust they are working hard. I want them to feel like they are good enough."

Which then brings me to an affirmation learned in an MFHD course, "I am enough, and there is more."

I would alter your statement, "The point is not to fit the Gospel into our lives, but to fit our lives into the Gospel." I would instead seek the navigations and tuggings of a paradox: "The point is to fit the Gospel into our lives and to fit our lives into the Gospel."

Lauren Kay said...

Merinmel, thanks for your comment! I absolutely understand where you're coming from. I think, though, that there's a fine balance between assuring ourselves of our sufficiency before the Lord and excusing our actions, which are absolutely within our control and changeable. Regular readers of my blog know that I am very much in favor of each of us recognizing and realizing our divine potential...but that I also am not afraid of asking the tough questions that might help us get there.

I agree that I am enough, that you are enough, the each of us is enough. I am more wary, however, of the complacency that might come with feeling utterly and completely satisfied with our efforts. The prophets of old and of modern-day are here to urge us to recognize our goodness and spur our continuing change, repentance and spiritual growth.

Merinmel Caesg said...

"I am more wary, however, of the complacency that might come with feeling utterly and completely satisfied with our efforts."

I think this is where we differ. I don't feel that I've met many people who are truly complacent. More common is folks whose priorities differ from mine.

I think we agree at root and are looking to the same goal. Just choose to err on the side of caution in different directions, perhaps?

Merinmel Caesg said...

edit: I realized that was incomplete. Fear is the other thing I see around me. Folks whose priorities differ from mine and/or who are afraid. (Of course, either or both of these can apply to me, depending on who I am meeting with and what we are discussing.)

Anyhow, edit is to say, the reason I choose to err on the side of caution that I do is because time and again whenever I feel someone is complacent, once I get to know them I find that what I first viewed as complacency was actually either a sincere difference in priorities or the seeming complacency was driven by fear. I feel this is especially true in my interactions with our LDS culture.

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