Zelophehad’s Daughters

Are We Here On Earth to Learn to Play “Simon Says”?

Posted by Lynnette

I’ve never quite understood the idea that we’re primarily here on earth to learn obedience. It’s the kind of thing that you’d think we could have practiced to boring but pristine perfection in the pre-mortal life. Ahh, you say, but the difference is that here we have to learn to obey even when God isn’t explicitly around. So now you get the added twist of having to figure out what’s really coming from God. This, I have to say, sounds disturbingly  like a game of “Simon Says.” Your primary aim is to learn the skill of figuring out which commands are coming from Simon, and then to obey them as quickly as possible. And even more troubling, Simon’s voice is often unclear, but you risk eternal consequences if you get it wrong.

And what does this create? A lot of people who are good at playing Simon Says (though of course they can’t stop arguing about what really came from Simon and calling to repentance those whom they think are playing the game incorrectly). But while Nute Gunray and the Trade Federation might want to build droid armies, in the context of LDS teachings, I can’t say I really understand why God would want one.

So what’s up with this idea that obedience is the first law of heaven? In the New Testament, Jesus says that the first great commandment is to love God with all your heart, might, mind, and strength. And while some might interpret that as simply a fluffier way of saying, “obey God,” that doesn’t work for me. In fact, I would say that conflating love and obedience is a dangerous move–at the very least, it’s certainly not something we would advocate in any mortal relationship. Someone who proclaims, “if you love me, you’ll do what I say,” should probably raise our suspicions.

But then again, Jesus does in fact say that if we love him, we’ll keep his commandments. And our relationship to God does differ in some significant ways from our relationships to other fallible mortal beings. So I can’t simply dismiss the role of obedience in our relationship to God. But I want to think about it in the context of the importance of relationship. It’s not that obedience is a good in and of itself. We are told that our first priority should be a relationship with God that involves us as wholly as possible. And the crucial, definitive element in this relationship is love. Obedience, then, is an expression of that love, rather than what defines the relationship (or is even a prerequisite for it)  I see the gospel as less about following orders, and more about being fully engaged in relationships with God and with others–this seems pretty clearly indicated in the two great commandments.

As I read the Plan of Salvation, a primary reason for our coming here has to do with experience–in particular, the experiences of ambiguity and embodiment, two things which cause a lot of hard, hard challenges, but also provide real potential for moral and spiritual development. I dislike the life as a test metaphor, with its depiction of a divine being who is running us through mazes and seeing how well we do. Rather, in this context I see obedience in terms of trust, as a response to a love that is terrifying in its radicalness–and in a situation where there are so many uncertainties. Are we willing to take take the risk of really responding to God’s call, to make commitments, to choose to love, all without knowing the outcome?

But I remain skeptical of  the value of obedience for its own sake. On the other hand, I am also wary of the too-easy liberal critique that since agency is so key, any expectation of obedience is an infringement on that. I want to move away from obedience and agency as some kind of zero-sum game, and instead ask just what it means to develop our agency. I think this is something richer than being confronted with a command and saying yes (yay! did it right! more agency for you) or no (oops, lost some agency there). That’s getting back to Simon Says. The defining feature of agents is the ability to act with intent. That suggests some amount of thought and consideration, as opposed to a simple stimulus-response situation. (In passing, I would note that I think this is generally accepted by Latter-day Saints, and accusations of “blind obedience” are frequently unfair.) But I do want to note that agency is always contextual. We find ourselves in situations in which we have to negotiate a whole lot of factors: the needs of other people, the requirements of our religion, the demands of our conscience, the limitations of temporality and embodiment and miscommunication–and also what we hear God calling us to do, along with the difficulties of discerning that. Sometimes that might involve simple binaries (do we obey, or not), but at least in my life, that’s been the exception rather than the rule. I think usually our challenge is more along the lines of negotiating competing goods. And acting as genuine agents, who make intentional decisions, while living in a lot of chaos–that’s not an easy thing to do.

