The Passive and Thoughtless Following of the Orders or Dictates of a Higher Authority

 

Obedience is a difficult principle for me to understand, particularly since I have spent so much time learning about blind obedience through psychological research, and to see how this concept can be manipulated by using natural parts of our humanity. There is much research exposing those who perpetuate fraud. In Utah there is sadly an incredible rate of religious affinity fraud which is when Lds leaders such as bishops, stake presidents, etc. use the respect that many have for them to take advantage of people through pyramid schemes and other fraudulent means. Blind trust and obedience can be a very dangerous and costly thing which can be demonstrated through seemingly endless amounts of evidence.

Because of this, I am hesitant when people focus on teaching blind obedience, particularly because I believe the gospel actually directs us away from this kind of obedience. I believe this is what Elder L. Tom Perry was teaching us when he said “Too often we think of obedience as the passive and thoughtless following of the orders or dictates of a higher authority. Actually, at its best, obedience is an emblem of our faith in the wisdom and power of the highest authority, even God.”

I think what often happens is that we confuse the incredible principles and truths of the gospel with misunderstandings and adulterated forms of the principles, and I feel that this is true for obedience. I believe that as we study obedience and seek to better understand this principle we will find that when practiced in the best way it can be extremely valuable for our lives.

A Man of God Would Despise The Idea

 

Within the church we can have a strong focus on obedience, which I do believe is a virtue, but I also believe that as is true for all of the principles of the gospel, it can be easily misunderstood and used in ways that I do not believe God intends for us. Because of these misunderstanding some critics many rightly point out that we follow some without truly thinking whether that is right. I do not believe this applies to most members, but I do believe we need to have a greater focus on what it actually means to be obedient so that we do not engage in practices that are potentially harmful for our progression.

Commenting on this situation in the Millennial Star, Samuel W. Richards appeared to share this concern when he wrote that “We have heard men who hold the priesthood remark that they would do anything they were told to do by those who preside over them [even] if they knew it was wrong; but such obedience as this is worse than folly to us; it is slavery in the extreme; and the man who would thus willingly degrade himself, should not claim a rank among intelligent beings, until he turns from his folly. A man of God would despise the idea…”

***Retraction*** In the audio file I attributed this to Joseph Smith, which I looked deeper into, and it appears to actually go to Samuel W. Richards who was the editor at that time.