This is an archived copy of a post written by Conflict Of Justice (conflictofjustice.com). Used with permission: Conflict Of Justice may not agree with any alterations made.
This is an archived copy. See Original Article Here
One of the most popular reasons people leave the church is other church members. The hypocrisy of church members spreading discord and negativity is a problem that each of us in the church has to deal with, and hypocrisy seems to exist wherever we turn. Contention flourishes both online and within individual congregations.
Why is it such a problem? How do we solve it?
Avoid Today’s Culture Of Negativity – I am struck by the utter negativity that pervaded the West following World War 2. It was a time when cities pulled down grand feats of architecture and replaced them with atrocious boxes of concrete. Early century authors were crusading against the “hypocrisy” of Christianity and replacing it with new-age social philosophies. The trauma of the world war demoralized the people, and the early 19th century swirled in a cloud of depression that only briefly relented for materialistic frivolity.
Trauma due to everything going on right now in the world is having a similar effect. Stand back some time and witness the utter negativity! Once in a while I’ll start a Netflix movie and after 5 minutes I have to turn it off because I can’t stand how angry and depressing it is. Comedy shows are just spiteful complaining. How do people watch this stuff? The thing about negative mindsets is you don’t recognize you have one and you resist efforts by others to pull you out of it, like an angsty teenager whining about his cheerful mother who works double shifts to make ends meet. Last November, we saw how angry Anti-Mormons complained about “fake gratitude” and “toxic positivity” when Latter-day Saints, under the direction of the prophet of God, focused on being grateful. The deeper you fall into the quicksand the more you backbite against good influences that would help you.
The plague of today is this net of negativity that traps us due to lack of gratitude. Maybe, just maybe, you don’t actually have it so bad. Right now the flaxen cord Satan holds in his hand as he laughs over us is our negative attitudes. Everyone is being annoyed by everyone else and pointing out people’s faults.
It is impossible to have a bad experience when you are grateful. Perhaps it is expecting too much to think our individual good examples of positivity and gratitude will solve the hypocrisy in others, but at least it will help us deal with it. Absorbing people’s poor behavior will contribute to an overall positive atmosphere that the community desperately needs right now. Be conscious of your inner voice and what it says about others and yourself. Even if there is some injustice that legitimately hurts you, change your inner voice to be grateful for the resources and relationships God has given you in your life.
From what I have seen, hypocrisy isn’t even that severe in the church, yet the extent of damage due to hypocrisy seems to be greater in our church than in other organizations. Let’s consider why that is:
The Necessary Result Of Being A Membership-Run Church
Uphold Priesthood Leadership – Sometimes I wonder if the corporate cliché of calling employees “associates” and calling the corporation “employee run” was ripped off of the church. I mean, the church is truly run by the members. Each member is offered a calling that significantly contributes to the group. We are all associates; we even call each other “brother” and “sister.” We all give assenting or dissenting votes to confirm new callings and significant church changes. We are the real deal when it comes to claiming “membership-run.”
This is important, as it gives members ownership and power to direct our own identity. It prevents outside influences from getting in and taking things over. Right now there are very powerful groups doing their best to subvert and control our identity as Latter-day Saints–just look at the newspaper, academic, and internet news articles coming out every day lecturing us about who we are and what we believe. Outside groups are constantly telling us how we are supposed to vote and what we are supposed to think. If we were to relinquish the membership-run structure I guarantee those influences would storm through the gate and take over the church.
Studying the history of religion, I am struck by how governments used religion to control people. Most major religions successfully spread because they were infiltrated by controlling powers who found the religions a convenient tool to exert control. I don’t think this necessarily made those religions “evil,” but I think it did hinder the religion from empowering members to advance and become holy saints.
How different is religion today? Well, governments claim to be separate from religion, but it seems like religion simply goes by a different label than “religion,” and it is corporations rather than government using them. Whether it is politics, science, or cultural social values, belief systems very much continue to be a tool for those in power to exert control. Those belief groups do not seem to have much of a problem with hypocrisy among the ranks because the group is not membership-run and the actions of fellow members don’t hurt as much. It’s not that hypocrisy doesn’t exist–indeed, they tend to be much more hypocritical than we are–but it’s that the hypocrisy does not cause discord. Sometimes you will see some infighting, but generally people have a much easier time falling in line under a dictatorial authority than as a co-equal group.
So, we have to choose one or the other: be a membership-run church and have a hard time getting along, or be an authoritarian-run church.