I also dislike a model in which you obey a lot, even when it’s hard, but it’s worth it at the end when you’re rewarded with a celestial gold star. Because I would propose that the prize, the aim of all this, is in fact an ever-richer relationship with God. When we follow God, then, it’s not in hope of some additional ultimate reward, but because of the relationship itself–one that matters to us here as well as in the eternities. Obedience can certainly bring specific blessings–it can, for example, steer you away from things that might harm you–but ultimately, I think, the reward of obedience is that it involves you in a relationship with God. This is another reason why it’s crucial that the obedience be what I would call agentive obedience; without that, the relationship isn’t real.

And now I will get to everyone’s favorite issue: whether there’s such a thing as faithful questioning, or even faithful dissent; and what to do when the competing goods with which you’re wrestling are your conscience and church teachings (which at least potentially represent the will of God). I’d first like to distinguish between situations in which obedience is hard in that it moves you out of your comfort zone or requires you to do things you find particularly different because of your personality or situation–and obedience that is hard in that you find the demand to be morally problematic. When people are grappling with the latter, it’s not really helpful to frame it in the context of the former. The fact that I’m not so good with going to church on time, or being charitable to people–those are qualitatively different challenges than a situation in which I feel I’m being asked to violate my conscience and go against what I see as basic moral principles.

I mentioned earlier a cheap liberal critique. I see an equally unfair move on the conservative side (using those terms rather loosely, of course). This is the accusation that those who raise questions are apostates who are just looking for reasons to disobey. Questioning is such a basic part of my faith (for heaven’s sake, I’m a theologian), that it’s honestly bizarre to me when I hear the two described as if they were inherently in conflict. Sometimes the questions are simply curious ones. And sometimes they’re more loaded, because they deal with situations which are more loaded. But I’d say that’s even more reason to ask them.

On a lot of things, I’ve ended up kind of agnostic: Book of Mormon historicity, what to do with some of our wackier scripture, stuff like Adam-God and what that means for prophetic inspiration, polygamy, etc. But maintaining a good dose of skepticism doesn’t preclude a commitment to my religion. If I insisted on finding a church that had clear answers to everything, after all, I’d end up perpetually disappointed. And in fact a lot of these issues wouldn’t unsettle me so much if I didn’t have some kind of basic belief in the church.

But. And this is always where things tend to get heated. What about those times when I think I’m being asked to violate my conscience? Is it presumptuous to consider disobedience in such a situation? Is it presumptuous to want an explanation? Maybe it is, but I come from a religion that is nothing if not presumptuous in its claims about the relation of humans and God. I can live with that. But in the end, I don’t have a neat model of how to deal with such situations. For me, it’s really been a case-by-case thing. That’s one reason why I find it helpful to keep talking (see: previous post on why I keep doing this crazy blogging thing). I would actually propose that one of the reasons why mortality is so darn ambiguous and confusing is that we are continually confronted with the reality of how much we need the involvement of other people in sorting out these things. We commonly note that we need prophets and scripture because of all the chaos, but I would go even further and say that this is a reason why we also desperately need each other.

Kaimi recently raised some questions at T&S about Saul and the Amalekites, and obedience and genocide. And I’m pretty much in the camp of, if God wants genocide, he can carry it out himself. I strongly suspect that if I abandon my conscience in an attempt to save my soul, I will end up losing both. So yeah, you can fairly accuse me of being selectively obedient, and I’m okay with that. But that one (not committing genocide) isn’t too much of a morally perplexing issue for me. Other questions aren’t as easy. And I do think the discussion raises legitimate questions about how dissent fits into religious commitment. I suspect that at times I may be too cavalier in dismissing things that make me uncomfortable. Blind disobedience (rejecting ideas without seriously giving them a hearing) isn’t really an act of agency, either. If I’m going to choose dissent, I think I need to do it thoughtfully, and with some kind of theological framework for the decision–probably thinking about it in the relational context I brought up earlier. Because both obedience and disobedience are tied up with ways of being in relationship.

