While getting ready for Church this morning I had BYU-TV playing over the internet. I began by listening to Music and the Spoken Word, but after it was over I clicked on a random show (to avoid the horrid “Worship Service”) and let the video play. I didn’t pay much attention to it until a BYU-Hawaii devotional came on. The speaker’s talk was solid, but there was nothing really new or revelatory for me in the content of his discourse, which spoke of commitment to living the Gospel. Like many speakers, he gave a itemized list that summarized his talk. On the list was the observation that some people obey the words of the prophets only when it is convenient for them. When hearing the prophet speak, they evaluate the truth of his words based on their own desire to comply. They deem themselves exceptions and disregard the council.
Like I said, it was nothing new. I had been taught the same thing since before I was eight – never think of yourselves as an exception because that is a step on the road to apostasy. This caused a lot of mental anguish as I reached the age that my peers around me started dating and getting engaged. If I was no exception, I should be seeking the same goal, after all. I tried dating and generally failed to find a relationship that I felt was a good idea to pursue to the point of marriage (mostly from my own baggage). This placed me in emotional limbo – how was I supposed to fulfill the commandment to marry and raise a family (a commandment that I wanted to follow) if I never was able to feel good about a relationship with a woman?
A couple of years ago, Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave his famous “Hanging Out=Evil” YSA fireside. He followed his council with:
“If you feel you are a special case, so that the strong counsel I have given doesn’t apply to you, please don’t write me a letter. Why would I make this request? I have learned that the kind of direct counsel I have given results in a large number of letters from members who feel they are an exception, and they want me to confirm that the things I have said just don’t apply to them in their special circumstance….
As a General Authority, I have the responsibility to preach general principles. When I do, I don’t try to define all the exceptions. There are exceptions to some rules. … I only teach the general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord.” (Dallin H. Oaks, 2006)
I remember becoming angry the first time I heard that. So exceptions do exist? Where did that leave me? In what I felt was a rather glib statement, the Apostle had said, “hey, some of what we say may not apply to you and if it does, you are on your own.” Oh, wow. Thanks.
I’ve mellowed out in my frustration since then. What I originally saw as abandonment by the Brethren, I now see as them trusting me to follow the Spirit and were showing respect by allowing me to “govern myself”. Being lead by the prophet is one thing, having to be dragged on a leash is quite another.
While I think I have gained a small amount of maturity on that particular issue, thinking of myself as an exception doesn’t really sit well with me. There is a definite uneasiness to not having an clear idea of where you stand with the Lord on an issue, but for me, clarity hasn’t come yet in this particular case. There seem to be a lot of conflicting views on the issue floating around. I guess the Lord and I have more to discuss on this matter.
In any case, I guess writing a letter is out.