What Would Jesus Do?

by: hawkgrrrl

March 20, 2012

Some folks have developed some weird notions about Jesus that in fact differ greatly from the Jesus represented in the books of the Bible (which were written many years after his death anyway).  The Jesus I hear people talking about is feminized and sometimes even, dare I say, Republican.  As Mormon Heretic pointed out yesterday, Jesus’ behaviour was often much edgier than we tend to think; he would suffer the little children to come unto him, even if there was no other adult present to chaperone them.  He would talk to women one on one without making a big deal out of it or wetting himself out of fear of what people might think.

When I read about Jesus in the Bible, it’s hard to imagine a version of that person attending church.  What would a modern Mormon Jesus look like?  I picture Daniel Faraday from LOST, a skinny, edgy, nervous guy who is the smartest person in the room and unfathomable to the rest of us but with kind, soulful, discerning eyes.  Or so I imagine.  Of course, if he’s attending an LDS church, he will also have to be dressed and groomed like an Eisenhower era federal agent, and my imagination simply isn’t that good.  So Daniel Faraday in a white shirt with a skinny black tie is the closest I can get.

What would Jesus do if he were attending a Mormon church?  Based on what’s written about him, here are a few things I think we should expect:

  1. Anti-authoritarianism.  The Jesus of the Bible is not kowtowing to church leadership.  He’s going to call a spade a spade.  I picture Jesus taking people down a peg if they are getting prideful or self-righteous.  I don’t see him being non-confrontational whenever he sees anything that is hypocritical or needing correction.  If people are offended, so be it.  (see Matthew 23: 13-33)
  2. Rule breaking.  Jesus loves to point out the stupidity of the rules.  His disciples are breaking the Sabbath by eating corn out of the fields on a Sunday, when the Sunday School police (Pharisees) bust them for it.  Does this mean Jesus would be heading to brunch at Chuck-a-Rama after the meetings end?  He’s also going to break the rule about  (see Matthew 12:1-8)  I also think Jesus is going to break right through that “men need adult supervision with children” rule.
  3. What would Jesus wear? I am sure I’ve just seen too many pictures of Jesus in a robe and sandals, but I think Jesus is fairly casual.  I have a hard time seeing Jesus looking like he’s on his way to a board meeting.  When you’re traversing the desert by foot grazing on locusts, comfort is the watch word.  I don’t see the guy who said “And why take ye thought for raiment?” getting hung up on a white shirt.  Honestly, I don’t see a guy like that owning an iron.  Well, based on some of the portraits, maybe a curling iron.  (see Matthew 6: 28-33)
  4. Hanging out with outcasts. I don’t see Jesus sitting on the front row in Sunday School with his quilted scripture cover like some apple-polishing brown noser.  On the contrary, I would think he’s cracking wise in the back row or hanging out in the hallway, chatting up the truants so they too feel welcome.  Which would you do if you are Lord of the Sabbath?  Conversely, he might just get up and take over the class, resulting in a substantial upgrade in the quality of the lesson.
  5. Tough questions.  Instead of the same old boring questions that have the same old boring questions, Jesus is one to shake things up a bit.  He doesn’t say what people want to hear.  He says what they don’t want to be said.  And he always says things in a fresh way that have multiple layers of meaning.
  6. Clever, unconventional answers.  There is no way we are going to hear the cliched Sunday School answers from Jesus (“Say prayers,” “Follow the prophet,” “Read the scriptures.”).  This is a guy who tells people to pay taxes to the person whose face is on the money, then pays his own taxes with money found in a fish!  Gospel Doctrine would rock with stuff like that happening!  (see Luke 20: 21-25 and Matthew 17: 27).  At tithing settlement, I’m thinking he somehow pulls a check out of the bishop’s ear.  It could happen.  Honestly, though, I don’t see Jesus holding down a steady job.
  7. Really, really long talks.  This is one reason I’m not super excited for the second coming.  Jesus gave a sermon so long people actually fainted from hunger.  That’s a long talk.  I already thought Fast & Testimony meeting was kind of like that, but I suspect these desert-dwelling peasants had a lot more stamina than I do.  I am still hoping for the 2 hour meeting block, but I don’t think the Jesus of the New Testament is going to institute that.  Of course, his talks were pretty rich on content, so maybe that would be an upgrade.  Still, with all the ADHD sufferers out there, I’m not sure we can handle this kind of thing any more.
  8. Random teaching moments.  (see Matthew 12: 47-50).  Apparently you can say the most random thing to Jesus, and he may unexpectedly turn it into a teaching moment.  You might say something like, “Excuse me, where is the ladies’ toilet?” and he could come back with, “Don’t seek for the momentary relief of going to the bathroom for verily the relief which I will give to those who search will last forever.”  Yes, but uhm, where is the bathroom?
  9. No more fasting!  (see Matthew 9:14)
  10. Free temple clothing rentals.  Not that they are expensive now, but I would not want to be the blue-hair on the receiving end of his money-changers in the temple diatribe.  Scary!  (see Luke 19: 45 – 46)

