Obedience

(also see “Abrahamic sacrifices”, “Critical thinking”, “Making Decisions”, “Morals”, “Prosperity gospel”, and “Priesthood”)

 

Pros of Mormonism from the perspective of the
Believer
Nonbeliever
The believing member knows that obedience is essential for salvation and will help them one day become like God. Obedience and sacrificing to obey brings forth the blessings of Heaven. All  blessings are based on obedience and have specific laws that must be obeyed to obtain them. The Lord requires the heart and a willing mind, and the obedient shall eat the good of the land.
 
Having an established set of rules and principles to obey and live by can make life simpler in many ways. Defining one’s own set of morals and standards can be taxing and lead to self-doubt. Many people are searching for a road map to life and are happy to find a system that clearly lays out what should and shouldn’t be done to find happiness. For many people, Mormonism provides this road map. Many Mormons take great comfort in obedience, and many ex-Mormons miss the feeling of calm certainty that used to come with obedience.
Many nonbelievers will acknowledge that the principle of obedience is a principle that can bring happiness to many people. Many former believers previously felt comfort in obedience. Having an established set of rules and principles to obey and live by can make life simpler in many ways. Defining one’s own set of morals and standards can be taxing and lead to self-doubt. Many people are searching for a road map to life and are happy to find a system that clearly lays out what should and shouldn’t be done to find happiness. For many people, Mormonism provides this road map. Many Mormons take great comfort in obedience, and many ex-Mormons miss the feeling of calm certainty that used to come with obedience.
 
Cons of Mormonism from the perspective of the
Believer
Nonbeliever
A believing Mormon will probably get frustrated at times when they are asked to do something that they don’t understand or perhaps don’t agree with.
 
The demand for obedience can make Mormons less likely to think critically and deeply about the things they are asked to do. A Mormon who disagrees with a commandment or counsel from the Brethren can have little recourse. Dallin H. Oaks explains that any conclusion or revelation contrary to what the Brethren says cannot be trusted: “Similarly, we cannot communicate reliably through the direct, personal line if we are disobedient to or out of harmony with the priesthood line. The Lord has declared that “the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness” (D&C 121:36). Unfortunately, it is common for persons who are violating God’s commandments or disobedient to the counsel of their priesthood leaders to declare that God has revealed to them that they are excused from obeying some commandment or from following some counsel. Such persons may be receiving revelation or inspiration, but it is not from the source they suppose. The devil is the father of lies, and he is ever anxious to frustrate the work of God by his clever imitations.”
 
Thus, a believing member can be in a very uncomfortable position in Mormonism if they have any doubts. In the end, however, they likely stay because they have a testimony of other things, and the con of obeying a few commandments they don’t understand or disagree with is outweighed by many other pros.
 
The nonbeliever likely agrees with the cons in red in the believing section, but most are not reproduced here for the sake of brevity.
 
The nonbeliever likely views it as their right to refuse to do anything that they don’t understand or perhaps don’t agree with. This view is incompatible with Mormonism.
 
Obedience is another one of the qualities of Mormonism that can make it seem cultish to nonbelievers. Most faiths require obedience of some sort, but Mormonism is famous for emphasizing works (obedience) over grace. Nonbelievers who hear children sing Follow the Prophet frequently feel uncomfortable. Obedience seems to be emphasized above all else and it is taught to everyone, starting with toddlers. A frequently repeated phrase (and the title of some lessons) is that Obedience is the first law of heaven. Cults and fanatical religions require complete obedience, and with this obedience can
stimulate people to do extraordinary things.
 
This is illustrated in the pioneers who sacrificed so much to obey their leaders and make a dangerous trek across the country. One interesting account on lds.org details how friendly and helpful and concerned the “gentiles” seemed to be for the pioneers who were making their way to Salt Lake. Church leaders, however, encouraged isolation and total obedience. John Cislett recalled in 1873:
 
“The people in Iowa were very good in giving to those who asked food, expressing their sympathy for us whenever they visited our camp—which they did in large numbers if we stopped near a settlement. They tried to dissuade us from going to Salt Lake in that way, and offered us employment and homes among them. A few of our company left us from time to time; but the elders constantly warned us against “the Gentiles,” and by close watching succeeded in keeping the company tolerably complete. Meetings were held nearly every evening for preaching, counsel, and prayer; the chief feature of the preaching being “obey your leaders in all things.
 
Obeying leaders in all things has doubtless been a large factor in a lot of suffering in and out of Mormonism. I cannot prove this, but I suspect that obedience was probably a big factor that made many women give themselves to Joseph Smith (and Warren Jeffs and other fundamentalists).
 
Blind or near-blind obedience is exemplified by the story of Abraham nearly murdering his son in God’s name. The Abrahamic sacrifice is a prime example of how the requirement of obedience in Mormonism can make otherwise good people do bad things. I have personally heard many people say they would do anything the prophet asked.  This is frightening.
 
Elder Faust, quoting from the Book of Moses, elucidates how the church emphasizes blind obedience: “Blessed are those who need no reasons other than their love for the Savior to keep his commandments. The response of Adam to the angel who asked Adam why he made a sacrifice unto the Lord is a model for all. Responded Adam, “I know not, save the Lord commanded me.””

 

Comments relating to your lived experience with Mormonism are welcome. Although it can be difficult to distinguish at times, please focus on how the church helps and harms rather than it being true vs untrue.

Top