Hypocrites

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Stone throwOne of the most common rationales used by those who are searching for an exit from the Church, or for those standing outside throwing rocks, is that the “Mormons are a bunch of hypocrites – they act all righteous, but they really aren’t.”

Hang on – Are you are talking to me? Are you calling me a hypocrite?

Well, here is my response to that terrible accusation:

Duh.

Newsflash: We are all hypocrites to some extent. No, this is not just me being all humble, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has my back on this one:

“If you define hypocrite as someone who fails to live up perfectly to what he or she believes, then we are all hypocrites. None of us is quite as Christlike as we know we should be.” (Link)

I am a hypocrite because I fail, on a regular basis, to live up to the standards God has asked of me, and I have covenanted to follow.

How do you define hypocrisy? There are a couple of different ways:

1:  a person who puts on a false appearance of  virtue or religion

2:  a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings (link)
If you catch me at the right moment, I figure you can saddle me with either – or both – of those definitions. I am, indeed, a self-confessed hypocrite. I willingly stand before you all, and tell you that I strive to live the commandments of God, at the same time knowing full well that I fail.
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But is the accusation of hypocrisy a legitimate reason to criticize the Church, or those that belong to it?  Not really. It is merely convenient, and easy. (And judgmental. And self-righteous. And kinda lame.)
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We are not perfect. We sin. We admit it! How deceptive are self-professed hypocrites? At least they are honest. For the record, I don’t recall ever meeting a member of the Church who claims to be perfect, and beyond sin. As Paul said, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (link)

To counter the accusation that the Church is full of hypocrites, we trot out the same quaint expressions:

“The Church is not a museum for saints, but a hospital for sinners.”
“The Gospel is perfect, the members aren’t.”
Wouldn’t it be easier to just say, “Sure there are hypocrites in the Church – can you think of a better place for them to be.”

Guess what: The members aren’t expected to be perfect.

We defend the “hypocrisy” inherent in trying to follow Christ, and it does merit some discussion -so I’ll take a stab at it.

• How can you claim to be a “saint” and act the way you do?

I was watching an NBA game the other day when LeBron James was playing. He has no business being in the NBA: He missed every single 3-point attempt, he had 4 turnovers, and THREE personal fouls -and he  missed 14 shots!

And he has the audacity to call himself an “NBA player.” Hypocrite! Yeah, sure, he scored 41 points, but did you notice how many things he did wrong? I can’t believe they let him stay in the league!

Where are all the people threatening to quit watching the NBA because LeBron makes so many mistakes? Anyone? Bueller?

You know those people sitting in the chapel with you each Sunday? How do they dare call themselves Christians, or Mormons, or even Saints, when they make so many mistakes?

Most of the ones that I know do their best to keep the commandments and follow the Savior. They do mess up here and there, and they commit a foul once-in-a-while, but they are in the game, and are trying. For the most part, their ‘stats’ are actually quite impressive.

If every NBA fan stopped attending games because the players made mistakes, the league would fold after one game.

• We believe in sin. We also believe in repentance.

When we are baptized, we covenant with God that we will keep His commandments. We know – and He knows – that we will fail. Often. Because of this, He has offered those who have made those covenants an opportunity to repent, and have those sins forgiven. That is the very essence of the Atonement of Christ, and the very heart of the Gospel and its ordinances.

Every Sunday, we are surrounded by fellow sinners and hypocrites as we partake of the sacrament to culminate this repentance process. We cannot live perfectly – but we can live cleanly. If we repent correctly, and take the sacrament as God has directed, you will find people full of gratitude and cleanliness in LDS chapels all around the world each Sabbath day.

The charges of hypocrisy don’t stick as well to clean, but imperfect people.

• Do we put up a false appearance of piety or virtue?

I’m sure some do. I’m sure some are disingenuous about their desires and motives for participating in the Church. Some sin with absolutely no intention of repenting, and wear their ‘righteousness’ as a mask – making a mockery of the whole theology. Those are the true hypocrites that Christ slapped with harsh accusations. (link)

They are an entirely different class of hypocrites than those who show up every Sunday with broken hearts, and contrite spirits.

