The Other Story of Salvation

April 22, 2005 | 11 comments
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Church isn’t boring for me very often lately. It’s not because the speakers and teachers have dramatically improved since a few years ago when I was bored more often. Nor is it because I have suffered brain damage that leaves me very easily amused : ) Partly the kids in my primary class keep me hopping, but partly I’m looking for different things now than I used to look for.

Nowadays it is rare for someone at church to say something that really changes how I think about the gospel, really makes me feel like I learned something about the gospel in general. There are some very insightful people in my ward, but rather than saying insightful things, they are usually taking care of their kids, or serving in a calling that engages their kind hearts more than their intellects. Still, every time my brothers and sisters open their mouths, I learn something about them. And I think it is just as worthwhile, even perhaps more worthwhile in the long run, for me to understand them and their faith, as it is for me to understand the scriptures and the teachings of the prophets. Because I am called to serve them. I am called to bear their burdens, and comfort them when they need comfort (Mosiah 18).

Besides the glorious, abstract story of the plan of salvation, there is this complex, often murky, usually somewhat tedious story about how all kinds of different actual people grope through the darkness toward the iron rod, and thence, upstream through the river, eventually to the tree of life, and sometimes stay and sometimes leave. And that is the story of God’s work, too. I want to understand it, so I try to listen. When someone says with feeling something that I have heard a few hundred times, I think, “Huh, how is this principle living for them this week, when it isn’t for me?” When someone says something clearly false, I think, “Wow, what led that person to think that!” and often there is kind of a good reason. Funny thing is, the mistakes are just about as important a part of the story of salvation as the successes.

A sparrow doesn’t fall without God noticing; how much more important are each of his human children? I don’t have God’s attention span, but I don’t get bored as much as I used to.

11 Responses to The Other Story of Salvation

  1. Gilgamesh on April 22, 2005 at 10:48 pm

    Ben,

    I needed that perspective. What example of how we can truly be one as the Savior prayed for us to be.

  2. Jack on April 23, 2005 at 1:02 am

    Ben,

    A professor of educational philosophy once told me that you can’t be scholar AND a christian. I think you may be proving him wrong.

  3. Aaron L. M. Goodwin on April 23, 2005 at 1:47 am

    Ben, I understand what you are writing about here. For some reason, I have been blessed with a keen intellect, which stems primarily from my ability to remember. I don’t have a photographic memory at all (I hate memorizing), but I can remember associated things. Any time I hear someone make a comment, I am able to recognize what is going on, and the reason behind such comments or behavior. A flood of memories streams through my mind and I can, in an abstract way, understand and comprehend.

    I’m not stating this to boast, but to boast in the Lord. If he can help me remember these things, the same person who didn’t graduate high school on time, then he can do it for everyone, if they desire it and it is His will. We have to study people, we have to watch them, and recognize patterns. Thus, we can truly help others and serve them as the Lord would.

  4. Travis on April 23, 2005 at 1:49 am

    While, I think you have something going here that could be very beneficial for many a Saint (myself included). I can’t help but feel a need to warn that this could lead to a very prideful act. I mention this warning probably just because I need the warning more than others.

    For example, I could see myself trying to figure out how Bro. Jones came a false doctrine, and blaming it on his upbringing, or his 2 years of inactivity, or his lack of intelligence, etc., trying to make myself feel “better” about myself.

    You present it from what appears to be a very humble angle, and I think that it could be helpful, however, I just feel a need for myself to be ware of pride.

  5. Sumbody on April 23, 2005 at 6:02 am

    I don’t think we’re meant to be object lessons for each other. This tack also leads to too-close observation, gossip, pedestal-sitting, etc.

