I Walk Imperfectly

Perfect Love Casteth Out Fear

Mon 28 December 2015 |

I was sitting in Sunday School class several weeks ago and heard the teacher say "policies may change, but doctrine never changes". The teacher was kind of a know-it-all. I heard his comment, and I wanted to correct him, but I didn't. I couldn't think of a way to raise the comment without being antagonistic and causing a scene. I sat in my chair silent and frustrated, fuming at how impossible it felt to have an honest and authentic discussion in church.

I failed there.

I could have emailed the teacher later and said, "I was thinking about what you said today..." and quoted or linked him to earlier church teachings, and current statements that disavow them. There are plenty of possibilities:

  • Adam God theory
  • Blood Atonement
  • Blacks were less valiant in pre-existence
  • Polygamy is required to get into the top tier of the celestial kingdom
  • Homosexuality is curable

I could have expressed to him my concern that a belief in the unchangeability of doctrine could make it difficult for people to put harmful or incorrect teachings behind them.

Or instead of emailing, maybe I could have raised my hand and said "I think we need to be careful with statements like that. There are doctrines the church has taught in the past that are disavowed today. Doctrine does change. Saying otherwise is likely to confuse people who notice the change and wonder if we're still obligated to believe the disavowed teachings. There are some things that we need to put behind us if we're going to grow and move forward. Let's not make it harder to do that by saying we need to hang on to old, incorrect teachings.

But I didn't email him. I didn't speak up in class. I didn't do those things because I was afraid. My fear made me paranoid about the teacher arguing with me or humiliating me in class. It made me anxious about how my comments would affect my social standing in the ward.

The Bible has something to say about this:

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18

I want to be driven less by fear, and more by love. If I had more love, then my motivation to speak up in class would come less from my own frustration and anger, and more from my concern about sparing people unnecessary frustration and pain. If I had less fear, then I would be willing to make those comments regardless of how some people might take them poorly. If I had more love and less fear, it would be far easier for me to think of a way to say these things that is both honest and sensitive to people's faith.

I'm not sure I know the best way to get better at this. Practice with people I trust would probably help. Writing out thoughts in advance would probably help. Prayer would probably help.