Marriage and Abrahamic Tests

July 5, 2004 | 46 comments
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Times and Seasons has seen quite a bit of discussion lately on obedience, tests of faith, and Abrahamic trials. See here, and here, and everywhere. If I may summarize, we are disagreeing about whether commandments are given to us to obey or only because God knows the path of return better than we.

I realized something about my marriage that seems to me to shed some light. A couple of days ago with hair-raising delight I realized that marriage means I don’t have to worry anymore about who’s the best girl for me. I don’t need the best girl. I’ve got my girl. The question isn’t even on the board. Here I stand, and she with me.

Update:
As always, the comments make it clear that I didn’t explain myself well enough. Here’s what I’m saying. One view of obedience is that we obey God because he knows best and always gives us the best advice. There’s no room in this view for God asking us to do things that have no reason other than to see if we’ll do them. I have another view, one that I’ve learned from my marriage. I’ve realized that I am not committed to my marriage because its the best possible marriage for me. I am committed to my marriage regardless, and this paradoxically makes my life better than if I were constantly reevaluting my marriage options looking for the best one. Similarly, I believe that God sometimes asks us to obey for the sake of obeying because our our relationship with him will be richer and happier and better than if he only asked us to do things that had some sort of justification other than obedience.

46 Responses to Marriage and Abrahamic Tests

  1. Jim F. on July 5, 2004 at 7:07 pm

    Adam Greenwood: help me out here. I think the question of your first paragraph is interesting, as is the insight of your second. But I don’t see the connection. I suspect I’m just being obtuse, but if so, it isn’t on purpose.

  2. William on July 5, 2004 at 11:04 pm

    I don’t really see the connection either, but perhaps it’s something like this:

    Abraham’s covenant with Yahweh meant he didn’t have to worry anymore about who was the best god for him. The question wasn’t even on the board. So when Yahweh commanded him to murder his son, he was able to obey without questioning because that particular question (“should I obey this guy?”) had already been answered, and the answer was non-negotiable.

  3. Adam Greenwood on July 6, 2004 at 12:14 pm

    I’ll admit that the connection is less than apparent. It lies in my experience.

    In the military I discovered a certain pride in obeying orders without understanding the sense of them or understanding full well the senselessness. Before and after I have also experienced a sort of joy in obeying God even when I didn’t see the point of my commandment, not because I thought he wouldn’t command me awry, though I do think that, but merely because–modern words fail me–he was my liege lord and I his man. I’ve discussed this in other threads but no one understood, so when I realized that something similar was going on in my marriage–me being very happy in marriage, but also very happy that my marriage wasn’t conditioned on my being very happy–it occurred to me that married folk might understand me in this avenue when they couldn’t in the others.

    Which all is to say, answering the question I pose in the first paragraph, that I think obedience is its own thing and not just functional and our Lord may not be above asserting his lordship and we not above obeying him.

  4. Ben Huff on July 6, 2004 at 2:58 pm

    Isn’t this kind of loyalty originally what faith is about? Trust and loyalty? Seems to me belief in what someone says is derivative, one common manifestation of trust or loyalty, but not fit to count as a definition for faith *alongside* trust and loyalty.

  5. Kingsley on July 6, 2004 at 3:34 pm

    Adam: You remember that moment in C.S. Lewis’s The Silver Chair, when the owls take Eustace and Jill to the ruined tower for a midnight council? And Eustace, not quite sure of his company or surroundings, says something like, “Look, if this is some sort of seditious plot you can count me the hell out, because I’m the King’s man.” I remember thrilling to that when I was very young, and then blushing at it when I was still very young but old enough to know that such sentiments are reactionary, romantic, yesterday. But then when I stumbled onto Waugh and Newman and Chesterton and Hopkins and Belloc and Buckley and Tolkien et al., and discovered this little, leviathan band of Catholic geniuses who unashamedly spoke of the Church as a terrible army with banners to which they had sworn their exuberantly tragic souls, I got my groove back, and rejoined Eustace in the ruined moonlit tower.

  6. Adam Greenwood on July 6, 2004 at 3:47 pm

    I also suffer from Anglo-Catholic Fiction Disorder.

  7. greenfrog on July 6, 2004 at 3:50 pm

    Perhaps I am too weak of faith, but I do not find the analogy particularly useful.

