As part of our doctrine of restored priesthood keys and ordinances, a prophet who communes with God for the whole world, we believe that we are the one true and living Church, that Jesus Christ stands at the head and actively leads us, as the true Church.
You’d think that that would be enough but it seems that we have to use the Other to establish our place as number one.
In a recent tithing-themed sacrament meeting, a brother explained that we pay 10 percent of our income anonymously to the Church and then quoted Robert Hales, who said,
“Some years ago I visited a meetinghouse from another denomination. Etched in the beautiful stained glass windows which had been brought from Europe was the name of their donor; carved into the majestic pulpit made from the cedars of Lebanon were the initials of a wealthy benefactor; the most desirable pews were named after prominent families who donated the most to the chapel building fund. By contrast, in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, all who pay a full tithe are equally acknowledged and blessed by the Lordwithout special public honors and rewards.” Ensign Nov 2002
The speaker in my ward went on to discuss how he knew that our way of giving the tithe was the right way because it was not like this church that Hales names or other churches that he’s seen with plaques and recognitions of people in those church communities. In fact, the remainder of his talk established our right way because of others’ wrong ways.
I think that’s weird, and it makes me wonder if I am being stupid and idealistic. I want to believe that somehow we can establish our truthfulness based on our own accord, merit, revelation and not on what we see as the faulty revelation of other churches, but maybe we can only be number one if there is a second, a tenth and a great and abominable whore of all the earth.
It seems all a bit imperialistic. I am defined by the Other because I am not the Other. Colonizers of the Americas and Africa etc established their right to colonize because the Other was savage, unsophisticated, un nino con barba, reinforcing that they, the colonizers, were refined, sophisticated, civilized adults and rulers. Ethnic literature is jam-packed with the others, the liminalized, struggling to work out their own identities which are created mostly because people (usually white people) made their white identities out of what they were not. They were not the Other. Which leaves those who occupy liminal spaces very confused.
This also leads to extreme misunderstandings of the other. The Catholic church is not great and abominable. Acknowledged donations of expensive gifts is not really evil. Having a band and praise and worship team can lend to the Spirit. Big beautiful churches does not indicate corruption. The Others’ different way of doing things extrapolates to them being bad, unhappy or lacking. People of other faiths (or the irreligious folk too) can still be good people, with strong loving families, with inspiration, communion with God. They can be happy.
Maybe it is human nature to compare ourselves to others. To love what we are because we are not what they are. Maybe it is impossible to be number one without a number two. Maybe to be the Truth we have to have the Fiction.
But that bugs me.
And it bugs God too, IMHO.