Zelophehad’s Daughters

Excessive Road Signs and Arbitrary Detailed Commandments

Posted by Ziff

Do traffic signs make us safer? A couple of months ago in The Atlantic, John Staddon argued that, on the whole, they may not:

I began to think that the American system of traffic control, with its many signs and stops, and with its specific rules tailored to every bend in the road, has had the unintended consequence of causing more accidents than it prevents. Paradoxically, almost every new sign put up in the U.S. probably makes drivers a little safer on the stretch of road it guards. But collectively, the forests of signs along American roadways, and the multitude of rules to look out for, are quite deadly.

. . . [W]hat is the limited resource . . . in the case of driving? It’s attention. Attending to a sign competes with attending to the road. The more you look for signs, for police, and at your speedometer, the less attentive you will be to traffic conditions. The limits on attention are much more severe than most people imagine.

This problem–where well-intended safety measures multiply and ultimately make us less safe–reminds me of a similar issue that I think sometimes arises in the Church. The problem occurs when we receive commandments that are arbitrary and detailed.


Most of the commandments we live by as Mormons are typically stated in quite general terms. For example, we’re commanded to love our neighbors, take care of our families, keep the sabbath day holy, be honest, and tithe. Although these commandments are usually taught with examples, the commandments themselves are not given in lots of detail. Church leaders don’t tell us, for example, that taking care of our families means that a husband and wife should work no more than 60 hours a week for pay between them. Or, a much argued point, they don’t tell us in much detail how to define our income for tithing purposes.

Some big commandments have lots of detail around the edges. The Law of Chastity is like this. It’s pretty easy to state in broad terms–don’t have sex with anyone but your spouse–but the application can require more detail. This can be seen in more explicit counsel aimed particularly at teenagers saying no you may not do this or that either, but kissing is probably okay, but don’t get carried away with it, etc., etc. The Word of Wisdom also falls in this category. We might say in general that it tells us not to ingest addictive or intoxicating things. But some such substances aren’t forbidden and even the forbidden ones can be okay if a doctor prescribes them, but even then they’re not okay if we abuse them. Perhaps the Word of Wisdom is a special case that is mostly detail.

But then there are commandments that seem to be nothing but detail, and arbitrary detail at that. I’m thinking here of counsel like the following:

  • Women shouldn’t wear more than one pair of earrings.
  • We should address God using the words thee, thou, thy, and thine.
  • Men should wear white shirts when performing priesthood ordinances.
  • We shouldn’t watch R-rated movies.
  • Men shouldn’t have facial hair if they’re serving in leadership positions.

While you could make connections between these and larger commandments–the earrings point might be tied to modesty and the prayer point tied to love for God, for example–these seem to me to be tenuous connections and arbitrary extensions of the more general commandments.

I wonder if perhaps these arbitrary detailed commandments might not suffer from the same problem as excessive traffic signs. While any one might make us better off, the set of them as a whole might be bad.

How could such commandments make us worse off?

1.  They distract us from bigger commandments. For road signs, our important limitation is one of attention. For commandments, perhaps our important limitations are of memory and willpower. I don’t know that Mormonism has enough commandments that remembering them all is an excessive burden, at least not yet. Willpower, though, is a scarce resource that is relevant. If we have limited willpower to resist temptation, we’re better off giving in to the lesser evils than greater ones. But if arbitrary detailed commandments are given too much attention, we might focus our willpower on resisting a trivial sin rather than a large one because the trivial one is the one we’ve heard more about.

2.  They obscure differences in seriousness among sins. I know that ranking sins in terms of seriousness can be problematic. At the very least, it suggests that the same ranking holds for all instances for all people. All I’m saying here is that to the degree that generally some sinful behaviors are more difficult to repent of and have more negative consequences than others, preaching about arbitrary detailed commandments can obscure which the truly serious ones are. Ideally, we would hear about sins in proportion to their general seriousness, which would I think mean that we would never hear about arbitrary detailed commandments, since they’re trivial compared with stuff like honesty and the Law of Chastity.

Along the same lines, in Amanda Ripley’s The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes–and Why, she laments that getting people to think seriously about disaster preparedness is difficult because of the distraction of trivial warnings:

Every line of legalese breeds distrust. We start to confuse real safety warnings with legalistic nonsense. We lump fire drills and airline safety briefings together with the sticker on our new toaster warning against using it in the bathtub [p. 212].

