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!