Waves of Adversity

Christian Harrison is a long-time friend of the blog, and we’re glad to feature this guest post from him.

bcc-dch_eqp201602a-1_clouds

Earlier this month, I taught a lesson on adversity that was largely based on Chapter 3 of “Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Howard W. Hunter.” The following essay approximates my lesson.

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In today’s Sacrament meeting, a story was shared by the speaker about a discussion he had with a professor of his from the Religion Department at BYU: “What,” he recalled asking his mentor, “did it all mean?” With the succinctness of hindsight, the professor replied, “I can sum it all up with one word: obedience.”

I have to admit that I cringed when I heard that. I think the Lord would have something to say to that professor about “what it all means” and how best to “sum it all up.”

Then one of [the Pharisees], which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” [And] Jesus said unto him, “‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.’—this is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:35–40)

Love. Love of God… and love of all mankind, because God is Love (1 John 4:8).

So what is this fascination with obedience?

You see, when I write a law—when we write laws—we write them to be obeyed. Obedience is an inescapable quality of lawmaking, but it’s not its thrust, its meaning. When I write a law about littering, I want people not to litter: I want to live in a world where litter doesn’t clog our gutters, pollute our waterways, tumble through majestic vistas. But you see, not everyone obeys, so if obedience was really the thrust, then I’d make easy laws or I’d find ways to brutalize rule-breakers. But that’s not the reason we write laws. Obedience isn’t its own reward, because the value of obedience is directly tied to the value of the law. Obedience to a good law is… good. Obedience to a bad law is… bad.

So let’s set that aside for a bit, and turn our attention to adversity. Let me start out by making two points:

• Adversity is not indicative of sin.
• Adversity is not indicative of righteousness.

The first point is straightforward. Of course adversity isn’t indicative of sin. We’re told—time and again and in so many different ways—that this is true. Why, Elder Eyring, in a Conference talk entitled “Adversity,” from April of 2009, reminded us of this very thing. And yet, we insist on making comments to the effect that adversity is somehow directly tied to unrighteousness. And we heard that very thing from the pulpit today, when another of our speakers read from the journal of one of his ancestors a passage wherein the ancestor recounts losing two horses and then opines that it must have been because he had chosen to work on the Sabbath.

The second is also straightforward, and yet how many times do we hear, “Oh, I’m feeling so much opposition; this path must be the right one!” I’ve heard this one a lot, recently, as people make the laughable leap of logic that it’s a sign that the Church is on the right course because it is getting so much flak (for this, that, or the other).

No. Adversity is indicative of neither sin nor righteousness. It is, simply and completely, a force of nature—an important and pervasive aspect of mortality.

bcc-dch_eqp201602a-2_carAllow me to paint an image for you.

You’re driving down the road: it’s a road near your home. Your car is in good working order; it’s not particularly new, but it’s aged well. Perhaps you’ve named it (I named a car once; his name was Duke—I miss that car). At any rate, no matter how you drive, where you are, or where you’re going, you risk being in a collision with another driver. You might be rear-ended; you might be side swiped. You might be t-boned, or experience a head-on collision.

Which of these scenarios do you think is the most common? According to figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), out of the 6 million car accidents that happen on US roads every year, over 40% of them (2.5 million) are rear-end collisions. Two people, going in the same direction, somehow manage to collide. I think there’s a lesson in there, somewhere. But it’s a lesson for another day. Suffice it to say that adversity comes at us from all directions.

So let’s continue with that story a bit, and let’s say that you’re in an accident.

There’s this seductive (there’s that word again) notion that adversity (in this case, a car accident) necessarily evinces the machinations of a supernatural being. If you were on your way to church, you might say that it was the will of the Adversary. If you were on your way to the bar, you might say that it was the will of God. You laugh, now, but you’ve made this very same assertion. I know you have.

I certainly have. Not often and not recently, but I have.

You see, the picture this paints of the scope and meaning of life is small, petty, and mean—and it runs contrary to our understanding of agency and its central role in the plan of our Heavenly Father. It not only makes reason stare; it makes a mockery of the love of Our Father in Heaven.

bcc-dch_eqp201602a-3_pingpongballI want to plant in your heart a new metaphor for adversity.

God creates an ocean and He creates a ball. The ocean is vast and, at turns,  is tame or turbulent. The ball is small and delicate, like a ping pong ball. It has fine cracks in it and many small pores—not much larger than a molecule of water. Over time, water finds its way into the interior of the ball and displaces the air; the ball becomes less buoyant and eventually sinks to the ocean floor where it is dashed against the rocks and pulverized.

We are like this ball. With two important differences: we have agency and we have the tools to repair the cracks and fill the pores. We are, each of us, tossed into mortality and buffeted by the waves of adversity. We roll to one side or another to keep the water out. We spit out the water that creeps in, and we patch the holes that the water points out to us.

At no point does the ball imagine that this or that drop of water was meant just for it: the ball knows it’s in an ocean and understands that any drop of water will do damage, if it’s allowed to remain—if it’s allowed to fester. The ball doesn’t waste time wrapping the water drops in sentiment or giving them carefully printed labels; the ball is too busy for such indulgences. It has work to do.

It’s not a perfect metaphor, but it’s the beginning of understanding.

Let’s open our manuals to Chapter 3; it starts out with a story:

At the April 1980 general conference, Elder Howard W. Hunter, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, told of joining a large crowd to watch the long-boat races in Samoa.

The crowd was restless, and most eyes were turned toward the sea, watching for the first glimpse of the [boats]. Suddenly there was a roar from the crowd as the boats came into sight in the distance. Each of them had a crew of fifty powerful oarsmen dipping and pulling the oars with a rhythm that forced the crafts through the waves and foaming water—a beautiful sight.

The boats and men were soon in full view as they raced toward the finish. Even though these powerful men pulled with their might, the weight of a boat with fifty men moved against a powerful adverse force—the resistance of the water.

The cheering of the crowd reached a crescendo when the first long-boat crossed the finish line.

After the race, Elder Hunter walked to where the boats were docked and spoke with one of the oarsmen, who explained that the prow of the long-boat “is so constructed that it cuts through and divides the water to help overcome the resistance that retards the speed of the boat. He further explained that the pulling of the oars against the resistance of the water creates the force that causes the boat to move forward. Resistance creates both the opposition and the forward movement.”

