Sunday, March 27, 2011


The lesson in Relief Society last week was on charity. We have a new teacher who is  down to earth and sincere, and I really enjoyed her presentation of the lesson.

When she began the lesson, I opened it up on my cell phone, skimmed it through, and then set my phone down to listen. As I listened, the words I skimmed from the last portion of the written lesson stayed clear in my mind, and I felt like I might want to comment when we began discussing that portion. I don't tend to comment in relief society any more because when I feel like I have something worth saying, it usually contradicts what I assume is the majority view in the room.

The first paragraph of the lesson is a summary, and it says:

"The life of the Savior reflects His pure love for all people. He even gave His life for us. Charity is that pure love which our Savior Jesus Christ has. He has commanded us to love one another as He loves us. The scriptures tell us that charity comes from a pure heart (see 1 Timothy 1:5). We have pure love when, from the heart, we show genuine concern and compassion for all our brothers and sisters."

The last part of the lesson talks about loving all people, even if we don't approve of something about them.

"Even when we give to those in need, unless we feel compassion for them we do not have charity (see 1 John 3:16-17). The Apostle Paul taught that when we have charity we are filled with good feelings for all people. We are patient and kind. We are not boastful or proud, selfish or rude. When we have charity we do not remember or rejoice in the evil others have done..."

"The Savior was our example of how to feel toward and treat others. He despised wickedness, but He loved sinners in spite of their sins..."

Toward the end of the lesson, after another sweet sister expressed that charity includes not judging others for any reason, I felt like I should comment, and I raised my hand. I started by saying I hoped I could express myself appropriately, but that experiences in my life with my friends over the last couple of years had taught me that there is really no such thing as "love the sinner, but hate the sin." In order to truly love someone, we need to overlook the things we don't approve of. That doesn't mean we need to embrace those things ourselves, but it is usually best not to lecture people about what we believe they are doing wrong. In most cases they already know how we feel. I became slightly emotional as I mentioned that if I had not learned to embrace this attitude, that the current state of my family and daily life for my children would be much more difficult.

The teacher thanked me for my comment and moved on. I'm sure there are people who do not agree with me, that would rather follow the advice from church leaders that we have a responsibility to call our brothers and sisters to repentance. That is apparently how we truly show our love for them. But I have to disagree, and I hope my comment helped others to think about the gray area of showing true charity.


Anonymous said...

I'm set to teach this lesson this week in EQ. I'm slightly nervous about how to approach that last section you mentioned. I think its vitally important to address, but I don't want to be lynched by a room of Elders who think I'm somehow being blasphemous.

Thanks for this post.

Anonymous said...

Maybe "hate the sin, love the sinner" is not the exact right phrasing, but the concept does exist and should be practiced. I find that it is very difficult for people to practice it in real life.

Part of the problem is that people identify with the sin and accept it as their identity instead of just something that they are experiencing. Or even worse, identify others by their sins instead of by their godly lineage.

I guess the main thing is what you emphasize in your interactions. Do you focus on the sin or focus on loving the person? Some people call it reversing your "buts". Is it, "I love you, but you need to quit sinning", or is it "I know you sin, but I love you".

The Savior's experience with the Woman at the well is a great example of how to behave. He identified the bad behavior, but did not run her down or condemn her but expressed his love for her while encouraging her to do better.

BigRedHammer said...

I agree with you Sarah. "Love the sinner, hate the sin" doesn't exist. But even more interesting, it isn't in scripture either.

Instead, we have D&C 64:10 "I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men."

Scott N said...

@anonymous: Go read John 4 again (the story of the Samaritan woman at the well).

It's not entirely accurate to say that Jesus "identified the bad behavior". He did point out to the woman that she was living with a man who she wasn't married to, but he never says anything one way or another about whether this is "bad behavior", and it seems clear (in context) that he was actually simply taking the opportunity to demonstrate a prophetic gift or discernment--to set the stage for declaring himself to her as the messiah. (In other words, his declaration of her marital status was more a faith-promoting miracle than a call to repentance).

He doesn't speak a word of condemnation or judgment, and there's no indication that she felt any sense of shame or guilt, or that she repented (or was told to) or changed her behavior.

The people he does condemn, over and over again, are the ones who concern themselves with all the "shalls" and "shall nots" of the law but who are devoid of love or compassion or even grudging tolerance for those who are less "righteous" than they are. That is, the ones who are busy "hating the sins".

Troy said...

I think you've got the right idea about what charity is :)

Anonymous said...

Hi, I've been perusing your blog for a while and your husbands. I am not a Mormon, I am Christian, regardless of religion the same prejudices remain.

My partner is gay. I am struggling to understand this. I've accepted it and we often joke about guys...he will go on a date here and there under the agreement that "as long as I know about it, it's fine!" However recently, I've discovered by I guess a happy accident that he's been cruising online and texting guys.

How have you managed to maintain that happy medium? I am only 23, but I have committed myself to this guy, he believe he will the father of my children.

It's interesting because I have been reading and educating myself about Mormonism recently and I found your husbands blogs then yours and it was encouraging and sincere and I felt as though I didn't discover the blog by accident. .