Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Broken souls

I'm hoping to solve Ben's perplexity (raised in a recent comment), and give all those who come here something to reflect on at the same time.
There are those who are kept from active church attendance because they have read something about history or doctrine which has alarmed and/or discouraged them. There are those who, because of their circumstances, are embarrassed to come to church. There are those who are poor and ashamed, or they are living with the heavy burden of sin and choose to stay away from our meetings. Perhaps they suffer from depression or anxiety, have addictions and feel unclean and unworthy.  
I have home taught or spent time with people with all of these issues, concerns and experiences, and more.  They stay away because they do not feel welcome among us.  Many feel judged, some feel like they just can't abide hypocrisy, some are hurting and the church makes their hurt worse.
From the time I joined the church until today, I look for these people.  I volunteer to go and visit with them in every ward I have attended, in every stake where I have served, and across the Mission when missionaries have asked me to come help teach.  I was honored just a few days ago to meet with a man and his wife who are inactive, but who have a towering understanding of the church, gospel, its history, the scriptures and doctrine.  They have figured out a great deal more than either their bishop or stake president. As a result, I think the local church authorities are somewhat intimidated by their understanding, and the leaders cannot answer their questions.  It was, for me, a joyful visit and I hope to return again and talk with this wonderful Latter-day Saint couple soon.
I have met with people whose son committed suicide while attending a church-owned university because he was so lonely and isolated that his last desperate act was intended to end his life and rebuke those who had dismissed his pain.  I loved these people who spoke with me about their son's life and death.  They possessed a sensitivity to the feelings of others which can only be purchased at the price of enduring great personal pain.
I have close friends who struggle with addictions.  Some of these people struggle with things so haunting, so terrible a force in their lives that rising each day to face the coming fight takes greater courage than I can even imagine.  They are acting in faith at every waking breath, as they fight against a foe I do not comprehend and could not face.
I have helped women whose husbands are esteemed as church leaders, but the husbands' private actions are hellish and abusive.  Women who have nowhere to turn, because their husband IS the leader with jurisdiction over them.  No one will believe them because their "righteous" husband says they have mental or emotional illnesses. These women somehow manage to continue to serve their children and remain steadfast despite the hell they find themselves in.
It is not possible to set out all the different ways wherein the men and women I have met struggle.  It is a great privilege to know these people.  People whose insight into life and difficulties is far greater than I can begin to comprehend.  People whose strength is not even recognized, because others are too busy dismissing, belittling or judging them as "a thing of naught."  (2 Ne. 28: 16.)
I have marveled at how very much these broken souls, these discouraged people, these victims of our judgments who we have discarded or neglected are the very ones with whom I feel the Lord's presence and love as I have the honor of meeting and talking with them about the Gospel.  These are the ones He loves the most.  These are the ones with whom He associated during His ministry.  He associates there, still.
We have driven many of them away from activity in the church because of how we behave.  In turn, the Spirit does not dwell with many of the "righteous" and proud active Latter-day Saints because hearts have not been broken nor spirits made contrite.  We are made to think God favors us because we have worldly successes. We prosper. It is the successful, the financially well-to-do, the educated, the bank president, the lawyer and doctor whom we hold up as the model of a true Saint.  Read the resumes of those who are called to lead the stakes and missions of the church in each week's Church News.  We draw from a very narrow social gene-pool to find those who serve. They come from among those who have the financial resources in place to spare the time it takes to serve. In the process we get a 'Gospel of Success' mentality, right out of one segment of the Evangelical movement.
I am NOT saying that nothing good can come from the Stanford Business School.  I am NOT saying bankers are damned (though they are in truth damnable).  I am not talking about them.  I am talking instead about those broken souls whom I know the Lord loves, but who are not among us because of our own pride and haughty attitudes.

