23 responses

  1. Howard
    January 17, 2013

    Obedience is the “first law of Heaven” because it is a beginning elementary lesson, a necessary one because it teaches discipline, but there is much to learn beyond obedience and discipline. Those who have been through the mighty change of heart know the concept of obedience is completely obsoleted by having no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually. Those who walk in the Spirit know that laws and rules are transcended and relegated to the past by oneness with the Spirit; if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. So no, we will not “obeying” our priesthood leaders in the celestial kingdom that is a practice of the mortal Mosaic Pharisaical church.

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  2. Stephen R. Marsh
    January 17, 2013

    I was not born a slave! I cannot, will not be a slave. I would not be slave to God! I’d be His servant, friend, His son. I’d go at His behest; but would not be His slave. I’d rather be extinct than be a slave. His friend I feel I am, and He is mine:—a slave! The manacles would pierce my very bones—the clanking chains would grate upon my soul—a poor, lost, servile, crawling wretch to lick the dust and fawn and smile upon the thing who gave the lash! . . .

    [B. H. Roberts, The Life of John Taylor, Bookcraft, 1963, p. 424]

    http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=1208

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  3. Stephen R. Marsh
    January 17, 2013

    “So sisters, do not flatter yourselves that you have nothing to answer for so long as you may have a good husband.”

    You need to obey the celestial laws and God, not blindly follow your husbands. You are answerable for your own agency, you are not to just “obey” whoever is in front of you.

    ;)

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  4. Chris8
    January 17, 2013

    The obedience of so many women to Joseph Smith’s entreaties to marry him when they were already married has convinced me that the first law of heaven should be to love God with all of our heart, might, mind, and strength. The second law should be to love our neighbors as ourselves. Obedience should be motivated by our love for God, ourselves, and others and should come from a place of love and joy–not fear, blind faithfulness, or duty.

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  5. hawkgrrrl
    January 17, 2013

    “I don’t believe we fought for our agency in heaven only to be required to give it up, to be controlled by an external agency.” I’ve said it elsewhere that if we are truly on the path to godhood, to live up to our divine potential, I would not want to live on the planet of a god who has no thoughts in her head, who just “follows the manual” or obeys arbitrary rules without understanding.

    I also think there is a component to “obedience” as discussed in the church that is really talking about loyalty, not obeying arbitrary principles. In my experience, obedience is a terrible substitute for loyalty. You can be loyal and disobey a specific request. You can obey and be disloyal in your heart.

    “But what about multiple earrings? Is it a law unto itself? Which blessings are predicated on that law?” According to E. Bednar’s talk, the blessing that follows is marrying a passive-agressive loser.

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  6. Hedgehog
    January 18, 2013

    Howard #1,
    An interesting perspective, that it is the first in the sense of being the first step. One that could possibly be supported by the obedience element of the endowment being the first, prior to any of the robing and other covenants etc. Do you agree with JFS on “The road to this knowledge is obedience to his laws and to the whisperings of the still small voice in our own hearts.”? Are you taking it farther in discarding the obedience element once that knowledge has been obtained? If so, at what point would you know that knowledge has been obtained sufficiently? Or is it at that point that we are solely to obey His laws and whisperings of the spirit, as opposed to any other ‘laws’ or rules that may be put to us?

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  7. Hedgehog
    January 18, 2013

    Stephen #2&3
    #2, Nice quote. I like much of what John Taylor has to say about truth as well (my all-time favourite lesson I ever taught in RS).
    Also the speech you linked was interesting, framed in terms of accountability as opposed to agency, and they do go hand in hand. I especially enjoyed:
    “Manipulation, programming, and regimentation are destructive to personal accountability. It does not matter how benevolent the motive of a parent or leader who compels his children or his subordinates to follow his precise prescriptions. The motive does not prevent unfortunate results from occurring and the development of a conditioned dependency.”
    If we really are gods in embryo, then we surely have to avoid dependency.
    and this was interesting:
    “There is a difference between willing obedience and willful obedience. One may willingly submit himself to the requirements, controls, regulations, and domination of another in the performance of good deeds, but until he does it of his own free will (D&C 58:27), the essential intrinsic development of personal qualities and values does not occur. The performance is sterile of any lasting benefit to the doer of the deed. The Lord has warned us against doing only those things that we are commanded to do (see D&C 58:29). In so doing we become puppets, acting by the will of another.”
    I agree with the puppets. Not sure about that word domination though.