3. The more detailed commandments we have, the more we expect. Here’s Staddon again, on stop signs:

the overabundance of stop signs teaches drivers to be less observant of cross traffic and to exercise less judgment when driving—instead, they look for signs and drive according to what the signs tell them to do.

If Church leaders give direction at a very fine level of detail in one area of life, we can come to expect it in all areas. Can I be a vegetarian? What does the Church say? Can I subscribe to Dialog? (Can I read it while watching Conference?) Should I let my kids play in the backyard on Sunday? How about inside with toys? With video games? Can they read non-Church books? Can I? Can I consider myself honest if I keep a quarter I find on the ground? How about a $20 bill? Should I tithe on it? Can I eat food that was cooked with wine? Can I work for a company that makes wine?

It would be hugely impractical for Church leaders to issue counsel at this level of detail for every aspect of our lives. But I think that by giving arbitrary detailed commandments in a few areas, Church leaders lead us to expect it in many areas. Then when they’re (understandably) silent about lots of detailed questions, we may misunderstand this as tacit approval of things. Should I get involved in this multilevel marketing scheme? Well, everyone else is a Church member and Church leaders haven’t said I shouldn’t, so . . .

4. The more commandments that are given, the more likely it is that they will collide with one another. Simply by random chance, the more commandments we have, the more likely they are to come into conflict. For example, we’re currently commanded to tithe but also to stay out of debt. Although more faithful people than me doubtless disagree, I think these commandments each make the other more difficult to live. Now say Church leaders decide that we should live the Biblical injunction against usury. Such a commandment would collide further with the first two, making it even more difficult to pay tithing and stay out of debt. Then say that Church leaders tell us that to be honest, we can’t keep change that we find on the ground (a significant source of income for me :) ). Now it’s even more difficult to live all these commandments together.

On the bright side, running counter to Church leaders’ sometime desire to give arbitrary detailed counsel, and our desire to get it, there is a line of thinking that says commandments should be kept general. There is Jesus’s statement that “all the law and the prophets” can be hung on two great commandments. There is Joseph Smith’s oft-quoted statement that he would “teach [people] correct principles, and they govern themselves.” And of course there’s the Lord in the Doctrine and Covenants reminded us that “it is not meet that I should command in all things” and that we should be “anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of [our] own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.”And of course there are areas where Church leaders have resisted giving detailed counsel, probably precisely because they’re concerned about problems like the ones I’ve described. For example:

  • Tithing is left very open-ended in terms of income defintion. Church leaders don’t tell us how to handle different tax rates in different countries, and how that might affect the practicality of paying on gross vs. net income.
  • Family size has increasingly been left up to individual couples to figure out.
  • Scripture study counsel seems to have gotten less specific. I think it was President Benson who talked a lot about reading the Book of Mormon 30 minutes a day, but since he died, I have heard less of that specific length of time and more that sounds like “figure out what works for you.”

In general, I think this is a better approach. As I mentioned above, there are some commandments like the Law of Chastity that do require detailed articulation. But many cases of detailed counsel seem to me to be arbitrary and not well connected to the higher level commandments they’re ostensibly based on.

21 Responses to “Excessive Road Signs and Arbitrary Detailed Commandments”

  1. 1.

    Of all the distractions that compete dangerously for our attention — cell phones, kids fighting in the back seat, your dripping hamburger, that dog running into the street — traffic signs are probably the least distracting. In fact, well-placed road signs and well designed pavement markings are probably some of the least distracting signals, because if you’re driving in a reasonable manner you don’t need to be more than generally aware of them, until you actually do need them. (You don’t, for instance, need to read every exit sign carefully when you know that you won’t be near your destination for another half hour; you don’t need to pay attention to whether you have a solid yellow line in your lane until you consider whether or not to pass another car.)

    Signals like that are standardized so that you can safely be aware of them without being distracted by them. It’s only when a signal doesn’t fit the pattern that it distracts — like a row of orange cones blocking off a lane and some temporary detour signs. Then it’s time to hang up the phone, put down your soda, and PAY ATTENTION.

    Commandments work the same way, in my experience. Maybe when you’re 16 and learning to drive a car/learning to drive your body you need to have every stop sign and caution flag pointed out by a more experienced teacher, but beyond that point, you learn to know the signals so well that there is no need to parse every rule — you know without thinking about it when you’re driving safely; rather than consciously noting every sign as you pass it, you’re scanning your road far enough ahead to brake long before you hit the congestion ahead.

