“Brother Brown, at this time you are unworthy to baptize your son.”
“Sister Scarlett, you are unworthy to remain in your calling.”
“Brother and Sister you are unworthy right now to have a temple recommend.”
And the worst … “Bishop, I consider myself unworthy to …”
“A Worthy Member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Church member who obeys the commandments of God to the best of his or her ability, and meets a minimum acceptable standard outlined by Church leaders.
A “worthy” member of the Church is worthy to hold a Temple Recommend. In order to obtain a Temple Recommend, one must be interviewed and found worthy by one’s bishop and stake president. The interview for a temple recommend is guided by questions composed by the First Presidency of the Church. The questions are standard and universal. The first and overriding question is, “Do you believe in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost?”
Worthy Church members are expected to be honest in their dealings with their fellowmen, to pay an honest tithe (10% of one’s “increase”), to deal kindly and lovingly with family members, to be morally clean, to live the Word of Wisdom (the health code of the Church), to have repented of past sins, to be willing to attend church services and serve in callings, and to uphold the doctrines of the Church.” – mormonwiki.com
“Worthy” might very well be the signature self-esteem word in the Church.
“Unworthy” might very well be the nastiest word in the Church.
Ours is – regardless of objections – a performance-based religion. Ours is also an authoritarian religion that insists on worthiness as the principle criteria for Divine recognition and performance of ordinances and blessings.
Ours is a merit-based religion that fully preaches to itself that there is a “worthy” key that must constantly be inserted and in place before the blessings of Heaven pour.
And now this word from Moroni, both to the missionaries and to the converts: “See that ye are not baptized unworthily; see that ye partake not of the sacrament of Christ unworthily; but see that ye do all things in worthiness, and do it in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God; and if ye do this, and endure to the end, ye will in nowise be cast out” (Morm. 9:29).
But we do it to ourselves when we buy into that idea, rate others or rate our own standing in the eyes of others.
… because “worthiness” as the LDS preach and portray it is a false and invalid idea.
Today I’ve invited a few outsiders to offer thoughts along with my own about how worthy we have to be in order to be human; in order to be recognized, respected and reverenced by Higher Power[s].
The Twelve-Steppers have it down pat:
“God don’t make trash.”
Our own human experience has taught us the value of positive reinforcement and its impact on encouraging self-motivated change. Meaningful change is more likely to come to pass as we understand that whatever is Divine in our lives does not consider humanity as something unworthy or evil.
“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection”― Siddhārtha Gautama
Therefore, let’s discuss the use and meaning of the words “worthy” and worthiness” in the Church.
Could we not say with certainty that the imagery portrayed in the Church and by Church leaders is that of a God whose angels record our every flaw and mistake?
Do we not believe – or act as if it is so – that these behavioral and mortal flaws are tucked away in a book of life from which we will then be held accountable – if we fail to cleanse ourselves via repentance – by the God of the Doctrine & Covenants “who cannot tolerate sin with any degree of allowance?”
It is not God who insists that we label ourselves and convince ourselves that we are sinners, sinful and essentially evil-natured. It is no one special, only other mere human beings, equally flawed and imperfect as we are who insist that it must be God’s will that we all walk around labeling ourselves in worthiness terms.
“As long as you look for someone else to validate who you are by seeking their approval, you are setting yourself up for disaster. You have to be whole and complete in yourself. No one can give you that. You have to know who you are – what others say is irrelevant.”― Nic Sheff
Does the Church in such a manner openly declare that God is in fact a “respecter of persons” who requires worthiness before his outpourings of love occur?
“The worst loneliness is to not be comfortable with yourself.”― Mark Twain
Does not the Church teach that God’s outpourings are conditional rather than unconditional?
