heart

I rather enjoyed Elder Ballard’s  recent presentation to the 235 stakes of Southern Utah.

He speaks of false prophets who would deceive the elect.

He speaks of personal spiritual habits of scripture reading, prayer etc.

He speaks of not dismissing peoples questions.

He speaks of failing to listen to prophets and apostles.

He speaks of living within our means and not keeping up with the Jones’.

He speaks of not being over scheduled and using too much technology.

He speaks of loving our neighbour.

He speaks of not looking down on people because of not having educational opportunities.

These are wonderful aspects of the gospel and fine counsel to abide by. Particularly the council regarding not being dismissive of peoples genuine concerns.

However the way that Elder Ballard framed his comments gave me some concern.

He said, “In one sense, the Church in Utah is the heart of the worldwide Church body. The heart is a muscle which pumps blood through the blood vessels of the circulatory system, providing the body with needed oxygen and nutrients. The Saints in Utah help pump gospel truths through the entire world—giving the members important spiritual oxygen and essential nutrients” [1]

What??? The Church in Utah is the HEART??? He goes on to list a number of reasons why he says that…

  1. 77% of people in Provo/Orem go to church
  2. 51% of people in the state of Utah go to church
  3. There are 3 missions, 6 temples, BYU, institutes, MTC and lots of Church buildings
  4. Members in Utah provide tithes and offerings, missionary service, temple work, good deeds, and leadership to the rest of the world.

These are all external things – buildings, outward actions (church attendance) or church organisation related. What about what these people ARE?

Whilst I am no Doctor and have no medical training, I do believe a human body only has one heart. To the lucky people in those 235 Stakes, YOU are that one and only heart of the church. YOU are the ones that pump the truth of the gospel throughout the world. You are the ones providing money and leadership to the world. You are the ones who present such a generous resource to the world.

I’m sure Elder Ballard meant no malice with his analogy. However, I wonder what people outside Utah are meant to think when they hear that a specific geographic group – which just happens to be in Utah – is the heart of the church. What are we, outside Utah to make of that? What are we, as appendages to that heart to think of our position, our station, our purpose? Why is there a need to single out a particular geographic location as being fundamentally different than any other? Even though Elder Ballard indicated that the heart like any other organ needs a checkup from time to time, Utah is still the heart.

I wonder what some might do with this information. “I am the heart of the church”, a young man from Provo going on a mission might think. Kangaroo recently commented that in the European Mission in which he served, another missionary couple from Utah commented that – after seeing a female wearing pants to church – that “this is the reason we have been sent here” [to get her to wear a dress]. This sense of “pump[ing] gospel truths through the entire world—giving the members important spiritual oxygen and essential nutrients” has unfortunately broadened to giving members worldwide the “Utah” version of the church. We, outside Utah, absorb so much of the Utah Church culture and do so to our detriment. What works in Utah does not necessarily work anywhere else. But, if we are being asked to view the Utah version of the church – with all of its cultural accouterments – as the “heart”, we will be focusing less and less on the Saviour, less and less on things that are important to us in our culture and less and less on helping the poor and needy.

To someone about as far away from southern Utah as you can get (12,893km or 8,067 miles) I wonder what Elder Ballard thinks I am.

I don’t really know, but I think I am a Dorsal Digital Artery. This is the blood vessel that runs along each of the toes on your foot. Toes are are usually thought of as inessential digits, good for traction and balance and not much else. But David Carrier, a biologist at Brown University, thinks toes deserve more respect. To him they are the gears in the engine of the human body, letting us walk and run with exquisite efficiency.

 

foot

I wonder when we will be a truly wide church . When the leadership reflects the diversity of the membership [2]. When we stop referencing one geographic group over another. When we realise, that to the Lord, we are all “the Heart of the Church”. Yes Utah- this is the place. Yes Utah – where the Prophet lives. Yes Utah – where there’s lots of Church stuff. But with only 2 million members in Utah of a church with 15 million members, I’d like to think that we can move away from looking to Utah as the end all and be all of what a church member should be like.

So to Elder Ballard – thanks for a great talk mate!! I really did enjoy reading it. As a “Dorsal Digital Artery” here in Australia [3] I hope that my small contribution of being the blood supply to the big toe of the church helps it stabilise, walk properly and not fall over….[4]

 

 

[1] Let it be known I have many friends in Utah. I have lived there for a 3 month period in my youth and have returned 3 times in the last 10 years. I love Utah and will definitely be back.

[2] Three new Apostles from Utah, oh well…

[3] And the other non-heart related body structures across the entire world

[4] Sarcasm acknowledged and intended….