A recent study from my absolute favorite PhD has been published that I think explains the confusion of the term “CHURCH.” Christ offers something far different than an Institutionalization concept, seeking a personal relationship instead. Traditions of Institutionalization have plagued us for so long, it’s almost impossible to consider surviving outside of an institution.
My absolute favorite PhD is my wife. While she wasn’t the top of her class in marks, her dissertation on “Brain Drain and Brain Gain” has been published, when those with top marks in her cohort haven’t. Since being published, her dissertation has been downloaded hundreds of times throughout the world, because of the insight she provided that I think applies to the confusion of the term “CHURCH.” In it she addresses Institutionalization among Native Americans. But I think her discovery is applicable in uncovering the damage caused by all Institutions, better reflecting Institutionalization as the large and spacious building in Lehi’s dream.
Institutionalization is well understood as a problem, when applied to incarcerated convicts, and their difficulty transitioning to civilian life, once released. A good movie depicting the Institutionalization of convicts is “The Shawshank Redemption” (highly recommended, but rated R in some countries- NOT Canada;). In the book titled “Tribe” (by Sebastian Junger) Institutionalization was the cause of PTSD, as soldiers returning from war preferred war over civilian life, …because at least in war there was order, value, and people were needed by the organization. But it’s difficult to identify occupational Institutionalization, as people retiring from a lifetime of service in their industry awake to the awful reality of being unneeded outside of their lifetime investment in their occupation. Life after retirement is short, and those of age to retire refuse to retire because of this fact. In my wife’s dissertation Native Americans who returned to live on the reservation after getting an education confessed that they returned because of “relationships.” But when asked what they recommended to promote more of a returning educated population back to the reservation, every one of them recommended government programs. Without knowing it, they too are Institutionalized. Relationships and Institutionalization are inversely related.
Christ offers something far different than an institutional concept, seeking a personal relationship instead. Christ doesn’t define His Church as officers, hierarchies, and strongmen, who lead by rules, lay down the law, and enforce compliance. His description of His church is this:
“22. For behold, this is my church; whosoever is baptized shall be baptized unto repentance. And whomsoever ye receive shall believe in my name; and him will I freely forgive.
23. For it is I that taketh upon me the sins of the world; for it is I that hath created them; and it is I that granteth unto him that believeth unto the end a place at my right hand.
24. For behold, in my name are they called; and if they know me they shall come forth, and shall have a place eternally at my right hand.”
Expounding on this scripture clarifies the inverse relationship between Institutionalization and relationships. Christ simply states in v.22 that baptism, repentance, and belief in His name, as the only qualifiers to be freely forgiven of Him. In the next verse, Christ identifies His forgiveness as the only forgiveness that matters, as He is the only one that atoned for sin, being the only one qualified to forgive sin. He is the gate keeper, and no other man or Institution has the power to make that decision, as no man or Institution has performed that atonement. And finally, in v.24 Christ identifies those who are called by His name as those that KNOW HIM. This echoes back to John 17:3 where John the Beloved teaches that eternal life is knowing God and Christ. “Knowing” is a personal relationship, as opposed to foolish traditions of Institutionalization.
Traditions of Institutionalization have plagued us for so long, it’s almost impossible to consider surviving outside of an institution. Satan uses deception, flaxen chord, to bind and capture the minds of men, such that they are in darkness at noon day. The taxes collected each year is more than 50% the gross domestic product (the total amount of earnings for all of America combined). That means America must work one half year for the government before they can earn a penny to support their families and themselves. In Mosiah 19:15 the people of Limhi paid one half (taxed at 50%) of all they possessed (gross domestic product). And scriptures call that being taken captive. The difference between them and us is: they knew they were in captivity, but we walk around at noon day, thinking we are free, when in reality we are just in denial that we are in captivity. We pledge allegiance to a flag, representing the government keeping us captive. Thus, Satan has lulled us to sleep in organizations of Institutionalization.
Conclusion: The price we pay to maintain our captive sleep of Institutionalization, is the loss of relationships. Despite the perfect report of 100% home/visit teaching, relationships run cold, as Institutionalization drowns Utah. Boundaries dictate relationships such that my stake president lives three houses away from me, but he and I don’t even have a “honk-and-wave” relationship, while his next door neighbor and I at least wave because we belong to the same ward boundaries. The signs of the fulfillment of Nephi’s prophesy in 2 Nephi 28 perfectly describes the Institutionalization that plagues the LDS church, as they become strangers to Christ, not only failing to develop a personal relationship with Him, but to cast people out who have dedicated their entire lives to a personal relationship with Him.
I take comfort in my effort to establish a personal relationship with Christ, seeking His face, to be redeemed from the fall. My favorite PhD and I refuse to accept anything less than the face-to-face relationship with Christ and God, to know them, to have eternal life. I take added comfort in the beatitudes, especially when it says:
3 Nephi 12:10-12
“10. And blessed are all they who are persecuted for my name’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11. And blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake;
12. For ye shall have great joy and be exceedingly glad, for great shall be your reward in heaven; for so persecuted they the prophets who were before you.”
(No, that was not a personal claim to being a prophet.)
Most importantly, I take comfort in Mom’s expression that she too does NOT believe in an Institutional salvation. Salvation to her, and I hope to you, is based upon your understanding of God. Salvation, as Mom said, is upon “…those things that we think, say, and do according to the commandments and we are fully responsible for where we end up.”
I reiterate the Standard written in the Standard & Guide document:
“We believe that every individual seeking to know God, through His son Jesus Christ, can be personally instructed by the Holy Spirit, to obtain greater light and truth. We believe that the words of Christ (past, present, and future) is the standard by which all followers of Christ should govern themselves. We relinquish any desire to have an institution, hierarchy, or strong-man lead us (AKA: Institutionalization), being willing to be personally accountable to repent and turn to Christ (AKA: Relationship), or answer for our own sins.”
It is so simple “even a child can understand it” and obey and keep it, growing into perfection.
Agency requires us to judge. If we must judge, then judge righteously. Institutionalization subtly removes the necessity for relationships and judging righteously, in exchange for a strongman to execute unfounded penalties tied to unfounded understanding of a relationship with God. So, when you are faced with a choice between Institutionalization and relationships, choose relationships. That will preserve our family, and reconnect it with the family of God.
Malama Pono Ohana!