58: Obedience and Agency

Mormonism teaches the importance of being obedient to God and God’s will while at the same time emphasizing the bedrock fact of our individual agency. The gospel ideal is that we fully and knowingly submit our will to that of God, and in this way be obedient while still acting entirely out of our own agency. Of course, life is much messier than this, and the ideal hides from us a bit. How can we truly know God’s will and when we’re hearing God’s voice and not our own? Because of difficulties like this, one of the most common ways that messages about obedience and agency become complicated comes in the form of exhortations to listen to LDS prophets, apostles, and other leaders who are more practiced in discerning the will of God, and to then “obey” their counsel. Before long, the ideal of our growing into our own trust in our own relationship with God fades into the background, and obeying leaders, following gospel programs, performing particular actions move to the forefront. The ideal is always there, but sometimes the message that we are to be growing in confidence in our own relationship with God becomes harder to pick out amid the noise.

In this episode, Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, Chelsea Fife, and Michael Fife discuss these tensions, their possible origins, and the reasons for the ascendance of “obedience to leaders” rhetoric and a focus on performing activities that yield more easily measurable results. They also explore the call to deeper discipleship and the understandings and pathways that help keep the ideal of free agents freely submitting to the divine will based upon their own relationship with God. The primary questions underlying the discussion are: What is spiritual maturity? How can we work toward it and come to live joyfully in a church culture that doesn’t always encourage us to grow too far beyond “I Am a Child of God”? How do we become “adults” of God? How do we remember always that the true call is not to remain children but to mature to the point where we are ready to become brides of Christ, full partners with God, partakers of the eternal life?

After listening, please share your ideas in the comments section below!

Comments

comments

37 comments for “58: Obedience and Agency

  1. First Law of Heaven
    November 2, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    I look forward to listening, but just from reading this summary, I’m reminded of the article in the Ensign from March 1980 describing the role members have in obeying the counsel of their leaders:  “The relationship between the prophets and the members is not one of
    blind acceptance, contrary to some misunderstandings and misstatements,
    but rather places on members the full responsibility to study and pray,
    so that each also may receive confirmation from the Lord of the First
    Presidency’s position on the matter at hand.”
    What a privilege we, as members, have to pray and receive the one “right” answer that confirms the views of a handful of old men.

  2. First Law of Heaven
    November 2, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    I look forward to listening, but just from reading this summary, I’m reminded of the article in the Ensign from March 1980 describing the role members have in obeying the counsel of their leaders:  “The relationship between the prophets and the members is not one of
    blind acceptance, contrary to some misunderstandings and misstatements,
    but rather places on members the full responsibility to study and pray,
    so that each also may receive confirmation from the Lord of the First
    Presidency’s position on the matter at hand.”
    What a privilege we, as members, have to pray and receive the one “right” answer that confirms the views of a handful of old men.

  3. November 3, 2011 at 7:45 am

    child abuse is what it amounts to if your forcing a kid to think a certain way and try and believe in an imaginary thing like a ghost 

    • Anonymous
      November 3, 2011 at 12:39 pm

      Child abuse is a little strong, since nearly all parents are guilty of telling their children how to believe, and across the spectrum of world religions all traditions have their illogical tenants of faith that may seem nonsensical to those who grew up outside the tradition. But I agree it is very important for everyone to develop and for every parent to instill the ability to think for themselves and act in a way that is positive for their development, and not be acted upon solely by another’s belief. Independence of thought is indeed rare amongst humans and it’s something we all need to cultivate.

      • Tyson Jacobsen
        November 5, 2011 at 7:21 am

        Let’s not change the definition of child abuse to ease our consciences.  Our children deserve better than that.

        • Anonymous
          November 5, 2011 at 3:14 pm

          Lets avoid extremist positions and statements so that we can promote open dialogue.

          • Tyson Jacobsen
            November 7, 2011 at 6:47 pm

            I didn’t realize that objecting to child abuse could be considered extreme.  Please allow me to object to that position as well.

          • Dan Wotherspoon
            November 7, 2011 at 9:09 pm

            Please provide a definition of child abuse that we can take a look at that would suggest that teaching your children your sincere beliefs, even if those beliefs included the belief in a god, qualifies as child abuse. What wouldn’t be child abuse other than not teaching your children any beliefs? And wouldn’t developmental psychologists perhaps even argue that not providing stories that form the basis for finding meaning in the world qualify as suspect parenting?

