Monday, April 16, 2012

An Object Lesson in the Rough

Okay, I'll tell one bishop story. No confidences are revealed and if any one is offended, it's probably one of those "reproving betimes with sharpness" situations.

The "object" of the lesson
There was this Stake youth meeting I was roped into by a Young Women's leader. She said, "Bishop, would you help me out with something in my talk? You may need to take your suit jacket off and roll up your sleeve. Is the back of your shirt ironed?" No one had ever asked me a question like that last one before. So I was already a little befuddled. We iron the backs of shirts in our house. (OK, I admit my wife does much more ironing than I do, but I have been known to wield an iron on rare occasion).

Anyway, she called me up during her talk and had a big, plastic diamond sort of like the picture I found just above. She had two jars full of water. One had clear water and the other looked rather brownish. She dipped the diamond representing youthful "purity" into the filthy water and took it out and showed how dirty it had become. (It was hollow and a little dirty water got inside). She asked me as the bishop to dip it into the clean jar of water and then hold it up. She explained how the bishop had helped to make it "clean" but there were still little smudges in the inside corners so all could see how we would have been better off if we had never gotten "dirty" in the first place.

I was horrified! False doctrine on Repentance! I immediately flashed back to my Jr. Sunday School days when they showed me the object lesson about the nail pounded in the block of wood. You could take the sinful nail out with repentance, but it still left a hole. That object lesson had been specifically condemned as false doctrine by one of those letters to local leaders from Salt Lake. (I was pretty sure!) The point being, the miracle of the Atonement is that there is no hole. It is a complete healing and cleansing and the Lord remembers the sin "no more."

I sat back down still holding the slightly dirty plastic diamond. The Stake President was there on the other side of the podium controls so I wasn't the presiding authority with the responsibility to correct false doctrine. But I couldn't quite catch his eye. I took out my two handkerchiefs (when I was ordained a bishop my dad counseled me to always have two handkerchiefs, one for me and one to give to a woman in case she started crying. I think he learned that from his mother and some etiquette rule from past generations.) I found that I could get the plastic diamond apart in two pieces so I could use my hankies to rub and scrub. I used a little spit and twisted a hankie into that plastic furiously into all the inside crevices. I was glad to have two hankies even if no one was crying. I lost track of the talk but I think it went on about the dangers of "impurity." I worked and worked hoping she could keep talking long enough to allow me to get that plastic diamond clean whatever it took. And finally, it was. I stood up as she ended her talk and surprised her with the plastic diamond reassembled shiny and bright.

The Stake President looked over and smiled. I think at least some of the youth might have been watching my hard work.

After all, it is by Grace that we are saved, after all we can do.


  1. But there is a scar left sometimes, even after repentance. A person may repent of robbing someone, but that someone may have a permanent fear. A person may repent of his life of dissolution, but the physical damage to his body remains. A man may repent of raping a woman, but he cannot undo the emotional damage to the woman. A man may repent of infidelity to his wife, but that repentance won't undo the divorce or the estrangement with his children.

    I don't like the object lesson, either. But there are sometimes scars left after honest and sincere repentance, scars that we cannot erase even with all our tears. It is better not to sin at all in the first place.

    But even with scars, repentance is real -- and a man who has led a dissolute life for fifty years can repent and join the Church and find a place among the children of God, with his responsibility for his sins washed away and remembered no more.

    1. Thanks, ji.

      I agree that sin can leave scars and even open wounds that sometimes last generations. Our choices have consequences. But, eventually all will be healed and made perfect if we turn our hearts to God. My view of the thousand-year reign of Christ on earth is that we will not be sitting around eating fruit and petting the animals like in the Garden of Eden. We will be working hard with the Lord to reconcile and heal all the scars and wounds that we can. That is the Atonement and that is the turning of the hearts.

    2. I should add that I agree it is always better not to sin in the first place. But the reason is not because you can never be completely clean. The reason is because ANY sin cuts us off from the presence of the Lord and there is no guarantee we will have the sense to exercise faith and repentance to get ourselves back, especially having lost the companionship of the Holy Ghost in the process of sinning.

  2. Despite the fact that sins most definitely leave scars (I think it's just the nature of pain, growth and our Earthly existence), I think the point is not to teach hopelessness. Teaching impressionable youth that there is no way to stand clean before God once you've sinned can be devastating. They need hope in order to have the faith to repent, otherwise they'll never see the point of repentance and lose their identity as a Child of God. I remember a time as a teenager when I lost hope, not because of something I did, but because of the sin of another acted upon me. It took some strong messages about hope and our Heavenly Father's love for me to find my way and remember my worth.

    1. I'm just glad I got that darn thing clean and sparkly again. I was really in a panic about it. But it worked. Do you remember that occasion by the way?


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