Elder Hunter used the boat race in Samoa to introduce a talk about the purposes of adversity. During his ministry as an Apostle, he spoke about adversity many times, offering counsel, hope, and encouragement. He spoke from personal experience, having endured life-threatening illnesses and other trials. He testified with firm conviction that in times of trouble, “Jesus Christ possesses the power to ease our burdens and lighten our loads”.

In our trials, the Savior extends to each of us the invitation He extended to the man at the pool of Bethesda: “Wilt thou be made whole?” (John 5:6).

The lesson then divides our discussion into fifths:

  • Adversity is part of God’s plan for our eternal progress.
  • Our mortal tribulations are for our growth and experience.
  • We have every reason to be optimistic and confident even in times of difficulty.
  • When we come to the Savior, He will ease our burdens and lighten our loads.

The last of these, is a discussion of “the last days,” which I think is silly. We’ve been talking about the last days for twenty-one centuries. Probably longer. The only last day that matters is your own—and who knows; maybe today is your last day.

So…

Sections one through three really don’t have much to offer. I think it’s pretty well-trod ground. But section four is special.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28–30)

We’ve heard this before. But do we know what it means? I think, perhaps, that we slip on past the details and slide into the notion—seductive, as so many are—that Christ’s way is the easy way, or, at the very least, the easier way. But that makes no sense at all. Or why would we need an entire lesson dedicated to adversity?

bcc-dch_eqp201602a-4_yokeSo let’s take a closer look:

In biblical times the yoke was a device of great assistance to those who tilled the field. It allowed the strength of a second animal to be linked and coupled with the effort of a single animal, sharing and reducing the heavy labor of the plow or wagon. A burden that was overwhelming or perhaps impossible for one to bear could be equitably and comfortably borne by two bound together with a common yoke.

And some of us know this bit. We remember this from a lesson on the pioneers, or from an episode of Little House on the Prairie, or maybe from reading some Stegner or Louis L’Amour. But somehow we get the crazy idea that the creature in the other bow is Christ. That Christ is the other ox. But Christ isn’t the other ox. It’s His yoke; He owns it. In this metaphor, Christ is the driver.

So who’s in the other bow? Well, that’s brings us all the way around to where we began.

We are taught from a very young age that we are the Lord’s hands, that God accomplishes His work through us. We are, every one of us, yoked to each other—with Christ’s yoke. We are yoked through covenant, and, more importantly, through love.

* * *

I speak a great deal about the Body of Christ. It’s a powerful image, really. A powerful way to understand the work of God. There’s the scripture in 1 Corinthians 12:21: “the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.” And there are others of course. But there are literally billions of us, and since the Body of Christ has only two eyes, two hands, one head, and two feet, I’d like to submit that we are probably more like cells than organs or appendages.

So it’s no surprise that nearly every church lesson is (or should be) a discussion of histology: the knitting of souls, one to another, like cells into tissue, tissues into organs, organs into systems, and the systems into the organisms—children of God, knit together into the Body of Christ.

And how are we knit together?

One of the things that knits us together is how we react to adversity. Do we take on the Yoke of Christ? Or do we take another path? Do we “mourn with those that mourn”? Do we “comfort those that stand in need of comfort”? Do we “stand [in the place] of God at all times and in all things, and in all places”? (Mosiah 18:8–10).

Adversity really is part of God’s plan for our eternal progress. It’s a personal crucible that burns away our impurities, that points up the cracks in our shells. But it’s more than that, really. Adversity is an opportunity for us to seek out others, and together build the Body of Christ.

That ball, in my metaphor, eventually sinks — alone in the great ocean. And Christ comes, eventually, to gather it into His rest. But if it chooses not to weather the storms alone, and instead knits itself together with others it meets along the way (Colossians 3:14), it discovers that it weathers the storms so much better, as it is now a great raft of souls, buoyed along in the Hope of Christ and by the physics of Godly Love (1 Corinthians 13; see also my post “Where Can I turn for Peace“).

And these thoughts I leave with you, in the name of Him who saves, Jesus Christ, amen.

Comments

  1. I remember the lesson well, but unfortunately it was not delivered with the same insight as this essay. I liked the analogy of the ball, and have to admit at first blush I often see adversity as some sort of payback for deviant behavior. But as you indicate, if adversity is causal at all, it is for our growth and not for punishment. So, if we have experienced a fairly adversity free life, does that mean the God doesn’t love us enough to chastise us, or are we just too comfortable to see the opportunities for growth that daily pass us by.

  2. “So what is this fascination with obedience?”

    The first great commandment, eclipsing even the commandment to love our neighbor, is to love God.

    If we love God, we are to keep His commandments.

    Therefore obedience is the manifestation of the love that we are to have for the Lord. That makes is our very first priority.

    Any time we put love of our neighbors ahead of obedience, we are putting the second commandment above the first. Admittedly this is a bit of a simplification, as the matter can be far more complex in understanding how we are to obey and what our instructions from the Lord are. But just as it is better to obey than to sacrifice, it is better to obey than to love our neighbor.

    Of course this is not as draconian as it seems, as if we are truly determined to obey the Lord, that obedience will ultimately bring forth love for our neighbors. If our obedience draws us away from loving our neighbors, we are doing our obedience wrong. But if we are only focused on loving our neighbors, that love may or may not bring obedience — it can also become a false and enabling compassion, for example, that excuses and encourages sin rather than inspiring those we love to draw closer to the Lord and find true happiness. Obedience, therefore, must remain the priority.

    Anyhow, that is my two cents on a short answer (it deserved longer) to your question.

  3. Jonathan and I will have to agree to disagree on this one. I don’t see the commandment to love our neighbors in competition with loving God and obeying him. Obeying his commandments is a way of showing love for him, but the second great commandment, upon which (along with the first) hangs all other commandments is to love others. We cannot obey him without loving others. Really loving others has nothing to do with their actions or sins, really loving them transcends our mortal desire to judge, weigh, and categorize. The Savior loves perfectly everyone who has ever lived no matter how we’ve sinned. It is a divine call that asks us to do the same. Real love isn’t just tolerance or acceptance. It is much deeper – it’s like OP says about being knit together and being there for each other. We can comfort and mourn with one another even if we sin differently. I don’t know how to explain this very well, but I’ve experienced such love (though not as often as I should) from God and for others and it is transformative. It doesn’t accept or ignore shortcomings or sins it purifies them and transforms the sinner into an entirely new person. Personally, I cannot place obedience for obedience sake above the experience of trying to keep the second commandment and tasting of the transcendent joy it brings.

