Religious Obedience

I was listening to a talk today in sacrament meeting where the speaker was putting great emphasis on the fact that the leaders of the LDS church seek for members to obey their leaders out of understanding rather than blindly obeying. I’m confident that most people would concede that this is the ideal for any organization. The question that came to my mind was – in cases where someone has not gained an understanding regarding why they have been asked to do something, would church leaders prefer blind obedience or would they prefer inaction from those who do not understand?

I know some people would find that question easy to answer – those who view church leaders as power-hungry would argue that they would obviously prefer blind obedience in all cases where understanding has not been attained. Since I do not see the leaders of the church as seekers of power I don’t believe that absolute answer. I would think that they would prefer blind obedience only when inaction was identical to opposition. Otherwise it seems that seeking to understand would be of greater importance in most cases than ignorant obedience.

Of course in seeking to understand there is the counsel from the Lord that “If any man will do his will (obey), he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I (whoever is declaring the doctrine or commandment) speak of myself. ” (John 7:17) This suggests that seeking for understanding would require obedience to those things that you do understand as well as an eyes-wide-open test, through action (obedient action being the assumption), in order to gain understanding of whatever the leaders are saying that you do not understand yet. The question is, is that blind obedience, or is that simply a logical, clinical test? I think of it as a clinical test.

About David

David is the father of 8 extremely organized children (4 girls / 4 boys) who is constantly seeking answers to tough questions related to parenting, education and politics while moonlighting for 40 hours each week as a technology professional. He also enjoys cooking, gardening, and sports.

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Comments

7 Responses to Religious Obedience

  1. If you don’t understand something, it makes sense to ask yourself, “who does?” For those things that you don’t understand, who you decide to grant the label expertise to is the critical thing.

    What is the basis for LDS Church leader’s expertise? Is it plausible and useable in practicable terms? What is their track record in the past? To me, these are the questions to ask.

    Best regards.

  2. David says:

    Those are certainly valuable questions to ask. When dealing with pronouncements from church leaders who you believe to be speaking not simply for themselves but also for the Lord then the question is not merely do they have the experience etc. but it would seem fair to ask “do I trust that God knows what he’s talking about and do I trust that the prophet is accurately interpreting the message?”

    Recognizing that you do not share that perspective Obi wan, how would you expect that belief (that they are speaking for the Supreme Being) to alter the approach to knowledge acquisition?

  3. I think it alters the approach considerably. You are now putting trust in someone on the basis of whether they have authority to opine on items that are not falsifiable. How would you disprove what they said? “God says X.” On what basis do you challenge it. You cannot disprove the existence of God any more than you can disprove the existence of an invisible three-eyed creature within the depths of Jupiter.

    So the question is, I would assume, are they consistent with others who came before them? Is their interpretation of whatever authority they are interpreting plausible?

    Anway, good question.

  4. Carl says:

    Interesting request from Liberal for consistency. I think unless you understand where to look for consistency, you’re not going to be able to find that everything feels “consistent”.

    In the church, the basis of consistency is a personal understanding of the setup of the church, i.e. that the church is guided by revelation. This makes simple trust in the leaders more than blind obedience, just like flying an airplane at night using just your nav equipment is not blind obedience. If you don’t know whether the equipment is working, find out. If you know it’s working, trust it.

    Liberal’s statement implies an adversarial relationship with the prophet, where we must challenge what the prophet on his words to know whether it’s right or not. The only appropriate challenge is whether the prophet is speaking for God. There is no evidence in the world to determine this question, and therefore, this challenge can only be resolved by asking God.

    Therefore, Liberal’s real questions are:
    (1)Is there is a God?
    (2) If there is a God, what is our relationship to him?
    (3) If there is a God and we have a relationship with him, does that relationship, entitle us to receive communication from him?
    (4) If there is a God, and we have a relationship that entitles us to a communication from Him, is this person authorized to speak for Him.

    All of the above must be proven by asking God because a person who speaks for God acts not in his own capacity, but as an agent to a principal. One must hold the principal responsible for any perceived inconsistencies and not the agent.

  5. Reach Upward says:

    “Sometimes we will receive counsel that we cannot understand or that seems not to apply to us, even after careful prayer and thought. Don’t discard the counsel, but hold it close. If someone you trusted handed you what appeared to be nothing more than sand with the promise that it contained gold, you might wisely hold it in your hand awhile, shaking it gently. Every time I have done that with counsel from a prophet, after a time the gold flakes have begun to appear, and I have been grateful.” — President Henry B. Eyring at http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=2354fccf2b7db010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=ba5c3b4c3713a110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&hideNav=1

  6. Carl says:

    Why did I waste all that space up above when Reach’s quote summarizes it much better than I did?

  7. David says:

    Carl you’re worrying me with your lawyerese:

    . . . a person who speaks for God acts not in his own capacity, but as an agent to a principal. One must hold the principal responsible for any perceived inconsistencies and not the agent.

    Thanks to all of you for sharing your thoughts on this.

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