    If the Church leaders were, themselves, God, then I would find greater utility in the analogy. But two separate reasons stem from the fact that they are not. First, since they are fallible receptors of communications from God, I am concerned not solely with the accuracy of their communication with me, but also the accuracy of their perceptions of God’s communication with them. Second, since they are not God, they are not my only source of information — just as they can be guided by God, so, too, can I.

    In my life, rather than developing confidence in my willingness to submit to authority, I have come to distrust it. Does it feel good? Sure it does. I think humans (and all society species) are programmed to feel that way to varying extents. However, I view the submission to authority as a form of instinct akin to the instinct to acquire wealth and resources — the proclivity can be used for good or evil, depending on the circumstances.

    My commitment to my marriage, on the other hand, is not subject to the same potential conflicts in communication or conclusion as attributing God’s will to Church leadership is.

    Perhaps I misunderstood the intended analogy….

  8. Kingsley on July 6, 2004 at 3:52 pm

    ACFD?! You too?!

  9. Kingsley on July 6, 2004 at 4:02 pm

    “Does [submitting to authority] feel good? Sure it does. I think humans (and all society species) are programmed to feel that way to varying extents.”

    The same thing could be said about the pleasant feelings that accompany rebelling against authority. One is not more “programmed” than the other. I think it is a mistake (and a self-congratulatory one) to set this up as an automaton vs. free spirit kind of thing.

  10. john fowles on July 6, 2004 at 4:19 pm

    ACFD? I think I read a monograph on that once!

  11. Kingsley on July 6, 2004 at 4:58 pm

    It really would be interesting to see a thread where people suffering from ACFD could comment on major symptoms, e.g.: I like my Waugh like I like my watchdog: The meaner, the better. And: If just imagining having a beer with Chesterton is a sin (cf. Matt. 5:28), then move over Satan. Etc.

  12. Adam Greenwood on July 6, 2004 at 5:31 pm

    The Chronicles of Father Brownshead Revisited and the Glory: my favorite book.

  13. greenfrog on July 6, 2004 at 6:18 pm

    The same thing could be said about the pleasant feelings that accompany rebelling against authority.

    While I am pretty well acquainted with the feelings I’ve described, I can’t speak to Kingsley’s point. I’ve not experienced such feelings. Disobedience of authority (rebellion or otherwise) has always felt wrong to me, even when rationally I was certain I was correct in not obeying the particular directive.

    It may be that my personal disposition is peculiar and that most people feel some kind of “rightness” in disobedience. But I’ve not.

    Hence my mistrust of such feelings.

  14. Logan on July 6, 2004 at 6:42 pm

    Well, I for one can agree with Kingsley about the feelings that come from rebelling against authority. It’s not so much a warm-fuzzy feeling, but a feeling of self-empowerment and justice. All that “making a difference” and such. I really believe that a fundamental human need is to direct ourselves, and that if some authority is keeping us from pursuing our own needs, it literally fulfills a need in us to stand up to that oppressive authority and assert our own independence.

    But I’m one of those rebellious types, so take this endorsement of Kingsley’s position for what it’s worth.

  15. Kingsley on July 6, 2004 at 7:47 pm

    Greenfrog: It is the little lovely wicked tingle you felt the first time you muttered, “Oh screw that, McConkie,” and shut your eyes in anticipation of a lightening bolt, and then, a few quiet seconds later, cautiously opened one eye to peek at the placid, bemused heavens, realizing, hallelujah, that they just didn’t care.

  16. john fowles on July 6, 2004 at 7:50 pm

    How about starting up a local chapter of ACFD Anonymous? Or is the condition genetic?

  17. Kingsley on July 6, 2004 at 7:56 pm

    John Fowles: Either way, count me in.

  18. Jim F. on July 6, 2004 at 8:02 pm

    Logan and Kingsley: what if greenfrog is right when he says that he doesn’t have the experience you describe? I think that both of you assume what Logan enunciates: there is a fundamental human need to direct ourselves. But that goes hand in hand with the assumption of individualism, and it is equally as questionable. What justifies the assumption that everyone has felt good rebelling against authority (especially when historically and culturally there seems to be so much evidence to the contrary, as in Chinese cultures)?

