Friday, May 8, 2015

The Worst Law Of Heaven

Previously: Any Opposed, Please Sit Down And Shut Up

I suppose in the not-too-distant future, when the Lord has either cleansed the LDS Church of its gross iniquity, or followed up on the promise he made in 3rd Nephi 16:10 to take the fulness of the gospel away from us entirely, we'll look back on the first decades of the 21st century as the point when this thing finally went off the rails.

The days we're living in now are the days prophesied in 2nd Nephi 28, as Church leaders insist the people place the leader's anemic counsel ahead of the teachings of the "dead prophets" in the Bible and Book of Mormon.[1]  "Hearken unto us and hear our precepts" is the way Nephi has them word it. Yet when they teach, Nephi says, "they teach with their learning" (verse 4), by way of scripted speeches read from teleprompters, and not by the power of the Holy Ghost. Never are any of them heard delivering an unmistakable message from God as was common in the days of our founding prophet. Yet they claim to have the identical gifts he had.

"All is vanity," said the preacher.
[1]. "The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works" and "The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet." (Teachings of the Living Prophets Student Manual, Chapter 2)

Things are really getting out of control lately, as we hear the incessant drumbeat to obey our leaders, who cite the now ubiquitous teaching that "obedience is the first law of heaven" as if A) that phrase was actually a doctrine of the church, and B) it means anything close to what they think it means.

That statement has never appeared in any revelation from God, cannot be found in any of the standard works, and was never taught by Joseph Smith.  Yet somehow that flim-flammery has attained the status of First All-Encompassing Doctrine of the Church -If you don't count the other counterfeit that claims the president of the Church is incapable of leading the church astray. Those twin bamboozlements are practically joined at the hip.

Is Alexander Pope Catholic?
"Obedience is the first law of heaven" is a phrase that first appeared in the LDS lexicon in an 1873 conference talk by then apostle Joseph F. Smith, but the idea wasn't original with him. He cribbed it from Alexander Pope's classic An Essay on Man, wherein is found the line "order is heaven's first law." Pope's work was a well-known affirmation of Christian faith. As the Wikipedia entry describes it,
"Pope presents an idea on his view on the Universe; he says that no matter how imperfect, complex, inscrutable and disturbing the Universe appears to be, it functions in a rational fashion according to the natural laws.
Pope's work would have been familiar to Joseph F.Smith, as it was to most literate persons of the 19th century. "Order is heaven's first law" had, in fact, become a familiar maxim in both England and America throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. The belief was universally embraced by all of Christendom; it was not an idea proprietary to Mormonism.  In a talk Joseph F. Smith gave in 1896, he mentioned Pope's famous axiom and gave it a little tweak of his own:
"It is frequently said that order is the first law of heaven. I wish to put this in a different light...My opinion is that the first law of heaven."
 Okay, fine. Obedience=order. Tomato, Tomahto. Doesn't really matter, since obedience to the fixed laws of the universe was what guaranteed order in the heavens. As far as the phrase was understood back then, there was little harm in changing that one word in order to enhance and enlarge its meaning.   Joseph F. Smith understood what the law of heaven was, same as everyone else in his day. That understanding, however, was quite a bit different than the way it is commonly being taught in the church today.  And keep in mind Elder Smith was careful to present this as his opinion; he was not claiming to speak for God as if through revelation.

Nevertheless, there's no reason to take issue with Joseph F's expanded view of the phrase; it is consistent with teachings previously revealed through his uncle, Joseph Smith, Jr.  What is important for us to understand 140 years later is that obedience in that sense is far removed from the kind of obedience we usually have in mind when we think of Church rules we are encouraged to obey, such as "attend all your meetings" or "don't drink coffee."  The law of heaven is not that kind of law. It references an entirely different kind of obedience.

When we are discussing "the law of heaven," we're not in the arena of statutes and ordinances -the type of laws humans must comply with in order to control their behavior.  The law of heaven is best understood in terms of the law of physics, or Newton's law of Universal Gravitation. The word "law" in this usage stands for an established reality regarding the way the universe works.  No human being is capable of either obeying or disobeying the law of heaven. It exists outside our influence.  It just is.

That's why it's called the law of heaven. The law of heaven refers to the laws or processes by which heaven/the universe operates. Everything from the largest planet to the tiniest molecule obeys the law of heaven by fulfilling the role for which it was created.  Here's a succinct description given by A.E. Johns in 1943, after quoting Alexander Pope's famous line, "order is the first law of heaven":
"By 'order' he obviously meant rank, relative position, a condition where everything is arranged so as to play its proper part. And in nature and astronomy there is such ordering. We speak of the various cosmic units. In particular, below us in size there are three: the electron, the atom, and the molecule. Above us, there are also three: the planets, of which our earth is a sample; the star, of which our sun is a sample; and the galaxy, of which our Milky Way is one...All science is based on the assumption that our universe is orderly." 
Today we invite confusion when we mistake the laws of heaven, (which control the operation of the universe) for the commandments of God, which are laws we are capable of choosing to either obey or ignore. God himself is subject to the laws of heaven, [2] although he does have power to manipulate and control those laws when it suits his purposes.
[2] See for instance D&C 84:13 "...the power by which all things are governed, even the power of God..."