If we were to flood the wards of Zion with those whose hearts are broken, who mourn because of issues that weigh heavy upon them, and who feel that there is nothing in the church for them, but who look to Christ to lift them from their torment, we would be enriched by their homecoming.  In much the same way as the Prodigal was worthy of a feast, but the resentful but faithful son who stayed behind was not, so also are the riches of eternity reserved for the poor, downtrodden and broken hearted.

We are the poorer because of their absence.  Our wards are not informed by hearing of their dilemmas and struggles.  We are not what we could be if we were to make such people welcome - throwing our arms open to greet them.  We do not hear their struggle to keep a testimony after learning about some serious failing of a past leader.  We are not informed, as we should be, in our meetings and discussions. 

This is a lamentation, and not an explanation.  This is not the fullness of the subject, but merely a hint of what I know displeases the Lord about us.  It is not my responsibility to define fully the Lord's displeasure with us at the moment.  I can, however, assure you He is not pleased.  Some of what we think ourselves best for doing is not what He would want us to take pride in.  Our Lord's heart is broken still.  His ways are higher than ours because He values the least more than do we.
I cannot say more.  But I am left amazed at the hardness of the hearts of this generation who claim they are the Lord's.  Many, many will be told by Him to depart from His presence at the time of Judgment because they never knew Him.  They speak today in His name, yet they know Him not.  It would be better for them to not speak at all, than to toss about His name as the author of foolish, vain, proud and evil notions while claiming He agrees with such things.


  1. These verses in D&C 112 comes to mind: with an emphasis on v 25-26!

    23 Verily, verily, I say unto you, darkness covereth the earth, and gross darkness the minds of the people, and all flesh has become corrupt before my face.
    24 Behold, vengeance cometh speedily upon the inhabitants of the earth, a day of wrath, a day of burning, a day of desolation, of weeping, of mourning, and of lamentation; and as a whirlwind it shall come upon all the face of the earth, saith the Lord.
    25 And upon my house shall it begin, and from my house shall it go forth, saith the Lord;
    26 First among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house, saith the Lord.

    I'd be very interested in learning how you managed to be welcomed by those who do not desire to have contact with "the Church"...or its current leadership, i.e. Bishops, RS Pres, Eld. Quorum Pres, or even just ordinary Home Teachers?

  2. Wow! This strikes a tender cord with me. It has also been my privilege to succor the downtrodden, the poor, the rejected and administer to their needs....and you are right. You can feel the spirit and such great love when you are around these people. When my boys were in their tender teen years, I watched a bishopric cling so tightly to the General Handbook of Instructions and while they were administering the letter of the law, they didn't even realize how many youth they were turning away. I remember a boy whose hair was long and although he usually wore it in his face, he pulled it back when administering the sacrament. Then he was told he couldn't bless the sacrament because of how he wore his hair. He is no longer active, but is a good boy. They had no clue of the atrosities that he faced as a young child in Mexico as his father beat him for silly things. They didn't understand that the long hair covered the face of a boy that didn't love himself because he learned he was not loveable as a small child. And when my own boys began to struggle and it was evident that they probably would not choose to serve missions, no one knew of my pain and how hard it was to go to church each Sunday as others flaunted and lauded the fact that theirs were going. And the jab of pain I felt as they often reported of the success and rising to calls of district leader, zone leader, etc. It hurt, and they were so blind to what I felt. It is like fingernails on a chalkboard for me when people use testimony meeting to expound the successes of their families and children when they should be bearing testimony of our Savior and how we ALL would be nothing without him. I am still active, and I have looked with compassion on these well intending people for they "know not what they do." And I have learned to thank my Heavenly Father for the hard things that I have been through, for it is through these things that I have learned compassion and a little more about loving and not judging. I no longer hold grudges against these people, although I will admit that in the beginning I did. May we all seek out those who by worldly standards seem to be below us....for although we at times look upon them with pity for the test and trial that life is for them, perhaps the test and trial is not theirs, but ours.

