Every Christian faith and denomination has beliefs that are unique to its practices and doctrines. However, the differences should not cause a wall of division, but rather people of different faiths and beliefs should be able to “come together, and reason together” as brothers and sisters on a common ground – that being a belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. Believers in Jesus Christ should follow the admonition of the Apostle Paul to the Saints at Ephesus when he exhorted:
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all (Ephesians 4:1-6).
As members of different faiths and denominations begin to find ways in which they can meet on common ground for fellowship and worship, they will be able to echo the exclamation of the Psalmist, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).
Methodists and Mormons Follow the Master’s Example
Easter is a very special time of year when people celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. For the members of the Vancouver Washington West Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, one way in which they celebrate is through a production called the “Life of Christ” event. The event which was started nearly a decade ago serves to invite people to celebrate the life of the Savior. Dean Barrus, a local Latter-day Saint leader, stated, “We wanted to invite people of all faiths who had belief in the Savior too to come and join with us in that common belief.”
With that objective in mind, the West Stake extended an invitation to the Community African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church of Vancouver to participate in a unique opportunity. Reverend Joyce Smith, the Senior Pastor of AME Zion graciously accepted the invitation. She commented, “It doesn’t matter what denomination you’re from. If we know Jesus that’s the most important thing of all.”
United in Prayer, Song, and Heart
On Saturday, 21 March 2015, congregants from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and AME Zion Church gathered together for a special two-show concert which included the Nashville Tribute Band from Tennessee and the Community AME Zion Choir. The concert was held at a 500-seat Vancouver auditorium. The purpose of the event was to worship Christ through music.
Dan Truman of the Nashville Tribute band commented, “The fact the choir was going to come and sing with us — that takes our music to another level.” He further stated that “level” started during a prayer meeting with the AME choir prior to the concert. A meeting which he further states, had a profound effect on his band mates. He continued, “We were all in a circle holding hands and we start singing with them, and I look around and there [are] different guys in our group, … and there [are] tears coming down [their faces] because… it was so beautiful… and spiritual.”
During the concert the AME choir sang several gospel hymns, all the while inviting the audience to sing, sway, and clap along with them. The band performed songs from their album, “Redeemer: A Nashville Tribute to Jesus Christ.” Speaking of the blessings of that evening, Reverend Smith remarked, “It’s all God’s children just getting together. What a time, what a time! And we saw a little of that, and for that I will be forever grateful to the Latter-day Saints.”
The proceeds from the concert were used to enable the AME Zion Church to make improvements on wheelchair access to church restrooms. “When I heard about the Latter-day Saints giving us the benefits from the concert,” said Reverend Smith, “it just made my whole world and it was an answer to prayer.”
The band was invited to join the congregation of AME Zion Church for Sunday morning worship services in which they were happy to be a part of.
Dean Barrus further commented, “It has turned out wonderfully. It’s very unifying to everybody, and we’re just all excited to participate together in this worship of the Savior and it feels really good.”
We are commanded in the scriptures to “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). And so, many people, in particular religious people, seek for ways to live a life that is considered “perfect.” However, is the idea of being “perfect” even remotely possible? The question that begs an answer is, “How does a person go about living a perfect life in an imperfect world?” According to a new study, our quest to answer that question has significant bearing on our mental health.
Defining the Terms
When we hear the words “perfect,” “perfectionist,” or “perfectionism” what thoughts come to mind? The philosophical definition of perfectionism is “a doctrine holding that religious, moral, social, or political perfection is attainable, especially the theory that human moral or spiritual perfection should be or has been attained.” The Apostle Paul addressed the subject of being perfect in his treatise to the saints of the church at Philippi. In Philippians 3:12-16 Paul exhorts:
Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.
What Paul is telling the saints is that he is not perfect, but he lives his life in such a manner as to daily strive to become perfect or more Christ-like. He further explains that he has left behind those things in his life which he once thought would gain him favor with God, and instead continues to look ahead and set the attaining of a Christ-like life (a perfect life) as his spiritual and moral target.
High Expectations and Striving for Perfection
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are taught to have high expectations and to strive for perfection, a task which frequently leaves members finding themselves falling short of the mark. This often leads to feelings of discouragement, dissatisfaction, anxiety, and stress. However, Professors G. E. Kawika Allen from the McKay School of Education at Brigham Young University, and Kenneth T. Wang at the Fuller Theological Seminary, argue that perfectionism, or striving for high standards, is not the problem.
The first group, 22% of people surveyed, were not perfectionists, that is, they don’t believe they hold themselves to high personal standards. The rest were considered perfectionists, but had an interesting split among them – a new type of perfectionism. Of the perfectionist group, 30% were classified as what Allen and Wang labeled maladaptive perfectionism, while 47% were classified as adaptive.
