Sometimes it seems the only thing that is considered a â€œsinâ€ in today’s culture is advocating an ideal or making a generalization. And more conservative bloggers, such as myself, tend to be the most common offenders in this regard. It always puzzles me when a statement of an ideal or a generalization provokes people into becoming offended, especially among members of the Church.
Often, one cannot declare that couples should not put off having children, that motherhood is the most valuable role a woman can fill, that it is ideal for mothers to stay home with their children, or that we should avoid watching R-rated movies, without offending someone, apparently.
I think that most of us who make these kinds of declarations are astute enough to know that there are acceptable exceptions to these generalities. And I think that most of us understand the principles of revelation enough to recognize that the Holy Spirit may authorize individuals and couples to deviate according to their circumstance. But we believe that we must espouse Ideals both individually and collectively.
I have, myself, deviated from the ideal when the Lord approved. But it is those times that I have appropriately deviated that make me wonder at all of those who proclaim that they are â€œoffendedâ€ or that they find such declarations of ideal â€œoffensive.â€
Why are you offended?
If you are confident that the Lord has authorized your deviation, then there is no reason that I can comprehend to be offended. If you know that the Lord approves of your actions, then what reason can you have to remonstrate against the stated ideal, if it is, under most circumstances, applicable and true?
Let’s imagine that through personal revelation the Lord had authorized me and my spouse to put off having children. One day while reading a discussion about the church and families on an LDS Blog, I read a comment from one participant who declares that we shouldn’t put off having children for any reason. How would I respond? Am I offended? Of course not! I have confidence that, though they deviate from the stated ideal, my actions are approved of by the Lord. I have no reason to be offended.
It seems to me that being offended by statements of ideal or by generalizations proceeds from the perception that because something in our life, or in the lives of people we love and admire, deviates from those admonitions, that we (or they) are somehow diminished or looked down upon. In other words, offense of this type is the offspring of pride. If the Lord truly has authorized our deviation, then we have absolutely no reason to feel either diminished or offended. We should be happy to let people be generally right. And even if what they say is not a “commandment” there is nothing wrong with acknowledging that what they say is often a good idea or approach.
Now, perhaps we honestly reject certain generalizations as ideal or true. Then we should discuss why we believe those generalizations are not true. But being offended because another person is wrong simply doesn’t make any sense.
So why are people offended? Is it because they lack confidence that their deviations are really approved of by the Lord? I don’t know. I’m trying to figure it out.
Nephi was authorized by the Spirit to kill Laban. The Spirit does indeed authorize exceptions to the ideal. If Nephi had thereafter made a practice of killing people to get what he wanted from them, however, then we would have to wonder if he was not being inspired by the wrong source.
The ideal remains the rule and the exceptions are just that: exceptions.
If we find that the we are “inspired” to be an exception more often than we are to follow the rule, shouldn’t we wonder whether we are really inspired? And if we are not confident enough that the personal revelations that except us from general rules are truly from God to not be offended when others proclaim them, should we be acting on those revelations and excepting ourselves at all?
And it came to pass that Enoch went forth in the land, among the people, standing upon the hills and the high places, and cried with a loud voice, testifying against their works; and all men were offended because of him.
– Moses 6:37
…and seeing that the hearts of the people began to wax hard, and that they began to be offended because of the strictness of the word, his heart was exceedingly sorrowful.
– Alma 35:15
And now my brethren, if ye were righteous and were willing to hearken to the truth, and give heed unto it, that ye might walk uprightly before God, then ye would not murmur because of the truth, and say: Thou speakest hard things against us.
– 1 Nephi 16:3