Powerline has some nice graphics on this.
His Majesty pointed out to me that my Church has a completely flat rate structure for tithes, showing that our notion of what is fair changes considerably depending on whether we think we can forcibly impose our notion of fairness on others or not. I tried to explain that it was God, not humans, who gave us the principle of tithing. It took some time for His Majesty to stop cackling; he is not a member of the Church, naturally, and is skeptical of its unique truth claims. However, when he got done. he pointed out that tithing was supposedly the lesser law given when we proved so poor at living the United Order, which is about as progressive a system as there is. I replied that there is an important distinction between voluntary leveling of income, and leveling enforced at the point of a pistol. His snappy response was “Not really. Neither works.” (His Majesty prides himself on his pragmatism.)
I then suggested that it is our response to commandments that go against our nature and for which there is no practical means of enforcement that shows who we really are. He started to ask me what that said about the early Saints who could not live the United Order, but cut short the question when he heard me clear my throat to the tune of “And Should We Die.” It got me thinking: Living the United Order must be really hard if it was too much for people who were okay with being burned out of their homes and forced to migrate hundreds of miles to tame a howling wilderness rather than give up their religious beliefs.
I tried inviting His Majesty to an Elders’ Quorum barbecue once, but it did not work out well. He was impressed that such an event could be organized with so little evidence of central direction, and even more impressed by how everyone spontaneously stepped in to help clean up afterwards, but a lot of this good impression dissipated when he heard the Elders Quorum President plea for the elders to be sure to get their home teaching done before the end of the month. Cynic that he is, he snorted something about men willing to help when the whole ward was there watching, but not when the audience was limited to a single family, their quorum presidency, and God. Nor did it help when the bishop’s three-year-old son (the Elders’ Quorum had invited the whole ward) called His Majesty “Grandpa Vader.” Frankly, it kind of troubles me that His Majesty found that so offensive. Sometimes I miss Obiwan, even if he did cut off all my limbs and leave me for dead. Sometimes you just have to exercise tough love.
I have always had a hard time doing missionary work. For one thing, as my ward mission leader once pointed out to me with as much tact as he could muster, I’m the kind of member you don’t want to introduce to investigators until they already have some pretty solid foundations of testimony. For another, the lessons on how to be a member missionary always start with Step 1: “Prayerfully select a friend …” and skip Step 0: “Make some friends other than His Majesty …” which I find surprisingly difficult. I really have a hard time coming out of my shell, which is unsurprising considering that it provides most of my life support.