    Whew! That went on longer than I planned. I probably shouldn’t comment after 11pm. I really meant to comment and tell Christian how much I appreciate his clarification of the yoke analogy. I find the incredibly insightful and useful.

  4. This is spectacular, Christian! Thanks so much for sharing.

    I am struck by how Christ is asked to name the one greatest commandment, but in response he names two. Why not stop at the first? It appears our love of neighbor is (or should by) implicit in our love of God. That is, we show our love for God through our love for our neighbor.

    I like that Dorothy Day quote: “I really only love God as much as I love the person I love least.” This captures the core teachings of Jesus pretty neatly, I think. And it challenges us to reflect on how we can show love even and especially towards those whom we have the most difficulty loving.

  5. HH9: “I’ve experienced such love (though not as often as I should) from God and for others and it is transformative. It doesn’t accept or ignore shortcomings or sins it purifies them and transforms the sinner into an entirely new person. Personally, I cannot place obedience for obedience sake above the experience of trying to keep the second commandment and tasting of the transcendent joy it brings.”
    Yes.

    Also, loved the perspective on the yoke. Thought-provoking.

  6. “ ‘obedience.’
    I have to admit that I cringed when I heard that.”

    I cringed when once again BCC cringes at obedience. It ruined the rest of the post for me.

    Everyone is for love, of course. Obedience is not as soaring (or as vague) as love, but it has its value and purpose, i.e. to accomplish what the Lord has in mind for us. See 1 Nephi 3:7. Nephi didn’t lecture his father on the importance of love or how obedience to a bad law is bad. He didn’t even cringe.

    One book, maybe not my favorite book, but it did make the canon, concluded:

    “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgement, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”

    I suggest we have to progress to that level if we progress to higher levels. Nephi had to obey before he got to his promised land.

  7. Yes, we need to obey, but I think we often think we have to make sure that everyone else obeys, and therein lies the rub btwn the 1st 2 commandments.

  8. Is there not some adversity that is caused by sin? And is there not some adversity that is avoided by righteousness?

  9. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    jes- I think that’s an important consideration. I do my best to obey, to the extent that I discern the situation to call for obedience. I cringe when others attempt to make me obey in the same manner they like to obey.

    Anon- Yes, some adversity is the result of sin, and some adversity is avoided by righteousness. Adversity can also result from righteousness, and be avoided by sin. Because of this, the presence of adversity cannot be used to determine either sin or righteousness.

  10. Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

  11. “I suggest we have to progress to that level if we progress to higher levels. Nephi had to obey before he got to his promised land.”

    Thanks for this, Leo. To put it another way, if Nephi had prioritized loving his neighbor over obedience he would not have killed Laban. If he had not killed Laban, we wouldn’t have the Book of Mormon and we would all be lost.

    Yes, love is powerful, transformative, and magnificent. But it bends before obedience (which, through the Grace of Christ is also powerful, transformative, and magnificent).

    In my limited understanding, I see two reasons for this. The first is that I am often very limited in my understanding how best to show love. Just as Nephi might not have thought that chopping off Laban’s head was an act of love (it turned out it was, in the long run, blessing the lives of his people and all of us), I might be similarly misled. It is ever so tempting to believe that love demands that I take no steps to aid my brothers and sisters enmeshed in sin (it was Cain, after all, who rhetorically asked if he was his brother’s keeper — the Lord never agreed with his perspective). So because my understanding is so limited, I trust that if the Lord tells me something that course of action is the best demonstration of my love for my fellow men — because He loves perfectly while I love imperfectly.

    The second is that as we obey God we are changed by Grace to become more like Him. We cannot be more like God without acquiring more and more of His characteristics — central to these being love. The more obedient I am, the more capable I am of accessing the power of the Atonement, having my nature changed, and being filled with charity.

  12. When ye are in the service of your fellow people, ye are only in the service of your God.

    Or, to paraphrase, when you love your neighbor, you are only obeying God.

    Loving your neighbor means you leave judging them up to God. Even if it seems like it would advance your political preferences or culture war to judge them in the name of a sectarian understanding of obedience.

    Obedience is important. Your own obedience. You are not in charge of someone else’s obedience.

  13. “If he had not killed Laban, we wouldn’t have the Book of Mormon and we would all be lost.”

    Why wouldn’t we have the book of Mormon if Nephi had just tied up his drunk relative, stolen his clothes, robbed him off his priceless artifact, and kidnapping his butler rather than murdering him in cold blood and then robbing him?

  14. “Loving your neighbor means you leave judging them up to God. Even if it seems like it would advance your political preferences or culture war to judge them in the name of a sectarian understanding of obedience.”

    I agree with this statement.

    “Obedience is important. Your own obedience. You are not in charge of someone else’s obedience.”

    I also agree with this statement.

    However, those premises do not lead to the conclusion that if I love my neighbor, I leave them mired in sin without making any efforts to help them. That is like saying that I love someone too much to free them from prison. The love that doesn’t strive to help those around us to better obey the Lord and keep His commandments isn’t love, it is a selfish imitation of love more concerned with virtue signaling than the eternal welfare of those we claim to love.

    How many times in the scriptures do we read that the prophets preached the Gospel with all diligence, knowing that if they failed to do so the blood of those they were to teach would fall on their heads. These prophets were not in charge of their people’s obedience (after all, many who preached the Gospel well happened to be among a hard-hearted people), but they knew that even though they couldn’t control others they were obligated (under principles of both obedience and love) to speak loudly against sin.

    So too with us. If we truly love our neighbors, we want them to be obedient because we know that all blessings are predicated on obedience to the law from which those blessings flow. If a man claims to love God and does not obey Him, the truth is not found in him. Likewise, if a man claims to love his neighbor and neither obeys God nor does what is in his power to help his neighbor choose to likewise obey God, the truth is not found in him.

    There is no virtue in being a spectator to someone’s damnation.

  15. “Why wouldn’t we have the book of Mormon if Nephi had just tied up his drunk relative, stolen his clothes, robbed him off his priceless artifact, and kidnapping his butler rather than murdering him in cold blood and then robbing him?”