Honestly, I think this relates to how any founder or revolutionary would feel in the society they inspired or created; I’m not convinced the Jesus of the Bible would fit into any church’s worship structure (plus, whom is he worshiping?  Himself?  Awkward!).  People who are revolutionary are not administrative, and people who are administrative are not revolutionary.  When you’re creating a new church, breaking away from the old, you need to be able to cut to the chase, ask the tough questions, not be afraid to push against authority, etc.  But when things are settled down, you really just have to administer.  Yawn.  Good administrators are lousy revolutionaries.

How do you think Jesus would fit in at an LDS meeting?

Discuss.

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37 Responses to What Would Jesus Do?

  1. Jake on March 20, 2012 at 6:32 AM

    Great post. I have always thought that if Jesus was around today he would not fit in at all in the modern church. I mean he wouldn’t even be able to attend EFY or attend BYU (long hair and a beard). I suspect that if Jesus was in a ward, he would not last a year before an over zealous bishop disfellowshipped or excommunicated him for heresy and apostasy.

    In many ways your points remind me of Leo Tolstoy’s argument in ‘The Kingdom of God is within you’ which says that Jesus was more of an anarchist then a republican and would be a non-violent protestor and would be abhorred by the modern disciplinary system.

    It seems, ironically, that if we actually look at what Jesus did in the new testament then to be Christ-like actually involves not conforming, questioning tradition and being more radical then the church would like us to be.

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  2. Stephen M (Ethesis) on March 20, 2012 at 7:17 AM

    Hawk, you do know that looks like a young Chuck Norris?

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  3. Paul on March 20, 2012 at 7:23 AM

    Ok. Well, your final paragraph says it all, kinda. We go to church to worship. He wouldn’t be going to worship.

    But he did go to the temple (church) to teach, and I suspect he’d continue to do that.

    The paintings that show him “all casual” put him in the dress of his day. I guess I’d assume he’d be comfortable doing that in our day, too, if he wanted to.

    It’s not that he’s anti-authoritarian — he IS the authority. And he wasn’t afraid to point that out throughout the scriptures. And I suppose he’d do it in an LDS meeting, too.

    I suspect you’re right about the outcasts. He’d probably be far more worried about who isn’t in church and how he can help them rather than who is in church. I wouldn’t be so snippy about that poor sister on the front row with her quilted scripture covers. He’d probably recognize she’s doing the best she can, too.

    As for his Sunday School answers, you may be right. After all, he never said pray, study your scriptures and go to church. (Oh, wait…he did teach us to pray, told us the importance of ordinances and constantly taught repentance, baptism, love your fellow man. And of course he modeled a clear knowledge of his scriptures.)

    But your final paragraph is key. It’s no secret that once he comes back, the need for the church will go away. We’ve been repeatedly taught there’s no chuch organization in the CK. Not sure what the transition in the millenium looks like.

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  4. Jeff Spector on March 20, 2012 at 7:45 AM

    Jesus was anti- “the wrong authority” in his day, so he would be the same today. If we assume (which some will not) that the Authority was given from the Savior to the Prophet Joseph Smith to his predecessors, he would not have to rail against His Church. He might correct those who have gone astray from the real message.

    Because we, as flawed humans cannot fully comprehend Charity, the pure Love of Christ, we cannot fully appreciate how much love He would show to those trying their best to emulate Him and worship Him.

    He might be snarky to those who draw near with their lips, but he would be complimentary to those who are trying, in all the Churches that bear and confess His name.

    He would be comfortable anywhere two or more are gathered in His name. And He would teach them.

