I am an admitted, unapologetic hippie. The idea of “all you need is love” may have, on a large scale, been tossed out when the Beatles split and the flower children decided to clean up, but for me it is alive and well. Now I’m not sure if your average sixties beatnik’s understanding of free love was exactly the same as mine but the idea is still analogous. Love cannot be regulated or controlled. Love is power. The more love you have the more power you have. The ability to bring anything into existence, the power of creation requires absolute love. If you don’t have love you cannot do anything because the elements would not trust you or obey you. God always acts in and out of love. Love in its essence is always free.
I am going to share a personal experience that I had while attempting to repent of my sins. I was in a “confession” state of mind going through my life from about age eight on with a fine-tooth comb and confessing to the Lord everything that might be a sin. This was very time consuming and I didn’t actually feel guilty for having committed most of them. So one day I knelt down to continue my confession session, trying to wrack my brain for more stuff I had done, said, thought…when the Lord told me that the only sins he required me to repent of were the ones in which I had hurt someone. Not just calling a classmate names on the playground but every time, whether through commission or omission, my actions, words or thoughts hurt another person. Now those sins are painful. When you really allow yourself to remember all the mean things you’ve done to people, you will most assuredly feel guilt.
I can tell you, as a parent, what breaks my heart more than anything else is when my kids treat other kids unkind. I would much prefer my children to be the outcast and picked on than to be the assailant.
Mother Teresa was a fine example love. She served anyone in need of being served, including people with AIDS/HIV. She didn’t ask them how they contracted the disease; I really don’t think she cared. After starting the Missionaries of Charity in 1950, Mother Teresa said it’s service was meant for, “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved, uncared for throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.”
But what if they smoke?….What if they swear?….What if they’re GAY?
She, herself found serving the suffering in western countries a more daunting task as she said, “Around the world, not only in the poor countries, but I found the poverty of the West so much more difficult to remove. When I pick up a person from the street, hungry, I give him a plate of rice, a piece of bread, I have satisfied. I have removed that hunger. But a person that is shut out, that feels unwanted, unloved, terrified, the person that has been thrown out from society—that poverty is so hurtable and so much, and I find that very difficult.” The impoverished around us are not necessarily the physically hungry but the spiritually hungry. They are hungry for love and acceptance. The ones who are shunned and cast out because they don’t conform to what is considered acceptable by the “example setters.”
A friend of mine had a bit of a potty mouth in high school. She was very popular and well liked. That is until her family moved to a mainly Mormon area. She soon realized that the only friends she was attracting were the “bad” kids. You know, the ones who smoke and swear. The “good” kids wouldn’t let her in their clique because of her language. So what did my friend do? She stopped swearing so she could hang out with the “good” kids. I think she was a little confused about which group was good and which was bad. I would have chosen the smokers myself. Not to suggest either group was “good” or “bad” necessarily, but the smokers/swearers were definitely being more like Jesus whether they meant to or not.
God doesn’t want us to hand out lists of rules to potential converts of things they should and shouldn’t do in order to be accepted. Imagine requesting admittance to a particular club. The board calls you to come before them and they proceed to critique everything from head to toe, they give you a list of changes to be made then tell you to come back when you’re “all better.” Personally, being a nonconformist and all, I would tell them exactly where they could shove that list. Some folks, however, would make the changes and join the club, but I doubt they would ever respect the board members and they would always be on guard against the “real” them ever being revealed lest they get called on the carpet again or even worse, kicked out. Now a club that just welcomes you with open arms and accepts and loves you, while constantly encouraging you on whatever path you choose would tend to boost your confidence in your ability to better yourself. As Joseph Smith said, “Nothing is so much calculated to lead people to forsake sin as to take them by the hand, and watch over them with tenderness. When persons manifest the least kindness and love to me, O what power it has over my mind, while the opposite course has a tendency to harrow up all the harsh feelings and depress the human mind.”
History of the Church, 5:23–24.
God beckons all to come as they are, and HE will make the necessary changes in us.
We tend to create God into who we think he should be. He becomes created in “our image” instead of us being created in his image. In her book A Return to Love Marianne Williamson writes, “We have made up a God in our image. Because we are angry and judgmental, we have projected those characteristics onto Him. But God remains who He is and always will be: He is the energy, the thought of unconditional love. He cannot think with anger or judgment. He is mercy and compassion and total acceptance.”
I had a friend tell me-as a matter of absolute fact-that “Jesus doesn’t listen to rock music.” Oh really? Where do I find that information? Maybe he doesn’t, although the more I learn of his character the more I tend to believe that he is a lot more joyful and exuberant than the typical stern, stoic figure I had imagined before. I suppose he may also truly not like it when folks wear non-white clothes to their baptisms or mess up the sacrament prayer. Well whatever He actually DOES like/listen to, one thing we KNOW is that he sat with the “sinners.” He died for the sick. He didn’t come to call the righteous to repentance. So if we desire to follow the example of Jesus this is what we have to do as well. I’m not saying we should be randomly calling people to repentance(I’ll address that later)I’m saying that following the example of Christ is the only way we can set a good example.