    I don’t presume to know, but I am also not going to attempt to Monday Morning Quarterback something that happened 2,600 years ago, in a different culture in a different part of the world. Perhaps it was because Laban knew they wanted the plates, and if they went missing Laban’s soldiers would have pursued them and wiped them out (a plausible explanation, but not one I truly know). Who can say?

    What I do know is that “the Spirit said unto [Nephi] again: Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into thy hands; Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.” That seems to be good enough evidence for me as to the action’s necessity. If, on the other hand, you don’t believe the Spirit or you don’t believe Nephi, then there are prior fundamental differences in our worldview that would need addressed before we could have a productive discussion on obedience and love.

  16. On the other hand, section 98 says that even when the Lord has delivered your enemy into your hands, “if thou wilt spare him, thou shalt be rewarded for thy righteousness; and also thy children and thy children’s children unto the third and fourth generation,” but that if you choose to exact justice, “if he has sought thy life, and thy life is endangered by him, thine emeny is in thy hands and thou are justified.” It also says specifically that “this is the law that I gave unto my servant Nephi.”

    So maybe Joseph Smith was wrong, and misinterpreted the Holy Ghost saying “you must kill your enemy” as saying “you may kill your enemy and if you choose not to you, you will be more blessed.” Or maybe Nephi misinterpreted the Holy Ghost saying “you are justified in killing him” as “you must kill him.” Personally, I go with the latter, because it sounds a lot more like the God I know through the scriptures as a whole.

    But the point is, we don’t know that killing Laban was necessary for us to have the Book of Mormon, so I don’t think we can use that to rationalize it. I think the better answer is that Nephi appears to have been justified under the principles of section 98, so we don’t need to condemn or judge him, but that does not mean that God could or would not have prepared some other way for Nephi to accomplish the commandment to obtain the plates if Nephi had chosen to spare Laban’s life.

  17. When I saw on our Relief Society schedule that the next lesson was on adversity I was not very excited. I don’t particularly enjoy lessons on adversity. When I saw the title of this post yesterday I decided I wasn’t going to read it because I didn’t feel like hearing the same stuff on adversity I’ve heard 8000 times. This morning when my car broke down and I was stuck waiting I decided to give in and read it. Boy am I glad I did. This is the best lesson on adversity I’ve ever heard and it has given me a lot to think about. Clearly, I had the adversity of my car breaking down so that I could read this post (lol).
    Seriously though, I had always learned and believed that Christ’s yoke was easy because we were yoked with Him. I love the idea that we are yoked with each other through Christ. That is why it is easy, because we take on others burdens and they take on ours. So great.

  18. The point is, if you accept section 98 as the word of God, then between that and Nephi’s report of what the spirit said to him, we have the word of God giving sufficient justification to Nephi, and we don’t need to also invent our own justifications by creating a necessity argument.

  19. Or, here’s another possibilty: Nephi’s original record had the spirit telling him something more like section 98, and said that Nephi chose to kill Laban, because he was justified, but one of Nephi’s later successors long before Mormon got the records thought that didn’t make Nephi look good enough, so he changed it to say that the spirit compelled Nephi to take Laban’s life, to make Nephi look better.

  20. Let’s not forget that John says that if you say you love God, but don’t love your neighbor, you are lying, so at least from the apostle’s perspective, there is no tension between the two commandments.

  21. “If he had not killed Laban, we wouldn’t have the Book of Mormon and we would all be lost.”

    Do you really think God didn’t have a back up plan if Nephi exercised his free agency and refused to kill Laban? Or if Nephi failed to get the plates completely? (suppose Nephi tore his ACL fleeing from Laban’s guards, was caught and killed himself.) C’mon, give God a little more credit. Neither Nephi nor Joseph Smith were God’s only options. Had either failed, plan B would have become operational and if that didn’t work out Plan C and so on and so on. I may be wrong but I doubt the potential exaltation of God’s children depends on a single mortal behaving in a specific way (Nephi, Moroni, Joseph Smith, Paul, Peter-James-John etc.) save Jesus Christ. If they were all (pre) destined to succeed, kind of makes a sham of free agency but that is another topic.

    Great lesson and comments.

  22. JKC:

    Regarding John’s statement, I wholly agree (and even referenced it by implication in my post – that was the reason I used that particular language).

    Regarding the rest, you seem to be taking scriptures that contradict your position and engaging in fairly difficult contortions to invalidate those scriptures. Nephi expressly did not want to kill Laban – had it been may rather than must, Nephi would still have never shed the blood of any man.

    There is no contradiction between the events then and Doctrine and Covenants 98, either. In fact, they buttress my original point – when confronting an apparent contradiction between obedience and love (and I agree that they never are truly in conflict, though they often are from our perspective) we should choose obedience because we trust the commandments are given by a God who knows love better than we do.

    It’s an interesting phenomenon. If someone came to you and told you that they were obedient but not charitable, I imagine the incoherence of that position would show to you like a neon sign. But there seems to be a blind spot to the fact the reverse is equally true – someone claiming to be charitable but not obedient is likewise incoherent.

  23. RB:

    To be fair, the discussion of your point would take us far afield of the original post. I disagree with your assumption that someone pre-destined to success or failure invalidates agency any more than my awareness that the Allies won World War II someone “made” that happen. There are several assumptions implicit in your comment (noticeably both that God is bound by time and perfect knowledge invalidates freedom) that I’d disagree with.

    In the end, though, on this subject I doubt I have enough understanding to contribute much to a discussion so abstract and metaphysical (especially considering my own limitations of understanding and the limitations of message board communications).

    That being said, I don’t tend to think God had a backup plan because I don’t tend to think He needed one. But I really don’t know either way – what matters is that I trust that whether He had everything planned in advance or whether He responds to things as they happen or anywhere in between I’ve learned in my life that He is still in control and can get me through anything if I turn to Him. And that’s enough.

  24. I don’t think that’s right, JC. According to D&C 98, Nephi had a choice. The section justifies the choice he ended up making so that we now should not be condemning him for the murder (I suppose). But he could have chosen to spare Laban’s life. According to the D&C, this would have invited blessings unto the third and fourth generations.