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  5. Mike S on March 20, 2012 at 8:08 AM

    I like this post. I just can’t see Christ in a white shirt and tie, as I think He is far beyond caring what anyone wears. He’d probably even allow little girls in sun dresses to “come unto Him” with bare shoulders.

    In seriousness, however, I think one of the things He would do is just like He did when He was here in the meridian of time – clear up what’s really important. I think He would help jettison many of the “rules” we have encrusted around the “principles” in our Church. I also think that a simple 30-munite conversation could help clear up a lot of doctrinal things so we wouldn’t have to say “I don’t know what that means” or “We don’t know where that started” or “I’m not sure we teach that” or all those types of statements.

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  6. Course Correction on March 20, 2012 at 8:33 AM

    “People who are revolutionary are not administrative, and people who are administrative are not revolutionary.”

    So well put.Jesus was the revolutionary and his apostles and those who gained authority after them were administrators.

    In the same way,Joseph Smith was a revolutionary who would probably not be appreciated in today’s Mormon Church.

    Revolutionaries start the process, but administrators develop the orgnization and keep it going.

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  7. Jeff Spector on March 20, 2012 at 8:57 AM

    Two more thoughts come to mind.

    In reality Jesus was the ultimate purveyor of the real Status Quo.

    He was preaching against the revolution that had transpired over hundreds of years where the teachings had been perverted, modified and misinterpreted.

    He was teaching the Father’s Plan, developed from the beginning.

    I also think that the Savior would remind all of us to be concered about what is really important and not to dwell on issues of unimportance and critism that takes our own personal eye off the ultimate goal.

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  8. Howard on March 20, 2012 at 9:01 AM

    Jesus would enter the conference center taking one of the best seats in the house for himself. He would stand and deliver a monolog that begins with a cutsie story and then he would be very hard to find or access for the next 6 months.

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  9. Jon on March 20, 2012 at 9:21 AM

    This incite that I read this morning in the scriptures relates to a certain extent to this post, in that what would Jesus do at a societal level.

    I just read about how Alma the elder when there were many in the church that were sinning and he didn’t know what to do. The first thing he did was put his trust in the flesh. Luckily, King Mosiah was a good guy and said, “Not my problem.” So then Alma did what he should have done to begin with, he went to the Lord to figure out the problem and reconcile it.

    This has ramifications on Monson’s position on prop. 8. The true order uses natural law, not man’s law to overcome these sins of society. There is no reason to use force in these instances to make people do what we believe is right. And how benign are the consequences from a church, excommunication, nothing else (well, maybe social ostracism if you live in a predominantly Mormon area).

    I know this isn’t directly related to this post, but I was just excited to make the connection and it shows how Jesus’ law is much more benign and forgiving then current practices and beliefs currently embraced by many Christians.

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  10. ji on March 20, 2012 at 9:28 AM

    All this talk about Jesus, but I think Jesus will be ashamed of all the mocking going on here. I really think Jesus would love to be among Latter-day Saints, and Latter-day Saints would love to be with him. He would teach and we would listen and learn. If he did come to a Latter-day Saint ward, it would be a wonderful experience for those who love him.

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  11. Bob on March 20, 2012 at 10:14 AM

    I see it a just the same old problem: Do you see one man=Jesus Christ, or two? Jesus the Man and Jesus the Christ? (I see two).

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  12. NewlyHousewife on March 20, 2012 at 10:27 AM

    I like my Jesus Ryan Gosling hot. At least then when he’s giving his long sermons and no one bothers to leave, eat, and come back the ladies would have to suffer.

    Plus I doubt Jesus would bathe on a regular basis. Unless baptizing counts.

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  13. Cowboy on March 20, 2012 at 10:41 AM

    You have heard it said in old times, that ye shall only wear a single modest pair of earings. I say unto you, she who even thinketh to wear a second pair hath worn them in her heart!

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  14. KT on March 20, 2012 at 11:14 AM

    #11
    I don’t think it’s just LDS that Jesus would love to be among…I think it’s all those who love the gospel and worship him, regardless of whether they are practicing
    “correctly” or not. Because even if they are not practicing correctly, he would teach them to walk in his light.

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  15. Michael on March 20, 2012 at 11:23 AM

    What if Jesus didn’t intend to found a church, but was just an apocalyptic prophet. If you go back and read the NT with the idea that Jesus actually thought the world was going to end before his life ended you’ll see a different Jesus. (This isn’t my idea — Bart Ehrman and others have posited this, and they are way smarter than me.)

