The church is perfect, the people aren't

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DarkJedi
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The church is perfect, the people aren't

Post by DarkJedi » 10 May 2016, 12:55

We often hear it said that the church is perfect but the people aren't. It has a variety of contexts, including those people who are not exactly Christ-like in the treatment of others (members or not) and it is sometimes applied to leaders who make mistakes. Of late I have been struggling some with the idea. I don't believe the church is perfect, except for perhaps if it is meant as "whole." Using that definition doesn't usually fit the context of the above statement, though. Likewise, I recognize that many conflate the church and the gospel, and I do believe the gospel might be perfect - it is very simple. I don't recognize the church as being the same as the gospel or whole.

How do you all reconcile this idea in your minds? In conversation and the classroom setting how do you politely respond to the statement?
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

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LookingHard
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Re: The church is perfect, the people aren't

Post by LookingHard » 10 May 2016, 13:00

Sorry to not answer your question, but I am coming to the place where I think the most attractive part of the church is the people - the people in my ward that care for each other. I would almost frame it as, "the people are perfectly good, but the church organization isn't"

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Holy Cow
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Re: The church is perfect, the people aren't

Post by Holy Cow » 10 May 2016, 13:10

I have to take this one step further and say, "The gospel is perfect, the church is not." I see the gospel of Jesus Christ as very simple. His example was to love one another, serve others, treat others with kindness, be humble, etc. I see Jesus Christ's gospel as a very simple and perfect way to live. The church then imposes guidelines, doctrines, practices, rituals, covenants, etc. in an effort to keep people together as a community and to keep people dedicated to the church. Some of these doctrines are easy to follow, while others are not. But, I have to look at each teaching individually and decide whether it was part of Christ's teachings, or an imperfect practice that has been added by well-meaning church leaders. For example, the way I find peace with most teachings that I disagree with (ex. polygamy, priesthood ban, SSM policy, temple covenants, garments, etc.), is to recognize that these are things that have been added by modern church leaders, and have no foundation in Christ's gospel. As such, I feel no obligation to have a testimony of those things. It makes it easy to just push those things aside as unnecessary. However, if I'm in EQ listening to a lesson about service, watching out for each other, giving thanks, and things like that, I can immediately recognize that those are things that Christ would have encouraged, and I look for ways to do better. So, I try to live the gospel principles, rather than the church doctrines. And if I'm living those core gospel principles, then I'll already be living most of the church doctrines by default anyway.
My introduction: viewtopic.php?f=8&t=6139

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SilentDawning
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Re: The church is perfect, the people aren't

Post by SilentDawning » 10 May 2016, 13:41

That phrase in the opening post ticks me off!!!

My family tease me with it by quoting it when something goes wrong at church, and then I feign a near emotional eruption just to make it fun. I like "The church isn't perfect, and neither are the people, but both can be inspiring at times".

I look at the original phrase as a license to kill. It is a statement that absolves the church organization of all responsiblity for its actions. Something not right? People wronged? Well, the CHURCH isn't responsible, it's the people in it!!!

I ask - what is a church without its people to make decisions, formulate policy, react to the wrongdoings of its own people, etcetera? Nothing!! The church IS its people. And those people can be individuals who have left the planet -- leaving behind their decisions found in doctrine, policy, systems, structures, programs, and even cultural values they promulgated and reinforced over the pulpit and in manuals.

Please, let us strike this terrible phrase from our vocabulary, stop pedestalization of our church AND its leaders, and be truthful about what we are -- like any divine organization would!!! And insulate others from testimony-shattering experiences when they find out the church, and its people at ALL levels, are NOT perfect!!
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"Stage 5 is where you no longer believe the gospel as its literally or traditionally taught. Nonetheless, you find your own way to be active and at peace within it". -- SD

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

My introduction: viewtopic.php?f=8&t=1576

Roy
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Re: The church is perfect, the people aren't

Post by Roy » 10 May 2016, 13:58

I dislike the word perfect.

I previously wrote how I am not certain that Jesus would have necessarily had to be perfect. viewtopic.php?f=6&t=5787&hilit=perfect

The word perfect is so very limiting. If one flaw is found in any aspect then the perfection is null and void. Perfection also precludes growth. If something is perfect than it cannot change organically and still be perfect.

I remember a member of the SP making this statement about the church being perfect in priesthood meeting. I asked him after the class what he meant by that. He said that it had a perfect organization. I did not see how that can be the case since the church no longer has the office of presiding patriarch. Was that office part of the "perfect" organization or wasn't it? I thought it would be simple to demonstrate to this man that his use of the word "perfect" could not really mean perfect by the definition in the dictionary. Instead, he ended up telling me that he doesn't know about all that stuff. That he is a simple farmer with a simple faith.

