Exceptions to the Rule. They crop up everywhere, don’t they? Nature, Math, English grammar. Always there … lurking. Just when we think we understand something, an exception pops up and we have to re-examine our thinking. But do the exceptions make the rule “untrue”? Do we throw out the rule because there are exceptions to it?
Personally, I don’t think so. When we begin to say that rules don’t exist, or shouldn’t be followed because of exceptions, then we delve into a space of chaos.
Here’s an example of what I mean.
Everyone who ever has lived on earth has sinned, so everyone needs to repent.
That’s a pretty inclusive rule!
Oh, wait. There is (at least) one exception.
Jesus Christ never sinned.
I think that the most interesting thing to go along with our discussion then, is that, though He clearly was THE great exception to the rule, (like 0 in mathematics) He got baptized anyway.
So what does this teach us?
Before we go into that, I’m going to share a couple of stories.
Story # 1 -
When I was at Basic Training, I broke my leg, a stress fracture just under the right knee. I was in excruciating pain for several weeks. No one believed me and I tried to continue to “run through the pain”. When we took our final PT test, I hobble-ran around the track and began to be lapped by all of the other soldiers. The drill sergeants then realized that there was something real and horribly wrong and sent me to the Army hospital where an x-ray proved the break. We still had several weeks of training left, and I began a strange routine of doing the best I could.
During PT one morning, my Drill sergeant yelled at me for doing the exercises and made me sit and watch. A few days later, when we were at a special camping training (bivouacking in the woods) I was chosen as one of the night guards because of my injury. Guard at night, sleep during the day. Although, on one of those days, I went out for training with my platoon, at my drill sergeant’s behest. We were supposed to run through an open field (practicing the art of covering ourselves and our buddies). Each group went out and I lingered at the back (as running with a broken leg had proven not to be my thing.) Then my Drill Sergeant told me it was my turn.
“But, Drill Sergeant Jones, remember? My Leg?”
“GO! I DON’T CARE! GO, MOVE, MOVE MOVE!!!!”
He could be quite persuasive, so out I ran, hobbling through the exercise, hoping that an enemy soldier wouldn’t “pick me off” as I went. Hobble, hobble, hobble, hide behind a tree, cover my buddy, hobble, hobble, hobble, run behind a rock, watch for enemy snipers – you get the idea.
The funny thing was that, as silly as I looked, I actually enjoyed being out in the field that day – injury and all. It was such a relief to participate in something after being “held back”. The air was fresh. Movement was welcome to my body. I felt unified and reconnected with my platoon again, and I never got hit by the pretend enemy! ;)
Story # 2 -
When I was in my twenties, I became the Laurel adviser in my ward (that means that I was the teacher for all girls aged 16-18 in my area). I began to teach them, that though they wanted to get married – which every Mormon girl wants of course, [note that's the general rule, not the exception] ;) sometimes marriage didn’t come as fast as we planned, and that they should have a something else in mind for life without nuptials.
As it turns out, all of the girls in my class got married before I did.
I thought that “marriage doesn’t come right away” was the “new rule”, because it was so in my case (and, after all, it is the teaching of mainstream American society). It turned out that I was the exception, and that in that class, the original rule (that most Mormon girls get married young) was in full force.
So now, let’s get back to our discussion above, about the Savior and His baptism and introduce a BIG, GIANT, sticky problem.
What do we do in gospel living when we are the exception to the rule? Does it make the rule “untrue”? Do we throw out the rule for everyone in the whole church simply because I am an exception to it (or because exceptions exist)?
The scriptures teach us that we are to follow the example of the Savior. (See this link for a plethora of scriptures about this teaching.) Here is one of my favorites -
For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: (1 Peter 2:21)
Are you saying, Laryssa, that if we are the exception to the rule, we are still supposed to follow the rule?
Yes, I am. Or at least, I am saying that if you can’t follow the rule, because of your exception, you should live as close to the rule as possible. Yes, I am Drill Sergeant Jones, pushing you out onto the field with a broken leg.