  25. when confronting an apparent contradiction between obedience and love . . . we should choose obedience because we trust the commandments are given by a God who knows love better than we do

    Are you sure about that? Or, shouldn’t we choose love because of the principle of erring on the side of caution? After all, how can we be sure that we so perfectly know what God actually commands that we are right in erring on the side of an obedience that harms our neighbor?

  26. Caution is not as one sided as you imagine it to be. After all, how can we be sure that we so perfectly know how to manifest love to our neighbor that we are right in erring on the side of a love that potentially harms our neighbor?

    I trust God. I trust that He knows and loves me, and I trust that He knows and loves my neighbor. I trust that He put me in the position where I need to be to best accomplish His purposes. I trust that the infinite Atonement is powerful enough to overcome my mistakes. Put simply, I trust that He knows better than I do. I therefore trust that if I do my very best to learn God’s will and then follow it, it will be for the best for me and everyone else. Along the way I try to learn more about love (including how to show love) and obedience so that I do not become a slothful servant. But whenever the Lord’s instructions intersect with my understanding of love, my understanding must give way.

  27. Regarding your comments on Section 98, there is no indication that the law given to Nephi was related to Laban. in fact, the Lord is specifically mentioning actions towards his family. Far more likely this law was given during (or shortly after) the family schism. It makes little sense in the context of Laban.

  28. RB – “Had either failed, plan B would have become operational and if that didn’t work out Plan C and so on and so on”

    Nephi killing Laban was probably about Plan L. Plan A would have been Laban listening to the Prophets and heading out of Jerusalem with them. High letter plans don’t usually rely on someone failing.

    (on a related note you should add Eve & Adam to your list of anticipating the potential for mortals behaving in a specific way. Both eating the fruit before it was given to them was probably around Plan D, but I digress)

    Always fun to go into the debates on 5th dimension and agency, but probably not what the OP is hoping for.

  29. The connection between D&C 98 and Nephi murdering Laban is not as tenuous as you suggest. Laban’s murder is the one scripturally recorded instance of Nephi’s enemy falling into his hands after having threatened his life, property, and future. Are there others? If not, a close reading would accept making this direct connection. Otherwise the referent of that statement in D&C 98 would be unknown to us as readers and then how would it profit us?

  30. As I brought up a magnifying glass, to figure out who was more right about obedience, and therefore worthy of love, I realised I was pointing it towards a mirror. Thank you Christian for this post, and to all involved for these comments.

  31. “more right about obedience, and therefore worthy of love”

    That’s a large part of the problem with our Church culture right now, isn’t it? Remember, since around 2005 or so (maybe 2006?) some substantial segment among our people actually does not even believe that God’s love for his children is unconditional.

  32. John F:

    Two prior points, if I may, regarding the course of this discussion, and then I will set out why I am convinced that Doctrine and Covenants 98 is not contradictory to the Lord’s commandment to Nephi to kill Laban.

    The first prior point is your usage of the word “murder” to describe Nephi killing Laban. I recognize that it may have been used for emphasis or to clarify meaning, but it is rhetorically unfair. We both agree that Nephi killed Laban — we disagree strongly as to whether Nephi murdered Laban (and I am not sure even you would argue that Nephi was morally culpable of murder). It is a pejorative, and doesn’t advance the discussion. I don’t think you are using it maliciously, but it is still unfair.

    The second point is that, whenever a discussion seems to have gone off into the weeds of a particular detail (as this one seems to), it is often enlightening to look back and to consider why. So I did, and I considered why the application of Doctrine and Covenants 98 to Nephi killing Laban was so important. And having done so, it raised some questions that I would like to ask (questions I don’t know the answer to, but questions that may help me understand where you are coming from).

    Do you believe that the Lord has ever told someone to kill someone else?

    If so, how would that impact the consideration of the intersection of love and obedience?

    If not, how do you explain so many of the prophets who have said otherwise? Moses? Joshua? Doesn’t the fact that Saul lost his kingship for failing to kill all the men, women, children, and animals indication that sometimes the Lord legitimately tells people to do things that would appear to violate (from our limited perspective) the Second Great Commandment? Doesn’t the fact that he lost his kingship indicate that the Lord falls on the side of obedience in such circumstances?

    In Doctrine and Covenants 98:33 it even says “And again, this is the law that I gave unto mine ancients, that they should not go out unto battle against any nation, kindred, tongue, or people, save I, the Lord, commanded them.” Doesn’t the fact that the Lord includes the clause concerning Him commanding them to go to war means that there may come a point of apparent conflict between loving our neighbor and going to war commanded by God? In that point, do you believe it would be loving or justified to not obey?

    To put it in another way, does your worldview survive if God told someone, somewhere to engage in behavior inconsistent with your understanding of love?

    As to Doctrine and Covenants 98, I think the text clearly indicates it is talking about around (or shortly after) the schism between the families. Here are my bases for that belief:

    Schism:
    First, regarding your belief that Nephi killing Laban was the one record we have of Nephi taking a life, I disagree. Nephi was almost certainly put in the position of taking lives after the schism (see Jacob 1:10)

    “Now I speak unto you concerning your families” Doctrine and Covenants 98:23
    Laban was not threatening Nephi’s family at that time, though the Lamanites were.

    “And these three testimonies shall stand against your enemy if he repent not, and shall not be blotted out.” Doctrine and Covenants 98:27
    We have repeated incidences of Laman (and the Lamanites) threatening Nephi and the Nephites. There is no indication that Laban had three interactions with Nephi, must less smote him three times. We have Laman’s first visit (running him off), we have Laban’s theft of the property, and we have Nephi finding him.

    “And then, if he shall come upon you or your children, or your children’s children unto the third and fourth generation, I have delivered thine enemy into thine hands;” Doctrine and Covenants 98:29
    Nephi, if he was operating under this law with Laban, would have been obligated to warn Laban when he found him in the streets and could then only kill him if Laban again came upon him. Nephi, on the other hand, had many opportunities to warn his brothers of their perilous position.

    Add to that Nephi’s indication that he received explicit instructions from the Lord (“And it came to pass that I was constrained by the Spirit that I should kill Laban”) but that he didn’t want to (“but I said in my heart: Never at any time have I shed the blood of man. And I shrunk and would that I might not slay him”) which is inconsistent with Nephi killing Laban under a permissive opportunity from the Lord, and it seems clear to me that Doctrine and Covenants 98 is talking about the commandment given to Nephi concerning his responses to his siblings (and the nations that rose from them).

