Thursday, July 11, 2013

What does obedience REALLY mean?

There is a common thought in the LDS religion and, to some extent, in society in general that I would like to offer an alternative viewpoint. I've heard often in church, and actually this last Sunday, that God is restricted by the laws of the universe. There are universal laws that govern what it means to be God and He must adhere to such restrictions or He ceases to be God. However, this always bothered me and I think I know why.

First, St John 1:1-3
 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the
beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Verse three clearly delineates that all things were made by God, including the "laws". God and Christ (the Word) stood alone "at the beginning". (This idea is preserved in the JST of the text.)

In Doctrine and Covenants 130:20, it says "There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated". The law was given by God in heaven, it came forth from Him. He is not subservient to it, nor bound by it in the sense that the law is above God. Also, if you follow the footnotes of "law" you will arrive at D&C 82:10: "I the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise." The law again is the Lord's word, not some morality that He is adhering to.

Now, people argue that the fact that He is 'bound' to us shows there is some morality, or that if He didn't follow through He would no longer be God because He is adhering to the laws. I believe, actually, that what makes God 'God', is that He is being true to us. The way He is being towards us is His Godliness. We are learning to be true and faithful, meaning we are learning to be like God or to someday become Gods. God isn't a divine being because He passed some tests and qualified to be God and as long as he doesn't break the rules, it's going to be okay. God is God because of how He treats and loves us.

In any case, what does this have to do with obedience. Well, just as God is not subservient to any moral law, I don't believe that we are subject to abstract, universal rules as well. I believe that we are to be obedient to God, not morality. As we know from hearing about the Pharisees and others like them, the law cannot save us. If it did, A) we would fail; and B) we would not need Christ. Instead, it is our relationship with Christ and God that will ultimately help us succeed in life. Brent Slife, a non-Mormon professor at BYU, argues that living with the idea of adhering to a morality rather than in respect to God is a form of idolatry: we set up the law higher than God and in essence worship that law over God. We discredit God's ability to save and look to the law. PS - That's not a good thing.

Here are some scriptural examples of being obedient to God rather than conforming to rules.

The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood (Section 84 around versus 33-39) does not require "receiving" a law. Instead, it requires that we "receive" the Lord's servants, the Lord, and ultimately God. There is no mention of commandments.

Instead, if you look through the topical guide and index under commandments, you'll see more often than not the phrase "my commandments" or "God's commandments" rather than "the commandments". I feel that this means, rather than God establishing a set of ground rules that everyone in all times and places must live by, that God will speak to groups of people of the same time and in the same society and give them ways that they, in that context, can live true to Him. He can also dictate to a person individually how that person should live true to God.

D&C 25:15 - Keep my commandments continually, and a crown of righteousness shalt thou receive.
D&C 132:21 - Except ye abide in my law ye cannot attain to this glory.

I think we've come to a time when many people are confused about religion because it keeps many ideas that are archaic in nature and don't seem to fit today's society. And yet, whenever a religion changes it's practices to fit the times, they argue that the religion obviously cannot be true because it doesn't adhere to a strict, absolute morality.

However, with the understanding that obedience to God respects context and person, it makes sense that practices should change and that religions evolve (see the history of a "health code" from the times of Adam, Jews, etc. into the "Word of Wisdom" today as an example).

I think the question I'm going to ask myself from now on is not going to center around the commandments, but on what God wants me to do. This will probably adhere to many of the precepts that the LDS church expounds, but it may also require me to tweak something here and there based on my circumstances or may get more specific on my day to day actions. Only God can tell...

What do you think?