How Abrahamic tests work

First, Isaac has to be your son, so unless it’s your own child whose baptism you have to cancel, you ain’t Abraham. Stop egging on Abraham from a distance. You should be devastated by what he’s about to do.

Second, Abraham was willing to kill his son even though he knew it to be wrong. He didn’t come up with lame justifications. It was murder and he knew it. It certainly was not done to “protect Isaac.”

Third, the command came direct from God, a deity he knew face-to-face. He did not read it on a cuneiform tablet he had happened to notice that morning. Even if the tablet were to have come from a respected source, that source had been known to get things wrong from time to time.

Fourth, he didn’t end up doing it! If you’re a bishop about to refuse a naming and blessing even though you know it’s wrong, I suppose you’ve passed the test. Expect an angel to order you to change your mind. Happy ending.

Comments

  1. As the kids say, BOOM.

  2. Also, Abraham communed with God, not some Assistant Attaché.

  3. Very true. Make that #4.

  4. I shall amend to make that point!

  5. The Abrahamic test went very differently for Mary, the mother of Jesus.

  6. Jesse Stricklan says:

    There is a Jewish tradition of interpreting the story as though Abraham actually failed to follow through. Some scholars feel like the speeches of the angel are later insertions to make an excuse for Abraham’s failure, which changes the meaning of the phrase, “God will provide himself a lamb.” The medieval Torah scholar takes Abraham to task for failing to obey God. See also this book by Omri Boehm, about to be released in paperback, which is an interesting modern interpretation of the refusal of Abraham and which engages with Kant and Kierkegaard.

  7. jstricklan says:

    *The medieval Torah scholar Maimonides…

  8. lastlemming says:

    Not exactly on topic, but I thought the readers of this thread might be as fascinated as I am by Larry Richman’s latest post calling attention to a “feedback” link on lds.org. Apparently it has been used, on average, less than 1,000 times per week since it was added to the site. My guess is that a significant jump in traffic would be noticed.

  9. I’ve been following BCC (and RJH, sorry for the acronyms, I’m Mormon!) for a long time with great interest and edification. I’ve learned and keep learning many things that I would not be able to learn otherwise. But in the past couple of days I’ve been scratching my head in unbelief… I simply do not and cannot understand this kind of re-actions, if I consider what we (and you) know about the doctrine of the Church about families, marriage, prophets and apostles, sustaining our leaders and on and on…

    Now, living prophets and apostles (can I dare call them so here or is it too politically incorrect nowadays?) actually are Abraham, or the Lord’s anointed on the earth for us, today. And we are certainly not speaking about actual murder or sacrifice, aren’t we? Isn’t the analogy going a little too far? Wouldn’t it be better to cool down a little and to trust in the Lord and in His servants a little? Do we really think we know better? Or do we sustain, admire and follow them only until and unless they preach pleasant doctrines (or policies) to our ears? Can we cherry-pick our faith and trust in the Lord and in His appointed servants? Can we honestly suggest that we know more than watchmen on the tower, since we are on ground-level?

    Abraham knew it was morally wrong (it reminds me of Nephi vs. Laban)… but through struggles I cannot envision he was able at one point, through personal revelation I guess, to know that God commanded him to do so (making it not morally wrong anymore, as hard as this saying sounds, since God has all life in His hands and when we obey Him, and we are certain it is His will, we can trust that some Good is involved), even if he did not agree, understand or accept the command. No need to mention in a snarky tone ‘protection’ for Isaac, referring to what a living apostle has said is one of the reasoned motivations for this policy. What of ‘not speaking evil of the Lord’s anointed’? What of ‘the Lord’s ways are higher than our ways’? What of ‘I do not know the meaning of all things, but I know that the Lord loves all of His children’?

    Sure, we may pit ourselves (our sensitivity, our opinion, our point of view, etc.) against an apostle, against the First Presidency and therefore, it theologically follows, against the Lord. That does not make it right. Understandable, maybe. A natural human reaction, possibly. But not right. Not in harmony with what we profess, believe and covenant.

    The command (or policy) is from God. I know this, even if I do not understand all of it. I read about and personally know other members who have prayed about it and received the same testimony and assurance about it. The fact that some Priesthood leader, or Church employee, or PA representative leaked the information to John Dehlin does not change this fact. In an unimaginable scenario, if President Monson was to receive a revelation, then share it with his secretary, and then she told about it to the SLT which would then publish it before the revelation could reach the general assembly of the Church or even the Quorum of the Twelve, would that make it less than a revelation from God?!?

