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Two Articles on Missing the Mark

October 4, 2012

One of the things I loved about The Unvarnished New Testament was the way that it took words that have now been translated into connotatively-dense theological terms and retranslated them into connotatively-sparse (or simply connotatively different) terms. In this way, it probably captured the way the early Christ-following communities may have seen their early development.

I mean, note how right there, I did not say, “Christ-following churches.” Ecclesia, the term used way back when, was something more of an assembly or community called-out.

Similarly, one term that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me when wrapped up in all the theological baggage we’ve accumulated over two thousand years is “sin.” But the term from which sin came, hamartia, employs a more manageable concept: missing the mark.



Recently, there have been two posts that I have read (both from the new group blogs of which I spoke a few days ago!) that have addressed this idea of missing the mark.

In Into the Hill’s Health in My Navel, Emma Smith discusses many of the problems of the current LDS understanding and appreciation of the Word of Wisdom.

Over at Real Intent, Becca writes about The Contradictions of the Adversary.

I imagine that if the two sides got together, they might have disagreements with each other. (I guess it’s OK that they can stick to their own “living rooms,” then.) If those potential conflicts aren’t clear, then I’ll stoke the flames.

From Becca’s article:

The Adversary tries to keep us from being with God – like trying to keep us from hitting the bullseye. Getting us to sin is not the only way to keep us from God, and Satan knows that. He knows that any pull in any direction can keep us from center. With him pulling in any and every direction, it should come as no surprise that some of Satan’s lies contradict each other. One of Satan’s most cunning tricks is to pull us with such force from his obvious lies in order to fool us into thinking that we are moving towards God’s plan – but Satan’s pull is too hard, and we end up missing the mark in the other direction.

Satan deceives us as parents with at least two contradictory lies. First, he might try to convince us that his plan is better – that we should force our children to choose the right, go to Church, eat their veggies, go to school, do their homework, etc. Remember, Satan’s plan was to make everyone obey so there would be no sin and therefore no suffering. Unfortunately, this violates the very agency that the Savior died for us to have. This way is obviously not God’s way.

But if we try to move toward God’s way, Satan will pull too hard, trying to convince us that the other extreme is God’s way – the parenting method that says to never try to get your children to do anything because that would be violating their agency (part of God’s plan) so just let your children make whatever choices they want to, regardless of what you think or feel or know to be true. We can’t make our children do anything we want them to, so why try?

But now our arrow flies too far to the right.

The devil does not care about consistency. All he desires is “that all men might be miserable like unto himself.” He only cares that we miss the bullseye, he does not care in which direction we miss.

Here’s a snippet from Emma’s article:

Orthodox Mormons are known not to drink coffee or tea, liquor, beer, wine, or use any forms of tobacco. In fact they cling to these prohibitions with a Levitical fervor the likes of which only an Orthodox Jew could commiserate. The scope of the WOW has been broadened by modern LDS Authorities to avoid anything that is habit-forming, addictive or harmful…

The WOW is one of those revelations that used to be sort of a friendly suggestion.  In section 89 verse 2 it states that this Word of Wisdom to the saints was:  To be sent by greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom, showing forth the order and will of God in the temporal salvation of all saints in the last days.

Even though the above scripture clearly states that the WOW was not to be sent as a commandment or constraint, I believe you would be hard pressed not to find an LDS person who does not view the abstention of these items to be a commandment from God

…what do you do, when modern science and ancient wisdom collide in an inharmonious way? You have a few choices. You can completely abstain (as taught by the church) and have faith that these substances will eventually be shown harmful as the WOW says. You can have faith in modern science and your ability to apportion these substances into your life in a reasonable way, or you can figure out something in-between that neither offends your faith or sensibilities. I think the latter is probably most reasonable. I am not saying that if you don’t use these substances you should get a new lease on life and do so. What I am saying is that since science has proven these drinks not only to be NOT HARMFUL, but BENEFICIAL, perhaps we should be less judgmental against those who decide to partake of these beverages in moderation. Maybe even the use of these drinks should not be a measure of Temple worthiness at all.

I do not pretend to have all the answers for everyone. The one thing I do believe is that a one-size-fits-all view of the Word of Wisdom is not helpful.  Above that, the strict “all or nothing” approach to the WOW by the Church gives members little ability to congratulate themselves for bridling their passions, as most don’t even take the horse out of the stall, much less bridle it. Many have never sat on something more powerful than them, with their hands tangled in a lengthy mane. In order to bridle your passions, you must experience them, see the beauty and the danger there. You must determine how long to let out the reigns, discern the size and shape of the bit, and the strength of the passion. To know your own limits is a powerful thing, and most members never get out of the gate.

I had commented on Emma’s article pointing out that there were several responses I wanted to make to it…I mean, I still think that there are challenges to the idea of the WoW being simply about physical health (instead of being about being a fuzzier spiritual health), but that’s really a different post.

But I think Emma’s overall message (and one that I think many Mormons do not get) is a message of moderation. And I mean, in a discussion of being able to “miss” the mark in either direction — in a direction of deficiency AND in a direction of excess, then shouldn’t moderation get a lot more discussion?

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