Allen admits that the populace surveyed for the test was perhaps the most appropriate as it is at that crossroads in a person’s life when they feel the most pressure to live up to the high standards of perfectionism as they contemplate going on a mission, getting married, and pursuing a higher education.
The study indicated that over half of the 267 LDS members surveyed could be classified as adaptive perfectionists which can be described as follows:
Adaptive perfectionists are likely to feel acceptance of themselves and their efforts, even when they fail or fall short of the high personal standards they have set for themselves. They are also more inwardly and outwardly committed to their LDS faith, which supports previous peer-reviewed findings that religious commitment plays a role in achieving better psychological health. That means adaptive perfectionism is actually healthy.
Taking this into consideration, the Apostle Paul would be classified as an adaptive perfectionist.
By contrast, however, members who were classified as maladaptive tend to feel less satisfied with their lives, and often experience depression and anxiety. They also tend to have a deeper fear of being punished by God for their sinful behavior. The study renders the following explanation about maladaptive perfectionists:
Maladaptive perfectionists are those folks who have high standards and high expectations for themselves, but when they are unable to meet those expectations, whether it’s school, family, or personal expectations, they struggle a little more with feelings of failure, feelings of not being good enough, disappointment, discouragement, and they feel down about themselves because they’re not able to meet those high standards.
Allen further commented that “adaptive perfectionists are more resilient to discouragement and create a ‘buffer’ for themselves if they fail —allowing themselves a chance to simply try again and again and again and do their best. He relates this to the repentance process.
How Members Can Achieve a Healthier Perfectionist Behavior
Allen offers three basic suggestions for helping members to become adaptive perfectionist versus maladaptive perfectionists. He states that the first step is for a member to figure out the type of perfectionist that he or she is. For those who struggle with maladaptive perfectionism, Allen states that, “Knowing that they have this negative tendency is half the battle. Then they can begin practicing more patience with themselves and studying the Atonement – both key steps to becoming an adaptive perfectionist.” He also states that it can be encouraging for adaptive perfectionists “because it reinforces the ‘Okay, I can be perfectionist in an adaptive way, and I can feel good about myself when I’m not able to meet those expectations.”
The second step in the process is to not allow fear to rule how the gospel is lived. Allen states,
Oftentimes we find ourselves doing things out of fear and anxiety rather than wanting to do it out of the love and out of faith—our own faith. When we’re driven by fear and anxiety, that’s when we need to take another look at the meaning of the Atonement and grace and our testimony of the living Christ.
He further emphasizes that adaptive perfectionists are motivated by love for the Savior more than they are by fear of repentance or punishment.
The third step is to apply the atonement in daily living and remember the unconditional love that God has for each of us. Allen commented:
As we let go of fear, we also need to strive to understand the Atonement and God’s love. When we understand that the Atonement allows us to strive for perfection simply by doing our very best and we remember that we are already imperfect, it helps us pick up the pieces and start again when we make a mistake.
Each of Us Strive for Perfection
None of us are perfect. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). The psalmist also declared, “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Psalm 14:1-3).
The only One who is perfect is Christ Himself. He is our Exemplar. As mortals, being perfect is an impossibility, but yet we should continue to strive towards becoming perfect. If we would keep that as our perspective and goal in life, we will be able to become adaptive perfectionists, continuously working to improve ourselves. Allen concludes with this counsel:
The next time you find yourself feeling like a failure, and that achieving perfection is impossible, take a step back, pick yourself up, and remember that the beauty of the Atonement is our ability to frequently fail, but always be able to move forward, a little better than we were before.
This article has been shared here by permission of the author. The original article can be found at Morsels of Bread.net
The word “stranger” is basically defined as a person whom one does not know or with whom one is not familiar. The word “stranger” comes from the Latin word extraneus, which means “exterior” or “from the outside.” Therefore, generally speaking, a stranger is someone who may be considered an outsider because of religion, culture, race, or whatever the reason.
If we look around the room this morning we may find at least one or two people who are strangers to us. Each of us, have been strangers ourselves on different occasions.
For example, for 20 years of my life I served on active duty in the United States Navy. During those 20 years, I was blessed with opportunities to travel all over the world on different assignments. I was even blessed to live in a few different countries for a time. In each of those situations, I was considered the stranger or the outsider. However, one of the amazing things that I discovered was that once I made the effort to show that I was friendly and genuinely interested in learning a little about the people living in those countries, I no longer felt like a stranger. In fact, I began to make friends with different people, and even though neither of us could speak the language of the other perfectly, we were still able to communicate with one another.
In the same way, as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, as we strive to live our lives according to His laws and His commandments, the world may consider us to be the strangers or the outsiders. But, the good news is that as members of the Church we have been given this promise, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). As members of the Church, we are not strangers or outsiders, but rather we become brothers and sisters. The Apostle Paul expounds on this in his teaching in Romans 8:16-18,
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
A promise was also made of old when God promised Abraham,
And I will bless them through thy name; for as many as receive this Gospel shall be called after thy name, and shall be accounted thy seed, and shall rise up and bless thee, as their father (Abraham 2:10).
