Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Differences Of Administration

The following was written by a friend.  I've posted his writing on my blog once before (here).  Whatever you decided you may have learned during conference, I hope his insight will benefit you as it has me.

"Differences of Administration": Understanding the Gifts of God in the Church

The thing that has been impressed upon me during this conference is that the men who lead this church, like all of us, have particular strengths and weaknesses.  President Monson speaks from his experiences of following spiritual promptings and of service.  That is the context in which he understands the gospel.  For him, this gift is so primary to his worship.  Elder Holland's talk helped me to understand that he has a great gift for oratory combined with a gift of a very sincere understanding of the fundamental need in this world of selfless service and sacrifice.  I understood through Elder Packer's talk the importance of the Atonement.  Elder Oaks has a gift for crying repentance to those who struggle with perversions of every kind.  His context is the sanctity of marriage and the integrity of the family.  I realized that some of us who are frustrated with some of the things that we see going on in the church have also been blessed with a gift, that of an open mind.  Not everyone has this gift, and not everyone is meant to be so naturally inclined to pragmatism.  Surely it is meant to be cultivated by diligent study, but "to some is given one, and to some is given another."  Those of us who have this gift have been given it by God.  The openness of our minds certainly has been cultivated and watered, but it is "God that giveth the increase." 

It creates a tension between those who have this gift and those who don't have it when those who do try to force it upon others.  We often think of those around us as being asleep, but they are awake in other ways.  They are alive according to the gifts that they possess.  We get in trouble when we begin to believe that because we have a gift that we need not nurture and develop other gifts.  Indeed, the gift of open-mindedness is important, and it will be unfortunate for those who have neglected to even acknowledge it and who fight against it.  On the other hand, to have this gift and neglect mercy and charity is likewise a failure.  If we fight against others as they fight against us, without provocation and without regard for their magnifying of their gifts, we will fail.  Other gifts will open our eyes and help us see other people with a Christlike perspective.  I lament sometimes that the gift of open-mindedness is not shared by more in the gospel.  Most see this gift as counterproductive and apostate.  However, I believe that one day when the church is rent with confusion and discord in the coming calamities, our gift will prove to be valuable and will help to strengthen the faith of others in order to save them from the prophetic warning which says that men will "curse God and wish to die."

If one thing has been revealed to me during this conference it is that despite some of the mistakes that we have made as a church, as a people, and as a world, the Lord's hand still moves in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I sensed a rhetorical "party-line" in the messages of some of the speakers, but from the majority of speakers I felt an honest desire, which prompted me to be a better man.  Elder Holland wasn't saying things that he did not believe 100% to be true, nor did Elder Packer, nor did President Monson.  The pathway to hell is paved with sincerity and good intentions, but let us not set aside a good thing because it does not conform to our expectation.  Their messages were spoken from the perspective that they have gained through their exercise of the gifts that God has given them.  Like you and I, they still lack some gifts, and, as I sensed in Elder Holland's talk, they still face with sober contemplation an uncertain but hopeful judgment from God.

My perspective expanded this weekend as I realized that our church is becoming rent with discord because we desire a uniformity of gifts and pridefully clamor for our gifts to be placed at the forefront and receive primary attention.  We likewise seek to suppress the gifts of others because we see them as less important.  It is fulfillment of the scriptural mindset which caused James and John to seek the chief seats in the Father's kingdom.  Our gifts ought to edify us and our brethren and sisters in the church, not divide us.  If we have a gift that is not yet invited, or whose utility is not yet recognized, we ought not to force it to the forefront without instruction from God.  When he is ready for our gifts to bless the lives of others, He will ask for them, and the call will be clear.  If you have received such instruction, I suggest you follow it.  I have not.  In the meantime, God will show us ways that we can use these gifts to bless our families, our friends, those whom God has prepared, and to work for our good and our own salvation.

Let us not spurn at others because they lack the gift we hold so dearly.  The church does seem to be failing in its progress.  I heard the call to repentance more in this conference that I have in others.  Nevertheless, I think we are generally on a downward slope.  In times past I have been too quick to criticize the men who lead the church, but if I was asked today, "So if you think you can do it much better, do you want to give this a shot?", my answer would be no.  I too am a man, and would not have any more capability with my limited gifts to turn things around and fix the problems in our midst.  I am still too much of a stranger to God.  We're all a bunch of messed up mortals trying to figure out how to live in and administer something of value.  Our weakness is apparent, but it is a collective weakness, not one that is localized at the top.

Let us show mercy to every man.  Let us cultivate our gifts and use them according to the promptings of the Holy Ghost.  Let our gift be a benefit to the church rather than a platform from which we offer broad and unjust criticism that reaches the eyes and ears of the unprepared (There is such a thing as just and appropriate criticism).  The Lord has not abandoned the church.  I heard much truth in the past two days.  I cannot believe that someone who would beg members to wake up and finally love their God, as Elder Holland did, is lying and trying to lead men astray.  That is just simply not the case.  Perhaps some of these men are confused, but they are not all corrupt, as some may believe.  The church may not be perfect, and we may have some serious repentance to do, but the Lord still honors truth with the still small confirming voice of the Holy Ghost--even if it comes from the most weak and confused amongst us.  The title of this blog continues to be "Awake and Arise."  My invitation is that those of us who are buried in the mire of the supposed faults of other men open our eyes and appreciate their gifts.  My invitation is to wake up and see the broad array of gifts that God has sprinkled throughout the field of this world and within the church.  This requires a more expansive view and, I believe, more open eyes.  If we want to see mens' faults, we may close our eyes to their strengths.  If we want to show mercy toward that man, we may close our eyes to his weaknesses.  If we want to see a man for what he is, we may open our eyes and fully see.  Do not stop developing your own gifts.  Do not judge a man for having not yet developed your gift.  Be patient, but do not stagnate.  The time will come when the tares (the real hypocrites) are removed from among us and God will gather in the fruitful shafts of wheat.  Then we will see how the gifts of God were carefully strewn in the field for the salvation of His children.  He is still a just God, and we cannot turn a blind eye to evil, but we can recognize things for what they really are without judgment and without malice and without enmity.

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