I’ll Do Anything the Lord Asks Me Except…

Guest - March 7, 2006

Submitted by Bret

This time I’m not complaining.  Or am I?  You be the judge!  Hopefully Rusty will come back soon from 50+ comments land and spare you from my ramblings.

While the EQ lessons leave something to be desired in our ward I am generally happy with the Sunday School lessons.  The teachers are very prepared and there is discussion.  Sometimes some the participants want to make the lesson about them through domination, but I’ve seen worse cases of that elsewhere so it doesn’t scare me.

This week the teacher wrote on the black board, "I’ll do anything the Lord asks me except ______."  Of course we were discussing Abraham and some of the odd things he was asked to do.

The class was pretty standard and we discussed Abraham’s polygamy breifly and the command to sacrifice Issac.  Several participants praised Abraham’s willingness to do as he was commanded without hesitation.  Others lamented the fact that we often don’t do the same ourselves.  The teacher repeated stated that we would all be tried as Abraham was.

At some point I began to feel that there was an elephant in the room, and I raised my hand to comment on it.  This feeling built and built and my hand stayed up, though the teacher did not call on me.  I gave up when the teacher announced that he was wrapping up the lesson, but during his summary he again emphasized the sentence on the board and said that we need to be quick to obey the commandments without worrying about what the world might think.  Again my hand shot up and this time I was given a chance to speak.

Given the short time I didn’t get out everything that I wanted to say, but blogging permits me the opportunity to do so.  My concern is that given the LDS emphasize on personal revelation, the concept that we would all be "tried as Abraham was", and the message of quick obedience without hesitation there needs to be a disclaimer.  Maybe this goes without saying, but in my mind there are things that you shouldn’t do without hesitation.  Specifically the two things that Abraham did.  You shouldn’t take a plural wife.  You also shouldn’t sacrifice anyone.  In fact if you ever feel inspired to hurt yourself or anyone else you definitely want to talk it over with the bishop, and perhaps get some help beyond that.

There seems to be a problem when discussing the OT or even Mormon history.  Many that we hold up as examples did things that are inappropriate today for whatever reason.  Yet we assume that the inappropriateness is obvious without ever examining it.

There are many well known examples of personal revelation gone wrong.  I wonder if occasional disclaimers such as mine would have helped any of them.  Perhaps not in the big cases, but perhaps it would in some of the smaller ones that don’t show up in the national news.

I’m sure that Jon Krakauer would have gotten a kick out of the lesson.  As it was he wasn’t there, but the teacher did come up to me afterwards and thank me for covering something that is often overlooked.

17 Comments »

  1. Wasn’t it Brigham Young that emphasized how we should NOT blindly obey, but get confirmation from the spirit first. Not that Abraham didn’t get that confirmation, obviously. I doubt God would ask us to do something so contrary to what He taught us unless we were as faithful as Abraham anyway.

    Comment by Bret — March 7, 2006 @ 5:11 pm

  2. Bret,

    My point, which I probably didn’t make clear, is that sometimes people think they are getting a personal revelation to do something when in fact it is a product of their own mind. If you feel “inspired” to do something similar to what Abraham did then you should get a second opinion. The source of that second opinion should be your Bishop rather than a spiritutal confirmation which is just as likely to be wrong as the original inspiration.

    Comment by a random John — March 7, 2006 @ 5:19 pm

  3. I have to agree with you RandomJohn. I have heard stories from bishops who were approached by members that had some kind of wacked out revelations. The bishops would then have to kindly help them see that what they had was not a revelation from God.

    It is good advice, if you are having weird revelations (wether to take on another wife, or to kill someone etc.), to seek guidence from one of your leaders before going through with it.

    Good point John.

    Comment by Ian Cook — March 7, 2006 @ 6:15 pm

  4. Good thoughts in the post.

    I think Bret hit on a little mine field in this whole discussion:

    “I doubt God would ask us to do something so contrary to what He taught us unless we were as faithful as Abraham anyway.”

    There is a real temptation to equate our faithfulness to the outlandishness of what God has commanded us to do. If one of the markers of faithful followers of God is the severity of commandments they feel God has asked them to break, then we’re playing a dangerous game.

    Comment by Matt Jacobsen — March 7, 2006 @ 7:58 pm

  5. you make an excellent point, John.

    I’m trying to imagine this: I make an appointment to meet with the bishop. I go to his office, I sit down, and I explain that Heavenly Father has told me that he wants me to kill someone. The bishop says, “OK, Brother Landrith, let’s pray about it.” So we kneel together, pray, and we both get up. Then he says to me, “Yep, Brother Landrith, Heavenly Father definitely wants you to kill someone.”

    I just don’t see it. If the Lord tells me to kill someone, I think I’ll just keep it to myself.

    Comment by DKL — March 7, 2006 @ 8:00 pm

  6. If the Lord tells me to kill someone, I think I’ll just keep it to myself.

    LOL! That’s hilarious, man.

    Comment by Rusty — March 7, 2006 @ 8:04 pm

  7. I know a man who served as bishop who said that Br. X made an appointment to see him, an in the course of the interview, Br. X divulged that he had been given a revelation that he was to kill his bishop. Creepy, huh?

    Comment by Mark IV — March 7, 2006 @ 8:34 pm

  8. In my sister’s ward someone mentioned during fast and testimony meeting that they recieved revelation to kill Br. [x] who had defaulted on a business deal with him. The funny part was that Br. [x] was sitting in the front row, and sort of stood up to walk out/run away, but then thought better of it (more likely to be killed in the parking lot than the chapel).

