Feed My Sheep–Don’t Be One!

By Ellen Koester (also published at her blog http://the-noncommittal-philanthropist.blogspot.ca/)
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I’m unorthodox. I am a headstrong, independent woman. I don’t let people limit me. And I don’t let people push me around. Ever.
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I’m unorthodox. I don’t fit molds. I don’t fit stereotypes. I don’t conform for the sake of conforming, nor do I stay silent for the sake of ease and comfort for those around me. If things seem just a little too “agreeable”, I’m the first person to step in and offer another opinion. I’m not afraid to shake things up and ruffle feathers. I’m the kind of person who throws rocks into calm waters… Just for the sake of balance.
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I’m unorthodox. I take a lot of flak for the opinions I hold, and the things I write about. I’m called an apostate on a regular basis. I’m told I’m wrong, and sometimes am refused the opportunity to defend myself and my opinions.
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All of these things above? Not typical for Mormons. I like to equate Mormons with Hobbits from the Shire. We are gentle people, but we crave adventure (And we have second breakfast at the meetinghouse for “Linger Longer”).
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But on a basic level I disagree. Being unorthodox shouldn’t be unorthodox. None of those things I used to describe myself contradict my religion. How do I know? I study the Scriptures. I follow the Spirit. And I ask the Spirit for confirmation  in just about everything.
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Not to mention that you can successfully argue that Christ was the most unorthodox and influential anarchist of His time.
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I’m here to offer people another opinion. I’m here to say, “Follow the prophet, but take your blinders off!” Ask the Holy Ghost for confirmation when you listen to General Conference, or read Ensign articles. Ask of God. Do not blindly follow.
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The Lord is our shepherd, and we are His sheep. In John 10:14-15, we hear Christ teach this, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so I know the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.” He is central to this Church. But, as a Church, do we follow Christ? Do we strive to be Christ-like in everything that we do? Do we treat others like we would like to be treated? Do we ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?”
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No.
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In this April’s Priesthood session of General Conference, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf gave an amazing talk. Let me pull a couple of quotes from his address:
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“Sometimes we confuse differences in personality with sin. We can even make the mistake of thinking that because someone is different from us, it must mean they are not pleasing to God. This line of thinking leads some to believe that the Church wants to create every member from a single mold—that each one should look, feel, think, and behave like every other. This would contradict the genius of God, who created every man different from his brother, every son from his father. Even identical twins are not identical in their personalities and spiritual identities.
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It also contradicts the intent and purpose of the Church of Jesus Christ, which acknowledges and protects the moral agency—with all it’s far-reaching consequences—of each and every one of God’s children. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are united in our testimony of the restored gospel and our commitment to keep God’s commandments. But we are diverse in our cultural, social, and political preferences.
The Church thrives when we take advantage of this diversity and encourages each other to develop and use our talents to lift and strengthen our fellow disciples.” 
We try to limit God. We try to constrain His infinite glory and compassion by singling out those who are different. As we saw this month with the New York Times article about the former Area Seventy Hans Mattsson, we demonize those who doubt, especially when they publicly voice their doubts. We demonize feminists, because they challenge the patriarchal society that has dominated for the last 2,000 years. We demonize homosexuals, because we have been taught that their sexual identity is “impure and unnatural”.
Most people have read “The Wizard of Oz”. Do you remember when Dorothy and her crew arrive in the Emerald City? They were issued glasses with green lenses, to hide the true colors of the city.
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You don’t have to accept the green glasses that you are issued. You don’t always have to accept the “approved” version of the Church’s history and doctrine. It is ok to ask questions. It’s ok to doubt. Because sure… the Church looks so much more appealing through the lenses. But it can be devastating when you find out that its not what it seemed to be.
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Take off your blinders. Take off the glasses. Ask the Holy Ghost for guidance. Ask God to confirm what you are taught.
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Because if we don’t, we’re just sheep to slaughter.

 

3 comments for “Feed My Sheep–Don’t Be One!

  1. August 11, 2013 at 11:54 pm

    Stellar post! And, I LOVED the title!! I believe you are spot on with everything you wrote here. I was having a conversation about this very thing with my parents last week. My father also agrees with everything you wrote (although, he, of course, had not read this post, it just happened that our conversation and your post all coincided) and said that he felt that it is good to question, to seek, to research, and that those who have pure hearts will receive the answers. I agree, too.

    (Thank you to whomever made it so that I can actually READ the letters and numbers for the comments.)

  2. Jay
    August 12, 2013 at 12:33 am

    As Mormons, we tend to forget how unorthodox and how filled with doubt the early leaders of our church were. If Joseph Smith did not question and seek, the church would never have been founded. We now persecute the very behaviors which spawned the restoration.

    We must also remember that our priesthood leaders are entitled to receive revelation for the *group* over which they have responsibility, but when it comes to receiving revelation for your own choices and personal questions, only you are entitled to receive personal revelation from god and no one else. Each man or woman is required to work out their own salvation with God individually. It is not your job to confess your neighbor’s sins.

  3. Hank
    January 20, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    Ellen, this is a fantastic article. There is much truth to what you say. Thanks.

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