Thursday, September 03, 2015
Sitting there, I thought of a wonderful family that recently attended the temple for the first time. At least one member of the family has multiple visible tattoos; those outer marks do not reflect on the family's inner faith or dedication in any way. I thought of another friend whose first exposure to our faith was through a church dance, where no one made her feel at home or even spoke to her because she was wearing a short skirt and heavy makeup; had it not been for the guileless kindness and hospitality of a bishop who noticed her in the hall, she probably never would have returned to investigate further. I thought of family members and friends who were made to feel unwelcome at church because they had, for example, gauged their ears, and who never came back because they were hurt by the things people said to them.
And I thought of how easy it is to become religiously myopic, to focus so intently on a single aspect of one's faith practices that one loses sight of what is most important.
It would have been refreshing, and the tone would have felt a lot less judgmental, if this youth speaker had added, "We should recognize that while these standards are set for members of our Church, people who do not share our faith have not been asked to adhere to these standards. Likewise, there are faithful Church members who have tattoos and pierces, and faithful Church members whose choice of clothing may be different from ours. We should remember that our primary job as followers of Jesus Christ is to be kind, loving and welcoming to the people with whom we come in contact, without being quick to judge their dress or appearance. As we read in 1 Samuel 16:7, 'man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.'"
I'm still learning this principle in other parts of my life, but in this particular I think it's finally sunk in: it's possible to adhere to a standard fully without requiring other people to do the same, and without judging them if they don't. If this principle were taught even to young teenagers, who are smart enough to grasp its nuances, it could avoid or clear up so many instances where people have been needlessly wounded or made to suffer. I'd love to see it become more widespread in the Church.