    I guess I don’t see any of the “detailed commandments” you note as being like arbitrary or confusing traffic signs. Every one of them fits into well established patterns of the kind that may have taken careful attention when they were new (standard prayer language had to be learned the same way I had to learn how to shift gears; acceptable male-female behavior was tricky once but second nature now). If I do run into difficulty on the road, the signs are there for more careful attention, like arrows directing me to the right lane to get through a complex intersection.

    Really, I may balk at the speed limits or resent the “No U-turn” signs from time to time, but I understand their general purpose and pattern. It seems to me that you aren’t really seeing the patterns, but instead are seeing a lot of individual signs as being as arbitrary and potentially disastrous as an unexpected stop sign in the middle lane of a interstate freeway (something I have never seen, whether we’re talking about actual stop signs or commandment metaphores).

    There. Did I stick closely enough to your analogy? :)

  2. 2.

    Good thinking, Ziff. Thank you. I think this means we can safely count you as a big fan of the unwritten order of things. ;-)

    My experience is different from Ardis’. I find that I have to work hard to stay focused on the big things. I am very prone to tithe the mint and dill and cumin, and to leave undone the weightier matters.

    I’ve seen this problem with youth in various areas, and since it would be too embarrassing to give personal examples about myself, I’ll use the youth instead.

    1. Two piece bathing suits for young women. We have become so fixated on how many pieces make up a swimsuit that we have forgotten modesty. You can get tankinis now that cover more than many one piece suits, but they are not even considered, due to the fatwa on two piece suits. This comes up every year in discussions about YW camp.

    2. I once tried to help a young man and woman who had become pregnant at the age of 15. In their adolescent confusion, they hadn’t gone on any “dates” since they weren’t yet 16. Instead, they just hung around each others’ houses. The guideline about dating is a good one, I think, but it gave them a false sense of security.

    3. One time I was a YM leader and the kids wanted me to listen to hundreds of songs and then approve the ones that I thought were OK for church dances. What a nightmare. I told them that there was a very good chance that I would disapprove all of them, but what interested me afterwards was how they really ought to be developing for themselves the ability to tell what is degrading and what isn’t. To stay with the road sign analogy, sooner or later they are going to hit a stretch of road where the guardrails are down. Sooner or later they’ll need to figure this out on their own.

  3. 3.

    All the traffic law is fulfilled in two words drive safely. The rest of the rules are there because people do not drive safely. Since we do not follow the thou shalt, we are given many thou shalt nots in an attempt to keep us out of trouble.

    At its highest level the gospel becomes very simple, use your agency not for the flesh but to love and serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The problem is in practice we don’t serve and love one another. If we are good Mormons we probably serve and love a few some of the time but often not others.

    The law can be quickly simplified by simply choosing to live the higher law.

  4. 4.

    Oh, I think we’re not so different, Mark. You’re writing about YM/YW, with whom I have zero contact and little memory, and I was writing about our lives as adults. You do have to coach beginners in unfamiliar skills, and they do have to pay such close attention to the individual rules that they may miss the overall picture at first, but the goal is to get them to drive safely by reflex and not be distracted by all the individual signs.

    (Listen to hundreds of their songs?? Nightmare, indeed!)

  5. 5.

    This is something that needs serious consideration, but I think you are lumping multiple issues into one generic standard (“arbitrary and detailed”) that, in reality, are not the same core issue. For example:

    * Women shouldn’t wear more than one pair of earrings.

    This is detailed, but it is not arbitrary. At its core, it is counsel designed to strengthen our communal modesty (meaning moderation – the avoidance of harmful extremes). People may or may not agree with the “importance” of the detail, but it is not an arbitrary, stand-alone detail. Rather, it is one aspect of an overall command or counsel.

    * We should address God using the words thee, thou, thy, and thine.

    This, imo, is a cultural detail of the general command to respect and revere God – to hold Him in esteem and address him in a worshipful manner. The specific words aren’t important, but the underlying principle is. In Japanese, this is expressed within the “honorific” form of their language.

    * Men should wear white shirts when performing priesthood ordinances.

    This is a cultural detail – a symbolic way to focus on the emphasis on purity needed for sacredness of ordinal performance. In another culture, the exact form of the expression might vary radically, but the concept is quite universal.

    * We shouldn’t watch R-rated movies.

    This is a great example, imo, of over-extending counsel to one group (youth and teenagers) and applying it to all. It’s not arbitrary in its original form, but it is applicable in its fullest application only to some. The “arbitrariness” is in the over-extended application.

