“The Gospel of Jesus Christ is Inclusive — Not Exclusive”

 

“He Anointed His Eyes,” by Walter Rane

 

I feel very strongly about the subject of this recent Deseret News article, written by a friend of ours.

 

I even had a rather similar experience while I was serving in the mission home on Pilatusstraße in Zürich, decades ago.  We taught a very long-haired young man and his then-live-in girlfriend who had suddenly shown up at the mission home front door.  They seemed extremely unlikely prospects, and some members and leaders were very uncomfortable around them.  But they eventually moved apart and were baptized.  He served a mission in England (missionary standards were a bit looser then), and, when last I saw him, was a counselor in a branch presidency.

 

I have another rather similar story that I’ll tell someday, when I can be sure that I’ve figured out how not to give away the person’s identity.

 

But I also know stories, sadly, that go the other way.  I know a man, slightly younger than I am, who grew up in a wonderful Mormon family, to parents who were active and committed Latter-day Saints.  But he went through a phase in which he wanted to grow his hair long.  (This was back in the late sixties and early seventies, probably.)  Unfortunately, he had some (to my mind unduly) strict and rigid leaders, and they prohibited him from participation in the blessing and passing of the sacrament.

 

He felt ostracized and unwanted, left the Church, got involved to a degree in drugs, and basically forgot that he was a Mormon.  Today, he’s quite successful and a good guy.  But he’s married out of the Church and is raising his kids out of the Church.  It breaks his parents’ hearts.  And it wasn’t at all necessary.

 

There are times when certain people need to be run out of the Church.  Sexual predators, for example, need to be clearly marked and separated out.  But the overwhelming message of the Church is “Come unto Christ!”  Whoever or wherever you may be.

 

 

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  • http://nathanrichardson.com Nathan

    Both the article and this blog post make a true and important point (with sad but too-frequent examples). However, I think they’re incomplete because they haven’t fully addressed the main reason some Latter-day Saints do this (make others feel unwelcome when their dress and grooming are unconventional).

    The article recommends that we “distinguish between Christ’s doctrine and LDS cultural practices,” but that’s not the problem. The expectation to “avoid extremes in clothing, appearance, and hairstyle” is not merely cultural; it’s counsel from living prophets, given in multiple ways in multiple settings by multiple leaders over multiple decades. Christ’s doctrine is to follow the counsel of prophets and encourage others to do so as well. So the problem is not that these Saints need to stick to the doctrine of Christ instead of culture (they’d say they are sticking to the doctrine, and in a way they are). The problem is that they need more guidance on how to apply the doctrine (granted, the article did briefly mention this at one point).

    Such an article might discuss principles like some doctrines being more important than others, or some principles being taught over time and through example more than by an up-front expectation, or how a base of the crucial doctrines needs to be established before addressing others, or how some teaching can only be done once a relationship has been established, etc.

    I think articles like this will be more persuasive to their most important audience (the ones doing the excluding) if we acknowledge the doctrinal basis behind their (misguided) actions, rather than concluding that they are just “certain LDS cultural practices” in conflict with true doctrine.

    That said, those are great stories you shared to illustrate how tragic this problem can be.

    • danpeterson

      A very important comment. Thanks.

  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    I was married in September 1972 and we moved into an apartment in the same stake in Salt Lake as my grandparents, basically within a 10 minute walk. Our bishop was a barber and had a flat rule prohibiting young men with long hair from administering the sacrament. I attended a stake general priesthood meeting with my grandfather, and the stake president read a letter from the First Presidency that announced that hair length should not prevent any young man from exercising his priesthood. It was a direct repudiation of what our bishop had been doing. My granddad, who was very deaf, commented after the announcement that he was glad that the Brethren had affirmed the need to crack down on long haired kids.

    I assume that the announcement was prompted by experiences like your friend’s. I think there may also have been some greater awareness of the growing cultural diversity of the Church around the world, with American Indians in the US and Latin America in many cases traditionally wearing their hair longer. For example, when I was on my mission in Japan (1969-1971), Bruce McConkie, then a Seventy, was our General Authority overseer. On one visit to Sapporo, McConkie remarked to our mission president, Russell Horiuchi (a BYU geography professor), that some of the missionaries’ hair looked a little long. (None of us had hair over the ears or on our collars, let alone looking like Brigham Young, who could not meet the grooming standards of his namesake insitution.) Horiuchi responded by pointing out that in Japan, people who had crewcuts like McConkie were often members of the Yakuza (the Japanese Mafia)! McConkie had to confront the reality that standards of respectable appearance varied a bit.

    The renewed emphasis on missionary service soon after high school strikes a balance: maintaining a standard of appearance that represents the Lord every day, while giving youth the room and time to grow the convictions and testimony that will persuade them to be willing to make the sacrifice of idiosyncratic appearance, along with the sacrifice of romantic pursuits and education and career goals.

    • danpeterson

      Excellent post.

      Incidentally, did you know an Elder Reed Robinson? He’s my next door neighbor, and a good friend. He served under President Horiuchi, as well, and was, as I understand it, fairly close to him until Brother Horiuchi’s death.

  • John Ziebarth

    This reminds me of a visit to my son’s ward in Bakersfield where a 14 year old young man with long, blond hair was serving the sacrament. I was ready to comment some snide remark when my son calmly reminded me that this young man was growing his hair for a wig for cancer patients. “Judge not,,,,”

    • danpeterson

      A very important cautionary tale!


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