"Courage is the art of being the only one who knows you're scared to death." - Harold Wilson
Question #92806 posted on 12/26/2019 8:42 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I realize that taking offense can be seen as a choice. With that in mind how much of being offended by others (who may have inflicted ot intentionally or unintentionally) factor in to what happens to those who leave the Church in the eternities? (meaning thr way they were treated by others). I realize and am grateful that final judgment is way above my pay grade, just so you know. I have friends who will never step foot in an LDS church because of the way someone treated them in thr past and others who will not go to our ward because of similar reasons. It really saddens me not only to see those who choose to either leave the church because of that or those who will never be interested as a result. Does the Lord take all that into account at judgment day?

-Hopeful

A:

Dear Hopeful,

It would only be fair, wouldn't it?

This question is near and dear to my heart. It's the biggest reason I struggled with the cultural expectations of full-time proselytizing on my mission and caused friction between myself and my leaders more than once. With that said, I'll give you my strongly considered opinion, claiming no especial doctrinal authority for it:

It's our covenant responsibility to live like Christ lived and act as He acted--both because perfect communion with God gives us a fullness of joy, and because we want others to see that joy and share in it for themselves. For that reason, I also find it painfully sad to see how some people's experiences with the Church are as far from Christlike as you can get. My least favorite missionaries to serve with were those who thought that the most loving thing to do was to be stern, authoritarian, and frankly rude about the truthfulness of the church versus the falseness of others' faith traditions, out of some bizarre sense that the end justified the means. I also have friends (and family) who can point to negative and hurtful experiences with the Church that either pushed them away from activity or killed any interest they might have had learning more about organized religion, and I think that's tragic. 

I'd like to share with you a brilliant quotation from the late Jewish theologian Abraham Heschel:

It is customary to blame secular science and anti-religious philosophy for the eclipse of religion in modern society. It would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats. Religion declined not because it was refuted, but because it became irrelevant, dull, oppressive, insipid. When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline, love by habit; when the crisis of today is ignored because of the splendor of the past; when faith becomes an heirloom rather than a living fountain; when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion--its message becomes meaningless.

source

Now, that's something of a pessimistic outlook, but hardly a day goes by where I don't find myself returning to that last idea again and again. If our message to the world is only one of authority and not of compassion, of course people are going to turn away. If we shame people who are investigating the Church because of their dress or their language or their tattoos (all things that happened on my mission), of course those people will walk out on us, and it is nonsense to blame them and not the offending Church member for it. I realize that Elder Bednar's talk And Nothing Shall Offend Them is the seminal work on choosing not to be offended--but that doesn't mean that we get to shrug and blame other people for taking offense when we hurt them, even if we're trying to share the gospel. We should be sensitive, gentle, and respectful to everyone at all times and in all places. 

I've spent far too much time participating in online discussions about various subjects on various websites, and one thing strikes me more than anything else as I interact with many friends who do not believe; how sincerely they believe that religion is simplistic, authoritarian, and all about rules and control. How are they to know any better if that's all they've ever known? The notions of charity, love of others, and communion with a benevolent God--these are what define our religion, and yet countless people look at organized religion as little more than a set of arbitrary, meaningless, even bigoted rules aggressively proselytized by people with no sense of when to respect other people's wishes. We can do better than that. We must do better than that. 

Of course, all people have their agency, and so everyone is free to choose whether or not they will allow a perceived slight or injustice to impact their perception of the restored gospel and their willingness to participate in it. You'll find I tend to harp on certain themes a lot, but I'll say it again: as the Apostle Paul says, we all see through a glass darkly. We have no way of measuring how other people respond to negative experiences, and sometimes we might even cause harm or pain unintentionally. I am convinced this is the single most important reason that charity is invoked as the noblest virtue to which we can attain in scripture, because it cuts both ways. At the same time that we are striving to seek not our own and envy not, we also learn to suffer long and be kind, because sometimes other people won't be charitable to us. In a perfect world, no one would cause offense, and neither would anyone take offense when given good cause. But this isn't a perfect world, and so God, who understands perfectly what we go through, will judge us according to the light we have received. Only He knows whether we have justifiably taken offense or are merely holding a childish, petulant grudge. I don't believe a fair, just, and merciful God could possibly fail to take into account the hurt His children experience and the ways that that hurt can impact their view of the Church or their understanding of religion to begin with. 

On my mission there was a less-active family in one of my areas that wanted absolutely nothing--and I mean nothing--to do with the Church. As near as I could tell from the records we had, their particular animosity stemmed from the fact that the missionaries had come back after being politely asked to stop coming by. Undeterred, they came back again the next time, with the same result. Then they came back again...and again...and again. By the time I was transferred into the area, this family was furious with the Church, and they were not the least bit kind to any missionaries foolish enough to ignore the very emphatic "DO NOT CONTACT" warnings plastered all over their teaching records. Will God take their situation into account in the last day? If "merciful" and "fair" have any meaning at all when applied to God, I think so. I'm not in a position to judge this family; I don't know why they initially stopped attending church, and I don't think that they ought to take their anger out on young, impressionable missionaries. But I do understand why they do. I think God does, too. A final judgment in which God simply shrugs and says something to the effect of "Well, it was my church, so you should have gone there, even if the people treated you horribly" doesn't seem loving or fair at all.

I hope this helps!

Genuinely,

9S

A:

Dear friend,

Actions do not exist in bubbles. There are reasons why they are taken, and that is why there are few rules that are universal. Do not kill - then what about Nephi killing Laban, or soldiers killing in war? Do not steal - then what of Nephi stealing the brass plates? Do not break the Word of Wisdom - then why did Jesus and Joseph Smith drink wine?

I am thoroughly convinced that God will not just show up, read off a list - "slept with a woman other than his wife, lied to son, tried to kill son, cast his mistress and child from their home" - and pronounce judgment - "well Abraham this list is awful. It looks like you're going to the bad place." God will take everything into account. It won't be "didn't attend church for ten years," but "felt unsafe attending church and for your own mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being you made the heart-wrenching decision not to attend." 

If God made decisions based only off of our actions, then all of us would fall short of Their glory, and heaven would be an awfully empty place.

-guppy of doom

A:

Dear Aziraphale,

I hate the the terminology of “being offended” because it’s too broad. Here's the thing: there are genuine cases of people being legitimately hurt by other's actions, and there are genuine cases of people choosing to be offended over petty matters,. There was one time a lady in my home ward called our home phone after church to inform Alta how deeply offended she was over Alta *gasp* eating a banana before Relief Society started. There are all sorts of things people can get offended over, whether it be eating before a meeting starts, the way someone raises their hand to make a comment, or a tendency to be awkward. But at the end of the day none of those things really matter, and if you're letting it bother you, you should work to get over it. If someone chooses, they can just become super touchy about every little thing, so people should choose to not be touchy.

On the flip side, you have people who are abused by their bishop or are completely ignored and marginalized or anything else on a more serious note. In these kinds of cases, I am in full agreement with Sheeb's answer below.

Overall, I don't think God will judge us so much on whether we were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as the type of person we strove to be. If someone is the type of person to get deeply offended/angry by minor things like another person accidentally misspelling their name, then that will probably be reflected in their judgement as one of their weaknesses/character flaws. I guess what I'm getting down to is that I believe we will be judged more based on our character and intent than our actions. But that's just me.

~Anathema