I was reading Enos in the Book of Mormon, and he had me the whole time, all the way until verse 23 when he said there was nothing but "exceeding harshness" and severe preaching that could keep people in line. That's where he lost me. I guess I'm sensitive to that kind of thing, because I know of certain ecclesiastical leaders who have used harshness and think it's the right thing, only to find out later how much ecclesiastical abuse it caused later.
To his credit, I've had a bishop who (even when perhaps harshness could have been justified, and apparently there's scriptural precedent there) chose to resist the initial urge to harshness, and instead waited some time and decided to do things the Lord's way--patiently and lovingly asking what he could do to help the "offenders".
I'm also not a fan of rhetoric like "going down speedily to destruction" (also verse 23)--at least to me in 2012 it sounds a little over the top. Maybe I'm just comfortable navigating this world we live in, but that's not the worldview with which I live my life. I'm a fan of the Marie Curie quote: "Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood".
I don't really go for much of the "battle" rhetoric we hear so much of either. I do, however, think there's a lesson for us in Alma 43:45 that we must inspire and/or be "inspired to a better cause" if we want to truly motivate people to stay in the fold. But fear isn't my ideal motivation. Many people misinterpret those "fear the Lord" passages to mean "be afraid, be very afraid" rather than "respect the Lord". Unfeigned love is a much better motivator. And even if it doesn't motivate 100%, it at least allows you to be at peace with whatever happens.
"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear" (1 John 4:18.) Now that's some good rhetoric.
Jesuit priest Tom Reese joins Religion News Service
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