A few days ago I went with the bishop to visit a family in our ward. Sister S and her daughter were baptized a few years ago in an adjacent state. She has since stopped coming to church but her daughter remains one of the most faithful in the ward.
As we were conversing with Sister S the flashbacks of the mission began, “Member X said some things that offended me so I decided not to go to church anymore. If the Church has people like that then I don’t want to be a part of it… etc, etc, etc.” She didn’t deviate in the script she was given by the Guatemalan Organization for Disaffected Mormons. I was actually saying her words before they exited her mouth.
I awoke from my nostalgic slumber as she explained her long-distance walks to church every week and that when the members discovered this they went out of their way to pick her up and drop her off to and from church. This continued until said offense was given and she decided to less-activate herself.
Of course, in my head I quickly assigned each act of service a value and each offense a negative value. Then I added them up and concluded that the net effect was overwhelmingly positive (therefore she was acting irrationally).
So why didn’t she do the same thing and come to the same conclusion?
Yeah I know, because she isn’t me. But isn’t this how we all measure our Church experience, albeit subconsciously? I mean, isn’t it human nature to make these kinds of calculations? Of course the values we assign differ from person to person, but aren’t we always weighing our negative experiences with our positive ones? (and when I say “experiences” I’m talking about ALL of our experiences including the urgings of the Holy Ghost, that piece of Church history we never heard in Sunday School, our answers/lack of answers to prayers, etc.)
Sister S discontinued her attendance because her assigned values. Sister S assigned the one-time offensive remark a MUCH greater value than the oft-given service. What some see as blessings or positive experiences others might not see or even perceive them as negatives.
I like to think that Christ’s scale is different than hers (and mine). I imagine His is one that puts little weight on offense and a lot on service/love given. And He’s the one who has the clearest reason to be offended and given the most service/love of all. Thinking about this helps me shift the values on my own scale.