As Bishop Gérald Caussé pointed out in his October 2013 General Conference address, “Though the membership of the Church is increasing in its diversity, our sacred heritage transcends our differences.”
I would also like to point out that although a person may be a member of the Church, it is still quite possible that he or she may at times feel that they really don’t belong, or that they are a stranger or an outsider. That is the reason it becomes the responsibility of each of us to heed the words of the Savior when He taught, “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35). And so, we must learn to take the focus off of ourselves, and learn to place that focus on serving others. We must be willing to “lift up the hands which hang down, and [steady] the feeble knees” (Hebrews 12:12).
Bishop Gérald Caussé also pointed out in his address,
Throughout time the people of God have been commanded to care for all individuals who are strangers or who may be seen as different. In ancient times a stranger benefited from the same obligation of hospitality as a widow or an orphan. Like them, the stranger was in a situation of great vulnerability, and his survival depended on the protection he received from the local population. The people of Israel received precise instructions on this subject: “But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:34).
Christ is our Great Exemplar in showing compassion and mercy to those who were considered to be strangers or outcasts in society. Throughout His earthly ministry none were excluded, all were equal recipients of His teachings and ministry. He healed the sick. He raised the dead. He cleansed the lepers. He sat and ate with publicans and tax collectors. He caused the deaf to hear, the dumb to speak, and the blind to see. And He even crossed cultural boundaries by asking a Samaritan woman at the well for a drink of water.
As His followers, we are asked to observe the law of perfect love. The Savior taught,
For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:46-48).
If we are faithful and obedient to the Lord’s commands, and live His teachings, there should be no strangers or outcasts among us, only brotherhood and sisterhood. We who are considered strangers and outsiders to the world, should be the very ones who set the example before the world of what true brotherhood and sisterhood is all about. Our daily lives should be guided by the knowledge that,
[We] are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your alight so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).
I mentioned that at times we will all find ourselves in situations where we will be considered the stranger or the outsider, but this is something that we can work together to avoid happening in the Church. When someone new comes to join us here in the sanctuary or in one of our classes, we should make every effort to make them feel comfortable, welcome, and a part of our Ward family. We must make the effort to be the first ones to offer the outstretched hand of friendship. A person may not be known by name at first, but yet, they are known to us as brother and sister.
Let us resolve from this day forward to have no more strangers among us. In the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints revere the Book of Mormon as a sacred volume of scripture that is comparable to the Holy Bible. The Book of Mormon is not intended to replace the Bible, but rather its teachings enhance those doctrines and principles that are taught in the Bible. Latter-day Saints testify that the Book is exactly as its name declares, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Therefore, they further testify that both the Bible and the Book of Mormon together present to the world an irrefutable testimony of the Divine Redeemer and Savior of the World, and the immensity of His love for all mankind.
To date the entire book of Mormon has been translated into 91 languages, and selections of the Book of Mormon have been translated into an additional 24 languages. Thus, the volume is made available to many people in their native tongue, but the question that begs an answer is, “How many people have ever read it or know anything about it?”
In 2014, three returned missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – Kyson Kidd, Jacob Justice and Jake Christensen – set out on a mission to find an answer to that question. The culmination of their quest which was dubbed “The Book of Mormon Project” was the creation of a 5:08 video called “What is the Book of Mormon?” The video was published on YouTube on 1 January 2015, and has already received over 33,000 views in its first week online.
Flooding the Earth with the Book of Mormon
The motivation behind their mission was their own personal testimonies of the Book of Mormon and their desire that people everywhere would have the opportunity to read the book for themselves. Christensen who is from Eagle, Idaho, originally came up with the idea to create the video after wanting to share a video about the Book of Mormon with his friends on Facebook. In searching for a video to share he discovered that a majority of the videos found in the top searches on YouTube were about the satirical Broadway musical “The Book of Mormon” and decided that something had to be done.
It’s such an important book, and it’s made such a huge difference in my life. The more I’ve read it, the more I’ve honestly grown closer to Christ … and I have become such a happier person because of the Book of Mormon, and I just want everyone to have that.
It is hoped that after reading the book, people would accept the prophet Moroni’s challenge as recorded in Moroni 10:3-5:
Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts. And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
They received additional guidance and inspiration from a quote taken from an October 1988 General Conference address given by President Ezra Taft Benson titled “Flooding the Earth with the Book of Mormon.” In that timely address, President Benson exhorted:
The time is long overdue for a massive flooding of the earth with the Book of Mormon for the many reasons which the Lord has given. In this age of the electronic media and the mass distribution of the printed word, God will hold us accountable if we do not now move the Book of Mormon in a monumental way.