  3. DJones...I can answer that one for you. You get in with love. My husband does it all the time with people he is asked to home teach. They feel his love and respect for them as people....not church status. He respects them in their homes and always asks permission before he ever brings a lesson or thought. If they request that they don't want any of that preaching stuff, then he respects that. They just know that above and beyond a church calling or assignment, he is their friend first. It is something that they feel....not just something that they are told. Kathy M.

  4. I feel this lament as well, but I'm not guiltless in my judgement of others. I have and I am working to love those that sometimes feel unlovable to me. I want to repent and feel love for all. Because I know I need the Lord's love have felt it and want others to feel it from me.

    I was at a PEC meeting not too long ago. I was very discouraged by how a poorer member was talked about and what it would mean for them in the Lord's coming. I think they have it all wrong, but I didn't know how to address what I was feeling, I made some statements, but I felt my points fell on death ears.

    As a therapist (or counselor) I try with all my might to understand and hear others struggle and love them. I try never to judge, but just love. The most I ever do is encourage personal empowerment always with the Lord. I think we forget that the Lord is able to work the miracle among the most hurt and humbled. That He can work in the lives of those that struggle that His atonement can heal and help them, we just can't judge. It is our job to simply LOVE. I want to understand what the Lord understands about those hurting I want them to feel the hope that I have that they can overcome that the Lord knows them as I know I am known by him.

    I'm sad as well. I work with many LDS men that struggle with pornography and the feel so alone and afraid to reach out for the help they need. We don't know how to LOVE each other. WE don't know how to bear each other burdens.

    I will do better! Thanks for sharing. I will repent!

    Culturally I think we are incapable of loving in our wards it's like we are all wearing plastic suites and don't want to get any dirt on us. When you walk into the mud to help someone to help up your going to get muddy.... SO WHAT?

  5. As I finished visiting teaching this evening I was thinking how fun it is... I have a great companion and 4 sisters that are totally active and great, fun people to go visit. They are connected to key leadership in the ward/stake and we can stay "in the loop" and it's really no challenge at all.

    I thought to myself, maybe I should see about visiting some inactive sisters... you know, the ones who hide inside and pretend they're not home... the ones who pretty much hate the church for one reason or another... the ones nobody wants to visit. I love visiting the inactives... I appreciate how they speak with plainness and do not shy away from difficult topics.

    And BAM. Here's this post of yours. One of my favorites so far.

    Thanks again,
    Anonymous (aka HastySpirit) ;)

  6. DJones: Treat them like people. Find qualities that you love about them. Accept them for who they are.

    Thank you, Denver, for this beautiful post. I was taught to see others for who they are and to find a way to love them. It's been hard living in Utah and seeing so many people who are bitter toward the church. Where I grew up it was an honorable thing to say that I am LDS. Here, it is almost shameful, because of the bitterness that inactive people have toward the church. I've never met so many people who have had bad experiences with church members. It was a real shock and made me (I've always had a solid testimony that I should attend the LDS church) question why I was attending a church where others are treating people so poorly. Then I really prayed and fasted to gain my testimony again and I had a marvelous experience and know I am doing the right thing.

    Time and time again I feel inspired to testify of the words of the Book of Mormon that state over and over that the gospel of Christ is for all. I feel that individuals who limit their friendships to one type of people are missing out on some pretty great friendships and learning experiences.

  7. I thought I had awakened, and then got my food storage. But something was missing. I read all of Denver's books and others and then started praying for an audience with the Lord. Now I'm awake, right? Something was still missing. I see now that I have been asleep even still. If He associates with the downtrodden, neglected and broken, then now I know where to find Him. I must seek Him out there.

    I can't imagine the pain I would feel if the Savior looked me in the eyes, searched my soul, then replied, "Depart, I know thee not." I would guess that it would feel a bit like how those who are suffering feel now. God forgive me of my selfish, vain and ignorant ways.


