Religion, even when based on truth and reality, can be "fake" for the same reasons. I and most of my fellow Latter-day Saints truly believe that Christ is Lord, the Son of the Father, a glorious resurrected Being who is the Author of our salvation and the source of revelation in the Bible and the rest of the LDS scriptures. We also believe that the Church of Jesus Christ has been restored upon the earth with the same priesthood authority that Christ gave the leaders of the early Church, and with the offices of prophets and apostles to receive revelation and guide His Church. That's all very exciting and wonderful stuff, and if it's true, if it's real, how could anyone call our religious efforts "fake"? How could anyone call our busy Church service and sacrifices for the Kingdom of God fake?
As with fake work, I suggest that religious activity, even well-intended, faithful service, is fake if it does not align with the core objectives and goals of the religion. For us, those objectives can be condensed in this short mission statement: to bring people unto Christ. Our purpose is to bring people unto Christ, including ourselves, our families, our loved ones, and others all over the world. A related secondary purpose is to bless people's lives in this world--to help them be healthier, happier, have stronger families, be more independent--with the understanding that these temporal blessings, while worthy and justified in their own right, may often lead to even greater eternal blessings as people are more able to recognize the joy that comes from Christ. These objectives, centered around blessing the lives of others, can be achieved in many ways, and many programs ranging from Sunday and Temple worship and religious instruction to food storage and cultural activities or sports can fulfill our mission by blessing the lives of people in various ways. Nevertheless, too much of what we do can be fake.
Religious activity becomes fake when it is not directly aligned with the real objectives of our faith. Teaching and sermons become fake when the purpose is to entertain for entertainment's sake, to impress others, to call attention to ourselves, or even just to fill the allotted time in some way so we "fulfill" our speaking assignment. When someone begins a talk with the words, "I'm not sure how I'm going to fill the time," that's when I'm tempted to head for the doors because the next 20 or so minutes will be "fake." I've given plenty of fake talks and lessons myself, I realize now, in which I went too deep or got "too fancy" without having given careful consideration to what the Lord wanted to be said. Ouch. Hmm, how many fake blog posts do I have here at Mormanity? Don't think I want to count. I'm giving a pass to blogging: it's OK to be fake, isn't it? Oh, and Twitter - no, never mind. Sorry to scratch at that scab.
Home teaching is fake when its purpose is to generate a statistic. An elder's quorum president once called on the last day of the month to tell me that his home teaching goal was in jeopardy because my home teacher hadn't visited me, and wanted to know if he could come over at 10 pm that night just for a minute or two so they could count me as home taught. I balked at the idea--and am glad to know that he's become a much wiser and more Christ-centered leader since then. That wasn't really his fault as much as it was the unintended "fake" version of our religion that had come down from local leaders above him who forgot that the statistics are meant as measures of progress in serving Christ, not as the true ends of our religion.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ gives us perspectives that oppose anything fake in religion. The story of the widow's mite shows that the truly important thing was not the amount given, but the level of commitment and intent of the giver. In the Book of Mormon, Moroni in Moroni 7 explains to believers that giving a gift does us no good unless it is done with real intent. In other words, our sacrifices of time, money, or whatever must be aligned with the real purpose of our religion if that act is to do any good for our souls. If a gift is given or sacrifice made for the wrong purpose or done grudgingly, it is fake and has no lasting value.
Fake Work warns against the wastefulness of many meetings, excessive paperwork, and trivia that wastes time and energy without delivering on core objectives. We need to scrutinize our own religious efforts to make sure that what we are doing is aligned with the divine intent behind the Church. There are details to be carried out, paperwork that must be done, meetings that must be held--but when we apply the lens of Christ-centered service and eternal objectives, we may find that some things can be cut out or require a complete re-orientation to deliver on the Lord's purpose for this Church.
My favorite statement on true, not fake, religion is from James 1:27:
Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.This is beautifully aligned with the path that blesses others and our own lives. We must stay close to the Lord, in personal purity and strident efforts to avoid the sins of the world, that we may have the companionship of the Spirit and thus be constantly aligned with His eternal purposes. We must serve and bless others to help them in this life, while we also have their eternal welfare in mind. Activities that aren't based on fulfilling such divine objectives may to be reconsidered: they may be just another wasteful diversion on the broad and crooked path of fake religion.
Caveat: In religion and especially in service, "fake" doesn't always mean completely worthless. Helping at a service project, donating to help the poor, or even showing up for Sunday worship can all be valuable even if you have the wrong attitude and are giving grudgingly. It can still help others and may even help you, and it may be better to do it than not at all. But the impact is far less than if you're doing it with "real intent," as the Book of Mormon calls for. Doing good for the wrong reason is better than doing evil for any reason or not doing good at all. But to be truly meaningful, the intent needs to be sincere and the effort aligned with a genuine desire to follow Christ and bless others. That's when the real blessings and even miracles occur.
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