          • Jacob Brown
            November 9, 2011 at 12:24 pm

            I think there is a substantive difference between “forcing a kid to think a certain way” and “teaching your children your sincere beliefs.”

            When I think back to my childhood (I’m talking about under 16 years old) in a devout Mormon family I feel like I never had the choice to believe or not believe. I feel like I was really forced to accept it. The bargaining chip was my acceptance in the family unit. LDS families are so tight knit that rejecting their prescribed beliefs is tantamount to rejecting your family. I can see how this is abusive.

            On the other hand, this kind of abuse is not nearly as bad as other abuse that I am glad I was not subject too. And furthermore, when I think about the behavior of my parents surrounding conformity and compliance with institutional requirements, I don’t remember them being forceful about any of it. I just went right along with it all trusting them. I wasn’t the rebelious type (though sometimes I wish I was).

            Maybe the institutional machinery is just so finely tuned that it eeks obedience out of the meek without them having a snowball’s chance in hell of developing their own personal faith. This craftiness of nurturing loyalty in children is exactly what some sincerely concerned church leaders want. But it also steals something precious away from them that many people value today. In this way, it is like LDS families force their kids to think a certain way.

          • Dan Wotherspoon
            November 9, 2011 at 10:07 pm

            Good comments, Jacob. Thanks! Given your story, which doesn’t seem abusive or involving craftiness on the part of your parents, why not reject outright the claim that this sort of indoctrination into the family’s story of what the world is like, what its purposes are, how best to be happy, etc.  is “abusive”” Why talk at all in terms like “craftiness” in the way caring people nurture loyalty when you don’t think they are doing it with something other than pure intent? If feels to me as if Jack and Tyson, in wanting to give this label a chance to be applied to teaching children about beliefs, are acting a lot like Pastor Jeffress in knowing how a term like “cult” would play out in the media and among the underthinking public while being fully aware that he/they are dissembling. I say call them out on it. Let you story and its insights have their impact without being contaminated by what they can’t defend.

          • Dan Wotherspoon
            November 9, 2011 at 10:07 pm

            Good comments, Jacob. Thanks! Given your story, which doesn’t seem abusive or involving craftiness on the part of your parents, why not reject outright the claim that this sort of indoctrination into the family’s story of what the world is like, what its purposes are, how best to be happy, etc.  is “abusive”” Why talk at all in terms like “craftiness” in the way caring people nurture loyalty when you don’t think they are doing it with something other than pure intent? If feels to me as if Jack and Tyson, in wanting to give this label a chance to be applied to teaching children about beliefs, are acting a lot like Pastor Jeffress in knowing how a term like “cult” would play out in the media and among the underthinking public while being fully aware that he/they are dissembling. I say call them out on it. Let you story and its insights have their impact without being contaminated by what they can’t defend.

          • Jacob Brown
            November 10, 2011 at 12:19 am

            I think that is definitely part of it. Child abuse is definitely something that gets people’s attention, and there is no way what I experienced should be equated with child abuse.

            I simply believe that the trust and loyalty of children is abused to accomplish a means that should be accomplished by other means. The other methodology I’m thinking of would probably lead to lower activity and conversion rates, but I think it would also lead to more genuine faith. It’s a trade off that leaders in the high stakes business of saving souls are not willing to make, I guess.

          • Dan Wotherspoon
            November 10, 2011 at 5:44 pm

            I’d love to hear more about what this “other methodology” would be like. I don’t sense that there’s much alternative (or even an attractive alternative) to parents teaching their children what they really believe about life’s biggest questions and what is the best way they know for happiness. Children, up until mid- to late teens, really don’t grasp complexity. I’m all for modeling a faith that invites children to ask questions and invite deeper exploration at whatever stage the child is, but I don’t think putting the choice to “believe or not believe as we do” in front of children before quite late in their development is all that healthy. What do you have in mind?

          • Anonymous
            November 11, 2011 at 1:49 pm

            Love these comments. I agree with Jacob in that parents and the Church should allow for authentic exploration, and I agree with Dan that the decision to “believe or not to believe” is not the right approach – it should not be put in front of the child until later in his/her development. But other means of spiritual exploration should be embraced early. I think one alternative would be to begin teaching children that there are many ways to feel the spirit and to know of truth, and that parents should help children feel and explore these different ways, and if a child doesn’t sense truth in the way prescribed as mentioned in the podcast (i.e. holy ghost must be still small voice or a burning in bosom) then parents should be open to other forms of enlightenment that, once the child feels something authentic – they feel that seed beginning to sprout to quote Alma and the children can describe it, that parents don’t tell the child that’s not exactly how it works, but they be like Ammon and confirm that the “Great Spirit” or whatever the child is feeling is good and of God or a God, instead of telling him/her that God only looks  / acts / feels only a certain way. I think that’s a start, to embrace alternatives and other evidences of spirituality early on.