  8. Thank you for this and all your posts! My heart is so full from reading this post. I wish I could express what I am feeling. I live in a ward that has generally been a very humble and unified ward. We are a rural ward, and most of the ward is rather poor. Because of a calling I had for a few years, I knew of many of the excruciating trials nearly all of the members were suffering, active and inactive members alike. I look at the faces of these beloved people, and I am often so overcome by how amazing they are and how much I love them and how much the Lord loves them, that I can hardly keep from jumping up and calling out, "Look, look at these amazing souls!" I did sometimes in the capacity of my calling try to tell them in meetings what I saw in them, but my words were inadequate. Their courage, their resilience in the face of overwhelming trials, just their wonderfulness is something I can't express adequately with the language I know.

    Since I joined the Church as a teenager, I have been upset whenever I see judgment of others. When I detect it in myself, I am so sorry and want to repent immediately. I hear so many arguments, even from wonderful people in the Church, justifying some level of judgment of others, and I can never reconcile it with what I feel. And then I feel badly for judging the people who are defending judging others :).

    I am thankful for the books you have written and for this blog, and I am thankful to the Lord for inspiring you to write them. Please continue.

  9. Denver, I thank the Lord for answering a prayer I had in my heart. I will leave what all of it was there.
    Basically, I feel the Door is open.

    I am a active Temple recommend card caring member, RM, Veil Worker, EQ counselor etc... AND I am a recovering Addict (drug and Pornography). I struggle with Depression, FEAR, anxiety. My Father Believes He has a special calling and has been waiting for many years for the church to call him (he has several Diagnosis, which I don't like as they reduced people to living these labels)and he has been separated for 5 years from my Mom.
    Yet with all of this, I have been blessed to meet an "Elect Lady" (It may not mean much to most, but I know partially what it means) that has suffered with me and has been a anchor to my soul. We have 4 children which all informed me of their coming, and were given to the Lord before they came.
    I still struggle with temptations, fears, yet I Know the Lord has been with me.
    When I read of your experiences, I was given new joy to know I can yet have those. I prayed 20 years ago for my calling election and for HIS presence, and have had Trials a plenty since.
    I felt so dirty at times with the Addictions I have been through, as I have KNOW the Adversary well, and how his spirit feels. There is no glory there, only burning.
    Through all of this I have kept the most sacred of covenants through all of this, and I am amazed that I have been given "just enough" to know I am still able to stand with those I covenanted with before I came here. I Remember much of why I am here, yet certain parts are veiled so I can still learn.
    I was given to know that I wanted things like as hard as they have been (amazes me I had that much pride then).
    In summary, EVERYTHING you said in this post I can say amen too.
    I truly have been on both sides of being the Leper, and being the one to Heal or Help the Leper.
    Thanks again for being a part of a answer to my Hearts desire.

    Brian B

  10. Thanks to those who have offered their kind feelings about reaching out to those who wish "no contact".
    I am seeking to improve and to find ways to break down the barriers of mistrust and fear in those who feel left out, or who choose to stay away for whatever reason.

  11. I appreciate everyone's comments. The best compliment I can give to this post is to say, I'm ashamed for some of my sins and shortcomings and will repent (change). Denver, thanks for that, I needed it. You are an instrument and I appreciate what the Spirit teaches me through your words.

  12. Doug:

    Me too. I had a very very similar impression to what you related. Oh, my ignorant and blind ways....


  13. Perfect love casteth out all fear. Perfect fear casteth out all love.
    Jesus was not afraid, as they nailed him to the cross. He loved them.There growth was worth more to Him than His own pain.I should say our growth.I hurt him too, he suffered because of my choices.He loves us and gave all for us.I don't understand his love.I was taught fear by an abusive home,I understand fear.fear is about me and how to protect myself. Build walls to stop all pain physical emotional and spiritual.When that does not work make others fear you so they don't dare to hurt or make afraid. Hurt them first take the offensive be strong,control. Thinking only of self and it's protection.fear destroys love.I beg Jesus to send the gift of charity to this fearful soul, help me to love even when I know they will hurt me, and give even when the gift will be rejected.Help me to trust You Jesus that you can heal the hurt they send upon those who try to serve You.Help me love as You have loved me, and forgiven me as I have rejected Your gifts and turned away in fear.I love You Jesus because You have loved me first. The fruit on the tree is all I know of You. So beautiful pure is Your love I want all to taste.Fear would flee from every soul and Zion would begin to be established. Your love is the key.

