You are the exception…

June 10, 2006 | 98 comments
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I love Elder Oaks’ talks. Some find them dry and legalistic, which — of course — is why I love them. I love the fact that his conference addresses have Roman numeral subheadings. I love that they are organized like legal briefs. I love the fact that I know that he has carefully considered every word that he uses. I like prose that I can parse. Still, every so often, even Elder Oaks lets his hair down so to speak. In the most recent issue of the Ensign we got an example of this. The article was a reprint of a talk he gave to the single members of the Church. Having run the gauntlet that is LDS singlehood, I didn’t read it all that closely. (My apologies to all of you single LDS people who think that married Mormons are smugly unconcerned with your plight. Alas, you are often correct.) I was struck by this passage, however:

Now, brothers and sisters, if you are troubled about something we have just said, please listen very carefully to what I will say now. . . .

If you feel you are a special case, so that the strong counsel I have given doesn’t apply to you, please don’t write me a letter. Why would I make this request? I have learned that the kind of direct counsel I have given results in a large number of letters from members who feel they are an exception, and they want me to confirm that the things I have said just don’t apply to them in their special circumstance.
I will explain why I can’t offer much comfort in response to that kind of letter by telling you an experience I had with another person who was troubled by a general rule. I gave a talk in which I mentioned the commandment “Thou shalt not kill� (Ex. 20:13). Afterward a man came up to me in tears saying that what I had said showed there was no hope for him. “What do you mean?� I asked him.

He explained that he had been a machine gunner during the Korean War. During a frontal assault, his machine gun mowed down scores of enemy infantry. Their bodies were piled so high in front of his gun that he and his men had to push them away in order to maintain their field of fire. He had killed a hundred, he said, and now he must be going to hell because I had spoken of the Lord’s commandment “Thou shalt not kill.�

The explanation I gave that man is the same explanation I give to you if you feel you are an exception to what I have said. As a General Authority, I have the responsibility to preach general principles. When I do, I don’t try to define all the exceptions. There are exceptions to some rules. For example, we believe the commandment is not violated by killing pursuant to a lawful order in an armed conflict. But don’t ask me to give an opinion on your exception. I only teach the general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord.

It isn’t so often that we get sermons from GA’s in which they forthrightly acknowledge that there are exceptions to the rules and principles that they announce. Those looking for wiggle room in prophetic announcements can take heart. I know that I am relieved.

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98 Responses to You are the exception…

  1. Susan on June 10, 2006 at 12:30 am

    Do you recognize an exception when you see it? Does it have to do with how the person feels at heart? Very interesting. . . . .

  2. Sideshow on June 10, 2006 at 1:22 am

    Those who follow the Spirit don’t need to worry much about whether they’re obeying the prophets.

    After Adam’s abortion posts, I spent some time trying to figure out what commandments don’t have and never have had any exceptions. My list was quite short:

    1. Follow the Spirit

    Fortunately, a friend added two more:

    2. Love God
    3. Love Your Neighbor

    What others have I missed?

  3. Sideshow on June 10, 2006 at 1:25 am

    Or should my list be shorter?

  4. Mark Butler on June 10, 2006 at 1:40 am

    The reason why rules have exception, is that ultimately legalism is an imperfect implementation of divine meta-ethics. They are the guideposts and directional markers that lead in the direction of ultimate good, but ultimately conflict from time to time, leaving us to ponder the competing principles, costs and benefits, duties and obligations, stretching our abilities and our endurance to their very limits.

    Jesus Christ is not the end of the law, he is the *fulfilment* of the law – the higher law of the Spirit. We be no more Pharisees concerned with every jot and tittle of a legislated morality, but judges in our own right – ultimately able to decide cases in true equity and not the lesser law alone. As the Father hath committed all judgment into the hands of his Son, so also is it the Son’s good pleasure to commit all judgment into our hands, that we be no more children, but friends and fellow members of the household of God.

    And that, ultimately is what it means to be sanctified through law, first the lesser – the law of children, and then the higher – the true law of the Spirit – not the law of arbitrary discretion, but of judgment and equity with fairness towards all, no matter what the situation – to ultimately remove the training wheels and plot a true course, upright and faithful – no corruption, no guile – just integrity and honor, doing true credit to the name that has been placed upon us.

  5. Nate Oman on June 10, 2006 at 1:45 am

    Mark: Your understanding of rules seems implicitly to assume that they embody — imperfectly — underlying principles, and that their primary purpose is essentially to reduce decision costs by acting as a heuristic device.

    However, rules do more than this. They also allocate power. To follow a rule is to allow the rule to act as an exclusionary reason such that competing reasons that one would otherwise find compelling are ignored. This, however, shifts decisional power away from rule followers to rule givers.

    Hence, some rules may be about heuristics and some rules may be about the distribution of decisional power. It makes sense to ignore the first kind of rule when one disagrees, but not the second kind of rule. The trick is to figure out which sort of rule we are dealing with.

  6. Mark Butler on June 10, 2006 at 2:00 am

    I agree, Nate. However the true principles of equity go beyond the first order principles of meta-ethics. i.e. given the available information, how should I decide if the decision were completely up to me, to the second order principles of meta-ethics, or in other words, how to balance the my limited meta-ethical process, with the meta-ethical process of others, and in particular those societies and instutions I participate in according to obligation and duty.

    Loyalty is a second order principle, as is obedience. The only way to approximate a departure from second order principles to first order principles is to have perfect information about the facts, knowledge, and desires of all concerned. Since that is a practical impossibility, proper meta-ethics will always be a social enterprise – either formal as in quorums and councils, informal as in casual consensus building, or spiritual as in transcendental apperception of the sentiments of God, angels, and our fellow citizens on the matter – moving to spiritual unity without nary a word being exchanged.

  7. Mark Butler on June 10, 2006 at 2:07 am

    By the way, I do not mean to suggest that ethics are purely socially constructed in the councils in heaven, they indeed have a grounding, as does aesthetics. However beyond a relative handful of unavoidable principles – the natural laws of morality, they are as radically undetermined as musical composition. Not radically undetermined for us here down on earth, but undetermined for the divine concert.

    And we me might also say that human physiology is the executive implementation of divine legislation as to how society should properly be organized. We may misinterpret the divine intent of the constitution of body and soul, but we cannot escape it.

  8. Mark Butler on June 10, 2006 at 2:34 am

    …in the beginning, at any rate

  9. Jeremy Farthing on June 10, 2006 at 4:39 am

    \”There are exceptions to some rules\”

    That\’s awesome. I don\’t think I\’ve ever heard that come from an apostle of the Lord. How does one determine if their case is an exception or not? Further, does this lead to moral relativism?

  10. Stephen M (Ethesis) on June 10, 2006 at 7:29 am

    Susan, Do you recognize an exception when you see it? is a perfect question to ask a lawyer.

    I’m glad it started the comments section, though I also love Elder Oaks talks.

  11. Lamonte on June 10, 2006 at 8:17 am

    In 1996 I was called to serve as Bishop of my ward. It seemed that almost immediately many ward members came to me with specific questions about “the rules.” “I know that tithing is one tenth of my income but what about gifts or inheritances?” “I have heard the sermons on keeping the Sabbath day holy but my family has always done this pareticular activity and, after all, it is a family activity. What is the rule for keeping the Sabbath day holy?” I was concerned because I couldn’t find any “rules” in the handbooks and I wasn’t sure how to council them. A few months later in the Spring, we had a regional conference attended by President Hinckley and Elder Oaks. At the priesthood leadership meeting on Saturday afternoon Elder Oaks was the first speaker and he stood at the pulpit and started his talk by saying “In our church we don’t have rules – we have doctine and we have principles.” Then he repeated the same line again – probably just for me because I’m sometimes slow or not paying attention.

    It was like an answer to my prayers. The quote that Nate has included above saying “I only teach the general rules” has me a little perplexed based on his talk at Regional Conference but I think what he is saying, and what I counciled my ward members to do after hearing Elder Oak’s talk, was to consider the general principle – or “rule if you like – and then work it out for yourself with the Lord. Despite what many might claim, ours is not a cookie cutter religion but one that gives us guidance for us to rule our own lives. “I teach them correct principles…”

  12. Frank McIntyre on June 10, 2006 at 8:33 am

    I have heard the same comment (in essence) from President Samuelson. It is also substantially the same as the story Boyd K. Packer often repeats about teaching the general principle, and worrying about exceptions after.

    So there’s your second and third witness.

  13. Kevin Barney on June 10, 2006 at 9:59 am

    I love this line: “But don’t ask me to give an opinion on your exception.” That could be the words of a GA giving counsel, or it could be the words of a lawyer negotiating a third-party opinion letter. As a lawyer for whom opinion practice is an important part of what I do, I got a kick out of that.

  14. Mark Butler on June 10, 2006 at 10:05 am

    Elder Packer has been teaching this concept (exception proves the rule) since at least 1977:

    Now, one other subject. It’s been the policy of the Church–and it’s been spoken on many occasions–that as the gathering of Israel is in Mexico for the Mexicans, in Tonga for the Tongans, in China for the Chinese, and so on, so has been our counsel as it relates to marriage.

    We’ve always counseled in the Church for our Mexican members to marry Mexicans, our Japanese members to marry Japanese, our Caucasians to marry Caucasians, our Polynesian members to marry Polynesians. The counsel has been wise. You may say again, “Well, I know of exceptions.” I do, too, and they’ve been very successful marriages. I know some of them. You might even say, “I can show you local Church leaders or perhaps even general leaders who have married out of their race.” I say, “Yes–exceptions.” Then I would remind you of that Relief Society woman’s near-scriptural statement, “We’d like to follow the rule first, and then we’ll take care of the exceptions.”