  19. Kingsley on July 6, 2004 at 8:19 pm

    John Fowles: At the start of each meeting, the sufferers would arise together and recite “On Becoming a Jesuit” by David Abrams:

    May 11. Dull; afternoon fine.
    Slaughter of the innocents.
    –Gerard Manley Hopkins

    One resolved match-strike and it was done:
    The long scrape,
    The blooming spark,
    The whiff of sulfur,
    The paper leaping from his fingers.
    Once in the candle, the poems curled like embryos
    Then stretched as far as metaphor allowed.
    Their ink-blood browned, bubbled in the heat then
    The instress snapped, the bonds unraveling,
    Sending inscape pluming, gyring above his head.
    Caught in the current of his one, breathy cry,
    The smoke twisted to a horn and sprang like a shaft
    Straight to the flaring nares of God.

    Literature and Belief, Volume 10, 1990, 66.

    Jim F.: I suppose my comment was a reaction against the idea that obedience is programmed while rebellion is not. I was probably reading too much into Greenfrog’s post. I really don’t know how to justify my assumption that some pleasure is usually derived from stickin’ it to the man, except to say that, based on personal experience and on the testimony of many, many others, it doesn’t seem to be an uncommon emotion at all.

  20. john fowles on July 6, 2004 at 8:23 pm

    “What justifies the assumption that everyone has felt good rebelling against authority (especially when historically and culturally there seems to be so much evidence to the contrary, as in Chinese cultures)?”

    I agree with what this question implies, that rebelling against authority might indeed not be a manifestation of a fundamental human need to direct ourselves, even assuming that such a need is fundamental to human existence. In other words (and this fits into both the frameworks of the discussion of individual responsibility and the beard discussion) a community-minded person, willing to submit to proper authority for the sake of the community, would not feel threatened in their individuality by the existence of that authority. Whole cultures exist on this prinicple, such as the Chinese as you mentioned, but also (and particularly) the Japanese and even in “Western” culture/civilization, for example the Germans (See Germany and the Germans by John Ardagh for a quick-moving discussion of German society, community values, and authority). I think that the tenets of the Gospel and the examples we have of the primitive Church and the BoM Church indicate that as Latter-day Saints, we should be community minded as regards one another. This spills over into our posture towards the Church authority and our submission to it. We can all do better in our community-mindedness within the Church–I am convinced of that much. Luckily, we have a great excuse: we are part and parcel of the Western culture into which we were born and whose cultural tenets of rugged individualism are fused into our worldviews from an early age (not to say that all aspects of such rugged individualism are bad, or inimical to the Gospel, or that they might not even be fundamentally part of the Gospel). But we have to overcome that inertia in many respects. One way, perhaps, is to submit to Church authority on the beard and white-shirt issue, acknowledging perhaps that they are inane little idiosyncracies but submitting to the general preference (that indeed flows from the leadership of the Church) for the sake of community, eschewing the negative type of individualism that would cause one to take up arms over a few whiskers and a slightly less stylish shirt. I do not feel that this track is off-base, even though I assure you that I would never criticize someone in my ward for wearing a beard or a white shirt. This goes to people’s individual decisions–whether to be community-minded in the sense of submitting to authority (like the Chinese, as Jim pointed out) or whether to subvert authority on a given issue just because one can (and one’s ingrained rugged individualism as an American or as a Westerner generally entices one to do so).

  21. john fowles on July 6, 2004 at 8:29 pm

    Kingsley: after the communal recital, there would be a spiritual thought from The Gospel According to Tolkien or from one of his works of fiction directly.

  22. Jim F. on July 6, 2004 at 8:36 pm

    Kingsley: No doubt that feeling is not uncommon for us, but there are and have been many groups for whom it was.

    John Fowles: Very nicely put. The question at the heart of these kinds of discussions is “who are we?” If what I am is defined by the relations I have to others, such as my place in my family and my membership in the church, then I will think of myself in a way quite different from that I will engage in when I think of myself as an essence, individual and separate.

    Though we often use the doctrine of intelligence to justify the second understanding of our being, we can understand also it in ways that are in harmony with the first. We know so little about intelligences, that it is difficult and often impossible to use our understanding of intelligence as a foundation on which to build other beliefs.

