Too much safety in keeping the commandments?

Modern instruction seems simple enough when it comes to keeping our covenants.  Consider the following suggestions, chosen for their typicality, that appeared in my Sunday school today:

“When you seek entertainment such as movies, television, the Internet, music, books, magazines, and newspapers, be careful to watch, listen to, and read only those things that are uplifting.  Dress modestly.  Choose friends who encourage you to reach your eternal goals.  Stay away from immorality, pornography, gambling, tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs.”

I can’t blame you if you skipped the above – this advice is by now overly familiar.  But, I want to suggest that while this advice is sound, even worth being reminded of, it is troublesome that it dominates current discussions of what it means to keep the commandments.

The rhetoric in these sentences frames us not as agents within the world, but as passive spectators to it.  Quite literally, it positions us as consumers, not producers, of various opinions whose task is not to directly influence the world, but to turn off whatever might unduly influence us or others: media, friends, or even our sexual attractiveness.  Granted, there are situations in which this response is perfectly appropriate.  But what is missing in this vision – a vision in which we seem preoccupied with creating spaces of purity and countering all assaults to them – is a sense of any positive form of engagement and, more importantly, a focus on why we perform these actions.  The end of the gospel is not to be free of negative influences: in my mind, it is to keep our covenants to build a kingdom, a just and compassionate community, through Christ-like love and actions.  Being free of distracting influences is important in that it helps us attain these goals. It isn’t the sole goal.

We live in a world preoccupied with our spiritual and physical safety, especially when it comes to keeping our homes, children, and selves safe.  Playgrounds are now thoroughly padded, safe spaces for recreation; we tell ourselves repeatedly that there is “safety” in keeping the commandments; we obsess over any influences that might harm the “traditional” family.  But living the commandments has not always provided for temporal safety.  In Alma, we see people covenant with God to go to war (though, in all fairness, others also covenant not to), and more recently we see contemporary church members continually take risks for their membership.

I want to suggest that we cannot fully keep the commandments that count – those to love others and to build Christ’s kingdom – so long as our model of keeping the commandments remains so tied to concerns about our safety and sanctity.  Sometimes, I hypothesize that we now talk about keeping the commandments in terms of blocking assaults to our homes and focus on individual salvation, because at this historical moment, when we are divided by nationality and our politics, we are painfully unable to articulate a consensus on what other kinds of actions are involved in kingdom building – or, for that matter, what a kingdom of God might look like.  Our model of a kingdom now appears to be homes and people – safe, pure, but island like – that stand as refuges in a larger world.  But, even God’s great commandment – to love one another – requires knowledge and risk.  It requires engagement.  It means discovering what needs changing in the world as well as what is good.  We need youth who are not unfamiliar with negative influences, but who have learned how to critically evaluate what they hear and act in the world accordingly.  We need think more on the positive duties tied to our covenants.

Comments

  1. Great comments and challenge to get outside ourselves!

  2. Thomas Parkin says:

    Yes. Just for instance, if we are only friends who live similarly “safe” lives, who will also reach out in genuine friendship to those who live or have lived more difficult or more worldly lives? Yes, it is good to have friends that uplift us spiritually; no, it is not good when we refuse the friendship of those who we might, perchance, uplift.

    In many ways, this failure to engage the world ill prepares us for ways we must engage the world. We might as well have stayed at home. Ships are safe in port, but that isn’t what ships are made for, says, iirc, a bigshot navy guy. I love the saying of Jesus that in dealing with the world we should be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. He doesn’t say that we should be wise as doves and harmless as doves.

    ~

  3. I agree, to an extent. I am thinking about this in terms of the “filters” we use to screen things out. Some Mormons use a compost screen – which leaves behind only the biggest chunks. Some use the kind of metal strainers that chefs use to strain soup, which strains out the raspberry pips and tomato seeds. Some use coffee Pero filters, while some (such as your Sunday School soapboxer quoted above) go for the microfilters that are in water purifiers, catching even the tiny giardia and trying to keep even the tiniest bits of “the world” from creeping into a hermetically sealed home environment or personal life. I do worry that the smaller the filter, the more likely we are to close ourself off from the range of human experience that helps us appreciate literature, be empathetic with others, and meet those others just where they are.