    Finally, Abraham did not do it because the Lord provided a ram to sacrifice instead. But Abraham was willing and ready to obey first. He did not vent his frustration and rage against Jehovah in public, openly mocking and criticizing and putting the Lord under a bad light because he could not understand, accept or agree with His command. He did not risk damaging the spiritual well-being of other people (e.g. their faith in God, their view of His kingdom) for his own opinion’s sake, as much as it could be hard for him. Maybe this policy will change. Maybe not. But jumping to harsh and immediate judgment against something that ultimately the Lord is implementing is reason to worry, as I am worried by the fact that, should the Church issue (it’ll never happen, but let’s imagine) a statement declaring same-sex cohabitation and marriage lawful and right in the sight of the Lord, cheers and tears of joy and Hosannas to the Most High would fill the web, and some Bloggernacle corners as well, and we could be popular, politically correct, praised and loved by all the world (and I mean it in scriptural terms). Maybe President Monson could even run for the Nobel Prize for peace… and many inactive or former members might come back and fill our chapels. But it would not be a good thing, after all. Not at all.

  10. Andrea,
    It sounds like for you this is not Abrahamic test. Rejoice then and don’t worry about.

    FWIW, the idea of submitting as did Abraham is not of my invention, it’s something that’s been thrown at me all weekend.

  11. Josh Smith says:

    Exactly.

    Personally, I’m not too keen about Abraham’s participation in the Abrahamic Test. I’m sure as hell upset with anyone else justifying all manner of evil under this guise.

  12. eponymous says:

    Can we dissect this question of “protect the children” please? What are we protecting them from?

    The official statement from Elder Christofferson describes it as essentially avoiding cognitive dissonance. What if the gay parents WANT their children to be in the Church and to follow those principles? Is there still a conflict?

    So this policy originates out of that compassion. It originates from a desire to protect children in their innocence and in their minority years. When, for example, there is the formal blessing and naming of a child in the Church, which happens when a child has parents who are members of the Church, it triggers a lot of things. First, a membership record for them. It triggers the assignment of visiting and home teachers. It triggers an expectation that they will be in Primary and the other Church organizations. And that is likely not going to be an appropriate thing in the home setting, in the family setting where they’re living as children where their parents are a same-sex couple. We don’t want there to be the conflicts that that would engender. We don’t want the child to have to deal with issues that might arise where the parents feel one way and the expectations of the Church are very different. And so with the other ordinances on through baptism and so on, there’s time for that if, when a child reaches majority, he or she feels like that’s what they want and they can make an informed and conscious decision about that. Nothing is lost to them in the end if that’s the direction they want to go. In the meantime, they’re not placed in a position where there will be difficulties, challenges, conflicts that can injure their development in very tender years

    Steve brought it up in his Turing test post that this is about boundary maintenance. I’ve tumbled that over in my head many times the last day and giving our leaders the benefit of the doubt, here’s what I perceive as the best foot forward on this policy. This is about ensuring the individual (this child – who is now 18 so no longer a child but a young adult) who is taking on covenants fully understands the doctrinal teachings concerning marriage and the Church’s stance with regards to same-sex marriage. But if we take baptism that seriously then perhaps we should shift the age of accountability from 8 to 18 and require all children to wait?

    Furthering that thought, the missionaries are discouraged from baptizing a minor when there is no family support for them to attend Church and to fully engage with their new responsibilities. They’re not prevented from baptizing the child/youth but they are encouraged to be cautious. When we baptize a child at 8 the expectation is that parents are there to raise up that child in a gospel environment so that they come to fully appreciate those covenants. This framework of thinking is also why a young man who commits a sin like say fornication at age 15 is not treated as harshly as the returned missionary at age twenty-one and even that RM is most likely to be disfellowshipped whereas the married High Priest who commits adultery has a strong potential to be excommunicated. The severity of the sin increases as the individual takes on greater covenants, matures in their understanding accepts inherently greater responsibility toward God and the Church.

    So then is the protection to avoid careless baptisms that could put the individual under condemnation due to their covenants because their home environment and lived experience in a same sex household will teach them a core principle that is contrary to the doctrine of marriage?

    Where then do baby blessings fit in? This I believe is about partly giving shelter to gay parents so that their parents and family do not pressure them to have the baby blessed against their own wishes. This is so much more about a Mormon Mecca culture pressure than about concerns for the child. But it probably also IS about boundary management. Not creating another record that Church members have to pursue for HT and VT because the child was blessed. I have to believe this is part of the reason why Elder Christofferson calls out the creation of a record and the ensuring activities. I wonder if it is a concern about requiring members to mingle with gay families and the uncomfortable encounters that could ensue?

    I’ll admit this isn’t entirely satisfying but it’s the best I can come up with.

  13. jstricklan, another Medieval Jewish interpretation holds that Abraham failed the test because he was willing to sacrifice his own son and didn’t reject the perceived command to do so, contrary to all righteousness.

    So if we’re arguing Medieval Jewish interpretations, which do you choose?

