I love the story that President Packer related in General Conference in Oct of 1974 about a man who was contemplating joining the LDS church until he learned of the requirement of tithing. The local presiding authority of the church in that area met with the man and told him about a few other requirements of time and money that the missionaries had neglected to mention.
As he departed he said, “If you are turned away by a little thing like tithing, it is obvious you’re not ready for this Church. Perhaps you have made the right decision and you should not join. Have you ever wondered why people will do all of these things willingly? I have never received a bill for tithing. No one has ever called to collect it. But we pay it and count it a great privilege.”
He said that the church represented the pearl of great price, which the Lord said the merchant man was willing to sell all he had that he might obtain it. He invited the man to pray about his decision. A few days later the man asked to schedule the baptism of his family. They had been fervently praying. He and his family were attracted by the high standards, not repelled by them.
A way of life
Being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not an easy thing. It is so much more than a Sunday Church. It is a way of life. For those who join as adults, it can be a major change of lifestyle to become a new convert. It can be a sacrifice to give up some habits and attitudes that are not consistent with the gospel teachings. Much is required of us.
Sunday meetings consist of three meetings over three hours. If you are asked to serve in a leadership position there are additional meetings beyond that. If you are asked to be the Bishop of the local congregation there are individual counseling meetings that consume many, many hours beyond that. No local leaders are paid for their time given to serve in the church.
Besides the time and money we contribute, we spend hours commuting to and participating in temple worship. We prepare and teach lessons for the youth during the week. We abstain from coffee, tea, alcohol and harmful drugs. We are asked not to shop or participate in recreational activities on Sundays. We are encouraged to do all we can to share the gospel with others.
The moral standards
Perhaps the greatest area in which we differ from the world is in moral conduct. We teach the ideals of a pure and chaste life. That means no sexual relations before marriage and complete fidelity to one’s spouse after marriage. It sounds simple but the spirit of sexual purity involves so much more. We strive to ensure that our thoughts, words and deeds are clean and pure.
Some have suggested that this high moral standard is not realistic or even repressive and only results in unnecessary frustration or a double standard. I disagree. We teach the ideal. We strive for the ideal. We do all within our power to achieve the ideal. The closer we come to meeting that standard, the more we feel blessed with peace of mind and a clear conscience.
We believe that we can be perfect in some, if not many areas. There are those who are perfect in paying tithing. Some are perfect in keeping the Sabbath Day holy. Some are perfect in making their monthly assigned home teaching visits to other members. Many are perfect in keeping the law of chastity. For them it never has been a problem. For some it is an ongoing struggle.
The law of chastity
God has commanded that the sacred power and privilege of sexual relations be exercised only between a man and woman who are legally married. God delights in chastity and hates sexual sin. Obedience to this law brings peace, self-respect, and strength from self-control. As you obey the law of chastity, you will enjoy more fully the influence of the Holy Ghost in your life.
Satan tempts us to rationalize that sexual intimacy before marriage is acceptable when two people are in love. That is not true. Those who break this law are subject to a lasting sense of shame and guilt that burdens their lives. However, through sincere repentance and application of the Atonement, they can find forgiveness which brings a peace of conscience and Joy.
No matter how strong temptations seem, the Lord will help us withstand them if we choose to follow Him. For some, it may mean a lifetime of effort to control passion. Even within marriage, passion should be expressed in a loving, kind and tender manner. Some are tempted to break marital vows because of a loveless or sexless marriage. The Lord will help us keep covenants.
The standards help us grow
The Lord gives us commandments because he wants us to grow. He knows our potential. He also knows how frustrating it can be when we find it difficult to be perfect in keeping those commandments. There is no way we can be perfect in this life. We grow as we try harder each day and each week to keep the commandments and live up to the standards the Lord has set.
Much has been written about the perceived high level of depression in Utah. Many attributed that to the impossibly high standards and cultural pressure to be the perfect model Mormon. How I wish people understood better the power of the Savior to heal us and to help us deal with this growth process. The Lord expects great things of us but we must trust Him to help us.
I am grateful for the commandments. I didn’t feel this way when I was younger. I only saw them as a restriction. Now I see them as safe boundaries. I do not feel restricted or repressed as I strive to live up to the ideals that the Lord has set for me. Perhaps it comes with age, but I also do not feel overwhelmed by these high standards. The Lord has helped me accept them.
Summary and conclusion
Yes, the LDS Church has high standards and expectations of our members. Some suggest that they are not realistic or possible. They continually demand of the leaders that the standards be lowered in conformance with the way things are in the world. Most who complain are those who have left the church because they felt they could not measure up. We are sad that they leave.
For some reason, Boyd K Packer has often been singled out as being the source of the problem of having unrealistic and unrelenting demands. I have never felt that President Packer’s words were any less kind or tolerant than any other apostle. I love him as a defender of the faith and for being clear about where the Lord has set the boundaries. He is truly an Apostle of the Lord.
It sometimes perplexes me to read the writings of those who criticize the church or the leaders of the church. What do they hope to accomplish? Perhaps they expect the prophet to say, “Oh, I’m glad you made us aware of that issue. We will change that requirement right away.” It is obvious that those who think this way have no clue that this is not the church of man or men.