Have you ever read a post like this on Facebook or other social media:
My server at the restaurant today had a bunch of tattoos. I told her how wonderful she looked and how beautiful she is. I am not like all of the other Mormons who are judgmental and intolerant about tattoos — we are all part of the human family, and we should honor and celebrate the choices of others.
I saw two men holding hands today at Church. Some people in my ward were very nice to them, but I could just tell that many other people were in shock and very intolerant of them. But I made a point to go tell them that I honored their choices — even if all of the other judgmental people in the chapel did not.
I have seen literally hundreds of posts like these over the years. Can you tell what is wrong with them? Luckily, the scriptures make it clear:
Matthew 6:1-8 (NIV version):
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Jesus is not impressed by how righteous we pretend to be in public, including on Facebook. Jesus wants our hearts focused on Him. He wants us to become more like him, with love for all people.
Jesus has special concerns about the people who are only interested in being popular. That will inevitably lead them astray. In Jesus’ day, those people would give to the needy and then tell everybody about it, or they would pray very obviously to be noticed by the people around them. This was a sign that they were doing good deeds for the wrong reasons. The reason to do good is not to be liked and admired by other people — we should do good because we have true charity for others and are filled with the true love of Christ.
How many of our friends are doing good things and then bragging about it publicly? Are their hearts in the right place?
But it gets worse. The above two examples are not just about bragging about personal righteousness in a public way — they are about judging and condemning others while also trumpeting your own righteousness.
Remember the story of the Zoramites and the Rameumpton?
We can read about it in Alma 31.
12 Now, when they had come into the land, behold, to their astonishment they found that the Zoramites had built synagogues, and that they did gather themselves together on one day of the week, which day they did call the day of the Lord; and they did worship after a manner which Alma and his brethren had never beheld;
13 For they had a place built up in the center of their synagogue, a place for standing, which was high above the head; and the top thereof would only admit one person.
14 Therefore, whosoever desired to worship must go forth and stand upon the top thereof, and stretch forth his hands towards heaven, and cry with a loud voice, saying:
15 Holy, holy God; we believe that thou art God, and we believe that thou art holy, and that thou wast a spirit, and that thou art a spirit, and that thou wilt be a spirit forever.
16 Holy God, we believe that thou hast separated us from our brethren; and we do not believe in the tradition of our brethren, which was handed down to them by the childishness of their fathers; but we believe that thou hast elected us to be thy holy children; and also thou hast made it known unto us that there shall be no Christ.
17 But thou art the same yesterday, today, and forever; and thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell; for the which holiness, O God, we thank thee; and we also thank thee that thou hast elected us, that we may not be led away after the foolish traditions of our brethren, which doth bind them down to a belief of Christ, which doth lead their hearts to wander far from thee, our God.
18 And again we thank thee, O God, that we are a chosen and a holy people. Amen.
There are obviously many problems with the Zoramites and the Rameumptom, but one of the most obvious is this: they were so filled with pride that they thought they were righteous, and their very prayer was about how much more righteous they were than other people.
Imagine if we went to church every Sunday and talked about how awesome we were compared to all of the other losers out there in the world. I know that some people who have not actually been to an LDS chapel think that this is how Mormons behave, but those of us who have gone to church know that it is the exact opposite. We mostly talk about how much better we should be and how we have fallen short, and how much we need to repent.
As President Monson said in his January 2018 presidency message:
“If any of you has stumbled in his journey, I assure you that there is a way back. The process is called repentance. Although the path is difficult, your eternal salvation depends on it. What could be more worthy of your efforts? I plead with you to determine right here and now to take the steps necessary to fully repent.
Can you see the difference? True saints focus on improving themselves. They recognize their failings and concentrate on repenting. They do not spend their time saying how proud they are that they will be saved while everybody else goes to Hell.
Now, contrast this with the virtue signaling posts above regarding the woman with tattoos and the men holding hands. Those posts — in which the people point out how much better they are than the supposedly intolerant people around them — are filled with pride. The purpose of these posts is to brag — just like the Zoramites — about how righteous the “tolerant” people are compared to the intolerant and judgmental people around them. Their posts are about condemning others and tearing them down. Their comments are the exact opposite of how we should behave.
Now, just to be clear, we should be nice and welcoming to all people. Be kind and gracious to the server with tattoos. Be courteous and friendly to the two men in the chapel holding hands. But don’t immediately go on social media and brag about how wonderful you are compared to everybody else. As the scriptures say, your Father in Heaven will not reward such behavior, no matter how many “likes” your virtue signaling gets on Facebook.