On being mistreated or offended in the Church

 

An irrelevant but very pleasant Alpine scene
(Click to enlarge. Really. Do it. It’s very pretty.)

 

I’ve been thinking today about being offended or even mistreated in the Church.

 

It happens.

 

It happens, I’m pretty confident, within any institution that includes humans.  People do such things depressingly often.

 

I remember an incident from many years ago, when my wife and I were still more or less newlyweds.  I won’t give identifying details or specifics of the matter, but I think I can give enough to make my point.

 

We were living in a tiny branch of the Church located in a far distant country.  One day, my wife, who is infinitely kinder and more service-oriented than I am, was grossly insulted by a member of the branch for whom she had done some really kind and selfless things at the cost of considerable time and effort.  It was, in fact, precisely for those kind, selfless things that she was insulted.  The person involved resented both them and, it turned out, her.

 

This was, from my perspective, utterly uncalled for, totally irrational, and completely unjust.  And it hurt my wife very, very deeply.

 

No apology was forthcoming, though, and the family of the person who had so injured my wife proceeded as if nothing of any importance had happened.

 

I was furious.  I think it would have been easier for me had I been the one insulted instead of my innocent and charitable wife.

 

For a few days, the thought crossed my mind that I simply wouldn’t be able to endure sitting through meetings, in that tiny little branch, with the person who had injured someone so dear to me, and to sit with people who plainly didn’t care.

 

In the end, though, reason (and covenants) prevailed.  It wasn’t their church, I told myself.  It was mine, too.  And, of course, the Lord’s.  And I wouldn’t be driven away from it because some member of it had behaved abominably.  So we stuck it out awkwardly and uncomfortably for a few months until they moved to another country, and then things grew much easier.

 

What I’m saying is that I can certainly understand the urge to drop out of activity, for at least a little while (which, very often, turns into an unintended long while), because of being offended.  I’m heartily glad, though, that we didn’t do that.

 

From the point of a view of a believing Latter-day Saint, the covenants that one takes upon oneself as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are of eternal weight.

 

In that light, to abandon them, and to turn one’s back on the Church altogether, because of the misbehavior of some member or even of some leader or other, would be a serious mistake and, bluntly, wrong.

 

The Church isn’t merely a social club.  I believe that we’re supposed to take such covenants very seriously, and not to abandon them.  Surely we shouldn’t do so lightly.

 

A psalm of David (Psalm 15).

1 Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
2 The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
3 whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others;
4 who despises a vile person
but honors those who fear the Lord;
who keeps an oath even when it hurts,
and does not change their mind;
5 who lends money to the poor without interest;
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
Whoever does these things
will never be shaken.

 

We also shouldn’t divorce after a mere spat, or renounce our citizenship in the wake of an unjust misdemeanor conviction.  It’s not fair or reasonable to harshly judge the Church as a whole because of an individual real or imagined bad behavior.  It also wouldn’t be  right to abandon Catholicism because one didn’t get along with one’s parish priest, or to cast Jesus overboard because one happened to have a blockhead for a pastor.

 

Massive, life-changing alterations — changes that will affect generations to come — shouldn’t be made lightly.

 

(Note, please, that I’m not saying that apostasy or inactivity always or usually occurs because of being offended.  Which means, just to be clear, that I don’t believe that apostasy inactivity occurs, in most cases let alone in all cases, because somebody has been offended.)  And, in case anybody was wondering, I also don’t think it always, or solely, happens because of sin.  See here.)

 

 

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  • Bruce Webster

    Near the end of my mission, this question came up in a zone conference; I don’t remember why or what the exact issues were. What I do remember is that President John Eagar — a retired FBI agent and US Border Patrol agent — smiled slightly and said, “I decided many years ago that I was not going to let any other man or woman keep me out of the kingdom of God.” I know how hurtful people can be — inadvertently or deliberately — but the principle applies: if we take offense and leave, all we do is hurt ourselves and those closest to us.

  • Doug Ealy

    Thank you for sharing especially Psalm 15. I think that we all can relate to these experiences at least once in our lives. My biggest fear is that I probably have offended others. It is painful to think that through a thoughtless action or doing something foolish, I might have hurt someone else.

    • John P

      Yes. It is cause for reflection as I remember even Pr. Kimball asking if he had offended anyone.

  • Markk

    What about at work? After reading your resigning from another position at NMI, should you have stuck it out? It sounded like a very good thing you were doing. At what point do you say enough is enough.
    If you don’t want to post this don’t, I understand.

    • DanielPeterson

      There was nothing to “stick out.” For a year, there had been no communication, all of my requests to meet had been refused, etc.

      • John P

        Yes. I am also disappointed about resigning from METI.

  • RaymondSwenson

    There are also times when other members of my ward or branch may have been offended by something I did or said, even when it was not meant to offend. In my obliviousness, I may have hurt someone’s feelings without realizing it, because I have strong opinions about certain things and I tend to express my opinions. I hope that I have not caused anyone to stay away from church meetings where they might run into me. I hope that all of us are learning to forgive others, just as we ask God to forgive our sins.

  • John P

    We have to remember that the Lord decreed, “And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;” Who is to know that what these people did to your wife was not your trial to see if you would go inactive? And who is to judge whether what they did was within their accountable zone or whether they were not sufficiently mature in the gospel to know they did something wrong? Or who knows if they are of the hypocrites among us (DC 50:7)? The important thing is not that there is opposition in all things, but how we react to it.

    • http://kgbudge.com kgbudge

      1 Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!

      2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.


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