    #3 Yes. I think JFS probably partly explained that one with his earlier remarks: “it is the duty of the man to follow Christ, and it is the duty of the woman to follow the man in Christ, not out of him.” and that: “she is responsible for her acts, and must answer for them. She is endowed with intelligence and judgment, and will stand upon her own merits as much so as the man.” He does also talk about God’s laws when addressing obtaining knowledge: “The road to this knowledge is obedience to his laws and to the whisperings of the still small voice in our own hearts.” Unfortunately, this often seems not to be taken into account by many who use the meme.
    And still, I do find it troubling that JFS also speaks of control being necessary (unless it is really legitimate to render it as self-control), and specifically, in the framing of it, the control of women. Sigh!

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  8. Hedgehog
    January 18, 2013

    Chris8 #4,
    I guess it is at this point we get back to: what is meant by ‘first law’ in this context? The two you mention are the commandments from which all others stem, so in one sense that would put them first. They are certainly my favourite, and over the last few years have been the emphasis in my stake, which I have found refreshing after the somewhat regimented attitudes I’ve experienced at other times and in other places. The area presidencies were all changed last year though, so at this point I am hoping the good will continue.

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  9. Hedgehog
    January 18, 2013

    Hawkgrrrl #5,
    ‘“I don’t believe we fought for our agency in heaven only to be required to give it up, to be controlled by an external agency.” I’ve said it elsewhere that if we are truly on the path to godhood, to live up to our divine potential, I would not want to live on the planet of a god who has no thoughts in her head, who just “follows the manual” or obeys arbitrary rules without understanding.’
    Unfortunately, giving up our agency still seems in some quarters to be seen as a good thing to do. Only this last Sunday one of the speakers in sacrament meeting mentioned the atonement and quoted from a GA (I wish I could remember which) that the one gift we have that we can offer Christ is our agency. My toes curled. I believe He made that sacrifice precisely so that we could hang on to our agency, indeed make our agency possible. Wasn’t that the plan? Doesn’t our saying that because our agency cost Him so much on our behalf, all we can do now is give it to Him defeat the object?

    I think you could well be right that obedience and loyalty have become conflated, such that it sometimes feels petty stuff is seen as a test of loyalty, which is getting kind of crazy.

    ‘the blessing that follows is marrying a passive-agressive loser.’
    Quite. He thought that was a good thing?

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  10. Howard
    January 18, 2013

    Great question Hedgehog. I do agree with JFS but for more clarity I would have said “The beginning of the road to this knowledge is faith and obedience to his laws and to the whisperings of the still small voice in our own hearts.” The progression looks something like this: Faith > Obedience > Listening for the Spirit > Learning to Hear the Spirit Clearly (meditation) > Communing With The Spirit > Being Taught and Tested by the Spirit > Knowledge.

    Obedience is necessary to learn some of the discipline required to hear the Spirit and it is necessary to keep one on track until they are sufficiently plugged into the Spirit. The latter half of this is actually the eastern enlightenment path, knowledge comes partly as a download, partly from teaching, partly from cleaning up and deconflating one’s thinking and partly from ongoing consultation. In D&C 85:6 Joseph is describing what eastern path scriptures call kundalini energy quaking his bones, you will find this quaking again in 3 Nephi 11:3 as they are being prepared to meet God. Kundalini energy is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit that prepares minds and mortal bodies for greater introspection and spiritual interaction. The testing after many years culminates with calling and election made sure. The church only emphasizes the beginning of this path which leaves many members with the impression that perfect obedience is the end goal when it isn’t.

    Obedience isn’t discarded as much as much as it is transcended with the mighty change of heart similar to the way a child’s counting is out grown by the adult being able to do math in their head. This occurs during one’s communing with the Spirit as the lessons begin to include experiencing taboos (the destruction of rote laws and rules) and the destruction of much of your ego. Advanced communing with deity is an ego-less to ego-less low contrast (black & white thinking is noticeably absent) highly nuanced spiritually enmeshed conversation with the comfort and security of being in mother’s womb. I assume this is what is referred to as the celestial kingdom.

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  11. Howard
    January 18, 2013

    I’d like to expand on this high contrast vs. low contrast thinking and communication as it relates to obedience using images as an example.

    Consumers love high contrast snapshots but photography connoisseurs love low contrast images so professional photos are low contrast. To take this to an extreme a high contrast image could be a black line drawing on white paper. This image contains very little information so when it is scanned will create a very small digital file. A professional low contrast photograph contains a great deal of information it creates a very large digital file when scanned.

    The gospel is like a single low contrast high information image to God but in order to explain enough of it so we can get started, it must be dumbed way, way down to a few simple high contrast thou shalt and shalt not line drawings that we are told to “obey”. This is just the very beginning, a first baby step, not an end goal or anything close to it. The Mosaic ten commandments were given for social control so that gospel classes could begin without to many of the students disrupting class by killing each other, they are not the end goal. The 2,000 year old Christian beatitudes aren’t even the end goal! And Mormons haven’t begun to understand them yet, let alone live them!