  14. Deep Think says:

    I was baptized at age 14. I had two non-believing, alcoholic parents whose parenting style alternated between abuse, neglect and goodness. I received begrudging permission to be baptized and then experienced hostility toward it from the day of my baptism and beyond. So I have lived experience with being taught one thing at church and another in my home. Yet that baptism is why I am alive today. Truly. I ideated suicide every day when I was a child and even tried it once. Still, I might not have killed myself. I might instead have settled on a drug addiction. Either way, the Church saved me. So, for me, the Abrahamic test was being born into such a family, and the Church was my ram in the thicket. And I am here to witness that a child is blessed by being taught the gospel, covered in the covenants, and embraced by the fellowship — anywhere, any place, any time.

  15. Eve of Destruction says:

    Totally agreed that if it isn’t one’s own child at stake, one is not standing in the place of Abraham. More like Herod or Pontius Pilate.

  16. Fitzpatrick says:

    The Abraham story appears to be justification of the ‘might makes right’ philosophy. Is it?

  17. Josh Smith says:

    Deep Think, That is exactly why we have religion. That is it right there. If it’s not capable of serving those in dire need, it is not doing what it’s supposed to do.

    I think Jesus was very clear about who those in need include: children, widows, the poor, those bedeviled by sin. In short, those who do not receive society’s blessing. That’s why we have religion!

    (To be clear, I think the LDS faith does meet the needs of many in need. Kudos for that. Time to do more. Like, everything the faith has. All of it.)

  18. your food allergy is fake says:

    Deep Think, you should write a letter to the First Presidency. Seriously.

  19. N. W. Clerk says:

    RJH:
    Since you are not rejoicing and refraining from worry, as you have counseled Andrea to do, this must mean that this *is* an Abrahamic test for you. By your first rule, this must mean that you have had to cancel your own child’s baptism. Wow! That must be rough. Maybe further clarification from the Church leaders will indicate that they didn’t mean for you to have to do that.

  20. That kind of snark is really unnecessary.

  21. Yes, that is completely devoid of Christian charity or the influence of the Spirit.

  22. I join with Andrea in the sense that I’ve been a little surprised at all the blog posts (here an elsewhere) in which otherwise thoughtful writers have chosen to express their instant disapproval of these actions taken by the church. As if not only do these authors believe the church can be wrong but that they are sure they know that wrong immediately when they see it without any time for serious reflection. Or dialog, since comments have been turned off on most posts, making it impossible to point out even the most blatant inaccuracies or failures of logic. Forums for discussion have become personal megaphones. My respect for this medium has decreased significantly.

    I don’t know exactly what I think about the policy changes yet, although my experiences of approving and arranging baptisms in less than ideal family situations (including rejecting petitions for ordinances when it is clear there is too little faith or knowledge, and approving them only to have the results be far less than optimal) make me unwilling to reject the new policies outright. My experience tells me this is a complicated issue and that as long as we take the idea of covenants seriously (let’s be honest, baptizing 8-year-olds has always been a bit of a stretch), there is always going to be quite of bit of heartache. So for me this can’t be a black and white issue–there is a balancing of net good going on here, with significant negatives on both sides of the equation. Some children and families are definitely going to be hurt, especially in the short term, by these policies. Doing what we have been though, basically looking the other way and allowing many to continue in the belief that gay sex is going to be accepted in the church at some future day, that gay marriage isn’t actually fundamentally at odds with our basic doctrines of the nature of man and divinity, also hurts people. I’m sure there are many other things the apostles are weighing here. Like many, I look forward to hearing more about the reasons for this and how it will be implemented. The issue of how to deal with shared custody families seems particularly pressing, and I fervently hope bishops will be given discretion in those cases.

  23. I can’t comment on the Ursula LeGuin post, but I have heard her speak and answer questions about Those Who Walk Away from Omelos, and several people brought up the idea of the Abraham in test at one of those events. I liked her answer, essentially that suffering used to create comfort and joy for others, is not noble if we don’t give people who those suffer, the choice.

    She then went on to remind the audience that it isn’t what hill you would die for and on, but what hill you are willing to create as a place of peace and love, where all are welcome, that she was most interested in. I admit that I am struggling not to walk away from something that my soul rejects so thoroughly. I am not sure how I can ever find peace with this.

  24. Owen, comments were disabled on many posts about the policy change to prevent anti-Mormons and redditors from having their heyday at this site. If you disagree with that, then why are you here and not on Reddit?

  25. Eve of Destruction says:

    rejecting petitions for ordinances when it is clear there is too little faith or knowledge, and approving them only to have the results be far less than optimal

    Interesting approach. I don’t think Jesus said “Come unto me, all ye who have enough faith and enough knowledge.” Maybe the church is like a charter school, that can simply choose not to accept students who are likely to have less than optimal test scores. That way, on judgment day, the charter school looks amazingly close to ideal, compared to those awful public schools whose overall test scores are being dragged down by “the least of these.”