    * Men shouldn’t have facial hair if they’re serving in leadership positions.

    This is the only one I see as “arbitrary”. I don’t argue or fight about it personally, but I think it’s extraneous to any “higher law”. Hair length for men is another example of this, in my mind, and I agree completely that these types of rules can be divisive and dangerous. I think it is this type of rule that constitutes our own modern Mosaic tendency.

    Summary: What Howard said. If we really understand and care about the underlying law, all of these details would be irrelevant. In a world where we are surrounded and influenced by the lack of such understanding and care, rules do function as guardrails. The issue, I believe, is not allowing the guardrails to encroach so closely on the path that they force us to travel in the exact same footsteps – where we come to believe we can turn off our hearts and brains and simply “memorize” our way to Heaven.

  6. 6.

    At its highest level the gospel becomes very simple, use your agency not for the flesh but to love and serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The problem is in practice we don’t serve and love one another. If we are good Mormons we probably serve and love a few some of the time but often not others.

    To go back to the analogy, traffic rules are not only about the driver’s safety while on the road, they also form a courtesy code for interacting with other drivers (yielding the right of way, lane ends/merge right, speed limits). Ideally we would all drive graciously, obeying the rules out of respect for others.

    Unfortunately, whenever I find someone tailgating me, I check for the speed limit signs and then go exactly that speed– in effect using a strict adherence to the rules to punish someone else. I doubt anyone sincerely trying to follow the commandments would do so just to rub another person’s nose in it, but I can see how a struggling soul could chafe against the certain rectitude of others.

  7. 7.

    Ardis, well, as I said, I just used examples from young people I know because my own examples are of the sort that wild horses would be unable to drag out of me. Let’s just say that I have an almost infallible instinct for missing the point, and an almost unerring aim for the unimportant and peripheral.

    Ziff, it seems to me that the question you are ultimately asking is this: Is it theoretically possible to go too far in building a hedge about the law? I think that question must be answered affirmatively. So the next question becomes: How do we know when we are doing that? The answer to that question is imprecise, but I am inclined to say: More often than not.

  8. 8.

    Unfortunately, whenever I find someone tailgating me, I check for the speed limit signs and then go exactly that speed– in effect using a strict adherence to the rules to punish someone else.

    I’ve heard there is a rapid three step internal process that leads to this kind driving behavior. First one feels torn, next a flash of anger and finally blame is assigned to the tailgater. Learning to recognize these steps can help reduce road rage.

  9. 9.

    Great post, Ziff.

    Part of me wants to see this as a (forgive the overused and hardly relevant reference to an officially debunked Mormon myth) difference between Iron Rodders and Liahonas.

    There are some people who would just rather have the latitude to “love thy neighbor” and forget the caffeine and ear piercings. Others prefer the extra guidance like some of us like using the bumpers at the bowling alley.
    Perhaps there’s room for both approaches in the church.

  10. 10.

    This is a great topic. I think many of these so called commandments come from pressure from members wanting to have all things defined and nothing is left for us to determine for ourselves. A lot less risk of falling into sin that way.

    Ray stated
    1. * Men should wear white shirts when performing priesthood ordinances.
    This is a cultural detail – a symbolic way to focus on the emphasis on purity needed for sacredness of ordinal performance. In another culture, the exact form of the expression might vary radically, but the concept is quite universal.
    Nothing cultural about wearing a white shirt and purity sounds like some rationalization. Or is there a speech or something I missed? I have always thought that this is only to get kids used to feeling like missionaries and because many leaders like the way it looks when all of the kids match.

    What they don’t realize is that wearing a white shirt has come to mean yes I believe in the gospel and not wearing one means I may not. My son wore a blue shirt one Sunday when his white ones were dirty. He was verbally attacked by other priests who were angry and the leaders wanted to know why he was refusing to honor his priesthood. Now he doesn’t attend at all and his brothers stay home if they don’t have a clean white shirt. I do not believe this is what the first presidency had in mind do you? I have noticed that those who do not regularly look right (white shirt and clean shaven) are treated differently. Makes me wonder what color of shirt Jesus Christ wore we know he had a full face of hair.

    Ray I agree with your summary 100%

  11. 11.

    Ardis (#1), thanks for thinking in much more depth about my analogy than I did. I really like your idea of commandments or road signs becoming essentially invisible to us as we learn to pattern how we live or drive with them. Your point about developmental differences–we may need more direction when we’re younger–is a good one I hadn’t thought of.