    (Follow the Rule, BYU devotional address, 14 January 1977,
    http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=6172)

    The whole talk is on this subject. Now the fuzziness of a “rule” like a counsel against inter-national marriage should give some pause as to the proper balance between a legalistic interpretation of such counsel and a cafeteria interpretation of the same. It is not Thou Shalt Not Marry a Member from Another Country, nor is it here is a morsel of wisdom you can discard according to taste. It is a principle like all moral principles – with *reasons* behind it, and it is in the analysis of those reasons, including accounting for the experience of others not available to you (which is much of what inspired authority is all about), that the rule is born out in its proper implementation.

    In other words a true exception is not an exception to the law, it is the *fulfilment* of the law. The key principle to remember is that the rule would not be faithful at all, if it were to be honored more in abeyance than otherwise. Infidelity is the end of rule, just as it is the end of truth. Why say something at all unless it *means* something. Bivalence not required.

    So many people say “Aha!, it has a flaw!” as a justification to ignore a principle completely. Such naive legalism is the death of true morality. Neither is the Spirit whatever we make of it.

  15. Mark Butler on June 10, 2006 at 10:15 am

    [Insert generic criticism of Aristotle's naive bivalent semantics of being with regard to the term "rule" here]

  16. Kimball L. Hunt on June 10, 2006 at 10:20 am

    Oaks went from his “calling”(?) at BYU to being callingless for awhile. During which time he became JUSTICE Oaks. What was with that!

    Does Quinn address it? Or would it have to await Mormon Hierarchical Power vol xx?

  17. Kimball L. Hunt on June 10, 2006 at 10:28 am

    If I were some uh “creative historian” centuries down the road, I’d “make it up” that, while at BYU, whenever the his line-supervisor among the Brethren would lean on Oaks in too ridiculous of fashion, Oaks would simply say, “Well, if that’s how it’s gonna be then I’d have to “resign.” Namely, take a release from his assignment?

    After which usually the matter would resolve somewhat in Oaks favor. However, at one point, this gambit ended in Oaks’s bein taken at his word?

  18. Stephen M (Ethesis) on June 10, 2006 at 10:51 am

    After which usually the matter would resolve somewhat in Oaks favor. However, at one point, this gambit ended in Oaks’s bein taken at his word?

    Gee, you are reprising “I’m the gardener here.*”

    Back to reality.

    Oaks went from acting dean at Chicago’s law school to president of BYU. While at BYU, he decided to try to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. The Utah Supreme Court was a good step in that direction, as was teaching a little at the JRCLS. From the Utah Court he still had a shot at short lists for the United States Supreme Court (he made one or two) and it provided him a place to continue to work on who he was and where he was going.

    But being president of BYU was a sacrifice for Oaks, and one that they had agreed would end. He also hoped that he could move some of the dead wood out of BYU by his example in leaving.

    *the confrontation between the gardener at BYU who intended to cut down all the trees on campus and Dallin Oaks.

  19. Kimball L. Hunt on June 10, 2006 at 11:22 am

    Thanks Stephen. Assuming your take is all inside/ in-the-know and not pure speculation just like mine, of course! lol.

    Still, now all we have at president at BYU is “line-people” — Seventies — I wonder what any up sides/ down sides there might be to this (BYU’s presidency’s being filled from those serving permanent(?) ecclesiastical callings)?

  20. Katie P. on June 10, 2006 at 12:05 pm

    I love Elder Oaks. He’s kind, twinkly, specific, and expects much of us.

    I have learned that there are exceptions, and that those exceptions do not invalidate the larger rule. For a long time I felt like the injuction to get married did not apply to me, and the answers to my prayers of wondering I should marry this or that nice, LDS guy were always either No, I Shouldn’t, or else support that if I didn’t want to, that was fine with the Lord. I believe very much that for a while I was an exception, and that personal confirmation bolstered me when no one in my family or friends understood.

    I don’t like wiggle roomto be in initial statements of principle or doctrine. I like having expectations and principles laid out very baldly and strictly, and I think it is because I prefer the wiggle room to be in the execution.

  21. AmyB on June 10, 2006 at 2:02 pm

    Sorry to buck the trend, but I do not love Elder Oaks [waiting for lightning to strike], and am a little incensed by that talk. This statement in particular is extremely offensive to me:

    “2. The leveling effect of the women’s movement has contributed to discourage dating. As women’s options have increased and some women have become more aggressive, some men have become reluctant to take traditional male initiatives, such as asking for dates, lest they be thought to qualify for the dreaded label “male chauvinist.â€? ”

    Nate, it seems you like the style and format of the talk . . . no qualms there. But content-wise, you found the one paragraph of the talk that has a respectable point. The rest of the content is troubling, IMHO.

  22. Julie M. Smith on June 10, 2006 at 2:45 pm

    AmyB:

    I may be the women’s movement’s biggest fan, but even I recognize that it has drawbacks and one of those drawbacks is that commonly accepted standards for behavior became unacceptable to some in many arenas, including dating. That means that men (and women!) are often not clear on protocol, making an awkward situation even worse.

    As if a first date wasn’t bad enough already, now men have to worry if a woman will think he is a sexist pig if he opens the door for her OR if she’ll think he’s an inconsiderate jerk if he doesn’t. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to find out that this has led to a decrease in dating.

  23. Wacky Hermit on June 10, 2006 at 2:51 pm

    The Lord works in mysterious ways, and often as a test he puts us in a position where it seems that it’s impossible to keep all of a certain subset of commandments. For example, mothers are supposed to stay home with their kids and families are supposed to get out of debt. But you can’t get out of debt without money, which you don’t get unless you work. I couldn’t see on my own that the solution to that was for me to do work that I could do while at home. It would have been easy for me to say to myself, “I can be an exception– I can work!” or “I’m an exception– I won’t need food storage!” but the real solution came from listening to the spirit and sublimating my will and intellect to the superior will and intellect of God.

  24. Wacky Hermit on June 10, 2006 at 2:52 pm

    sorry, change “I won’t need food storage” to “I don’t have to get out of debt.” That’s what I get for pausing in the middle of writing a comment to play my son’s new game he invented. ;)

  25. mullingandmusing (m&m) on June 10, 2006 at 3:04 pm

    As if a first date wasn’t bad enough already, now men have to worry if a woman will think he is a sexist pig if he opens the door for her….

    I will never forget one of those blind dates that I really cared about. It was a huge disaster, beginning with me sitting in the car waiting for him to open the door (I always struggled with what to do there, but decided to stay), only to watch him walk away from the car! Apparently, he’d been around so many “liberated” women that he figured none of us wanted the doors opened anymore. Yeah, THAT was a tad uncomfortable for both of us! Oy.

  26. Tatiana on June 10, 2006 at 3:07 pm

    Hi, Katie! =)

    Amy B., I find almost everything specific to women in church talks somewhat disturbing. The talk I just read about modesty mentioned young women nine times to every once it mentioned young men. No specific examples for males were given. I get a feeling that teaching is mostly a plea from males, “Please save us from ourselves by not tempting us.” However, it doesn’t work, because in societies where women wear burkhas, men find the flash of an eye or the sight of a woman’s hand titillating. What constitutes enough modesty for women and girls to save men from themselves? It has changed so much through the years that I’m not comfortable assigning any definite standard.

    That’s just one recent example. In one thing after another after another, I feel the Brethren need us to tell them our stories, so that they can understand better how to guide us. I feel that they are missing important perspectives.

    I’m not inclined to throw out the baby with the diaper bin, though. There’s still so much counsel there that’s valuable and even crucial to my wellbeing as a human person. It’s still the church with the saving ordinances, the holy priesthood, and more truth than any other. I just hope the line-by-line learning continues apace, so that those of us who are exceptions to the “rule” (white, male, heterosexual, North American, married, etc.) can still find our way and our place in Zion. I feel that as a member of the church, I have a responsibilty to speak up and let my voice be part of the story of the Saints. I wish for more venues in which to do so.

  27. NoNameNedra on June 10, 2006 at 3:10 pm

    Does this go for all the commandments and “suggestions”, or just kiilling and dating?

    I do know people who don’t feel the commandments apply to them (some have prayed about it and felt good about premarital sex, minor W of W infractions, etc.)

  28. Julie M. Smith on June 10, 2006 at 3:27 pm

    “The talk I just read about modesty mentioned young women nine times to every once it mentioned young men.”

    Did this surprise you? If anything, I’d say modesty is a 95-5 female-male problem and that they overrepresented men, probably just to prevent feminists from complaining. :)

    And: I don’t see it as solely “Stop tempting us!” When women dress immodestly, it shows that they lack a basic understanding of the worth and purpose of their bodies. If women and YW can be encouraged to dress modestly for the right reasons, it is a feminist victory.

  29. Beijing on June 10, 2006 at 3:32 pm

    “don’t ask me to give an opinion on your exception. I only teach the general rules.”

    How does this mesh with the responsibility to comfort those in need of comfort?

    I can see how when someone is asking the bishop for a manual of what to eat at each meal or for tithing guidelines as detailed as the IRS Code, it is appropriate to say, “we’re not going to give you that level of guidance.” Because there’s not a whole lot at stake there, as long as a well-intentioned person is doing their best.

    But what about Oaks’ example of a returned soldier who had endured unspeakable horror? I don’t think he was asking for general principles to be transformed into reams of legalese. I think he lacked the spiritual and emotional resources to work through the guilt and confusion on his own. Isn’t the fact that he was continuing to feel needless guilt so strong that tears streamed down his face upon hearing “thou shalt not kill” some evidence that the “between you and the Lord” approach wasn’t providing him with the peace and understanding he sought? At least Oaks had compassion on him and answered this particular question in order to give him some peace, but apparently no one in the future is going to be so fortunate.

