I have no idea how people write books. These posts take me a piddly hour to write, and even that is hard to find and set aside. Sheesh.
First--I’m really struggling to figure out how to keep writing like I feel like I’m supposed to, because this whole blog thing is starting to feel more and more like vain preaching and pontificating or something. I committed in the very beginning to write only the things that I felt compelled to write (as in from an outside source instead of from my internal glorymonger, which are two things that can admittedly be hard to discern between sometimes), and I think I’ve stuck to that commitment fairly well, excepting a few sentences here and there. So I haven’t been writing much because I’m kicking against the pricks; stuff I feel compelled to write might make me look like a snot. I guess that doesn’t matter, as usual.
On to another lesson, shall we? One morning as I prayed again to know what God would have me learn from this experience, my answer was that I still have a ton of Pharisaical tendencies, and this no-temple thing is an excellent opportunity to unearth some of them. As I studied that concept out, I realized it was very true.
*Disclaimer: I absolutely do not think all templegoers think and feel this way. This is me I’m talking about, and me only! Apply to yourself as needed ;)*
For full disclosure, it’s been quite a while now that I’ve believed that what goes on in the temple does not give anybody a free pass to heaven. I hope no one believes that, but I mean more than the prevailing sense that our promised exaltation is conditional upon keeping the covenants we make in the temple. What I mean by that is that I have long looked at the temple as a house of learning, a place where we symbolically take part in ordinances that remain merely symbolic until we do the very vigorous work required to experience them in reality. This doesn’t mean real stuff doesn’t happen in the temple. There is real power there, and that is something that I know, not just believe. It means that symbolic ordinances alone do not exalt, and it means that maybe a physical building and an LDS membership are not required to receive exalting ordinances. These are obviously my own opinions, which makes them worth virtually nothing, so remember that.
So if I believe that, why would I care if I lost my temple recommend, other than social implications? Welcome to my Pharisaical heart. Even though I have felt God communicate to me that my temple worship is not sufficient on its own to get me where I need to be, I didn’t realize how much I was continuing to pat myself on the back for getting all my boxes checked when I’d take names to the temple and participate in those ordinances. I was keeping the law, every whit!
Let’s look at what Paul says about that in Romans 2:17-21, and verses 28-29 shall we?
“Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God, And knowest his will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed of the law; And art confident that thou thyself art a guide of the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form of knowledge and the truth in the law. Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?
“For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”
Ouch, no? Continue on through chapter 3 if you want to feel the real zingers. So here I was, resting in the law and in the security of my outward ordinances, confident that I was a light to those in darkness, and God took that away from me. It’s been such a blessing for my hard heart. God is forcing me to face the extent to which I was relying on the arm of flesh rather than the voice of God and the power of God to obtain the necessary inward ordinances that our outward ordinances merely teach. Basically, things have gotten a little more urgent as I do my self-inventory, and I think that’s always a good thing.
When Christ came, he was largely unrecognized by the institutional church set up by Moses. Despite their volumes of prophecies and extensive knowledge of those writings, despite their meticulous adherence to the ordinances of the law and to all the paraphernalia they’d added over centuries, the scribes and learned class completely missed the boat when it came to embracing their Lord when he was right in front of them. Some of them probably did so knowingly out of pride and desire for control, which is frankly terrifying, but I bet most of them were sincere. Maybe that’s naively optimistic of me, but I bet most of them were good people, people who thought they were doing what God required of them. And that assurance blinded them when it really, really mattered.
*Notably, some of Christ’s disciples were Pharisees. There was absolutely nothing wrong with being a Pharisee. The issue was looking to the law instead of to the light behind the law.* God has been showing me how much I was doing the exact same thing without realizing it. It’s a bear of a lesson, indeed.
Examine your heart. Examine the extent to which you know and rely on God in your daily life. That’s the whole point. God wants you to know him more than anything. For “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).
*Post-edit: OK. So there's a lot to say here, yes. Much of Pharisaical tradition was pretty much based on failing to see the light behind the law, which was why it was considered a stumblingblock. Jesus made it very clear that he didn't give two shakes about the traditions of the fathers, but instead about the law of God. So I'm assuming the Pharisees who supported him ultimately were forced to decide whether they valued errant traditions over the word of the Son of God or not. And yes, I believe each and every one of us has to make that decision, probably multiple times. So there's no problem with being a Pharisee, unless God tells you there is. Or something like that ;)
Exploring the spiritual side of things. Brevity is not my forte.