Sunday Supplement: Obedience
Sunday Supplement blog posts are issued each Sunday as a supplement to the messages heard in our congregations and homes, with emphasis given to how the scriptures and counsel from church leaders can help us to reach out with love, empathy, and compassion to our LGBTQI/SSA sisters and brothers.
“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit… Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” 1 Corinthians 2:9-14
I converted to the Church of Jesus Christ right before I turned nineteen. I grew up in communist China, so I did not have any religious faith before that. Over the years, I have heard members talk about the principle of obedience in the church, and I know that some feel we should obey the church leaders regardless of how we feel on a specific issue. My personal faith and understanding is that men are accountable to and should be obedient to God ONLY, meaning Christ and Heavenly Father. We are taught to FOLLOW the prophet, which to me means following their examples of faith, of putting God first in their lives, of serving, and of loving—in essence, emulating their path of discipleship. Prophets ultimately teach individuals how to draw closer to God, but at no time are prophets considered Gods themselves, at least not in this life.
My daughter goes to Montessori school and one of the key elements of the Montessori program is peer mentoring and influence in mixed-age classrooms. Older children lead the younger ones by being examples of how to interact, learn, and seek truth. They provide guidance and suggestions to the younger children at times; however, at no time do the older children become the rule givers—only adults (the guides) have that responsibility. A younger child can always appeal to a guide for confirmation of the rules. I believe the order of Christ’s church and His priesthood works in similar ways.
I grew up in China. Under Communism, Mao ZeDong’s power and influence was so absolute that it isn’t a stretch to say that people worshipped him and obeyed his and the Communist party’s every mandate, even when they were convinced the leaders were wrong. And the result? Decades of failed policies lead to the death of tens of millions in one of the greatest man-made famines. This is partly why mainland Chinese are often wary and weary of religion and all man-made organizations. Having experienced this, I strongly believe that God has never told us to obey another man, but has given each person the absolutely ESSENTIAL Spirit of Christ and to baptized members, the wonderful gift of the Holy Ghost. This way, a prophet can show us the way and teach us what God wants us to know, but it is then up to each of us to seek individual confirmation through our own diligence. This latter step is not optional, as Nephi exemplified.
There was a recent article about Isaac Asimov in which he was asked if he is an enemy to religion. He replied, “My objection to fundamentalism is not that they are fundamentalists but that essentially they want me to be a fundamentalist, too. Now, they may say that I believe evolution is true and I want everyone to believe that evolution is true. But I don’t want everyone to believe that evolution is true, I want them to study what we say about evolution and to decide for themselves.”
As a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ, I am a firm believer we are not fundamentalists. The doctrines we teach can be tested with the critical thinking process at the heart of science, except the instrument of discovery is not physical, but spiritual and individual. Certainly there are commandments we are asked to obey without a clear understanding of all of the reasons: for example, the Word of Wisdom. Most people who would associate this Law of Health to strictly physical health are confused because science says drinks like wine in moderation are good for health. But to God, no law is given that is only physical, but everything is spiritual. I have found that living the Word of Wisdom helps me develop greater self-discipline and faith which enables me to live other commandments.
What if a person’s beliefs on an important topic are contrary to the teachings of Church leaders after studying the issue carefully with humility and praying with faith? I believe that person should be true to their beliefs, because if they are wrong, God can correct a humble person with integrity. However, that person’s freedom of belief and choice only applies to them. They have no authority to force those beliefs on others or teach that the church should change—the responsibility to receive revelation for the church lies with God’s prophet.
I love God and I love the humanity of His church, full of imperfect people making an honest effort to love one another and follow Christ as fellow citizens.
— Yiyang Fei