    If all church leaders start to follow Oaks’ example, teaching only general principles, and no one ever mentions from the pulpit what the exceptions might be, how will a member accustomed to following the general rules even realize when they’ve become an exception? Why wouldn’t they continue to blame themselves and keep trying to repent for not fitting within the rule (since consistency with scriptures and modern teachings is supposed to be a check on whether ideas are truly from the Spirit)?

    Then, even if you do start to feel like you might be an exception, where do you go from there? How lonely that would be for the person whose life circumstances suddenly lead them to deal with difficult, troubling, even agonizing personal situations that aren’t covered by the general rules. A person may be accustomed to seeking guidance and comfort from the pulpit and from interviews with church leaders, but when troubling exceptional circumstances arise, they are asked to deal with those situations on their own, not even to approach privately for a reassuring word. I would feel abandoned and cut off, wouldn’t you? If they are having a hard time feeling the Spirit and understanding what the Lord’s will for them is, who is going to reach out and help them figure out what has happened to them? Are they going to have to turn to the Bloggernacle to get an opinion?

  30. Tatiana on June 10, 2006 at 3:50 pm

    Ah, Julie, I’m thinking of modesty from a perspective that is outside any particular society or time. I read a great talk by dear wonderful Joseph F. Smith, in which he was so shocked by the fact that sisters were mutilating their wrist- and ankle-length garments to wear the lastest fasions (in 1905 or thereabouts). We now feel no need to maintain coverage of our forearms or calves to be modest.

    In other cultures, for instance in Kuwait, even now, in a country that’s friendly to the west, I was taught that American women wearing shorts or short sleeves (in an extremely hot climate, of course) would be attacked on the street.

    I can’t help but see modesty in this overall context, and to realize that young people constitute their own society. What seems shockingly immodest to us can seem as modest and normal to them as over-the-knee skirts do to us, despite dear President Smith’s appalled disapprobation.

    We each of us feel that our own cultural standards of modesty are somehow natural laws, but with any thought for history and culture, we must admit they are simply conventions. Our deep revulsion of seeing girls dressed in ways we consider immodest is no more valid than that of the men of Kuwait today, or of dear President Smith’s in 1905.

    When you state that modesty is a 95% – 5% problem for young women vs. young men, you are simply restating your own cultural standard. The kingdom of heaven is not concerned with fashions.

  31. Tatiana on June 10, 2006 at 3:53 pm

    *below-the-knee

  32. D. Fletcher on June 10, 2006 at 4:03 pm

    This thread, and Elder Oak’s comments (and plenty of other talks, as well) prove my theory that the Church wants no exceptions, because it doesn’t know how to treat people who are unusual in any way. The Church doesn’t think of its members as individuals. Honestly, does anybody really think Elder Oaks understands the needs of singles in the Church, in any way? His pronouncement to get married is pretty obvious — then he’ll know (or he’ll think he’ll know) what to say to them, how to advise them, etc.

  33. Julie M. Smith on June 10, 2006 at 4:05 pm

    Beijing:

    My assumption was the Elder Oaks thought that the soldier would be better off hearing God’s judgment of the soldier’s actions from God rather than from Elder Oaks.

    Tatiana,

    I never suggested that modesty norms were anything but culturally determined, and I’m not sure why you took off in that direction. Modesty has virtually nothing to do with how much flesh is covered (else how could a good LDS woman appear in public in a bathing suit?) but everything to do with what message is sent by the clothing which is, of course, completely culturally determined. This, however, has nothing to do with my response to your post concerning the YM-YW disparity in consel regarding modesty.

  34. Julie M. Smith on June 10, 2006 at 4:08 pm

    D. Fletcher, that comment seems a little out of character and a little hostile for you. I suspect that the fact that Elder Oaks recently married someone who spent decades as a single adult LDS suggests that he might know a thing or two about their situations. (I would hope that she has given him an earful!) As for “The Church doesn’t think of its members as individuals.” I’m sorry if your personal experience has led you to conclude that, but do you really think an institution of 12M is even capable of thinking in those terms? My sense is that a lot of the hideous phrasealogy of the correlated church (“where appropriate”, “usually”, “normally”–if you played a drinking game with those words with the GHI, you’d be on the floor in no time) is the result of doing everything possible to acknowledge individual needs.

  35. Kimball L. Hunt on June 10, 2006 at 4:16 pm

    Well, there are universals at play here. Such as: If you’ve got it, flaunt it. But not to the extent where an implication’s given it’s readily available. Which cheapens its value.

  36. Tatiana on June 10, 2006 at 4:28 pm

    Julie, I meant it to be a direct reply to what your said. Perhaps I skipped some steps, though. I think the reason we see modesty within our context as a 95% YW problem is because our cultural context is biased heavily that way. The eternal significance of modesty applies equally to YW and YM (as well as the old, of course). I guess I would state the eternal significance something like “don’t sell yourself short”, or “remember who you are, that you are heirs to the kingdom, and leaders of your peers.” And I agree with you that it has nothing to do with how much skin is showing. So why the great disparity between emphasis to YW and YM? The eternal message applies equally to both, and both are in similar need for it. That is the feeling I got, the disturbing feeling, when reading that talk.

  37. D. Fletcher on June 10, 2006 at 4:43 pm

    Sorry, Julie, I didn’t mean to be hostile. I certainly didn’t mean to point fingers at Elder Oaks, personally.

    Generally, I think the Church’s social structure works, or should work, for 80-90% of the population which responds naturally to it, meaning, dating, marriage, raising children. It’s a social track, which works well for most people.

    The human race contains aberrations, though — people whose genetic makeup is unusual in one way or another. Some will be gay; some will be autistic; some will be geniuses, but socially inept; and some will simply be incapable of finding and maintaining relationships. And some married people will not find it easy to have children.

    All these exceptions will fall out of the “track.” And I don’t think the Church (in general) knows what to do with these exceptions, or how to answer even their most simple questions, except to say “all will be answered in the next life.”

    I personally witnessed a Stake President say that it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if older single people slowly fell away from the Church. This man felt that anyone who *couldn’t* marry wasn’t adding much to the community — better that we put our enthusiasm in the young people, marrying and having children.

    Though this sounds like an exception, I don’t think it is. I think a lot of people feel this way. Many people have told me (without even inquiring as to my specific needs) “you have waited too long to marry,” as if I had turned my back on my responsibility.

  38. AmyB on June 10, 2006 at 4:55 pm

    “I may be the women’s movement’s biggest fan, but even I recognize that it has drawbacks and one of those drawbacks is that commonly accepted standards for behavior became unacceptable to some in many arenas, including dating. That means that men (and women!) are often not clear on protocol, making an awkward situation even worse. ”

    It’s not clear to me that changing standards of behavior is a drawback or a problem. Confusing for some? Sure. But just because things have changed, does not mean they have changed for the worse. Perhaps there is less dating because the church has instilled in young men a huge fear of young women. They are led to believe by all those modesty talks that they will not be able to control themselves around women, especially if a bit of shoulder or knee is showing. I may be using a bit of hyperbole here, but I think it is a real problem.

    I myself had to go through an adjustment period and tell myself over and over that it was okay for me to single date once I got to college. I had it so drilled into me that pairing of is bad that I was afraid to do it when it was a good thing to do. From conversations I’ve had with others, I don’t think I’m alone in this.

    Since modesty was brought into the discussion, I”ll address that as well. I think there is an obsession with modesty and grooming in the church right now that is very unhealthy. It objectifies young women and brings much more focus to their bodies than there otherwise would be if it was just left alone.

    Tatiana,

    I like your thoughts about speaking out. Many of us, like D. pointed out are not part of the norm. How can we find our voice? It’s a difficult situation for many, and there are many people who feel silenced and marginalized. I was also highly disturbed by the modesty talks both in the Ensign and New Era. I do not think they are acceptable or defensible. I’m sure Julie Smith will disagree, but I think current attitudes are very harmful.

  39. D. Fletcher on June 10, 2006 at 5:31 pm

    An anecdote: I was at BYU in the 70s, when Elder Oaks was the president of BYU. I participated in an event in the music department, a Bernstein/Sondheim cabaret performance in the recital hall, with opera singers in tuxes and evening gowns.

    President Oaks and his wife came to the 2nd performance, but they left after 20 minutes, without explanation. Later, we were told that one of the girl’s dresses revealed her cleavage (just barely) and this was unacceptable — our show would not be allowed any more performances unless the offending dress was changed. As I recall, she ended up wearing a white blouse beneath her evening gown, which looked quite ridiculous and called attention more to her plight than if nobody had said anything.

  40. Kimball L. Hunt on June 10, 2006 at 5:48 pm

    C-cleavage? But then maybe he’s saved her from a stint somewhere as a Hooters girl, too! Shrugs.

  41. Julie M. Smith on June 10, 2006 at 5:58 pm

    Tatiana, thanks for taking another stab at explaining yourself; I now see where you are coming from. My guess to explain the disparity is this: the church has, relative to our culture, defined a standard for modesty. The YM meet it 95% of the time, the YW meet it significantly less. Hence, when modesty is discussed, it is usually directed at the YW. Is that a fair assessment? If it is, (why) is that bothersome to you?

    D. Fletcher, those are interesting thoughts. What do you think the Church could or should do to improve, besides the obvious step of disciplining a SP who wishes for people to fall away?

    AmyB, there are certainly other impediments to increased dating, but I think a lack of accepted protocol is part of it. And, as far as modesty, I do wish to see more of the Elder Holland approach which emphasizes what is really at stake in the choices that YW make, but I also don’t think it right to ignore the issue.

