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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : Tell Me Why. No, Don’t Tell Me. Yes, Tell Me. » Tell Me Why. No, Don’t Tell Me. Yes, Tell Me.

Tell Me Why. No, Don’t Tell Me. Yes, Tell Me.

Rusty - June 16, 2005

A couple months ago I wrote my feelings on President Hinckley’s conference talk about gambling. Before his talk I understood why I didn’t gamble:

1) The Prophets have said so, 2) it can lead to worse things, 3) it can be addictive, 4) it’s really easy to lose a lot of money. Then in his talk the Prophet did more than offer counsel, he gave reasons why not to gamble. A few of them aligned with mine, but there were some additional ones. The bulk of my post was an expression of my confusion at these new reasons for not gambling (not the counsel to not gamble). I’m still a bit confused.

Jeffrey Giliam has an interesting discussion going right now about tattoos. The counsel to avoid tattoos is fine but the reasoning (your body is a temple and shouldn’t be defiled) doesn’t make much sense to me. What about decoration? What about makeup/haircut/white shirt/nice dress? (To discuss tattoos please visit Jeffrey’s post)

There have been a few posts lately (best discussion here) about the Word of Wisdom and the reasons we obey it. Do we need these at all? It appears that under inspection most of these reasons fall flat. Can’t we not just obey it?

Do the Prophet’s/class manual’s “reasons” help us in our quest for obedience? Is it better to know “why” or not?

In the scriptures we have examples of the Lord sometimes giving commandments with explanations (Nephi to kill Laban) and other times without explanations (Abraham to kill Isaac). Does this tell us anything about either man? Would Nephi have cut off Laban’s head if the Lord didn’t tell him it was better that one man perish than a nation dwindle in unbelief? Was Abraham more faithful because he didn’t need a reason from the Lord, he just obeyed?

Sometimes the Lord gives us reasons and sometimes He doesn’t. Why? Is it because certain people need them and others don’t? Is it the avoidance of justification? Or are the reasons from my above examples just the prophets’ (wise men with life experience) reasons and not the Lord’s?


  1. Good questions!

    Obedience is the first law of heaven. Do the elements need to know why when the Lord commands them to form into whatever…no they don’t.

    Should we need a reason to obey? I don’t think we should. But it is important not to have blind obedience either.

    I think the reason God gives us more information than just the commandment itself is so we can learn. If we understand the “whys” then when we become Gods we’ll better know how to ask for obedience.

    Just my thoughts

    Comment by don — June 16, 2005 @ 4:21 pm

  2. Don,
    Who says obedience is the first law of heaven? I know I’ve heard it a million times but is that doctrinal?

    Comment by Rusty — June 16, 2005 @ 4:36 pm

  3. Knowledge is always good, especially to know more about the will of God. So, yes, it is good to know the reasons. There are, however, proper ways of presenting reasons. If reasons aren’t FULLY understood, people tend to find ways around obedience because it the “reason” doesn’t apply to them or that situation.”

    Example: Speeding is against the law. The reason most people believe the law is there is to protect others and themselves because driving at 100mph is dangerous. Some people feel it is acceptable to speed when no one is on the highway, and it’s mostly a straight stretch. Is this wrong? If speeding were a godly law, would we speed when we felt it would hurt no one?

    Gambling application: President Hinckley urged us not to play poker, even when it’s not for money (if I recall correctly). The reason he gave is becuase it can lead to deep financial and addictive problems. I have a friend who insists that Poker is OK for him because when he plays, it brings his family together. Is this wrong? Is playing a game of cards wrong when a prophetic reason is no the case in that scenario?

    What is right by way of gambling/poker/cards/dice/charades? That’s for you and the Lord to decide. I’m merely saying that by giving reasons, although it can often add wisdom and virtue to understanding, it can also give some people the impression that there are loopholes in the will of the Lord.

    Comment by Joe — June 16, 2005 @ 5:19 pm

  4. My interpretation of the war in heaven is that obedience is also the first law in hell, even more so than in heaven.

    We have agency, and God doesn’t want us to completely had it over to Him. He wants us to use it. This is the difference between us and dirt. Not to mention the fact that dirt seems to be able to distinguish God’s commands from the commandments of men far better than we are able to. This is the biggest reason why we shouldn’t go for any blind obedience.