Jesus gave very good instructions on exactly how to set a “good example”in 3rd Nephi18:21-25.
“Pray in your families unto the Father, always in my name, that your wives and your children may be blessed. And behold, ye shall meet together oft; and ye shall not forbid any man from coming unto you when ye shall meet together, but suffer them that they may come unto you and forbid them not; But ye shall pray for them, and shall not cast them out; and if it so be that they come unto you oft ye shall pray for them unto the Father, in my name. Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up–that which ye have seen me do. Behold ye see that I have prayed unto the Father, and ye all have witnessed. And ye see that I have commanded that none of you should go away, but rather have commanded that ye should come unto me, that ye might feel and see; even so shall ye do unto the world; and whosoever breaketh this commandment suffereth himself to be led into temptation.”
The importance of “setting a good example” has been the topic of countless Sunday school talks. Usually consisting of something along the lines of, “I don’t swear” I don’t drink” “I dress modestly” “I don’t listen to worldly music” etc, etc, etc., because people are watching me and may emulate me. So if I am the exemplar and I don’t swear, drink, wear a bikini…then I am also better than those who do right? I have effectively placed myself in a higher position where I can look down at everyone around me. If we seek to make our own ideals the “light” we’re supposed to “shine” we completely miss the mark. When we focus on setting the “standard” all we’re doing is placing the bar that our fellow beings need to live up to in order to please us. Being a “good” example puts the focus on us and what we’re doing. Jesus wants us to beckon the world to come unto him. Not unto us. We do not have the power to atone for even one sin. We do not have the power to save. That power is his and his alone. The old Aristotle quote,”He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader.” Is absolutely true, but the leadership position we should be seeking isn’t to lord over our brothers and sisters, demanding their obedience. The leadership we should seek is leading our brothers and sisters to Christ, which requires following Christ ourselves.
As far as calling people to repentance…the gospel of repentance is meant to be preached in love.
D&C Section 18
14Wherefore, you are called to cry repentance unto this people.
I have been called to repentance a few times in my life. Mostly by pride filled folks whose standards I wasn’t living up to. They didn’t like the way I dress, the music I listen to etc. Now maybe they believed they were acting out of love for my soul, but they weren’t. They were calling me to come unto them. If they were calling me to come unto Christ they would have known that he didn’t have a problem with the way I dress or the music I listen to. That was their own issue, not his. I have also been called to repentance by someone who was absolutely acting out of love for my soul. Her words to me came straight from the Lord and were exactly what I needed to hear. She beckoned me to come unto HIM, to stop rebelling against HIM. Her words, while harsh, were filled with love. This is so important to understand; we cannot place ourselves as a mediator between others and God. All we will do is become a stumbling block to them. To truly act in love is to desire everyone to become one with God as only in this way can we become one with each other. This applies even in marriage as I was given a simple vision of the way Christ wanted to work in my marriage. He showed me himself standing above and my husband and I below on either side, forming a triangle. He then showed me the correct order was for my husband and I to become one with him and then he would join us to become one with each other, thus perfectly completing it.
The most attractive part of the “Electric Universe Theory”, in my opinion, is the idea that everything is connected. Everything. There is nothing isolated, neither planet nor person. I have actually started an exercize recently where I will visualize cords of energy between myself and everyone I see, allowing myself to realize the connectedness I have with everyone and how important every person truly is. I find myself wanting to hug people, I just love everyone so much! I only refrain for their sake as I don’t want to make anyone….uncomfortable. We are connected to every single person on a level so deep, so intense and so vital, that I propose if there were a way to cut the cords that bind us existence would unravel.
I seriously don’t care if you’re gay or straight, listen to rock and roll or(ugh)jazz. I don’t care if you smoke cigarettes, cannabis, or even meth. I don’t even care if you’re LDS, FLDS, or an undecided blogger. I still love you. As a matter of fact the only thing I can think of that would make it challenging for me to love you is if you are the type to exercise dominion or control over others. As long as the course you are pursuing in life is not harming another person I will defend your right to choose it. Whether or not your choices are “sin” is between you and God and has nothing to do with me or anyone else. Only you are aware of what the spirit has instructed you. If you are told by God to only wear dresses(you poor thing)then by all means wear them! But please don’t expect me to. I will extend this same courtesy to you and everyone else. As a matter of fact I will extend it further and say you are also free to DISobey God, or not believe in him at all for that matter. The second we start trying to make rules that force our beliefs on others is the second we take on the role of Lucifer and break the second greatest commandment to love our neighbor. Wow, it appears as if I have become an anarchist. An anarchist hippie. I love that!