This essay by Eugene England, read here for Matters of Perspective by his son, Mark England, articulates better than any other writing a strongcase for how the way the LDS Church is organized on the local level with lay clergy and geographical boundaries serves fantastically as a “school of love.” England suggests that the brilliance of this “church” set-up (versus any “gospel” aspect) is how it forces us to do difficult (and salvific—transformative!) soul work that we might (likely would not) never otherwise do. Very few of us choose to enter relationships with people who are not family or with whom we have very little in common, or who are of vastly different temperaments. Yet here is Mormonism asking us to do just that. Can we learn to love those with whom we disagree? With those who might suspect our faith (because it is so different from theirs) to be somehow “less than”? Is there a magic in true service to and confronting others (and ourselves as we see a reflection of us through their eyes) that we would rarely ever experience were “church” not so hard? This essay is a true Mormon classic—and a challenging one!
Eugene England, “Why the Church Is As True As the Gospel,” Sunstone (March 1986)
Eugene England, “Why the Church Is As True As the Gospel,” Sunstone (June 1999). This is an updated and re-edited version done for the 25th Anniversary Issue of Sunstone magazine. Includes an additional reflection.
Thanks so much for sharing this!
I’ve likened being engaged with the church to going to the gym. Often I have to drag myself to remain active in the church. But it is there I become aware of and have the opportunity to “work” on those weaknesses–exercise unused muscles. Though I long for an “oasis” where I could be a part of a ward family that shared my views I recognize the value in being challenged. But it is hard and lonely. Largely I’ve kept silent, fearful of and not wanting to negatively impact others experience. But, perhaps I am cheating them of an opportunity to “exercise unused muscles?” The risk, of course, is exposing the distance between me and my ward family members where now it is hidden.
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This is by far one of my most treasured essays on the church. I just love it. I gave a copy of the book by the same name to all seven of my adult children for Christmas. I was hoping that it might add more meaning to their lives than the bungee chords I gave them the year previously.
Thanks for the reading. Great idea Danl.