Thursday, May 22, 2014

Responsibility: I couldn't think of a less boring but still relevant blog entry title

Warning:  This post has a lot of social science/activist jargon, so get your Google ready.  A lot has happened since November.  Mostly it has been that we have defined some constants in our lives.  As stated in the post back in November, we're not extremely patient people when it comes to how we live our lives, so setting down things that will be real and constant and now is important to us.

This appropriate quotation is very often attributed to Joseph Smith, Jr.:
Because of...the apparent imperfections of men on whom God confers authority, the question is sometimes asked,—to what extent is obedience to those who hold the priesthood required? This is a very important question, and one which should be understood by all Saints. In attempting to answer this question, we would repeat, in short, what we have already written, that willing obedience to the laws of God, administered by the Priesthood, is indispensable to salvation; but we would further add, that a proper conservative to this power exists for the benefit of all, and none are required to tamely and blindly submit to a man because he has a portion of the Priesthood. We have heard men who hold the Priesthood remark, that they would do any thing they were told to do by those who presided over them, 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, who seeks for the redemption of his fellows, would despise the idea of seeing another become his slave, who had an equal right with himself to the favour of God; he would rather see him stand by his side, a sworn enemy to wrong, so long as there was place found for it among men. Others, in the extreme exercise of their almighty (!) authority, have taught that such obedience was necessary, and that no matter what the Saints were told to do by their Presidents, they should do it without asking any questions.
When the Elders of Israel will so far indulge in these extreme notions of obedience, as to teach them to the people, it is generally because they have it in their hearts to do wrong themselves, and wish to pave the way to accomplish that wrong; or else because they have done wrong, and wish to use the cloak of their authority to cover it with, lest it should be discovered by their superiors, who would require an atonement at their hands.
—"Priesthood," Millennial Star 14/38 (13 November 1852), 594–95
(accessed from

I was especially disillusioned with the online community of people in mixed-orientation marriages (MOMs) since nobody appeared to be in our situation: 1) in a MOM where the non cisgender/straight person was a woman; 2) in a MOM where the cisgender/straight person was pretty fortunate when it came to understanding the systematic inequality of our gender binary, heteronormative system, and who had not developed an unfortunate hatred of women in general.  Finding people with whom we have a lot in common is still a pretty big challenge.

In our faith, for whatever reason, be it the more authoritarian approaches to our faith that have dominated the LDS scene for a century or so, or just the inherent laziness of human beings when it comes to their spiritual well-being, we are conditioned to find someone to follow rather than blaze trails.  Even though I was willing to venture out into the scary world where maybe the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve don't know what's best for us in some of the most important aspects of our lives, I still wanted to find someone else to follow.

The really liberating epiphany I had, and in a similar fashion that my spouse has had, was that it was our responsibility to live our lives, and our responsibility to make our own judgments on the morality of our decisions.

It was also a huge deal to realize that we were responsible for taking care of our spirits.  Just reading from the canonical works, the Bible, The Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, the Doctrine and Covenants, wasn't really enough.  And prayer that conformed to what the authoritarians said it should was not really enough either.  We are still in the process of liberating ourselves, and taking the scary responsibility of transitioning from a co-dependent relationship with our community to an interdependent one.

From the perspective of personal responsibility, you learn that it is totally OK to demand that your religion give some results.  It is an act of faith to expect the Word of God to continue flowing if you accept probably the most unique premise of Mormonism that God continues to speak in a very literal manner.

Here are some of the results of this cognitive liberation (I like writing with lists in case you haven't noticed that):

  1. We no longer live in fear of eternal misery because we haven't lived up to someone else's expectations.
  2. We are free to believe what we know is right:  That our Benevolent God is not a jerk, and isn't an elitist who is silent to children's pleas for communication just because they didn't do every little thing on a list of requirements that could have been drafted by the New Testament scribes and Pharisees themselves.
  3. We aren't scared of information presented "by the world" because we have confidence in our ability to decide for ourselves what is true and good rather than have someone else make this decision for us (see Article of Faith 13:
  4. By extension this also means we don't have to fear for mistakes by leaders in the church (examples:  Keeping those from Africa or of African descent from enjoying the full blessings of God; teaching that Christ's Atonement does not necessarily reach everyone; specifically for us, that LGBTQ people cannot and should not enjoy the full blessings of God) because we know that if our moral compasses are exercised we will be able to decide what is true and good and what is not.
  5. We are not as vulnerable to hierarchical abuses because we do not NEED them to approach God, or as Joseph Smith, Jr., would put it, "comprehend the character of God," for ourselves.  One of the beautiful truths that we teach is that it is necessary to get to know God on a personal level if you're ever going to enjoy the benefits of a personal relationship with Deity.

No comments:

Post a Comment