Just my rambling thoughts about being gay and Mormon

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ambulances in the valley

What is the purpose of religion and/or a church? The answer to this basic question is extremely important because what a church or religion believes to be it's mission guides the actions of the organization. Here a just a few possibilities from real religions:

  • Heal the wounded
  • Bring God into the lives of people
  • Bring people to Christ
  • Create harmony among mankind
  • Save souls
  • Point people toward God
  • Destroy the non-believers
  • Create a community of like minded people
  • Protect the poor and innocent
  • Preach the gospel
  • Redeem the dead
  • Perfect the saints

According to His Holiness The Dalai Lama XIV, “The whole purpose of religion is to facilitate love and compassion, patience, tolerance, humility, and forgiveness.”  
Whatever your belief is about the purpose of religion it should have something to do with what church you choose to associate with...or you could just adopt the beliefs of atheism.
A pretty persuasive argument can be made that religion is bad and has caused more problems in the world than it has solved - but that's a discussion for another day.

With respect to the Mormon church in particular, why is it so unresponsive to pleas for help and so distant from the social issues faced by humanity? Because of it's underlying belief that it has a higher mission. It's minimal efforts (compared with it's resources) to protect the innocent, alleviate suffering, promote human rights, reduce poverty, and foster greater freedom, compassion, and cooperation are because it believes it's resources are better focused on other things more in line with it's stated purpose. What is that? Well, one purpose is to ensure that members and the dead receive the ordinances of salvation so they can inherit the celestial kingdom after this life. This belief drives the billions of dollars spent on temple construction around the world.

Russell M. Nelson, a church apostle has said, "Humanitarian relief rendered by members of this church is extensive, multinational, and generally unpublicized. Even so, there are doubtless many who wonder why we don’t do more to assist the innumerable worthy causes to which our hearts respond. Of course we are concerned with the need for ambulances in the valley below. But at the same time, we cannot ignore the greater need for protective guardrails on the cliffs above. Limited resources needed for the accomplishment of the higher work cannot be depleted in rescue efforts that provide only temporary relief" (conf May 1994).

This mission is very different than the mission of most other churches, which focus on helping the community through religious service. Mormons have a common saying that "God will take care of it in the afterlife." I can't help but wonder if we use this as an excuse to not do something to help those in need today?

For me, the older I get the less important worrying about the future and the afterlife becomes. I can't really do a lot about some vague future afterlife that is not well defined. I can do something to help those who need help today. A basic principle of sane and wholehearted living is to live in the present. Christ even said that tomorrow will take care of itself. 

I guess my lament is that there are so many areas where without expending large resources, the church could simply, by giving a nod of approval or sponsoring a program, help drive change to improve people's lives today. 

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