This article was originally published in LDS Living by Arianna Rees. Below is an excerpt.
If there’s one group of people the Savior disliked, it would probably be the Pharisees. But the Savior didn’t dislike anyone, you might say. Well, check out the New Testament. Christ calls the Pharisees fools, serpents, and vipers, and at one point even says that they are “full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanliness” (Matthew 23:27). At every point in the Savior’s earthly ministry, there always seemed to be a Pharisee lurking about, trying to trip Him up or make Him look foolish. Is it any wonder that they frustrated Him so much?
The Bible Dictionary notes that Pharisees separated themselves from their Jewish brothers and sisters and “prided themselves on their strict observance of the law, and on the care with which they avoided contact with things gentile.” What stands out to me as I read the entry on Pharisees is the following section: “the tendency of their teaching was to reduce religion to the observance of a multiplicity of ceremonial rules, and to encourage self-sufficiency and spiritual pride. They were a major obstacle to the reception of Christ and the gospel by the Jewish people” (Bible Dictionary, p. 750, Pharisees). That’s a pretty hefty claim, one which helps us understand why the Pharisees really bothered the Savior.
As I’ve studied the Pharisees, I’ve tried to put them in the context of the Church today. What would they be like if they were Mormons? What if their ceremonial robes were traded for skirts and ties? What if, instead of walking the streets of Jerusalem, they walked the hallways of our church buildings? How would they act? What would they say and do? It’s a startling thing to think about and something that makes me understand why Christ would tell us, “Do not ye after their works” (Matthew 23:3). The truth is, that if we’re not careful, it can be very easy for any one of us to be like the Pharisees. So, how do we prevent that? Well, here are a few things I suspect the Pharisees might do if they were Latter-day Saints and how we can avoid them:
1. They’d go out of their way to exclude others
If the Pharisees were Mormons, they might be a close group of ward friends with reluctance to extend their friendship to those they felt were different. They’d avoid members who they felt weren’t living the gospel the way they should, keeping their children away from families with wayward or struggling children and perhaps ignoring new members struggling to fit in. They would stay away from nonmembers altogether. A Mormon Pharisee would treat their group of friends or even their ward as an exclusive club, and would gladly mingle with the 99 without giving one thought to the one.
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