  42. D. Fletcher on June 10, 2006 at 6:31 pm

    Julie, I don’t know the answers. I’m not even sure I want the Church to change, or lower its standards. I’m just observing that the Church track doesn’t work for everyone, though we are taught, the Plan of Salvation is *for* everyone. A lot of people’s difficulties rise from trying to be something they aren’t. And I’ve witnessed some very tragic ramifications of couples who had trouble having kids. They weren’t doing anything wrong, not disobeying one single commandment, and yet, they felt a lack of welcome in the community, they fell out of the “track” and eventually, fell out of the Church.

    This ties in to my previously posted ideas about Art and the Church. Why isn’t there great Art in the Church (so the question goes)?

    My answer is, because the Church doesn’t want it, and doesn’t want members who are different enough to become great artists.

    What can be done? I guess, I think there could be different “tracks” for members to receive exaltation. The Catholic Church has had monasteries for its members who were different. And certainly they knew that artists needed to be treated differently (after the 14th century). Why not us?

    Why not have a quorum for gay members? How about making older single men and women be permanent temple workers? These are just off the top of my head…

    There needs to be… more than one way, to get through this life, and in a good place in the next.

  43. laura w on June 10, 2006 at 7:40 pm

    I didn’t see Elder Oaks comments as meaning that he did not value exceptions or differences. I think its important to note that he says “as a General Authority, I have the responsibility to preach general principles”. I got the feeling that if Elder Oaks were my bishop, he would have a very different take on the situation and that he would help me work through discerning individual exceptions. However, as a GA, his position is different, and it is no longer appropriate (or even possible) for him to address individual exceptions as he needs to be focused on the bigger picture of how to advise the Saints.

    D. Fletcher- as a single 30-something woman in the church, I agree with you that it can be difficult to fall outside the norm in the church, but I think it has more to do with the attitudes and misconceptions of the “rank and file” member, and less to do with the official words of the GA’s. I’ve known plenty of people in various wards who have suggested that there must be something wrong with me for not being married, yet I’ve never heard that said at a General Conference…

  44. Melinda on June 10, 2006 at 7:40 pm

    The disparity in modesty lectures directed at the YW as compared to the modesty lectures directed at the YM is a result of defining “modesty” as mainly a clothing issue. Immodest clothing for women is designed to show off a woman’s sexiness, so all the lectures are to encourage YW to choose clothing that doesn’t send a strong message that “I’m sexy and I want sexual attention.”

    Men’s clothing is not generally designed to get sexual attention (yeah, there’s some, but not to the extent women’s clothing is designed to attract sexual attention). Modesty also applies to conduct, though. Men send a strong message that “I’m sexy and I want sexual attention” more by talking than by how they dress. Locker room conversations, dirty jokes, bragging about sexual conquests are the male equivalent of the female halter top and micro-mini skirt.

    So women project a sexual image by how the dress, and men project a sexual image by how they talk. Both clothing and conversation can be either modest or immodest. If speakers wanted to include the YM more in counsel about modesty, they could do it by telling the YM that how they talk is every bit as demeaning or uplifting as how the YW dress. Conversation can be just as modest or immodest as an outfit.

    Just my thoughts based on my own observations – I’ve never heard any Church official draw this parallel.

  45. Julie M. Smith on June 10, 2006 at 8:24 pm

    Good observations, Melinda. I think that the YM are counseled about ‘verbal immodesty’–we just don’t call it that. But it might be useful to make that connection because it would help people concerned about the disparity that YW are always told to be (i.e., dress) modest while the YM are always told to ‘respect women and be clean in word, thought, and deed’ (i.e., speak modestly).

  46. Stephen M (Ethesis) on June 10, 2006 at 9:00 pm

    Assuming your take is all inside/ in-the-know and not pure speculation just like mine, of course! lol.

    In this case, my take comes from talking to him when he was teaching at the law school and I was a student there.

  47. Stephen M (Ethesis) on June 10, 2006 at 9:02 pm

    When I was in law school we got a lecture about guys not stripping down to wash and wax their cars and to be more modest.

    No similar lecture to the women in the stake, though I don’t recall any of them stripping down to wash or wax a car ;)

  48. Kimball L. Hunt on June 10, 2006 at 9:15 pm

    If I was a gov/ pres wanting to fill an important vacancy, I’d consider it a real plus in a candidate if he tended to discuss insider institutional politics with students — lol!

    Just kidding, really! (the wonderful thing about conspiracy theories bein the impossibility really to “prove a negative”! lol. Still, elder Oaks having gone from college president to teaching classes did make me wonder, all of that two and a half decades ago, and I’m pleased to have you finally tend to put my “middle president Kimball era” conspiracy theory re Oaks to rest!)

  49. Nate Oman on June 10, 2006 at 9:43 pm

    Beijing: Give me a break! Oaks is hardly coming out against pastoral counselling. Rather, he makes two claims. First, in his public sermons he sticks to general principles. Second, he is not going to provide assurance to those who contact him via letter. Both of these are perfectly practical responses to the reality of interacting with a large audience. He certainly doesn’t suggest here — or anywhere else that I am aware of — that local leaders with pastoral responsibility for the individuals in their wards and stakes should be unwilling to discuss invidual problems with individuals. He is simply making the rather pedestrian point that this is not the calling of General Authorities.

  50. Mark Butler on June 10, 2006 at 11:35 pm

    #30: No doubt the kingdom of heaven would beg to differ.

  51. Carolyn on June 10, 2006 at 11:40 pm

    m&m,

    “I will never forget one of those blind dates that I really cared about. It was a huge disaster, beginning with me sitting in the car waiting for him to open the door (I always struggled with what to do there, but decided to stay), only to watch him walk away from the car!”

    How about a first date where you follow the guy into one of those old-fashioned movie theatres expecting that he will hold the door open for you, only to have that big glass door swing back and hit you in the face! My shock and surprise was only surpassed by the look of horror on his face! LOL

  52. Kimball L. Hunt on June 11, 2006 at 12:15 am

    Jesus of Nazareth: “It’s not what goes into the mouth that defiles but what comes out of it.”

    Mark’s post # 50: The kingdom of heaven [cares about codified strictures of fashion].

    (!)
    =====
    Sorry. I’m in sort of an argumentative mood. (As I’m currently arguing with John F. over at Bloggernacle Times about whether one of the guy on Nightline purposely misrepresented the Church by claiming it has manuals telling members “what to eat at meals” — John’s basically implying that a returned missionary who’d make such a statements must be intentionally maligning the Church and my saying the dude must simply be referring to the Word of Wisdom’s advice concerning strong drinks, seasonal herbs, and sparing use of meat.)

  53. Mark Butler on June 11, 2006 at 12:45 am

    They certainly do in the way #30 was implying that they do not. Or should we suppose that the denizens of the celestial world regularly dress like the patrons of the local red light district?

    No doubt the whore of Babylon dressed more modestly in the apocalypse of John than the immoral fringe do these days:

    So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
    (Revelations 17:3-5)

    Compare the description of the righteous:

    Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.

    And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.

    And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.

    And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

    Now granted this is in part allegory and metaphor, but I think the language is rather suggestive. Why should *clothing* be the symbol of the righteousness of the Saints and the wickedness of Babylon?

  54. Kimball L. Hunt on June 11, 2006 at 1:03 am

    Although some people seeing David dancing provocatively made disparaging comments, it was authoritatively reckoned that his dancing was to the Lord.

    Things have to do with time and place. While it’s best not to err too far towards dowdiness (and communicate unnecessary revulsion of the body) or whorishness (to unnecessarily cheapen it), it’s also true that it’s best not to judge too harshly others intentions?

    An adulteress might carefully dress at all times in tunics buttoned all the way up to the top of her neck while an “otherwise” chaste woman’s only outlet of sexual “deviancy” might be just to flirt just a bit upon the boundaries of propriety and modesty. Why? Because the former might have been so repressed as not to find a good man, and then found herself the victim of a cad, whilst the latter, following the dictims “it’s not good for the man to be without the woman”/ “be fruitfull and multiply”, et cetera, attracts her mate and chastely marries — all towards the cause of righteousness?

  55. mullingandmusing (m&m) on June 11, 2006 at 1:04 am

    44:
    I really think Sis. Tanner got to a lot of this in her talk. For example, she said:

    Modesty is more than a matter of avoiding revealing attire. It describes not only the altitude of hemlines and necklines but the attitude of our hearts. The word modesty means “measured.� It is related to moderate. It implies “decency, and propriety … in thought, language, dress, and behavior� (in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 5 vols. [1992], 2:932).

    Moderation and appropriateness should govern all of our physical desires. A loving Heavenly Father has given us physical beauties and pleasures “both to please the eye and to gladden the heart� (D&C 59:18), but with this caution: that they are “made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion� (D&C 59:20). My husband used this scripture to teach our children about the law of chastity. He said that the “word extortion … literally means to ‘twist out [or against].’ Our use of … the body must not be twisted [against] the divinely ordained purposes for which [it was] given. Physical pleasure is good in its proper time and place, but even then it must not become our god� (John S. Tanner, “The Body as a Blessing,� Ensign, July 1993, 10).

    I think especially that first paragraph gets to the concept that modesty is more than just what we wear. And what she shared can apply to YM as well as YW.

  56. Stephen M (Ethesis) on June 11, 2006 at 1:12 am

    If I was a gov/ pres wanting to fill an important vacancy, I’d consider it a real plus in a candidate if he tended to discuss insider institutional politics with students — lol!