    So, “take no thought for tomorrow” becomes literal. “Sell all you have” because the world is going to end.

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  16. ji on March 20, 2012 at 2:31 PM

    KT (no. 15) — You’re right — I made mention of LDS because the original posting was pointed to “a Mormon church.”

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  17. FireTag on March 20, 2012 at 3:57 PM

    I think Jesus was radical because, as Jeff noted in 8, the authority system in place was NOT the authority that should have been in place. (Isn’t the Mormon term “unrighteous dominion”?)

    And I disagree a little with Michael in 16, because He was speaking of the ability of God’s Kingdom on Earth to become immediately present and ACCESSIBLE to each individual as soon as that individual bypassed the unrighteous authority and gave God full authority over his/her life.

    His radicalism, then, was expressed against the patronage culture that arose throughout the Mediterranean, but found its greatest and most exploitative manifestation in Rome. Rome was the exact opposite of loving all people; it was consume all others to enhance your own clients and patrons. To have an “in” there must be many more “out”. And the Jewish religious establishment was very complicit about wanting to be sure they were “ins” and kept the “outs” in line.

    So I think Jesus would be looking at ANY church (or political) leadership in terms of whether they were acting as gateways to allow people to access the Spirit directly, or acting as gatekeepers to direct access to the Spirit through their own patronage channels.

    In today’s America, that might make Him more radically libertarian than anything else, despite assertions from the social justice Christians.

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  18. Michael on March 20, 2012 at 4:19 PM

    In #18, FireTag says, “And the Jewish religious establishment was very complicit about wanting to be sure they were “ins” and kept the “outs” in line.”

    I think today’s LDS religious establishment is also complicit about wanting to be sure they are “ins” and they keep the “outs” in line. Nothing like a 400+ page pharasitical handbook of instructions to keep people in line…

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  19. hawkgrrrl on March 20, 2012 at 4:32 PM

    Jeff makes a good point that he wasn’t against ALL authority, just “bad” authority – hypocrisy and power-hungry authority. Of course, we have that mingled with all authority because of human nature.

    I have to note that Bart Ehrmann has a point, too. Only looking at the NT, Jesus does not actually found a church. If you add the BOM, he does – or in essence restores one.

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  20. Bob on March 20, 2012 at 5:37 PM

    #18: FireTag,
    Please-please don’t call Jesus a libertarian. You will have every libertarian on this blog thinking he’s a Jesus.

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  21. el oso on March 20, 2012 at 5:40 PM

    Michael #19
    The 400 page handbook is not a lot of rules for a regular member. You usually have only a few pages devoted to how to organize in your particular calling.

    Most callings have a few simple rules:
    1. Serve to the best of your ability.
    2. Follow the scriptural guidelines/examples
    3. Seek the Lord’s will in your service.

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  22. Jon on March 20, 2012 at 6:03 PM

    @Bob,FireTag,

    Or, rather, an anarchist.

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  23. Jon on March 20, 2012 at 6:05 PM

    @el oso,

    Don’t forget the handbook says the individual can’t make their own garments, can’t follow the word of wisdom, shouldn’t be cremated, etc.

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  24. whizzbang on March 20, 2012 at 6:55 PM

    where does it say the people fainted from hunger because Jesus gave a long sermon? I love it already!

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  25. prometheus on March 20, 2012 at 6:59 PM

    Jesus was totally a radical. Love the guy who doesn’t clean up after his dog when he walks past your house and plays loud music at 4 AM? turn the other cheek when someone slaps you? Repay evil with good? Forgive absolutely EVERYONE? No exceptions?

    That’s radical.

    Honestly, I think we let the church get in the way of the gospel a lot. The hierarchical and administrative structure is a huge drain on resources and time, and naturally drags our focus away from Christ. (That being said, there is a lot of turn to Christ being preached from the pulpit too – I am speaking only of the administrative structure.)

    We worry about buildings, schedules, meetings, type of clothing, ward choirs, and any number of things that perhaps aren’t the most important thing. I think of it kind of like Mary and Martha – we can become lost in the details and forget the brilliant doctrines and theology we have sitting in our midst.

    Imagine if, instead of only 3 hour meeting blocks, we had service projects and soup kitchens, and whatever else have you on a regular basis. 3 weeks of service with a 20 minute meeting beforehand, one week of in-church instruction, as it were.