Okay, I haven’t concluded anything, but this post has gotten way too long. Simon Says you should have stopped reading it halfway through.

23 Responses to “Are We Here On Earth to Learn to Play “Simon Says”?”

  1. 1.

    I agree, learning obedience seems a poor reason for existence. Becoming wise through experiencing life with all its joys and sorrows and challenges seems an excellent one.

  2. 2.

    Wonderful (though I must say, lately it rather feels like a levee has been blown up here on ZD).

    I’ve always been bothered by all that “Obedience is the first law of heaven” crap. Because no, it’s not. I thought Jesus made that quite clear. I do think obedience has *some* value, but it’s always subsidiary to the value of the underlying commandment. Like, if Jesus says we should love one another, we get more points for actually being loving than for being obedient.

    I was Primary music leader for 3 1/2 years several years ago (starting when my oldest was a Sunbeam), and when I started thinking about the music from a teaching standpoint (rather than from a primary kid’s standpoint, which was theretofore my only experience with it) I was amazed at how much emphasis there was on obedience. I ultimately came to the conclusion that the songwriters (there were a couple of really prolific ones who wrote a large proportion of the songs in the songbook) must have had really unruly children. :) So I picked other songs I liked better, instead (and I fixed gendered language–go me).

  3. 3.

    The Simon Says culture goes on steroids in the mission field. Once when I wondered aloud whether there might be a better way to implement a new program, the zone leader just stared at me for a minute, then said that when he said jump, it was my job to jump, and ask how high on the way up. Hooookay. He was gunning for AP though, so his attitude served him well.

    “How high?” became kind of an inside joke in our mission.

  4. 4.

    I have never understood the emphasis on “obedience” sans context. After all, the Nazis were famously obedient. Satan’s minions are called “minions” because they obey Satan. And even grammatically, the transitive verb “obey” requires a direct object or its use is nonsensical.

    Seems to me that our free agency in regards to obedience is in deciding who and what to obey, and even if God speaks directly to me (which I would be pretty skeptical of, working as I do with mentally ill folks who hear God’s commands quite frequently), I still have to decide if the “what” aligns with my conscience. I decided some years ago that I do not believe in a God who does evil things or requires evil things of others. Since the commands for problematic obedience are mediated through fallible human beings, (even though sometimes it might be easier or more comfortable to turn the responsibility over to an authority), I’m never off the hook from using my own judgment and agency.

    Thanks for posting this. “Obedience” all by itself has always rather stuck in my craw.

  5. 5.

    Thanks for this post! I totally agree with you. I have a problem with obedience just for the sake of obedience. I want to know for myself if the commandment is from God or from the prophet, and I want to know how and why it applies to me. I can’t just listen and obey. I must think, too.

  6. 6.

    I struggle with obedience BIG time. Frankly I just don’t like being told what to do, by anyone. Not even God.

    But I reject the idea of obedience for obedience sake. I think, at least I like to think, that every rule has layers. For example I think on the surface we’re told not to drink alcohol because it hurts your body, but on a deeper level I think that we’re supposed to avoid it because it impedes judgement and our agency is our supreme attribute (my opinion again).

    I try to search for the layers beneath simple commandments. The trouble for me comes when I can’t them.

    On a related note, I hate the equation style teaching of obedience i.e. if you do X then Y will always happen. LIES. And damaging long term.

  7. 7.

    There have been times in my life where I have really tried to be obedient in all things and really listen for spiritual direction. In the end, these times were horrifying as I often found myself frozen, unable to act because I did not know if I really understood what, if anything God was asking of me. I think I finally decided that I have to question in order to obey. The only way I am ever going to act, to be an agent and to exercise my agency, is to really understand what God is asking of me and why. I find that I am happier and more able to move forward in my life if I don’t feel like I have to blindly obey.

    And I love the idea that obedience is about building a relationship with God. I am definitely going to need to think about that a little more.

  8. 8.