  4. Very good post, especially:

    The rhetoric in these sentences frames us not as agents within the world, but as passive spectators [and] consumers, not producers, of various opinions….

    This made me think of Elder Ballard’s recent suggestion that we get involved in the new media (e.g., blogs). He wants us to become producers.

    Keeping oneself unspotted can become Pharisaical, as contrasted by Jesus who frequently ate with “publicans and sinners.”

    Still, I wonder how to implement this for my daughters who will one day be teenagers. To build on your playground analogy: it’s one thing to say, “kids need to play,” and another thing to watch your two year old wobbling around atop the jungle gym.

    Parkin: nice reference to serpents and doves.

  5. Is there any reason to fear that any one of us is not engaging the world even if somehow we were miraculously able to follow your Sunday School’s suggestions? I mean, does sticking entirely to “safe” entertainment keep us ignorant of political, social, scientific, and other types of information? Does choosing “safe” people for bosom buddies keep us from less intimate relationships with all kinds of other people through our work and neighborly associations? Does an absolute refusal to be voluntary consumers of pornography, alcohol, etc., spare us entirely, either from exposure or from the effects of other people’s indulgence? Not in my experience.

    Negative influence comes merely by being conscious. There’s no possibility of raising youth except those “who are not unfamiliar with negative influences”; the only possible way they can “[learn] how to critically evaluate what they hear” and survive to “act in the world accordingly” is to teach them to carry that armor that comes from your Sunday School’s advice, not by chucking it to tell them to be brave and engage the world on the world’s terms.

  6. Great comments and very true. If you ask a Sunday School class to name the commandments, they can do it til the cows come home. You if ask them why we keep the commandments, you are usually met with surprising silence.

    I had a stake president in college who totally changed my view of the gospel by finally explaining the why behind commandment keeping. While most of us think the commandments are there to purify ourselves, this purification is really a means to an end. We keep the commandments to purify ourselves, and thus be sanctified and have the Holy Ghost with us, and this Spirit is there to motivate us to serve others, especially the least of these. That’s the end goal. We obey to gain the capacity to love and serve more.

    He suggested that Mormons quit defining ourselves by what we don’t do…”I’m a Mormon, I don’t drink coffee, have premarital sex, swear…ect..” and start defining ourselves by what we do do, “I’m a Mormon and I love others with a Christ-like love.”

  7. #6 – Wholly 110% agree with you, Katie.
    We Mormons are far too oft to use our “checklists” to measure where we think we are spiritually, checklists composed of the “commandments” rather than what I would call the “King Benjamin/Alma Chapter 5″ self-evaluation, i.e., am I closer to Christ today than yesterday, do I reflect Christ in my actions, my thoughts? Or am I like the Pharisees judging those around me because of the beams I see in their eyes when the mote in mine is so much larger….

  8. Honestly, I consider such trite admonitions to be bad advice. Religion, with it’s required depth of understanding, is very subtle and complex. It seems to me that we are treating both adults and children as though they wish to remain children.

    At some point, it is possible that each of us will be asked to play a role closer to God. At that point, we must be able to engage not just “good”, but “evil” too. Similarly, we must be able to engage with both “love” and “hate”. (Note to literalists: hate can be an expression of love, just as lies can be an expression of love. And while it’s OK to tell children not to lie, at some point growing up implies an ability to judge the trade-offs.)

    Honestly, I am disappointed by most Mormons that I know. At the same time, I will read Joseph Smith’s writings and feel renewed. He was a genuine prophet. I don’t know the solution to this dilemma. I find myself sometimes wondering if religion does more to form a wedge between ourselves and God.

  9. The Right Trousers says:

    Ardis, that’s awesome. I agree – you can’t exist in this world without becoming wise to it to some extent.

    Also, please, let’s remember that the Church often acts as a safe haven to Saints who are especially prone to sin and addiction. Let’s not push them out of their bubbles on general principle. Like most else in the gospel, how we live in Babylon without becoming Babylon is something we work out for ourselves.