  26. it's a series of tubes says:

    we miss the now old ways of being a Mormon, which we believed were mandated by certain scriptural truths that we thought (and had been taught all of our lives by the Church and through our own personal study of the scriptures) were basic, fundamental, eternal truths: (1) suffering the children to come unto Christ, forbidding them not,

    I received a message from a close friend over the weekend; this individual comes from a polygamist family and was baptized into the church in his mid-20s, after more than a decade trying to gain admittance. The substance of the message was a mix of “welcome to my nightmare” and “where was the outcry for us? were we not worthy victims?”. He’s a faithful TBM, but the pain in his message was undeniable.

    My point? Simply that the “now old ways” were not as universal as is being presented here.

  27. John, you’ve made this statement a couple of times in a few of the comment threads and I think you need to reexamine the request of children who are seeking baptism. Elder Christofferson made clear that the request is not to denounce the parents but instead to disavow the idea of gay marriage as acceptable in God’s eyes. From the interview he did:

    Michael Otterson: There is also provisional requirement for a person who has reached the age of maturity who maybe wants to serve a mission in the Church, but who has come from a same-sex marriage relationship, family. There is a requirement for them to disavow the idea of same-sex marriage. Not disavow their parents, but same-sex marriage. What was the thinking behind that?

    Elder Christofferson: Well again, this is a parallel with polygamy. Anyone coming out of a polygamous setting who wants to serve a mission, it has to be clear that they understand that is wrong and is sin and cannot be followed. They disavow the practice of plural marriage. And that would be the same case here. They would disavow, or assent I guess would be a better way to say it, to the doctrines and practices of the Church with regards to same-sex marriage. So they would be saying, as you said, not disavowing their parents, but disavowing the practice.

    That is consistent with the wording in changes to the handbook as well:

    The child accepts and is committed to live the teachings and doctrine of the Church, and specifically disavows the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage.

    I suspect you would agree it is best for discussion around this issue to stay true to the Church’s intent. No? Or in your mind is asking the child to disavow (deny any support for) same sex marriage the same thing as denouncing their parents?

  28. Well said, Andrea. There are really only two responses to issues like this:

    – I don’t understand, therefore the Church must not be true or the leaders must be misguided or this isn’t from God.
    – I don’t understand, but I have faith in the Lord and His prophets.

    Note the lack of understanding from both perspectives. But we can lack understanding in a way that leads closer to God, His prophets and His priesthood, instead of further away.

  29. eponymous, have you read the words of the policy itself?

  30. What I think is important to remember here is that we are all working in good faith in this discussion. Those who support the policy change and those who do not can still be (and are!) good people who believe in the revealed gospel of Jesus Christ. I support the Brethren in their callings as prophets, seers and revelators. That does not mean that I agree with every policy that comes out of Salt Lake. Similarly, someone who has decided to submit to the policy change is not necessarily a homophobe who hates children. Assuming good intentions on all sides will go a long way towards facilitating discussion. If one of us cannot do that, that person is invited to withdraw from the conversation, regardless of their stance.

    As to why comments were closed on some posts over the last few days, it was mostly because the emotions were running so high during the initial release of the policy. Emotions continue to run high, but the generalized viewpoints are beginning to crystallize such that people of good faith can talk about these things.

  31. Amen John f.

  32. John, I’m one of those who believes it is possible to disavow a policy without disavowing the prophets. I also believe it is possible to disavow a particular concept without feeling I am rejecting my family. I have gay family members and we have discussed the question of our differences on gay marriage and how God sees homosexual activity. If they can accept that it’s possible for me to say I don’t believe marriage of homosexuals is of God while recognizing that I love them and I want what’s best for them including for them to marry – according to society’s laws – if they feel that is what’s a best course of action in their lives then it seems to me it’s possible to reject a principle without rejecting the person.

  33. it's a series of tubes says:

    I find your approach of painting me as disingenuous

    John, I wasn’t attempting to paint you as disengenuous, and I apologize if my comment came off that way. I was merely trying to share the perspective of someone whose pain on this general topic was not new. While I have had access to handbook 1 for many years, and while anyone who wants can use wikileaks to find various versions of the book, I must admit that my perspective on this is colored by close association with many polygamists over many years, including the FLDS who lived next door to my grandparents before being summoned down to Colorado City.

    And I agree with you regarding the split family issue. I know someone personally facing that issue right now, and I hope that the policy is clarified to permit the active LDS children (who in this instance, live with their biological father) to continue to progress in the gospel. If not, his oldest son is going to be stuck at being a deacon for the next five years…

    It has been a painful few days for many :(

  34. John, I think it’s something that may be informing the decision-making of the Brethren, so it’s possibly relevant from that perspective.

  35. Steve, I think it’s definitely relevant and the message from Elder Christofferson if we look at the subtext of his statement it seems to give clear evidence that polygamy was part of the consideration. Whether or not that is the right parallel to consider and whether the optics look good to anyone looking in from the outside might be a different conversation however.

