Whatever the scriptures say, there can be no doubt that the church is extremely works oriented. By their fruits we know them. The average Mormon has to worry about home teaching or visiting teaching, temple attendance, ward activities, giving talks, giving lessons, service projects, 3 or more hours of meetings each Sunday, meetings during the week, feeding the missionaries, referring friends to the missionaries, paying tithing, generous fast offerings, daily scripture study, personal prayer, family prayer, family home evening, writing in journals, genealogy, getting your boys' eagle project done, etc. And if a good Mormon buckles down and does everything he's supposed to for one month, the very next month he's back to square one. On top of all this, after a Mormon completes his self-financed mission, he's supposed to not delay getting married and having children while attending school and earning enough money to support his large family. I know, there's no scripture telling him when to get married and how many kids to have, so where does the pressure come from? Does it matter? The pressure is real. Then there's the extra meetings and duties associated with higher priesthood or relief society callings. Mormons are strongly encouraged (i.e. pressured) regularly to do missionary *work*, and few of them ever see someone join the church through their efforts. So that monkey's always on their backs. A Mormon can obey the word of wisdom, keep the law of chastity, be honest, etc., but if they don't keep up on their monthly checklists, they don't measure up to the spiritual giants who saw God and angels. No wonder most Mormons I know are dogged by feelings of guilt and inadequacy. When I attended PEC or ward council, the bishop or his councilors would always talk about how we (themselves included) should do more to serve others. The self-flagellation never ceases.I'm shocked that he left out the need to floss daily, to pay our taxes, to take out the garbage, to show up to work every day, to remember birthdays, to exercise, to shower daily, and to cut down on unhealthy snacks. What a chore life can be!
Actually, what a joy life can be. Yes, there's work to be done, but flossing and all the other things that are good for our bodies, our souls, our relationships with others, and even our 401(k) are things that bless us and make our lives better and magnify the joy we can have (well, scrap the part about the 401(k)).
I'm not ashamed to say that the Church offers numerous opportunities for us to grow, to learn, to serve and to sacrifice. For those who really want to serve the Lord with all their heart, might, mind, and strength, as the scriptures encourage, this Church has opportunities to match the time and talents you can bring to serve the Lord. But the checklist mentality expressed by the critic doesn't fit my experience.
When I was bishop, yes, it was overwhelming and I truly did not get enough sleep. But what rich years those were, years when I know I was sustained and helped along in spite of my flaws and whining by the kind hand of the Lord. I was needed and played a role in helping people - hopefully more than I hurt - and was able to be there when truly needed on many occasions. I wouldn't give that up, though I would do some things differently if I went back in time. My two years on a mission were some of the most precious years of my life and gave me far more education than any other two-year period in school ever did. I saw people's lives change for good, witnessed miracles, felt and experienced the joy that the Restored Gospel brings. Wonderful friendships, experiences, adventures - what a privilege and blessing it was to go and serve. And compared to the daily routine of academic studies or work, it was a pleasure and a vacation of sorts (well, it was Switzerland), although we worked very hard.
It's all about quality of life. We work hard and sacrifice for the future. We do this in school, looking forward to a job, and then when we experience the disappointment of a real job, we work hard looking forward to retirement, and then when we experience the disappointment of age, well, I guess we look forward to the next life. But in serving the Lord daily and monthly, we don't have to always be looking forward - we can experience joy and meaning right now. The work we do in visiting and helping others really matters. It makes our lives of higher quality right then and there. I know of no better way to make a difference and feel joy in life than in living the teachings of the Gospel and serving the Lord with all our heart, whereas the path of selfishness consistently brings disappointment and sorrow.
So yes, I'm going to keep striving to floss, exercise, pay taxes, go to Church meetings, share the message of the Gospel to those who are interested, visit a few people here and there, and maybe even do something with my genealogy some day. Pressure? I feel far more pressure from work and the IRS than I do from my kind and patient bishop. Maybe some leaders are pressurizers, but the leaders I've had have generally encouraged us to do what we can and not run faster than we have strength. The real religious pressure is not from my church leaders, but from the Lord, who tells us to serve Him with all our might, to keep His commandments, and to be perfect like Heavenly Father is perfect (Matt. 5:48). That's an imposing checklist, I admit, but it's all there to bless us and bring us joy, now and for eternity.
Update: OK, some Church leaders have turned up the pressure on the Saints. For example, the early Christian fathers repeatedly urge believers to keep the commandments, to serve God diligently, and be zealous of good works. Here's one of many passages I could cite, this one coming from the text known as First Clement, one of the earliest Christian writings outside the New Testament. The quotes are from sections 2 and 34:
Moreover, you were all humble and free from arrogance, submitting rather than demanding submission, more glad to give than to receive, and content with the provisions that God supplies. And giving heed to his words, you stored them up diligently in your hearts, and kept his sufferings before your eyes. Thus a profound and rich peace was given to all, together with an insatiable desire to do good, and an abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit fell upon everyone as well. Being full of holy counsel, with excellent zeal and a devout confidence you stretched out your hands to almighty God, imploring him to be merciful if you had inadvertently committed any sin. You struggled day and night on behalf of all the family of believers, that through fear and conscientiousness the number of his elect might be saved. You were sincere and innocent and free from malice one toward another. Every faction and every schism was abominable to you. You mourned for the transgressions of your neighbors: you considered their shortcomings to be your own. You never once regretted doing good, but were ready for every good work. Being adorned with a virtuous and honorable manner of life, you performed all your duties in the fear of him. The commandments and the ordinances of the Lord were written on the tablets of your hearts. . . .High expectations and even a sense of pressure from such expectations are not a new phenomenon, but are part of ancient Christianity (and ancient Judaism). If that really bothers you, you'll need to take it up with the Lord. There's a lot to do in this life. We're not here for constant vacation and games. Like Paul, we need to "press for the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:14) and in this course, we must "not be weary in well doing" (Gal. 6:9). It's not self-flagellation, but seeking joy for ourselves and those around us as we serve the Lord with all our hearts.
The good worker receives the bread of his labor confidently, but the lazy and careless dares not look his employer in the face. It is therefore, necessary that we should be zealous to do good, for all things come from him. For he forewarns us, “behold the Lord comes, and his reward is with him, to pay each one according to his work.” He exhorts us, therefore, who believe in him with our whole heart, not to be careless about any good work. (The Apostolic Fathers, ed. Michael W. Holmes, 2nd ed., Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1989, pp. 29, 46-47, emphasis mine.)