          • Tyson Jacobsen
            November 7, 2011 at 6:47 pm

            I didn’t realize that objecting to child abuse could be considered extreme.  Please allow me to object to that position as well.

  4. Kevin
    November 3, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    In my view, it is important to understand what obedience is and is not. It is not a law or a commandment or a virtue. It is a value-neutral practice that is as good or as bad as whatever it is that is being obeyed.

    Also, obedience is not something that grows out of independent agreement. If the spirit tells me to do something, and the spirit tells you to do something, and I also tell you to do it, then you are not being called to obey me but rather to obey the spirit. The fact that you and I receive similar inspiration or that we independently agree on what is to be done cannot mean that you are somehow obeying me. Thus, if members must ultimately obey the Lord’s inspiration, they cannot meaningfully be said to be directly obeying the prophets’ counsel.

    I believe that the decision to be obedient is ultimately one of trust. For example, if you trust your intellect to guide you in a given situation, then you will obey the guidance of your intellect. The same holds true for inspiration, intuition, common sense, the advice of other people, and feelings of compassion, fairness, and love.

    All of these sources of guidance are wrapped up in our consciences, which become the compasses (liahonas?) for the choices we make. The moral task of our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and ourselves is to build up and inform our consciences so they are trustworthy guides that never leave us at the mercy of demands for blind obedience. 

    • Chelsea Fife
      November 3, 2011 at 11:02 pm

      Interesting thoughts, Kevin.  In regard to what you said about trust:  “I believe that the decision to be obedient is ultimately one of trust…”  How do you reconcile that with the duplicitous messages of follow the prophet and listen to the still small voice?  Do you think you can only trust one or the other or do you feel there is room for obedience to both?  Does obedience have to be constant and thorough in all things in order to be considered “obedient”?  

      I think there is room for a really interesting discussion around the lines of how much obedience can define one as “obedient”.

      • Kevin
        November 4, 2011 at 12:11 pm

        In response to your question, I don’t try to reconcile following the prophet and listening to the still, small voice. But the question doesn’t really apply to me since I’m not Mormon.

        As for trusting inspiration and being consistent, I just try to be careful. My prayers tend to sound something like the following prayer from Thomas Merton, with which you may already be familiar:

        “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going, I do not see the road ahead of me,
        I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

        “But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.

        “Therefore, I will trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”

        Thanks for the great podcast.

        • Chelsea Fife
          November 4, 2011 at 4:41 pm

          That’s beautiful!

    • Jacob Brown
      November 9, 2011 at 12:36 pm

      I really like this definition of obedience. I think it is a really wonderful way to think about it.

      I really like the idea of a parent nurturing the compass in a child. I think most traditional LDS families feel like raising children is more like training a puppy. You train them to be obedient to certain standards and principles to overcome the selfish tendencies and passions that come from being a “natural man”. And then when they grow up, they will just continue to hold to those principles.

      It is like holding their hand to the iron rod while they’re kids so that they keep holding on when they get older versus taking them up to the Tree of Life and really letting them taste the fruit. The latter sounds like much more divine parenting to me.

  5. Anonymous
    November 3, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    Great podcast. Good, Stage 5, Fowler stuff here. As always, I love the insight that Dr. Finlayson-Fife brings to the table. Also, I really enjoyed listening to Michael and Chelsea. They are really an intersting couple to me, especially in learning that they are “TBM, card-carrying” members (to quote Michael).

    I had a recommendation for a future podcast (maybe even a series of podcasts) that is based around some of the comments that Chelsea made. I’m a soon-to-be parent who is struggling with how to raise my child in the Church. I’m an active member of the Church who struggles with a bit of cognitive dissonance, and I would love to hear a couple like Mike and Chelsea talk about some of the ways they raise their children in the church, while helping them to avoid some of the sometimes harmful aspects of the Church and culture.

    Dan, as always, great job facilitating this discussion.

