Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Apostasy and the Commandment to Forgive, Part 1

There has been recent discussion about disciplinary councils which I have been wondering about. In reading my Sunday School lesson, I recently stumbled upon Matthew 18, when the disciples of Jesus asked Him who was greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Christ uses a child to visually express the type of humility we ironically need to cultivate to be great in His eyes. We often use this chapter to decry child abusers. Yet this chapter really isn't talking about child abuse at all.

When Jesus speaks of the "little child" He is talking about a person who has been converted and humbled themselves.

So when we receive those who have humbled themselves in Christ's service, we receive Him. And if we offend a humble follower of Christ, it is better for us to be dead.

And then comes a powerful insight into the nature of our lives. Christ says, "it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh!" It is necessary that, as we cast off pride and humble ourselves in service to Christ, we experience "offenses". But that does not excuse those who commit these offenses.

Mosiah 26 records the short-term aftermath of King Benjamin's powerful testimony and exhortation to his people. After his speech, many of those who were too young to feel the power of the truth of what he said did not believe in Christ, and therefore did not understand the gospel teachings nor align themselves with the Church.

At first they were few, but because of infighting in the Church (kind of like a lot of the infighting that is displayed online) they grew more numerous. And then, once they left the Church, they flattered church members—not to get them to leave the church—but to cause them to sin. These church members sinned to the point that they had to be brought up for "admonishment" by the Church.

Sound familiar?

Ultimately, the one they were brought before was Alma. This is important because Alma not only had been a great sinner in his past and repented, but he seemingly still was very careful not to commit sin again. He did not feel qualified to judge the people of the Church, and the King, Mosiah, refused to judge them according to the laws of the land.

It was tricky for Alma because on the one hand, those who were in the Church and not living by its teachings were damaging themselves and others. But on the other hand, simply wielding the fist of justice could possibly serve to offend more people and cause greater problems.

Matthew 18 and Mosiah 26 both deal with damaging relationships. Jesus in Matthew 18 addresses what to do if, as a humble follower of Christ, your own personal relationships are causing "offenses," or in other words, causing you to sin. Mosiah 26 reveals to us how the Church is to deal with those causing others to sin.

These were enlightening chapters for me because I still sometimes labor under the pain of the decision I made to divorce my ex-husband. When I was married, I thought that if I did all the things they tell us to do, put the spouse first, put the marriage first, I could (singlehandedly!) save my marriage. I was determined that Satan wouldn't have my marriage or my husband.

Oh, how prideful I was!

In my next post, I will discuss what I have learned about the Spirit's personal guidance for me, and the guidance that Jesus gave His disciples and Alma. When should apostasy be forgiven, and when should the one turning away (whether it be from marriage or a religion) be cut off?

And what are the consequences for doing either?

Apostasy and the Commandment to Forgive, Part 2


  1. The online infighting has matured to a dialog and I am glad you are part of it may it reach the church soon.

  2. I have to respectfully disagree with that, Howard. ;)


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