    I view the purpose of this life is to do God’s will. Obedience seems like one word for it. However, if you think of it as a checklist then you will either feel like a failure or feel like you end up concentrating on the wrong things. You can never do it “all” so how do you decide which things to obey anyway?
    For me it is about giving the Lord my heart….my will. I trust him. I let him know that I will do as much of his will as I can every day. I do my best with my own mind and knowledge and trust that he will guide me when possible. The church and the prophet is always there to help guide me. Things that seem impossible become possible. I believe in obedience.
    I don’t worry about blind faith and questioning. I have my faith, it is what it is. Is it blind? Is it struggling? All I know is that I have it and I choose to act on it. Questioning for me is I supposed limited to questions like “What does God want me to do to help others?” “What does God want me to do to make this world a better place?” “What does God want me to do to help his overall plan?”
    Agency isn’t about doing your own thing. Agency is about getting to choose and ACT on your choice and there being actual mortal consequences to your choices. Because of the Atonement, the consequences aren’t eternal though. But this life gives us the opportunity to see things through and learn from this experience. Things we couldn’t learn just “thinking about” what we would choose.

  9. 9.

    I totally agree that obedience is quite limited in its scope as a useful process. If I’m learning a whole new field, for instance, then it can be helpful just to follow directions the first time or two, until I learn how things work and begin to know the ropes. Young children should be obedient to their parents. Recipes should be followed if one has no clue how to cook the thing. After that, though, I’m going to have a lot of questions that I need to have answered. Orders given not in context can’t even be obeyed accurately. If you don’t know what the person *meant* by what they said, you have no way to apply it to your situation which may be very different from what was envisioned when the order was given. So I’ve always been someone who has to understand, rather than blindly obey.

    In engineering we are all extremely conservative, because we don’t like our stuff to fail, and so maybe the answer can be “we did it this way before and it worked” and that will be enough. However, a lot of times the context is really different. So designers may need to change things, and in that case knowing why things were done the way they were is very important. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen something on a drawing that I know was simply carried over from something that happened earlier for a specific reason that doesn’t apply in this case. But, hey, better safe than sorry, right? I wish drawings came with explanations for everything on them. I think all traffic signs should have like pages and pages of subtext explaining why it’s a good idea to obey them, even! =D

    I see moral questions as being very similar to engineering questions. For instance, I used to love Nietzsche and think he was very brilliant (when I was young) and I liked his conclusions about life. Now, though, I know that his ideas have been tried and they totally came up bankrupt. So I think he’s like a really smart-alec kid who is brilliant but doesn’t know anything about life as it’s lived. (Not the most scholarly refutation of Nietzsche, I know, but I hope it conveyed something.)

    Moral questions have to be tested against lived experience. That’s why we screw up and we learn as we go. For instance, when I was a child I believed 100% in nonviolence, so that when I was abused and beaten almost every day of my life for years, I only tried my best to ignore the beatings and just give love in return. I believed in nonviolence and turning the other cheek. Finally around age 16 I just lost it and fought back once, and guess what? The bullying stopped. One time was all it took, and not even winning the fight but just being willing to fight back.

    So now I believe in standing up to bullies and malefactors of all sorts. I tell them to stop, and if they offer me physical violence, I’ll violently defend myself or others. It’s not 100% safe but it ends up being safer than being beaten up day after day and never fighting back. I think of it as being like a parent to the bully, like their parent should have taught them and for whatever reason, wasn’t able to. I take it upon myself to teach them, and sometimes pain is a very good teacher.

    If anything, I think I’m too theoretical about life, and it can take me an awful long time to realize my former intellectual schema or moral schema isn’t working out well and needs to change. I have models in my head of everything and how it works, and sometimes the models need to be updated, but I don’t really have a better model yet, so I make the same dumb mistakes over and over, it seems to me.

    So like, I totally don’t believe in obedience. I believe in trying my best to learn things the easy way by listening to those who know more and have more life experience, but still taking into consideration the things that might be unique or different about my situation, or even the fact that the authority, whomever it may be, might just be mistaken. I believe in puzzling it all out and coming to my best solution, and then being open to change if that turns out to be a bad idea.