  23. Kingsley on July 6, 2004 at 8:49 pm

    John Fowles: And then a collective jeer at Edmund Wilson for his “Ooh, Those Awful Orcs!” followed by a fully-costumed reenactment of Newman falling on his knees before Fr. Dominic, followed by a hearty round of Chestertonian near beers, followed by a depressed silence for Graham Greene’s weird and pathetic dalliance with communism, followed by a reading of Joyce’s gorgeous prose in the first chapter of Ulysses:

    “The proud potent titles clanged over Stephen’s memory the triumph of their brazen bells: et unam sanctam catholicam et apostolicam ecclesiam: the slow growth and change of rite and dogma like his own rare thoughts, a chemistry of stars. Symbol of the apostles in the mass for pope Marcellus, the voices blended, singing alone loud in affirmation: and behind their chant the vigilant angel of the church militant disarmed and menaced her heresiarchs. A horde of heresies fleeing with mitres awry: Photius and the brood of mockers of whom Mulligan was one, and Arius, warring his life long upon the consubstantiality of the Son with the Father, and Valentine, spurning Christ’s terrene body, and the subtle African heresiarch Sabellius who held that the Father was Himself His own Son. Words Mulligan had spoken a moment since in mockery to the stranger. Idle mockery. The void awaits surely all them that weave the wind: a menace, a disarming and a worsting from those embattled angels of the church, Michael’s host, who defend her ever in the hour of conflict with their lances and their shields.”

    O.K., I’ll stop now.

  24. Kingsley on July 6, 2004 at 9:47 pm

    John Fowles writes: “In other words … a community-minded person, willing to submit to proper authority for the sake of the community, would not feel threatened in their individuality by the existence of that authority.”

    Kingsley writes: Thank you for expressing exactly something I have slobberingly failed to articulate time and time again: the sense of community, of Kingdom, of Church, in a way overriding (but not at all extinguishing) the sense of self as it relates to even seemingly trivial issues like beards and blue shirts. It’s a part of the paradox of John 17: we are one and separate, perhaps to the point of Joseph Smith seeing two personages above him who nevertheless resembled each other in every particular.

  25. Logan on July 6, 2004 at 10:32 pm

    Jim, I think you may overstate the community-mindedness of Chinese and other Asian cultures in non-rebelliousness. It is probably true that they rebel in different ways than the way Kingsley articulated (“stickin’ it to the man”). But still they often seem to go to great lengths to escape oppressive authority and exercise their own freedom. The story is told of Confucius:

    “One day, his students and he passed a grave where they saw a women weeping at a gravestone. She told Confucius that her husband, her husband’s father, and her son were killed by a tiger. When Confucius asked her why she didn’t leave such a fated spot, she answered that in this place there was no oppressive government. Confucius said, ‘Remember this my child. An oppressive government is fiercer and more feared than a tiger.’”

    And think of Gandhi — he didn’t take up arms, but he was still quite rebellious when faced with an authority that didn’t let him assert his (or perhaps his community’s) self-determination.

    I still think the need is universal, although the means of rebellion may well be different depending on the culture.

  26. Jim F. on July 6, 2004 at 11:16 pm

    Logan: I wasn’t thinking about government, but about community. I had in mind things more like family and church. In Confucian culture family defines the person. Rebellion against it is possible, of course, but it is tantamount to suicide. Among those in Confucian cultures there doesn’t seem to be a universal need to assert one’s existence independent of the family. John Fowles has described that possibility in non-Confucian culture: I can find myself submitting to the church because I am part of it without feeling oppressed or desring to assert my independence.

    I think you and I will continue to disagree on this. You think the need for independent existence and for recognition of that independence is universal; I don’t. The evidence is anything but unambiguous, but I think it is more on my side than yours.

  27. Kingsley on July 6, 2004 at 11:25 pm

    Logan, at least admit that stickin’ it to the man is a very philosophically and literarily sophisticated (and comprehensive) way of describing the Universal Urge toward stickin’ittothemaniveness. I don’t want to be pedantic here (there goes Kingsley again with his insistence on terminological accuraticity), but any discussion of stickin’ittothemaniveness must take stickin’ it to the man as at least its starting point if it is not to be hopelessly bogged down and mired in vague talk of Chinese food.

  28. Logan on July 7, 2004 at 8:23 am

    Kingsley: Personally, I LOVE stickin’ it to the man, and it describes my rebelliousness very articurately and acurately.

