In all religions there are zealots. In fact, one could argue, that the more structure exists within a particular faith the more zealots tend to appear. This is understandable since societal acceptance is often not found for the individual and a certain degree of misery must be endured. Peace and comfort is found in the rules and laws found within the faith and therefore they judge themselves based upon those rules and laws, for what else can they use to judge?
My daughter was baptized recently. It was a great experience. My daughter is perhaps the happiest person on the face of this earth. Friends and family showed up, some from out of state. There were were almost even tears of joy at a testimony of how wonderful my daughter is and how much joy she brings to their lives. She brings quite a bit of joy to my life as well. However, at one point during the ceremony the Bishop of her mother's ward said a few words of which one sentence was, "it doesn't matter that we understand the rules, as long as we follow them we will be happy." When I heard that statement I felt like standing up and announcing that he was absolutely incorrect. Why then would we have thousands of pages of doctrine if all we needed was a few sheets of rules? I pondered his statement a bit and came to some varying conclusions that I wish to share.
I have found that not everyone has the capability for deep thought. I think it is possible, however there are those who find great comfort in being told what to believe. I think at certain times in our life, either we are too busy to ponder or we have lost confidence in our own thought, that we may seek the comfort of adhering to the thought of others. For these people the Bishop's premis is correct to a certain point, "follow the rules and you will be happy." For these people, however, they see much of the world through the rules they live by, for how else can we evaluate those around us if all we know are the rules? Hence the lens they see the world is one of black and white. We begin to evaluate people by if they adhere to the rules or if they do not. I, at one point or another, fell into this trap as well. Perhaps not to the same degree as others, but I can recall judging others based on their adherence to the laws I chose to adopt.
I cannot subscribe to the notion that a black and white lens brings true happiness because very few can live within the confines of the law without sin. If sin exists in ones life, then what? Often people hide that sin for fear of being judged according to the way they have judged or because the indoctrination they received created such fear that that any admittance of substandard behavior would surely yield some kind of excommunication. When sins are hidden they often get worse until at some point they can no longer be hidden. Often at this point the offender becomes frustrated with the black and white notion of the law and rebel. It is the same with children who are raised with parents who create a strictly controlled childhood environment. These children often leave home prematurely and have strained relationships with their parents, which is quite similar to those who rebel against the confines of black and white thought. There must exist an equilibrium between the law (control) and grace (acceptance and understanding). True happiness cannot be obtained through simple adherence to the law, for eventually we will fall short and we find that we cannot reconcile ourselves to the law.
I want to also mention that there are those who subconsciously know they fall short of the law, but compensate by minimizing their own faults and being an expert at identifying the faults of others. Their expert ability is derived from their own experiences. They fail to give others the grace they so longingly want, but cannot give because of their own love of the law. Their self-confidence wanes and is replaced by pride. Unfortunately, we often regard these people as the "most faithful" and are deceived into missing the very meaning of Christ's existence. Oh what a tragedy this is! For the meaning of Christ's existence is a path for those who fall short of the law, but we must have the law in order to fall short of it. It is the reconciliation that is of great beauty.