    I’m afraid he never did that, guess that is why he never ended up on SCOTUS …

    He just talked about deciding what to do with his life and taking some time for himself, and he talked to a lot of other people about trying to get BYU administrators to see their jobs as temporary and to set an example himself by stepping down.

    The business with the gardener I never heard him mention at all. That was all second hand from others.

  57. Kimball L. Hunt on June 11, 2006 at 1:23 am

    Hmm, some apocryphal, crazed-gardener tale, lol. Why is it always a gardener! Shakes head.

    Then, I’m in this utterly beautiful house built maybe 1920, whos’e hard wood doors and mouldings upstairs somebody at one time or another sought to — ahem — improve by their painting crisp white! One man’s order is another’s sacrilege.

  58. Galileo on June 11, 2006 at 2:07 am

    “Thou shalt not kill” is the right policy for at least 99 percent of our day-to-day human interactions (to put it mildly).

    On the other hand, it is extremely difficult to give dating/marriage/child-rearing advice that applies to even 50 percent of a typical Mormon audience. We’re just too diverse these days.

    I agree with D. Fletcher that it might be nice for general authorities to focus more on the exceptions, e.g., “Here are some thoughts for young divorced members with children… here are some thoughts for gays and lesbians… here are some thoughts for aging singles… here are some thoughts for recent widows… here are some thoughts for infertile couples… here are some thoughts for people contemplating temple remarriage and struggling with feelings of disloyalty to a deceased spouse…”

    But this also might be too much to ask. Most GAs are ordinary (if especially spiritual) people with no formal training in sociology, psychology, etc. Many simply do not have much experience with the exceptions. If they spent a larger fraction of general-meeting air time trying to talk about all the various exceptional groups, we might not much like what they said.

    [Note: The above concerns practical this-worldly advice. I do think a little more theological explanation for gays/lesbians/singles/childless/remarried/resealed/etc. about what is in store for them in a family-centric afterlife might be comforting. But I might be wrong. Not knowing what the truth is, it is hard for me to say how comforting it would or wouldn\'t be to us now. Maybe the truth is something that will bring us great joy in the long run but would be incredibly disturbing for us to know now.]

  59. NoNameNedra on June 11, 2006 at 9:28 am

    Would it really be too much to ask to divide Conference into ACTUAL sessions where singles, gays, divorced members, etc could actual confer and convene in meaningful sessions, presided over by a GA?

    With a worldwide Church of (relatively) increasingly more converts, many of whom have never been through the youth programs, it’s important that they be grounded in the rules and then explore the exceptions in a safe, Church-sponsored way.

    I’ve never understood why Conference is just one repetitive talk after another, with the suits’ thinking that all the members grew up on the same farm in Idy-ho.

  60. meems on June 11, 2006 at 10:40 am

    In my branch this morning, at the end of Relief Society, we were all told we had to go down to the Primary Room. No explanation. Then we were told to sit down, the children were all ushered out to a “waiting room” and we were then held captive in a meeting on … modesty! The meeting was presented by the RS pres. and the Branch Pres, and I found the whole thing to be insulting and a waste of time. Not one sister in our branch has a custom of being immodest. We were read to out of the For the Strength of Youth booklet and then the booklet was passed around so we could see what modest clothing looked like. The really interesting thing was that we were told: a) if we excite the unrighteous desires of a righteous man by wearing shorts that are too short, etc., we will be held accountable, not them. (!) and b) part of modesty was that we were not to get “extreme haircuts or colors.” When one sister asked about this and said, what may be extreme for one person, may not be extreme for another”, she was met with the answer that “we all know what’s extreme.” An example was given that by extreme color, anything “unnatural” would be extreme, for example, “a person with black hair dying her hair blonde would be extreme.” (I live in Asia where there are no blondes in my branch…) I finally excused myself after 45 minutes, so I don’t know how it ended, but it was sort of making me crazy, and I rarely get ruffled by anything said at church. Is this doctrine now? No bleach blondes? Clairol may go out of business!!

  61. Mike on June 11, 2006 at 10:59 am

    I get the feeling that although many of the comments are very insightful we are dancing around a much more serious issue. We went from discussing exceptions to some rules in a general sense to a specific example of modesty among other things.

    A crucial rule: We are commanded to build the kingdom of God by getting married and raising another righteous generation. When you apply David O McKay’s rule or slogan, “no success can compensate for failure in the home” to his own personal situation, you realize that Fawn Brodie and her sibs were raised together with the children of David O. and he loved her as his own daughter. She was known as the best and the brightest of the McKay tribe and sort of his feminine protege. With that slogan he is admitting that the success of his incomparable service in the kingdom over a 70 year career does not compensate for the failure to kindle a fire of conviction sufficent to carry Fawn through the trials that she faced. My mother worked for David O. and she was of the opinion that DOM would trade his place in the church and become an obscure farmer in Huntsville if it would somehow win Fawn back, he loved her that much and so grieved at her apostacy. At other times he could get quite angry at her but he kept that out of view.

    Exception: Sometime it doesn’t work out, even for the best of us and in this Kingdom building business, some people never marry. These exceptions have a unique and valuable role in the process of Kingdom building through successful home building. I had an Aunt whose boyfriend went down with the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor. She became a Rosie the Riveter and helped build the B-29’s that leveled Europe and eventually carrried Atomic bombs to Japan. She never married but taught a couple three generations of the people in a small isolated Idaho town how to read and write. At the end of her life you could not even take her out to a restaraunt there without almost every person coming up to you and relating how much they loved and appreciated her as their most memorable grade school teacher. The simple meal at McDonalds spontaneously morphed into a celebration honoring her. Biologically she had no children. Yet really she had hundreds if not thousands of children. Modern women have more options than Aunt “Rosie” and many of them may have a similar impact in ways that are not so easy to see. So they, like my Aunt are the exceptions to the rule of kingdom building through family building.

    But the church today has far bigger problems than modesty, with all of its rules and exceptions.
    “Generally, I think the Church’s social structure works, or should work, for 80-90% of the population…” Is this really correct? I think not.

    We have by some estimates over 30% of our young people not being able to find a suitable marriage partner for one reason or another. We can argue about the actual Mormon divorce rate depending how you define the parameters, but the basic fact is that it is way too damned high. These two problems are directly connected because their roots are related to a single important decision, who to marry. Young people today face an awful dilemna. The two horns of the dilemna are perpetual singlehood and trapped in a bad marriage. These horns have always been there, but never have they been so long and sharp and the space between them so narrow and dangerous. Never have so many of God’s children got ourselves skewered upon them.

    I might suggest that Mormon social structures are breaking down. They don’t work when a third of the youth don’t marry and another third divorce. We inherited this problem when we hitched our social structures to those of mainstream American following the abandonment of plural marriage and all that went with it. And then we refused to make some of the diabolical accomodations thrust upon society by the sexual revolution of the last half of the 20th century. Exceptions are now becoming more common than the rules. Exceptions to exceptions result in chaos, the ancient description of hell.

    I have living at my house a college student from Europe. She is very attractive; blond. blue eyes, with a nice figure. She is very zealous, ambitious and intelligent. She speaks several languages and just graduated from college this Spring. She is not perfect, but her faults are not severe and are of the sort that are hardly noticed initially. Although she is young enough to be my daughter, when I think of her as a hypothetical member of one of the single wards I attended decades ago, it is hard to image her not having dozens of guys asking her out for dates all the time. She might have been able to find a suitable marriage partner in one well focused weekend at USU in 1980. Yet she dates rather sporatically and whether she will marry seems an open question at this point. She has had every desire to get married to a nice LDS guy in the four years we have known her and this worthy goal was the primary reason she left Europe.

    This year several of the people in her singles ward are getting married, but in years past very few marriages seem to have occurred. One day she was there at the house, I believe with one of her girlfriends who has a Ph.D in a scientific field. I asked them why they thought it was so difficult for single Mormons to get married these days.

    Two things were mentioned.

    First is pornography. These girls said way too many single Mormon guys have serious problems with it. The computer brought it out from under the counter at the gas station, right into the bedroom in vast quantities. And these educated refined ladies had nicer ways of putting it, but lots of porn psychologically casterates young men and makes them incapabe of serious close emotional relationships with women. I gathered we were not talking about a percent of guys in the single digits, not even close.

    Second is fallout from the divorces of their parents. Children of divorce often see the world through distorted lenses because of their actual experiences, aside from any rational process. Marriage for them is associated with misery, anger, tyranny and even violence. Singlehood is associated with relief, independence, and safety. Although a young person may intellectually agree with a church doctrine or leader who tells them that they need to find a spouse and raise a family, at the emotional level they greatly fear doing this and become very risk adverse to it. Some transgressions are visited upon the heads of the children unto the third and fourth generation.

    Third is geographic isolation, insufficient numbers of singles in any one place (except out west). but that was easy to solve, move.

    I think we need to quit “focusing” on anything (meaning just looking at problems and talking and agonizing about them) and figure out what we are going to have to DO to get more of these young people hitched up in marriages that have a good chance of working. I think we need to further emphasis the most important duties. If we continue to go in the general direction we are currently heading, no matter which exceptions or rules we follow, we are going to die as a kingdom. We are rapidly being assimilated, one at a time, into various positions in the Kingdom of the World. There won’t be any of us left in the next generation who care to worry about all these other things.

    When a marriage dissolves, it does orders of magnitude more damage than a bunch of teenage girls ranting around with their skirts too short and the old men making comments over the pulpit against it that are not quite as sophisticated as they could be. Maybe we need to go off completely in another direction and make Mormonism an even more distinctive sub culture where the rules and excceptions are drastically different. I don’t know; that would take the vision and leadership of a Prophet like Moses. I can’t even get 10 people in my ward to join a blood drive, so don’t look to me for it.

