Monday, August 8, 2011

Supporting Sinners

Elder Clayton Christensen, then an area authority seventy, taught us in a stake conference a few years ago that maxim that the church is not a resort for the perfect, but a hospital for sinners. He said if we didn’t smell tobacco in our sacrament meeting, then we probably weren’t working hard enough to reach out to others (either in missionary work or reactivation).

King Benjamin taught a similar principle: our obedience to God’s commandments does not put him in our debt, ever. We are always in His debt; we are nothing; without the atonement, we are worthless (see Mosiah 4).

In our zeal to protect our home and family from evil (which we should do), how do we hate sin and love sinners? How can we judge (being sinners ourselves)? Mosiah 4 speaks of sharing our substance with those in need; does that extent to our sharing our love with fellow sinners who are also seeking a path home? I believe it does.

I remember when someone shared his love with me. I was a new Sunday School president just about the time Sunday School presidents were becoming less relevant. We had no more opening exercises. And soon teacher inservice would be phased out, as well. Being the young return missionary I was, I thought I knew all there was to know, and I resisted the efforts of my stake Sunday School president to support and train me. My rebellious attitude must have been obvious to him, but he was unflappable. Each time he visited our ward, he put his arm around me and told me how much he loved me, and told me how pleased he was with what I was doing.

Despite my pride, his love was genuine (and disarming). It was impossible for me to ignore it. And I remember it thirty years later.

It is easy for us to find fault with others, to find reasons not to relate, not to engage. But that’s not what the Savior taught us, is it?

But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,

Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.

And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also.

Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.

And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.

For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.

And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.

And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.

But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil (Luke 6:27-35).


  1. great post, i feel sometimes people are looked down apon because they don't fit in with the rank and file of the church. Benjamin was a wise leader.

  2. Anonymous,

    As much as I wish it weren't so, I suspect you are right. And I think the degree to which it happens depends on where one lives. We've been fortunate that in many of our wards, we've found traditionally marginalized folks welcomed and encouraged. It's a remarkable thing to see when it happens.

    In the end, I think it's an individual choice we each make, about whom we will comfort, with whom we will mourn, whose burden we will share.