We show up at Church, wearing our best clothing out of respect, doing our best to look righteous. Some are critical of that as well. Why would we try and “appear righteous,” when we really are sinners?

But what is the alternative? Ditch the suits and dresses for sackcloth and ashes? Should we show up with name tags that tout our sins, and introduce ourselves by proclaiming our weaknesses and mistakes?

“I’m Sister Judgmental, and I’d be happy to point out what you’re doing wrong.”

“Hi, I’m Brother Non-Tithe Payer.”

“Good Morning! I’m Sister Prescription Drug Abuser.”

“Welcome to Church – I’m the ward Porn Addict.”

Yes, there may be some truth in the name tags, but who does it benefit? Does it really help anyone if we wear our sins and shortcomings like badges? The idea is to repent and put them away – God is even willing to forget about our sins. Why would we want to define ourselves by them?

I imagine that in some instances, it could help some people be more accepting of the “hospital for sinners” idea. Ther are those who struggle, feeling that they don’t have a home in the Church because they aren’t “good enough.” Wearing our sins on our sleeves could give some comfort that they are not alone in this fight, but finding camaraderie and comfort in our sins is not a great motivator to cast them away from us.

It could also get in the way of the real message of the Gospel: A Priest Quorum could find comfort – but also justification – by learning that their Advisor was a big beer drinker in High School, and he still turned out OK. Right?

That is precisely one of the reasons we have been counseled by our leaders that when we teach we should “not talk about past sins or transgressions.” (Link) We look forward, and upward – not backwards.

My sins are between me and God, and are hopefully things that will be overcome – not things that should define who I am. So am I a fraud for putting my ‘best-self” forward when you see me on Sunday – or any other day of the week?

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he could be, and he will become what he should be.”

More recently, President Monson said it this way:

We should develop the capacity to see men not as they are but as they can become when they are members of the Church, when they have a testimony of the gospel, and when their lives are in harmony with its teachings. (Link)

Shouldn’t that also apply to how I see myself? Every time I take the sacrament, my true intention should be to leave that flawed version of myself behind, and emerge a new man. Every. Single. Time.

(I would acknowledge that one important element in addiction support groups is that there is an openness for participants to acknowledge their struggles, and find strength with each other. I am not referring to these private support groups, and I heartily endorse them.)

• Where do you keep a bunch of sinners?

At the end of the day, those who use the ‘hypocrisy’ of its members for accusation or ammunition against the Church, are grasping at straws.

We are all sinners. But for we hypocrites that are within the Church and participating in the ordinances the Gospel provides, there is hope: We can repent. We can partake of the sacrament. We can participate in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We can be made clean. And we can keep trying.

Can you think of anyplace in the world that would be more helpful for a hypocrite than a Sacrament Meeting? Me  neither.

On the other hand, walking away from, or standing outside the Church, the Gospel, and the ordinances, will leave you with something different: You still have plenty of hypocrisy, but no longer have a way to resolve it.

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37 COMMENTS

  1. It took me a long time afteri came back to church to understand that I didn’t have to be perfect to attend the temple and when I think of all the time I wasted because of that thinking.

  2. I was reminded of this quote from “Jesus the Christ” (chapter 17, end of chapter note #5):

    Relative Perfection.—Our Lord’s admonition to men to become perfect, even as the Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48) cannot rationally be construed otherwise than as implying the possibility of such achievement. Plainly, however, man cannot become perfect in mortality in the sense in which God is perfect as a supremely glorified Being. It is possible, though, for man to be perfect in his sphere in a sense analogous to that in which superior intelligences are perfect in their several spheres; yet the relative perfection of the lower is infinitely inferior to that of the higher. A college student in his freshman or sophomore year may be perfect as freshman or sophomore; his record may possibly be a hundred per cent on the scale of efficiency and achievement; yet the honors of the upper classman are beyond him, and the attainment of graduation is to him remote, but of assured possibility, if he do but continue faithful and devoted to the end.