    • Chelsea Fife
      November 3, 2011 at 11:10 pm

      Thanks for your comments, Thisiscrazy28!  I like to read that people think I sound interesting—it makes me feel cooler than I actually am.  🙂

      I agree with you that there is a need for dialogue surrounding ways to raise children in the church.  That topic alone is a a major point of discussion in our house.  We have a 12 year old daughter who recently entered Beehives and it’s a total game changer to have a child old enough to be deeply impacted and influenced by the teachings of others.  How to root children in the goodness of the gospel vs. the culture of the church is huge question that’s always on my mind.  I am ALWAYS on the lookout for people who seem to be navigating that road successfully.  

      • Mistercurie
        November 5, 2011 at 1:27 pm

        I think you are being a good parent when you child finds it a safe enough place to be honest and admit they don’t feel the Holy Ghost rather then lie to try and fit in.  That is some integrity and is an awesome trait to instill in your children!

  6. Anonymous
    November 5, 2011 at 2:23 am

    While I really enjoyed podcast I sort felt like the usual way this lesson in Sunday school goes wasn’t talked about.  Here’s how I’m use to hearing it presented: 

    1.  First law of Heaven is obedience  (that gets written on the chalk board).  Someone raises there hand and cites the scripture “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven…”  (You know how it goes)

    2.  Not long after that we end up with a reference to D&C 1:38 “whether by my voice or the voice of my servants it is the same”.  Pull out a few references to the reason we have prophets, etc…

    3.  Draw the logical conclusion that whatever is said by any of the apostles to be word of God and refer to the first law of Heaven, case closed.

    4.  If someone brings up a statement that was said in the past that is obviously challenges this strict line of thinking, they pull out the “living prophet” trump card.

    5.  Somewhere along the line it is quickly pointed out that you too can pray about this and receive the answer that it is from God.  

    2nd bell rings, someone stands and says the closing prayer, and its over.

    • November 5, 2011 at 5:06 pm

      I enjoyed your characterization of a Sunday School class. Unfortunately, that type of Sunday School class does happen. There are at least two problems with the class you depicted.

      First, the scriptures don’t teach the first law of heaven is obedience. The scriptures teach that love precedes obedience. Obedience comes from love. I would say love is the first law of heaven.

      Second, D&C 1:38 doesn’t teach that statements of Priesthood leaders have the same value as statements from God. That verse says that God’s word will be fulfilled, and it is the same whether God’s word is fulfilled directly by Him or by his servants. This implies the servants are inspired to do and say the word of God. And, this further implies that if the servants aren’t inspired or don’t follow God’s inspiration, they aren’t fulfilling God’s word. It’s unfortunate that teachers in the church often give that verse as an absolute statement that we should be obedient to our leaders, rather than being obedient to them when the leaders are inspired.

      • November 5, 2011 at 11:50 pm

        Unfortunately, there is a tendency to (mis)use that passage as a blank check to give leaders carte blanche to say whatever they want and then equate that with the word of God, which is not to be questioned.

        • Jennifer Finlayson-Fife
          November 8, 2011 at 6:57 am

          As I lisetned to the podcast again (after recording it), the statement Dan made regarding the disproportionate obedience to agency references cited by Chelsea as likely in reference to obedience to God (not obedience to leaders exclusively) is a complicated one in my opinion, as it begs the question regarding obedience.  We are taught to obey servants of God as a way to know God.  They are the ones telling us God’s will, so essentially one is asked to put one’s trust in another’s understanding of God and follow it as the way to obey God.   The question really is how much trust should we grant our leaders in teaching us about God and right and wrong vs how much trust we should put in our own sense of right and wrong, in our own capacity to follwo the spirit, etc.   To Cheslea’s point, I don’t think we are encouraged to develop and determine our own sense of right and wrong nearly as much as we are encouraged to follow top-down expectations.  This makes sense to me in terms of the functioning and cohesiveness of an organization, but in my opinion, does not encourgae spiritual development (or group evolution)  to the degree that earnest individual truth seeking does.   Just an afterthought…

          • Anonymous
            November 8, 2011 at 12:58 pm

            I agree. We are not taught to develop our own compass as much as we’re told to develop our confidence and faith in what prophets, seers and revelators tell us to do.

    • Jacob Brown
      November 9, 2011 at 12:56 pm

      Sorry about that lesson I gave in Sunday School the other week. I really didn’t have time to prepare a good lesson. I have been doing a lot of overtime at work, and I always struggle to get the kids ready for church on time. My daughter loves to put on those pretty dresses, but I have to fight with my son to get dressed every week.

