A seriously awesome surprise

July 20th, 2014

I have to share the wonderful talk that our high council speaker gave today. I walked into church feeling resigned to the usual three hours of indifferent meetings, wondering if the resolution I made yesterday to stay and be calm throughout services was going to be hard to implement. (Our last high council speaker talked about the dangers of “so-called intellectuals” and basically said teachers should just stick with the manuals instead of trying to make the gospel “complicated”; I remember staring ahead dully during his talk, feeling deflated, wishing I had the guts to just get up and leave.)

This speaker, though, was completely different. He said that when he was a bishop, he would tell members to draw a hypothetical circle that included Mormons, and then draw an X where they thought they would be. He said that almost all of them placed themselves outside the circle, citing a variety of reasons: they had part-member families or non-temple marriages, or they were single, or they struggled with the Word of Wisdom or pornography. But these and other things don’t keep us outside the church. We need to draw the circle of Mormonism bigger, he said—not just for the benefit of others, but for ourselves. We need to stop judging. He said that if Jephtha (who sacrificed his daughter because of a foolish oath that he’d made) can have hope for a place in heaven, so can the person sitting next to you.

He then talked about Christ’s ministry. He pointed out that Christ wasn’t a particularly good missionary; he only had 200-300 followers when he died, and he told people not to talk about the miracles he performed. He also didn’t follow the rules—we all know that he was frequently in trouble with leaders for doing things like healing on the Sabbath day. But he did live a Christian life: He spent time with outcasts and loved individuals regardless of their “righteousness.” The speaker said that we can know we’re a member of God’s church if we’re following this example of Christ.

The speaker concluded by reiterating that we need to draw a bigger circle for Mormonism—and that being a Christian is less about the church that lists our name on its records, and more about living a Christian life, accepting others and ourselves.

I was blown away. I talked to the high councilman for probably 10-15 minutes after Sacrament Meeting, thanking him for his thoughts. He told me that when he was called to be on the high council, he was very up-front with the stake presidency, telling them that he was willing to accept the calling, but they should know that he was going to be who he is. I’m so glad the stake presidency was fine with that.

I’m giving a talk in a few weeks (was originally going to speak today) and I’ve been planning to say many of the same things, but I’ve been nervous about it. I was afraid people were going to think I’m an apostate. Today’s meeting showed me that I don’t have to worry.