Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Dr. Pharisees or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Lack of Prescriptions.

"Well if they can [do that], then I should be able to drink coffee," said during a conversation I had about church members who do things contrary to counsel given by church leadership.
Religious Reason has made a series of posts that got me thinking about why the gospel is prescriptive in certain places and not others. I have also seen terrible attempts at explaining these "gaps" in the gospel. The problem lies somewhere between what is considered to be doctrine, policy, or culture. The Millennial Star blog shared a fantastic parable I suggest you read.
Now, about the Pharisees. The Bible Dictionary states:
In the New Testament, a religious group among the Jews whose name suggests being separate or apart. The Pharisees prided themselves on strictly observing the law of Moses and avoiding anything associated with the Gentiles...Their teachings reduced religion to the observance of rules and encouraged spiritual pride. They caused many Jewish people to doubt Christ and his gospel. The Lord denounced the Pharisees and their works in Matthew 23Mark 7:1–23; and Luke 11:37–44.

The Pharisees prided themselves on laying out exactly how to act in any given circumstance. If there was a question, there was a definitive answer. If you didn't abide by their laws properly, you could be stoned. In our day, there seems to be a thirst for someone, similar to the Pharisees, to tell them what to do in any given circumstance. "Do I tithe on my net, gross, or surplus income? Why exactly is coffee, tea, and alcohol bad? What about cooking with alcohol?" They feel like there should be more revelation given to the body of the church. They want someone else to make decisions for them. That sounds strikingly similar to the plan that the adversary had for us before he was cast out for rebellion.
Herein lies the beauty of the gospel. It does not care about those things. Anywhere the doctrine is unclear, or seemingly misinterpreted, it is up to us. How will we learn and grow or make decisions by ourselves if everything is so prescriptive? Each individual's situation is unique. They learn at different paces. Some may not have a problem with saying the occasional swear word. Others may choose to tithe on their net income or surplus for any one of a thousand reasons. Does this make them not observant of gospel laws? No. The lack of prescriptions allows each person to make their own life choices while still living the gospel.
There are relatively few commandments. There is a basic standard of worthiness to enter into the temple or take part in priesthood ordinances. However, the questions asked in a temple or baptism interview are yes/no questions. If you can, with a clear conscience, answer those questions, the rest doesn't matter. 
Always remember not to compare yourself to other people. If you look to others and say, "Well, that family watches R-rated films, and this family swears in their house..." you're going to be able to justify doing almost anything.
The key is to not push your own ideas on gospel living onto others. Worry about yourself, not your neighbor. Remember, It is, and always will be, between you and The Lord.