    Jim: We may continue to disagree, but if so, I think it’s because of the assumption of individualism that you attributed to me. If that’s our point of departure, I can gie it up (I never really meant to hold on to it, anyway). I could be convinced that the need for self direction can extend to whatever entity you consider to be your identity, and if that’s your family or community, then I’m satisfied. I think people clearly go to great lengths to seek independence for their selves, families or communities — whatever they consider to be their identity. I think there’s a broad sense in which that argument doesn’t necessarily assume a sense of individualism.

    Of course, by now I find myself getting beyond things that I’ve considered very carefully, so I don’t want to go too much further giving the impression that I have any idea what I’m talking about.

  29. Adam Greenwood on July 7, 2004 at 9:24 am

    For what it’s worth, I agree with Logan and my fellow members of the Victims of AFCD Support Group and Old Boys Club, that in addition to the need to obey and belong there is also a desire to be independent, to choose for oneself. Satan, for one, was responding to such a desire. I think that God reconciles these desires (he reconciles nearly every human desire) by allowing us to choose to belong to a community, to have a history, to acknowledge other people’s choices. For me, then, radical obedience is in some senses a supremely individual act of self-defintion.

  30. Jack on July 9, 2004 at 12:01 am

    Moving away from a cultural context re. individualism – If I may throw in my own two cents on what I feel the gospel requires; It’s the whole pot of stew! What’s required in order to draw the finale curtain? Is it not to boldly attest to our knowledge of self, to our allegience to a greater self and to receive the rites necessary to becoming a greater self?

  31. Adam Greenwood on December 2, 2005 at 8:21 pm

    Greenfrog, #7-
    I understand what you are saying about the imperfection of our channels of communication with God, but I see it as a separate point from mine, which is about why we obey God. Unless you posit that every command of God that’s troublesome or senseless, seemingly, is really a mistake in the channels of communication. So you’d say, for instance, that God did not really command Isaac’s sacrifice (or else that the version of the story we have is garbled). That’s a legitimate point of view, just not mine.

  32. Bookslinger on December 3, 2005 at 3:53 am

    IMO, the purpose of the Abrahamic Test (sacrificing your Isaac) is not for God to find out if you’ll do it, he already knows that in advance. The purpose is to show you whether or not you’ll do it.

    I don’t know where Paul got it from, perhaps Jewish tradition, but in Hebrews Paul says that Abraham willingly made (attempted) the sacrifice of Isaac believing that God was going to resurrect Isaac (a la Lazarus, restore him to moral life), as God had promised Abraham that he would have inumerable posterity through Isaac.

    Ressurecting Isaac to mortal life might be the only logical resolution between the seemingly two contradictory things: 1) having posterity through Isaac, and 2) killing Isaac before he had children.

    I also posit that God doesn’t give us this kind of commandment (to do something that goes against common sense) until after we have learned how to listen to the Holy Ghost. Using the good/evil test described by Moroni to discern the Holy Ghost and Light of Christ (does it invite to do good or invite to do evil) is Revelation 101. Once that lesson or course is learned. Revelation 201 is then obeying the voice of the Spirit based on recognizing it as the voice of the Spirit, and not second-guessing that prompting/commandment by trying to figure out if it is a “good thing” or “bad thing.”

  33. Adam Greenwood on December 3, 2005 at 2:19 pm

    “I also posit that God doesn’t give us this kind of commandment (to do something that goes against common sense) until after we have learned how to listen to the Holy Ghost. Using the good/evil test described by Moroni to discern the Holy Ghost and Light of Christ (does it invite to do good or invite to do evil) is Revelation 101. Once that lesson or course is learned. Revelation 201 is then obeying the voice of the Spirit based on recognizing it as the voice of the Spirit, and not second-guessing that prompting/commandment by trying to figure out if it is a “good thingâ€? or “bad thing.â€?”

    This makes a lot of sense. But it raises the question*–why do we need to learn to listen to the Spirit over our own sense of right and wrong. One answer is that our own sense of right and wrong is corrupt, but interestingly Abrahamic trials dont’ seem to happen until people have goen pretty far along the path of cleansing themselves from corruption. Another answer is the one I give here.

    *not ‘begs the question.’ That’s an improper usage that’s rearing its head all over.

