One Sunday, I saw one of my kids didn't have his arms folded during the prayer. His eyes weren't shut either. I knew this because he was looking at me.
Later, during class, Pudge confessed that he didn't like to fold his arms. He would rather just let them hang loose. I told him he could do whatever he wanted during prayers so long as he was quiet.
A girl: "Heavenly Father says we have to fold our arms."
Me: "No, he doesn't."
Pudge: "Sister Slummer said so."
Me: "Well, she's a fathead. And you can tell her that Brother Kirby said so."
Later, when it was time for the closing prayer, I told the kids to fold their heads and bow their arms. So ingrained was the prescribed function of reverence in them that only Pudge caught this wordplay.
I told you that to tell you this. What most people call the will of God is actually a bit of gospel or dogma processed through the filters of our own personalities. That's why God's will changes from person to person, even in the same faith.
If you're obsessively dogmatic, so too will be the manner of your worship. For example, Mormons are commanded not to drink intoxicating beverages. For most Latter-day Saints, this means no beer, wine or hard liquor. For others, it means no alcohol in any form, including cough syrup or sugar alcohol in some foods. To them, vanilla extract is of the devil.
You'll also see this behavior in our long and utterly useless search for the Lord's true will regarding caffeine in soda drinks. Beer or diet Coke. It's sixes.
Two guys can believe in the same thing, but just because one of them believes it while wearing a necktie doesn't mean he automatically occupies the high ground of faith or is more in tune with the Spirit.
It could be that conforming to a dress code is simply more important to him than it is to the other guy. Yes, it could also mean that the open-collar guy is a fallen spirit destined for one of the lower kingdoms. My bet is that God doesn't care one way or the other.
It isn't just Mormons. Hundreds of millions of people believe in the Quran, but only a teensy minority of them want to blow people up. Same with Christians, Jews, Catholics, Buddhists, perhaps even the Amish.
To be fair, let's include atheists or nonbelievers as well. If you're an intolerant @$&*#$ of an atheist, odds are that atheism didn't make you that way. You were probably an intolerant @$&*#$ to begin with.
When it comes to religion, people holler a lot about "truth." While I concede that this might be important, I also believe that the search for it is fraught with pitfalls for an ego-driven species like ours.
One thing is dead certain: Finding truth never automatically made anyone smart enough to put it to good use.
Robert Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.