  36. Steve, just prior to the Thursday Firestorm, we were trying to disentangle vestigial temple language found by many women to be immensely painful and that language may or may not be related to something we may or may not believe in anymore as it pertains to polygamy. I’m sure my opinion that plurality of worlds, plurality of gods, and plural marriage being intimately enmeshed is not a majority one, and yet here we are still saddled with its legacy which has been passed down to us. I’m more than happy to admit there’s plenty I’m missing, much I’m not privy to, and some beyond my capability of understanding. However, I don’t think these issues were fully understood at the time Joseph introduced to them, Brigham wrestled them as best he could, and now it’s our turn, our job, our legacy, and our responsibility to fix all of the thorny theological and pragmatic issues that are a direct and indirect consequence of its introduction. From the polygamy essay:

    “The same revelation that taught of plural marriage was part of a larger revelation given to Joseph Smith—that marriage could last beyond death and that eternal marriage was essential to inheriting the fulness that God desires for His children.”

    So, here we are. Again.

  37. Yep.

  38. Abrahamic is indeed a terrible way to describe it, stemming likely from people trying to find some precedent for the pain they are feeling around them. I know finding a “why”, even if it doesn’t make sense can help some people, but for many it’s just dismissive and unhelpful. For me, it’s one of the many, many things I don’t understand, and hope to one day.

    Tangentially: why do people keep bringing up AofF 2 as a reason against this? We only treat it as saying we’re not punished for the sins of our forebears when it suits us. We gloss over completely that we require half of our members to swear to hearken to their husbands (real or imagined) because of an action taken by Eve. AofF2 is a poor argument against the new policy.

  39. “and now it’s our turn, our job, our legacy, and our responsibility to fix all of the thorny theological and pragmatic issues that are a direct and indirect consequence of its introduction.”

    Is it really?? Are we even entitled to revelation on the thorny theological issues that the general authorities and prophets must grapple with? Can we expect to get revelation or answers on things we have no stewardship over? I think our legacy is just to be the best person we can be….serve others, mourn with those who mourn, be loving and charitable, etc. Otherwise, we walk by faith.

    I get that this is unsatisfying for many people. But isn’t that really the way it is?

  40. eponymous says:

    Marc, I could be wrong but it reads to me that Jeff’s “we” referred to the Church and our leaders in this generation and not any of us individually. But with that said, given the experience some members had with regards to Blacks and the priesthood, it’s clear that we can individually receive revelation on the rightness of a particular approach. That however does not endow us with the stewardship to make any modifications to Church doctrine. That alone belongs to the President of the Church and the Quorum of the Twelve.

  41. It’s important to consider that both sides in this debate are well intentioned, but it is also a luxury not all of us have. It’s easy for us to ponder the implications of the story of Abraham, but this is real life and there is no ram in the thicket. The LDS church does not want gay families in church on Sundays. It doesn’t want children of gay families to be protected and blessed by sacred baptismal covenants that members of the church enjoy. What is expected of us? No matter how well intentioned, the policy sends a very clear message that you are not worthy to be counted among the saints. To children. Please don’t attempt to cover the violence done by this policy by talking about good intentions. I believe the men who instituted this policy are very well intentioned. And herein lies the biggest problem of all. That well intentioned people can be responsible for the same kind of destructive consequences as people with specific intentions to do so. May God have mercy on all of us who are justifying this policy and it’s effects on the most innocent and vulnerable among us.

  42. Anon4, I’m speaking more in terms of how we engage with each other in talking about this situation, rather than dissimulation about our respective positions. And yes, may God have mercy on all of us, period.

  43. This is not a liberal vs conservative issue. I have voted Republican in every election save one in the last 30 years. I’m a Reagan guy through and through. In Church, I’m just as conservative. I have never turned down a calling. I have served at every level of ward and stake callings and I love the Church with all I have. I have wrestled to find some way to sustain this policy. I can’t find it. The only fruits of the spirit that I feel in relation to it is to mourn with those who mourn. Other than that, I have just a feeling of deep unease and bewilderment. I have not found a way to understand how Elder Christofferson’s, whom I love, explanations can square with scripture or with what I know to be right. Cutting innocent children who are alive in Christ off from these blessings during their formative years is wrong. I believe that the Brethren hold and exercise all priesthood keys, but they have turned the keys in a way that puts a barrier between the blessings of baptism until they have navigated their scariest years. They cut God off from young children. Peter had the humility to listen to God when God told him to call not unclean what God hath cleansed. I pray for that same sort of revelation here.

  44. We do, oh so want this to be just an Abrahamic test. Here is an indelible experience from my teenage years that has colored such tests forever for me.

    In a Fast and Testimony meeting a teenage girl was telling her story. She was so proud of how she had come through the ordeal. To set the scene she told us that she had never been asked out to a school dance before and was now a Senior. She had been asked to the final dance of the year and was, as you can imagine, very excited to be wanted and included.