Christensen further notes that with all the technology that we have available to use, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have an even greater responsibility today to share the Book of Mormon than ever before.
The three friends, who are BYU-Idaho students, hope that the video will impact members and non-members alike. They believe that the reason that most people don’t read the Book of Mormon is because they don’t understand what it is. Christensen stated:
If people could really understand what the Book of Mormon is, they would cherish that book like their lives depended on it. That’s what we’re hoping to do with this video is ignite the spark of the importance of the Book of Mormon so both members and nonmembers will have more of a desire to read it.
We want people to see that this isn’t just for us. This isn’t just for me and you. This is for every single person on planet Earth. I think for members, it’s going to be like, ‘Wow, this is a cool thing I’m a part of.’ And then for nonmembers it’ll be like, ‘Wow, this is a big deal. How have I not heard of it? How have I not read this yet?’
On 19 August 2014, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles delivered a message during Campus Education Week at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, titled “To Sweep the Earth as with a Flood” in which he encouraged members to “flood the earth” with gospel messages on social media. Albeit “The Book of Mormon Project” was begun before Elder Bednar’s address was given, Christensen, Kidd, and Justice were excited to hear his message because they knew that it would help their video to succeed. As a result of Elder Bednar’s message, they believe that now, more than ever, members are willing to share gospel messages online.
A Promise to All who will Read the Book
We actually decided that Jan. 1 would be best because that’s the time of year that everyone is thinking about making changes in their lives,” Christensen explained. “So we just thought that would be the perfect time to release it as they’re thinking, ‘OK, what can I do to better my life this year?’ and then they see this video, and they think ‘Oh, that could be something that could benefit my life this year. I’ll try it.’ That’s what we’re hoping people will say and do.”
Sharing the Book of Mormon with others is an excellent missionary tool and a great way to share the gospel. As we do so, we not only bless the lives of others, but we are also blessed because of our efforts to do the work that the Lord has commanded us to do. Therefore, not only do we help others to draw closer to Christ, but we ourselves are drawn closer to Christ.
The prophet Moroni’s clarion exhortation applies to all who will read the Book of Mormon:
Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts (Moroni 10:3).
What is meant when we refer to someone as being virtuous? What we are saying in essence is that person lives his or her life according to high moral standards. Whether we are conscious of the fact or not, our speech, our behaviors, and our lifestyle in general, can have a tremendous influence on the life of people whom we meet on our life’s journey. Even though people may not say anything to us, we can be assured that they are watching us, and some even begin to imitate the virtues that they see in us.
Our Life Story Influences the Lives of Others
Helen Mirren, an English actress, is quoted as saying, “You write your life story by the choices you make. You never know if they have been a mistake. Those moments of decision are so difficult.” Therefore, if we are to write a life story which will have an indelible mark for the good, we must take care in how we present ourselves to others because we are the living pages of that story that is being written daily. We must realize that people make decisions about the type of person they perceive us to be according to the life that we live and the example that we set before them. If we live our lives virtuously, many people will want to follow our example in improving their own standards of living.
As means of a personal example of what I am speaking of, some time ago I had a conversation with someone whom I had never met. After our brief conversation, the person felt impressed to write me a little note to express the impression that I had made on him. This is the note that he wrote to me:
You are a man who has felt deep sorrow yet has climbed high above it to reach a true satisfaction yet not a true happiness. You are sometimes righteous and pure but often mischievous and playful. You are very childlike but rarely childish. You enjoy hearing secrets yet are hard pressed to keep them. You are able to like and enjoy people even if they do not like you but there are times where you hate people for liking you.
You are eclectic and eccentric in thought, mind and idea. You are hungry for many things. You hunger for more knowledge of the world and of the universe, of the heavens and beyond. You hunger for true, honest and real love. You hunger for a soul quenching spiritual awakening.
You are a man who really does wish “joy to the World and peace on Earth” and quite often feels some sadness, regret and frustration that you, yourself, cannot be the bearer of such tidings. You sometimes feel angry because the world won’t let you change it.
You have so much to give to others. Knowledge to impart, love to give. You are able to raise the spirit of others and to give them confidence. You are a man of great wisdom, you are an old soul.
You have high morals and you are a man of integrity and you do not judge others. However you view with impunity those whose moral compass is off. You are always the first to apologize, the first to forgive. You do not know what revenge is or how to be vindictive and you are unable to hold a grudge. Your thoughts and ideas mean more to you than monetary wealth for they are priceless.
You are a man of principal and will fight for what you believe even if you are the lone fighter. You will also fight for the rights of others. You are not afraid to stand alone in a crowd. You are a leader, a man of vision, a man of honor, a man of his word. You are an interesting man and a man of interest….
