Love and Fear

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Cadence
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Love and Fear

Post by Cadence » 07 Mar 2010, 18:53

As I have experienced Mormonism for 50 years. I have noticed there are two great motivating factors to create belief in the church or gospel. One being love. As in I want to do good and obedient because I love the Lord and I love my fellow man. The other being fear. As in I fear the judgment of the Lord and my fellow man so I will comply.

Are both of these approaches of God? Is one more effective than the other?

The very ironic thing for me is that when I was more devout it was because of fear. But now that I am more liberated in my belief I operate much more out of love.
Faith, as well intentioned as it may be, must be built on facts, not fiction--faith in fiction is a damnable false hope. Thomas A. Edison

“The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.” Neil deGrasse Tyson

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Euhemerus
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Re: Love and Fear

Post by Euhemerus » 09 Mar 2010, 08:22

In a nutshell I'll state my opinion. NOTE: my use of the word control here should not be taken to mean forced control, but rather control through motivation or consequences.

1. Fear is the opposite of love.
2. Fear has been used by governments, tyrants, dictators, religions, and groups from the beginning of time to control innumerable people. That will likely not change anytime soon.
3. We use fear as a control mechanism in our church all the time.
4. We also use love as a control mechanism (more appropriately a motivating mechanism) in the church all the time.
5. Yes, fear is more effective (and easier) than love in the short run (that's why it's used more duh!).

Some examples of fear based control in Mormonism:
1. fearing intellectualism as a destroyer of faith
2. characterizing the world as "secular," "dirty," "faithless," or any other number of pejorative adjectives that go along with characterizations of "the world."
3. Satan, Satan, Satan. See Heber J. Grant's quotes on the the "Lord's side" and "Devil's side" for a very good depiction of fear based control.
4. fear of God's judgement (though admittedly in Mormonism this form of fear based control is rather weak compared with many. It is more common [at least in the modern church] to use love as a motivating factor to obey commandments).

Some examples of love based control (motivation):
1. doing missionary work because we love others and want them to receive the blessings we believe we have received.
2. obedience to commandments out of love for God.
3. doing temple work for the dead because we love them and want to be one big happy family in the afterlife.
4. helping/serving others because we love them

Quite honestly, I can see both methods used quite frequently in the church at both the local and general level. However, I do think the fear based control is not nearly as prevalent as it was before the days of President Hinckley. We have turned much more to love in the modern church. For that I am very grateful.
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Brian Johnston
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Re: Love and Fear

Post by Brian Johnston » 09 Mar 2010, 11:14

I attended a seminar once, a long long time ago (back in the 1980's) -- one of those self-improvement types of deals. One of the few profound things that I remember was how they talked about our motivations. They categorized them into three broad ideas (please note, most people and groups use different mixtures of all these, not just one):

1. The lowest level = Fear.

Having fear or creating fear is a powerful motivator. ALL people will respond to fear at some point, on some level. So fear is effective in that it reaches the most people with the least amount of effort. Wave a gun around in a public place? Yeah, that isn't that hard to do. You will immediately get everyone's attention and they will listen to you ... for a short period of time.

On a less extreme level, many large organizations use this: Governments, Religions, Social Organizations, etc. They use it because it reaches a large number of people easily. It just isn't the best motivation. It is a very poor way to inspire people, but it works. The problem is people are not generally as enthusiastic in this frame of mind. When the focus of fear diminishes at times, we tend to scatter or lose focus. It tends to create a lot of resentment and anger of prolonged periods.

2. The middle level = Duty.

This is sort of a middle ground between fear and the best (next) motivation. People are self-motivated on some level with this emotion. It still has a flavor of compulsion which can create resentment. People still feel like they have to do things when bound by a duty. This is more effective than fear, but it is harder and takes more effort for leaders to instill a sense of duty or loyalty. The same applies to us on a personal level.

3. The highest form of motivation = Love

When we love something, that is where heart and mind are focused. When someone loves them self, loves others, or loves and idea, they need much less supervision. People who love are fully self-motivated. They will seek out all that they want and need. The hard part? Well this is VERY difficult to instill in others as a leader. It is also very difficult for us to develop within our self. It takes the most time and effort to cultivate, and is VERY difficult for large organizations to use as a form of motivation.

So which type should we use? Ahhhh, that's the 64 million dollar question. It would seem easy! Love! Always motivate others and our self with love. It's the best. Love or nothing! The problem is you can't just jump into that immediately on any practical, realistic level. Some can? Sure, maybe a few. But it takes so long to cultivate.