    Denver your post reminds me of His love for me thank you.

  14. The problems in the Church are so much worse than anyone can imagine. It's not even speakable. If they knew they would not believe it. There is no one to turn to on earth anymore, we can only pray for deliverance now.

  15. Um, would you at least like to give a hint of what you're referring to for the unenlightened who read here?

  16. It's unspeakable, remember?

  17. There are places to turn, there are those who care. We aren't perfect, but many are trying to love like the Savior, pray you can find them. We are doing our best. Regardless his angels are near if you pray for them, on both sides of the veil. The Savior is there. Have hope!

  18. I'm sorry I am not able to elaborate on what I said. But the Church is true, the Gospel is wonderful & our Covenants will save us, but we have not followed the Prophets. So now only Heavenly Father can step in & correct things. May we be ready for when he does.

  19. Denver, thank you for your answer. "Perplexed" might be too strong a word, but maybe you are right. In any case, I was sure that the question needed to be asked and explored and that answer and insight you would give would personally applicable to me. This is the kind of post that I always look forward to getting. I had a small inkling of what your answer might be, but the depth of insight and the personal chastening from the Spirit helped connect dots for me that I couldn't see for myself.

    Besides the personal changes I need to make (I'm in general not a judgmental person, though I'm not necessarily one who reaches out as I should, either), I wonder if institutionally we are providing the kind of environment that provides the things such downtrodden person needs. Perhaps this is what you are getting at with this line of thought in the first place, but our classes and lessons are generally taught by folks who are doing pretty well in life, and aren't part of the group you mention.

    Its a standing joke in the church that talks and lessons are prepared late Saturday night, mostly consisting of a search on lds.org, pasting a few quotes together and delivering the talk by reading and never looking up. I have the words of Joseph Smith echoing in my head of his condemnation of our "too trivial" meetings. It rings as true, or truer, today than it did back then.

    My ward has been privileged over the past few years to have a number of people who have overcome remarkable challenges and have joined us in church through their process. It does change the dynamic of a meeting. It is not enough, though, and we need to do better.

    I, like many who have commented already, feel like the message you've given couldn't have come at a better time. Our family (and my wife in particular) has been struggling for the past few weeks with family drama between off-and-on inactive parents and a couple totally inactive siblings on one hand, and an "active" sibling on the other who has become so self-righteous and judgmental over the past year or two that she has nearly cut ties with the whole family because they haven't done enough to deserve her love.

    I've sometimes wondered as I've interacted with the returned-members in my ward how I could gain a similar outlook, testimony and total reliance on the Lord as they have done. I don't believe purposeful sinning is a valid path for doing this (not that the downtrodden's lot is always a result of sin), but I think you've hit on at least one way to gain a portion of their outlook: serve them, minister to them, be, as Elder Uchtdorf said in last conference, the Savior's hands for them.

    There is more that could be said, but suffice it to say that you have given me much to think about, and I, like many before, feel the chastening of the spirit to repent and seek him where he really is to be found.

  20. Bro. Snuffer I just want to thank you again for this post. It has given me courage to love, to trust what was I my heart I feel different I feel changed to some degree. LOVE is the way. Be well.

  21. I found peace with the recurring choice of business and other leaders as leaders within the Church when I realized that such callings (bishop, high councils stake presidencies, etc.) offer up unique and compelling opportunities to learn to love. I find it comforting that the Lord so frequently calls people whose real life is so cumbered by missed opportunities to serve and love, to serve in these types of callings. It proves, to me, that He loves even the rebellious and proud.


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