Aaron’s thoughtful post, and particularly the story of the discussions at the MTC, reminded me of similar discussions I’ve had–mostly on my own mission. We all of course asked whether or not we would die for Christ if forced to profess our beliefs, and we all (so far as I can remember) happily said we would, insisting (partly joking and partly serious) that if we died as missionaries insisting we believed in Christ, we were guaranteed a place in heaven and a hot wife in the hereafter.
But we also had another discussion from time to time. Would we kill for Christ?
The discussion was usually pretty simple. If we were ordered to kill, a la Abraham, would we do it? Those were typically easy to answer: The order is coming straight from God himself, and, well, we knew it was mighty hypothetical, so people could confidently say yes they would. The harder discussion came when asking if we’d kill if the prophet asked us to. Here, I knew the answer quickly: no way. But I was genuinely surprised at how many missionaries said they would kill someone if the prophet asked them to. They expressed confidence that it was what the Lord wanted, they would either not be caught, or if they were caught and tried for their crime, they would be secured a place in heaven.
At the time as a missionary, I saw this as a relatively simple point of disagreement. Now, I’m much more creeped out by my own answers and those of the people around me. We celebrate the story of Abraham going to sacrifice Isaac as a great example of faith and of following the will of God. But if we sat in Church and listened to someone tell the same story about how they were commanded by God to take their child up to the mountains and kill them, but just as they were about to do it, God told them to stop, we’d be on the phone to Child Protective Services in a heartbeat.
If asked to kill by God, the prophet, the Bishop, or Steve Evans, I’d have to say no. I think most people would give the same answer. But today, I’m more interested in the purpose of these kinds of hypothetical discussions and how they fit in our culture. Why do we feel the need as young missionaries to reiterate our faith and beliefs in such strong terms: ie, we’d die for Jesus or kill for him? Is it because we don’t have the same opportunities that appear in the scriptures and church history to reaffirm our faith? Chances our, we won’t be asked to abandon our homes and march off to Missouri anytime soon (that was another common hypothetical – if the prophet said it was time to go back, would you?). Does it reveal a deeper insecurity among missionaries about their faith or their purpose as a missionary that they try and appear the uber-faithful type by insisting they’d go to such extremes?