  10. Somewhere ACT and not be acted upon (keep out of harm’s way). Must come into this in someway?

  11. So in the process of caring for our neighbor, we can’t adhere to “checklists”? I disagree. I think I sense an undercurrent saying that we should focus on the spirit of the law and not the letter, but we need to remember that the spirit of the law does NOT override the letter.

  12. I found while we were raising teenagers that our admonitions to be careful about the music they choose were often ignored. But when they became involved in orchestra, they were able to make better choices.

    Good post, Natalie. When we learn to prize the good, were are better equipped to avoid the bad.

  13. Walt Nicholes says:

    Somewhere in my programmed pre-history recollection I recall the phrase: “they will learn from their experiences the good from the evil.”

    I don’t advocate seeking out evil so as to learn from it; collisions with evil are inevitable. But trying to insulate ourselves from EVERYTHING that might bring us harm is both unrealistic and counterproductive.

    If we were to get through life with no evil influence whatsoever we might just as well have stayed at our Father’s side in heaven.

  14. #11, My concern is how many focus wholly on how they are complying with the letter (at least in outward appearance, some almost boasting of their “faithfulness” because they are doing a,b,c, etc.) but in doing so, have the attitude that living the letter of the law is the end, not the means of becoming more like Christ.

    More importantly, do we not need the guidance of the Spirit in order to fully live the letter? Clearly, the Pharisees lived fully the letter of the law but wholly forgot living the letter without the spirt was an empty expression of obedience.

    I think of Christ and his disciples being admonished of shucking corn on the Sabbath so they could eat and such being violative of the law to keep the Sabbath Day holy. Clearly, He taught there was more than just living the letter….

  15. Steve Evans says:

    Excellent thoughts Natalie (and commenters) — the challenge of finding what is good and true in life is significant, and I wonder if we do as good a job teaching that side of things as we do at eschewing evil. Very thoughtful stuff, thanks again.

  16. Brigham Young excerpt from the above discussion-

    “My son,” says the Christian father, “you should not attend a theatre, for there the wicked assemble; nor a ball-room, for there the wicked assemble; you should not be found playing a ball, for the sinner does that.” Hundreds of like admonitions are thus given, and so we have been thus traditioned; but it is our privilege and our duty to scan all the works of man from the days of Adam until now, and thereby learn what man was made for, what he is capable of performing, and how far his wisdom can reach into the heavens, and to know the evil and the good.

  17. I find myself sometimes wondering if religion does more to form a wedge between ourselves and God.

    The bureaucracy of religion, perhaps?

  18. I know there are the basic commandments but the problem is when people make commandments out of opinions. I obey the “commandments” the best that I can but the argument comes when opinions are pushed on you. I was talking to my sister the other day and she asked me if she noticed that there are a lot more rules in the church now then there was when we joined 20 years ago ( I was 16 yrs old). It seems to me that there are so many more rules that we are suppose to live by….color of shirts when passing the sacrament, hair cut, one earing in each ear,etc. How do you handle the bombardment of all of this?

  19. I am more with Ardis on this one. This is a thoughtful post, but I think it focuses on only a part of what we are taught.

    I think it is critically important to note that we are not just given ‘thou shalt nots’ even if you can find statements such as the above that can take that approach — after all, that is part of what it means to obey the commandments in the Church. We must make choices to keep ourselves unspotted from the world and to deny ourselves of ungodliness.

    But there is much more. Such ‘thou shalt not’ statements are far from representative of all of the counsel we receive, which includes much about proactive things we can and should be doing to bring the Spirit into our lives, to be instruments in God’s hands, to be agents to do much good and bring about much righteousness.

    How do you handle the bombardment of all of this?

    IMO, you seek to understand why these ‘rules’ are given, and remember that there is a LOT more also given than just the rules. It’s all part of a whole, and the key is to keep the whole in mind as we teach and try to follow the ‘parts.’

    Remember, too, that there are more things bombarding our youth than 20 years ago.

