Thursday, June 12, 2014

I Have been a Modern Day Pharisee

One of my favorite scriptures in the Book of Mormon is Mormon 9:31. "Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been."

With that said, I hope you won't condemn me but just learn to be more wise than I have been as I honestly reveal a great weakness and sin of mine. Go ahead and thank me for once again offering myself up as a bad example. I am simply one of the most selfless people I know. (sarcasm intended)

Because I was hard-wired to be a rule follower, I have often been a modern day Pharisee. I acknowledge that I have tried (try being the key word) to strictly observe the laws of God. Trying to keep the commandments wasn't the problem because I know that the commandments are given as a blessing to help us draw closer to Heavenly Father and to enjoy peace and happiness. The problem came only when I, like the Pharisees, sometimes  became obsessed with a focus on strictness. The dictionary definition of the word "strict" is very revealing.

demanding that rules concerning behavior are obeyed and observed.
• (of a rule or discipline) demanding total obedience or observance; rigidly enforced.
• (of a person) following rules or beliefs exactly.
• exact in correspondence or adherence to something; not allowing or admitting deviation or relaxation: a strict interpretation of the law.

That kind of strict observance thus became more about the letter of the law than the spirit of the law. Instead of a focus on the peace and joy and closeness I  and others can feel because of obedience to my Father in Heaven, there was more of a focus on the law. I was caught up in what was only meant to be the means to that end. I wasn't "enduring to the end" and feeling the ultimate benefits of feeling more love and peace as a result of observing the commandments; I was marching with the banner, "All of you better keep the same rules that I choose to keep!"

The focus on the letter of the law becomes even more accentuated as I worried and was in fear if other people weren't keeping the laws and I joined the commandment-keeping police academy . Talk about missing out on the love and peace I should have been feeling because of personally keeping the commandments to the best of my ability!  I would get into fear and judgment and totally gloss over the truth that they were simply missing out on the peace and joy they could have had and started to judge and condemn them all the while hoping that that kind of criticism would motivate them to change their course (All of you who have just an ounce more good sense than me already know that this course is counter productive).

Because of a focus on fear instead of faith and love, I totally discounted the truth that pain of straying from the commandments would be the best teacher and totally negated faith in the fact that wickedness never is happiness. Instead, in judging and condemning them, I created more pain in what should have been a safe and loving relationship.

I have learned that I should just live the correct principles contained in the commandments and let other people govern themselves as Joseph Smith taught. My job is mainly to love and be a good example; not ever try to force people to do it my way (I'm continually surprised I didn't follow the pre-earthly plan of no free agency). Dallin H. Oaks beautifully said that in a church setting, we should teach the principles behind the commandments and not necessarily the dos and don'ts because that is for the individuals and families to decide.

I have a very strong conviction of the benefits of being part of an organized religion in which principles for happy and healthy living and eternal blessings are taught. I also know that the social connections can be a real blessing when we are loving and serving one another.  I do believe that most of the damage in a religion happens when we as members act like Pharisees and use the commandments not to just personally benefit us but to divide us because we are judging and condemning each other. I am sure every religion has their share of Pharisees; especially in areas where a religion is the most predominate because it is easier to observe everything that is going on, and more tempting to judge.

I want to always remember that it isn't the law I should worship, but to embrace and try to live the commandments to better worship my Heavenly Father and partake of His love. I am turning in my commandment-following police badge.  I want to commit myself to be a better example of the kindness, love, and mercy my Savior exemplified. He never discounted the importance and benefits of the commandments and the spirit of the law; He just condemned those who wanted to judge and condemn others for breaking the letter of the law.


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