    The day of the Prom came and she was standing at the top of the stairs in her new dress. Just as she was about to leave, her father, a church leader of some kind, called her aside and told her he felt inspired that she should not go on the date. He asked her to trust him as her father and as a Priesthood holder.

    She was devastated of course but chose to follow her fathers inspiration and did not go to the dance. The next day he told her that he was so proud that she had trusted his inspiration and had done as he had asked. He explained to her that his request had not been out of any fear about her safety or well-being on the date. He had simply wanted to give her an Abrahamic test to see if she would obey her father and sacrifice something dear to her.

    Here’s the saddest part. He had let her follow it through- no angel, no ram, and she was telling the story praising her father for what he had done, and expressing her joy and pride that she had passed the test. (“It’s a matter of a firm policy that doesn’t allow for question and doubt.”)

    I wish this event were a test with an angel and a ram, but I fear it is not. And if it is, it will feel like one of these.

  45. That dad is a total jerk.

  46. Marc,

    Sorry the ambiguity in the post and the ambiguous “we”.

    “Can we expect to get revelation or answers on things we have no stewardship over? I think our legacy is just to be the best person we can be….serve others, mourn with those who mourn, be loving and charitable, etc. Otherwise, we walk by faith.”

    Perhaps. But I’m grateful Lester Bush chose to do more.

  47. I would say that what that dad did is a violation of D&C 121.

  48. Owen: Like many, I look forward to hearing more about the reasons for this and how it will be implemented.

    Well, amen to that. But don’t ask me to hold my breath. In this Church, we’re on a “need to know basis.” This whole policy is known only because it was leaked.

  49. Deep Think says:

    Yes, I was not asked to disavow the sins of my parents. I was asked to covenant with God to take upon myself the name of Christ. In fact, I was asked also to find every way I could to honor my parents, so that they could see that the peace that passes understanding, and the love of God was in me. And while it took me a while to figure out how to do that, over the years my parents came to see the great blessing of the church in my life. They saw me move from a dark, troubled, rebellious daughter to one who made peace. They did not join the church, or for that matter change much in their lifestyle, but they paid my way to BYU and endorsed me on a mission later on because they saw the good that the gospel had done for me.

  50. Mark Henderson’s story sounds like in administering the test the father failed his own Abrahamic test (Jewish interpretation #2) by sacrificing his daughter. Her praise of her father shows the damage he inflicted on her. He cloaked it in the guise of teaching obedience, but what he was really doing was exercising control and training her to submit to future demands without question.

    In the current situation, is the church Abraham and the unblessed, unbaptized children are Issac, or are we Abraham, and our LGBT brothers and sisters are Issac? I’m not a bishop so I’m in the second group. I’m not looking for a ram in the thicket because I’m here to support members of my ward, not murder them.

  51. Jeff, I’m not a big believer in the Lester Bush brought about the revelation on the priesthood theory, that I see on the bloggernacle, but I take your point.

    I agree on the dad. There’s abrahamic tests and there’s just being a manipulative jerk.

  52. Wow, I’m so glad that I know how Abrahamic tests work now. Now maybe I can avoid them.

  53. jstricklan says:

    john f., given that the text highly ambiguous (and is therefore unusually open to personal interpretation), I prefer any interpretation that doesn’t lionize Abraham for being ready to kill his own son — largely because I can’t find a justification for such an approach in Jesus, and partially because I constitutionally cannot do what he did.

    On the same subject, other medieval textual interpretations of Abraham’s test (if memory serves) include the recognition of the probably added text with the angel by supposing that God brought Isaac back to life after Abraham actually followed through. That’s an interesting textual approach — even if God commands the unconscionable, he’ll make it right.

    But I still prefer any interpretation that doesn’t lionize Abraham for being ready to kill his own son.

  54. Dear Ronan, I had not noticed this parallel and was not quite aware of it, sorry.

    Now, I tenderly, personally realize and know firsthand — I’m also trying to remember what some Brethren, like Elder Bednar in ‘Act in Doctrine’, have taught about this subject — that we all have highly customized ‘Abrahamic tests’ in our individual lives (I have them, my wife has them, my children will have them), different customized ‘sacrifices’ we have to personally place on the altar of our personal relationship with God, different doctrines/commandments/policies (polygamy, the priesthood ban, same-sex marriage etc.), past and present, highly personal things we need to know about ourselves (as President Hugh B. Brown said it was the case with Abraham) which may at times cause deep confusion, hurt and even suffering during our spiritual walk through mortal life.

    I realize that issues pertaining to same-sex or LGBT relationships/rights seem to be one the most heart-wrenching tests for many members (and non members as well), even if they are not such for me — surely because I haven’t had direct, personal or family experiences or afflictions about this subject. If you, or someone else, affirms that this specific issue is an Abrahamic test for them, nobody can judge this. We cannot pass any judgment on another’s personal trials or tests. I am not watering down the emotional and spiritual seriousness of this for many people, within the Church and out. I can (and should) try to exercise Christian empathy, understanding and humility when it comes to other people’s personal trials (or mistakes, or weaknesses, or sufferings and so on). It is my sacred lot as a disciple of Christ to do this. I made sacred covenants to do this and to feel for my suffering brethren and sisters, whatever the cause or the issue behind their suffering. I myself love when others feel empathy towards my highly individualized Abrahamic tests!