How do we motivate our children as parents? Well we often start with fear. Let's be honest. It works. It works fast. Even a small child can understand the threat of a spanking or a "time out." They may not be able to comprehend picking up their toys out of love for a clean and orderly environment.

How do we motivate our self? We often have to start with fear -- of failure, of not being able to support our self (survival instinct), of being alone, etc. It would be much better if we knew what we loved and sought after that. It would be better if we could love those around us and see the best way to form relationships. But we don't. We often need life experience before we can achieve that level of personal and social motivation.

Now to the point of the OP. How should the Church motivate people, as an organization engaged in the business of personal and social transformation? Well DUH! Everyone should love God and love being a good, moral, compassionate person. That is the best and "true" path to those goals. But the Church is made up of many people of different ages, backgrounds, and levels of spirituality and enlightenment. If we are talking about the view from the top leadership down, they will reach the most people with some level of fear. And let me be clear, I don't think most "leaders" really think about this all consciously and purposely. They just work from a gut instinct more or less. But fear works.

Some level of fear of failure, punishment or social isolation is a motivator that reaches a bulk of people AND THOSE PEOPLE NEED THIS. Perhaps that sounds too Machiavellian, but I think it is true. Think of someone who is really quite far from spiritual enlightenment. Think of a hardened criminal (just to pick an extreme example). You really might not even be able to talk to them about love and other lofty ideals, not when they are all wrapped up in a fear-based life perspective of survival, where the strong and violent have power and the weak are the victims. I also think of a novel I read recently called "The Pillars of the Earth" which was set in medieval England. There were several occasions in the book where a priest acted as a protector to the weak by standing as an accuser when evil soldiers or raiders were attempting to kill and plunder. They would stand their ground and threaten the bad guys with the fires of eternal damnation, and the soldiers would slink away in fear for their souls. Is that a stupid motivation to get people to stop killing and raping villagers? It worked, and a nice speech about love and enlightenment would not work in the heat of the moment with such a crass and brutal audience.

Duty is better. Our Church also has messages of Duty. I think the priesthood body uses this idea a lot.

Love. I think our Church also teaches love. That is really the best. If that is the message we are hearing, we are ready to build our life on this motivation. The fact they still talk about and use those other motivations should become like a noisy buzz in our ear, but with about as much meaning. Having love fill our beings leaves little if any room for fear. Just ignore that. It's not your message.
"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: Love and Fear

Post by Orson » 10 Mar 2010, 09:19

Very good points! They all made me think.

Just recently I was trying to instill a little fear of consequences into my 7 year old - I think because of my parental love, and my desire to help my child learn to make good decisions.

So in some cases I think love can be a motivator to teach in terms of fear. But I also don’t want the fear based lessons to be the final and long-term lesson. After the consequences are clearly understood I want to enlarge the teaching to hopefully help the child to comprehend the lesson in terms of love.

It’s a growing process. Sometimes we just wish society could lead the growth curve a little more than it does, but I don’t know if that is even possible.
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Euhemerus
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Re: Love and Fear

Post by Euhemerus » 10 Mar 2010, 20:18

Orson, you bring up a very important point, especially for our children. A healthy fear of getting hit by a car is a good thing for a small child to have. I agree completely.
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Re: Love and Fear

Post by Curt Sunshine » 10 Mar 2010, 22:37

Fear is not a bad thing, and it's not necessarily a bad motivation. In many cases, fear is all that keeps people alive and/or out of harm's way (or productive within employment) - and the lack of fear can get people killed or hurt seriously. The best definition of courage I have heard is "acting despite fear" - and a healthy dose of fear can lead someone to avoid situations where over-confidence can lead to negative results.

It's all in the application - and the Church applies it in ways that are good and bad. Generally, the communal application needs to be more generous than what is best for the minority - and the LDS Church actually does a pretty good job, relatively speaking within religion, of not emphasizing fear-based motivation, imo.
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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Cadence
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Re: Love and Fear

Post by Cadence » 13 Mar 2010, 08:32

All very good comments. So fear is an effective motivator at times. Especially when we need to compel individuals to do the right thing, such as the example of keeping a child out of the street. I agree with this. I guess my concern comes in when fear is used to get compliance with a principle that is false or of minimal importance. I guess I could use the WoW as an example. YOu have the fear of losing your TR if you do not comply, but this is really a minor issue that has been elevated to a level of importance beyond rational. So in this case fear is used for no reason. Of course that is just my opinion. Someone else will come along and say the WoW is so very important. But for sure there are things within the church that we do out of fear that are of minimal or no importance in the big scheme of things.
Faith, as well intentioned as it may be, must be built on facts, not fiction--faith in fiction is a damnable false hope. Thomas A. Edison

“The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.” Neil deGrasse Tyson

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Orson
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Re: Love and Fear

Post by Orson » 13 Mar 2010, 11:09

Yes Cadence, we can all point to organizations that use fear at times or in situations that is ultimately not healthy.

