Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"Sustain and Support" vs. "Obey"

If I am convinced God does not want me to do something, especially if I have received a personal answer of some kind, I won’t do it – no matter what mortal tells me to do it. I still will “sustain and support” my church leaders in their callings, even if I can’t do exactly what I’m asked or counseled to do, but that wording does not say “obey regardless”.

D&C 121 is crystal clear about demanding obedience simply because of one’s position of authority, “as they suppose” – and I’ve never believed we will be blessed for knowingly doing wrong. I just can’t accept that we will be blessed for sinning, and since “sin” generally is defined partially as “knowing right and doing wrong” – I don’t buy the argument that we should obey any leader unquestioningly if they tell us to do something we believe to be wrong.

Having said that, I’ve thought and prayed about counsel I’ve been given with which I disagreed, and I’ve changed my mind as a result more than once. I also have accepted and followed counsel I believed to be poor counsel but not morally wrong in many instances when I have offered my own counsel and the leader reached a different conclusion. That’s just life in a community / organization of any kind.

I don’t believe in reflexive dismissal, and I agree totally with Elder Oaks’ characterization in his talk during General Conference last year in which he said that reflexive disregard for commandments and counsel due to a feeling that one is an exception to rules does not originate from God. At the very least, I would say such disregard is born of pride.


Unknown said...

I have not followeed counsel from a bishop only once in my life. It involved personal revelation strong enough that if I had denied it, I would also be denying my own testimony. So... I had to go with the presonal revelation. I prayed about it, too. And I'm very, very glad I didn't follow this bishop's counsel... my life, and my daughter's life, would be drastically different, and not in a good way, if I had.

I absolutely believe that sustaining, and what they call "blind obedience," are two entirely different things.

Mormon Women: Who We Are said...

There are so many layers to this, I think. There can be counsel that relates to administrative in the community/organization. In the end, there is much blessing that can come, I think, from supporting local leaders even if you don't necessarily agree with administrative decisions.

There's personal counsel that can come in talking with a local leader, and I think we have to be sure to also consider personal revelation with that. (e.g., I had a couple of bishops during my young adult years who really thought I should marry a young man -- someone I wanted to marry, actually. But when the time came that he proposed to me, I couldn't say yes. I was restrained from doing so. I tried and prayed and wanted it, but to no avail. In reality, I couldn't go to the temple altar doing what my bishop told me; I was the one who had to make and own the choice.)

I think at the general level, sometimes leaders say things that may be their own opinion. I think, though, that too often, people dismiss prophetic counsel because it's not comfortable. To me, one surefire way to test between opinion and prophetic guidance is to watch for patterns. The law of witnesses is invoked when prophetic teachings are repeated.

I have heard people say that it's blind obedience to follow prophets even when you may not understand the whys of what they ask/counsel. This quote sums up my feeling about that:

"Latter-day Saints are not obedient because they are compelled to be obedient. They are obedient because they know certain spiritual truths and have decided, as an expression of their own individual agency, to obey the commandments of God. . . . We are not obedient because we are blind, we are obedient because we can see" ("Agency and Control," Pres. Packer Ensign, May 1983, 66).

I think, too, that sometimes it's in following the counsel that we get a testimony of it, a la John 7:17.

Anyway...that's a long comment, I know. This is just a topic I feel strongly about.


Mormon Women: Who We Are said...

p.s. This is the quote I use as my guide: "When the words of prophets seem repetitive, that should rivet our attention...." - Pres. Eyring

Anonymous said...

This is a great topic that really should be brought up more often. As I read this post, it reminded me of the phrase, "Honory thy father and thy mother." Almost everyone misinterprets that as "obey" your mother and fathery. That's not what it means. If that is what God wanted, he would have used obey, but He didn't. Just look up the word honor and it makes sense and is much more important seeing as how there are bad parents and good ones. The same thing goes with "sustain" and "support." I think of Moses' arms being supported by Aaron and Hur. That wasn't obedience, that was support. Sustain:

Psal 55:22 Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the brighteous to be moved.

How could someone ask the Lord to obey a man? That wouldn't make sense. That's because sustain means something different.

It's important to think and not go through the motions or live numb to everything. I'm glad I came across this blog.

The scriptures never say to "obey regardless." That's nothing Joseph Smith ever taught either. In fact he openly taught and emphasized that prophets can have false prophecies and teachings. They also make mistakes. D&C is full of times the Lord reproves Joseph. For me, that adds to even more why he was so great. He was open about making mistakes and didn't want us getting into that "obey regardless" mentallity.

That example you use of not sinning because we are obeying blindly is great. "Funny" how that sounds a lot like Satan's plan.

Exception to the rule is important. Unfortunately many think that counsel from the pulpit at general conference is a commandment.

If people look at the great gifts that we have been given, the Gift of the Holy Ghost and prophets then we can use the Holy Ghost to figure out what is divine and follow it. Ya, it's more work than just doing whatever the President says but becoming Gods was never meant to be easy.