The media seems obsessed with the raids on the FLDS compound in Eldorado, Texas. And while I'm fundamentally opposed to the practices of members of the FLDS Church, I'm equally appalled at Texas' disregard for the Constitutional rights of the FLDS parents at the compound who are not abusing their children in any way. I've learned from excellent professors in criminal law that people ought to be punished for things they have actually done and not because they believe in unpopular things.
After this post, you will find a discussion on the practice of polygamy among the early members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the reasons why it was discontinued. I'd invite you to read it.
My intent in this post is not to discuss the FLDS raid or the practice of polygamy. Rather, the events in Texas over the past few weeks have caused me to reflect on the danger of gospel hobbies. Now, I'm not talking about church basketball, softball, scrapbooking, or any other types of get-togethers. Gospel hobbies are doctrinal topics which dominate our religious perspective to the detriment of all others.
Imagine the Gospel as a beautiful grand piano. A standard piano has eighty-eight keys. And although there are more than eighty-eight Gospel topics, imagine that each key represents a Gospel topic. Certainly, each topic has a beautiful tone. But alone, each tone sounds ghostly and hollow. When played with other keys, however, an infinite catalog of music, melody, and harmony opens up before us.
That's the way the Gospel is if we embrace it in its entirety. As we see how each topic intertwines and relates to another, heaven's music begins to play within us, and we recognize that all topics testify of the Divinity of Jesus Christ, that He is the Savior of all mankind, and that only through Him Eternal Life is possible.
Gospel hobbyists, on the other hand, are those who are content to pound out an awkward tune using only one or a few keys while ignoring the dozens of others on the keyboard. I've known some who focused exclusively on the need for righteous works, others focus on the Second Coming, some focus on homosexuality, others on pioneers, some on polygamy, still others who perpetually ponder about the thorn in Paul's flesh, and the list could continue for pages. These topics become the glasses through which they see everything, throwing everything else out of focus.
The most devastating effect of a gospel hobby is that the hobby replaces Christ as the center of the hobbyist's faith.
The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the direct result of a gospel hobby: plural marriage. While God has occasionally permitted and even commanded polygamous marriages, (see "Polygamy," infra), He has made it clear that the unauthorized practice of plural marriage is an abomination. (Jacob 2:22-30).
In 1890, the Prophet Wilford Woodruff officially ended the practice of plural marriage among the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He has seen in vision that if the Church continued to practice plural marriage, the Federal Government of the United States would have destroyed the Church. (Official Declaration 1). He and the majority of the Church understood that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was just that, the Church of Jesus Christ. Not the Church of Polygamy. And if the Church were destroyed, then the work of salvation of both the living and the dead through the Atonement of Jesus Christ would cease.
Thus, because Christ remained at the center of lives of President Woodruff and the majority of Mormons, the Church moved on without trouble as it left polygamy behind.
There were those, however, who rejected President Woodruff, including the founders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Polygamy, their gospel hobby, became the center of their lives. They lived to perpetuate polygamy. Christ and His living Words fell out of their lives.
The FLDS Church and the recent events in Eldorado should stand as a warning to all those who hang onto their gospel hobbies.
So how do we avoid the dangers of gospel hobbies? We must keep Christ at the center of our lives. We must be willing to read all of the scriptures. And we must be willing to accept all of the doctrines of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
It's only then that the music of eternity will begin to sound within us and bring us home to God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.