Friday, July 06, 2007

Are we missing the heart here?

BYU has had a string of its athletes run into problems with the law. The latest, according to the Salt Lake Tribune of 7/5/07 was junior running back Manase Tonga arrested a couple of days ago. SLT reported: Posted: 4:40 PM

Brigham Young junior running back Manase Tonga was arrested and booked in the Utah County Jail after a routine traffic stop in Provo early Tuesday morning. Tonga was cited by the Provo Police Department at 1:30 a.m. for failure to stop at a stop sign, driving with an expired car registration and providing false personal nformation to an officer.
Tonga, 23, had a warrant out for his arrest for a prior minor traffic violation and gave a false name to the arresting officer during Tuesday's incident. "It was just a totally average traffic stop for a moving violation," said Provo Police Sargent Richard Dewey. "The officer stopped the ehicle and asked the driver for his name, and he didn't have an ID. He gave a name back to the officer and he ran it on the computer and it didn't come back to any real person." Tonga was released at 2:50 a.m. to Daniel Turagavou, who paid $207 in cash bail for the warrant and $2,150 in bonds for the citations. Tonga then left for Los Angeles to get married in the LDS temple, said Jeff Reynolds, BYU's assistant director for athletic communications.

Now maybe its because I'm a non-Mormon, an outsider looking in, but this troubled me. Here's a young Mormon man, returned missionary, star athlete, temple recommend holder, about to be married in a Mormon temple - as for spiritual externals by Mormon church standards he's got it all. And yet his behavior - dare I say the fruit of his life - shows a contempt for the laws of the land, disrespect for civil authorities, a lack of personal integrity and boldfaced lying. Now lest I judge the young man too harshly, let me say my concern is far less the offenses - none of which are that serious in and of themselves - but more the Mormon religious system that encourages external covenant keeping over deeper issues of the heart.So despite the lying to a police officer and refusing to pay a fine for breaking the law he's off to enter the most sacred of Mormon spaces - a temple. Interestingly, I'm not the only one to see the incongruity of this. A fellow BYU student posted the following in response to a SLT article:

I am so embarrassed to be a BYU fan. One stupid thing after another. And this guy actually thinks he's worthy to go to the temple after lying to the cops? Crazy!

Then consider this: Should Tonga have family members who are Christians, living Christ-honoring, God-fearing lives, but they happen to be non-Mormons, they would not be worthy to enter the temple and be a part of or witness the wedding ceremony. All non-Mormon family members would be excluded from his marriage simply because they were not members of the correct religious organization.

The spiritual danger is this: Man looks on the outward appearance, God looks on the heart. LDS members like Tonga may not realize the state of their hearts so long as their church emphasizes external ritual over inward purity. This will keep them from authentic relationships with God and fellow men to the detriment of their spiritual lives both now and in eternity.


Quinn said...

Joel, I think you've hit on something that the New Testament teaches consistently and that's our God wants our heart, not external rituals. Paul used the issue of circumsion to bring this home, a ritual that God instituted as a sign of the Abrahamic covenant. Paul said that faith in Christ plus ritual = justification by the law and called them to seek salvation in this way..."cursed."

Jesus, in Luke 18 called the humble tax collector who recognized his sin and turned to God in humility..."justified" while the man who was doing all the checklist things right...tithing, prayer, service..."unjustified." Seems he missed the point that God isn't interested in obedience to principles and ordinances, but in how we render our hearts to him in faith, humility, and complete surrender.

Joel B Groat said...

Hey Quinn, insightful observation, and what many of the LDS and JW people I connect with don't seem to get is that when we "render our hearts to him in faith, humility, and complete surrender" we usually end up doing more of the "right things" for the right reasons. So when I truly seek intimacy with Jesus first and foremost, when my relationship with him is my top priority, I'm better able to move into relationship with my wife and kids in an intuitive way that the Holy Spirit guides. And that impacts them far more than if I just decide "I'm going to be a better husband, or I'm going to be a great dad" and then attempt to do that on my own. True faith, humility and surrender will lead to the kind of heart obedience that pleases our Heavenly Father's heart.