Lord, Have Mercy on Me, A Sinner
By Ken K. Gourdin
A disaffected former member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is taking a poll at Mormon Dialogue and Discussion asking members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints how they feel about the description of their fellow Saints (and others) as “worthy” or “unworthy.” I think the sermon of King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon works well in this context, with a slight alteration (and it is consistent with the Apostle Paul’s writings in the Bible: “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)). King Benjamin asked, “Are we not all [sinners]? Do we not depend on that same being, even God, for [salvation]?” (Mosiah 4:19).
When one poster described his long-term struggle to overcome one of his particular thorns in the flesh, I responded:
I think those of us who end up being just a mite perplexed at the size of the reward given to some of our brothers and sisters in the next life must factor in the enormity of the private battles fought and, at length, won, by our spirit siblings. But just because your myopic brothers and sisters are unaware of the magnitude of those battles (indeed, of those eventual victories) doesn’t mean that God, with His perfect sight, also is unaware. I wish you well.
When another brother encouraged him that he is stronger than that thorn in the flesh, I responded:
I agree. Sometimes, the last leg of the journey, no matter how short that leg is, seems the hardest. Best wishes in your conquest. God values the effort expended in the battle as much as, if not more than, the actual conquest.
Later, I added:
In answer to the poll, whether someone is worthy or not is a matter between him, his priesthood leaders, and his Lord and Savior. I’ve never heard rank-and-file members discuss the temple worthiness of other members (though, to hear some tell it, such discussion is rampant, and is as common in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as discussion of what one had for breakfast that morning: I guess I’m simply an odd duck! ), and when I’ve heard priesthood leaders discuss the temple worthiness of other members, it has only been in the spirit of great love, care, and concern.
In response to those who believe members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spend every idle moment passing judgment on their fellow Latter-day Saints and on others, I wrote:
It reminds me of the old story about two families who were thinking of moving in to a certain town, and they decided to go check things out and ask around a bit. One family sees a guy who they’re sure must be an old-timer in that community, and one of them asks him, “So, what are the people like here?” In response, he asks, “What are they like where you come from?” Eager to sing the praises of the community which, alas, they’re leaving, the family member says, “The best! So kind and friendly! Always willing to lend a hand!” The man responds, “Well, you’re fortunate, then, because that’s pretty much what you’ll find people are like here.” A second is thinking of moving into the community, and they spot the same man, and one of their number decides to ask him the same question, and he offers the same query to his interlocutor. “We can’t wait to leave!” is the response. “The town is full of gossipers and back-biters and fault-finders. People are so cold and unfriendly!” “Well,” says the man. “I hate to disillusion you, but you did ask me for my honest opinion, and I’m afraid that’s pretty much what you’ll find here.”
Just substitute ward, branch, stake, or district for town, and this tale fits perfectly in an LDS context. [A ward is a congregation, a branch is a smaller version of a ward, a stake is a group of congregations similar to a diocese, and a district is a smaller analogue to a stake, composed of a group of branches.]
To another poster who posted that this alleged hyperjudgmental environment is totally foreign to him, as well, I responded by posting, with a slight alteration, the introduction to the old Twilight Zone television series:
You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead – your next stop, the Twilight Zone of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! [Cue spooky music …]
Further responding to the poll question, later, I posted:
As others have pointed out, we’re all “unworthy,” a la Romans 3:23. Being “unworthy” (or being considered unworthy) is rather like being human: It just is; it’s a given. In other news, dirt is dirty, snow and ice are cold, and water is wet. So “having a problem” or “not having a problem” being so described seems rather beside the point. It seems pointless having a problem using a descriptor that is endemic to the human condition. That said, the only person I’ve ever described as “unworthy” to anyone else is [Drum-roll, please!] … me! I certainly don’t go around using the descriptor as a cudgel in a “Dear-Lord-I-thank-thee-that-I-am-not-as-other-men-are” sense.
I might also add the old saying, “If you’re not as close to God today as you were yesterday, who moved?”
One of my favorite hymns in the current collection of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is, “I Stand All Amazed” (No. 185): “I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me; confused at the grace that so fully He proffers me . . . I marvel that He would descend from His throne divine, to rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine. That he would extend His great love unto such as I; sufficient to own, to redeem, and to justify! Oh, it is wonderful that He should care for me enough to die for me! Oh, it is wonderful! Wonderful to me!”