As I have contemplated being less envious this week, I realized that there is a direct connection to two of my favorite topics: Elder Wirthlin's talk "Concern for the One" (my wife and children won't be surprised at that) and the idea that Zion only can be established if we remove the masks we tend to wear and expose our warts to others. Wearing those masks to cover our warts (or, in other wards, hiding our faults) is one of the most deeply ingrained aspects of the “natural (wo)man” - a self-protection mechanism that is as fundamental to humanity as any other natural inclination. Our particular challenge in church, I believe, is to recognize it as such and rise above it - to change it (repent) by an active exercise of will (to act and not to be acted upon).
The “fault” at church for wearing masks is two-edged: 1) those in the majority who actively reject the minority for being different and/or believing things differently; 2) those in the minority who hide themselves and passively reject the majority for being different and/or believing things differently. In the end, it really is the same action - and the justification on each side is also the same. Each type tends to blame the other, and neither type tends to take the initiative to change the natural situation.
In “Concern for the One”, Elder Wirthlin articulated clearly that some leave active participation and lose faith because they act, think or feel different than others - and he told the majority that it was their responsibility to love and accept the minority for who they are, NOT for who the majority might naturally want them to be. He said that every voice (every instrument) needs to be heard, NOT that every member should learn to play the piccolo. That is critical to envying less, since part of envying (with regard to this analogy) is to compare one's instrument to that of another and latch onto anger or some other separating emotion as a result. Learning truly to value other instruments and not wish you play a different one than you do eradicates envy - and once that feeling is eliminated, it is much easier to play your own instrument with confidence, even if you are the only one in the congregation playing that particular instrument.
I believe we will become Zion only as we let go of the need to wear masks - and I believe the primary responsibility for this lies not with those who feel different but with those from whom they feel different. (It's important for the oboe players to play their oboes, but it's more important for the piccolo players to allow those oboes to be heard - even if there are 85 piccolos and only one oboe.) Yes, the "one" needs to be engaged actively, but the "ninety and nine" need to love and accept the "one" for that to happen.
The biggest problem in this regard within the Church is not the gay member, or the illegal immigrant member, or the politically different member, or the bearded member, or the tatooed member, or the colored-shirt and no tie member, or the smoker, ad infinitum. The biggest problem is the fact that those distinctions are drawn in a way that excludes those members from the fellowship of oneness with the saints. Although those who are excluded might share a portion of responsibility for being excluded, as often as not the primary responsibility lies with those who do the excluding.
I believe ALL of us wear a mask of some kind that covers varying degrees of our true selves from others. This leads to envy and contention and a loss of charity and true acceptance. Before we condemn or even judge others in any way, we need to remove our own masks, become vulnerable and experience the fear others feel on a regular basis. I think if we do that the tendency to judge and condemn and drive others away will disappear - and we will have a chance at truly building Zion.
Recreating The Bride
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