“Tape Measure Mormons”

measuring-tapeThis is a quote I have used a few times since I heard L Whitney Clayton use it in a special stake conference in my area in January. It’s an old concept that I heard in many different stories over the years. The idea is that Tape Measure Mormons try to measure the strait and narrow path, trying to figure out just how far they can push their boundaries without completely leaving the path and getting lost.

Another story I have heard over the years was about a stagecoach company who was hiring drivers to take a particularly dangerous route over the mountains. The interview question was asked, “So, how close to the edge can you drive without losing a coach over the cliff?” Time and again, the drivers bragged about inches, fractions of inches, and even dangling a wheel over the side of the cliff. The man who was eventually awarded the job seemed puzzled by the question and answered, “Sir, I don’t rightly have any idea. You see, I always drive as far away from the edge as possible.”

There is a fallacy in human thinking about following Christ that assumes that we have the choice between having fun and enjoying life now, or having fun and enjoying life in an eternity that no one can definitively prove exists, even though a huge portion of humanity senses that it’s out there. So, feeling a bit cheated by the “strict rules and commandments” that one must keep as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, many people decide to be “righteous enough.” The idea is that God will be merciful for a few small transgressions, but ultimately reward us abundantly because we got it “mostly right.” Thus, one can enjoy life here and still get a good eternal deal, as well.

This is fallacy on both ends! The scriptures are replete with warning after warning that our choices on earth are to repent or face punishment. Christ, in his love and mercy, gave us an opportunity to be forgiven for every sin and mistake we make. However, since this is his gift to give, he sets the rules, and the rules are designed to change our natures and make us better than we could ever be on our own.

The saddest part about this fallacy, though, is the idea that those who choose to be strict followers of Christ are somehow “missing out.” There is this idea that the pleasures that the world has to offer are better than the joy and peace found in living the gospel. That spending time consuming substances harmful to the body and engaging in practices and relationships that can ultimately lead to addiction, ruined families, and decimated lives is better. True, not everyone that engages in these practices experiences negative consequences in this lifetime (that’s another topic for another post on how this existence runs on faith). But the risk is there that doesn’t exist in living the gospel. Living the gospel gives some of the greatest and purest gifts of all: clear conscience and a close relationship with our Savior, who has pledged to strengthen and help us through all periods and events in life.

So, the question becomes, which is more fulfilling: staying safely in the middle of the marked path, or seeing how far you can wander without becoming lost? Which kind of driver will you be – one who constantly risks a fatal fall over the side of a cliff to prove you can handle it, or one who recognizes the wisdom of staying as close to safety as possible? We each have the eternal right to choose.