    Also the idea that it’s the prophet’s fault and not yours, so he will pay the price if he leads you wrong, is just a load of offal, I think. I’m responsible for everything I choose, even if it’s choosing to be obedient to the wrong principle or person. Because what I want is good outcomes. I want not to harm others. And so that means it doesn’t matter whose fault it is, what matters is not to do wrong, not to make mistakes! Of course I’m responsible for my choices!

    I have to say that I don’t consider myself a success at life, so perhaps I should have listened to someone more, or something. I don’t know. =D

  10. 10.

    Obedience is a good even necessary discipline to learn but when it is taken much beyond that it abridges agency. The church teaches us to abstain from “sin” by knowing the “right” choice in advance and choosing it when the issues arise but sin is very broadly defined to include many things not expressly defined as sin in scripture or revelation and thereby abridges agency by usurping one’s opportunity to learn revering naivete over knowledge and calling it innocence.

  11. 11.

    This post is why I read blogs–to find the gems that put into words the feelings I am unable to articulate.
    Thank you.

  12. 12.

    […] Mormons” vs. the mishies, I’d put my money on Ren any day!! Is unwavering obedience (or boredom) really the cornerstone of Mormonism? (And don’t even get started on the gay). G […]

  13. 13.

    I love this post, Lynnette. I particularly like the distinction you make here:

    I’d first like to distinguish between situations in which obedience is hard in that it moves you out of your comfort zone or requires you to do things you find particularly different because of your personality or situation–and obedience that is hard in that you find the demand to be morally problematic. When people are grappling with the latter, it’s not really helpful to frame it in the context of the former.

    Excellent point about how they’re different. I think, as you say, it’s frustrating to have people tell you when you have an issue of the latter type to be dismissed by people who are sure it’s the former. Part of the problem, I suspect, is that for some people, it’s a logical impossibility to have Church leaders command you to do something morally problematic. If Church leaders command it, by definition it’s right.

    One other thing I wanted to add is that I was a bit disappointed that when you said “I dislike the life as a test metaphor,” you failed to link to your classic 2006 post on the topic. So I’ve done it for you. :)

  14. 14.

    Lynnette,

    I really like your insights, especially these:

    “Obedience, then, is an expression of that love, rather than what defines the relationship (or is even a prerequisite for it) I see the gospel as less about following orders, and more about being fully engaged in relationships with God and with others–this seems pretty clearly indicated in the two great commandments.

    As I read the Plan of Salvation, a primary reason for our coming here has to do with experience–in particular, the experiences of ambiguity and embodiment, two things which cause a lot of hard, hard challenges, but also provide real potential for moral and spiritual development.”

    Conceptualizing obedience as an expression of a personally negotiated relationship with God rather than adherence to communally constructed orthopraxy would be individually and socially transformative.

  15. 15.

    I love this:

    But I do want to note that agency is always contextual. We find ourselves in situations in which we have to negotiate a whole lot of factors: the needs of other people, the requirements of our religion, the demands of our conscience, the limitations of temporality and embodiment and miscommunication–and also what we hear God calling us to do, along with the difficulties of discerning that.

    I would add that as a corollary, obedience is always contextual. It’s impossible for agency to be contextual without obedience also being contextual. This is the nuance I so often find missing in our conversations about obedience in most Mormon contexts. I’m willing to agree with you that, generally speaking, Mormons accept that there should be some thoughtful consideration before obedience. However, that understanding is tempered by the companion notion that church leaders cannot (not will not; cannot) lead us astray, so the thoughtful consideration should ultimately lead us to the conclusion that we must obey. And when we don’t reach that conclusion, we’re so often admonished to figure out how our will is not in line with God’s and then try again. And, frankly, I think talking about obedience as contextual in a very frank, open fashion that would include acknowledging that sometimes not obeying is the moral thing to do would make most Mormons very, very uncomfortable (and there would be a vocal minority who would be convinced that it is dead wrong and that whoever made such a suggestion is sinful).

