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This morning I came across a notion expressed by an LDS member, positing that the poor have a better chance at learning wisdom and love because of their economic and social position.
I would like to respond to that idea here.
As much as the idea of the noble, happy poor is appealing to me and as much as I hope for the happiness of the vast majority of the world's population living in relative poverty, I think the idea that having no social or material capital helps us misses the fundamentals.
On the contrary, it is agency that opportunes us to choose wisdom and love, and in many cases poverty has a strong inverse relationship with agency.
Think about the majority of impoverished globally, who wash their own clothes by hand: what happens to the mother who can use a machine? She has more time, her family has more time. Maybe she can read and then change her world with what she reads.
Before she has a machine she has less choice and after she has a washing machine she has more choices. She now has to trade off less of material advantages and necessities if she chooses to spend time reading, to herself or anyone else.
Thus material advantages allow a person the chance to make more decisions, to exercise power in more ways, for good or bad. And the fruitful exercise of agency produced more opportunities for fruit-bearing agency.
In other words, without agency, the righteous exercise of power--or in other words, virtue--is impossible.
I believe that Christ expects us to love "the least" because, in part, He wants all of us to experience opportunities of power and thus develop virtuous personal qualities grown from righteous exercise of power, virtues by virtue of virtue.
So I asked to teach the lesson on virtue for my turn this month and the scriptures cited for the lesson focused on four steps:
1) Seeking good things to develop a righteous pattern in our lives
3) Lusting over and objectification of others and fornication is sin.
4) God will strengthen us as we obey.
I started by defining virtue historically, first as it related to masculine strength, like for courageous soldiers, then as it was used for honorable upper-echelons of society, then centuries later, as it was applied even to the least, ie the "noble poor."
In other words, once a person's power was recognised by society, their personal use of their power unto righteousness was assigned a name: virtue.
So out came the Legos. We distributed them and asked each class member to come forward and offer a Lego and an element of their lives which exemplifies personal power unto righteousness. Each subsequent comment was made as the Lego was stacked onto the others.
They started by stacking one directly atop the others. At about the sixth piece, the teetering tower toppled. We had to "repent" and start again. This time I directed the building just enough to produce a mostly solid block.
I commented on how solid and strong the block has become. It also one inevitably had a pattern. The class members had been encouraged to repeat elements of that felt so inclined, and if course there where about six different repeating colors of Lego blocks, all representing answers like love, prayer, scripture study choices, purity, temple, entourage, the Spirit, the WOW, dependence,...
I then chipped a few pieces off the edges, which happened to be two whites and a blue. I then showed the block and asked?
"Are there any blues left?"
"Are there any whites left?"
Yes, there were.
By building life of these elements, we'd created a pattern that will help us and remind us what and how to live when things got rough, to literally help us to remember Him and keep out baptismal covenants.
We then read the scriptures in groups, summarized them for each other and discussed a bit.
The pres has the scripture about lust. She said it was normal for such feelings to arrive, but we cannot misuse them to objectify another person, and must repent if we do so. We pointed out our bodies are designed for these feelings so it is a difficult task to use them properly.
We also pointed out that in repentence, Jesus Christ blesses us with the chance to learn, grow and reconcile ourselves to truth, that we should get used to repenting in a daily basis.
It was a good experience for us, at least the YW president and I got something out of it. We hope the young women did, too.
"My beloved brethren, may I remind you, if there were a perfect woman, do you really think that she would be interested in you?"
Perfect for me doesn't necessarily mean perfect for somebody else. I'll defer to John Legend, since he sang it more perfectly than I could ever hope to say it.
'Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
I've noticed a strange phenomenon in our Mormon culture. While we generally attempt to be true to the 13th Article of Faith, we will make exceptions and levy harsh judgments and critiques against others. Yet, for some reason, that criticism only goes so high up the food chain. Rank and file members are fair game for any type of criticism. And even the most "faithful" member will feel free to take, say, a bishop to task for some wrongful action. A faithful member might even take a swipe at a stake president (although not likely his own). But it won't get much higher then that, and to even acknowledge a minor fault of one of the Brethren seems to be a first class ticket to outer darkness.
Interestingly, this is the exact OPPOSITE of how criticism is levied in the rest of society. Each night, talk show hosts deliver monologues in which they lampoon politicians, business leaders and celebrities. In fact, the higher their position in society, the more about them is fair game to criticize. This even extends to Protestant religious leaders. When an evangelical preacher gets caught in an extramarital affair (about every other Thursday), he isn't spared from being the butt of jokes. His ecclesiastic authority does not spare him from the general rule -- to whom much is given, much will be criticized. In fact, even the libel and slander laws recognize this rule and therefore, they allow for lesser protection for "public figures."
Of course, much of what I like about the Church is that we are different from the world in many respects. But in this respect, we also seem to be different from Christ. My feeble reading of the NT does not indicate that Jesus was some "great respecter of persons." In fact, I can't remember a single time when He withheld some rebuke or criticism due to the person's status in the religious or social order. In fact, He seemed to level his harshest criticisms against those who were in leadership or otherwise, considered "most righteous." It was in this context that He said:
"For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more." Luke 12:48
Of course, being the Savior, He had that prerogative. Perhaps, sinners like me should not assume that we can stand in his stead and make harsh judgments against those in leadership. However, if that is the case, then how do we justify such harsh judgments against those of whom even less has been given and thus, less is required? If it is not appropriate to question the mental faculties, goodwill or morality of one of the Brethren, then how can it be okay to make similar judgments against Dehlin, Kelly, the sister who thinks that Disney's Frozen is going to turn everyone gay, or each other for that matter?
So what am I missing in our scriptures and doctrine that makes the best amongst us exempt from criticism, but the least amongst us fair game to suffer the slings and arrows of Mormon Dialogue?
I was just reading the story of Jethro's visit to Moses in the wilderness.
I couldn't help but to wonder if Jethro could have made it as a Mormon. As you remember, Jethro was Moses' father-in-law. After just ONE DAY amongst the Israelites, Jethro pulled Moses aside and said:
"What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice ... select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens."
This was obviously sage advice and somewhat mirrors how things are run in our church today, as priesthood functions are delegated to general authorities, area authorities, district leaders, stake presidents, bishops, etc. Yet, who in our current church could feel free to speak so frankly to the Prophet?
When Sister Kelly from OW had the "nerve" to ask that the Apostles pray for a revelation about extending the priesthood to women ("What you are doing is not good. The work is too heavy for you men ..."), many members were up in arms. They cried in one loud voice, "How dareth thou suggesth that the Prophet asketh the Lordeth for revelation? He has not appointed thee to the task of leading His Church." In fact, that is the dominate cry on this board whenever anyone has the "temerity" to suggest even the slightest change to how we do things.
Just last week, we went round and round because someone had the "unmitigated gall" to suggest that we not have grown men alone in the rooms talking about sex with children. Immediately, the "faithful" saints were up in arms. "Heretic!" "Heathen!" "Ark steadier!"
So perhaps someone can explain to me why Jethro, the Priest of Midian, an outsider, could come out to the wilderness and start barking orders to God's Prophet and yet, long-time members of this Church are flirting with outer darkness if they so much as SUGGEST that the Prophets pray for guidance to add a half-note to a verse in a hymn. "Who put you in charge of the Lord's meter?"
Seriously, what am I missing? What has changed in this dispensation that has caused the Lord to rest all of his inspiration in 15 men? Is there not a place in Zion for a Jethro or at least, an Ellie May? (Be still my heart)