Once I was a yes-man, but then I got a brain. I was raised with Confucian-like filial piety. The Mormonism I was taught, was strongly rooted in respect for elders, including my family, and the hierarchy of the LDS Church. It was a twin pillar system of obedience to church and home. I was taught by my father to not question these pillars; only to sustain and follow. So, I became a yes-man; “Yes” to every assignment I was asked to fill; “Yes” to every leader who asked me to do something. These men, were my vicars of Christ. Yet I learned, that to play follow the leader, only dumbs people down, and prevents them from doing and becoming the good they ought to.
“We can’t support all these people you keep bringing to church, elders. We don’t have the funds to do so.” I shift uncomfortably in one of the leather chairs in my ecclesiastical leader’s mansion. His blue and white striped business shirt is rolled up to the elbow, so I can clearly see his watch, which cost more than my budget for the month. The light reflecting from his chandelier onto the face of his hand clock, causes me to squint, but it’s not why I’m wincing. “We need you to start finding some nice families, elders. Do you understand what I’m saying? We need some kingdom builders. I want you to baptize the next bishop; and that’ll start by finding some nice families.”
We understood him. The families we were bringing to church, were not nice. Plain, even dirty clothing, stinking project housing, needing rides to Sunday meetings; These are not nice things. Heaven knows, the Kingdom of God cannot be built by people without cars; or that smell bad; or may need some financial help. Poor families are not very nice, nor do they help build up the kingdom. But, I suppose that depends on whose kingdom is being labored for (Matthew 6:24).
For the first time in my life, while listening to one of my church leaders, I thought, “You are wrong”. I had never even conceived the possibility that such a high church leader could be wrong! My dad spoke scripture. My leaders only said things that were true. But, this wasn’t true. It was wrong. Despite his office, he was not representing the God I served. As the jewels on his hands sparkled, my eyes glanced to the left and saw the beautifully carved railing to his staircase, winding up like a ladder to heaven. Everything was spotless, pristine. Every vase was flawless. The floor shined. But inwardly, his house was naught but a cemetery to me, reeking of dead men’s bones. A little bread and water could not be spared for those who lived in the slums. Not from him. It was clear, he had nothing to spare. I felt nauseated, repulsed by this man I had respected so much.
Even so, I said “yes” to his direction, but I left with a confused conscience. Me and my companion, in obedience to our leader, spent the next few weeks trying to find some “nice families” in the wealthier neighborhoods. We found a lot of “religious” people who wanted nothing to do with us. With uncertainty if we were doing wrong in God’s sight, we decided to disregard our leaders counsel, and went back to our un-nice families. They all got baptized and are faithful to this day.
As a member of the Mormon Church, I have prided myself in a book of scripture we believe in, known as the Book of Mormon. Within this text, I read about a group of people known as the Zoramites. I used to think this was about all the other churches, but Mormon was warning us about ourselves.
The Zoramites were a dedicatedly religious people. They met in their synagogues each week, bearing their testimonies to each other that they had the true church, and were a righteous people. They had a strict dress policy, and everyone came in their Sunday best to the Zoramite worship service. But, if you didn’t match the Zoramite “nice policy”, you weren’t allowed in. “…the poor class of people… were cast out of the synagogues because of the coarseness of their apparel- Therefore they were not permitted to enter into their synagogue to worship God, being esteemed as filthiness, therefore they were poor; yea, they were esteemed by their brethren as dross;” (Alma 32:2-3). No respectable Zoramite would want to pick up or sit next to one of those poor stinky people. We are the Zoramites, or rather, I was a Zoramite; until I started saying, “no”.
It was hard at first. I used to think, good Mormons always fall in line with what their leaders say. However, the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, said, “Mormonism is truth”. If I really wanted to follow Mormonism then, I would follow whatsoever is true, regardless of what my leaders may say which is false. What was Jesus Christ like regarding his leaders? Christ rebelled against his ecclesiastical leaders, and chose to do good. He rejected their traditions as being contrary to scripture. He called them children of hell. He did only those things which his Father taught him, much to the dismay of those who thought he owed them reverence. He told them “no”; and for that, they killed him.
It once frustrated me, for my father to appear so blindly loyal to his religious leaders, and his desire to instill that on his children; but my grandfather died when his firstborn, my dad, was a baby. My dad wanted a father and family so much, he would lie in bed and whimper as the tears rolled down, marking rivers of sorrow on his boyhood cheeks. “You could find me a dad if you really wanted to”, he told his mother. Seeking for a father’s care and a family’s love, the church became his family; and the brethren, his father. To disrespect them, was to disrespect his father. He never had to deal with his father’s weaknesses, only the whitewashed sepulcher of his life. That same idealism he attributed to his father, was applied to the institution that became his father, the LDS church.
My berosheit was substantively different from my fathers. I still respect my father, and my elders. I still attend Latter-Day Saint services. I listen to what they tell me. I still believe my father to be a great man, and that the LDS church has a divine purpose to fulfill, but I no longer accept every request made of me. I tell them I will think and pray about it. This doesn’t mean I condemn and throw aside all things brought to me by my father or church leaders. I take it all in. I then use scripture, Gods revelations, and my discernment to determine the truth of what I hear. I will still say “yes” to the church leaders, though I may also say “no”. I will still obey my father, however, sometimes I won’t. I’ve been told this is pride, but it seems only to be intelligence. If they speak a lie, or require something that is wrong, I respectfully disagree, and disregard that point. Obedience to truth is the ultimate manifestation of love to God. I have continued to choose disobedience to error in favor of obedience to truth, no matter the consequences or presuppositions of public opinion.
Being a yes-man, means you don’t think critically. It means you let other people do the thinking for you, and trust their brain is sufficient to dictate your life, and bring you unto salvation. I wouldn’t say I’ve become a no-man, I’ve just become a man who thinks