Making Virtue a Part of Your Life
Ivan Nikolayevitsh Panin, a Russian emigrant to the United States who achieved fame for claiming to have discovered numeric patterns in the text of the Hebrew and Greek Bible and for his published work based on his subsequent research, is quoted as having said, “As you do not sweeten your mouth by saying honey, so you do not grow virtuous by merely talking of virtue.” In other words, knowing what virtue is, and actually living a virtuous life are two different concepts. This is perhaps an important life lesson that was learned recently by Arthur C. Brooks, a contributing opinion writer, and the president of the American Enterprise Institute.
In an op-ed article in the 27 November 2014 online edition of The New York Times, Brooks recounts a trip that he made several years ago to Provo, Utah, to deliver a lecture at Brigham Young University. He recalls that he was sent home with a generous amount of souvenirs with the Brigham Young University (BYU) logo stamped on each. One of the gifts that he was presented with was a new briefcase which had the name of the university on the front. He admits that although he needed a new briefcase, “the logo gave me pause because it felt a little like false advertising for a non-Mormon to carry it.” Nevertheless, having been encouraged by his wife that his thoughts were laughable, he began using the briefcase and carried it with him on business trips. He further commented, “In airports, I quickly noticed that people would look at my briefcase, and then look up at me. I could only assume that they were thinking, “I’ve never seen an aging hipster Mormon before.”
Although he found this observance to be a bit humorous at first, he soon noticed that there was a major difference in his attitude and behavior. He stated,
I found that I was acting more cheerfully and courteously than I ordinarily would — helping people more with luggage, giving up my place in line, that sort of thing. I was unconsciously trying to live up to the high standards of Mormon kindness, or at least not besmirch that well-earned reputation. I even found myself reluctant to carry my customary venti dark roast, given the well-known Mormon prohibition against coffee.
Almost like magic, the briefcase made me a happier, more helpful person — at least temporarily.
However, it was not anything magical that Brooks found himself experiencing. What he was experiencing is what psychologists refer to as “moral elevation” or an emotional state where we begin to act virtuously when exposed to the virtues of others. The briefcase that Brooks had been given as a gift had a similar effect in that it reminded him of the virtuous qualities of his Mormon friends.
The New York Times article also points out, “We can be the passive beneficiaries of moral elevation. But we can actively pursue it as well by rejecting bad influences and seeking good ones. We can even create the circumstances for moral elevation ourselves.”
That is the very reason it is so important to remember that first impressions can and do make lasting impressions. We may often feel that nothing that we say or do really matters, but we will never know the influence that it has upon the life of another. Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Peter Carr on 19 August 1785, gave this sound counsel:
Whenever you are to do a thing, though it can never be known but to yourself, ask yourself how you would act were all the world looking at you, and act accordingly.
Encourage all your virtuous dispositions, and exercise them whenever an opportunity arises, being assured that they will gain strength by exercise, as a limb of the body does, and that exercise will make them habitual.
As we strive to live a virtuous life, let us also be reminded of the words of Confucius who quipped, “Virtue is not left to stand alone. He who practices it will have neighbors.”
Bullying can be defined in many different ways. A standard dictionary definition of the word “bully” is “the use of superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants.” Synonyms for the verb “bully” include: persecute, oppress, tyrannize, browbeat, harass, torment, and intimidate.
It is interesting to note that the United Kingdom has no legal definition of bullying, while some states in the United States have strict laws governing the bullying of others. Normally when the subject is discussed its reference is to incidents that occur among students in schools. Unfortunately, the school campus is not the only place where bullying occurs. It may also occur among youth in the Church.
Made to Feel as an Outcast among Peers
Bullying, which can be classified into four different types – verbal, social, physical, and cyber – is a serious problem, especially among youth. It can range from simple one-on-one bullying to more complex bullying in which the primary bully may have another person or persons to assist in his or her bullying activities.
According to the stopbullying.gov website, in order for behavior to be considered bullying it must be aggressive and include:
An Imbalance of Power: Kids who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others.
Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.
The “targets” or “victims” of bullying are often made to feel inferior to their peers. They are often the recipients of unwarranted threats (including cyber threats), the subject of malicious rumors, the objects of physical or verbal abuse (to include inappropriate sexual comments), and deliberately excluded from certain groups.
When a Supposed Safe Haven No Longer Feels Safe
Most people think of church as a safe place where children can be protected from the wiles of the world. In the minds of most people, church is the last place where they would expect anyone to be the victim of bullying, but yet it does happen.
In an LDS Living Magazine article dated 28 August 2014 titled “The Sad Truth about Bullying at Church,” Kelsey Berteaux recounts the episode of a young teenage girl who was contemplating suicide by jumping off the roof of her home because she was being bullied by the youth in her ward. In the article, Judy Wells, the mother of the young teenage girl, recalls the events that led up to her daughter wanting to commit suicide, “The girls took her journal and read it when she left it on her chair to go to the library to get a Book of Mormon. Then, when she came in, they were quoting it.” She further stated that this was only one of a hundred things those young men and young women did. She continued,
When she [her daughter] went and sat down next to some girls, the girls would get up and create a new row and leave her sitting all alone. They invented fake physical relationships she could have had with boys and teased her about them, leaving notes about it on classroom whiteboards for others to find. They even harassed her outside of church, calling her to borrow equipment for a party she wasn’t invited to, and later, calling again to say how glad they were that she wasn’t at the gathering with them.