    You do make an excellent point that obedience without hesitation (often called thinking) is a dangerous can of worms. I think Abraham probably thought long and hard about both his choices, but that doesn’t make for good story telling. (and it came to pass that three hours later I was still in my tent thinking about it. In fact I thought about it so long that I missed dinner…)

    Comment by Starfoxy — March 7, 2006 @ 11:21 pm

  9. The teacher’s example of using Abraham as someone who unflinchingly and unhesitatingly obeys the Lord just doesn’t fit. Abraham was the one who bargained with the Lord’s messenger about how many righteous people would be in S&G before it would be spared. As for the sacrifice of Isaac, the trip to the mountain took time, a long time to ride on mules with servants in tow. And, the standard Mormon reading on the story, that Abraham was being blindly obedient, doesnt wash with me. The KJV translation on it isnt that good. The Hebrew in the story indicates Abraham says both he and the boy will return after offering the sacrifice. The force of the Hebrew is strong enough that Rabbinical commentators see this as Abraham deliberately lying to the servants in order to hide what he is about to do. OK, so Abraham is either lying, or he knows perfectly well beforehand the Lord will not require him to literally slay Isaac as a human sacrifice. Recall that in the PofGP account, Abraham was spared just before being sacrificed himself. My view is Abraham was not lying to his servants at all, but he knew perfectly well the Lord would not require Isaac to be literally slain. But, rather, was being taught by the Lord about the atonement.

    So, as far as I am concerned, all of this blind obedience and being tested even as Abraham stuff is just a mistaken notion, owing to a bad reading of the text.

    Comment by Kurt — March 8, 2006 @ 6:46 am

  10. In fairness to the teacher it was mostly class members that focused on the lack of hesitation issue.

    Comment by a random John — March 8, 2006 @ 10:34 am

  11. Taking DKL’s example just a bit farther:

    21 Some few days after I had this vision, I happened to be in company with one of the Methodist preachers, who was very active in the before mentioned religious excitement; and, conversing with him on the subject of religion, I took occasion to give him an account of the vision which I had had. I was greatly surprised at his behavior; he treated my communication not only lightly, but with great contempt, saying it was all of the devil, that there were no such things as visions• or revelations in these days; that all such things had ceased with the apostles, and that there would never be any more of them.

    22 I soon found, however, that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion, and was the cause of great persecution•, which continued to increase; and though I was an obscure• boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and my circumstances in life such as to make a boy of no consequence in the world, yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution; and this was common among all the sects—all united to persecute me.

    23 It caused me serious reflection then, and often has since, how very strange it was that an obscure boy•, of a little over fourteen years of age, and one, too, who was doomed to the necessity of obtaining a scanty maintenance by his daily blabor, should be thought a character of sufficient importance to attract the attention of the great ones of the most popular sects of the day, and in a manner to create in them a spirit of the most bitter persecution• and reviling. But strange or not, so it was, and it was often the cause of great sorrow to myself.

    24 However, it was nevertheless a fact that I had beheld a avision•.

    Comment by XON — March 8, 2006 @ 12:16 pm

  12. Abraham wasn’t immediately obedient in leaving Ur and going to the promised land. He stopped in Heron for several years until his father died. Then he finally went on and completed his journey.

    As far as the sacrifice of Isaac. It appears from careful reading of the text that Abraham expected something to happen that would preserve Isaac and keep the covenant thru him. It appears Abraham either expected intervention or possibly that He would have to sacrifice Isaac but that God would immediately resurrect him to keep the promise. Abraham knew the gospel, he knew the doctrine of the resurrection. Whatever, there is more there than the normal SS class ever discusses…too bad!

    Comment by don — March 8, 2006 @ 2:04 pm

  13. ARJ,

    You’re definitely right and I’m glad you made a point of it in SS. My comment was meant to just add to what I imagine you said there in class.

    Matt,

    Thank you. It IS a dangerous game that many people seem to want to play. For some reason they need to be more then a faithful, humble member. So they contrive ways to stand out have their faithfulness “be seen of men.”

    Don, Kurt,

    I wish this WAS taught in SS. Abraham must have known exactly what he was doing. He said God will provide HIMSELF a sacrifice, plus he names the place Jehovah-jirah.

    Comment by Bret — March 8, 2006 @ 5:03 pm

  14. “I think Abraham probably thought long and hard about both his choices, but that doesn’t make for good story telling.”

    Starfoxy: I agree. I also wonder, what kind of material did Moses use for writing? Did he have a lot of space? Where was he when he was jotting all this down? Then we have to wonder, too, what amount of “editing” was done to the original book of Genesis.

    It would be interesting to know the amount of time that elapsed between verses in this and other scriptural accounts. But then, that knowledge would probably choke the life out of those intriguing Sunday School “discussions.”

    Comment by Anonymous — March 8, 2006 @ 7:40 pm

  15. on the virtue of questioning private revelation

    On the virtue of questioning private revelation….

    Trackback by Particles — April 14, 2006 @ 2:34 pm

  16. Number 11 was “Thou shalt not disobey”. Or was it “Thou shalt not think”? Or both.

    Comment by Stu Savory, Germany — April 15, 2006 @ 3:27 am

  17. One of the Lafferty brothers told the other one that God had commanded him to kill him, so the other brother (I get their names mixed up) lined up next to the bars and the brother threw a towel through the bars and strangeled his brother until he was almost dead, then he said he got another revelation not to kill him.

    So they’re both still alive, but later the same guy told the same other brother God had again commanded him to kill his brother, but this time he wasn’t buying it, so he’s bulking up for the inevitable command to kill him.

    Comment by annegb — April 18, 2006 @ 9:15 pm

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