In thinking of casualness, I’m struck by the all too frequent labels members put on others. We all have (a) either done the labeling ourselves, or (b) been a label to others. Whether it’s being labeled for being a slacker or casual in church attendance (i.e. not wearing the normal Sunday attire), or being an apostate (i.e. for not buying the hype the corporation is selling), it’s very prevalent. Indeed, it’s ubiquitous. It’s everywhere, it happens every week, and we all chime in to say this-or-that person isn’t meeting our standards of devotion (mostly, though, because they don’t dress the part.
I found myself going back to a blog I visited towards the end of 2009. The discussion was on the “Church of Casual Saints.” The blog post was fairly benign, by itself, but the comments were not. If you meander on over there, you’ll find comments lambasting the attire of some, examples of Stake President’s withholding temple recommends from some members who didn’t dress up for their recommend “interview,” and other “unholy and impure practices.” Pardon the reference to the temple, but that’s the first thought that came to mind as I wrote that sentence and, unfortunately, it fits the bill all too well. There’s even the mandatory reference to “work[ing] harder.” As if our effort will do anything in and of itself. There are a few more rational and even headed comments (at least in my skewed interpretation), but the vast majority reflect the general malaise which afflicts us all: judging others by their outward appearances and ascribing that to a measurement of one’s spirituality.
I’m in the process of drafting a fairly lengthy post on Polygamy, Wilford Woodruff and some of the events surrounding the Manifesto and, though that’s a post that’s still a couple of weeks away, I thought this discussion on our flawed paradigms was worth exploring. What follows is my comment – the last one, unfortunately – to that blog entry. I wish some discussion would have followed, in hopes of coming to a better understanding of the topic, but it appears it only repelled people from the discussion.
Speaking of introspection, are we really any different as individuals and as a church than the Jews at the time of Christ? Comments critiquing people because of their clothing, what they wear, how they dress and implying (if not worse) that somehow this is indicative of a casual relationship with Christ. Can someone please show me where Jesus ever rebuked someone because they weren’t wearing what we’d consider proper Sunday attire (i.e. a business suit, cufflinks, a nice tie and shoes that were shined that morning)? Does anyone really think that the Lord cares if I wear, for example, a tie to church? All clothing, in essence, is little more than an attempt to satisfy our vanity. To have a stake presidency turn someone away from a temple recommend because they didn’t meet their standards of dress is a shame – an act that, in essence, is barring someone from access to the temple NOT because they were unworthy, but because they didn’t dress-up to someone’s standards of Sunday attire.
Matthew 23:27–28 – Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees [Latter Day Saints], hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
In my opinion, the place where we’ve become the most casual is in our acceptance of all that is Babylon. Cars, clothing, houses, electronics of all shapes and sizes (Christmas anyone?)…materialism at its finest. We go to college to become learned in the ways of the world. We then work to pay for this schooling and these material things every day of our lives (not to mention raising another generation fully steeped in increasing materialism), doing our very best to uphold the very society and secret combinations we’ve been told to flee from post haste. Unfortunately, we’ve even been told to uphold this makeshift world and society, despite its apparent disconnect from teachings in our very own standard works:
“You are moving into the most competitive age the world has ever known. All around you is competition. You need all the education you can get. … Sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to qualify yourselves to do the work of the world. That world will in large measure pay you what it thinks you are worth, and your worth will increase as you gain education and proficiency in your chosen field.” – Gordon B. Hinckley, April 2009 New Era, p. 17
Really? Sacrifice “anything that is needed” to do the “work of the [Babylon]?” Can there be a clearer example of preaching for commandments the “doctrines of men”? It’s almost unbelievable…
In the end, though, and in spite of our waywardness and general casualness with spiritual things, it’s only our relationship with Christ that matters – the only true way to the Tree of Life. If we’re close to Him and hold to Him, it matters not what others say and tell us to do because we’ll be following our Lord and Master. If we were closer to Him, whatever casualness we felt in our lives would become apparent and quickly changed. That casualness, however, would be an inward casualness…a cleansing from within.
Sorry if I sound preachy…just some things I myself am working on and to suggest that casualness is related to outward appearances is to do a disservice to this discussion when the changes we ALL need come from the inside.
The Hebrew word for “appearance” in the following verse is ‘ayin. This word relates directly to the eye and that which we see with our physical eyes, or, as one Hebrew dictionary states it: “as many passions of the mind, such as envy, pride, pity, desire, are manifest in the eyes…”
1 Sam. 16:7 – But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.
Just my $0.04 (adjusted for inflation)
The question really does become one of individuality and how we seek Christ in our own lives. Expecting others to live up to our skewed expectations is rife with disappointment and will only further promote our Babylonian system of relying on the “outward appearance” as a judge and meter for spirituality. A meter of spirituality which is dire need of recalibration.