Fortunately, Wells was able to talk her daughter down from the roof, but she found herself at a loss as to what the next steps should be in trying to help her distraught daughter.
Children and the Damaging Effects of Bullying
Kids can bully others, be bullied themselves, or witness someone else being bullied. Often kids who are involved in a bullying situation play multiple roles – they may themselves be the targets of bullying by others, or they may witness other innocent kids being bullied.
According to the stopbullying.gov website:
The roles kids play in bullying are not limited to those who bully others and those who are bullied. Some researchers talk about the “circle of bullying” to define both those directly involved in bullying and those who actively or passively assist the behavior or defend against it.
Even if a child is not directly involved in bullying, they may be contributing to the behavior. Witnessing the behavior may also affect the child, so it is important for them to learn what they should do when they see bullying happen.
Most kids play more than one role in bullying over time. In some cases, they may be directly involved in bullying as the one bullying others or being bullied and in others they may witness bullying and play an assisting or defending role. Every situation is different. Some kids are both bullied and bully others. It is important to note the multiple roles kids play, because…
Those who are both bullied and bully others may be at more risk for negative outcomes, such as depression or suicidal ideation.
It highlights the need to engage all kids in prevention efforts, not just those who are known to be directly involved
Addressing the Issue of Bullying in the Church
Wells eventually had her daughter attend a different ward in a different stake in an effort to keep her away from the youth who were bullying her. Unfortunately, every parent who has a son or daughter who is the victim of bullying at Church is not able to attend a different ward or stake.
The LDS Living.com article lists some ways that experts suggest can be used to recognize, prevent, and correct bullying in a church environment:
Clark Burbidge, author of the youth help series Giants in the Land, commented that “due to the more positive, value-based, and supportive overall environment of a church setting, bullying can play out in more subtle ways. We can see it in exclusive or cliquish behavior. These can also include hurtful or devaluing statements.”
The article also suggests that another form of bullying in the Church is often found in pranks that are played on unsuspecting youth during various youth activities. Judy Wells, now an advocate against bullying, made the following observation:
They’ve got to have fun out there, right? There has to be some sort of an outlet. Locking a girl in a latrine at girl’s camp, that’s okay. It’s kind of funny. She’s stuck in a smelly latrine and can’t get out until somebody comes and lets her out. But, she says, “It’s not funny.” How someone experiences a “harmless” prank can emotionally affect them for the rest of their life.
Burbidge further suggests that the process of deterring bullying behavior begins in the home. Parents have an obligation to teach their children right from wrong, and bullying other children should be at the forefront of those things that are taught as being wrong behavior. He suggests that bullying behavior can be cut off at the pass if families are doing their part to create a loving, faith-filled, family environment in the home.
Licensed family therapist, Dr. Jonathan Swinton, recommends that on the ward level, bullying can be deterred by “celebrating diversity and differences, not being judgmental, and feeling love for all of God’s children.” He further commented:
The more people appreciate the doctrines that God ‘hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on the face of the earth’ (Acts 17:26), and that he ‘denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; … and all are alike unto God’ (2 Nephi 26:33), the behavior will more easily follow.
Just teaching kids to be nice will not be sufficient if they don’t really view everyone as their brothers and sisters. If they really do understand that it is their brother or sister they are doing this to, they can better show love for anyone that is different.
Wells further contends that Bishops and other Church leaders need to become actively engaged in resolving bullying issues that may occur in their wards or branches. She states that leaders should immediately alert parents of any child who is involved in a bullying situation so that they are aware of their child’s behavior towards others during church activities.
Burbidge further commented that leaders should respond to these types of situations “in a way that both supports and protects the person targeted, as well as responds in a loving but correcting way to the person responsible for the bullying. This can include counseling with both parties and their parents to provide the positive reinforcement and guidance so that alternative behaviors may be developed and replace the destructive ones.”
Every member can have an active role in ensuring that this type of behavior does not occur in his or her ward or branch by practicing charity – the pure love of Christ – towards their brothers and sisters. Every effort should be made to make everyone feel comfortable, welcome, and a part of the Church family. Each member should make the effort to be the first to offer the outstretched hand of friendship. A person may be appear different because of race, culture, or language, and they may not be known by name, but yet, they are known to us as brother and sister. When these practices are put in place, there will be no more strangers in Zion, and such adverse behaviors as bullying will cease to exist.