  3. Did you know that the word hypocrite has it’s origins in the Greek language and means “actor.” That helps me figure out if I’m sincerely trying or just putting on a show. If I find I’m just going through the motions without any sincerity to what I’m doing then I have adjustments to make, either in attitude, or intent. Sometimes, I’ve simply left the Savior out of the equation, which can make all the difference. Thanks for a great post.You know I always love it when you quote (sigh…) President Uchtdorf. 😉

  4. Lately, whenever I see the word repentance or repent, I replace it in my mind with progression or progress, since that is really what it is. The substitutions work perfectly in this blog. Well said. So grateful for the constant ‘progression’ the Atonement allows in my life.

  5. Wow. You really hit the nail on the head. I have several friend that have left the church due to “hypocrisy”, only to stand on the sidelines and throw stones at the church from their “higher-ground.” Thanks for sharing. I’ll be passing this along!

  6. Boom! Love whatever you write, but especially this kind of thing. You are able to coalesce all my thoughts (and more) and put it forth very logically and movingly.

  7. Excellent post! My favorite quote about being perfect is: “Nobodies perfect and I’m a perfect example.” I go to church because I love the Lord. I want to serve Him and do my best. Do I fall short? Of course, but that is the beauty of the gospel. I can do the best I can and when I mess up, I can try again. Joy

  8. I love this. This is something I needed to hear today. I understand the doctrinal message and love it. I can’t help but love you and your thought process even more for your Bueller reference! 🙂

  9. I know what you mean. To some degree there is safety in hypocrisy, not the whited sepulchgre kind, but the honest to goodness I’m trying my best kind.

    One day – and this was very frightening – I had achieved perfection and I could feel myself being taken up and was about to be twinked. I thought fast and said “Damn!” and was returned to my family in an instant.

    That was a close call.

    If my family didn’t need me, then I would simply have enjoyed the experience. 🙂

  10. L’hypocrisie a de toute évidence plusieurs visage non comprise par ses membres…
    Bref… Il est possible de reessayer chaque dimanche lorsque vous prenez la Ste Cène, Chaque Semaine, de refaire les mêmes parcours et le Dimanche vous prenez la Ste Cène, Pourquoi exactement vous prenez la Ste Cène… Plusieurs se sont écartés, d’autres ne participent plus à la vie de l’Eglise le Dimanche… et moi… je ne désire même plus participer à aucun d’activité de l’église… Et pourtant, j’aime mon Père Céleste… Je suis peut être égoisme de parler de mon cas, si différent des votres…
    Mais, je fais ce qui est paraît juste. la Sainte Cène est juste une ordonnance pour faire reconnaitre de l’alliance contracté lors du baptême… mais, pour des gens vue de l’extérieure… vous êtes l’acteur même de votre vie au sein de l’Eglise de Jésus Christ…
    J’ai toujours entendu dire par les instructeurs d’essayer d’être parfait comme le Christ est parfait…
    Que voulait dire être Parfait? et Essayer d’être Parfait? Bien évidemment vous ne pourriez jamais être Parfait comme le Christ est parfait… Parce que chaque semaine votre parcours reste toujours pareil… amélioration… bien sur… Lorsque les fois ou revenue à l’église, ou vous ressentez le mal être… et pourtant … je ne dois pas juger… et juste ou je dois passer le couloir pour sortir de l’église… deux autres acteurs qui auparavent venaient de prendre la sainte cène… se moquaient de cette personne qui essaye de sortir de là… Trop d’hypocrisie ou de Méchanceté…!!! Et lorsqu’elle veut avancer dans sa vie.. Ou elle devra quitter sa maison pour venir à l’Eglise parce qu’elle aime être à l’église… Alors que son Mari est resté gentiment à la maison pour recevoir d’autres femmes qui à mon avis n’est pas seulement les Prostitués du coin mais aussi les membres de l’église … Devra t-elle laisser faire cette pratique dont les membres sont pour cette pratique et encore invitent d’autres femmes à rejoindre dans ce lots… devra t-elle faire confiance à son Père Céleste pendant son absence… juste la durée de l’activité du Dimanche… à mon avis … vous êtes loin … du mien… J’accepte tout ce que vous dites… j’aimerai tellement que quelqu’un puisse me dire ce que je dois faire… J’ai arrêté d’aller à l’église tant que cette pratique dont je me suis rendu compte que la fin de l’année 2012.. j’ai essayé de revenir… mais en vain… l’Eglise dont je dépends est corrompu, et ça je ne peut concevoir d’y remettre mes pieds… Vous pouvez dire que je suis hypocrite … vous avez totalement raison… Parce que nous le sommes tous en ce bas monde…