    Perfect obedience simply amounts to being able to perceive the high contrast difference between black and white so one can take in these line drawings and act on them but to revere perfect obedience is like revering perfect reading, it’s really great that you can read but what does the book say? What can be learned from the book?

    This is typical of the church to put way too much emphasis on the basics without explaining and emphasizing the path and goal, so the focus becomes the skill or the ritual itself. For instance reverence and humility are both a temporary condescension from ego, it is simply practice or a ritual that symbolizes or mimics ego reduction or ego death. Many think of it as showing respect for God and I suppose it is but God thinks of ego reduction (not reverence or humility) as growing up. It’s a good habit but without the enlightenment experience you will never actually get there.

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  12. Howard
    January 18, 2013

    …the one gift we have that we can offer Christ is our agency. My toes curled. I believe He made that sacrifice precisely so that we could hang on to our agency, indeed make our agency possible.

    Christ is our exemplar and he laid down his agency; not my will but thine be done. It is a part of the enlightenment path, it requires great belief and great oneness with God to do and it is temporary, your agency will be handed back to you with respect as you approach calling and election made sure because at that point God knows you and what you will choose to do.

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  13. Joy
    January 18, 2013

    Here’s how I see it. Obedience can’t be the first law of heaven because it cannot exist in a vacuum. Obedience has to have something to be obedient to. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the first law of heaven is unconditional love. That’s how God became God and is able to control the elements. Unconditional love is how we become like him.

    However, how do we learn about God’s love? Through obedience to him and the commandments he gave to us. So no, obedience is not the first law of heaven, but it’s the discipline we need and it’s how we are taught to achieve unconditional love of our fellow beings.

    That’s how I see it anyway.

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  14. dba.brotherp
    January 18, 2013

    I beginning to think that this “obedience” emphasis is one of those good intention pavers on the road to hell.

    If obedience is the goal, why not go with plan #2 (Lucifer’s)?

    I don’t think that God wants a following of obedient worshipers doing good because God said so. I think God wants us to do good because we *want* to do good.

    Another thing bother’s me about “obedience” is that it doesn’t seem to follow D&C 121. “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile….” Some leaders seem to forget that part.

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  15. Jeff Spector
    January 18, 2013

    My favorite scripture is John 17:3.

    “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”

    I notice that it uses the term “know” not “obey.” I think when we know Heavenly Father and Jesus, we want to obey, to follow them. It becomes our choice, not forced.

    I think there are many Church Leaders who are not well versed in being leaders as opposed to managers. they feel it is their duty, their right to compel members to obey, rather than how Jesus handled it.

    Obedience may indeed be the first law of heaven, but it is actually followed by the first principles of the Gospel. Having faith in Jesus Christ means we choose to follow Him.

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  16. Stephen Marsh
    January 18, 2013

    If you love me, keep my commandments …

    Ahh, so many scriptures, so little time.

    To know God is to be like him. Makes me think of the commandments we are to keep in an entirely different way.

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  17. Hedgehog
    January 19, 2013

    Howard #10,11&12
    #10&11 Thank you for the clear description. Lots to think about. The idea of destruction of ego is where I baulk, strongly individualistic as I am, and with a especial dislike of being shoved into a mould of any sort. Though perhaps, the process you describe here is rather a different moulding process. I do think it requires a lot of trust to be able experience that, and I think that is probably where my greatest difficulty lies. I do like the description of it as growing up however.

    #12 Perhaps some of the difficulty lies in the way we all talk about relinquishing agency, who is doing the talking, and what their expectations might be when they are saying it. IME people not infrequently use both that and the obedience meme as a bludgeon. Absolutely, Christ did the will of the Father, but every step of the way He was conscious about what He was doing, the decisions He was making, even to the very end. I see it, that He was having a conversation about it. It wasn’t a simple process of handing it over gift-wrapped, and then following blindly. So, to me that doesn’t look like He handed over his agency. At any point He could have made some other choice. Also, He emphatically was not obedient to many of the restrictions of Judaism at the time, as perceived by those leaders.
    ‘your agency will be handed back to you with respect as you approach calling and election made sure because at that point God knows you and what you will choose to do.’
    At this point it’s starting to sound like pass the parcel. Interesting idea, that prior to that point God doesn’t know us or our choices (which is kind of opposite to what I’ve been taught so far – I’ll have to think about that one). I was reminded of Nephi in Helaman 10 however.