    Random thoughts, perhaps tangential, but raised by the post.

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  26. LDS Anarchist on March 20, 2012 at 7:04 PM

    How do you think Jesus would fit in at an LDS meeting?

    Jesus would not attend an LDS meeting, nor a meeting of any other Gentile Christian church. He has never gone to minister among the Gentiles. He only ministers among His people, the house of Israel.

    The only reason He will be appearing in the future at Jerusalem and at Zion, is because there will be of the house of Jacob there.

    (Expected response of “But the LDS are of the house of Israel!” in 3, 2, 1…)

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  27. Taylor Berlin on March 20, 2012 at 7:47 PM

    Love this post, hawkgrrrl. I don’t have much to say besides that. Loved point #2. The people Christ had the biggest problem with was the Pharisees. I find much of church culture and rules seem to smack of a Pharisaical mindset. At least that my opinion.

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  28. FireTag on March 20, 2012 at 11:27 PM

    Bob:

    Not a problem limited to libertarians on this blog. It’s a common temptation. :D

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  29. FireTag on March 20, 2012 at 11:39 PM

    Hawkgrrrl:

    I want to read again in the BofM text how much ORGANIZATION Jesus actually did in Bountiful. The admin structure doesn’t immediately strike me as more elaborate than in Jerusalem. Sacraments, the Twelve, choose subordinate preachers and spread the word, talks about the future of the people, healings, blessings and miracles. But He did the same in the NT.

    Are we sure we aren’t inferring things that aren’t actually there in the text because we already know how the story turns out as of the beginning of the 21st Century?

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  30. Jeff Spector on March 21, 2012 at 6:40 AM

    Taylor,

    “The people Christ had the biggest problem with was the Pharisees. I find much of church culture and rules seem to smack of a Pharisaical mindset. ”

    Unfortunately, the Gospels are written in such a way to cast a bad light on the Pharisees and the Jews in general. See a post I wrote earlier on the idea (http://mormonmatters.org/2008/09/10/pharisees-bad-guys-or-bad-rap/)

    I am not sure the Pharisees or their observance was as bad as written. Was it wrong, probably, but like all of us, they were doing the best they can with the knowledge they were given.

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  31. Justin on March 21, 2012 at 3:17 PM

    Lol — I just read this:

    Or, rather, an anarchist.

    My thoughts exactly.

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  32. Justin on March 21, 2012 at 3:19 PM

    FireTag #29:

    Are we sure we aren’t inferring things that aren’t actually there in the text because we already know how the story turns out as of the beginning of the 21st Century?

    I think that’s what Michael was saying in #15:

    What if Jesus didn’t intend to found a church, but was just an apocalyptic prophet.

    If you go back and read the NT with the idea that Jesus actually thought the world was going to end before his life ended you’ll see a different Jesus.

    …and which I agree with.

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  33. FireTag on March 21, 2012 at 3:46 PM

    Justin:

    I LARGELY agree with Michael. The distinction is that I’m suggesting that Jesus anticipated the Kingdom COMING w/o the material world yet ending.

    The parables of the NT, in my mind, repeatedly suggest that having the kingdom was so valuable that material things were dross by comparison.

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  34. Taylor Berlin on March 21, 2012 at 3:59 PM

    #30 Jeff,

    I didn’t mean to suggest I thought *all* Pharisees *must* have been horrible people and I *certainly* don’t mean to suggest Jews were/are bad. I used the word to refer to people who are highly judgmental, dismissive of others and self-righteous. But I think you make a good point. It’s important to consider a semantics within a historical context. Thank you for the insight.

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  35. Justin on March 21, 2012 at 4:36 PM

    FireTag,

    The distinction is that I’m suggesting that Jesus anticipated the Kingdom COMING w/o the material world yet ending.

    Well sure — I don’t think that the “end of the world” means the end of the material planet/physical life, etc. either.

    More of an apocalyptic revelation that changes our current ideas about the world — how we view/relate to the planet and life on it.

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  36. hawkgrrrl on March 21, 2012 at 6:04 PM

    Yet, there’s clearly a case that Jesus did believe the physical, material world was ending imminently (as did Joseph Smith). Both were apocalyptic.

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  37. Trevor on March 21, 2012 at 9:21 PM

    +1 for the LOST reference.

    If Jesus is like Faraday, I’ll be pretty content :)

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