In order to avoid chaos and inevitable infiltration of some authority offering order, we have priesthood leadership. Direction for church policy and how the church is operated is given through priesthood leaders who are directed by the Holy Ghost. Our priesthood leaders are not the same as the power-hungry leadership of corporations, however, as priesthood leaders lose authority when they seek to exert control. It is purely a service role. This provides some structure, but because we remain membership-controlled there can be less order than with other groups.
This makes it vitally important for us to respect and uphold priesthood leadership while not treating them like dictators. We need to understand why hypocrisy is such a problem for us: it’s not that we are more hypocritical than any other organization, but that the structure of the church makes hypocrisy among the ranks a bigger problem than among other groups. We must endure through it and obstinately support priesthood leadership if we want to avoid being controlled by outside influences. The groups that want to control us will exploit any hypocrisy they can find in order to convince us to open the gates and allow them to infiltrate. That’s why the newspapers and TikTok grifters are constantly whispering in our ears about “Mormon hypocrisy.”
Stark Contrast – Poor behavior of church members also stands out because we are at church. When someone cuts me off when driving or says something mean on Twitter, I expect that in those spaces, but at church I expect people to be saints. I expect a transformation to a more holy space when I walk through the doors, and when I am greeted by noisy toddlers and people blocking the aisles to chat, it can be jarring. We resent when we get pulled into a less holy space than where we came from.
Yet, when I visit some other churches I am struck by their worship services are entertainment productions. It feels so performative. Part of being an authentic group of worshipers who come as we are is seeing the warts in other people and in ourselves. We are not putting up Potemkin villages. If you go to a hospital don’t be surprised when you see sick people.
On my mission, we would sing hymns in the city square, and once someone complained to the mission president about how bad we sounded. “Messengers of Jesus Christ should not produce bad music,” the person complained. Other churches pay for professional choirs and finely produced rock music, but our church is made of common people donating their own time and talents, and we just try the best we can. Did we get angry about Germans not appreciating the time and effort we were giving? No, the complaint pushed us to try harder. The mission focused on practicing our singing every day until each group sounded professional. This taught me to avoid being defensive and angry when someone complains about me, but to take criticism constructively and use it to improve how I worship.
And yet we didn’t change our mode of production to some professional rock band or choir either. We remained a group of amateurs. It was who we really were.
Creative Consecration – I have noticed a lot of the members who complain about lame ward activities also turned down callings to the activities committee. Funny that. To some degree, I think almost all of us want to go to church and receive a great church experience but do not contribute enough to make that experience happen. Membership in this church is much more rewarding when you participate and contribute to the collective worship, as it is a membership-run church. Worship is to participate and produce rather than passively consume an experience. In life we are surrounded by television commercials urging us to consume delicious products, but “feasting on the words of Christ” is not a consumer experience. Feasting on the words of Christ is a strenuous act of creation. So don’t criticize the piano player for dragging the hymn to slow or missing a few notes unless you can do better, and then you should be offering to help.
When I started to get more involved and started offering to help with things at church I noticed I wasn’t as annoyed by poor behavior of other members. The poor behavior was still there but it didn’t bother me. By getting rid of the negative and passive mindset, I started to gain ownership as a church member, and that started to fulfill my identity as a Christian, and that helped me start to see the worth of souls as Christ does.
Contributing at church is an act of consecration, and it leads to further consecration which helps us let go of idolatry. We all have our idols; we all value things in life that we need to let go of and dedicate to God. We value our possessions, creations, work, and relationships for our own selfish pursuits instead of offering them to the holy pursuits they should serve. Are the many hours I spend on work and hobbies dedicated to God or myself? If they are dedicated to myself, I will be much more touchy about other people’s judgements and careless destruction of them. Is the time and effort I spend at church dedicated to God or myself? If it is truly dedicated to God I will not get upset when someone at church hurts my feelings, as I will be focused on helping that person come closer to Christ. The only bit of hurt feelings I will have is when that person chooses wickedness rather than righteousness, for the sake of their eternal welfare.
When I was in scouting, I once banged up a church canoe really bad on a river trip and left it unusable. A stake leader got pretty upset about it, and chastised me for not respecting “the Lord’s canoe.” But my scout leader jumped to my defense and correctly pointed out that the canoe was merely a physical object–the important matter at hand was me. How concerned was that stake leader about my safety, about whatever dangerous conditions got the canoe so damaged? We need to always, always, always be concerned about the welfare of souls. The stain left on the carpet by a careless child’s drink, the damaged scouting equipment, the tire treads left in the grassy back field after seminary (I would never do this)–all the annoyances are annoyances that unfortunately cause us work, but we must not get upset about it. We will endure the annoyances to the extent we are consecrating ourselves to helping the children of God.