  6. Christie Frandsen on April 23, 2005 at 10:57 am

    Well, I, for one, was inspired and moved by this post — in our baptismal covenant we promise to remember Christ and stand as a witness of Him at all times, but we also promise to bear one another’s burdens and comfort those in need of comfort – the vertical and horizontal connections and bonds that make us truly Saints in deed as well as in word. In loving and nurturing our brothers and sisters as the Savior did, I don’t believe we are making object lessons of each other. Bless you, Ben Huff, for reminding us that loving and serving “the least of these” (without condescension or pride — ahhh, there’s the rub!) is what will ultimately qualify us for celestial life, not how profoundly we can expound upon the deeper doctrines of the kingdom (as much as I truly LOVE doing that!).
    -Christie Frandsen

  7. Ben H on April 23, 2005 at 1:30 pm

    Sure, we have to be careful. We have to be careful in anything we do not to fall into pride. There are lots of ways of being prideful. You can be prideful by smugly judging people for their faults. You can be prideful by thinking about how this or that person is wasting your time. You can be prideful by not acknowledging what you do have to learn from someone, or how they can help you. You can be prideful by fixating on learning as though it were the primary purpose of church. One can inappropriately fixate on learning by being bored when one isn’t learning much, or by seeing other people as object lessons. But listening isn’t the same thing as making someone an object lesson. Listening is something we do with people who matter to us in their own right, too. I think the learning that goes on at church is important mainly so far as it serves another purpose: we are learning how to participate in the best kind of relationships. I think the primary purpose of church is to build relationships of love, friendship and mutual service with our brothers and sisters, and our Father.

    There are a lot of different kinds of giving and receiving to do at church. A healthy relationship of fellowship involves some of both. At different seasons of our lives, we may do more of one than the other. To refuse to participate in appropriate receiving, or in appropriate giving, is prideful either way.

    Thanks for the kind comments, and for the cautionary ones : )

  8. Jim F. on April 23, 2005 at 5:29 pm

    A side note rather than a threadjack: Jack, that professor of educational philosophy must not have known very much about the history of philosophy or the histories of cultures. You are absolutely right that Ben shows his ability to be a scholar and a Christian with this post. Ben is impressive as both a scholar and a Christian. But Ben is part of a long line of being both, a line that began in the second century of the Common Era and has included a lot of very bright spots along the way. Origen, Augustine, Aquinas, Pascal, Kierkegaard, Berdyaev, Marcel, Henry, Taylor, Marion, to name a very few of those bright spots. Other religious traditions have also been home to many scholars (Maimonides, Levinas; hundreds of Buddhist scholars and Confucian scholars, . . . .) To say that religion in general or Christianity in particular is incompatible with scholarship is simply either not to know or to ignore obvious facts. In other words, I think the professor you spoke to only proved that he wasn’t much of a scholar.

  9. Annie Edwards on April 25, 2005 at 8:57 pm

    Hey Ben, ‘sup?

    I agree with you the most worthwhile purpose of church is “learning how to participate in the best kind of relationships”. But quality relationships, like quality books, are those that feel *real* because of their unscriptedness….because they are built on some spark of something spontaneous and conflicted, something *human* rather than formulaic.

    This issue of whether or not church is boring goes to the core of what religion is for. Church is boring when people don’t open up as humans, expressing *their experience* of spiritual striving and *their thoughts* relating thereto in uncensored and messy pageant. I want this at church! It’s too clean, too institutional! There are too many rules, too many conventions, too little debate, too much doctrine, too little pain. I’m all for listening to people, but I don’t feel like people open up enough at church and are simply themselves. If I’m complacent to that, does that show that I really care deeply about getting to know people around me?

  10. Annie Edwards on April 25, 2005 at 9:06 pm

    I had a grammatically unclear sentence in there. What I meant to say is, I don’t feel like people open up enough at church, and I don’t feel like they are simply themselves enough. I wanna hear the voice of the person who’s speaking, not the voice of the mask the speaker thinks that the brethren esteem.

  11. A. Greenwood on April 25, 2005 at 10:21 pm

    I want to become my mask, Annie. My Lord wants me to become it also. Taking it off too often makes the becoming too hard.

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