The majority of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints live in branches or wards. The ward family and the ward organization play major roles in our lives. In the various meetings ordained and organized for us, the gospel is taught — those eternal principles of truth which enable us to learn, to take sacred covenants, to serve and to grow.
There is the gospel, and there is the church. The gospel is perfect, because it is the Word of God, a plan of salvation established and approved long before we came to this earth. What of the church? Sometimes it seems to compare poorly, and in frustration we ask, why is that?
We tend to forget that the LDS Church's organization is the vehicle through which we practice the things we are learning. It is the vehicle through which we come together, loving, forgiving, helping and sustaining one another. It is made up of imperfect people who have gathered, in faith and obedience, to improve and perfect themselves.
We are asked to accept, assist and sustain over and over again those who are placed in positions in the various organizations — those placed in authority over us. What does it mean to sustain?
Definitions include beautiful, meaningful words such as: bear, carry, shoulder, uphold; lend, supply, maintain.
Rather strongly reminiscent, aren’t they, of the powerful, poetic counsel of Alma when he tells his people: “... and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God ....” (Mosiah 18: 8-9.)
We all feel these things, we all espouse these things. When is it then — and how is it — that we forget?
Sometimes it happens when we cannot bear the dull, lackluster teachings of a new and struggling Sunday School, priesthood or Relief Society teacher. Sometimes it happens when a person is called to a position of “importance,” and we see that person's weaknesses and (assume he) is, therefore, unworthy. Sometimes it happens when we ourselves are secretly coveting or longing for a particular position and are passed over and another is given that precious calling instead. This can be especially true in the case of a bishop, for this calling is powerful, all-inclusive and, in times of need, spiritually personal.
In his challenging, insightful book “Why the Church Is as True as the Gospel”, Eugene England says the following:
“Church involvement teaches us compassion and patience as well as courage and discipline. It makes us responsible for the personal and marital, the physical and spiritual welfare of people we may not already love (may even heartily dislike), and thus we learn to love them. It stretches and challenges us, even when we are disappointed and exasperated, in ways we would not otherwise choose to be stretched and challenged. Thus it gives us a chance to be made better than we may have chosen to be — but need and ultimately want to be.”
There is the reminder we need — in all the beauty and promise of its reality.
Love generates love, and desire matures into the power to look upon others with tenderness and true charity. But, can we still fall short of our possibilities? I like the shrewd, discerning challenge in Brother Brigham Young’s remarks:
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