      I knew I could trust the manual to get me through the lesson, and I am grateful for it. My experience as a missionary and then as a seminary teacher for many years has prepared me to teach impromptu lessons like this. The material is approved by church leaders and meticulously scrutinized by the church. It is the same lessons my leaders taught me when I was young. I know that they only wanted what is best for me.I know I could use a more sophisticated approach at addressing these topics to make it interesting, but we are suppose to stick to the fundamentals. We are not prepared as a church to go much deeper in these things as is evidenced by the topics covered in General Conference. That meeting sets the tone for the discussions we should be having in church. Sunday School is not the time and place for digging down into doctrine. You should learn about these things further during personal scripture study as prompted by the spirit. Also, Deseret Book has a lot of good extra reading material too. President Monson’s latest book “Teachings of Thomas S. Monson” is now out, and it is 10 percent off online.You have to remember that more advanced material would be over the head of investigators and new members anyway. Sunday School needs to nurture the broadest audience possible and avoid any complicated issues. These newer testimonies are fragile and need the gentle care of us more developed life-long members.

      If you want some suggestions for some more advanced material, just PM me. I have a great list of books you can read and a wonderful podcast you might want to listen to. 🙂

  7. Mistercurie
    November 5, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    Enjoyable podcast.  I hope that your deeper discussion of church issues will play a role in guiding the future direction of the church.  I think you are doing a good work for the church members.  

  8. November 7, 2011 at 6:59 am

    Great Podcast.  There was much in it to think about,  I really enjoyed it and learned a lot.  I was a little surprised that no one quoted or referred to one of the BIG Obedience verses in the Book of Mormon.  It was the “Motto” of the Mission I served in, it made up our “Mission Crest” and we were hit over the head with it all the time:

    “Yea, and they did obey and observe to perform every word of command with exactness; yea, and
    even according to their faith it was done unto them; and I did remember the words which they said unto me that their mothers had taught them.” Alma 57:21

    In our Mission Motto and when our MP quoted it we/he never got past the word “exactness” never any message about faith or mothers, just obeying with exactness.

    I think that there are a number of members out there like my MP who take the whole “Obey and observe with exactness” to be a very major part of the gospel/Church.

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      November 7, 2011 at 9:17 pm

      Hadn’t remembered that one, Andrew. Thanks! Agree that some members view exactness as central. Did you agree with your mission emphasis back then? Now post mission, how do you feel about the “exactness” emphasis? How would you respond in a conversation with your mission president today–and if you don’t agree as much as you might have earlier, how might we all respond when confronted with members like him in our own wards and circle of friends and family? It seems to me that in the  “become as a child” section of this podcast there might be some ideas that would be helpful in responding to this attitude. Any riffs on that or other angles you are willing to share? 

    • Commenter
      November 11, 2011 at 6:41 pm

      I think that part of the problem here is that while there certainly is much to be said for obeying with exactness (and it’s probably not a bad idea in a military combat situation), such obedience isn’t the main point of Helaman’s account here. The main themes appear to me to be faith and keeping one’s eyes on the goal while adapting to changing circumstances. I’m not speaking against obedience, but to put all the focus there is leaving out the clearer messages of the story. The obedience line makes a good sound bite, but it’s not all the story is about.

  9. Anonymous
    November 7, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    Toward the end of this episode the thought popped into my head that its title might be “How to be in the LDS Church but not of it.”

    Much of the discussion seemed to be working through cognitive dissonance – a term becoming so common that one can feel immunity from it by simply beating others to its mention.  I felt I was hearing thoughtful members working out how they could avoid letting the Church act as a surrogate parent for God given its propensity for using discredited parenting practices. Specifically, its emphasis applying letter-of-the-law Gospel metrics rather than supporting individuals’ internalization of “higher” principles.

    Coincidentally, I am reading UVa Professor Timothy D. Wilson’s new book, Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change.  He addresses relevant parenting issues based on empirical scientific studies.  Not all psychology is “soft.”

    In Chapter 4 – “Shaping Our Kids’ Narratives” – Wilson discusses two styles of parenting.  The first centers on the problematical use of “conditional negative regard” and “conditional positive regard.”  The second centers on the more positive “autonomy support.”  Simply put, the first is carrot & stick external manipulation that while the idea of the second is to foster autonomous.  The overreaching idea is one of helping children (and people in general) find meaning, hope and purpose through the construction of personal narratives in a process he calls “story editing.” 