    • Je crois que le sacrement est une partie essentielle de nos vies. Pour repentt de nos péchés, et être pardonné, nous devons aller à l’église et particpate dans les ordonnances. Sinon, nos péchés ne sont jamais complètement résolus, et il ne nous reste impur.

      S’il vous plaît étudier l’expiation de plus près avant de vous décider que la fréquentation de l’église est nto important pour vous.

  11. Thank you for this article. All week I have been struggling with some comments made about people wearing their “Perfect People” faces to church. All week it plagued me to think of the alternative. How horrible would it be to wear all of or imperfections and sins? Beautifully said and PERFECTLY timed! Thank you.

  12. Speaking as a former Mormon, I’d like to agree with your point about everyone being a hypocrite. No questions there. Non-members who balance their rationales on that point alone have a big wake up call coming.

    However, I think many non-Mormons point to contradictory doctrine that creates hypocritical behavior, rather than the members themselves. I’d like to read a commentary on that point if you ever get a moment.

    • A commentary on that point probably wouldn’t enlighten anyone. Truly understanding doctrine, and living accordingly, requires a lifetime of faith-based study, effort, and patient trust in the Lord and his prophets.

    • Hello, Daniel,

      I have been engaging and been engaged by former Mormons for many years, particularly those that find fault with the doctrines of salvation by misrepresenting them. The easiest thing in the world for a person seeking to damage another person is for them to take their target’s words and make something out of them that was never intended.

      No behaviour is hypocritical if it is performed in an individual’s effort to get him or herself on track with the sayings of Jesus regarding salvation. Jesus said, “What manner of men [people] ought ye to be? Yea, even as I am.”

      It does not take a genius or even a theologian to point out that this is a counsel of perfection from the Saviour and that no man but himself was ever capable of reaching its logical conclusion unaided. Anti-Mormon critics like to make believe that Mormons are required/expected/ordered choose your own word here, to become perfect in mortality. However, as a former Mormon yourself you will be aware that you were never required/expected/ordered to become perfect during mortality.

      Most critics forget one of the foundational scriptures for our perfection, “Come unto Christ and be perfected in him.” From this we are taught that Christ perfects us. Non-LDS Christians commonly refer to this process as “Christ righteoussing us.” ‘while we are yet [still] sinners [and still sinning].

      It is a theological nicety that is too frequently abused by our critics, in order to make it appear that we do not understand the invitations extended to all by Jesus Christ, and then turned against us as a weapon to try to injure the very same straw man they have built with their ‘wise as serpents’ words.

      Hypocrisy is the cynical hiding of our sin coupled with the pretence that we are righteous in order to gain a morbid advantage, whether that is the adulation of others or the attention of a desired person.

      Falling short of pleasing God is normal for fallen humanity, but Christ and God are there to raise us up in their own ways. Latter-day Saints, or the Saints of God, do not rejoice when one that is not of our number stumbles and falls. Yet, with nauseating regularity, non-LDS and even some Ex-LDS will fashion an image of Mormonism that is widely at variance with what they experienced during their years among the saints, and then attempt to pass that image off as normative Mormonism. THAT is hypocrisy, pure and simple! Trying and falling short is NOT.