In addition, we are reminded on a weekly basis of the promise that we may always have His Spirit to be with us. As we then strive to keep ourselves clean and unspotted from the world, we become worthy vessels in whom the Spirit of the Lord can always dwell. -Apostle David Bednar
Does not the Church deliberately instruct us that the God of Compassion is obsessed with morality as the foundation of defining Goodness – and also suggests that therefore we too should obsess on sin?
The standard is clear. If something we think, see, hear, or do distances us from the Holy Ghost, then we should stop thinking, seeing, hearing, or doing that thing. If that which is intended to entertain, for example, alienates us from the Holy Spirit, then certainly that type of entertainment is not for us.
Because the Spirit cannot abide that which is vulgar, crude, or immodest, then clearly such things are not for us. Because we estrange the Spirit of the Lord when we engage in activities we know we should shun, then such things definitely are not for us. …” Apostle David Bednar
Why would such men and women insist that it must be God’s will that we all walk around labeling ourselves as sinners, as sinful and therefore bordering on evil as our natural mortal state?
This notion of unworthiness moves rapidly across the line of credibility more powerfully when within the official context of Church policy we begin to believe that unless we are “temple-worthy” we find ourselves in a one-down or less-than circumstance.
Do we not assume that members are not routinely called to leadership positions unless temple-worthy? Are we not fearful then of not being able to give the scripted answers to recommend questions because so much self-validation as worthy rides on those answers?
“Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.”― Marilyn Monroe
Temple-worthy is also a status you cannot obtain unless you buy it through your voluntary payment of tithing. In this regard purchasing LDS temple-worthiness through tithing looks like a first cousin to the old fashioned indulgences the Roman priesthood used to sell.
When it comes to exacting payment, unworthiness is the principle leverage for completing the deal through the priesthood brokers.
In other words, Mormons inflict upon themselves unfair comparisons with each other based on the notion of worthiness.
Congregations are full of mark-missers, not unworthy sinners. Many have missed the mark big time. Those who – in interviews with others – insist that mark-missing is sin may then feel authorized and justified in labeling others “unworthy” and calling them to repentance.
Literally, in the Church, take it to the bank that “unworthy” indicates that you might have offended a thin-skinned God who cannot tolerate you-know-what with any degree of you-also-know-what.
We know we are not expected to be perfectionists in this life. We know that perfectionists not only die at younger ages and often with high blood pressure, but also that they have unreasonable expectations and make unreasonabole demands on themselves.
They also tend to be highly intolerant of flawed-ness and imperfection in others.
Perfectionists who are called to lead feel themselves empowered to use the sin-based definitions of worthiness and are much more numerous on a local and stake level than in the general quorums leading out of headquarters.
Such persons substitute their value judgments for the more meaningful pastoral skills that take more work to acquire.
As leaders they make absolutely terrible ministers.
Why then would we need to believe in a Supreme Perfectionist who has labeled His own children as inherently sinful and therefore too tragically flawed to turn out perfect?
“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”~ Judy Garland
We do it to ourselves. It is done almost in knee-jerk fashion often in families where family members are perceived according to two standards.
Who are the “unworthy” among us and why do we label them that way?
“It is better to be hated for what you are, than to be loved for something you are not.”~ Andre Gide
It becomes easy to accept the idea that the monarchical God is offended because when we are not worthy we have something evil or inadequate about ourselves.
“If you don’t run your own life, somebody else will.” ~ John Atkinson
One might conclude that when the phrase “unworthy” is internalized, the horrific “evil” is just around the bend. If we see ourselves as evil we more easily perceive God as offended or withholding blessings. Because of unacceptable behavior on our part, we force God into a role of a deity who loves us only conditionally.
“Someone’s opinion of you does not have to become your reality.”~ Les Brown
If we relate to our Heavenly Parents as Divines who must be pleased by us in order to bless us, aren’t we placing our lives at risk for the next logical step: believing ourselves subject to approved exclusion or discriminatory thinking.
Do we not become part of a group of haves and have-nots in which the “unworthy” somehow have failed while the “worthy” remain acceptable to God.