In a recent article, this author wrote about what a missionary can expect after the mission is complete and he or she returns home. In that article, it was brought out that while serving a mission a missionary leaves behind the cares of the world, and the primary focus is on teaching the gospel to the people in his or her assigned area.
Although there are challenges in the mission field, none of those challenges perhaps remotely compare to the trials that a missionary faces upon returning to “normal” day-to-day living. There are some who even find themselves slipping into what may be referred to as Post-Mission Depression or PMD.
Recognizing the Symptoms and Learning How to Cope
A standard dictionary definition of depression states that it is the “severe despondency and dejection, typically felt over a period of time and accompanied by feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy.”
Any type of depression, regardless of how mild or severe, can have adverse effects on a person’s life. The reality is that depression does not show partiality by only affecting a select group of people, and it is not something that a person, not even a person who has just returned from laboring in the Lord’s vineyard, can easily “snap out of.” Depression is a serious physical and emotional condition that could possibly lead to damaging one’s spiritual, social, and mental well-being if not treated.
Giles Andreae, a British artist, poet and greeting card writer, is quoted as having said, “Here is the tragedy: when you are the victim of depression, not only do you feel utterly helpless and abandoned by the world, you also know that very few people can understand, or even begin to believe, that life can be this painful.” There are many missionaries, who after serving a faithful mission for The Church of Jesus Christ, understand Andreae’s sentiments all too well.
The symptoms of PMD may include, but are not limited to, random bouts of crying for no reason, a broken heart, the urge to help people or teach the gospel all the time but being unable to do so, not finding joy or satisfaction in doing day-to-day or menial tasks or activities you love, feeling guilty for just sitting around or wasting time, among other symptoms which are commonly found in returned missionaries with PMD.
The Prophet Jeremiah asked the pointed question, “”Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there?” (Jeremiah 8:22). As Hill points out in his article, the “balm in Gilead” that is normally offered to returned missionaries suffering from Post-Mission Depression is to spend time going out teaching with the local missionaries, perform service for others, or read and study the scriptures. These things however, may only appear to be a short-term cure, as Hill points out that the common response is, “It’s just not the same.” Hill further notes that the only real “cure” for PMD is time. He continues:
That, and putting into practice what you’ve been teaching for the last two years by living the gospel of Jesus Christ. Using the Atonement daily is the only hope in treating Post Mission Depression. The first week or so after the missionary is released, the patient will most likely remain in a surreal state of shock. After that is when PMD really begins to kick in, however within three to four weeks, symptoms will start to fade away. If the medicine is used correctly and in the recommended doses, PMD can be cured within a relatively brief period of time.
Counsel and Guidance from an Apostle of the Lord
Elder David A. Bednar, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, in answering a recently returned missionary’s question, gave specific direction as seen in the video below:
Mother Teresa’s words of wisdom echo Elder Bednar’s response. She said, ‘Be faithful in the small things because it is in them that your strength lies.“ And Helaman, in the Book of Mormon, gave this counsel to his sons which is wise counsel for not only for returned missionaries who may be suffering from PMD, but for all to heed:
And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall (Helaman 5:12).
Why does there appear to be a vast number of 20-somethings who are leaving religious institutions of all faiths? Christian author Naomi Schaefer Riley addresses this important question in her new book Got Religion? She answers the question from an optimistic viewpoint as she discusses ways some religious communities are actively engaged in helping to make sure that number of 20-somethings who are exiting remains at a minimum.
How Religious Communities Can Help Perfect the Saints
Jana Riess in her Religion News Service (RNS) article dated 18 July 2014 points out that Riley cites three important key elements that the most successful religious communities incorporate in order to help retain their number of 20-somethings:
They provide stability during a period of transience. .
They give them important things to do to make the religious community work.
They help them form spiritual habits to last a lifetime.
An entire chapter in Riley’s book is devoted to discussing how Mormon singles wards are providing crucial help in all three of these areas. The following guidelines as set forth in section 16 of Handbook 2: Administering the Church (instructions for leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) which is titled “Single Members” supports what she says in the chapter:
Men and women who have not married or who are divorced or widowed make up a significant portion of Church membership. Priesthood and auxiliary leaders reach out to these members and include them in the work of the Church. Worthy single members should be given opportunities to hold leadership and teaching positions, including positions in Elders Quorum presidencies, High Priests Group leaderships, and auxiliary presidencies.
Leaders support single members by helping them draw near to the Lord, strengthen their testimonies, and take responsibility for their own spiritual, social, and temporal well-being.
In ministering to single members, leaders seek to strengthen family life, not compete with it or detract from it. They teach and testify of the importance of marriage and parenthood. Even when young single adults are not living with their parents, Church leaders encourage them to honor and nourish their relationships with their parents. Leaders also support single parents in their efforts to teach and nurture their children.
