December 20, 2009

The Message

In the Orwellian-themed fictional world of Equilibrium, a new doctrine has been introduced in an attempt to rid the world of hatred and injustice. The hero of the film eventually concludes that the doctrine is contradictory in nature, and that the very thing the doctrine is meant to fight is actually what it perpetuates. He brings these concerns to his superior, who tells him "It is not the message that is important, but our obedience to it."

I have found this to be a similar response in the LDS church. Discussion of things in Preach My Gospel and other Church-approved manuals is fine, but anything beyond should be left unexplored. At that point, we must stop concerning ourselves with the message/doctrine/practices of the Church and instead concern ourselves with obedience. Consider the following selections from a talk by Robert C. Oaks:
For us, to 'believe all things' means to believe the doctrine of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ as well as the words of the Latter-day prophets. It means to successfully erase our doubts and reservations. It means that in making spiritual commitments, we are prepared to hold nothing back. It means we are ready to consecrate our lives to the work of the kingdom... If we have spent any time considering the nature of faith, we must realize that 'believing all things' is the equivalent of full faith, not full knowledge... At some point in our quest for perfection and eternal life, we may come to have perfect faith and eventually perfect knowledge. But between now and then, there will certainly arise intriguing questions with answers reaching beyond our capacity to comprehend. Such questions can drive the prideful person to conclusions such as 'Given the constraints of Christian doctrine, there is no possible answer to this question; therefore, a thinking person cannot be a Christian.' Such pride and arrogance must greatly offend the heavens... One day there will be answers to all our questions, and they will be based on divine fairness and love... Let us believe all things. Let us have unquestioning faith in all of the doctrines and truths of the restored gospel.
In other words, if the message of the Church seems contradictory, problematic, incomplete, or just plain wrong, that is where we "prideful" people (who believe that the truth should make sense) need to give up our desire for a clear message, and clutch onto obedience to the message. At that point, the Church desists stressing its message and instead stresses obedience thereto. Again, "It is not the message that is important, but our obedience to it."

This is a classic step in destroying clarity of thinking. Adolf Hitler, for example, made his officers and soldiers swear obedience to him - not to the laws or to the German constitution (source). That is, whatever message Hitler gave was irrelevant. It was the obedience that mattered (Please do not misunderstand the comparison; members of the Church are not Nazis! The principles used to control their thoughts and behavior are the similarity). One of the most basic steps of a force that wishes to have ultimate power over others is to indoctrinate its followers with "Don't think about it too much: just obey it."

I'm sure that's why so many of the believers who attempt to contend with me fail to address any of the concerns I've raised, and instead concentrate on the simple fact that I have deviated from the path beaten in front of me. For some of us, the message matters. And I will not, cannot, abandon my deepest values for the sake of obedience to a flawed message.

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