The Church as a Tool

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What is the church to you?  A family you must learn to love?  A path you must follow?  A checklist of items you must do to be saved?  Today’s post talks about the church as a tool and is from guest poster Jordan Turner.

I was given a tool (the church) and I used it for all kinds of things – it was a hammer, a door prop, a food masher, whatever. I loved my tool.

Suddenly, life started to demand new things from me and the tool wasn’t cutting it. I felt betrayed. This tool was supposed to last.

Then, I start looking at the tool (I don’t throw it away rashly), and I see a button. I press the button and realize that this tool is actually a flashlight. It’s been a flashlight the WHOLE time. I’d been using it inappropriately from the start .

Sure, it worked for all kinds of things, and I suppose it still could, but for the first time, I can start using it for what it really is. Can’t really blame the salesman, he probably didn’t know what it was either. And I’m glad I didn’t throw it away. Now, that is one cheese-ball analogy, I know. But it’s how I feel.

After a life change or a crisis of faith, some people would like their “old testimony” back. I remember times when I wanted that old testimony back so badly.  It’s like I wanted that world back where my tool worked for everything.  But we can’t.  As human beings we grow.  We can never have THAT testimony ever again.  Not anymore.  And as long as we’re scrambling for it, we’re not moving. The sacrament of doubt is ruthless but it’s so worth it. The scales fall from our eyes, and we can finally see the world for what it really is.

And again, I have no solutions other than time, books, people, time, patience, time, more books, a vacation, time and patience. Maybe a massage, too.  I do know, though, that it’s hard to move on until we find new purpose.

I see the church as tool, like a flashlight, that gives me more God. Its truthfulness and exclusivity are nice (like, sure, I could use my flashlight as a door prop), but it shines light on life, and that’s why I keep it.

So, what is the church to you?  Does this analogy speak to you?  Discuss.

Comments 21

  1. It is a good analogy. I think all institutions and churches are tools. They help us to forge bonds, make community, find purpose, get along (or not), make sense out of our lives. Sometimes tools do wear out and have to be discarded, sometimes they can be smelted down and reforged, sometimes we use them for evil purposes and to destroy, sometimes we use them for good purposes and to build.

    Implicit in the idea of the church as a tool is that it is manmade. Since we made it, we can remake it, destroy it, abandon it, if we feel it is no longer useful to us.

    Great analogy.

  2. I look at the church as a place to serve, a sandbox if you will, where I can put my efforts to grow. Playing in a sandbox as a little kid can build muscles and inspire creativity. D&C 20:7 talks about how the commandments God gave Joseph Smith inspired him–I believe it is the same idea with the Church.

  3. Jordan,

    Great post.

    For me, the church is like a group of old friends, the oldest friends I have (sometimes in terms of age as well as in length of time I’ve known them!) I have gained a lot of new friends through the years, but I still associate with the old friends, even though some of them don’t vote the way I do, dress the way I do, or think the same way I do in more fundamental ways. So because I like my old friends I still invite them to Christmas parties, and they still invite me to barbecues on the Fourth of July.

    Some of my new friends hit it off with my old friends, and some don’t. My newer friends and I have more in common in terms of the way we vote, dress, and think, but they don’t know me the same way my old friends do. My new friends weren’t there the first time I biffed it on my bike and scraped my knees. My old friends were. They were the ones who put Bactine on my cuts and wiped away my tears.

  4. I like your post John….. it hits home for me in that way too. I think the analogy is a good one ( even with the cornyness factor : P) I struggle at times to find where the “tool” fits in my life at times. I love it, and never plan on getting rid of it no matter what, because it has been such a good tool.

    — some people would like their “old testimony” back. I remember times when I wanted that old testimony back so badly. It’s like I wanted that world back where my tool worked for everything. —

    I really like this part. I feel this a lot, even though there has been no major crisis in my life. On my mission the church seemed to be the solution for every problem in my life, and every doubt would easily dissipate. I find it harder these days to find all the answers from “the flashlight”. I hope don’t come off overly critical of the church, because I’m not. I’m an active member and enjoy many aspects of the gospel in my life. I just feel that it can’t fix everything like the analogy indicates.