    With one, all the pieces are in place and make sense (and are consistent). With the other, it demands that we presume that so many prophetic people were wrong. Yes, prophets can make mistakes — but that is not the way to bet (erring on the side of caution indeed).

  33. “Remember, since around 2005 or so (maybe 2006?) some substantial segment among our people actually does not even believe that God’s love for his children is unconditional.”

    Please put this into context for me, as I do not recognize the reference.

  34. Elder Nelson’s conference talk in which he surmised that God’s love isn’t actually unconditional — and the way Church members latched onto that with a death grip in the decade since. Not more than eight weeks ago we had a whole Sunday School lesson on that point, supported by Elder Nelson’s talk. And this was supposed to be a lesson about the New Testament. . . .

    My sense is that we can know God’s love is unconditional because he sent his only begotten Son to die for our sins so that those who choose to believe in Him can have eternal life.

  35. JC, those types of interrogatories are unhelpful in such a discussion. If anything will derail the discussion, getting it off into the weeds, as you say, it would be for me to go down your list of interrogatories point by point bearing testimony at each level so as to protect myself from your implicit charges of unbelief.

    Suffice it to say that I am a believer. I believe in the Church’s own narrative about its Truth claims.

    As to Nephi killing Laban, I don’t think we can draw conclusions about what really happened based on Nephi’s narration of the event at the end of his life, with the hindsight of everything that happened informing how he constructed his narrative at that time. You say we have to accept at face value that the Spirit told Nephi to kill his relative in cold blood. Fine. If that is absolutely necessary, then, yes, we believe that God tells people to kill other people. Then we have to figure out the difference between us and ISIS, right? (I’m not saying it would be a difficult distinction to make, but if we’re not 100% against murder — decapitation even — then it is an ethical discussion we need to have.)

  36. John, no implicit charges of unbelief — explicit charges of internal inconsistencies of belief. I think there is a contradiction in your worldview, which is entirely independent of your belief in (or relationship with) the Savior, the Gospel, and the Church. Good people can have inconsistent beliefs, and I openly remarked on those that I seemed to see in you for your to consider the tension those opposing points raised. But there is, you are correct, no need to respond — though I do hope you will have considered the questions as they were raised with the best of intentions.

    Regarding unconditional love, thank you for the reference. I don’t know how I missed the talk. I’ve read it quickly once, and will spend some time digesting it.

  37. Jonathan, I don’t think that’s a very persuasive reading of section 98–that it has nothing to do with Laban–especially because you see Laban threatening Nephi and his brothers (his family) three times, and then you have the spirit using the phrase “delivered into your hands.” These connections are obvious enough that people (John Welch, maybe? I don’t remember at the moment) have written articles using section 98 to argue that Nephi was justified in killing Laban. It’s not like I’m the only one that sees a connection.

    If so, that leaves the question, why does section 98 say that you have a choice, and the spirit in 1 Nephi uses the imperative, slay him? I’ve mentioned three possibilities: prophets aren’t infallible, so it’s possible to get revelation wrong, so one possibility is that Nephi (who was, after all still really young at this point, and perhaps not yet very experienced with the holy ghost) got it wrong. Another is that Joseph Smith got it wrong when he dictated section 98. A third is that Nephi did get it right, but that a later scribe (who was ignorant of the law that would later be revealed in section 98) altered the record before Mormon got it to make Nephi look more magnanimous. That’s speculation, sure, but it’s not out of the realm of plausability given that it is pretty obvious that at least one of the purposes of 1 Nephi is to legitimize his political rule and to refute the Lamanite argument that he usurped the rightful rule from his older brothers.

    You can call these contortions, if you want, but I don’t see how they are any less plausible than idea that the Lord didn’t really give the same law to Nephi, even though he says he did in section 98, or that he gave it to him at some later point, so mentioning that he gave the same law to Nephi is useless information, and Nephi including all those details that happen to match up with section 98 was just a coincidence.

    But actually, this whole discussion about section 98 appears to be missing my larger point: we cannot say that Nephi would not have gotten the brass plates, or that the Lord would not or could not have given Nephi what he needed from the brass plates through some other way, had he not killed Laban, so we can’t really make a very persuasive argument for a necessity defense.

  38. Only one point on Jonathan’s questions: Because I believe in a God that is sovereign over all human life, I do believe that in theory, yes, God can command people to kill other people. But I also believe that throughout human history, when someone has believed that God is commanding him to kill another person, they almost universally have certainly been wrong. So as a practical matter, though I believe that God can theoretically do so, I don’t believe that he does do so other than perhaps some exceptions that are so rare as to hardly merit practical consideration.

  39. Stepping back, as JC has done, to put this tangent back into context, Nephi-Laban-D&C 98 are only part of this discussion because Nephi obeying the Spirit to kill Laban was used as an example of obedience: because Nephi obeyed, we have the Book of Mormon. I think the push back was legitimate because, as has been mentioned by others, I would imagine that God would have been able to get us the Book of Mormon some other way if Nephi had made a choice not to kill his relative.

    In general, I don’t think this Nephi example is particularly enlightening in a discussion about the two great commandments, to love God and to love your neighbor. To obey the first, you have to obey the second — we learn this clearly in the New Testament. Mosiah adds some clarity: when we do the second, we are only doing the first. No one has said that doing the second means that you are “a spectator to someone’s damnation.”

  40. “But actually, this whole discussion about section 98 appears to be missing my larger point: we cannot say that Nephi would not have gotten the brass plates, or that the Lord would not or could not have given Nephi what he needed from the brass plates through some other way, had he not killed Laban, so we can’t really make a very persuasive argument for a necessity defense.”

    Fair enough, I agree that your explanation is plausible and we can agree to disagree on which we each find more likely. But ultimately my reference to Nephi and Laman was an example to buttress the larger point — that oftentimes obedience and loving our neighbor seem to intersect in contradictory ways and when they do the scriptures indicate we should prioritize obedience. Even assuming you are correct about Laban, I could use as my example Moses, Saul, Joshua, David (although there are issues there), Solomon (same), and so forth. Of them all, I think that Saul is the most probative simply because of the consequences that flowed from it.

    Regarding the ISIS comparison, I agree that it is a legitimate discussion we should have.

