Saturday, July 26, 2014
# 48: Staying LDS Encourages You to Seek Your Brother
William Blake wrote a short poem that I recently found in a book I bought at a thrift store for my daughter called, "Poems and Prayers for Children." Here it is in its entirety:
I sought my soul,
but my soul I could not see.
I sought my God,
but my God eluded me.
I sought my brother
and I found all three.
Here is my prose paraphrase of the poem:
I tried to figure out what this "soul" thing is that religious people keep talking about, but my senses couldn't detect anything like a soul. My scientific methods were inherently inadequate for the tasks of locating, pinning down, and studying my soul.
I prayed to God, I went to church, I read scriptures, but still, God and His mysterious ways seemed so far away from me. After all my religious study, I felt I knew nearly nothing about God.
Then I shifted my attention to other people. I helped my brothers, and my neighbors, and somehow, in the very act of serving others, the concepts of soul, God, and others made more sense to me. I spiritually understood what the soul is and I felt that I had encountered God. I learned, on a deep, spiritual level, that my soul, and my God, and my neighbor, are inseparably combined.
I love this poem. It rings so true to me.
Grant Palmer points out in various interviews that in the four gospels, Christ never really taught theology. He never sat his disciples down and said, "OK, now I'm going to explain to you the role of rituals in the process of achieving salvation." And Christ never really clearly explained priesthood keys or the nature of the Godhead or the Trinity in detail. Instead, Christ focused mostly on how we should live. He went around healing people. He dealt with each individual on a case-by-case basis. He didn't have a pre-packaged, one-size-fits-all approach to evangelization or pastoral care. In each one of his interactions with the individuals of Jerusalem and surrounding areas, he demonstrated his transcendent love through service. Christ recognized that people don't need doctrine nearly as much as they need love.
And so, through example, Christ taught us the same truth that William Blake teaches us in his poem. And King Benjamin was also teaching the same concept as both Christ and Blake when he said in Mosiah 2:17, "When ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God." Instead of focusing on theology or doctrine, focus on your brother. Focus on your neighbor.
What does your neighbor need? Does he need food, shelter, a shoulder to cry on, good company, or encouragement? Well then, do the Christian thing and give that to him.
Does your neighbor need a fiery sermon and a call to repentance? He might.
Does your neighbor need a Sunday School lesson about why baptism by immersion has to be done by one who has the proper priesthood keys and is authorized by the bishop to perform the ordinance? Probably not.
Most of all, your neighbor needs love.
Being a Mormon encourages you to seek after your brother. All the programs of the church are designed to help us take care of our brothers and neighbors.
If you serve in the nursery, you should care for those little ones for the few hours a week that you have them, and treat them the way Christ would treat them. Those little kids are your spirit brothers and sisters. They're children of God, and they have souls.
If you are an Elder's Quorum President, treat the elders in your quorum as Christ would treat them. Don't guilt-trip them into home teaching or make them memorize the thirteen articles of faith. Instead, just model good home teaching yourself, occasionally give them gentle reminders, and do what you can to show them that you care about their well-being and the well-being of their families.
If you stay LDS and seek your brother as Christ does, I testify to you that you will find your soul, and God, and your brother.
I'll end this post with the words to the third verse of "Lord, I Would Follow Thee":
I would be my brother's keeper.
I would learn the healer's art.
To the wounded and the weary,
I would show a gentle heart.
I would be my brother's keeper.
Lord, I would follow thee.