So I recently read a couple of blog posts that triggered some memories of my LDS mission.
When I was in the MTC, I remember teachers there repeatedly impressing on my 19 year old mind that once I was in the mission field as far as I was concerned the mission president was God to me. It was repeated over and over again that we were to never ever question the presidents directions. The best missionary would immediately do exactly what they were told to by this man.
The first time I heard that I remember personally balking at that suggestion, I asked are you serious? Maybe I have always had a rebellious nature I suppose, after all there was that conversation with my president where he warned me to stop ‘kicking against the pricks.’
Several times I doubled down on my obedience efforts, but to be honest I have always felt the call of being a leader not a follower. It is who I am. To follow, especially blindly, in my mind is not a good thing.
Think about it. Do you think the ISIS dudes chopping off heads of christians question their leader? Do you think that the guys flying jets into the two towers stopped to think, ‘what if the leader is wrong?’ Should people that follow Warren Jeffs or Marshall Applewhite be willing to question their leaders?
If you give it even a modicum of thought, you quickly realize that the answer should be a resounding no!
So when I recently read this post by a mission president it brought back all those memories of the mission field and the demands of exact unquestioning obedience.
This mindless compliance is a characteristic sign of a cult. (Here are a few other signs you ought to take a look at as well.) I personally was raised with the mantra ‘follow the brethren.’ Do what they say even if you disagree was the watchword in our home. The rationalization went something like this. ‘Even if they lead you astray, God won’t hold it against you.’ Plus scriptures say1 they will never lead us astray. So unquestioning obedience is repeatedly celebrated in the church. It is reinforced with temple covenants as well. One can be sure that the Law of Vengeance covenant help lead to the unquestioning obedience that resulted in the mountain meadows massacre. Of course that oath is now gone from the proceeds, but the very first covenant you make in the temple today is the Law of Obedience. As a group everyone vows to obey it.
So here is the issue. We realize we should think about what our leaders tell us to do, but often due to our own psychological pitfalls we often do not. Even now, years past my own disaffection with religion, I often have the ‘rote response’ my church taught me on a topic pop to the surface automatically. I find myself going. ‘Wait a minute… do I really still think that way?’ This leads to lots of introspection and quite a few posts on the Fridge. 🙂
As parents we often don’t bother to explain to our children the reason behind a particular rule or request we make of them. When we were kids that annoyed us because we naturally want to know the why of things. Usually (baring you are a sadistic parent) there are good reasons behind our commands. Often to not tell our kids why is just a lazy response and we say ‘because I said so!’ And in that moment we teach our kids that unquestioning obedience is expected. Maybe that isn’t such a good thing. Maybe we need to stop celebrating the fact Abraham was willing to tie his kid to an alter and slit his throat with a knife. Why? Do you ask? Well here is one reason:
This guy was sure he heard God’s voice and decided to follow it without question. Unfortunately an angel didn’t show up to stay his hand. You might say he followed this council to a ‘T’.
Unquestioning obedience to the Lord indicates that a person has developed faith and trust in Him to the point where he or she considers all inspired instruction—whether it be recorded scripture, the words of modern prophets, or direct inspiration through the Holy Ghost—to be worthy of obedience.[2. https://www.lds.org/ensign/2005/07/believe-all-things?lang=eng]
I hope you are beginning to see the the problem with ‘because I said so’ being taken as a legitimate argument. It simply isn’t. Not at all. It will always lead to mistakes that we humans regret. It is time we always ask why! It is time we tell our kids to not be afraid to ask why! My dear Frigidarians, I implore you to question your leaders, question yourself. Think about your own thinking and then decide a course of action. Please do this. But for Chill’s sake please don’t do it because I said so!
- The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty. (Sixty-first Semiannual General Conference of the Church, Monday, October 6, 1890, Salt Lake City, Utah. Reported in Deseret Evening News,October 11, 1890, p. 2.) ↩
- We also response to group pressure, but that is for another day ↩