Regarding Tests of Loyalty

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SilentDawning
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Regarding Tests of Loyalty

Post by SilentDawning » 16 Dec 2011, 08:40

This is a repositioning of a thread that got started as a bit of a tangent elsewhere...
by Ray Degraw » 15 Dec 2011, 17:49

Fwiw, my favorite interpretation of the Abraham / Isaac sacrifice story is that God was testing Abraham to see if he had given up completely the wicked practices of his own childhood (human sacrifice, especially of children) - and that Abraham failed the test.

I love that interpretation. In fact, I think I heard it once from someone (maybe you) but it never really sunk in until now.

But that interpretation raises other questions. I thought that because he was about to sacrifice his son, he passed the test, and therefore, was given all the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant, which we then have access to through temple ordinances. So, if Abraham was blessed by God to have those blessings made available to him, what did he do to warrant them if he failed the test?

I also wonder a bit about Job and the JS story where he asked people to give up their wives to him, out of a test of loyalty. I was told that story about JS in the MTC by one of my trainers. AT the time, it didn't even phase me, but now, it seems unconscionable.
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"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

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Brian Johnston
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Re: Regarding Tests of Loyalty

Post by Brian Johnston » 16 Dec 2011, 09:00

I have raised that same point in Sunday School before too -- that there wasn't just one way of looking at this test of faith. I didn't explicitly say Abraham failed, but I turned it to say that perhaps he could have also passed the test if he refused to sacrifice his son. He could have said "No Lord, you have commanded me not to follow the human sacrifice rituals of the people around me, and I know this is not right to do. Therefore, I will not do this."

Also,

That we think of this one way because it is a story in the scriptures. But what if someone in the class today, a good and valiant member of the Church, perhaps even our Bishop, told us all that God was sending them messages to stab their children tonight as a test of their faith? Think about that. Would we think they are crazy and call the police? What's the difference between that and a story about Abraham in the Old Testament?

We had a pretty heated discussion about that earlier in the year in EQ one Sunday when the lesson topic was obedience.
"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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SilentDawning
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Re: Regarding Tests of Loyalty

Post by SilentDawning » 16 Dec 2011, 09:48

I really like the interpretation...But I believe he went to all that trouble of arranging the sacrifice because it was a Heavenly Being that told him to do it -- making it OK in the mind of us believers.

We tend to accept whatever Heavenly Beings tell us to do as from God...so, does this mean that God might give us direct revelation to do something wrong just to see if we can trust our own clock about the right and wrong we have been taught? in which case, does this not make personal judgment and conscience rise above even Heavenly commands? And also, does this not make even communications from God untrustworthy?

By way of example -- if you were Nephi, and asked to slay Laban -- you could level the same thought processes on the situation? Nephi could have said "No, Heavenly Father, we know 'thou shalt not kill' is a commandment that has come from thee. I believe thou art all powerful -- therefore, if the only way for me personally to get the plates from Laban is to violate my conscience, then I rely on your matchless power to make them available to me. I cannot violate this sense of right and wrong you have taught me".

Would this have been an acceptable answer from Nephi to God regarding the command to kill Laban? And how can you trust a God to lead you in righteousness when he sends Heavenly Beings to tell you to do things that are not consistent with principles of truth and righteousness -- particularly when we are taught over and over again that obedience is the first law of heaven? Who do you obey, God Himself, or his prior commands in scripture?
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Regarding Tests of Loyalty

Post by Curt Sunshine » 16 Dec 2011, 11:26

My short answer, SD, because I have almost no time, is that I probably will do whatever I personally believe God is telling me to do - but if it's illegal or something that goes totally against my deep convictions, I'll probably need a vision or more to believe it's coming from God.

Otoh, there's no way I'm doing something that goes against my deep convictions just because someone I support as a leader asks me to do it. I quit one job rather than compromise my principles in a way about which I felt very strongly, and I wouldn't "obey" a church leader just because "he said so". We have this little thing called D&C 121, and we also have this big thing called Lucifer's plan - and I'm not going to "obey regardless" when I've promised only to "sustain". Those are two very, very, very different things.
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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SilentDawning
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Re: Regarding Tests of Loyalty

Post by SilentDawning » 16 Dec 2011, 12:56

I'm with you on that one -- my question was directed at the interpretation of Abraham's sacrifice. If God told him to do it with a visitation or vision, then we're back on with the obedience at all costs paradigm based on what you said here.

Now, Nephi didn't have a vision -- all he had was the Spirit "telling him"....so, I take it that if you were Nephi, you would have said "No to the inspiration to kill Laban, if I'm reading you right.

I'm curious what others think of this...
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

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Re: Regarding Tests of Loyalty

Post by Roy » 16 Dec 2011, 13:02

"God said thou shalt not kill, at another time he said thou shalt utterly destroy...that which is wrong under one circumstance, may be and often is, right under another ...Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is...although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire" JS as quoted in Rough Stone Rolling p. 441
This was taken from a note JS had written to one of his intended plural brides.