  62. Mike on June 11, 2006 at 11:21 am

    Meems:
    It took me so long to compsoe them that I didn’t read your comment before posting mine immediately after them. I am sorry if it takes any of the attention away from your legitimate feelings.

    If you have the guts, you should ask to speak with the BP and /or RS. You should calmly tell them how offensive and irrelevant their comments are. You should ask them how this helps us do a better job of raising our families or drawing closer to Christ? Especially in a small community where modesty is not a big oproblem. Why are they wasting valuable time that should be devoted to the bigger issues? Like Christ and the Atonement and whatever else your branch needs? You know better than I.

    I bet they were told to do this from higher up and appologize and will relate that as the excuse. If so then you need to try and convince them to take it to the next level. That failing you might write your thoughts down and sent them in. But wait a few days so you don’t have too much of an emotional edge to it. Just enough to be effective.

    I have gone in after episodes like this and ranted and raved and threatened Blood Atonement and the such. Trust me from experience, that doesn’t work.

  63. Mark Butler on June 11, 2006 at 3:20 pm

    The only reason for “rules” in modesty is to accomodate for the lack of understanding. In the long run, understanding is the virtual end of rules. In other words, there are principles here, and the fidestic, anti-rational and legalistic character of twentieth century Mormonism has come back to bite us, such that it is difficult for many to even comprehend what the principles are, let alone elaborate and expound upon them.

  64. mullingandmusing (m&m) on June 11, 2006 at 5:19 pm

    61
    Mike: Doesn’t this explain why Elder Oaks might have decided to talk about getting young people to date more? That whole hanging out culture has definitely had an effect on all of this as well.

    I tend to think the vision is there, but the question is, are we as a church listening? It’s as much our responsibility to see and remember the big picture as anyone’s, isn’t it? Why is there such an emphasis on family? Because, as you have explained, it’s falling apart, from the point of creation (or lack thereof) of families to rampant failure along the way once families are formed. But what is eroding the foundation of family is all the little things. What we need to remember is how those things fit into the big picture. That’s why we keep hearing about things ranging from pornography to family home evening (and, yes, even modesty). All of these things we hear about can combine to help us hve more healthy individuals and families. I guess I’m not quite sure what you are expecting. I tend to think the trouble lies in the fact that, as Elder Stone says, too much of Babylon creeps in too much of the time. We as individuals and families have to take the responsibility on our shoulders to keep Babylon out. And we need to remember WHY we care about all of this. But I think our prophets give us enough vision. I just wonder if we are really grasping it.

  65. mullingandmusing (m&m) on June 11, 2006 at 5:29 pm

    p.s. Wow! Look at the sidebar! One of the links sums it all up: “Instead, all the commandments were working together to bring about the same end, and trying faithfully to keep any one of them would help me to follow all of them.” That really gets to the heart of this, I think!

  66. Seth R. on June 11, 2006 at 6:56 pm

    You’ll notice that Elder Oaks only gave his “I only teach general principles” line in response to himself and other general authorities.

    He DID NOT say it about your Bishop. He did not say it about your Stake President. He did not say it about your Elders Quorum President. And he did not say it about your spouse.

    Those people hold a role in the Church where it is there business to get into specifics about rules and applications for your own life.

    It’s one thing to claim that a General Conference address, or even a Sacrament Meeting address by the Bishop, doesn’t apply to you.

    It’s quite another to say the same thing about direct personal counsel from your bishop.

  67. Mark Butler on June 11, 2006 at 7:19 pm

    Seth, even fideistic feudalism has its limits, it is not the Bishop’s job to get revelation on *your* behalf, only on behalf of the ward at large. Several general authorities have given talks emphasizing precisely this point – i.e. counsel from any level is counsel, that ultimately it is each personal members responsibility to receive inspiration for himself and act accordingly, in the light of all the counsel he or she has received.

  68. Nathan on June 12, 2006 at 12:45 pm

    Seth R.

    Spot on. Mostly.

    What I am saddened about is that members feel a need to get approval from their bishops (or other leaders) on exceptions that they feel applies to them. I don’t think that Oaks said to go to your bishop, he said to go to the Lord.

    What a great spiritual experience it would be if we were to struggle in the spirit to recieve an answer that we desperatly felt like we needed. Perhaps even fasting, attending the temple, and other practices that show your faith and want in recieving an answer from the Lord.

    An even greater problem is that I bet there are many members who don’t do anything, they just do what they want. Hey, we all have agency.

    The church’s greatest gift to it’s members is the least used part, in my opinion.

  69. Adam Greenwood on June 12, 2006 at 1:00 pm

    Can even a hair of the head be lost without the Father noticing?

    Amen to #50 and whichever Mark Butler it is said it.

  70. Adam Greenwood on June 12, 2006 at 1:01 pm

    “Maybe the truth is something that will bring us great joy in the long run but would be incredibly disturbing for us to know now.”

    How true that is, for all of us.

  71. Adam Greenwood on June 12, 2006 at 1:03 pm

    “Seth, even fideistic feudalism has its limits, it is not the Bishop’s job to get revelation on *your* behalf, only on behalf of the ward at large”

    I know people want to believe this, but I don’t see why its the case. Stewardship over the generality means stewardship over the particulars. That is why Christ, when teaching about what people in pastoral roles do, could talk about leaving the 99 and going after the 1. That is also why it would be entirely appropriate for someone struggling with an exception to go to the Bishop as well as to the Lord. They are not unconnected. We aren’t protestants.

  72. Adam Greenwood on June 12, 2006 at 1:05 pm

    One last thought:

    while modesty is no doubt hugely shaped by culture and cultural expectations, we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking its all cultural. There’s a certain amount of irreducible hardwiring in the brain.

  73. Mark Butler on June 12, 2006 at 1:32 pm

    I am not opposed to pastoral counselling Adam, I am opposed to the idea that it should be binding, as if the will of the bishop was the law of the parish. I am also opposed to the idea that the bishop is more likely to receive correct inspiration on personal matters than the person he is counselling – that is contrary to the order of heaven.

    How is it that a bishop can receive revelation so as how to more particularly manage his stewardship, and a faithful member not receive revelation so as how to more particularly manage his? Of course, not anything one believes is revelation there has to be a coherence to the whole project.

    Disputes arise, however in precisely those cases where a bishop has no precedent for the revelation he is claiming on behalf of a member. That is the gospel of servitude, not the gospel of service. Latter day leaders have cautioned against such an attitude, from Joseph Smith (e.g. bishops not having more power than a king has with regard to consecration) to the present day.

    One relevant scripture on the role of a bishop:

    Nevertheless a bishop must be chosen from the High Priesthood, unless he is a literal descendant of Aaron;

    And also to be a judge in Israel, to do the business of the church, to sit in judgment upon transgressors upon testimony as it shall be laid before him according to the laws, by the assistance of his counselors, whom he has chosen or will choose among the elders of the church.
    (D&C 107:69,72)

    Now where oh where do the “laws” come from? From the Bishop’s personal revelation on the matter? Hardly. The law making function in the Church is located in heaven, and documented in the canon. In particular, binding revelation is received by the *consensus* of the FP and the Q12, the magisterium of the Church. If a revelation has not gone through such canonization or quasi-canonization it is not a *law* of the Church – counsel, inspired recommendation, etc, sure, but not law.

    The great irony is that so many think that bishops and stake presidents have more authority than the President of the Church has, indeed more authority than Heavenly Father has – not judges or administrators, *presiding* according to principles of law, equity, and common consent, but enlightened despots whose word is law just because they say it.

    That is what I mean by fideistic feudalism – a hierarchical implementation of the Divine Command Theory of ethics – morality as nothing more than obedience – obedience not to law, but to arbitrary discretion of the ecclesiastical aristocracy, rule sanctioned by a false concept of the economy of heaven – one rather foreign to the Doctrine and Covenants, among other things.

  74. Mike on June 12, 2006 at 2:00 pm

    Reply to # 64

    In general I agree with almost everything you mention. I heard one local church leader tell the singles: More dating; less sitting home praying.

    “But I think our prophets give us enough vision. I just wonder if we are really grasping it. ”

    If we are not grasping it then it is not enough. It is not about legally defined responsibilities for what the prophet is commanded to do and what we are commanded to do and who is falling short. But about doing what works. In relation to this I get a kick out of the idea that if you follow bad prophetic admonitions, you will be blessed. I think if you follow bad admonitions the inherent undesirable consequences will bite you, regardlesss of the source. Wo unto them who call evil good and good evil. But this is an aside.

    I think it isn’t working. Too many divorces, poor retention etc, etc. The Mormon faith is in serious trouble. Somehow out of focus. If we follow our leaders to hell we all go to hell. Even if we don’t follow our leaders and go off to hell we all end up in one sort of hell or other.

    Have you ever had the responsibility of teaching someone and find that you/they failed? Or lost a son or daughter? Does not the compassion of the teacher/leader/parent who sincerely loves the student/disciple/child who doesn’t learn or doesn’t make it put them in sort of a hell with them? I am reminded of that last speach by Mormon as he mourns the defeat of the Nephites; I think it begins: Oh ye Fair Ones… I guess Mormon has his son and maybe his wife and other children we are not told . But some people loose all their relatives to the devil. Then what?

    Consider the Prodical Son. He was in a hell of his own making. What about his wise father who came out to the road every day to look for him? We have plenty of people like the other son who seemed to have done everything he should have, except his heart was not in the right place and he was resentful of the repentance of his brother. Are we not all relatives?