  20. Great post, Natalie. For me the scariest part is that this hyper-emphasis on “safety” undermines our ability to be charitable. When we view the world as a series of threats, it perpetuates our (already strong) tendancy to draw circles around “us” and “them.” We become even quicker to sort people into one of the two camps. I don’t think we can have charity when we are sorting the world this way.

  21. This reminds me of keeping the sabbath day holy. Every once in a while someone gives a talk and tries to encourage us to think about what we CAN do, rather than what we can’t. We should fill our Sundays with the Lord’s work, service, family, scriptures, nature, etc.
    There are many positive ways we can interact with the world. We should serve others. We should be examples. We can contribute to society.
    And the Proclamation says we should engage in “wholesome recreational activities.” There are plenty of good things out there to enjoy.

  22. Thomas Parkin says:

    Ardis saith,

    “Is there any reason to fear that any one of us is not engaging the world”

    Yes.

    Although I agree with you in a general way, Ardis, it is always possible to overshoot the mark. I think it is common enough for us to withdraw into our own worlds to such a degree that we fail to engage the world that the rest of God’s children live in. The problem is more a problem when people take righteousness to be exactly that.

    Yadda yadda … I’m sure for the most part people would see to eye to eye on this if we didn’t have personalities that want to privilege half the equation.

    ~

  23. Steve Evans says:

    right on TP. That’s not contradicting what Ardis or Natalie is saying, it’s harmonizing and I like it.

  24. The problem is more a problem when people take righteousness to be exactly that.

    So in a way, though, isn’t this all still a part of learning through our own experience — to figure out, with God’s help, what righteousness and obedience and covenant keeping is all about? I am not sure we can fully generalize what righteousness looks like, because it becomes something we each discover through our own trial and error, no? At some point, we have to discover from our own experience the ‘harmonizing’ that Steve mentioned and what that means. And perhaps we can’t fault those who interpret righteousness in some way, because that may just reflect what they are learning at the time. It’s a process for all of us, methinks.

    I think life in the gospel is in large measure to help us learn to balance spirit and letter, rules and reasons, priorities and motives, counsel and commandments, and all the other things that come into play, each with its own purpose and nuance. I think there is room for all that is discussed, but it’s to me about balance, about the very act of harmonizing it all, about learning to take what we hear and know figure out what God wants us to do with it, today, now.

    And sometimes, what is right today won’t be right the next time we are in a similar situation. And what feels right for one person at some point in life may not for another. Or what we thought was right for us we discover through our experience that it really wasn’t. It’s one of the opportunities of agency and trying to live by the Spirit, and it’s all a process…imo.

  25. Thomas Parkin says:

    m&m,

    I’m game for all that. Although balance seems like a lot of work.

    By the way, did you see the Dark Knight? ;>

    ~

  26. Safety in balance there is.

  27. This post resonates with me, somewhat predictably, in the area of the arts and literature. Among American Mormons, especially in the intermountain west, there is a huge, lucrative industry devoted to cultural products whose only virtue is their absence of vice. Movies that are completely devoid of sex, swearing, violence… and anything resembling compelling dialog. Music just as barren of melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic invention as it is of profanity.

    “Not bad” does not equal “good”; it equals neutral. Empty.

    I don’t see this sort of thing as harmless. I think it dumbs us down. It slowly numbs us to those qualities that take something beyond merely unsinful and make it “virtuous, lovely, of good report, praiseworthy,” etc. It also fosters a kind of cosmetic morality, where swearing or drinking caffeine is somehow a greater sin than being uncharitable or unkind.

  28. But what is missing in this vision – a vision in which we seem preoccupied with creating spaces of purity and countering all assaults to them – is a sense of any positive form of engagement and, more importantly, a focus on why we perform these actions.

    What I think is an even bigger problem is that we are not creating spaces of purity, just avoiding those spaces of impurity.
    But I agree with the need for engagement with the world to be as good as we need to be.

  29. Peter LLC says:

    Seven years ago President Monson wrote an article on pornography that went beyond the usual counsel to avoid it and asked us to “pledge to wage and win the war against pernicious permissiveness” and to “let our voices be heard. Let our actions be felt.”

