Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Harshness and Fear: Not My Thing

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.


Rich Alger said...

I love the Hymn, "Come Along" It speaks so much to me. It encourages the principles of D&C 121.

Perhaps "exceeding harshness" is like what Elder Holland said last fall when he said he was going to get up into our faces. Like a coach would to a team player.

Maybe Enos's "exceeding harshness" was inspired by the Spirit in the time the people needed it.

Maybe Enos did not know better how to do it. Maybe he did not have the further light and knowledge the principles of D&C 121 give us.

Clean Cut said...

Thanks for the thoughts, Rich. I'm comfortable with any of those.

Clean Cut said...

Oh, and I just looked at that hymn (#244)--I'm not sure that I've sung before, but I like it. That's perfect for this post! Thanks for sharing.

Papa D said...

Great comment, Rich. It might not work for us, but it might be all that works for othres - and sometimes it might be exactly what we need.

The D&C standard is charity as the default, but exceeding harshness is not forbidden IF it is the exception that proves the rule AND is motivated by divine inspiration (not just a belief in "tough love", for example). I know I respond best to gentle, kind love - but I have needed a figurative kick in the pants on occasion, and I am grateful for the times I got it.

That's why I don't mind an occasional "fiery sermon" in General Conference. I personally like them most of the time, but I know there probably are people listening who do need it at that moment. So I roll with it and look for whatever applies to me.

Nate Probert said...

Great post Spence.

I am a very sensitive person and in the past I have chosen to take offense to the messages I found "harsh". I have come to see the necessity in being BOLD.. But I have also seen there is a difference between being bold and being harsh. We may have to face a harsh reality, I know I have, but I believe Jesus would want us to be a beacon of hope and love to those who must face the harshest of realities.

I remember a plea from Gordon B Hinckley that comes to mind.. He directed his words to men who were abusing there wives or children. Instead of painting fire over their heads, he beckoned to them. He was so bold in his choice of words, but I remember feeling hope. I knew the weight of what he spoke about, but I also knew he spoke of a way through it. I often bring that to mind when dealing with myself. But I think it is a great example of Gods love for us. It is perfect love like you say. But even in the depths of sin, should we choose to turn, that love can overcome our fear.

Anonymous said...

Hm, I think the rest of the verse explains itself about perfect love .... better to keep quote the entire verse. Good post.

Ben said...

I think that WAR was such a part of life for people in BOM times that they were a little more thick skinned than you and I.