    One thing is certain: I do not rejoice in seeing others suffer, or have a hard time with their Abrahamic test (whether it be about same-sex marriage or other sensitive issues), and I do not act as if it doesn’t matter just because I do not feel the same. But I also believe and feel that focusing with patience and faith — even when we do not understand, agree or accept — on what the God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Andrea, of Ronan and of all of us (through His prophets and apostles) would have us learn and understand can help us pass the test successfully and come out strengthened in our testimony and discipleship, whatever the cost or sacrifice required (not our children in our case, thankfully, but our customized personal equivalent): for Abraham it was Isaac, for Laman and Lemuel it possibly was leaving Jerusalem, for the early Saints it may have been polygamy, for some of us today it may be same-sex marriage or a thousand different doctrines/policies/commandments. The answer, I believe, is still ‘Trust in the Lord’ and ‘Come, follow me’. It will all be worth it. It is worth it, however long and hard the road to our heavenly home.

  55. On this subject, maybe this resource (I am sure many of you already knew it), among others, can help us deepen our appreciation for and understanding of ‘How Abrahamic Tests Work’, and what they may be for each of us: https://rsc.byu.edu/archived/sperry-symposium-classics-old-testament/abrahamic-test

  56. Andrea: a key with Abrahamic tests is that they usually are not imposed upon you by your church by a casual policy change.

  57. Eve of Destruction says:

    I was taught that Abraham was being tested to see if he would trust that the Lord would fulfill the promise some other way than through Isaac (who was clearly the only way). Perhaps LDS people are being tested to see if they will trust that the Lord will fulfill his promises to their children some other way than through baby blessings, baptism and confirmation at 8, ordination at 12 and so on (and seriously, baptism is pretty clearly the only way). But again, it’s only the Abrahamic test if your own child is on the altar. So if your child is still allowed by the church to have these blessings, go ahead and prove how much faith you have that the Lord will provide another way for the children of gay couples, by choosing to wait until your own child is 18. Yeah, I didn’t think so. It’s so much easier to play Old Testament God and put *other* people through an Abrahamic test.

  58. Abrahamic test can be code for anything that tests you to your core to see whether you will stay true to god or not. That can come from any source not just from God. I’ve seen people pass through tremendous tests that came because of the actions of other people.

    Joseph Smith said “When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure,”

    All hazards means All hazards, including policy changes. I don’t think that means you have to believe that every policy change comes from God but I do believe passing the test means staying true to God and staying with his church.

  59. Eve of Destruction says:

    1 And it came to pass after these things, that [other people] did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.

    2 And [other people] said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering…

    [And then Abraham told those other people to get lost, because there’s no freaking way he’d murder his son just because some human being told him to.]

    Abrahamic tests don’t come from other people.

    Trials like this come from other people:

    13 … Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.

  60. I just think that if the lord used the language :

    “Therefore, they must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham,” In Doctrine and Covenants 101:4 to describe the saints who had been kicked out of their homes in Jackson County, then you may need to broaden your definition

  61. John F, 8 years old is the *minimum* age of accountability, not a mandated age for baptism. Baptism entails a weighty covenant that few young people really understand, but we make an allowance for nascent faith within a supportive family context where the testimony of the parents can augment that of the child. For many children of less active parents, the covenant responsibilities are too weighty and, if not for divine grace, would do more to condemn the child than save them since they will not be taught to live up to the covenant. I think we could all agree that “basketball baptisms” are an abomination that cheapens the covenant. Baptizing kids for cultural/social, hopefully-this-will-get-the-family-back-to-church, or baptism=ticket to heaven reasons aren’t much different in my mind. This is why if parents aren’t on the ball enough to get the baptism done before age 9 we kick them into the missionary system. If the parents didn’t arrange it earlier, that’s a signal that proper teaching isn’t happening in the home so the missionaries have to do it and establish that the kid has some understanding of what they’re getting into.

  62. Eve of Destruction says:

    “Therefore, they must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham,” In Doctrine and Covenants 101:4 to describe the saints who had been kicked out of their homes in Jackson County, then you may need to broaden your definition

    The Saints were being tested like Abraham because knowingly taking your children into a situation where your home is likely to be attacked by mobs, and staying in such a dangerous situation, is something that you would only do if God commanded it.

    If the policy is an Abrahamic test just like the Saints went through in Missouri, who is actually losing their home at the hand of others? And who is part of the mob?

  63. “8 years old is the *minimum* age of accountability, not a mandated age for baptism. ”

    Let’s not pretend that it’s Mormon practice to do anything other than baptize kids as soon as possible after they turn 8.