    I know I haven’t canvassed any neighborhoods lately or been asked to donate money to drum up support for anti-porn initiatives.

  30. Although I agree with you in a general way, Ardis, it is always possible to overshoot the mark.

    This is why I hesitate to endorse the original post, or at least its title. It overshoots the mark in engaging the world. “Too much safety in keeping the commandments?” is equivalent, IMO, to “Adequate safety in keeping some of the commandments, while still being comfortably at home in Babylon.” That’s probably not what Natalie has in mind, but it’s how I read it. Now if the title were “Too much safety in overzealously overstressing certain commandments at the expense of other commandments,” I’d be on board.

  31. Jeremy, #28:

    “Not bad” does not equal “good”; it equals neutral. Empty. I don’t see this sort of thing as harmless. I think it dumbs us down.

    Yes. Thank you.

  32. TA Esplin says:

    The rhetoric in these sentences frames us not as agents within the world, but as passive spectators to it. Quite literally, it positions us as consumers, not producers, of various opinions whose task is not to directly influence the world, but to turn off whatever might unduly influence us…

    A good observation, but I think such themes come from a television age worldview rather than religion. Conference speakers often emphasize the need for parents to be the primary influence on their children and for church members to influence their communities (and especially their communities’ attitudes towards church.) I think even the Sunday School comments in my area reflect these messages, but I understand local conditions vary.

  33. Steve Evans says:

    Ardis, I’m not sure that’s a fair reading of Natalie’s title, given the body of her post and subsequent comments, but in any event I don’t think anyone is really disagreeing with your overall point.

  34. Perhaps keeping the commandments means that we become good Christians instead of just good Mormons. Sometimes I despair that the answer to questions in Sunday school don’t revolve around keeping the first and second commandment to love God and each other.

  35. molly bennion says:

    Good post, Natalie. The convert in me would add to one of your points. Mormons tend to define the “world” as “evil” equating it to “non-Mormon.” I’ve found it offensive since I first began studying the Church. Mormons tend to venture forth largely to save the heathen. It’s an “I’m brave and aren’t they lucky to have me” attitude. We need to engage the non-Mormon world to gain from it as much as give to it. We have much to learn from the many wonderful people outside the Church, even a drinker or smoker or adulterer or two.

  36. Jeremy,

    I don’t entirely disagree with your point in #28, but perhaps part of the problem is that we measure LDS products with a Hollywood yardstick. I appreciate those that attempt to make wholesome entertainment, even if the end result won’t be up for an Oscar….

  37. Natalie, I love this post, and I completely agree with your conclusion. I particularly liked this part:

    But, even God’s great commandment – to love one another – requires knowledge and risk. It requires engagement. It means discovering what needs changing in the world as well as what is good.

    Very well put.

    Katie, Who was your stake president? That sounds really familiar to me.

  38. Eric Russell says:

    I think this is all much ado about nothing. I don’t see anything in this thread that the average member wouldn’t agree with. I think we do focus on engaging the world and being active in producing good. Quite a bit. It’s just that, in addition to that, we also mandate specifics of behavior – and it’s just human nature that specifics of behavior are the quickest and easiest answers in a Sunday School setting.

  39. Steve Evans says:

    “I think this is all much ado about nothing.”

    “this” = Bloggernacle, Eric?

  40. Guy Noir, Private Eye says:

    I’m afraid the outward appearances have risen to the level of actual distractions from the real meat of Christ’s gospel, Love for God & Neighbor, Mercy-Compassion, Repentance & Forgiveness, Charity, etc.
    Unfortunately, THOSE have Sadly – mostly the status of buzz-words, have been replaced by obedience to earrings-tattoos, White shirts, etc.
    ‘just my opinion’, Right?

  41. Guy Noir, in my opinion, our leaders are constantly re-iterating the “real meat.” Some may get caught up in outward appearances- we are all on our own learning curve as m&m described- but there are many too that truly strive to follow Christ.

  42. Eric Russell says:

    Steve, touché.