    I think you and Ray (#5) both hit on a central point that I didn’t articulate well: whether you find all my analogizing to road signs and complaining about arbitrary detail compelling depends completely on whether you agree with me about what commandments seem arbitrary. As you said, Ardis, you’ve never found a stop sign in the middle of a freeway, commandment-wise.

    Ray, thanks for thinking about my examples in more depth. Some are clearly poor. I was kind of hoping to write this without providing any examples, but of course if I claim that some commandments seem arbitrary, then the logical next question you would ask is, “Which ones?” I guess I think of the earring one as the canonical example. Ray, you said you think it’s not an arbitrary, stand-alone detail. To me, the connection between any higher level commandments and counting how many earrings a woman wears is so tenuous as to be nonexistent, so it does strike me as being an arbitrary stand-alone detail, as you put it. The same goes for the ones you label as cultural practices. Picking stuff from the larger culture and choosing to make it into commandments here and there seems arbitrary to me.

    Mark, thanks for providing better examples and a clearer rationale. I like your summary question about whether it’s possible to go too far in building a hedge about the law. I guess in some sense what I was talking about was the problem where the hedge doesn’t even prevent us from breaking the law, so we can end up focusing on the hedge and still managing to break the law. But I’m probably stretching that analogy to the breaking point. :)

    Jessawhy, you’re probably right that a lot of this complaint also boils down to my being the kind of person who chafes at being given direction. (I know you were putting it more nicely than that, but I know myself well, so I think that’s reasonable for me to say.;) )

  12. 12.

    Ziff,
    As far as the one earring thing, I seem to remember Eve talking about that on a post a long time ago.
    She said something to the effect (if I remember correctly) that she is obedient to the small things, like the earring, so that God will accept her disobedience to larger things (perhaps the Prop 8 debate or something like that).

    I really like that comment.
    5 imaginary bucks to the person who can find that quote first. :)

  13. 13.

    I love this quote from James Kugel, in “How to Read the Bible”:

    “As time went on, keeping God’s laws became an increasingly central concern in Israel. The Pentateuch itself came to be known as the Torah, the divine guidebook that told people in intricate detail what to do every day. This was the genius of a religion of laws. In all the little encounters of daily life – between children and parents, customers and shopkeepers, beggars and almsgivers, natives and foreigners – the Pentateuch set out the precise form of behavior that God had prescribed. Do what it said and you were serving God… [he lists some examples] … Rules and rules and rules, until it seemed like there was no area of life about which the Torah did not have something to say – and that, for later Judaism, was the beauty of it. In doing each thing according to the way that God had prescribed, a person could, as it were, turn life itself into a constant act of reaching out to God. Nothing was done for its own sake; everything was done to serve God. And so, without having to retreat to a monastery or a mountaintop, one could live each minute in a state of holiness and sanctity, creating a living, vibrant connection between one’s little life on earth and God in heaven.”

    I found this profoundly beautiful, and it actually made me kind of long for more little detailed rules to live by. Then again, I was the only Mormon middle school girl I knew who wanted to grow up to be a nun.

    I don’t actually follow the commandments we have very well, and I sometimes chafe under some of the seemingly silly and arbitrary rules we get from our church leaders. But I do long for a holy life, to feel that ongoing connection to God. I guess I’m kind of a mess of contradictions.

  14. 14.

    Jessawhy, I think Eve’s comment was in this post. Now where’s my imaginary money? Can I call it “Bloggernacle Bucks”?

    jane, thanks for sharing that. I hadn’t even considered that perspective. That’s so interesting to think of having lots of small commandments as a way to involve devotion to God even in all of the small things we do.

  15. 15.

    Thanks, Ziff!
    But, you only get 2 Bloggernacle Bucks for finding the post, but not the exact quote.
    Here it is;

    I shrugged and took out my second earring when the directive came down, although I sincerely doubt that a second earring is going to lead me to damnation. But I consider such acts, which cost my conscience nothing, an important part of the price I pay for the inevitable occasional moments of spiritual civil disobedience, when it is wrong, really wrong, to do as one’s told. These constant, harmless obediences are a demonstration of my loyalty, a demonstration I feel is necessary to those moments when I have to no choice but to defy or dissent.

    I heart Eve. (sigh)

  16. 16.

    Thanks for the Bloggernacle Bucks. Now what can I use them for? Can I buy shares in FMH or the Exponent or BCC?