It was a frustrating place to be. Where the definition of the word "perfect" cannot be scrutinized too closely and if you do it is because of your lack of faith that you didn't just take the word at face value in the first place. :crazy:
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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SilentDawning
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Re: The church is perfect, the people aren't

Post by SilentDawning » 10 May 2016, 14:05

I don't challenge them on it. They are too invested in organization worship to listen, and may well see it as an apostate position on my part. I silently reject that thinking, and often get nudges from my family who know what I really think of that awful statement....Church members can influence my outward behavior but they can't control what I think.
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"Stage 5 is where you no longer believe the gospel as its literally or traditionally taught. Nonetheless, you find your own way to be active and at peace within it". -- SD

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

My introduction: viewtopic.php?f=8&t=1576

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LookingHard
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Re: The church is perfect, the people aren't

Post by LookingHard » 10 May 2016, 14:14

Holy Cow wrote:I have to take this one step further and say, "The gospel is perfect, the church is not." I see the gospel of Jesus Christ as very simple. His example was to love one another, serve others, treat others with kindness, be humble, etc. I see Jesus Christ's gospel as a very simple and perfect way to live. The church then imposes guidelines, doctrines, practices, rituals, covenants, etc. in an effort to keep people together as a community and to keep people dedicated to the church. Some of these doctrines are easy to follow, while others are not. But, I have to look at each teaching individually and decide whether it was part of Christ's teachings, or an imperfect practice that has been added by well-meaning church leaders. For example, the way I find peace with most teachings that I disagree with (ex. polygamy, priesthood ban, SSM policy, temple covenants, garments, etc.), is to recognize that these are things that have been added by modern church leaders, and have no foundation in Christ's gospel. As such, I feel no obligation to have a testimony of those things. It makes it easy to just push those things aside as unnecessary. However, if I'm in EQ listening to a lesson about service, watching out for each other, giving thanks, and things like that, I can immediately recognize that those are things that Christ would have encouraged, and I look for ways to do better. So, I try to live the gospel principles, rather than the church doctrines. And if I'm living those core gospel principles, then I'll already be living most of the church doctrines by default anyway.
And there is a long definition of Stage 5 - looking internally instead of externally for your compass.

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FaithfulSkeptic
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Re: The church is perfect, the people aren't

Post by FaithfulSkeptic » 10 May 2016, 14:16

LookingHard wrote:
Holy Cow wrote:I have to take this one step further and say, "The gospel is perfect, the church is not." I see the gospel of Jesus Christ as very simple. His example was to love one another, serve others, treat others with kindness, be humble, etc. I see Jesus Christ's gospel as a very simple and perfect way to live. The church then imposes guidelines, doctrines, practices, rituals, covenants, etc. in an effort to keep people together as a community and to keep people dedicated to the church. Some of these doctrines are easy to follow, while others are not. But, I have to look at each teaching individually and decide whether it was part of Christ's teachings, or an imperfect practice that has been added by well-meaning church leaders. For example, the way I find peace with most teachings that I disagree with (ex. polygamy, priesthood ban, SSM policy, temple covenants, garments, etc.), is to recognize that these are things that have been added by modern church leaders, and have no foundation in Christ's gospel. As such, I feel no obligation to have a testimony of those things. It makes it easy to just push those things aside as unnecessary. However, if I'm in EQ listening to a lesson about service, watching out for each other, giving thanks, and things like that, I can immediately recognize that those are things that Christ would have encouraged, and I look for ways to do better. So, I try to live the gospel principles, rather than the church doctrines. And if I'm living those core gospel principles, then I'll already be living most of the church doctrines by default anyway.
And there is a long definition of Stage 5 - looking internally instead of externally for your compass.
:thumbup:
I know of no sign on the doors of our meetinghouses that says, “Your testimony must be this tall to enter.” Dieter F. Uchtdorf, October 2014

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nibbler
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Re: The church is perfect, the people aren't

Post by nibbler » 10 May 2016, 18:28

Some people have a very real need for something in their lives to be perfect.

Comparing ourselves to others is encoded into the human DNA. Viewing Jesus as the only "perfect" person to have ever lived can do many things; it can level the playing field for all of us, we might be less inclined to look to our imperfect neighbors to define a standard. Of course we might take that and start comparing how well we follow Jesus but having one central figure setting a standard can unify a community.

There's a catch, until Jesus returns he exists as more of an abstract. The church can serve as a stand in for people that might need something a little more tangible, something they can physically interact with. To them the church might be that something that is both accessible and fills the need for something to be perfect and have order in this life. The defenses go up when something threatens the church, maybe not to preserve the church but to subconsciously preserve the idea that life is not subject to chaos.

The "church" can play the part of being one central figure that sets a standard to unify a community. I guess that's not the definition of perfect but the church can set a standard that gets us looking less at out neighbors and more at "perfection."

It helps to remember that the members are the church. For me the pendulum swings both ways. Imperfect people make for an imperfect church, a perfect church makes for perfect people. It's both.
It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words, "And this too, shall pass away." How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!
― Abraham Lincoln

Joni
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Re: The church is perfect, the people aren't

Post by Joni » 11 May 2016, 06:11

I don't believe the Church is perfect - interestingly enough, neither does my husband, who is fully TBM.

The statement "the church is perfect" feels a lot like idolatry to me. And the second half of the statement feels an awful lot like throwing humanity under the bus, and I'm not down with that.

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