The key I think, if you're interested in continued activity in the church - or a positive relationship with the church, is to look past the "flaws" (however you interpret them) and see the good and worthwhile.

It is important to walk your own path with confidence that you're doing the right thing. It's nice when you can see that path travelling (for the most part) parallel to where the church as a body is heading.
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I first found faith, and thought I had all truth. I then discovered doubt, and claimed a more accurate truth. Now I’ve greeted paradox and a deeper truth than I have ever known.

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Re: Love and Fear

Post by Curt Sunshine » 13 Mar 2010, 12:44

But for sure there are things within the church that we do out of fear that are of minimal or no importance in the big scheme of things.


I don't - so "we" don't - and, as I said in my other comment, overall "The Church" doesn't nearly as much as most religions.

I'm not trying to dismiss the issue or even de-value it. It is real, and it is important. However, on a personal level, I don't do one single thing in the Church out of fear (as you are defining it) - and I'd bet my last dollar that the same can be said accurately about far more members than you are implying.

One other thing to consider - something I loathe (and I use that term intentionally) about lots of anti-Mormon sites:

It's easy to take something like a desire to reach the Celestial Kingdom and live eternally with one's spouse and present it as a fear-based motivation and teaching. It's easy to say that such a desire really is a fear of losing one's beloved spouse. That is only one example I've seen over and over and over again from opponents of religion, generally, and Mormonism, specifically, that is repugnant.

By such twisted logic, anything can be turned into a fear-based motivation and a negative teaching. Love thine enemy? Well, really that's done out of a fear of going to Hell - not out of a genuine desire to love others. Share with others? Well, really that's done out of a fear of rejection (the other side of a desire for social acceptance) or a crass desire to buy converts - not out of genuine concern for them. Follow the Word of Wisdom? Well, really that's done out of a fear of sickness and cancer and becoming an alcoholic or losing a temple recommend - not out of a belief that such a standard will help some immeasurably and isn't important enough to fight or a deep desire to participate in the temple ordinances. Change former doctrines that used to be believed passionately? Well, really that's done out of a fear of losing membership - not out of a recognition of greater truth or out of a belief in actual revelation.

We have to be VERY careful, imo, to separate out what truly is fear-based AND bad, what is fear-based and NOT bad (in and of itself), what is fear-based and misapplied (and, therefore, bad) and what really isn't fear-based in its pure form. We also have to recognize that MOST people interpret a teaching as fear-based due strictly to how they have seen that teaching presented to themselves and/or others - and based on their own natural personalities. As usual for me, focus and precision are important with a topic like this.
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: Love and Fear

Post by swimordie » 14 Mar 2010, 00:22

I really like this thread. Very thoughtful and thought-provoking.

I made a comment on another thread that relates to this and now I wonder what I meant by it. I said that certainty comes from fear. I sense it emotionally more than having thought through it intellectually.

I'm using a specific example of someone in my life: my mom. I think I posted this awhile back but after a long philosophical theological discussion with her, I realized that her belief paradigm would not allow her to accept the path that I had chosen as equally valid to hers. At first, upon realizing this, I felt stung. Like, "Why can't she just love me unconditionally?"

Then, upon reflection, I recognized the trap she had created for herself. She would have to give up a lifetime of certainty which she has created as the ultimate TRUTH, worked herself to the bone to "prove" it and will go to the grave with unshaken certainty of what comes next.

And, I don't use the term trap flippantly. She has chosen to bound herself to this belief, put the blinders on and the shoulder to the wheel. It's pretty courageous, actually. And, rather noble, at least the intentions are.

But, in this process, she has overcome all fear. She is so infinitely certain, that all of her fears are gone. And, having come from a broken home, abusive mother, abusive husband, etc., she has had to deal with alot of fear.

In fact, in many ways, fear has defined her life. For better and for worse. And, where does love enter this equation? Well, to be quite honest, it's hard to say. Maybe it was never there.
Perfectionism hasn't served me. I think I am done with it. -Poppyseed

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