Then there are the accounts of the “Angel with the drawn sword” revelations/visions/visitations...
"19 year-old Zina remained conflicted until a day in October, apparently, when Joseph sent [her older brother] Dimick to her with a message: an angel with a drawn sword had stood over Smith and told him that if he did not establish polygamy, he would lose "his position and his life." Zina, faced with the responsibility for his position as prophet, and even perhaps his life, finally acquiesced." (In Sacred Loneliness, page 80-81)
"The same God that has thus far dictated me and directed me and strengthened me in this work, gave me this revelation and commandment on celestial and plural marriage, and the same God commanded me to obey it. He said to me that unless I accepted it, and introduced it, and practiced it, I, together with my people would be damned and cut off from this time henceforth. We have got to observe it. It is an eternal principle and was given by way of commandment and not by way of instruction."
- Prophet Joseph Smith, Contributor, Vol. 5, p. 259
If these accounts are to be believed it would seem that JS was threatened with his life, his position at the head of the church and dispensation, and the salvation of himself and his followers if he did not pass the test of polygamy.

These more modern examples tend to solidify the interpretation that one should do whatever God says without hesitation…unless you take the position that JS also could have passed the test with flying colors by refusing to compromise his marriage fidelity standards. It is interesting to contemplate the different trajectory this alternate “fork in the road” choice would have resulted in for the church.
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SilentDawning
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Re: Regarding Tests of Loyalty

Post by SilentDawning » 16 Dec 2011, 13:12

Confusing isn't it -- one one hand, we believe God payed a high price so we could keep our agency (1/3 of the hosts of heaven lost for following Satan's plan), but then uses agency-reducing methods like this to implement what has gone down into history as a highly questionable and sometimes even embarassing practice for the Church -- and a huge stumbling block for many in and out of the Church even today, long after the practice was discontinued.

It causes me to doubt, sometimes, whether JS was actually acting as a prophet, or if there were other motives involved...Or someday, will I see all that as wisdom on the part of God? Is this a case where NOT following your own clock is not a good idea?

Questions, Questions, Questions....
"It doesn't have to be about the Church (church) all the time!" -- SD

"The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. No price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself."

A man asked Jesus "do all roads lead to you?" Jesus responds,”most roads don’t lead anywhere, but I will travel any road to find you.” Adapted from The Shack, William Young

Curt Sunshine
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Re: Regarding Tests of Loyalty

Post by Curt Sunshine » 16 Dec 2011, 15:13

I've had too many experiences where my "clock" was to do one thing and I felt impressed to follow a different "clock". There's one about which I still don't understand the reason or know if it was a good thing in the end, but the others have come into focus after the fact - and I now am glad I didn't follow my intended clock.

I also believe the OT scripture that says the Lord's ways are not our ways - but that still doesn't change my answer in my last comment. If I'm going to be asked to go against my deepest convictions, I believe God has the responsibility to remove all questions in my mind of whether or not the impression in coming from him. After all, he did it for Saul on the road to Damascus, so it's not like it would be a first.
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: Regarding Tests of Loyalty

Post by Cadence » 17 Dec 2011, 12:47

There were actually two tests going on. The first was to see if Abraham would be obedient and do what he was told. This test he passed. The other and more critical test was to see if Abraham had the wisdom to question the order and not sacrifice his son. This test he failed. So it was not so much there being one action that was totally right and one that was totally wrong. Abraham did what he was told and was thus blessed for it. But more than likely he missed an opportunity to grow and become more than he was by using his own intelligence to question the situation. Who knows what would have happened had he not followed orders.

Of course I think this is all mythology maybe based on some historical truth but the lesson is the same regardless of its literal truth. We see the same test going on in Mormonism today, obey, obey, obey. Sure you can benefit from obedience but the real growth comes when you know when to diverge from obedience and stand on your own feet. I think this is exactly what God wants us to do. Not blind obedience although you may be blessed for it you will stagnate your growth.
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Re: Regarding Tests of Loyalty

Post by wayfarer » 17 Dec 2011, 14:57

Cadence wrote:...I think this is all mythology maybe based on some historical truth but the lesson is the same regardless of its literal truth. We see the same test going on in Mormonism today, obey, obey, obey.
I think repeated tests of loyalty are harmful to a relationship. I cannot imagine an enlightened being requiring them, except perhaps rarely, in an effort to teach.

I am reminded of a Schiller poem, Der Handschuh, where a vain, spoiled lady of the court drops her glove/Handschuh into a sporting field of lions and tigers, in an effort to test the loyalty of a knight. He goes into the field, grabs the glove, returns, throws it in her face, and takes his leave.

That is what I feel like when I get tested constantly. It doesn't build faith to ve tested continually, it builds brainwashed, blind obedience. Such blind obedience is dangerous and wrong.

The Cheney(bush) administration sought to justify their acts of terror through redefining the definition of torture. Who did they turn to? Jay Scott Bybee, a TBM, who obeyed with exactness, regardlessmof the logic.
"Those who speak don't know, those who know don't speak." Lao Tzu.
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