  17. 17.

    Thanks, Ziff. I wish I could figure out how to incorporate this perspective into my every day life. I don’t actually live a holy life; right now, it’s just a neat theoretical concept to me. I tend to live an alternately frazzled and lazy life – fits and spurts of frenzied activity, interspersed with excessive bloggernacle surfing. :-)

  18. 18.

    Thanks for the kind words, Jessawhy! [blushes].

    I tend to live an alternately frazzled and lazy life – fits and spurts of frenzied activity, interspersed with excessive bloggernacle surfing. :-)

    Me too. This is a painfully accurate description of my own spiritual life, Jane!

  19. 19.

    p.s. I heart Eve, too. :-) And Lynnette. And Kiskilili. Really, this whole amazing family.

  20. 20.

    I think my sister and I fit perfectly into the bowling analogy. She would love to have her life guided by bumper pads, me not so much. I do hope there is a place for both of us in the gospel.

  21. 21.

    “Ziff, it seems to me that the question you are ultimately asking is this: Is it theoretically possible to go too far in building a hedge about the law? I think that question must be answered affirmatively. So the next question becomes: How do we know when we are doing that? The answer to that question is imprecise, but I am inclined to say: More often than not. “

    Perhaps we could answer that question from the New Testament. Jesus got angry at the Pharisees for binding burdens on men’s backs that were grievous to be borne, but not moving them themselves. This seems to say that when we build fences they have to be ones that we actually use. One of my fences is that I don’t watch PG-13 movies, because they frequently make me uncomfortable. I took a film class at ASU and some of the movies that the class was expected to see was stuff that was outside my standards. I talked to my film teacher before the class started and told her my concerns and we figured out what to do. I approached it from a “please help me keep my standards” point of view instead of a “you are evil if you don’t adopt my standards” point of view.

    When I know my own weaknesses and the usual precautions don’t help me, I have to build fences, and I’d be stupid not to.

    Some other fences I think are put up for those of us that are the most weak. Since it is not clear who is the weak and who is the strong, it is for everybody. I suppose it would be a simple matter then to say, “I am one of the strong ones; that rule does not apply to me”, but in certain cases, adhering anyway can qualify us for extra blessings. Example: the Word of Wisdom, which is adapted to the capacity of the weakest person who could be called a Saint. I think of this as meaning it is especially for that Saint who has the weakest and most delicate of constitution, body chemistry, and digestion. And those of us with the absolutely iron stomach, if we keep the Word of Wisdom anyway, receive even greater blessings of strength and stamina and knowledge and health than we would if we broke it. I have no idea which camp I’d fall into, but I prefer to keep it.

    A fence for the Word of Wisdom might be caffeinated soft drinks. To drink or not to drink? I’ve been brought up to not drink them, but am I going to look down my nose at someone who drinks them? After the initial mental “OH!!! They drink caffeine!” (which is.. um.. kind of involuntary and comes from my upbringing), I try to forget about it.

    “There are some people who would just rather have the latitude to “love thy neighbor” and forget the caffeine and ear piercings. Others prefer the extra guidance like some of us like using the bumpers at the bowling alley.
    Perhaps there’s room for both approaches in the church.”

    There seems to be this idea that people who think about the really specific stuff and have to have them spelled out have something wrong with them and that they can’t think for themselves. (And really, there are all variations of this worry.) There may indeed be those who are reluctant to make their own decision and who just want a general authority to make a pronouncement on the issue.. but I suspect those numbers are very few. I think that there are a lot of people that know that at some point you have to apply the very general principles to specific life situations and sometimes there are multiple principles that come together in a sort of nexus and leaning too much to one principle would neglect the others. The gospel is full of these. Hating the sin and loving the sinner. Faith and works. Revering the scriptures and following the living prophet. Achieving unity and respecting diversity. Providing for a family yet spending enough time with them. Sometimes the confusion on the littlest issues can get to be too much, and people just want to know what will be most pleasing to the Lord.

    But it is interesting that I don’t hear general authorities complaining that the standards of the church are too tight. They are usually calling attention to the over-causual-ness in the church. It’s usually the members or the world who are complaining about restrictiveness. “I don’t see why the church..” “I don’t see why the brethren…” “I don’t see..” “I don’t’ see…” Where there is no vision, the people perish. If we don’t see, we need to pray for the spiritual gift of discernment or spiritual vision or something. That revelation is what we’re entitled to, isn’t it?

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