      Daniel, I wish you well and ask God’s blessings upon your head.

      Sincerely,

      Ronnie

  13. This post makes me think of something our bishop said in his “welcome to the ward” talk at a recent convert’s baptism; he talked about how we are all on the path together, but that sometime, somewhere, someone at church will be a jerk. There will most likely not be anything malicious to it, but unfortunately, the church is full of average people just doing their level best to be good. To be saints. But sometimes, we can also be pretty dumb, and say dumb things. Some may say that it’s hypocritical, that we are not living to our potential in those “jerky” moments, but isn’t that what the atonement is all about? Thanks for this post. I think I need to share it with my teenagers, who struggle with the “two-facedness” they think they see in their peers. We’re all just doing our best. Thanks for reminding us!

  14. In my experience, those who claim they’re leaving the church because of the hypocrites are merely looking for an excuse for their own behavior and snatch that as their rationale.
    Wonderful points here, thank you!

  15. Another misuse of this term, especially in the comments section of the papers, is when a news story breaks about a Mormon busted in a drug or prostitution ring. The cynics point to the words of church leaders condemning such behaviors as evidence of our hypocrisy. In their eyes, Mormons say one thing, behave otherwise, and therefore, because they all are one monolithic group, they are hypocrites.

  16. Vous ne pouvez pas être a ma place… vous ne voyez pas ce qui se passe… MERCI pour vos idées c’ est très enrichissant … MMM merci, pour ce commentaires…

  17. I agree with everything you said, very well written. However there is one thing that nagged me that I thought needed to be addressed. That being the hypocrisy of the members in their treatment of other members. I’ve never heard any member claim to be perfect, that is absolutely true, but they expect everyone else to be. Heaven forbid your flaws and imperfections have any light cast on them or are more apparent than others’ struggles because you will be saddled with that for as long as you reside among that ward or stake. You can’t shake the stigma. And I’m not talking ‘porn/pain killer addiction level, I’m talking someone stopped by when your house wasn’t visitor ready, or you have trouble getting your 5 children aged 8 and younger to 9 am church on time. This is probably only prominent among the women, I haven’t spent much time in the mens circles. Also maybe this doesn’t belong here but on some other topic, but when I hear ‘hypocrisy’ and ‘lds church’ in the same sentence that is what I think of.

    • I understand what you are saying. I was hoping to convey that idea when I described one of the “sinners” as: “I’m Sister Judgmental, and I’d be happy to point out what you’re doing wrong.”

  18. I really appreciated this post. I’ve been feeling a lot like a hypocrite myself at church lately. Not from any major unresolved sins I’ve been hiding or anything like that. Just that I feel like I’m lacking so much in my own spirituality, I could be trying harder, doing better. An inner voice (which I’ve come to realize is Satan using my depression against me any way he can) telling me, “You have no business going to church. You don’t read your scriptures enough, you forget your prayers too much, you haven’t completely forgiven your neighbor, you aren’t a good enough parent, blah blah blah.” I’ve felt no judgment from anyone else, it’s all me. And what spirit is it that teaches a man not to pray? And not to attend church? As you stated, can you think of a better or more helpful place for me to be than at Sacrament Meeting, especially when I’m feeling this way. Thank you for the timely reminder for me to keep at it and rededicate myself to following the Savior.

  19. As usual, this is a great post…giggled at the Bueller reference.

    It saddens me when people use hypocrisy as an excuse to leave the church. I had a family member do that.

    After reading this, all I could think about was an excerpt from Chieko N. Okazaki’s book Lighten Up!…specifically the quote, “He’s not waiting for us to be perfect. Perfect people don’t need a Savior. He came to save his people in their imperfections. He is the Lord of the living, and the living make mistakes. He’s not embarrassed by us, angry at us, or shocked. He wants us in our brokenness, in our unhappiness, in our guilt and our grief” (pg. 176).

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