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Friday, August 5, 2016

Stop Trying to Apply Secular Tools to Spiritual Things

A young woman writing a note on paper.
Accessed August 5, 2016 from the LDS Media Library.
We occasionally hear of well-intentioned efforts by individual Mormons and LDS leaders to address some particular problem in the Church.

Consider this recent example of a, "Goal Planning and Personal Performance Contract" supposedly issued by an Arizona stake.

Contracts of any sort are generally a secular legal tool used to enforce some sort of secular agreement. Contracts can be litigated in court, if necessary, to ensure all parties abide by the contents or punish them if they do not.

There is no spiritual supreme court wherein to enforce spiritual contracts so what use are they in a spiritual setting? To me it seems like a misguided attempt to use a reasonably popular secular tool to address a spiritual problem before the spiritual problem has been correctly identified.

I suspect there are multiple reasons for returned missionaries struggling, going inactive or leaving the church entirely. I think this is best diagnosed by considering the individual in question and attempting to understand what is going on with him or her.

What is more, you only need a paper relationship where there is no trust. Consider that all the covenants/ordinances we receive or perform do not involve a written contract with Heavenly Father. Records are kept of these covenants/ordinances, but these records are not structured like secular contracts.

Another variation on this idea is parenting contracts or behavior contracts. This is a thinly disguised attempt to manage families like we do our businesses. If you, as a parent, try to utilize them, don't be surprised if your children start exploiting legalistic loopholes in the language.

For example, a mother told her daughter she must be home by 1 a.m. The daughter came home at 2 a.m. justifying herself with the rationale that it was daylight savings time and clocks were moved back one hour. Therefore, she was on time. What could the mother say?

One also wonders why the creators of this R.M. contract didn't pay more attention to what the Church provides. In July, 2015, the Church notified us all that a new tool called, "My Plan" would soon be rolled out and available on the missionary portal.

Announced by the First Presidency, the tool is intended "to help returning missionaries use their mission experiences to plan for continued, lifelong discipleship." This collection of eight interactive lessons seems intended to address what the Arizona contract is trying to address.

All of this is actually symptomatic of a general problem infecting the Church: Ignorance or laxness in exploring church instruction and tools that already address the issue we are dealing with.

However, I feel like a broken record on this topic. The most obvious example is one I've written on extensively -- the LDS.org tools the Church provides for wards and stakes. In fact, people spend more time trying to duplicate or get around these tools than it would take to master them. The Church has made them straightforward and intuitive but simple instruction does exist.

I think Satan enjoys when members and leaders continue going around in unproductive circles.

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