    Last night we went over to the church to listen to the satellite presentation honoring the Pioneers. My wife and I are both descended from 1857 Handcart companies. In attendance were 5 full-time missionaries, a member of the Bishopric, one old monk who converted many years ago and my family. The Iowa Stake President bored my children to near sleep.

    Elder Packer got up to speak. Something about his stern appearance and his gravelly voice and his stiff mannerisms (he suffers from Parkinsons); all this got my teenagers to giggling and then openly laughing at him. It wasn’t fair, the content of his talk was actually pretty good. I told them to knock it off. It only made it worse. I excercised the lesser manifestations of the gift of the laying on of hands and they eventually settled down and then President Hinckley spoke. The years are taking a heavy toll on him. The snickering started up and I wished we had stayed home with the rest of the ward. I just don’t think my children take the Prophets seriously. The contrast between what we tell them about how great the Prophets are and what they see for themselves is too much.

    Elder Packer gave a good talk. He utterly failed to connect with my children about the heroic suffering of our Pioneer ancestors who probably knew each other and helped each other. He was, I am told, once a highly effective seminary and institute teacher and he failed to connect with the rest of the ward for a different reason, since they didn’t even bother to come. In Georgia who the heck cares about Utah Pioneers? It was optional but I thought it sounded like one of those programs that is often better than regular church and since I had to work it was my only Mormon option for any church yesterday.

    In contrast to Elder Packer is the seminary teacher in our ward who all the kids in the ward dearly love. When I asked exactly what about her they like so much, my daughter extravagantly replied: “She spends hours fixing us professional home cooked breakfasts every morning.” this seminary teacher has compassion for her class and somehow knows what it feels like to be 15 and sitting at the church hungry at 6:00 am. Then they listen to her.

    About 80 years ago the Lord sent us Heber J, Grant and he also sent us J. Golden Kimball. I am fascinated by the contrast between them and to know that they were in fact lifelong close friends and liked to hang out together in their little spare time. This is just a shot from the hip, but I think this church needs another J. Golden Kimball.

    “I guess I’m not quite sure what you are expecting.” Me too. I don’t really know either.

  75. Adam Greenwood on June 12, 2006 at 2:09 pm

    Mark Butler,

    You don’t say anything that, as far as I can see, wouldn’t apply just as well to the prophets and to general revelation. So I reject it. The truth is that the gospel is a kind of servitude. No man can serve two masters, but everybody must serve one. I don’t think we can really undo the sting of that by metaphorizing what it means to serve a master or by denying the unpleasant possibility that the master can set some servants over others.

    Morality is more than obedience, but obedience is more than morality.

  76. mullingandmusing (m&m) on June 12, 2006 at 2:12 pm

    If we follow our leaders to hell we all go to hell.

    If you are suggesting that by following our leaders, we will go to hell, then I think you are simply wrong. I am surrounded by people who are following them, and their lives are exemplary. Perfect? No, but they are such good people. Following the prophets in faith pays off in obvious ways. I believe if we are sitting around waiting for our leaders to do or be something different, then we put ourselves in danger of going to hell. But it won’t be the leaders’ fault. It will be ours.

  77. Adam Greenwood on June 12, 2006 at 3:00 pm

    Was it Joseph Smith or Brigham Young who said that if the Saints all went to hell, we’d make it heaven?

  78. Mark Butler on June 12, 2006 at 3:10 pm

    Servitude, yes. But servitude to the mandates of heaven, not the will of any individual, no matter how highly placed.

  79. Mark Butler on June 12, 2006 at 3:21 pm

    Ultimately the question boils down to is heaven a republic or an autocracy. I believe the D&C teaches the former. The Most High does not have anyone to receive revelation from. So what legitimizes his authority in non-essentials? Atonement and common consent. Bishops do have a bit of natural authority because of the service they perform, but it is in the character of honor, not law. No single person’s opinion is adequate to establish law or doctrine. Not even God’s, speaking individually, and not generally of course.

    A leader who wishes to compel his parish is exalting himself above the Most High. This is a gospel of persuasion, authority established by long suffering and participation, not a gospel of coercion. If God were arbitrary he would not be God. His priesthood would be null and void on the spot. (c.f. D&C 121:46)

  80. Mark Butler on June 12, 2006 at 3:24 pm

    In other words, the priesthood of God is not some sort of magical power of mind control, it is derived from *honor*. If the divine concert ceased to honor God, his power would evaporate. (cf. D&C 29:36

  81. Mark Butler on June 12, 2006 at 3:31 pm

    And thus it is reasonable to assume that the divine concert establishes *law* the same way the FP & Q12 establish doctrine – by *consensus*, as specified in D&C 107, and implied by D&C 130:2 – same sociality there as here, and all that.

  82. Adam Greenwood on June 12, 2006 at 3:36 pm

    Now I know where we disagree, Mark Butler. By the way, I think your interpretation of D&C 29:36 is tenable but contestable and your interpretation of D&C 121:46 is flat wrong.

    As for me, obedience qua obedience, obedience for its own sake, has tasted good and seems as much a part of righteousness as the mandate of heaven as anything else you’ve named. Truthfully, a lot of what you appear to believe horrifies me. And I you, I’m sure.

    For curiousity sake, I’d be interested to know how you account for Abrahamic tests in your schema.

  83. Mike on June 13, 2006 at 2:25 pm

    “If we follow our leaders to hell we will go to hell.”

    J. Golden Kimbal said that. He was one of the leaders. Go figure.

  84. Mark Butler on June 13, 2006 at 2:45 pm

    Nothing you have said horrifies me, Adam. I do not think you are justified in concluding that I am anti-obedience per se. Rather that I see obedience as second order principle, not a first order one, a good of the second intent not a good of the first.

    Abraham was born to an idolatrous father – what principle justified his disobedience, his departure from his own heritage? What distinguishes the Kingdom of God from the Kingdom of the Devil? Do the denizens of the latter have a moral obligation to obey their superiors?

    If you believe in the God of the Greeks, as the ultimate absolute and atemporal compound in one, then this question never arises relative to God. However if God has any temporal free will whatsover, to decree and ordain in time according to his own will and pleasure, then the constraints of character and divinity become rather important.

    In fact that is the most serious issue of medeival theology from about 1300-1500. The solution that Calvin came up with was to do the Apostasy one better – not only to depersonalize God, but to take away man’s free will as well. This God of Singularity makes for a convenient apolegetic, but is completely inadequate explanation or divine discretion in a Church that believes that God is not a statue, but rather a person, and not one person, but many (Eloheim – plural), as Joseph Smith said.

    So some want to throw the King Follett Discourse out, and downgrade the doctrine of divinization, so that we can return to the old Protestant platitudes. I would rather take Joseph Smith and Brigham Young at their word than stomp on everything they stood for.

  85. Mark Butler on June 13, 2006 at 2:48 pm

    And no doubt still stand for. Who are the heretics here – Joseph Smith and Brigham Young or those who pine for Wesley and Calvin?

  86. Aaron Brown on June 13, 2006 at 3:12 pm

    This talk is indeed comforting, particularly for those of us, like me, who are the exception to EVERY rule. :)

    Aaron B

  87. Mark Butler on June 13, 2006 at 3:29 pm

    Here is the relevant section of the Westminster Confession:

    God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of himself; and is alone in and unto himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which he hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting his own glory in, by, unto, and upon them; he is the alone foundation of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom, are all things; and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them, whatsoever himself pleaseth. In his sight all things are open and manifest; his knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature; so as nothing is to him contingent or uncertain. He is most holy in all his counsels, in all his works, and in all his commands. To him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience he is pleased to require of them.

    Here is the Book of Mormon:

    Therefore, according to justice, the plan of redemption could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state; for except it were for these conditions, mercy could not take effect except it should destroy the work of justice. Now the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God.

    14 And thus we see that all mankind were fallen, and they were in the grasp of justice; yea, the justice of God, which consigned them forever to be cut off from his presence.

    15 And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.

    God might be? You mean God isn’t absolute? That he (personally) has potential to be other than he is? To cease to be God? Alma clearly anticipates the possibility the God could give an unrighteous command, just that he would cease to be divine by doing so.

    Now Abraham obeyed God, but not his earthly father based on faith. A faith derived from experience. Would it do him credit to have faith in a stranger or a wicked man? No it is only Faith in the Lord that counts. Faith and obedience in and of themselves are worthless concepts, including the curious conception in Lectures on Faith – divine power as wishful thinking.

  88. bbell on June 13, 2006 at 3:35 pm

    I think the issue of the Bishops inspiration VS the individuals inspiration is a grey area.

    God can work thru personal inspiration in some cases and then thru a individuals bishop in another case. Sometimes it can even be a combo of these things. There is no hard and fast rule here. Some bishops may be more inspired than others and vice versa.

    I would though be hesitant to dismiss counsel from a PH leader out of hand without seriously considering it.

  89. Mark Butler on June 13, 2006 at 3:37 pm

    Not any Lord, but the loving, righteous, just one.

  90. Bookslinger on June 13, 2006 at 7:36 pm

    Elder Nelson verbalized the same “rules versus exceptions” concept in his February 6th, 2005 talk at a CES fireside.

    I’m glad to see the Apostles addressing this. I used to be a “fundamentalist” type who took everything the Brethren said as hard-and-fast rules. I made my decision to go on a mission at an older age (26), only two years after joining the church, based on things that Elder Monson said back in 1982 or 1983.

    When I saw that a significant portion of the missionaries didn’t live up to, or even attempt to live up to, what Elder Monson said “missionaries must be”, I felt betrayed by the church. That perceived betrayal, and real hurt, among other things, played a part in my leaving the church.

    When I heard Elder Nelson’s Feb 2005 CES talk, I finally started to see the big picture, and was able to finally shake my opinion that Elder Monson had “lied.”

