Monday, June 25, 2018

Tender Mercies

I've been going through an interesting transition over the last few months. The center where I was employed was shut down, laying off me and every one of my coworkers.  During the closing months before our final day, we all were scrambling to find new jobs.  Only three of us, including me, were able to do so before our last day of employment.  What I found was basically the same job for a better company with nearly identical pay and better hours.  I also had about a month off between jobs, during which time I received severance equivalent to a paycheck for a greater length of time than I'll actually be unemployed.  Obviously, it sucked to be laid off, but when something negative with so much of an upside happens, I find myself thinking about the "tender mercies of the Lord" mentioned by Nephi and popularized by David A. Bednar:
As we learn in these scriptures, the fundamental purposes for the gift of agency were to love one another and to choose God. Thus we become God’s chosen and invite His tender mercies as we use our agency to choose God.
Had identical events happened to me while I was a faithful member of the church, I'd have credited them to the "tender mercies" God bestows upon us.  I may have even somewhat callously concluded that the reason I have a comparable job lined up when the majority of my coworkers do not was due to my faithfulness in the gospel.  But, in retrospect, those kinds of attitudes make no sense.

It reminds me of the "faith not to be healed" article in which Bednar basically explains that the reason the Priesthood doesn't work is because the Priesthood works.  If that's acceptable reasoning, it sounds like any intersection between the gospel and daily life produces the same kinds of results as no intersection at all.  Whether we're looking at the cause (a Priesthood blessing that doesn't necessarily heal) or at the result (a favorable situation that wasn't necessarily engineered by God), both ends of the Blessing Production Line display the same level of efficiency we'd get from not having a production line.  My employment situation is exactly the kind of thing I'd consider a tender mercy but for the fact that I'm a filthy apostate who's essentially voided his covenants and blessings, so this never should have happened to me, right?  The whole thing appears to be a crapshoot.  It leads me to several possible conclusions:
  1. Being eligible for tender mercies does not require belief or the keeping of any commandments or covenants.
  2. There is no such thing as a tender mercy of the Lord and some people just get lucky.
  3. My specific situation did not involve a tender mercy and I just got lucky without divine intervention.
All of these really point to the complete superfluity of God's true church—at least when it comes to day-to-day life.  It obviously can still be argued that I'm screwed as far as my postmortal life is concerned, but as far as getting by in our second estate, why do we need the church?

If I can get tender mercies while actively opposing the church, why should Mormonism be a necessary component of my life?  If there's no such thing as a tender mercy, then why bother being a temple-going, tithe-paying member if it comes down to dumb luck anyway?  And in regards to the third possible conclusion, why should I spend all that time being a pious Mormon if I can still get this lucky without all those blessings I supposedly need?

Obviously, my assessment of all this is that there are no tender mercies and that most of the things that are claimed to be such are really the results of luck, coincidence, charity, or hard work.  In my case, I was really fortunate to find the job opening and really fortunate with the time frame of my application, and the reason I got the position was because I interviewed well and because my resume is stronger than that of most of my competitors for the slot (not that my resume is really anything to brag about in most contexts).

But the bottom line is that, just like a Priesthood blessing that doesn't heal its recipient, a tender mercy is an imaginary thing.  Whatever was going to happen is still going to happen, regardless of Mormon theology's claimed role in determining the outcome of the situation.  And, to me, it's fascinating—if somewhat predictable—the way a diametrically different perspective on the same kinds of situations changes our interpretations of the way events unfold.


  1. Yes, you've got the correct answer: "There are no tender mercies and that most of the things that are claimed to be such are really the results of luck, coincidence, charity, or hard work."

    Congratulations on getting a better job! Sounds like you're overall hourly rate has gone up.

  2. Congratulations on your new job!

    I too agree with your accessment, except for charity. I don't think it was "the voluntary giving of help, typically in the form of money, to those in need."

    You mention luck, coincidence, and hard work. I love this quote attributed to a Roman philosopher:

    “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”
    ― Seneca

    You were prepared and available when the new company happened to be looking for more employees. They picked you based on the skills and experience you bring to them. If you hadn't been looking and hadn't been ready when that new job opened up, you wouldn't have gotten it. YOU deserve the credit for this. Yes you feel blessed, but I don't see it as a charitable gift from God. No tender mercies here.

    Oh and this in a reminder to post your 2017 Brodie award on the sidebar. You earned it.

  3. Now to that teaching by Elder Bednar about "faith not to be healed." That is a load of crap. Radio Free Mormon episode #18 does a fantastic job of showing how this is just a way for the church to redefine what a miracle is and to explain why priesthood blessings don't work, as everyone in the church knows. "Faith not to be healed" is basically a way to ask someone if they will stay in the church when the blessing doesn't work. Bednar is lowering expectations. Then there's the "if it be god's will statement added to the end of most blessings. This has interesting logic. It was god's will they be sick in the first place. The purpose of the blessing is to ask him to change his will. Of course you have to believe in god to believe this anyway. The further I remove myself from the church, the more I realize how rediculous and unbelievable the Mormon church is, and all religion for that matter.