  43. It’s like an older genereation that fights a war for survival, sacrifices for beliefs, fights the good fight over ideals such as freedom and equality, and builds a future for their families and then they are proud to say they don’t want their children to have to go through that. Taking the chance for life’s glory, fighting the good fight, from the next generation makes them into infants, incapable of mature choices, or their own amazing human accomplishments.

    Sometimes the way we wrap the youth up in the cocoon of the SL corridor with all the pamphlets and rules, I mean “commandments”, about every aspect of basic life style choices infantilizes them to the point where they are incapable of making real life choices for themselves after their mission. The failure to launch, a national social phenomenon, is also a problem in a church that preaches that boys are to become men of God, that the AP prepares them for the higher power of the MP. If they can only do what they are commanded and have never had to take the initiative on anything on their own, then how can we hope for the kind of dynamic prophetic leadership that we rave about in the scriptures.

    When I hear people defend the over-emphasis on all the touchy lifestyle commandments laid down on the youth as a “safe” way for them to live, I get an uncomfortable flashback to a theme that our theology develops in detail. Satan’s plan appealed to the same nervous-nellies that think safety and a sure thing are the first priority in existence.

    lately I think it has gone overboard. Elder Hale’s article in the latest Ensign had him railing like some old guy on a porch about kids today and their “wild colors”. What does that mean, red, yellow, purple, black? I think the recently national coming out of the FLDS fashion look and attitudes about withdrawal from and hostility towards the world should give us a scary and sobering vision of what can become of us if we lose sight of the vision of our principles and give in to the allure of safety and comfort.

  44. Our youth called comments like the ones in the post ‘sma’s – standard mormon answers. They may be true but they tend to shut our minds down when we hear them.

  45. Some do not realize there is an opportunity cost in commandment choosing. It is truly possible to focus on the set of generic commandments, even out of commitment to obedience, and miss the still small voice whispering the one or two personal commandments that truly matter for that day or moment (and miss it day after day and year after year). In my experience these whispered, personal commandments will almost always involve obedience to the great commandment, synthesized by Benjamin into serving our fellow beings (and probably someone very close to home–spouse, child, neighbor, etc.)

    The danger in focusing so heavily on the generic commandments, is that for so many of us, we will always fall short. If we see them as the grand hurdles that must be cleared before we are worthy of the Spirit’s whispering, then we will drown out the already present whispers in our preoccupation with obedience, or more often, our failures in obedience.

    Truly obedience is better than sacrifice (the Mosaic adherence to rites) and to hearken (listening to the Spirit) than the fat of rams. When our modern form of obedience resembles an ancient form of sacrifice, we might find useful lessons in the past.

    When Nephi said “and thus far I and my father had kept the commandments wherewith the Lord had commanded us” (1 Ne 5:20) he was speaking of the specific commandments (leave Jerusalem, get the plates), commandments which even involved the breaking of the generic. While I believe that will not frequently be the case, ultimately the Spirit is the law, not the temporal letter. If in our ignorance, or arrogance, we miss the Spirit because of our love for the Letter, we may find ourself rightly with the Pharisee, and not justified (Luke 18:14).

    The Spirit is striving with us so much more frequently, and so much earlier, and with so much more relevant counsel, than I think many of us believe (and usually with counsel of “who” to serve, especially if we let that be the question we ask). If we wait until near perfect obedience to believe we can “get the Spirit”, or set an almost unreachable standard for our children or others, then we are saddled with unbelief in our ability to hear.

    Obedience surely can help prepare us to hear, but we can start listening now. And when we follow the counsel the Spirit gives, we might actually find ourselves truly obedient.

  46. Hmmm. I’m not sure how to word this exactly, but I’ll give it a shot: While I believe I understand (and have experienced) Natalie’s point, I fear the delivery of the post reflects a passive/self-protective point of view similar to the one we are warned against.

    That is, whether we are agents or spectators, producers or consumers, is not the result of what we hear over and over again in Sunday School or how the “cultural cloud” might look like to an outsider. Rather, what “keeping the commandments” means to each of us is a result of our own choices and experiences, and especially our own relationship with the Holy Spirit.