“‘To fulfill the law,’ said Jesus, when the baptist questioned why.”
For two reasons.
Reason #1. Because of this great promise -
If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself (John 7:17).
That by doing, we will know and understand the reasons that God gave us the doctrine to begin with. Then we can testify from our own experience about A.) the truthfulness of the teaching, B.) why it is the doctrine of God, and C.) of the miracles that helped us live the doctrines even while in our exceptions.
Reason # 2. Because, if we follow the example of the Savior, (especially in our exceptions) we will have the power to bless the human family in ways so powerful it is incomprehensible.
Just look at what the Savior wrought, by taking on sin as a sinless being. He was the exception. His was an adult life devoid of sin. He had every right to enter into the Kingdom of God because He lived perfectly (see 1 Nephi 15:34, 3 Nephi 27:19, and Revelation 21:27) and yet, He gave up His “exception to the rule status” and took upon Himself our sins, and through that great and glorious Atonement, gave every single human being the ability to enter into the Kingdom of God, should they chose to accept it.
Now, that is phenomenal.
Each exception to the rule of life carries with it a huge burden and a huge opportunity.
So, how do you live as close to the rule as you can with such difficult problems? What are you expected to do? I don’t know, because your case (quite probably) is so very different from mine. But there is Someone who does know. If you ask Him, He will show you with baby steps, and then sometimes, with grander steps, what is right for your unique and personal situation.
I will give a simple example from my life.
When I was a single sister in the church that teaches that Marriage is the ultimate design of both earth life, and of ALL ETERNITY, I found myself getting older and older without the opportunity (and I found that the rule was that most Mormon young adults were getting married and having those babies that I so desperately wanted – see story # 2 above).
I went through a period of anger and rebellion. But then, because I loved God, I decided to try to live life in the gospel, even though my circumstances were not ideal according to the general rule.
Then, I went through a time when I demanded that every one, every religious talk and teaching about marriage (in conference or any other church function) bring up and recognize my own personal exception to the rule (and coincidentally, offer praise and comfort for my “amazing faithfulness”).
Finally, I came to a point in which, I began to realize the necessity of giving up my demands, and doing what the Spirit was prompting me to do – to testify of the importance of the family, without regard to my own personal exception.
I focused my thoughts and prayers on my relationship with God. When the pain, anger, or injustice came up, I prayed or sang a hymn, treating those thoughts as I would an immoral or upsetting thought – forcing them to leave my mind, rather than spending time dwelling on it, “licking old wounds”.
In so doing, over time, it took away the pain and anger. It drew me closer to the Savior. It made me an effective Seminary teacher because I could teach without angry energy seething out of me. It put me in a position to be taught deeper truths about the doctrine.
And, OF course, not getting married young brought me these exceptional military stories that I am now able share with you. ;)
The years have passed. Eleven, to be exact, since I got married and started my own family. Now, I am asked to live with different set of exceptions to the rule. Exceptions that I do not have the courage or the permission to talk about yet. However, the Spirit whispers the same solution to those problems — follow the Savior. Live the rule, or as close to the rule as I can.
We hobble, hobble, hobble, and hide behind a bush, hobble hobble, hobble, cover each other as battle buddies, hobble, hobble, hobble and watch for enemy snipers. It’s not pretty to watch. My husband and I don’t move as gracefully in the battlefield as other families that live without our exceptions to the rule. But, we are participating in the activity.
Yes, I am petty and wish for things to be ideal, but, I see miracles on a regular basis. Miracles that help us live as close to the rule as possible. I am learning the doctrines and finding that they bring joy. I can witness that following God’s ways and rules give me peace and great opportunities that I wouldn’t have if I didn’t live this way. And finally, hopefully, as you and I try to be more like the Savior, by placing our own “exceptions to the rule” on the altar, that sacrifice will bless lives, just as His did.