I desire to confess some things before you all, and I hope in doing so we will all look into our hearts and honestly assess whether or not we might be guilty of similar things.
I first heard about this whole John Doe affair many months ago. I was disappointed, but was also somehow, in a perverted way, lifted by knowing that someone whom I so respected was struggling with something that I personally did not struggle with (or do I?) I secretly, in my heart, thought, “Well, this needs to be remedied and he needs to be punished! He can’t be allowed to get away with this.” Even worse, I thought, “I’m sure when Denver hears of this, he will deal with it.” Of course, this was not my affair, and I didn’t say anything to anyone outside of my wife. I didn’t want to gossip, after all. But how many of my own personal sins and hypocrisy were exposed in those few thoughts?
Then, more recently, I heard about the council, and I heard more details than were publicly revealed. Again, I condemned John Doe in my heart for his transgressions. After all, here was a man who was arguably among the inner circles of this community, and I’m better than he is! (Wait, what inner circles?)
Then, I started hearing things about the council and the motives and personalities of the ladies involved. Oh, and the alleged behavior of Denver and Adrian and…Oh my – what IS going on? I began to switch my condemnation from John to the ladies on the council, especially the person who organized it. I did gossip – but only a little. The spirit of condemnation remained, even though I told myself that I was not judging, and I never said anything publicly that would suggest this spirit of condemnation that was in my heart. Even as I write this, I feel more and more condemned or ashamed of my thoughts.
During this whole time, I noticed yet another interesting phenomenon. I found myself anticipating eagerly the next development. Even though I didn’t participate publicly in the speculation, and tried to offer a voice of reason and non-judgment (“…just let it go. Nothing good can come from further discussion), I secretly was excited for all the salacious goings on. It was exciting, and it was stimulating to keep up with the latest news. I know – “get a life”. When nothing was happening, I felt oddly empty, looking for somewhere else to cast my gaze. It wasn’t long before those other opportunities were provided. It seems like there’s always some sort of soap opera going on among us.
Why am I saying all of this? First, I am truly ashamed, and painfully aware of this weakness in myself. It is hypocrisy, pure and simple. Second, I realize that this type of attitude cannot be allowed to continue if we are to be a loving, sharing, sustaining, covenant people who seek Zion.
I was recently puzzled to read that we humans will never find peace – the true peace of the spirit, the peace that passeth understanding, because we secretly don’t want it. If we have true peace, true harmony, true oneness, then we risk no longer being differentiated from each other, and we have a built in need – called the natural man – to be differentiated from each other, to be separate. I have written recently about this desire for separation, and, well, here it is popping up again. I couldn’t figure this idea out, really. What do you mean, I DON’T want peace, or that I even secretly sabotage it?
Well, now I think I see it. After observing my own thoughts and feelings in relation to this John Doe affair, I can see how I might actually be sabotaging peace, first in my own heart, and then among the community. I often share things in this blog because I think that, if I’m experiencing these things, then others likely are also, and maybe by baring my own weakness, I can help others recognize the same thing in themselves. In this case, I’m asking a particularly hard question. Do we really want peace among ourselves? Do we know what it even feels like? What if we truly had complete peace among us? Would we be happier? Or are we only happy when others are suffering or sinning more than we are, or differently than we do, or when their sins are exposed while ours remain hidden?
I have repented of this behavior, but I have no doubt that I will find myself repenting of this again and again. It is ingrained in us. It is the result of the jealousies and fears mentioned in D&C 67:10. It is the fall – characteristic of the fallen man and his separation from Christ.
I have repented of inwardly salivating over every little juicy bit of gossip that involves someone else’s failure or weakness or misstep simply because it makes me look better in my own eyes. I have repented of my tendency to agree with whoever I’m talking to and take their word as truth, and to switch my loyalties and trust with each changing of the prevailing wind of opinion or toward whoever is most recently flattering of my own ego.
Charity. The Pure Love of Christ. Without this we are nothing. Without this NOTHING that we do will be successful. Without this EVERYTHING we do will ultimately disintegrate into nothing. Paul made this so clear. Moroni made this so clear. In Charity is the power. In Charity is eternal life. Without it, everything will die. Here is the entirely of 1 Corinthians 13:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
On the other hand, WITH charity, we can access the power of eternal life.
My friends, we’ve got to step up to a new level of understanding of this if we hope to survive and not become just another flash in the pan as so many around us predict. If do not learn to eschew judgment and forgive liberally, we won’t even flame out, we will just go away with a sad whimper, leaving behind disillusionment and shattered faith, not because we tried to do the wrong thing, but because we were unable to grasp the depth and the power and the perfection of this existence that the scriptures call charity.
Now, before I get preachy (oops – too late), let me say that I do not proclaim in any way that I’m any farther along this path than anyone else. I’m just learning and learning, failing and failing, and then learning some more – every hour of every day. I see woeful failure, even hypocrisy, in myself. Still, I have this vision. I have this feeling in my bones that tells me that what I’m sharing with you is true. I recall Peter responding to Christ, upon being asked if the 12 would also leave Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” John 6:68. These words that extol charity ARE the words of eternal life (Not mine – Paul’s – or ultimately Christ’s).
I’m TIRED of carrying the burden of judgment of others. It is a heavy burden, the burden of death – one that willsurely kill me if I try to continue carrying it, because as long as I insist on carrying it, I cannot have eternal life. Reconsider Christ’s words in this context: “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” Matthew 11:30. The yoke Christ spoke of is the yoke of charity. His yoke is His pure love.
Without charity, we will find ourselves with a government, whether formal or informal, that will fail, or that will govern through unrighteous dominion. Without charity, we WILL have a strong man, or we will disintegrate. Without charity, we will condemn ourselves to an eternal separation from God and from each other. Without charity, we will always have poor among us, and we will be constantly pursuing, but never realizing, the concept of one heart and one mind.
With charity, we will have Zion, and we well dwell as one in the presence of the Lord.