  41. “To obey the first, you have to obey the second — we learn this clearly in the New Testament.”

    Yes, we agree on this. My point is that we, being imperfect, know only how to love imperfectly and when commandments we know intersect with our understanding of love then our understanding must bend before obedience to the Lord. He simply knows better than we do.

    “No one has said that doing the second means that you are “a spectator to someone’s damnation.””

    I am referencing a particular philosophical idea that indicates that if we love our neighbor we don’t “interfere” with how they live their lives. That simply isn’t true. If I am a loving father, do I let my child burn their hands on the stove without warning him? If I am a loving brother, do I let my brother burn his hand on the stove without warning him?

    Likewise, if a brother or sister has chosen a path that will lead to pain and unhappiness for them, how can I claim to love them without warning them of the consequences of sin? Loving your neighbor doesn’t make you a spectator to someone’s damnation — in fact, loving your neighbor demands that you not idly remain a spectator to someone’s damnation.

  42. You can warn them but can you legislate your belief about what is right for them so that they face criminal consequences for living their life as they believe but not according to your beliefs?

  43. If you believe you can, you have to get around D&C 134 as well.

  44. “Not more than eight weeks ago we had a whole Sunday School lesson on that point, supported by Elder Nelson’s talk. And this was supposed to be a lesson about the New Testament.”

    Yikes. I regard that talk as an outlier. If you read through the whole corpus of general conference talks, there are far more references to God’s unconditional love, both before and after then-Elder Nelson’s talk than there are arguments against it. In my opinion, it confuses approval of actions with love for the person doing the actions, and by defining God’s love as merely a subset of “blessings” and nothing more it improperly shoehorns God’s love into section 130:21. It’s not like Elder Nelson was the first one to come up with it, either. The argument that God’s love is not unconditional was popular in the 1990s among certain evangelical circles and was really only a response to arguments at that time that because God’s love is unconditional, those who believe in God should be willing to accept homosexual actions as not sinful.

    But really, its not really an argument about God’s love, substantively. It’s argument about semantics. Because whatever word you want to use to describe God’s love, the New Testament is very clear that he first loved us before we ever deserved it, so his love is plainly not conditioned on good behavior, though certain blessings may be.

  45. sure, JKC. I think that’s right. And I agree the talk was a major outlier. But we don’t have a framework or mechanism in place that allows Mormons to view a senior apostle’s opinions as an outlier and therefore not incorporate it into our doctrinal understanding. And, as I’ve observed, many have very eagerly indeed latched onto it because it is a convenient teaching (a little too convenient?) for the self-described “conservative” side of the culture wars, allowing them to dismiss all this sickening, “liberal” lovey-dovey talk about loving people who have different beliefs and who live their lives differently than our particular understanding of obedience to God’s will would recommend.

  46. “You can warn them but can you legislate your belief about what is right for them so that they face criminal consequences for living their life as they believe but not according to your beliefs?”

    Yes, you can. To demonstrate the concept, murder is a belief about proper behavior that a true follower of Nietzche would claim has no more moral force than jaywalking. But a member of society not only can but should impose their belief about what is right for them so as to ensure they face criminal consequences for living their life as they believe but not according to my beliefs.

    “If you believe you can, you have to get around D&C 134 as well.”

    No, there is no need to “get around” Doctrine and Covenants 134, as this is consistent with that Section.

    Section 134 states there are certain things that governments must do (protect property, free exercise of conscience, and life) and certain things it must not do (control conscience, suppress the freedom of the soul — spoken more generally punish beliefs rather than actions). But those represent fairly wide extremes and beliefs about good government have a great deal of flexibility in the middle to operate.

  47. Jonathan, maybe I shouldn’t jump in to the discussion between you and john, but section 134 says that governments derive their powers from the consent of the governed. Your example of murder doesn’t prove that it is just to impose one faction’s moral views on the rest of society, because, hyperbole about Nietsche aside, murder is something about which there is a consensus in society that it is immoral. If we started trying to pass laws that limit meat intake because that’s what the word of wisdom requires, we would be imposing a particular view of morality about which there is no consensus. If we started trying to pass laws making charitable giving mandatory, conservative members of the church would be up in arms screaming about tyranny. Now I do think it is perfectly legitimate to try to influence consensus by working through persuasion, but the weaker the consensus, the less legitimacy there is to legislating a particular moral view.

  48. JKC:

    You have a very modern view of the meaning of consent of the governed. Out of compassion for you and everyone else I won’t take you through the history of law (a fascination of mine, but I recognize my…atypicality…in this respect). But the term consent of the governed, up until around the 1920s, served almost as shorthand for laws passed validly. There were actually a few steps from one end to the other, but they all connected and it is not an unfair use of shorthand to say that the idea is that a valid government exercising valid powers had the consent of the governed independent of the issue of whether some. Put another way, everybody agreed to the rules when the Constitution was put into place, and so long as those rules are followed everyone agreed to the results even though they might disagree with individual parts of those results.

    The alternatives are a heckler’s veto (I disagree with your law, therefore you lack consent to pass it) or democratic tyranny (the majority of the population agrees with oppressing you, and therefore we have your consent to your oppression). That is the sheer brilliance of the Constitution, from a legal standpoint — it effectively walks the razor’s edge between those two positions. On the one hand, we all have agreed (conceptually, if not explicitly — and admittedly that consent is weakening over time) to a Constitutional form of government which both empowers us to pass those laws we agree on while retaining contramajoritarian restraints on the many oppressing the few.

    As a gleeful carnivore, I would be unhappy if Members of the Church rallied to impose limitations on meat consumption on Word of Wisdom grounds. But I wouldn’t find that action either a violation of general principles of government or Section 134. Not all bad laws are illegitimate.

  49. Jonathan, I’m one of those odd people that actually really enjoy history, and history of law, in particular. Of course, consent of the governed does not mean that each person has to assent (the heckler’s veto), so it basically means that if the law is validly passed, then it is binding. But that also rests on the assumption that the system is more or less representative. I think it would be at best contested whether a thoroughly unrepresentative government could be said to have the consent of the governed as long as it was passing laws in a procedurally proper way. I also think we are using legitimate in different ways. You seem to be saying that if a law is procedurally proper, it is therefore legitimate. I am saying that even if a law may be procedurally legitimate and therefore legally binding, it may not be morally legitimate if it is not based on a consensus, even if, by parliamentary machinations, such a law were procedurally proper and passed legitimately. Prohibition is one example. Though it was procedurally proper, it lacked moral legitimacy because there was so much opposition, and as a result, it didn’t last long. Prohibitions on interracial marriage are another. Such laws were based on consensus when they were passed, but the consensus eroded and then reversed. Of course, there are lots more technical constitutional arguments to be made about interracial marriage, but I think section 132’s statement about consent is based on broad principles.

