Natasha Helfer Parker is a Licensed Clinical Marriage and Family Therapist and a member of the Church with 13 years of experience working with LDS members. Here she shares with us representative cases from her practice and insights she has gained from her work as a therapist. She blogs at mormontherapist.blogspot.com.
I think so many people want a clear “black and white” answer on many issues. Instead our leaders and the Lord give us great freedom (leeway so to speak) to live our religion.
A lot of people seem to be on a quest to “decide” what our Heavenly Father must feel and what His stance must be on certain things like oral sex, plastic surgery, and even consuming caffeine, for example….
So many people are adamant that they KNOW what’s right and what’s wrong, and that all other opinions are false.
Someone may assume, for instance, that because I am not speaking out against these things that therefore, I must do them myself. What’s important to me is that I don’t join the ranks of people assuming that my answer is the right answer – and then move towards casting judgments.
Agency can be such a tricky thing, can’t it?
Well I couldn’t agree with you more. There are so many reasons I love the gospel of Jesus Christ. Three of its main principles that resonate with me are 1. the gift and importance of free agency, 2. knowing we have the possibility to receive personal revelation applicable to our unique situation, and 3. the guidance to be non-judgmental and merciful when dealing with ourselves and others.
- It is through our free agency that we learn EVERYTHING. If we choose to follow the gospel, then we choose. If we don’t, we still choose. Either way the consequences (whether positive or negative) have to do with learning and progression. It is based on the principle of opposition. For every good there is bad. For every painful experience there is the possibility for joy. If we can truly accept this principle, it is easier to have perspective when we fall, or what can seem sometimes worse, when our loved ones fall.
- It is through personal revelation that one of our prophets, Nephi, came to know he had to kill in order to recover the history of his people. This went against the most basic of commandments. I am in no way inferring that we should feel justified in murder through the guise of personal revelation, and yet there is a lesson to be learned. Sometimes, for the sake of something better and bigger and through personal revelation, we leave the “rule” behind (i.e. we stay in a struggling marriage for the sake of an eternal family, we divorce our spouse because of personal safety, we embrace the member we know has recently been excommunicated, we love and support our gay son who has left the church, we think before speaking in church and take into account different situations, we cease to judge others whom we know little about, we decide that engaging in oral sex is OK, we decide engaging in oral sex is not OK, etc.). It is of utmost importance for all of us to be continually building on this heavenly means of communication with our Father for it has no limit.
- Once we understand that all of us are on different progression paths, we can better accept the concepts of mercy and forgiveness which lead to the possibility of being less judgmental. The “I can’t believe he did that!” “Did you hear what she just said?” “I could never do something like that!” comments go by the wayside to make way for a more productive process of communication that embodies the true love of Christ: charity. And charity never faileth. It never fails us and it never fails others. Christ Himself loved, served, and healed the most vile of sinners of His time. Is this not the utmost of metaphors for us all? We all sin. It is impossible in this life not to. If we did not sin, what would be the point of even being here?
In my dealings with many members of the church and in looking at my own life experiences, I have come to the conclusion that very little of what we are faced with falls into the “Black or White” category. From the very beginning we know that Eve and Adam face a contradiction: two opposing commandments. We can ask what kind of God would put us in this predicament? I counter with this answer: A God who wanted us to learn mercy. A God who needs us to understand compassion. A God who wants us to think for ourselves, use our resources, and stretch our boundaries or comfort zones. In fact many of our beloved scriptural stories are in some way or another about people who had to find an exception to the rule – a different way than what their cultural or religious traditions proscribed. Jesus Christ Himself was the epitome of breaking the Mosaic and Judaic rules in order to achieve cadence to a higher law – a higher purpose. I am in no way encouraging everyone to go break rules for the heck of it. Commandments and guidance are in place to help us achieve happiness and attain blessings. I just hope that through this gospel principle of looking at the “gray” which surrounds us, we can look at situations on an individual basis (not everything or everyone fits into the same mold) and on a merciful basis (no matter what anyone is doing or not doing, they deserve our love and respect as fellow children of God – including ourselves).
MM readers- How do you see the world? Black and White? Or with varying degrees of gray?