Mr Wrong

So let me ask you guys something. How does it feel — emotionally — how does it feel to be wrong?

Dreadful. Thumbs down. Embarrassing.

Okay, wonderful, great. Dreadful, thumbs down, embarrassing — thank you, these are great answers, but they’re answers to a different question. You guys are answering the question: How does it feel to realize you’re wrong? Realizing you’re wrong can feel like all of that and a lot of other things, right? I mean it can be devastating, it can be revelatory, it can actually be quite funny. But just being wrong doesn’t feel like anything.

So I should actually correct something I said a moment ago. It does feel like something to be wrong; it feels like being right.

 

This is a paraphrased beginning to a Ted talk given by Kathryn Schultz in 2011 entitled, “On Being Wrong“.

It got me thinking about a number of things, and I certainly suggest you have a look.

There’s a lot that we are “right” about in the church. Statements like, “I KNOW xyz”,  “This is the Lords TRUE CHURCH” and “The prophet will NEVER lead you astray” are all fair examples. These statements affirm a level of knowledge, certainty and stability that I don’t hear too many other people saying. Particularly as it relates to our religion as opposed to enduring principles like love, charity and service.

Don’t get me wrong, being certain is good. You have to be certain that pushing the brake pedal on your car will stop you from hurtling into that crowd of people.

Dumbledore

 

However, blanket statements like I know the church is true may not be overly helpful. What are we actually saying? Everything Joseph Smith did was inspired? Polygamy functioned exactly the way God wanted? Polygamy WAS what God wanted? White shirts are exactly what God wants us to wear on Sunday’s? Beards are no good? Even one piece swimwear for females are no good? Where does it end…???? My opinion is that such statements regarding the “Church” and it’s related policies are a little bit dangerous to make. Saying “I know that blacks won’t hold the Priesthood and they were not valiant in the pre-existence’ in 1977 might have sounded OK but it hasn’t stood the test of time. Similarly, “I know garments are meant to be to the ankle and wrist and won’t change” in 1920 wouldn’t have stood the test of time either.

I know we are taught to obtain a “testimony” of various principles in the Church. However, when these principles are subject to change, I question its real value. The Lord counselled us to keep HIM at the centre of our worship.

I taught GD last Sunday. Being one of the few token liberals in a very conservative Ward, I threw it out there…

We were looking at the scripture in Matthew where Jesus invites us to come to Him and take his yoke upon us – for his yoke is easy to bear. So far so good. Then I read this out to them.

If it is an easy church you are looking for, if that is important to you, this is not it. (Boyd K Packer -1974)

For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Jesus Christ – a while ago)

Then asked the question…”How do you reconcile these two statements?”

After a few false starts, blank looks and puzzled expressions, we were no closer to a resolution to the apparent quandary. I suggested that we belong to a church with a fair size set of rules – that most other Churches don’t have. That, as Elder Packer suggested, is probably hard. Christs’ simple invitation to “Come follow me” and the qualification that His “Yoke is easy”, to me, makes reference to the fact that the Atonement is done, His suffering complete, His invitation offered. All we have to do is accept him and follow him. In and of itself, that is not complex. In that sense, that is easy.

Whilst the content of the above exercise is (at least to me) interesting, it was not the most interesting thing. The most interesting thing was that in a group of 45 or so (mostly) seasoned church members they could not reconcile two seemingly both right yet contradictory statements.

I think we are right about a lot of things in the LDS Church, however I am just as confident that we are wrong about a lot of things too. In the lesson mentioned above I asked the class members to consider what we might be doing, individually, as a local congregation and as a church that might be wrong. Unfortunately, I received the same blank looks and puzzled expressions.

I was excited to read Jeff Spector’s recent treatment of all things Anti-Mormon – and I think there is some cross over here. Our perception of others – when they disagree with us (or we disagree with them) – is critical to our ongoing relationship to the rest of the religious world. But it is also critical to how we view ourselves.

Kathryn Schultz goes on to list three things we tend to do when someone disagrees with us.

  1. Assume they are ignorant – we are more than happy to educate the person or group as to the ‘correct’ information. If they still disagree than we,
  2. Assume they are idiots – they have the information and yet are still ‘wrong’. When the person has all the information, and fails to connect the dots, the only thing left is to,
  3. Assume they are deliberately distorting it for their own malevolent purposes

My question to you is:

  1. What examples of Kathryn’s list above have you witnessed personally, by others or at the general level of the Church relating to disagreements or being wrong?