The First Law of the Gospel

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Brian Johnston
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The First Law of the Gospel

Post by Brian Johnston » 07 Jan 2009, 08:35

"Obedience is the first law of the Gospel"

I am being a little bit lazy. I tried briefly to look up the reference for this statement and could not find it. It is a classic cliche of Mormonism. I was thinking about this yesterday from a slightly different angle. I suppose I am getting at a similar point to the Iron Rod vs Liahona mormons, but what I want to say is a little past that.

Why obedience? It doesn't seem logical to me that God wants us fixed and imobile in our ways. He also made the world far too complicated to easily decide all the time what is 100% right and 100% wrong. As an adult, there are too many situations where there is a cost/benefit decision to be made that involves good and harm at the same time.

How about I add a second equal category: Flexibility is the first law of the Gospel. You could also substitue humilty for flexibility, that would at least be a component of my proposed co-equal law.

What I am getting at is the deeper meaning of obedience in the long run. Why be obedient in this life? Well it is practical at times. It can keep you out of a lot of trouble. There has to be an eternal reason though. This life is not like the next. Here was my "AH HA" moment. Someone who is trained to be "obedient" and just follow orders without questioning will move on to the next life. When they get there, they are in store for a HUGE shock as they have to assimilate all kinds of new things. If they are used to following orders, then they will listen to God. They will be steady and move through this transition successfully.

Isn't this just another form of being flexible and humble? The soldier-like, stoic obedience isn't for the sake of arbitrary loyalty. The purpose is to be ready for change. That is why it seems obedience is counter-intuitive to us that actually enjoy the chaos of change and progress. Obedience to me implies a lack of change, a stubborn attitude and unwillingness to deviate.

So my hope is that *Flexibility* or humility is the first law of the Gosepl for those of us that are compelled by our nature to question everything. We have to tinker and tear things apart to see how they tick. I can't just accept things. I *HAVE* to touch the hot stove even after my mother told me it would burn my hand. That is how God made me. I look at the needle on my Liahona and start walking that way just to see something new. That means I have to leave the comfort of where I am, but I don't mind. So when it is time to make that transition to the next life, I am used to having the rug ripped out from under me. I don't mind deviating from what I thought I knew to take in something new.

Thoughts?
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

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Orson
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Re: The First Law of the Gospel

Post by Orson » 07 Jan 2009, 10:00

Thanks for an interesting question Valoel, you make some very good points. When I first read your title: “The First Law of the Gospel” I immediately thought of the word that I use to describe what the gospel is to me.

What does the gospel mean to you – in a word if possible?

To me it is definitely LOVE. Like Jesus said, love encompasses the whole of the law (two great commandments). In my mind we will be obedient where it counts if we truly learn how to love. The commandments in their truest form are simply detailed ways that we can show our love. Charity is the pure love of Christ, and he who possesses it will be well at the last day (Moroni 7:46-47)
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Re: The First Law of the Gospel

Post by mr_musicman » 07 Jan 2009, 10:01

I once was taught that there was a difference between laws and commandments. The laws of Heaven are something even God is subject to, and the commandments are his instructions to us. Obedience is the first Law of Heaven, but it is not the greatest commandment. The greatest commandment is to love God.

God must remain obedient so that his creations will continue. In otherwords, obedience is an attribute of God. Therefore rather than something that we must have right now, it is a goal for us to work towards. The covenants we make through baptism are not that we will keep the commandments all the time, but that we are willing to keep the commandments. This life is to learn the good from the evil by experience. If we didn't question everything, how would we learn. We're supposed to get messy and make mistakes and hopefully learn from them so that we understand why we should be obedient. That is what the atonement is for, to provide safety from ourselves and a way back from our mistakes.

