Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Equally Precious Brothers and Sisters

Like many others, I recently attended an LDS Church worldwide leadership training meeting. I attended the broadcast at my local stake center, which was pretty jam-packed with people. There were thousands of similar gatherings throughout the world.

The intent of the meeting was to introduce the church’s new second volume of the church administration handbook. In the meeting, some of the handbook changes were highlighted and a variety of principles were emphasized. (Volume one is available only to those holding higher leadership callings at each level of the church. A separate training meeting addressed that book.)

Everyone at the meeting was instructed to read the first six chapters of the handbook, as well as the portions of the manual that relate specifically to their current church assignments. It was noted that the first three chapters contain basic doctrinal principles. This wasn’t a heavy reading assignment. Each chapter is relatively brief, covering only a few pages.

Church leaders decided to give everyone in church leadership positions the entire volume two manual. The practice in the past has been to distribute only the portion relating to one’s current assignment. Leaders will now be able to see how their position is supposed to work with other positions.

One thing I noted right away was that the book is somewhat briefer than its preceding edition. It was explained that an effort was made to achieve both clarity and conciseness. There is a stronger focus on those elements that must be consistent across the entire church, regardless of the size and strength of a congregation and other variable conditions. It was further explained that leaders are to rely more strongly on guidance from the Holy Spirit and from their local leaders when it comes to matters not addressed or only briefly addressed by the handbook.

Organizational leaders in church units are to pick up added responsibilities so that the bishop may focus on those matters that must be handled personally by him. Organizational leaders are not to do more work; they are to delegate what they reasonably can to others. This will spread out the work and strengthen the church by expanding individual responsibility and accountability.

As I began to read the new handbook, I came upon the final paragraph of section 1.4.3 under the heading “Strengthening Individuals.”

“Every member of the Church is as precious as every other. God’s eternal plan provides for all of His faithful children to receive every blessing of eternal life, exalted in families forever.”
The second sentence above is well established doctrine. Hence the church’s strong emphasis on families and eternal marriage.

The first sentence is also not new. But I have reflected on it many times since first reading it. I wonder how many of my fellow church members actually believe the doctrine that each church member is as precious as any other.

That would include church members that live very sinful lives, those that shun the church, the bratty kid that disrupts Sunday school class every week, those that disingenuously mooch off the church’s welfare system, the unconverted for whom the church is simply a social institution, the crotchety guy on the corner that yells at kids that walk across his lawn, the gossip, and those that refuse to accept callings, among others.

It would include members whose lifestyles fail to align with the traditional family pattern, those that are disabled, foreigners that are in the country illegally and/or that speak a different language and have a different culture, the illiterate, etc.

All are equally precious.

It seems to me that there is sometimes a tendency among church members to think of some church leaders as having greater value than other members. I have often heard church general authorities talk glowingly of some that have served in various leadership positions almost as if such service defines worth. While it may denote devotion, official church policy states that these leaders are worth the same as the lowest member of the church.

There is no doubt that some individuals create great value for the church, while others do not. Some actually generate great liabilities for the church. But when you consider the concept that each soul is of infinite value, and that none is able to realize much of that value without the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the principle of equality in value makes perfect sense.

The question then for those of us that are members of the church is how this principle should affect our discipleship. It is frankly easy to minister to some. But what about ministering to those equally precious souls that are prickly about it or that actively repel such ministering?

1 comment:

BDH said...

Well said, Thank you for a timely and poignant reminder about the worth of a soul, any soul, all souls!