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  18. Hedgehog
    January 19, 2013

    Joy #13,
    ‘Obedience can’t be the first law of heaven because it cannot exist in a vacuum. Obedience has to have something to be obedient to.’
    I think that might depend on which way round we look at it. Steve Warren on robf’s post certainly argued that point. On the other hand my son has no problem with seeing it the other way about. 1. You need to be obedient. 2 etc. This is what you need to be obedient to. Certainly it can’t exist in a vacuum, but the designation of first rather than only, would indicate that there is stuff to follow.
    However Christ Himself defined the first and great commandment, and indeed the second in terms of love, and I’m glad about that.

    dba.brotherp #14,
    I wouldn’t disagree that that happens a lot of the time.

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  19. Hedgehog
    January 19, 2013

    Jeff #15,
    A nice way of expressing it. Still leaves us with the rather circular obedience – knowledge – obedience. I think it is important that we are able to distinguish when we are following Christ (whom we’ve covenanted to obey) and leaders (whom we haven’t). It often seems they’d like to have us think it all one and the same thing. I don’t believe it is, though it’d make their lives easier we believed it was for sure.

    Stephen #16,
    Of course at baptism we covenant to keep the commandments. For the rest see my comment to Jeff. I don’t feel any lack of willingness to follow Christ, I do get seriously aggravated by some of the stuff leaders request however.

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  20. Howard
    January 19, 2013

    Hedgehog,
    Yes, the idea of destruction of ego is where I think everyone baulks at first, few if any egos go to their demise willingly but oddly it doesn’t mean the end of our independence or our uniqueness instead it marks the beginning of our authenticity and it begins to open the door to many undiscovered lower and lower contrast layers of our minds that were blocked and suppressed increasing our subconscious long ago by our opinionated high contrast egos also this opening of our subconscious prepares us for more introspection, inspiration and clear revelation allowing us to commune with deity and to see more clearly the beautiful gospel nuances otherwise hidden in the very low contrast gospel panoramic image.

    …but every step of the way He was conscious about what He was doing, the decisions He was making, even to the very end. I see it, that He was having a conversation about it. It wasn’t a simple process of handing it over gift-wrapped, and then following blindly Yes, this is an excellent description of the process including the conversation and more true than you probably know because he would have been going through it in a state of “mindfulness” which is a meditative state of self awareness, self observation and increased awareness of what is going on taking place as a background process leaving other parts of one’s mind available for other tasks or to switch the background to the foreground to temporarily attend to some new consideration.

    We know what was going on for us in Christ’s willing sacrifice with respect to the concept of atonement, this is well highlighted by the religion of Christianity but this was also Christ’s final ego death which was closely tied to the disgraceful manner and willful death of his body. You body dies yet you live on! Well when your ego dies yet you live on as well. It sets an example for us to follow if we wish to enter the kingdom, an example that is largely ignored, denied or laundered and redefined by western religion as are most of the Christian gnostic, mystic, enlightenment and shamanic lessons. This is why the church and many of it’s members are embarrassed and suppress or redefine parts of the Joseph Smith story, Joseph was a great prophet and great prophets are enlightened shaman. When you know shamanism and read Joseph’s story in that context the controversy melts away, it all makes sense and falls into place.

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  21. Howard
    January 19, 2013

    Shamanic initiations include many lessons and vary greatly. Of the common path it is said that the shaman acquire the mortal use of the power of knowledgeable dark spirits in exchange for doing their bidding. A kind of a dark priesthood if you will. But there is a Y in the path and the side less taken must be requested and chosen by the student it leads to light and the power of God. That side has 5 common major themes mixed among many other important lessons: The first is contact with spirits or with the spirit world, this is nothing new to Mormons. A life threatening illness that is spiritually cured – death and resurrection? The laying on of hands in a healing blessing? Journeying – it is perceived that one’s spirit can leave their body and travel to many different places and planes in an experience different than what today is commonly called “out-of-body experience”, Brigham Young talked of this ability. An ascent above all things – this is the wonderful experience communing with deity. A decent below all things, this unwanted experience becomes one’s ego death – the mockery, shame and pain of Crucifixion or being mocked by the world for having had a vision and daring to speak about it, being jailed perused and killed by angry mob.

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  22. Hedgehog
    January 20, 2013

    Thank you for all that Howard. I’ve enjoyed the thought-provoking conversation. Lots to ponder on.

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  23. Rick
    March 3, 2014

    Elder Delaney, if you’re going to post a fake blog, don’t put Walter Mondale’s photo on it. I suppose you think you’re pretty funny. You’re not.

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