“I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence but it comes from within. It is there all the time.”~ Anna Freud
Exclusionary thinking awakens discrimination at this point when we decide that “unworthy” is now “less-than.”
Since we feel uncomfortable in the presence of sin and/or sinners and we exclude by condemnation, social avoidance, shunning, excommunication or something worse. Terribly, we suddenly feel very uncomfortable in our own presence. We risk then discriminating against ourselves before someone “in authority” does it to us.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
We don’t have to be bigots to suffer from the illness of self-righteousness. All we have to be is of a mind that one of our spiritual “shoulds” is to discern not only “sin” but whoever has sinned and is by gospel extensions “unworthy.”
If we believe in Heavenly Parents who deal with us conditionally based on worthiness, we also become dupes of a second falsehood that always makes sense so long as Jesus Christ is viewed and believed in as the Master and Commander.
We come to believe that under the direction of the Father, Jesus is assisted by the Holy Ghost who carries out another form of divine retribution by ignoring us. And we are left to figure out how The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are a trinity whose relationship with humanity becomes conditional rather than its eternal opposite.
At the same time, the individual is given the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Mormons believe that this gift and its companion blessing entitles the recipient to have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost as a guide and guardian, so long as the recipient lives worthy of the gift.
Joseph Smith taught that the influence of the Holy Ghost, which is the convincing power of God of the truth of the gospel, can be received before baptism, but the gift, or constant companionship, of the Holy Ghost, is obtained only after baptism. “You might as well baptize a bag of sand as a man,” he said, “if not done in view of the remission of sins and getting of the Holy Ghost. Baptism by water is but half a baptism, and is good for nothing without the other half—that is, the baptism of the Holy Ghost” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 314). mormonwiki.com
A person is expected to receive the witness of the Holy Ghost to the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, of scripture, and of the words of the living prophets before baptism. The full outpouring of the Spirit does not come, however, until the person has complied with the command to be baptized.
Only after baptism can the gift be conferred by one in authority, and even then the Holy Ghost cannot be received by someone who is not worthy of it, since the Holy Ghost will not dwell in the heart of an unrighteous person. Thus, the actual companionship of the Holy Ghost may be received immediately after baptism or at a subsequent time, when the one receiving the promise becomes a fit companion for that holy being. Should the individual cease thereafter to be clean and obedient, the Holy Ghost will withdraw (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). – mormonwiki.com
The idea of worthiness as a condition for the Spirit of God to assert its influence seriously distorts – but reinforces – every authoritarian religion that portrays itself as the agent of an autocratic God.
The autocratic God is a co-dependent God relied upon by His self-appointed authoritarians. These authoritarians invest most of their energy attempting to micro-manage the very thoughts of believers. Such is a false god who would judge you for what you think and believe more than what you do.
The autocratic micro-managing false god of commandments lies at the heart of most guilt complexes all over the world. Believers then tend not to be authentic, not they’re real selves.
“That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he really is.
Most people love you for who you pretend to be. To keep their love, you keep pretending – performing.
You get to love your pretense.
It’s true, we’re locked in an image, an act – and the sad thing is, people get so used to their image, they grow attached to their masks.
They love their chains. They forget all about who they really are. And if you try to remind them, they hate you for it, they feel like you’re trying to steal their most precious possession.”― Jim Morrison
If you choose to believe that as a parent you are justified – at the most critical moment in your child’s life – in refusing to speak to that child because that child did not “obey” you, the truth then is that you literally do not deserve to be a parent.
If you choose to believe that your Heavenly Parents will refuse to “be there for you” if you have become “unworthy” of their conditional requirements for blessings and comfort, I tell you that such Heavenly Parents are not worthy of your reverence.
“How would your life be different if…You stopped allowing other people to dilute or poison your day with their words or opinions? Let today be the day…You stand strong in the truth of your beauty and journey through your day without attachment to the validation of others”― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free