  34. Seth Rogers on December 3, 2005 at 7:51 pm

    Adam,

    I completely relate to your feelings about you’re wife. I feel the same way about my own wife (as far as I understood your post anyway …). I’ve always felt that there is probably a woman for every man (and a man for every woman), out there somewhere, who is a perfect match in every way. But reality is, these two ideally matched people will never meet each other. So stop losing sleep over it and enjoy the spouse you have.

    But that’s not completely it either. The truth is, my commitment to my wife adds something to the relationship which makes it better than any hypothetical relationship with “my perfect and unacheived soulmate.” Furthermore, my commitment to my wife makes our relationship better than any relationship with the ideal woman would be, absent that commitment.

    Therefore, the act of commitment itself adds something distinct to the relationship which makes it more than it otherwise would be.

  35. Seth Rogers on December 3, 2005 at 8:19 pm

    I guess the point is that, at some point in your life, it’s time to stop searching for answers, and time to start BEING an answer.

    Stop searching for a good marriage and start being a good marriage.

    Stop searching for the perfect religious epiphany and start being religious.

  36. Seth Rogers on December 4, 2005 at 11:31 am

    OK, sorry for the serial posting, but …

    I can’t locate the authors mentioned in #5 and #12 by Adam and Kingsley. I tried Amazon without much luck.

    So what are these books you’re talking about?

  37. gst on December 4, 2005 at 2:13 pm

    If your ACFD support meetings include P. O’Brian, count me in. (I have no idea whether he was actually Catholic, but choosing the pen name O’Brian should count for something. And one of his protagonists is a Roman Catholic.)

    Also, the folly Adam describes reminds me of the fine Simpsons episode wherein Homer frets that Marge is not his “soul mate,” and goes in search of that soul mate. In Moe’s Tavern, he asks the regulars if any one of them might be his soul mate:

    Lenny: “I don’t know about ‘soul mate.’ I’m more of a crony.”

    Carl: “I’d say I’m your contemporary.”

    Moe: “And I’m a well-wisher, inasasmuch as I don’t wish you any particular harm.”

  38. Mark IV on December 4, 2005 at 6:29 pm

    Adam,

    I hope you forgive me for not addressing the larger issues you present. I have to say, your title caught my eye.

    Here’s my question: Does sister Greenwood know that you regard being married to her an Abrahamic test? :-)

    If so, she must indeed be a saint.

  39. Bookslinger on December 5, 2005 at 12:46 am

    Adam: One answer is that our own sense of right and wrong is corrupt, but interestingly Abrahamic trials don’t seem to happen until people have gone pretty far along the path of cleansing themselves from corruption.

    I’d say it depends on how we define an Abrahamic trial. Is it:

    1) Being prompted by the spirit to do something that doesn’t make sense to, or goes very contrary to, our human understanding? or

    2) Being asked to sacrifice something precious to us?

    Those criteria might be on a sliding scale according to the level of spirituality or closeness-to-the-Spirit of the person. The assignments might get more difficult as the person grows in the Spirit.

    I’ve often wondered if the Lord’s command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac was given in a face-to-face encounter between the Lord and Abraham, or was it the still small voice kind of a prompting. I’ve concluded that it could have been either one. I believe that Abraham was so righteous, pure, and in-tune that he heard, recognized and obeyed a prompting without any doubt, and knew it was the will of the Lord.

    One might be prompted to do something mildly out-of-the-ordinary, such as talking to a stranger, or anywhere along the continuum to something extreme, such as killing someone.

    I was shaking like a leaf the first time that I was constrained by the Spirit to offer a Book of Mormon to an English-only speaker after coming back to church. I had some opening lines prepared on how to approach immigrants who spoke other languages, but not people who spoke only English. I was being constrained to step outside of my comfort zone which, looking back, was a small sacrifice, but at the time seemed like a crazy thing to do, and something that many members recommend against.

    At the other extreme, perhaps more along the line of Nephi and Laban than like Abraham and Isaac, I’m just postulating here, could someone, say a Spirit-filled member who was in the Special Forces, have been prompted to use his bare hands to pre-emptively kill a 9/11 hijacker before the hijacking ocurred? That’s an extreme thing, to kill a fellow passenger aboard an airplane, but now we know that it could be “the right thing” under certain circumstances. And we know that with only 4 hijackers, a hijacked plane could be forced down and miss its intended target, thereby saving thousands of lives.