    This contextual obedience idea is, I think, especially important in light of what led to the fall. It was eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. One of the things I often contemplated during the endowment was why eating that particular fruit would lead to death. The temple says it will but doesn’t really give an explanation. What it does make clear is that the knowledge received is a knowledge of opposites–of black and white binaries. I’ve long held a pet theory that this kind of knowledge necessarily leads to death because it cannot account for the complexities and nuances of living. What’s lacking is wisdom and understanding. In other words, it’s not enough simply to know “Right” and “Wrong”–knowing only that leads to death. We must also understand the context and how it affects “Right” and “Wrong” and act based on that much more complicated, messy kind of knowledge. I can back this up with interpretation of OT scripture, but I probably shouldn’t turn my comment into an enormous post. :P

    I also think it’s impossible to address the notion that obedience is the first law of heaven without taking into consideration the endowment, where the first law given to the fallen Adam and Eve is the Law of Obedience. Given the emphasis on the temple and its liturgy, I think we can’t turn only to the first and second great commandments as set out in the New Testament as an adequate statement of Mormons’ understanding of what the various laws/commandments governing this mortal life are. Frankly, I’d rather only consider the New Testament commandments since I find them much more engaging and rich, but last I checked I don’t get to establish what we consider the primary commandments. :)

  16. 16.

    Hilarious. I’ve posted my personal notes on ZD and my comment in my notepad file. Can you delete #16? It should have read.

    Wow. I really enjoyed this post, especially following your line of thought through the process of evaluation. I even took down some notes to work through myself.

    I think identifying the things we don’t want to do and determining why we don’t is a key step in developing thoughts about obedience further.

    After all, who in the church today would respond in the same way Abraham did?

  17. 17.

    Thanks for all the comments. This was definitely an in process post (even more so than usual); I’m trying to sort out some of my own confused thoughts. So I’ve appreciated the kind words (always nice to hear that you made sense to someone!), and people sharing their perspectives.

    janeannechovy (#2), I’ve noticed that too, in terms of what we emphasize to the kids. I like your hypothesis about the songwriters having unruly children. ;)

    Mark, (#3), I’ve heard that about mission culture. Craziness to the extreme. I’m imagining a Fox special: Busted on the Mission. Or, when Good Missionaries Go Bad.

    Small Dog (#6),

    On a related note, I hate the equation style teaching of obedience i.e. if you do X then Y will always happen. LIES. And damaging long term.

    That’s a really good point. In addition to messing with your head when it doesn’t work, it frames obedience as something you do to get prizes. (Though going back to janeannechovy’s point, maybe our problem is that we teach it a certain way to Primary kids, and then stick with that model.)

    Elbereth (#7), that’s an interesting point about how trying to be obedient can make you crazy. I heard a story from a BYU professor about a student who planned to be so obedient that he prayed about which vegetables to buy at the grocery store. I hadn’t really thought about how an emphasis on obedience can in some situations encourage passiveness.

    Tatiana (#9), I think that’s a helpful distinction. When you’re just starting out at something, it’s good to follow the rules—you don’t get to break them until you really know how they work. (Alas, try explaining that to freshman comp students.) I also really like your point about testing your models in the context of actual life experience. Because sometimes our models (even the ones we got from the church) turn out to not fit life experience. Which is why it’s a good thing, I think, to have flexible models. Where I’ve ended up disagreeing with the church is where particular frameworks have simply not matched my life experience. It’s not just rebellion for rebellion’s sake (there’s a part of me that probably likes that, I’ll admit, but I think it’s a problematic attitude.)

    Ziff (#13), ha, I feared that if I linked that post I would go back and read it to discover that I’m just blogging the same things over and over. On the other hand, isn’t that what blogging is all about?

