Thursday, January 30, 2014

No manner of -ites

At baptism, we covenant to “mourn with those who mourn”, not “make people who mourn go away so they don’t make us uncomfortable”.

Sadly, my friends were mourning this week, and some of our fellow saints refused to mourn with us. It started out innocently enough, when someone carelessly implied that all Mormon women were married. After hearing the hurt this caused several single women, this person eventually apologized, but not before a huge dustup occurred where several of my friends were told by others (not the original person) that they were unwelcome because they were single. We were told that our pain at being excluded from our religious community was illegitimate and made-up, and that we should go and find a different place to be, so that they wouldn’t have to hear our pain.

This is not how we build Zion.

After Christ appeared to the surviving Nephites and Lamanites, they built Zion. The distinguishing characteristic of their society is that there were not “any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.” 4 Nephi 1:17 This doesn’t mean that everyone was suddenly the same. It means that despite their different backgrounds, they were united. The stratifications that exist in the world should not exist in Zion.

Our community has too many -ites.

How do we overcome our natural tendency to stratify? Chapter 1 of 4 Nephi describes a righteous and happy society. Verse 12 says that they met together often. Verse 15 says that there was love in the hearts of the people.

If we want a Zion society, we need to get out of our bubbles and listen to the lived experiences of those who are different. We can’t just dismiss them. The next time you’re at church, talk to someone who isn’t like you. And then listen.

Jesus said that all the law and the prophets hang on the commandment to love. This is the center of a Christian life. If we develop love in our hearts, we will develop a Zion society. Jesus also said that whatever we do to the least of society, we have done to Him. When we ostracize entire demographics, we are kicking Jesus out of Zion.

While the catalyst for this post was the exclusion and marginalization of the unmarried, those who aren’t married are not the only -ites. We have -ites of various racial or ethnic minorities, infertile-ites,  and the list goes on and on. In Zion, there will still be people of various races and ethnicities, people of varying family compositions, and people from all walks of life. But let’s not turn them into “the other”. We should have no manner of -ites among us.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Improving Grace?

Sometimes I'll catch myself singing hymns without spending too much time actually thinking about the words. Today at church, we sang hymn 240, Know This, That Every Soul Is Free. As I got to verse 4, I noticed a phrase that struck me as a bit odd.

Our God is pleased when we improve
His grace and seek his perfect love.
What does it mean to improve the grace of God? I've always viewed God's grace as perfect.

I did a search in the scripture section of, where I typed the phrase "improve grace" into the search box. I didn't get any results.

The only thing I can think of is in the context of real estate. A piece of empty land is said to be "improved" when a structure is built on it. So maybe what the hymn means is that when we have God's grace in our life, we should do something with it.

That's all I've got. Any other thoughts on what it could mean?