    To some people, the Word of Wisdom, tithing, the law of chastity, or joining the church without their family’s approval could be their extreme sacrifices. Going to church the next Sunday after being gravely offended or embarrassed by a fellow member could be an extreme sacrifice to some.

    I think the sliding scale starts as soon as an investigator or convert actually tastes revelation from the Holy Ghost.

  40. Adam Greenwood on December 5, 2005 at 10:41 am

    In Comment #5, the Silver Chair is one of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. Waugh is the novelist Evelyn Waugh, Newman is the 19th C. Oxford Movement man-of-letters Cardinal Newman, Chesterton is essayist, journalist, and man-of-letters G.K. Chesteron, Hopkins is the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, Belloc is Hilaire Belloc (I’m only familiar with a few essays of his, but don’t know him very well), Buckley is William F. Buckley, founder of National Review, essayist, journalist, novelist, man-of-letters, and Tolkien is JRR Tolkien, of Lord of the Rings fame.

    Comment #12 is a pastiche of C.S. Lewis (Chronicles of Narnia), G.K. Chesterton (Father Brown), Evelyn Waugh (Brideshead Revisited), and Graham Greene (the Power and the Glory).

  41. Adam Greenwood on December 5, 2005 at 10:45 am

    “I completely relate to your feelings about you’re wife. I feel the same way about my own wife (as far as I understood your post anyway …). I’ve always felt that there is probably a woman for every man (and a man for every woman), out there somewhere, who is a perfect match in every way. But reality is, these two ideally matched people will never meet each other. So stop losing sleep over it and enjoy the spouse you have.

    But that’s not completely it either. The truth is, my commitment to my wife adds something to the relationship which makes it better than any hypothetical relationship with “my perfect and unacheived soulmate.� Furthermore, my commitment to my wife makes our relationship better than any relationship with the ideal woman would be, absent that commitment.

    Therefore, the act of commitment itself adds something distinct to the relationship which makes it more than it otherwise would be. “

    You have in fact understood my post so well that you’ve expressed it better than I did. The only thing I would add is that God is that “perfect soulmate,” so he gives us Abrahamic trials from time to time so we can also be committed to him.

  42. Adam Greenwood on December 5, 2005 at 10:51 am

    Bookslinger,

    You’ve expressed very well that all our talk of Abrahamic trials shouldn’t obscure the tremendous difficulty and courage of doing what God asks us when (as is almost always the case) its not just a test of obedience.

    Mark I.,
    Sister Greenwood is a saint, and life with her is a test of sort–a reverse Abrahamic test of how much undeserved good fortune I can take before I crack.

  43. Seth Rogers on December 5, 2005 at 1:07 pm

    Thanks for the book references.

    I have to admit though, my comments on my marriage also fall a little short of doing it full justice.

    Re-reading what I’ve said, it makes it sound like I could just walk out there and pick ANY woman, give her my full commitment, and have just as happy a relationship as I do with my wife. Ergo, any woman will do, as long as you have commitment!

    But I don’t think that’s entirely true either. My wife is pretty wonderful regardless of my commitment or lack thereof. What I’m trying to say was that there was a third element involved here (aside from the usual elements of physical and emotional attraction, which were also there):

    God’s approval.

    My wife truly felt like a gift from God. I still believe that. There was a palpable sense of God’s approval and endorsement hovering over my choice of her. The moment I decided on my wife, it just felt like a real load off my shoulders.

    So you don’t just grab a girl off the street and commit to her. You find a girl that God approves of (or at least, has no objections to).

  44. Kingsley on December 5, 2005 at 7:05 pm

    Seth, The Catholic Revival in English Literature, 1845-1961: Newman, Hopkins, Belloc, Chesterton, Greene, Waugh by I. T. Ker and also Literary Converts: Spiritual Inspiration in an Age of Unbelief
    by Joseph Pearce make good fun reading if you’re interested in Belloc et al. Buckley: The Right Word includes a celebrated essay on Waugh.

  45. Seth Rogers on December 5, 2005 at 9:46 pm

    Fabulous. Thanks for the list.

    I always end up feeling like I really haven’t read much at all at least once a month here.

  46. Adam Greenwood on December 6, 2005 at 11:18 am

    Kingsley recommended to me Tolkien by Humphrey Carpenter. Read it last night. Recommend it.

WELCOME

Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.