  50. I also don’t think it’s an either/or proposition either, but more of a sliding scale: a law based on strong consensus has more moral legitimacy; and a law based on a weak consensus, or no consensus, has less moral legitimacy.

  51. “I also don’t think it’s an either/or proposition either, but more of a sliding scale: a law based on strong consensus has more moral legitimacy; and a law based on a weak consensus, or no consensus, has less moral legitimacy.”

    I think that is a very accurate statement as to the meaning of consent of the governed currently. My only point is that in interpreting the language of Section 134 we look to the meaning of the phrase when it was written.

    “I’m one of those odd people that actually really enjoy history, and history of law, in particular.”

    Nice to meet a fellow oddball.

    “You seem to be saying that if a law is procedurally proper, it is therefore legitimate. ”

    Not quite, but close. My argument is that was all agreed to be governed by a set of rules, and when those rules are followed in the creation of a law the law is morally legitimate even if it happens to be wrong, or foolish, or even destructive. I am saying that if a law was procedurally proper, it has consent of the governed because we all agreed to the process.

    “I am saying that even if a law may be procedurally legitimate and therefore legally binding, it may not be morally legitimate if it is not based on a consensus, even if, by parliamentary machinations, such a law were procedurally proper and passed legitimately.I am saying that even if a law may be procedurally legitimate and therefore legally binding, it may not be morally legitimate if it is not based on a consensus, even if, by parliamentary machinations, such a law were procedurally proper and passed legitimately.”

    I don’t think there is an articulable line there. To take one hotbutton issue, those in favor of gay marriage viewed the laws passed as illegitimate. Those opposed to gay marriage view the decision of the Supreme Court as illegitimate. Which majoritarian impulse do we follow? The strong majority that believes that the Supreme Court should have final say or the weaker (but still majority) view that homosexual marriage should be illegal? Does homosexual marriage have consent of the governed at this point? It is a tricky question because regardless of which side you favor, it is going to eventually cut against your particular favorite position.

    Conservative or Liberal, the day will come when the way you think on these things matters and will force you to either change your beliefs or accept a result that seems antithetical to those beliefs. Unfortunately we see too many who instead are opportunistic as to their approach to valid laws, such that they can be summed up to the idea that valid equates to laws I like and invalid equates to laws I dislike. It happens on both sides, and it seemingly happens without thought.

    Laws (even really bad laws, because this question is irrelevant if it doesn’t consider really bad laws) validly passed have moral legitimacy. Don’t like the law? Work to change it. Persuade your neighbors. Get out and vote. Run for office yourself. But we believe in honoring, obeying, and sustaining the law — even those we disagree with (with rare exceptions).

    “Though it was procedurally proper, it lacked moral legitimacy because there was so much opposition, and as a result, it didn’t last long.”

    As I read this, I think you are correct that we are using terms differently — not only legitimacy but also moral legitimacy.

    “I also don’t think it’s an either/or proposition either, but more of a sliding scale: a law based on strong consensus has more moral legitimacy; and a law based on a weak consensus, or no consensus, has less moral legitimacy.”

    How would that impact our obligation towards the law? Do we get to disobey laws with weak moral legitimacy? Or do we only have to obey them sometimes, but not all the time? I can understand what you are saying here, and based upon our differing use of terms I may even agree with you (though with my usage of the terms I would disagree), but I am wondering if it is a distinction without a difference if it has absolutely no impact on our behaviors towards the law.

  52. Again, I think we are using legitimate to mean different things. If a law is legally binding, it is legally binding, and short of a conscious decision to disobey the law as civil disobedience, or something like that, I think we do have an obligation to obey the law. As you said, bad laws (including laws that are morally illegitimate, but legally binding) are not (legally) illegitimate laws. And that’s the point. I don’t see section 132’s statement on just powers as being derived from the consent of the governed as touching on the question of whether laws are legally binding or when we can flout them if they are not just, but simply on the question of whether such laws are “just,” or morally legitimate to use the phrase I used above. Even bad and unjust laws have to be obeyed.

    With on caveat: there may come a time when certain laws need to be disobeyed. Daniel, the three hebrew children, and Helmuth Hubner are obvious examples. But I see that as a question not of a particular law’s legitimacy in either of the senses that we have been used the term above, but simply as a matter of whether the law is substantively evil–whether it commands us to do evil. Conscience can always trump authority, but that’s not the question that I see section 132 addressing by referring to the consent of the governed.

  53. I would suggest that the referenced Scripture shows that we are yoked to Christ. Note President Hunter’s interpretation of it: “Why face life’s burdens alone, Christ asks, or why face them with temporal support that will quickly falter? To the heavy laden it is Christ’s yoke, it is the power and peace of standing *side by side* with a God that will provide the support, balance, and strength to meet our challenges and endure our tasks here in the hardpan field of mortality.”

    Many Scriptures support this interpretation, including Isaiah 46:4, Matthew 28:20, Deuteronomy 31: 6, John 14:18, and 1 John 4:16.

  54. Geoff - Aus says:

    I appreciated the blog, and also cringed at obedience. There is not a Gospel principle of obedience. When the Saviour said “if you love me keep my commandment” the commandments were love God and Love your fellow man.
    I think we have some opportunity to council our children, until they become adults. Other people I don’t think we have the right or responsibility to tell them when they are sinning. Particularly on a subject like gay marriage, where there is no scripture to back us up, or modern revelation.
    I liked the idea of the other person we are yoked to being someone who loves us other than Christ. The only way I can make adversity help us toward eternal progress is if our love helps the one with adversity
    Lesson 4 looks better.

  55. “Don’t like the law? Work to change it. Persuade your neighbors. Get out and vote. Run for office yourself. But we believe in honoring, obeying, and sustaining the law — even those we disagree with (with rare exceptions).”

    So, Rosa Parks should’ve sat in the back of the bus and instead, run for office?