  64. The Saints were being tested like Abraham because knowingly taking your children into a situation where your home is likely to be attacked by mobs, and staying in such a dangerous situation, is something that you would only do if God commanded it.

    That’s a really insightful reading of that verse. Thank you.

  65. All I am saying is that an Abrahamic test can take different forms. It can be more than Abraham and his son Isaac or the Saints with the mobs in Missouri. There doesn’t have to mobs or saints or Abraham or Isaac, or rams in thickets. I believe that it can be anything that wrenches you to the very core and calls your faithfulness to God to the test.

    I can see others define it more narrowly. That’s fine but its also not the only way to define it.

    Regardless What we call an Abrahamic test or a difficult test or just any old test is really beside the point. The point is we are going to be tested. That is what we are here for. The tests will come in many different forms. Some directly from God and some from others (probably most from others). How we respond to those things are our tests. The Lord wants to know if we will serve him “at all hazards”.

  66. Joseph Smith talks about this also:

    `You will have all kinds of trials to pass through. And it is quite as necessary for you to be tried as it was for Abraham and other men of God, and (he said) God will feel after you, and He will take hold of you and wrench your very heart strings, and if you cannot stand it you will not be fit for an inheritance in the Celestial Kingdom of God.'”

  67. Olde Skool says:

    “This is why if parents aren’t on the ball enough to get the baptism done before age 9 we kick them into the missionary system. If the parents didn’t arrange it earlier, that’s a signal that proper teaching isn’t happening in the home so the missionaries have to do it and establish that the kid has some understanding of what they’re getting into.”

    Owen, I’m a fully active member and GD teacher, and my children are past 9 and not baptized, for a variety of complicated reasons that have nothing to do with a lack of “proper teaching” in my home. If my children decide to be baptized at some point, they won’t need missionarying to have “some understanding of what they’re getting into.” I’m pretty such each one of my children could school the average 18 year old boy on Christian/Mormon history, theology, and on scripture.

    This kind of broad-brush declaration about what other people’s homes and families are like is part and parcel of the climate that produced the church’s indefensible new policy. Every home, every family is complicated; no one’s family is a gauzy Ensign cover photo. Worry about your own family. I’ll take care of mine.

  68. Every home, every family is complicated; no one’s family is a gauzy Ensign cover photo. Worry about your own family. I’ll take care of mine.

    So well said.

  69. Olde Skool, your kids could not be baptized without hearing the missionary discussions and being interviewed within the missionary hierarchy rather than by your bishop. I believe this policy is for the reasons I specified, exceptions notwithstanding.

    Steve Evans, I’m not pretending it isn’t standard practice to baptize kids as early as possible. I also think that practice smacks of a misunderstanding of the ordinance and is akin to the social pressures we have created for young men to leave on missions before they are ready. I believe we would be better off in these and all cases if we placed more emphasis on personal conversion, testimony, and the witness of the spirit rather than social convention and tradition.

  70. Olde Skool, ie technically your children would be convert baptisms. Their baptisms are supposed to be recorded by the mission office, and unless something has changed about MLS recently, the local ward can’t do it without completely recreating their member record.

  71. Owen, I’m not claiming that the policy doesn’t apply to my kids; I’m saying that, like this new policy, “kick[ing]” kids “into the missionary system” reduces the (universal) complexity of family and spiritual life into flowcharts. It arises from the same corporate organizational principle that makes proclamations about categories rather than ministering to people.

  72. And please don’t feel like you have to enlighten me on how the church works, Owen. I work for the church.

  73. Eve of Destruction says:

    Oh indeed, there will be trials of all kinds for all people, often extremely difficult ones. You and I and Brother Joseph are all agreed on that.

    But there is a difference when your house burns down in an accidental fire caused by lightning, or when your house is burned down by a mob of arsonists. Either way, the loss of the house (and most of all, the danger to family members inside it) is a trial, and is difficult enough on its own. But how would it feel if the mob that burned down your house said, “It’s a trial from God for you to endure. You’re supposed to have trials, so don’t you dare tell us we did wrong in setting it on fire.”

    It must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!

  74. I’m sorry but I just don’t see that that is what is going on here, but I’m going to leave it at that.

  75. Don’t get your dander up, Olde Skool. Most people reading this probably won’t have any idea about the church’s existing protocols on and restrictions for ordinances, and I don’t know you from Adam. You were the one who suggested your kids as examples on an impersonal Internet message board. Yeah, I agree, the flowchart approach to ministering can suck. But so can leadership roulette. Bureaucracy is a lot like democracy–the only worse option is all the other options.

  76. Olde Skool says:

    Fair enough, Owen. My apologies for getting myself wound up. Exhausting week of grieving for all sorts of reasons. I suspect that you and I see eye to eye on most things, and that we would gain much by sitting down together.