    It’s good to do it without knowing. It’s better to do it for the right reasons, the reasons why God commanded it in the first place and this requires us understanding the why.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — June 16, 2005 @ 6:17 pm

  5. I think the “Obedience is the 1st law” thing is inferred from Abraham 3:24-26.

    Comment by John C. — June 16, 2005 @ 6:43 pm

  6. Rusty,

    I agree with you. Pres. Hinckley’s reasons didn’t seem very strong to me. After rereading it a few times, I decided Hinckley wasn’t really giving The Reasons why gambling is wrong. Rather, he was simply saying it’s wrong, and made a few supporting comments.


    I did not understand Hinckley ever to say that poker itself was wrong. Only gambling was spoken of in the GC talk.


    I agree that God doesn’t want us to completely hand over our agency to him, because that is impossible. Agency is a fundamental property of our being, and cannot be given away or taken away. But are you saying that we shouldn’t use our agency to wholly submit to God’s will?

    Comment by Eric Russell — June 16, 2005 @ 6:46 pm

  7. Good thoughts Rusty. These are the very same concepts I have been toying with in my recent Dumbo’s Feather post (looking for reasons) and Bound to Our Leaders post.. I have another one brewin’ inside too.

    Comment by Geoff J — June 16, 2005 @ 6:49 pm

  8. I’m saying that we should wholly submit our will to what is right, just as God Himself has done.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — June 16, 2005 @ 7:01 pm

  9. Rusty, this seems like a great topic for some wild speculation. Most acts have consequences. And most acts can be given a moral weight, good or bad. The trick is mapping consequences onto acts and choices of acts. Do good acts always have good consequences? How can good acts have bad consequences? Need there be a link between the morality of acts and the reality of consequences?

    “Do what is right, let the consequence follow” seems like a nice statement of the ideal most of us aspire to. So why do most Mormons try to talk themselves into this formulation: “Do what is right, and good consequences will follow.” I’m not sure we have any right to expect good consequences, although we can certainly be grateful when they do happen.

    We can give God a hand with consequences. I like the story (which I might mangle) of Brigham Young, who once promised some guy that if he devoted himself to collecting rags around the territory, he would be blessed. (Rags were needed for making paper, I think.) Two years later, the guy comes up to Brigham at a conference, reminds him of Brigham’s promise, and points that he is still dirt poor in spite of doing as he was told. Brigham’s response was to pull out his checkbook and write the man a check, saying, “If God won’t make good on my promises, then I will.” Good for Brigham. We can’t fix all the world’s problems, but if we can put a thumb on the scales and create a few good consequences for our fellows, whether they deserve it or not, we have done a good thing.

    Comment by Dave — June 17, 2005 @ 12:24 am

  10. Great comments on a great topic!
    Remember Russ that with Abraham and other stories in the scriptures, the reason is given AFTER the test is over. (Adam offering sacrifices comes to mind) This is why I think God does a great job of mixing up “blind” obedience with obedience with reason. “Blind” obedience tests us and builds our faith, but we will always eventually be given a reason. Both are needed in this life.

    Comment by Bret — June 17, 2005 @ 4:46 am

  11. What about ethical dilemmas? What do you do when you’re in an abusive, temple sealed marriage? Do you leave, or do you stay because of the covenant? These are real questions that people go through, and yet, if we only understood our faith through simple obedience, we’d have no idea how to act when faced with such a dilemma. (such dilemmas were the cause for ethics in the first place)

    That is the reason to know the why behind the command, to understand the principle is the ability to then apply that principle in different and varying circumstances with certainty; it is nearly impossible to come up with a universal application when dealing with particular circumstances.

    I reject the Divine Command Theory for the reason that if obedience were the only requirement for this life (which is an implicit understanding in church culture), we would remain as eternal children, never able to become mature adults of understanding and intelligence; we’d always have to ask our ‘bishop’ what to do in any difficult ethical circumstance, which is very unhealthy to one’s moral development.

    Comment by bboy-mike — June 17, 2005 @ 10:02 pm

  12. “This is the difference between us and dirt.”
    The scriptures make this comparison as well, and they say that we are less than the dust of the earth because we do not do what the Lord asks.

    Comment by Anonymous — June 18, 2005 @ 7:22 pm

  13. if obedience were the only requirement for this life (which is an implicit understanding in church culture), we would remain as eternal children, never able to become mature adults of understanding and intelligence

    I’ve heard this often and I am coming to believe that it ain’t so. I’ll post about it over at my site, though, as it is kind of a threadjack.

    Comment by John C. — June 21, 2005 @ 10:28 am

  14. If you’re interested, my response is up at:

    Comment by John C. — June 21, 2005 @ 7:14 pm

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