  91. Seth R. on June 13, 2006 at 7:54 pm

    I’m sure we’d like to generalize all counsel we receive in our life in the church. I’m sure we’d like to claim that every last piece of instruction doesn’t apply exactly to our own situation.

    I don’t know. Seems awfully convenient to me. You could write-off just about anything on that rationale.

  92. Jim F. on June 13, 2006 at 8:01 pm

    Seth R: Which means we can use rules to justify sin of any kind, Pharisaism as well as refusal–but that was at the heart of Jesus’ teaching on sin, wasn’t it?

  93. Seth R. on June 13, 2006 at 10:25 pm

    Yes Jim, there are two different sides of the spectrum. And both sides have strange little people running around on them.

    Now shut up and obey, Aaron Brown!

  94. Ken on June 18, 2006 at 11:57 pm

    Mike, Re Handcart Pioneer Fireside Broadcast:

    Elder Packer got up to speak. Something about his stern appearance and his gravelly voice and his stiff mannerisms (he suffers from Parkinsons); all this got my teenagers to giggling and then openly laughing at him. It wasn’t fair, the content of his talk was actually pretty good. I told them to knock it off. It only made it worse. I excercised [sic] the lesser manifestations of the gift of the laying on of hands and they eventually settled down and then President Hinckley spoke. The years are taking a heavy toll on him. The snickering started up and I wished we had stayed home with the rest of the ward. I just don’t think my children take the Prophets seriously. The contrast between what we tell them about how great the Prophets are and what they see for themselves is too much.

    Ken Now Says:

    What would your children have “see[n] for themselves” if Enoch were the prophet today? … You know, the same guy whose city the Lord thought was doing well enough to pluck it, in its entirety, off the planet and deposit it directly into Heaven … but the same guy who said, “I am but a lad” and “slow of speech” and “all the people hate me” (Moses 6:31).

    What would your children have “see[n] for themselves” if Moses were the prophet today? After all, he, too, was “slow of speech” and “of a slow tongue” (Exodus 4:10)?

    “Oh, come on,” I can hear you say. “Sure, we’d follow Moses and Enoch, but we’re talking about Gordon B. Hinckley and Boyd K. Packer here! These men are hardly Moses’s or Enoch’s caliber!”

    Of course, the Pharisees said much the same thing about the Savior in His time (see Luke 16:31). Something tells me that if you, likewise, won’t hear the Boyd K. Packers and the Gordon B. Hinckleys of your generation, you wouldn’t be much more likely to be persuaded by the Moseses and the Enochs of the world.

  95. Adam Greenwood on June 19, 2006 at 12:25 am

    Mark Butler,
    you keep trying to put this in philosophical terms, and then attacking those terms, but so far as I know I’m not a philosopher and certainly not a Calvinist. I’m much more interested in knowing how you explain the Abraham story, which I haven’t seen you give a convincing account of yet, in a world where obedience is a second-order good.

  96. Mark Butler on June 19, 2006 at 1:52 am

    Very simple:

    1. Abraham came to know God, what kind of being he was, that he was eminently good and trustworthy.
    2. God gave Abraham a very difficult commandment, one that would be nonsensical if he did not have a greater objective in mind.
    3. Abraham trusted that God *did* have a worthy objective in mind, and further trusted that God was powerful unto the fulfilling of all his prior promises, by resurrecting Isaac if necessary.
    4. Abraham proceeded as instructed, walking by faith in a God who he *knew* was good.
    5. God withdrew the command, and counted Abraham’s faith and trust in him for righteousness

    Okay, now replace God with an all powerful despot, who Abraham obeyed out of fear rather than faith. Would Abraham’s act have been righteous? I think not.

    Or substitute God with a good sort of person, that Abraham knew had a track record of not being able to keep his promises, a kind of lovable flake. Would Abraham’s act have been righteous? I beg to differ.

    And thus we see that obedience is not a good in and of itself, it is a function of the character and capacity of the person being obeyed. A good of the second intent, and not the first.

    And as final evidence I cite the statement of King Mosiah:

    “Therefore, if it were possible that you could have just men to be your kings, who would establish the laws of God, and judge this people according to his commandments, yea, if ye could have men for your kings who would do even as my father Benjamin did for this people—I say unto you, if this could always be the case then it would be expedient that ye should always have kings to rule over you.

    Now I say unto you, that because all men are not just it is not expedient that ye should have a king or kings to rule over you. For behold, how much iniquity doth one wicked king cause to be committed, yea, and what great destruction!

    And behold, now I say unto you, ye cannot dethrone an iniquitous king save it be through much contention, and the shedding of much blood. For behold, he has his friends in iniquity, and he keepeth his guards about him; and he teareth up the laws of those who have reigned in righteousness before him; and he trampleth under his feet the commandments of God;

    And he enacteth laws, and sendeth them forth among his people, yea, laws after the manner of his own wickedness; and whosoever doth not obey his laws he causeth to be destroyed; and whosoever doth rebel against him he will send his armies against them to war, and if he can he will destroy them; and thus an unrighteous king doth pervert the ways of all righteousness. And now behold I say unto you, it is not expedient that such abominations should come upon you.

    Therefore, choose you by the voice of this people, judges, that ye may be judged according to the laws which have been given you by our fathers, which are correct, and which were given them by the hand of the Lord.

    Now it is not common that the voice of the people desireth anything contrary to that which is right; but it is common for the lesser part of the people to desire that which is not right; therefore this shall ye observe and make it your law—to do your business by the voice of the people. And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land.

    And now if ye have judges, and they do not judge you according to the law which has been given, ye can cause that they may be judged of a higher judge. If your higher judges do not judge righteous judgments, ye shall cause that a small number of your lower judges should be gathered together, and they shall judge your higher judges, according to the voice of the people.

    And I command you to do these things in the fear of the Lord; and I command you to do these things, and that ye have no king; that if these people commit sins and iniquities they shall be answered upon their own heads. For behold I say unto you, the sins of many people have been caused by the iniquities of their kings; therefore their iniquities are answered upon the heads of their kings.

    And now I desire that this inequality should be no more in this land, especially among this my people; but I desire that this land be a land of liberty, and every man may enjoy his rights and privileges alike, so long as the Lord sees fit that we may live and inherit the land, yea, even as long as any of our posterity remains upon the face of the land.

    And many more things did king Mosiah write unto them, unfolding unto them all the trials and troubles of a righteous king, yea, all the travails of soul for their people, and also all the murmurings of the people to their king; and he explained it all unto them. And he told them that these things ought not to be; but that the burden should come upon all the people, that every man might bear his part.

    And he also unfolded unto them all the disadvantages they labored under, by having an unrighteous king to rule over them; Yea, all his iniquities and abominations, and all the wars, and contentions, and bloodshed, and the stealing, and the plundering, and the committing of whoredoms, and all manner of iniquities which cannot be enumerated—telling them that these things ought not to be, that they were expressly repugnant to the commandments of God.

    And now it came to pass, after king Mosiah had sent these things forth among the people they were convinced of the truth of his words. Therefore they relinquished their desires for a king, and became exceedingly anxious that every man should have an equal chance throughout all the land; yea, and every man expressed a willingness to answer for his own sins.”
    (Mosiah 29:13-38)

    And the Lord Jesus Christ:

    “Speaking unto you that you may naturally understand; but unto myself my works have no end, neither beginning; but it is given unto you that ye may understand, because ye have asked it of me and are agreed.

    Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, your father, whom I created.

    Behold, I gave unto him that he should be an agent unto himself; and I gave unto him commandment, but no temporal commandment gave I unto him, for my commandments are spiritual; they are not natural nor temporal, neither carnal nor sensual.”
    (D&C 29:33-35)

    And finally Joseph Smith:

    “When the Savior shall appear we shall see him as he is. We shall see that he is a man like ourselves. And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy.”
    (D&C 130:1-2)

    In short we obey God, *because* he is good, and not for any other reason. And we might have reason to suggest that one might on occasion wrestle even with God, or the whole House of Israel would likely have have been sent packing (Exodus 32:9-14).

  97. Adam Greenwood on June 19, 2006 at 11:46 am

    But there wasn’t a greater objective in mind, which was why God withdrew the commandment. It was obedience for obedience sake, pure and simple, which means that obedience can’t be second order. Your example of the despot who is obeyed out of fear doesn’t really work, since, say, acts of filial affection and all sorts of things would be devalued if they were done out of fear.

    Also, I don’t think your point about Abraham’s prior knowledge of God’s character really works. The point of the test is that it undermines everything Abraham thought he knew about God. From your perspective, where obedience is just a short hand to a calculation about how much a person’s character and wisdom means I should accept their counsel, its hard to see why Abraham is particularly admirable for not taking this new information about God’s character into account.

    The problem that keeps you from really taking the issue by the horns is that you keep trying to change it into the old Platonic argument about whether the good or God’s commands have priority. But that is not the same issue (and even then most of the scriptures you cite don’t really address it).

    In the end, I do think that my obedience will work for my own good. But, as Christ made clear in other contexts, my own good cannot fully be achieved unless I am willing to sacrifice it. ‘though he slay me, yet will I trust God.’ I have tasted obedience for its own sake, and it is good.

  98. Aaron Brown on June 22, 2006 at 6:53 pm

    “Now shut up and obey, Aaron Brown! ”

    Not sure why my name is appearing in this thread, but on the theory that “no press is bad press,” I suppose I have no objection. Given that my appearance is in the context of a demand that third-parties obey my every whim, I have even less objection.

    Aaron B

    [Editors Note: the demand accidentally left out a comma. This has been fixed.]