Important Questions That Warrant an Answer
In a follow-up conversation with author Naomi Schaefer Riley, Riess was able to ask some pointed questions regarding the mass exodus that religious institutions of many faiths are currently experiencing. She specifically focused on the chapter in Riley’s book about Mormon singles wards and asked questions about Mormon dating and marriage, leadership opportunities, and the pros and cons of the singles ward system. What follows are a few of those questions and answers.
Question: How has the overall trend toward later marriage affected Mormons in their 20s and 30s?
It looks like the Mormon age of marriage is starting to creep up as well.
During the 1990s, the General Social Survey found an average age of Mormon first marriage of 21.6. In a survey I conducted in 2010 for my book on interfaith marriage, it was up to 23.
This age may not seem high yet, but if the Mormon population follows the trend of the rest of the American population (albeit at a slower pace), it could have a significant effect on rates of religious observance and retention across generational lines. In that survey I found also found the later the age of marriage the more likely people were to marry someone of a different religion.
Question: You make the point that religions that don’t provide leadership opportunities to young adults are doomed. The success stories are religious traditions that are enlisting 20-somethings into service. How does Mormonism fit into that?
As we are living longer, healthier lives, some church members start to get a little territorial, staying in the same volunteer position for years or even decades. Young adults who show up often feel as if their presence is superfluous.
This is one of the things that really impressed me about Young Single Adult wards. The LDS church was willing to say to 20-somethings, “Even though your parents may treat you like children because you’re not married, not done with school, don’t have full-time employment, etc., we, the church, are going to treat you like grownups — putting you in charge of collecting tithes, religious education and a variety of other important functions.”
The church came to what I think is the correct conclusion — if you treat 20-somethings like adults, they will act like adults.
Question: You talk about the poignant transition when YSAs age out, Logan’s Run style, after age 30. What are the pros and cons of such a system?
I think the pros are that these young people are able to take more responsibility and that the services and messages of religious leaders can be more closely tailored to their needs.
I think the cons are that the ward itself has a very transitional feel. People are constantly moving in and out. Whether they age out or get married, it can feel very impermanent. Which is how a lot of 20-somethings feel already. Every time you force a young adult to make a transition, you risk losing him or her and so adding another step to this process can be risky.
Riley also praised the multi-generational experience that Young Single Adults (YSA) get in The Church of Jesus Christ. She notes that such an experience helps to keep them grounded and helps them to realize that the world does not revolve around them and their needs alone. She also notes that this has been a recurring problem with such Christian programs as Campus Crusade. She further commented, “I think the Mormon Church avoids some of the problems that could come with an YSA arrangement because many of the young people are still living close to large extended families. So they get the multi-generational experience outside of church.”
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often called the “Mormon” Church by the media and others) realize the importance of meeting together to worship the Lord. They also realize that worship is not restricted to Sunday, although that is the usual day of worship in most parts of the world, but they are admonished to not forsake the “assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). The Savior Himself taught, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). And so, there are some places in the world where Church services may be conducted more frequently.
The Church of Jesus Christ in Hong Kong, China
In Hong Kong, Church meetings are held every day of the week in order to accommodate the domestic helpers who only get one day a week off, and that day may vary from week to week.
Melissa Inouye of the University of Hong Kong stated that there is a missionary couple specifically called to conduct daily church meetings for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for whoever comes. Inouye also made mention of the fact that the missionary couple’s Preparation Day (P-day) is actually on Sunday.
Bridging the Differences between Schedules and Cultures
In introducing the voice of a domestic helper by the name of Marissa Carino Estipona, Ford commented, “With over 1,000 domestic helpers, our district is the most gender imbalanced of its type in the church. We are a predominantly matriarchal society at church.” Estipona recalled being asked by a woman in Church if the long hours that she worked as a domestic helper away from her family in order to support and sustain them was worth it, and replying that everything was worth it for the sake of her family.
During her presentation Ford also quoted Benjamin Tai, the International Hong Kong District Leader, as saying,
In my view, the purpose of church boundaries is not to cause grief, heartache and headache for members of those in leadership callings. I am just very glad that anyone is willing to come and spend three-plus hours of his or her day off with us. My only desire is to make sure that for those that come, we are organized appropriately so that they can get the most out of their time and that spiritual growth is fostered.
Religion is falling out of vogue. We’ve all heard it. Though people may identify with Christianity on a census form, in reality they are not particularly interested in religion anymore. People don’t attend church with regularity. But, what about Mormons (members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)? They still attend Church services on a regular basis.
Why? And how does The Church of Jesus Christ manage to grow and stay strong in a world that continually diminishes the importance and role of religion? The answer is simple: Mormons keep the message of the gospel at the forefront of their lives.
Doctrine Never Changes
The message of The Church of Jesus Christ is simple: Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer, and when we commit ourselves to Him, we find lasting peace, qualify for saving ordinances, and will eventually live with God and our families forever. The core doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ remain constant, and if there is a change in church operations or policy, it comes directly from general church leadership. (more…)