Periodicals; Mormons; Religious thought; Philosophy and religion
Independent national quarterly established to express Mormon culture and examine the relevance of religion to secular life. It is edited by Mormons who wish to bring their faith into dialogue with human experience as a whole and to foster artistic and scholarly achievement based on their cultural heritage. The journal encourages a variety of viewpoints; although every effort is made to insure accurate scholarship and responsible judgment, the views expressed are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of the Mormon Church or of the editors.
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Rees, Robert A.
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to have changed since you stopped struggling directly with the Gospel in Church activity reminds me of a good friend who made a similar decision some years ago. He is possibly the most morally honest and sensitive person I have known, and after struggling for some years he found that he just could not cope with the various forms of bigotry, self-righteousness, etc., that he encountered weekly in Church meetings. It became an unbearable experience for him—psychologically and spiritually—and he and his wife finally decided there was nothing left but to take their family into inactivity. He continues to live the basic moral principles of the Gospel, but he and his family and the Church have suffered a great loss, I think. Though I can understand his decision (and, in fact, approve that kind of "vacation" for a short time for some people when things become unbearable and all attempts to do something about it apparently are unfruitful), I think such a decision as a permanent "solution" is a tragic cop-out. I pray with all my heart that you won't take that route. I think I know what you and my friend have felt. I've been through some of the pain you describe myself, and I have my own battle ribbons (including a "purple heart" or two) from combat with particular brands of Mormon arrogance and provincialism, the "spiritual imperialism" that you speak of, various forms of fanaticism, racism, militarism, authoritarianism, that I have found in Church circles—and am convinced are deeply contrary to the Gospel and the ideals of the Church. My own missionary experience was no picnic, either. Charlotte and I (who went together as a married couple to Samoa) had experiences on our mission like those you were so appalled by in your own—encountering the invincible ignorance and insensitivity of some young missionaries just off an Idaho farm or Salt Lake's East Beach (I qualified on both counts) trying to relate to an alien culture, the smugness and self-righteousness of people presuming to take the truth to other people, though they were unable to comprehend either the strengths of those people or their own weaknesses. You were right in your comment about appreciating the good people you found native to the country where you did your missionary work and your thinking that they should perhaps send missionaries to Zion. We felt that way ourselves many times. And yet you seem not yet to have learned some crucial lessons that, after a good deal of pain, we at least began to learn there: Mainly that we were as guilty of bigotry and insensitivity, of lack of love, in our judgment of some other missionaries as they were in their judgment of the native people; and that despite the mistakes, the bumbling, the blindness in many dimensions of the missionaries, most of them were Personal Voices I xjg serving the Lord faithfully in taking, however haltingly and inefficiently, His Gospel of faith and repentance and loving service to people who, in spite of their many great qualities, needed it and were made better by it. At one point in our mission I wrote a letter to Elder Marion D. Hanks, then of the First Council of Seventy, much like the one you sent me. After letting me cool off for awhile, he wrote back probably the most helpful letter I have received from another human being in my life; he taught me to see the danger of riding off by myself on a white horse, to realize that just as one must not only be sincere but also right, so one must not only be right but also effective, and it wasn't very effective to go around self-righteously condemning my fellow missionaries or harboring resentments against them when I should be facing up to my own failings and weaknesses, and showing them increased love along with the right example. I also began to see in Samoa how important the Gospel itself is—more important than my impatience with the weak vessels the Lord must choose to carry it to the world. Before we left for our mission Charlotte and I had been exposed somewhat to the social action idealism of the University of Utah and there was some vague questioning in our minds about whether really the best way to relate to and serve other societies was to go with a challenge to them to take on a new faith; shouldn't we rather be trying to help them with their medical needs, farming needs, educational needs, in short, to develop them since they were an "underdeveloped" country? We actually did make contact with many varieties of human pain and need in that still rather primitive society in Samoa but found that, despite the reality of their suffering from things like lack of good medicine, lack of good farming techniques, even their suffering from the oppression of colonial British society based in New Zealand, the Samoans suffered most deeply and most dam-agingly from directly personal and family problems—lack of ability to control anger, insensitivity to certain dimensions of loyalty in their relations with each other, simple ignorance about how to fulfill some of their capacities and yearnings for intelligence and understanding and expression. In short, they most needed the Gospel, with its individually liberating idealism, explicit moral and spiritual instruction, and opportunities for practical development. We saw that the cultural relativists that we had studied in college were wrong, that adultery for instance was not harmful to people in our society merely because they had been taught it was wrong and therefore felt guilty. It was clearly harmful to people in Samoa for intrinsic reasons; even though some of them had not been taught adultery was