There is a great difference between
Black and white
Day and night
Sunshine and Rain
Happiness and Emotional Pain
There is also a tremendous difference
Between the church and the gospel of Jesus Christ
Sadly there are those who base their testimony upon historical figures or other members of the church, and when imperfection is revealed there are many that have gone astray. There appears to have been some big hoopla lately about the plural marriage among some of the brethren in Church history – particularly Joseph Smith who doesn’t appear to have been honest with how it was done.
Joseph Smith was the first prophet in this dispensation. The Church of Jesus Christ had not been on the earth for 15 centuries. Cut the guy a break. What example did he have to follow? God had given him instructions. Sometimes he followed them to the letter. Sometimes, unfortunately, he felt that he knew better than God and would follow his own fears. We all make mistakes. Perhaps his seem more severe because of the position he was in.
There were a lot of mistakes made in Church history. Some that have been kept hidden from Church members – or so it seemed. Like the Mountain Meadow Massacre, the fact that the four men in Carthridge jail were given weapons to defend themselves, or the sisters involvement in women’s suffrage movement or some of the hostilities that took place among polygamist wives.
At one time those in authority painted the church in a certain light – perhaps lifting it to a higher pedestal than it deserved. Oh, certainly the church endured its hardship – but it was always the fault of the outsiders, never the members of the church. The authorities would call the gospel perfect when they referred to the church and so many members would assume they meant the church was perfect. And it was not. It still is not. The church is run by imperfect leaders who (hopefully) strive to live perfect lives – but let's face it: Only one man who has lived upon the earth was perfect. Nobody else fits into the perfect category. No one. And thus church itself can never be perfect if run by imperfect humans.
Roland and I were married by a bishop who (at that time) happened to be state auditor by profession. I had once asked him: “What is more organized? The state? Or the church?”
His answer bothered me a lot because he said “the state” and I think the government in this state is so severely flawed that it almost makes me ashamed to tell people what state I live in. So what does that say about the Church?
For many the church is just for show. That’s how it was for the Pharisees of old. Church history does NOT represent the truthfulness of the gospel. Sadly, there are several who seem to have a hard time separating the two. But then again, why should we have to separate them? If everyone lived according to the gospel, wouldn’t the church itself be perfect? Think about it.
Why is it that everything has to (or should) be approved by the brethren? Too many Inaccuracies or opinions given that are taken as gospel truth – though that was not the intent. Even the best of intentions can sometimes have negative results.
Let’s use “pioneer Trek” as an example – an activity that has become popular for the youth of the Church. The program has evolved into something more than what it was when I was a youth. There was no “Woman’s Pull” – there was no “reenactment” of the Mormon Battalion. What many participants don’t realize is that not all the men left the company nor were the women left alone.
At the time Pres. James Polk sent for a recruit of 500 volunteers from Pioneer crossing party, the year was 1846 – the Pioneers at the time were crossing in Wagons. They weren’t pushing handcarts. Perhaps there’s a great metaphor and lesson in store for those involved – but in the minds of many they believe that’s how it actually was in Mormon history. And granted, there probably were a few woman who had lost their husbands, sons and fathers who may not have had the support of the brethren per se– but not as an entire company. There was always leader support. Or so we assume (We do have the story in which Mary Fielding Smith is believed to have crossed the plains on her own; some part (or perhaps all) is based on true story that has become Mormon folklore – another part of Church history that we need to separate)
So where am I going with this? Nowhere really. I used to be one of those who would take everything on face value and never actually research it out on my own. Fortunately for me I have learned that “the Church” does not “the gospel” make and hopefully I may continue to be active in both but always keep in mind that even leaders (past or present) have faults just like me.
I’ve always been taught to pray about my understanding of things to know if it’s true or not – as far as the gospel goes anyway. I don’t think it’s necessary for me to pray about my understanding of Church history or what saints were involved doing what because whether this pioneer story or that hand-me-down passage really turns out to be true or not, what pertinent difference does it make to my own Salvation? My testimony needs to be based upon the truths that Christ taught and not what happened in the personal lives of our forefathers.