    Fideline (#14), as you know, I’m trying to re-think a lot of religious ideas in relational terms. And since obedience is a relational act, I’m hoping to find a more positive way to think about it. I have a bad reaction to the term, likely because of having a lifetime of reacting negatively to an authoritarian system. But I’m wondering if I can reclaim it in a way that doesn’t leave such a bad taste in my mouth.

    amelia (#15), ah yes, the temple, which is so prone to throw a monkey wrench into things. I want to flippantly say that I’m opting to go with what Jesus says about priorities, but I realize the situation is a lot more complicated (and that many would argue that there isn’t a contradiction between the commandment to love God being the highest, and the law of obedience being the highest.)

    But I like your idea about binary knowledge being insufficient. The Garden of Eden is an odd tale, I think, in reference to obedience. Given our conflicting discourse about whether Eve did the right thing, it’s hard to tell what lesson to take away from the whole thing. I also find the story in Moses 5 about Adam offering sacrifices without knowing why an interesting one. It tends to be read as, how wonderful that he did it out of pure obedience. But you could also read it (I think I may have gotten this from Kiskilili) as an indication that obedience without knowing the reason isn’t actually the ideal—or why would an angel show up to give him some reasons?

    Hagoth (#16), lol about the personal notes thing. I took them out as requested, but they were interesting notes! And I do think that’s a crucial point—thinking about why we don’t want to obey. Because I said in the post, I see a difference between reluctance because of it being hard, and reluctance because of it going against your conscience.

  18. 18.

    I’ve been in exam-writing hell for the past week (the result of disobedience, I’m sure) so I just noticed this now, and of course I love it. :) The Simon Says analogy is perfect for highlighting the weird shallowness and content-less-ness of the obedience norm.

    Also, I hereby incorporate by reference the content of Janeanne’s, Mark’s, Ziff’s, and Amy’s comments.

  19. 19.

    with regard to the temple and the first law given there being the law of obedience, I think it is important to remember that in some fashion that’s a parallel to the lesser law of the OT, which lesser law Jesus fulfilled and then supplanted by delivering a higher law. The parallel doesn’t work exactly, especially since the temple has performative aspects related to the various laws the endowment presents. But, it is possible to see the law of obedience as by definition a lower law, and certainly not the highest law of heaven.

    I’m with you, Lynnette, on wanting to say that what Jesus said trumps everything else. It’s kind of my philosophy when it comes to how I live the gospel.

    One of these days I’ll write up an in-depth look at why death is the necessary consequence of knowing Good and Evil in a binary fashion. In the meantime, I’m intrigued by the reading of Adam’s blind sacrifice as inadequate. Has Kiskilili written about it somewhere?

  20. 20.

    Nah—I’ve never gotten around to it. I don’t have any more developed ideas than Lynnette laid out here—I think we read the passage completely wrong when we conclude obedience without comprehension is a good thing.

    I loved the post, by the way. The comparison to Simon Says is inspired.

  21. 21.

    Well, the threads over here now have my quasi-response at:

    http://www.wheatandtares.org/2011/05/12/make-me-a-higher-law/

  22. 22.

    […] Lynnette’s excellent post about obedience got me to wondering a little about whether the Church has always been as obedience-happy as it […]

  23. 23.

    This may sound silly and not fit in with the subject very well, but I feel like this is a non judgemental place to say how we feel. I’ve never read the bible, but I believe in a higher power. I believe in GOD on a spiritual level. When we are little, we are taught to master our senses. What if when we die our beings will be based on emotions rather then senses. I believe we are sent here for some reason to master our emotions and we have to be obedient to GOD so we master the right ones. It goes with having peace and love in our hearts which means we have to forgive ourselves and others for our mistakes. How would we know which emotion to master if we didn’t have rules? If we mastered hate and anger which seems to be the way a lot of people choose to go then they would not be accepted much like here on earth. I completely agree we need each other to learn from, but I don’t believe we need to pollute the earth with man-made structures such as churches, houses, ect. I wish we could go back to a time that is more simple then this. He has already given us this beautiful land with all it’s natural beauty to learn every thing we need to learn. The whole world is his playground/classroom and we are destroying that.

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