Saturday, September 13, 2008

Worthiness

I attended a friend's Anglican church this summer, and it was good to compare his religious experience to my own. (I described an earlier visit to this church here.)

One point impressed me so much that I actually saved the program because I wanted to remember this text:

[The consecrated bread and wine are] the gifts of God for the people of God. Whoever you are and wherever you find yourself on the journey, you are welcome at God's table to share in the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In my friend's church there is no concept of being 'worthy' enough to take the sacrament. To a Mormon, this concept is revolutionary. How much of our lives have we spent as Mormons agonizing over our worthiness, usually beginning with our first innocent steps of sexual awakening as young adolescents? Answer honestly! In Mormonism worthiness is for the most part the edifice of our sexual guilt and shame. (There are occasional exceptions where worthiness is judged in nonsexual terms.)

In essence, there are two ways to think about this:

View 1: We all fall short of perfect love and righteousness, but where we are in our journey is not as important as what feelings or hope we bring for a more godly life.

View 2: Some of us are worthy [to take the sacrament, speak in church, etc.]. Others of us are not. Leaders of the church judge who are worthy. We talk of God's love and yet we fear his disapproval, the withdrawal of the spirit.

I'm not very religious, but I am increasingly attracted to a view of the world where people are given the benefit of the doubt and assumed to be doing the best they can. I don't think the spirit withdraws. The LDS concept of 'worthiness' is a form of spiritual abuse. I don't think I understood it in those terms until I saw a more compassionate alternative in action at my friend's church.

3 comments:

[kɹeɪ̯ɡ̊] said...

I fully agree.

Beck said...

We never are "worthy" as we all fall short. The sacrament for me is an effort to help me to stay pointed toward the Savior. I will always be imperfect, but the sacrament is a symbol of my trying to follow Christ and seeking the spirit in my life.

My "worthiness" is a personal issue with the Lord, not with Church leaders constantly judging me.

Holly said...

nice post.

One of the things that drives me nuts about Mormonism is what a lousy dad father in heaven is, how much meaner and nastier he is than average people. Can you imagine earthly parents telling their kids that they're not worthy to eat dinner with them, or to hang out with everyone else on weekends? If we saw a neighbor treating their kids the way god treats his children, we'd report them to CPS.

God could learn a lot from his children.