Friday, October 30, 2009

In Defense of Organized Religion and Organization in General

This post may have nothing to do with pregnancy or childbirth. I'm not sure yet. But I have something to say and I might as well say it here.

I have plenty of friends who say that they love my spirituality, but they don't like organized religion, or say they believe in God, but they don't think organized religion is a good thing.

I have been thinking about one friend in particular who I dearly love. Let's call this person a him and let's call him Jack. I had this epiphany a little while ago that he is actually a member of an organized non-religion. I say non-religion because the doctrine they teach is not about God, more an amalgamation of native American rituals and some modern philosopher--I'm not really sure--I'm looking into it right now so that I am not ignorant about something important to him, but here is what I do know: I know that they have weekly meetings (arranged by geographical area)--he doesn't always go, but he goes when he's in need, when he feels weak or down; they also have weekend retreats in the mountains every 6 months or so; they have a hierarchy of leadership; and I have even seen Jack try to get others he loves to join his group because, he says, it would be "very powerful" for them. That is about as close to proselyting as anything.

I can see much good that has come from his association or membership in this group, and so I ask you, would this good have been possible without organization? Without the organization part of it, what would his Men's group be but a bunch of people camping alone. How does anyone accomplish a mission without organization and without unity?

Let's take the Red Cross as an example. Have you ever heard anyone say, "I believe in helping people, but I don't believe in organized helping people"? Religion has to do with God and in our case, Jesus Christ. Organization has to do with unity, which helps us be bigger and better then just ourselves.

It's true that one person can make a difference, but, as Joseph Smith taught, it is unity that brings the greatest blessings: “The greatest temporal and spiritual blessings which always flow from faithfulness and concerted effort, never attended individual exertion or enterprise. The history of all past ages abundantly attests this fact. …" (Teachings of the Living Prophets: Joseph Smith, Chapter 23.)

And the great effort that our organization is concerned with is, at its simplest, sharing the peace and joy that is the pure love of Christ--the kind of love that mourns with those that mourn, comforts those that stand in need of comfort, clothes the naked, and feeds the hungry. But that's not all. To truly emulate Christ is to heal a wound we did not inflict, to restore what we did not take and to pay a debt we did not incur. This is a beautiful goal, that we all fall short of every day. And that's why we go to church weekly. To be reminded of that purpose and reminded that we are beloved Children of God, no matter how far short we fall.

There are still the people who will say that "millions of lives have been taken in the name of organized religion..." To them I can only ask: Have you ever heard of "a front"? When the mafia wants to conduct nefarious business, they set up an innocent front company--like school buses, or a bakery. The devil is not stupid. Dressing evil in church clothing is not a new trick. Plenty of evil people hide out in religion. That's why Christ taught us to beware of false prophets and priestcraft (people who preach to get gain). I think the fruit metaphor is still the one to live by. By the fruits ye shall know them.

Of course, I can't say any of this to Jack, because it will just seem argumentative and I've learned that one can't debate anyone into a testimony of anything--even the benefits of organization. The only way his heart will change is if it is touched by the spirit. And when it is, he may be surprised to find that organized religion is alright. I'll love him the same then as I do now.

I'm not sure who said this, but I wrote it down during Stake Conference. I think it is beautiful and is all about what we are all about.

"If God is pure love, then the closer we get to him, the more profoundly we can experience love."

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