If I am too shy to sing loudly at church, it is because I pridefully fear losing prestige in other people’s opinion of me, and I am not consecrating myself. If I get mad about someone cutting in line at the Trunk or Treat dinner, it is because I pridefully am concerned about tasting delicious cake rather than that person’s welfare. If I introduce myself to someone and they dismiss me with a rude comment, it is natural for me to have my feelings hurt, but I need to focus on becoming a good influence in their life rather than staying angry about it.
One Step At A Time – Most of us can’t jump into full consecration right away. This is a lot to expect, and that is okay to admit. Anti-Mormons often say we are a “high demand religion,” though they say this in reference to easy things like attending church on Sunday and not drinking coffee. I mean, if you can’t even make the effort to attend church it’s going to be hard for you to make the necessary actions to gain ownership and identity as a Latter-day Saint by consecrating yourself to God. To be fair, I suspect the murmuring about attending church and coffee is euphemistic for not being able to achieve consecration, as Anti-Mormons understandably have a hard time admitting that was the real issue for them. Just admit it. We won’t achieve it right away. The humility needed to achieve consecration must start with the humility it takes to admit we need to take it one step at a time.
Much of the trouble in the early church was the result of hurt feelings due to other members. Consider how the three witnesses of the Book of Mormon each turned against Joseph Smith for the stupidest reasons. After all the utter miracles and undeniable proof they witnessed, it seems incredible to us that they would apostatize over something as trivial as a real estate deal in Kirtland Ohio. But that’s how hard it is to let go of possessions and personal ego. We today find ourselves infighting about the stupidest nonsense on Twitter and murmuring about the hypocrisy in others. We can actually be grateful that this hypocrisy exists because it challenges us to release our own pride and gives us an opportunity to love others to a higher Christlike degree. Why complain about it? Just get better one step at a time.
Avoid Seeing Contradiction
The servants of Satan who jump on the slightest hint of hypocrisy among Latter-day Saints use what I term the ‘contradiction strategy’ to exploit the hypocrisy to ruin our testimonies. We in the church are given divine principles and use them to govern ourselves, and this is what enables us to grow as children of our Heavenly Father. It is an inductive process where we refine our souls through daily repentance.
This is different from mainstream culture’s method of determining truth and progressing, which is through removing contradiction between the way things are and the way things ought to be. Anti-Mormons are constantly persuading us that there are all sorts of contradictions between the way things are and the way things should be, by either exaggerating or misportraying our ideals and the way things are. This mindset will make us upset when fellow members do not live up to our ideal of a saint. The Anti-Mormons do not have any actual system of ideals themselves, so they try to tear down any kind of idealism in the church. Their intense agitation gets us to bother about contradictions, so that the Bishop’s slightest deviation from our idea of Christlike makes us lose all faith in him. We need to ignore this Anti-Mormon agitation that surrounds us and get comfortable with contradictions existing. Avoid the contradiction mindset everyone else in mainstream culture has, and appreciate that contradictions exist between our ideal and the way things are.
Finally, I have learned not to give preferential treatment to anyone who hasn’t demonstrated that they deserve it. We are each of us just striving to do the best we can, and having “LDS Bishop” in a person’s Facebook bio does not automatically make them any better a person. When a Bishop disappoints me, I remember two things:
- Priesthood callings are high demand, and they are putting a lot of effort into it, for which I should be grateful.
- Priesthood callings are given to people who aren’t already good at it in order to push them to improve. I have had Bishops that at first I thought were terrible but by the end of it they were great at their calling and much better men.
But then again, I have seen members do terribly at their callings and become worse men. It’s up to them. They govern themselves. We are a church of imperfect humans and sometimes the members will really let us down. Our spirituality testimonies must first of all be built on a personal relationship with Christ separate from the church, and then we must consecrate our creative, active efforts to build a charitable assembly of saints through the church. It exists for our nourishment and our positive interaction with other saints. Remember that this church system can sometimes be more difficult and trying than the worldly way, but ultimately the church structure is brilliant and divinely inspired. It is the best way for us to develop divine attributes, and if we do it right we will grow closer as a church family, helping each other out and spreading the love of God.