    In other words, I expect that a large portion of Sunday School (etc.) teachers and students say and hear what sounds like “Run away!” rhetoric, but it isn’t translated that way in their hearts. Surely, all of us some of the time, and some of us all of the time, are spiritually timid. I’m simply uncomfortable when we speak in broad or absolute terms about things that ultimately can only be measured and improved on an internal, individual, spiritual basis.

    My personal opinions aside, Natalie reminded me of a talk by Elder Bednar that I recently re-heard by chance. It’s from last October’s General Conference and is titled: Clean Hands and a Pure Heart

    Here’s a good quote

    The gospel of Jesus Christ encompasses much more than avoiding, overcoming, and being cleansed from sin and the bad influences in our lives; it also essentially entails doing good, being good, and becoming better. Repenting of our sins and seeking forgiveness are spiritually necessary, and we must always do so. But remission of sin is not the only or even the ultimate purpose of the gospel. To have our hearts changed by the Holy Spirit such that “we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2), as did King Benjamin’s people, is the covenant responsibility we have accepted. This mighty change is not simply the result of working harder or developing greater individual discipline. Rather, it is the consequence of a fundamental change in our desires, our motives, and our natures made possible through the Atonement of Christ the Lord. Our spiritual purpose is to overcome both sin and the desire to sin, both the taint and the tyranny of sin.

    For me, this kind of instruction pushes the concept of keeping the commandments down to where I need it.

    Colin

  47. This is another good quote:

    Faith and fear can not be in the same man at the same time.

    –Joseph Smith

    Either take the risk to leap forward with faith or indulge the fear of the unknown to cower in safety.

  48. Faith and fear can not be in the same man at the same time.
    –Joseph Smith

    I like this quote. But I also hesitate to take it too literally. If one is filled with 100% faith there is no room for anything else, but what about 80% faith? And, in order to experience aspects of this existence, we may be required to lack some faith.

  49. Tony, I love the way you thinking on this. While quotable and articluate, I don’t think that JS quote was intended to be an absolute black and white statement of gospel, but a good place to start thinking. In our journey along the road of life sometimes we have more fear than faith, and other times our faith takes us past our fears.

    Some of us stand at the cliff longer than others wondering if we should jump, until we finally make the leap of faith. Maybe that’s how we all huddled around in the preexistence on the edge of life, until finally . . . Here we are. I don’t think it matters in the eternities how long it takes each of us to take the plunge, in the end we all end up the same. I do worry, however, when we, or the Church, start to desire or indulge the fear instead of embracing the process of faith. If we put up so many fences to make us feel safe from the fear or risk of the cliff, then we’ll never be able to truly test our faith.

    This generation’s present locally-based cultural obsession with hair, earrings, tatoos, shoulders, colors, gets in the way of the big picture of the restored gospel. Incidentally, it also clouds the vision of the world-wide church. When the Cuna Relief Society President on the San Blas Islands has a ring in her nose and a tatoo line down her nose, I think it’s time for us to let go of smaller things and embrace the potential of the future. At the very least, it’s okay to question some of those “commandments” in light of real gospel commandments.

    BTW, Tony, I agree that sometimes we may be “required” to lack faith in order to experience this existence. It’s all about opposition. Someone I respect once said you can’t have faith without doubt. What do you think of that?

  50. Someone I respect once said you can’t have faith without doubt. What do you think of that?

    I think, like most spiritual questions with “yes” or “no” answers, it is asking the wrong question.

    There are times when there is direct revelation with a corresponding certainty about thought and action.

    There are times when there is direct revelation without the certainty about implementation – the certainty may be missing for a wide variety of reasons — sometimes for the sake of others, sometimes for the sake of selves, sometimes for the sake of God.

    There are times when there is “secret” direct revelation, when you think you are acting on free will, but really aren’t.

    And there are most people, who are walking through this life with no more than some “preset” lessons and the associated choices. There is often some hope that they will change into someone who can really hear the voice of God, but they fail to make the internal change required.

    (And I agree that the internal change is not shirt, tattoo, or jewelry related. On the other hand, that change is not not related to such things either.)

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