  5. Of course, this tool sometimes asks you to do things for it rather than the other way around all the time. It isn’t all about what you get. Sometimes it is about what you give.

  6. Great job Jordan!

    I sometimes have a hard time explaining to others how my beliefs can change, but I still find things in the Church so real and practical. You explained a way of looking at it. The mastery was saying it so simply, without an excess of words.

  7. Yes, Working Mother. Flashlight is man made, but the light is not.

    I love the church more accurately now that I feel I’m using it more correctly.

    I had a similar experience with my father. He was the hero of my youth, but as I grew up I realized that he was just a man. How disappointed I felt, and how lonely. Well, the more this new truth settled, I started seeing that yes, he is a man, but he a great man, even a wonderful man. I love him today with a more accurate love. I love him for who he is and not for who I want him to be. Same with the church.

  8. Great post.

    I’m tired of thinking about what the salespeople said that influenced me to buy the tool. That is a waste of time. I should be looking for the button and places to shine my light.

  9. I really like this. It fits so well how I feel about the insight I gain as a result of my membership.

    Also, I was glad to see you include a massage in your list of solutions. Amen.

  10. I agree that this is a very good analogy. Sometimes, we humans will take the tool and glue all sorts of appendages onto the flashlight/church which are thought to enhance the use of the device but merely obstruct its intended use. In my opinion, the church is supposed to ‘light’ our way in coming unto Christ. First, for the benefit of ourselves and then becoming a mechanism to allow us to help others. Christ told Peter: When thou are converted, strengthen thy brethren.

    There should be a warning label on this device: Use of this device for purposes other than those originally intended may damage the testimony of the user.

  11. Sorry to continue speaking through the analogy, but do you think that someone needs to have the tool become useless or at least not do what we require of it to be able to notice the flashlight, or can we realise that without that process?

    It would be sad to me if that were not possible?

  12. Rico – not my analogy, but I have mixed feelings on that thought. On the one hand, it would be nice to think that “growing up” (which is what this is really an analogy for) is a series of steps, line upon line, precept upon precept (so to speak). But realistically, psychology and human development seem to indicate that a big part of growing up is breaking with the past, rejecting one’s heritage, and then reconnecting with it in a more meaningful way on one’s own terms.

  13. Yeah, Rico. I’ve often asked myself the same thing. My father, for instance, seems to really drink up the ‘light’ and love of the gospel and doesn’t really have a ‘disillusionment’ story.

    I agree with Hawkgrrrl, who says it wonderfully. One can certainly ease into wisdom, but mostly it’s earned through the painful process of admitting and shedding our ‘old’ selves.

  14. I agree that there is a process of reconnecting, but can that be done piece by piece or does it have to fall apart before we can come to that new understanding, does it have to lay shattered on the floor before we can piece it back together. That process of admitting and shedding our’old’ selves sounds alot like repentance. I guess i may have that experience ahead of me, but thus far i feel that it has been a gradual shift. I certainly would not rule it out ever happening.

  15. I have a friend who had read many books on philosophy before going through a faith crisis. He said that ideas in those books made the transition very smooth and natural for him.

    I don’t think you are necessarily awaiting some great shift in your thinking. All change is painful. Gradual and sudden.

    I do think that we all have to become more Christian, though. We all need to use the church more accurately. The difficulty of this transition has to do with how hard we hold onto our old selves – not the nature of the change itself.

  16. I like the idea of the Church as a place, whoever mentioned it first. As a child, the first idiom through which I understood what Mormonism was supposed to mean to me was the place of the chapel. When it is not a physical place, it’s a place in my mind where everyone expects me to act a certain way (demanding) but also to enjoy solidarity with them (considerate).

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