I happen to think that the next life will simply be somewhat of a continuation of this life. If we are working on being obedience here, we will continue to work on it. Obedience and perfection are something we really don't understand. We try to explain it and put all of these rules upon us. I don't believe blind obedience is an attribute of God. He understands complete why he does the things that He does and acts the way that He acts. When we seek to understand why we should do something, we are acting more like God. Blind obedience is where someone is told how to act, and doesn't really learn to act and think for themselves. God acts and thinks for himself, that is why we can have faith in Him.

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Re: The First Law of the Gospel

Post by Brian Johnston » 07 Jan 2009, 11:15

mr_musicman wrote:I happen to think that the next life will simply be somewhat of a continuation of this life.
I kind of hope not. I understand what you mean, in that we are who we are, and dying is just a transition from one state of existence to another. I don't really want to work long hours to pay bills, taxes and worry about day to day survival for the rest of eternity... :shock:

This is just my own little fancy at the moment, but I envision the afterlife a little like how it is portrayed in the movie "What Deams May Come" with Robin Williams. People in that movie are mostly experiencing their own self-made realities, for their own personal purposes and development. I am not saying that is the "truth," just an interesting way to imagine it.

mr_musicman wrote:I don't believe blind obedience is an attribute of God. He understands complete why he does the things that He does and acts the way that He acts. When we seek to understand why we should do something, we are acting more like God.
Agreed. I really prefer to call that discipline rather than obedience. Sure, it is obedience to a plan and to rules. That creates structure. It is a choice for an understood result. God has the attribute of ultimate discipline to stick to His designs and make things happen.
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

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Re: The First Law of the Gospel

Post by kupord maizzed » 07 Jan 2009, 12:38

Yup. "Obedience is the first law of Heaven" and the first covenant in the temple. And yet my first day in the Missionary Training Center, what did they tell me was the key characteristic of successful missionaries? "Flexibility". Go figure.

I am afraid in my cynical inner parts I believe obedience is just a product of lazy, unimaginative leadership thinking. In my more noble parts, I believe strict adherence to a selected yoga can bring about great growth.

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Re: The First Law of the Gospel

Post by Curt Sunshine » 07 Jan 2009, 13:15

I believe obedience really is the most important attribute we can acquire - IF it is individual obedience to God (at least, what we believe God tells us). Unfortunately, too many people conflate human representatives with God and think it's enough to follow the representatives - without granting that He might have many "representatives" outside of Priesthood authority.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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Re: The First Law of the Gospel

Post by mr_musicman » 07 Jan 2009, 13:21

Valoel wrote: This is just my own little fancy at the moment, but I envision the afterlife a little like how it is portrayed in the movie "What Deams May Come" with Robin Williams. People in that movie are mostly experiencing their own self-made realities, for their own personal purposes and development. I am not saying that is the "truth," just an interesting way to imagine it.
I liked that movie for that very reason. I also liked the whole idea that there is redemption even in the afterlife. And being the hopeless romantic, I thought it was a great story that their love could bring them together and even overcome the depths of hell.

And agreed, no more taxes or bills in the afterlife. If there are, I'll know where I ended up..... :D !!

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Re: The First Law of the Gospel

Post by Orson » 07 Jan 2009, 14:48

Ray Degraw wrote:Unfortunately, too many people conflate human representatives with God and think it's enough to follow the representatives - without granting that He might have many "representatives" outside of Priesthood authority.
"While I believe all that God has revealed, I am not quite sure I understand what he has revealed, and the fact that God has promised further revelation is to me a challenge to keep an open mind and be prepared to follow wherever my search for truth may lead ... And while all Mormons should respect, support, and heed the teachings of authorities of the church, no one should accept a statement and base his or her testimony upon it no matter who makes it." Hugh B. Brown as quoted in “An Abundant Life”

This comment makes perfect sense when we realize that all humans, as human, are fallible. Nobody is exempt. Everyone can (and does) make mistakes. We all interpret the light and knowledge that we receive through this imperfect medium that we inhabit as mortals. We cannot help but be influenced by our circumstances and prior understanding. If we realize how God works with us according to our present (human and flawed) understanding then it should become increasingly clear to us how limited our comprehension is - and has been through time.

