There is an interesting character on Youtube who calls herself “The Non-Muslim Hijabi”. She wears a head scarf even though she’s not Muslim. I felt a kinship with her, since I’m a Non-Mormon Word of Wisdom follower, and generally live all the other commandments. (The lifestyle teachings, not the ordinances.)
In one of her videos, the Non-Muslim Hijabi said something like, ‘Don’t just do something because the Koran says so. Find out the reasons for yourself and do it because you feel the benefits.’ One Muslim woman responded, ‘What is wrong with doing it only to show your obedience to God?’
I thought that was a good point, and it was a clarifying moment for me. If I believed I had a reliable source of God’s Word, I’d be all over it, and I would do my best to be obedient to it, trusting that His understanding was greater than mine. I don’t happen to believe that we have a very reliable, literal, Word of God, so I rely on “living a commandment in order to gain a testimony of it.” I find that all of the Mormon lifestyle teachings have really good, practical reasons behind them. While some people criticize the church as trying to “control” its members with all these rules, I experience the church as trying to protect its members from suffering by giving good counsel on Natural Law. I appreciate the Mormon sentiment I’ve heard that those of other religions who live the same lifestyle teachings will progress in their spiritual lives because of it.
The Mormon lifestyle teachings seem to be really definitive of Mormonism in a lot of people’s minds. Many non-Mormons know Mormons as “those guys that don’t drink or smoke or even drink coffee”. People so often assume that those who leave do so because of their relationship with the commandments, rather than their relationship with the theology. This would make sense if you thought the commandments were the hallmark of Mormonism, or at least the hardest part. I do know some people who lost their testimony and then immediately tried all the vices, since there was no longer a reason not to. So, it does seem like the commandments are the main focus and deciding factor for a lot of people.
I confused people by being an “active” non-member. One person said to me, “If you attend services and follow the commandments, what else is there? My eyes popped out of my head. But I guess that question makes sense if you assume that following the commandments is a demonstration of faith in the Prophets and the Book of Mormon. (Which is the “what else”.)
My questions for the reader are:
Do you follow the commandments out of faith and obedience, or because of a personal conviction that they are important to your spiritual growth? Do you think one reason has greater merit than the other and why?
Are the commandments central to your faith as a Mormon? Are they outdated relics? Control tactics? Unnecessarily rigid guidelines? Or essential tools for your spiritual progress and transformation?[poll=99]