Thinking Myself into Mormonism
Only a few verses earlier in the same chapter, Nephi had cautioned his readers against taking the erroneous position: "All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well" (2 Ne. 28:21). This is how we are "pacified" and "lulled away into carnal security," with the result that Satan will lead us "carefully down to hell" (2 Ne. 28:21).
Now, maybe I'm missing Nephi's point. But he seems to be saying: it's the same self-satisfied complacency, being "at ease in Zion" (2 Ne. 28:24), that motivates both of these errors. This complacency makes us assume we have all the Word we need; this complacency makes us assume all is fine and dandy in the Kingdom. Note that such a self-satisfied complacency opposes both points of Lindsay's "informed and faithful" narrative. It refuses to acknowledge problems, and similarly -- at least according to Nephi -- deprives us of the truth we do have.
Returning to Sister Young's piece, she smacks me over the head by making a similar point with a different Book of Mormon passage. "If opposition has ceased and self-examination has ceased," she writes, "then growth has ceased." To expand on that: Lehi explains at length that, without the ability to be enticed by and choose between good and evil, "all things [would] be a compound in one," and "if it should be one body it must remain as dead, having neither life nor death, happiness nor misery" (2 Ne. 2:11). So Lehi says a world without choice and struggle is "as dead"; and Nephi says that people who proclaim falsely that all is well -- perhaps assuming all choices and struggles have departed -- are being led to spiritual death. Embracing this perspective, shaped by uniquely Mormon scripture, has helped me come to terms with another tic.
I sometimes restrain myself from frustration or impatience at various things I hear in church. I'm sure that sentiment is universal, even if the personal triggers of annoyance differ. For me, those include (what I perceive as) ill-phrased or ill-mannered proclamations that everyone will eventually convert, or testimony of divine providence that seems to disregard agency. But the above perspective helps determine when to raise a hand or apply a mental filter: if others' statements seem to promote collective complacency.
This was reinforced for me when I read another Dialogue article. In "Good Literature for a Chosen People," Eugene England notes that we see ourselves, like Israel, as a chosen people -- but don't always realize the implications. Brother England details what he calls "the Amos strategy": a prophet who, at the height of the chosen people's self-satisfied judgment of others, turns the judgment of God on them. Brother England gives as an example a sermon by President Spencer W. Kimball, which uses this strategy to rebuke the Saints for having absorbed the surrounding culture's materialism and militarism.
Then Brother England continues: "[In the] Amos view, . . . being chosen means being the ones known and taught by the Lord and, thus, the ones most responsible to keep his commandments and be punished if one does not. It does not mean being better than others, by definition more righteous and blessed. It does not even mean knowing the correct forms of worship and having special priesthood power to perform them as the core of one's religion. The Lord makes this painfully clear by saying, through Amos, ‘I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them; neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts.'"