This is exactly why I appreciate quotes like:

“Mormonism embraces all truth that is revealed and that is unrevealed, whether religious, political, scientific, or philosophical.” - Brigham Young, JoD 9:14
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Re: The First Law of the Gospel

Post by AmyJ » 14 Dec 2017, 14:12

Brian Johnston wrote:
07 Jan 2009, 08:35
Why obedience? It doesn't seem logical to me that God wants us fixed and immobile in our ways. He also made the world far too complicated to easily decide all the time what is 100% right and 100% wrong. As an adult, there are too many situations where there is a cost/benefit decision to be made that involves good and harm at the same time.

How about I add a second equal category: Flexibility is the first law of the Gospel. You could also substitue humilty for flexibility, that would at least be a component of my proposed co-equal law.
As I look back on my life, I see tons of times when I was congratulating myself and patting myself on the back for being "obedient" while completely missing the principle of flexibility/adaptability being taught. I was great at being obedient while horrible at being flexible. I was humble in the sense that I could be reasoned/taught things, but did not have the developmental understanding I have now that humility is not a lack of pride or arrogance.
Brian Johnston wrote:
07 Jan 2009, 08:35
What I am getting at is the deeper meaning of obedience in the long run. Why be obedient in this life? Well it is practical at times. It can keep you out of a lot of trouble. There has to be an eternal reason though. This life is not like the next. Here was my "AH HA" moment. Someone who is trained to be "obedient" and just follow orders without questioning will move on to the next life. When they get there, they are in store for a HUGE shock as they have to assimilate all kinds of new things. If they are used to following orders, then they will listen to God. They will be steady and move through this transition successfully.

Isn't this just another form of being flexible and humble? The soldier-like, stoic obedience isn't for the sake of arbitrary loyalty. The purpose is to be ready for change. That is why it seems obedience is counter-intuitive to us that actually enjoy the chaos of change and progress.
Brian Johnston wrote:
07 Jan 2009, 08:35
Obedience to me implies a lack of change, a stubborn attitude and unwillingness to deviate.
I think that sometimes a lack of change is because of a fear of the unknown. I HATE change. I don't start change myself if I can help it - unless there is a clear benefit AND I am introduced to it with transition time. Usually the best changes I make are started by myself. However, over the last 25-30 years, I have gotten to the point where change is possible. This is possible because I have established a course of action (e) "Some other option I have not thought of/encountered" becomes a viable option. Usually I change easiest when I know for myself that I will be supported through the process and not left flailing and foundering like a fish on the coast.
Brian Johnston wrote:
07 Jan 2009, 08:35
So my hope is that *Flexibility* or humility is the first law of the Gosepl for those of us that are compelled by our nature to question everything. We have to tinker and tear things apart to see how they tick. I can't just accept things. I *HAVE* to touch the hot stove even after my mother told me it would burn my hand.
I ask myself,"Why would my mother really tell me not to do this?" and "Am I in circumstances that require circumventing what she said?" and "Do I have stuff I can poke the hot stove with to see what happens safely - that is not actually touching the hot stove after all."
Brian Johnston wrote:
07 Jan 2009, 08:35
That is how God made me. I look at the needle on my Liahona and start walking that way just to see something new. That means I have to leave the comfort of where I am, but I don't mind. So when it is time to make that transition to the next life, I am used to having the rug ripped out from under me. I don't mind deviating from what I thought I knew to take in something new.
I think it would be said that between the time that I was handed the Liahona and the time I looked at it, either/both my surroundings changed so I could not match up the Liahona with my surroundings, or the way I wind up interpretting the readings is NOT standard Liahona reading procedure. So my path is very, very uneven, wobbly, and tends to meander. My Dad is fond of saying if there are 2 ways of doing something, I will find a 3rd way, and make it work....

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