    Here’s an example of an experiment Wilson gives that illustrates how this works.

    A child is brought into a playroom by an adult and shown an array of toys.  One toy (a robot) is far more appealing than the others.  The adult tells the child “While I’m gone for a few minutes you can play with any of these toys EXCEPT the robot”

    But this is done in two ways. For children randomly assigned to one group the adult adds

        “If you play with the robot, I would be very upset and angry with you.”

    For children assigned to the other group the adult adds:

        “If you play with the robot, I would be a little annoyed with you.”

    Timothy Wilson writes:

    “The key result is that both threats were successful: no child actually played with the forbidden toy…” 

    “[However] the critical question is how the children EXPLAINED TO THEMSELVES why they weren’t playing with the toy.”

    “In the sever threat condition, the children were more likely to attribute their behavior to the threat … [and this led to them interpret the toy as having greater value].

    “[In the] mild threat condition the kids found another reason to explain their good behavior, namely, THAT THEY MUST BE ESPECIALLY HONEST KIDS WHO ARE GOOD AT AVOIDING TEMPTATION.” [And this condition also led them to infer that they must not like the robot as much as they thought.].” 

    Perhaps the most important aspect of this experiment is what Wilson next explains (as one of the foremost experts in this area of human psychology):

    “These kinds of changes in people’s narratives are not fully conscious.”

    In his first book, Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious, Wilson surveys the research on unconscious cognition, which reveals how pervasive and 
    “high-level”” it is – and also how impoverished our ability to derive accurate self-knowledge by introspection.  

    This research has profound implications for our understanding of motivation, belief formation, and choice.  It is going to force thoughtful people to construct new narratives about what it means to be human.

    Beware, this work had a greater impact on my faith journey than polygamy/polyandry, blacks and the priesthood, or Book of Mormon implausibilities.  I was humbled into agnosticism – but not into despair.  A liberating narrative can be constructed from purely natural elements – you just can’t let yourself get too hung up about death.

  10. Anonymous
    November 7, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    I really enjoyed the podcast. It is one of the beautiful tragedies of the Church that we put so much emphasis on obedience, especially when the ultimate stakes are salvation. We talk about obedience like you’re either in or out, obeying or rebelling, but we all understand that its really a matter of degrees. And that means we could always doing more. Therefore you get two kinds of Mormons: the honest and anxious, who always feel like they’re not doing enough, and the smug and self-satisfied, whom one guy called “whited sepulchers.” So those that think they’re doing well aren’t, and those that think they aren’t doing enough are. That we Mormons gather around the banner of obedience is really a mixed bag. 

    It is the Mormon obedience instinct which built the Kirkland Temple and massacred the Fancher party at Mountain Meadows. 

    Paul thought that salvation by obedience was a fool’s errand, and I tend to agree. But then I watch the movie “17 Miracles,” and I realize the sacrifices Mormons have made for their religion elevates all of us. One who enjoys communion with God as a present reality feels no need to obey his leaders against his own inclination. But the woman who feels herself estranged from God will go to any lengths to fulfill her obligation to the Lord. I don’t know which is more edifying to behold.

  11. Dan Wotherspoon
    November 11, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Great stuff, McCams (responding to your note in the thread where the comments were getting SO narrow)! Appreciate the reminder that ideas and truth claims aren’t the only realm, that perhaps even more important is that we validate their own experiences even when young. That confidence that “I’m” not wrong just because a particular formulation isn’t matching up for me is crucial. I had a neat experience with my daughter (now 17) a little while ago in which we got talking about adults in the ward coming at the gospel from different angles,  that there’s a diversity, and it was neat to hear her talk about having recognized that–that when Sister This or Brother That teach in a particular way or make claims that don’t mesh with her she doesn’t need to think she’s obligated to see things exactly the same way. I sensed that she recognized that, but it was really fun to hear her talk about it. 

  12. Anonymous
    November 17, 2011 at 1:21 am

    At about 1:32, the strategy is to focus on achieving “the outcome” rather than complying with a particular process.  There is a healthier, more fulfilling perspective if you go one step further: rather than having the outcome as the focus and motivation, allow the then-present action itself (i.e. the moment and act of sharing the gospel) be the motivation and focus.  Let the external outcome  be what it is, according to the will of God. 

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