Sadly, when most latter-day Saints hear the word "law," what instantly comes to mind is a rule or regulation they are expected to obey.  But think it through. "Obedience is the first law of heaven" as some sort of commandment we are expected to obey, isn't even possible, as LDS Author Luther Tychonievich points out:
"This is a pretty silly law; it doesn’t even say any­thing at all. If I ini­tially planned to obey, the law does noth­ing. If I ini­tially planned to dis­obey, like­wise it does noth­ing. It is a great way to make dis­obe­di­ence to any law seem more harsh: break absolutely any law and you also break the first law as well. 'You had an unkind thought toward an ene­my? You just broke the First Law of Heav­en!‍' "
Part of the confusion, I think, is the result of thinking that the law of heaven is synonymous with the law of God. But they are not the same.  God's laws consist of commandments we are expected to follow. The law of heaven, on the other hand, has literally nothing to do with any input on our part.  We have no influence on the laws of heaven, nor are we able to "obey" such laws.  We don't obey the law of heaven. We can, however, choose to obey the laws of God because we have agency to do so.

The law of heaven is a cosmic system that governs matter, from the tiniest particle to the mightiest planet, all created to perform their individual functions.  The tiny particles that make up the molecules of a lead brick do not have the agency to transform themselves into gold, or water, or cauliflower. The law of heaven keeps them in their place.  Could the elements suddenly choose to stop obeying the laws of heaven? Yes, but if they did, all would resort back to chaos. Happily they have chosen to remain obedient to the law of heaven, otherwise the universe would fly apart in an instant and man would cease to be.

The famous Reformed Baptist theologian C.H. Spurgeon, a contemporary of Joseph F. Smith, described how order kept everything in the universe operating as it should:
"Look up to the heavens and observe the innumerable stars that glisten there so plenteously that numeration fails. Looked at through the telescope, stars are so abundant that the heavens appear to be covered with dust of gold, and yet we have no record that one of these bodies has ever interfered with the orbit of its fellow sphere; or if such a catastrophe has ever been permitted, it has been part of the all-comprehending scheme. The majestic orbs move, each one in its own orbit, and all in perfect harmony.
"Even the aberrations, as we call them, are nothing but the result of regular law, and the astronomer finds that he can calculate them with the greatest possible accuracy. There are no irregularities, discords, or failures among the constellations! And if to the student of the heavens such should appear to be the case, he has but more fully to master the universal law and he discovers, with astonishment, that every eccentricity is a necessary incident in a system grander than he had thought.

"Mere amateurs in astronomy talked of irregularities, but Newton and Kepler found a mathematical precision manifest in all. At no point need we be afraid that the universe will be thrown out of gear! If a man had placed innumerable wheels in a machine, there would be, in due time, a breakdown somewhere. Oil would be needed here, a cog would be broken there, a band would be snapped in this place, or a piston would be immovable there—but God’s great machine of the universe, whose wheels are so high that the sublime Ezekiel, when he saw them, felt that they were terrible, has continued to revolve these many thousands, perhaps millions of years, and has never yet been stopped for cleaning or repair because God has impressed upon every atom of it the most docile spirit of submission—and His powerful hands are at work every instant amidst the machinery giving force to His laws."
Did Joseph F. Smith understand that this was the proper interpretation of  "the law of heaven"? Of course he did. Our religion teaches that the tiniest particles in the universe all consist of two parts: that which acts, and that which is acted upon. Everything in the universe has a tiny intelligence attached to it, which enables it to "understand" its purpose in the greater scheme, and hold itself in its proper place. The importance of every element in the universe knowing its purpose and being obedient to its role is precisely what Elder Smith meant when he substituted the word "obedience" for "order.":
"Obedience is the first law of heaven. Without it the elements could not be controlled. Without it neither the earth nor those who dwell upon it could be controlled. The angels in heaven would not be controlled without it, and in fact without obedience there could be no union or order, and chaos and confusion would prevail...The elements are obedient to his word. He said, “Let there be light and there was light.” He commanded the land and the waters to be divided, and it was so. When Christ commanded the storm to be still, and the sea to be calm, the elements were obedient to him. The earth, and all the worlds which God has made are obedient to the laws of their creation; for this reason there are peace, harmony, union, increase, power, glory and dominion, which could not exist without obedience." (Journal of Discourses, Volume 16, pg 248) 
The reason "obedience" is referred to as "the first law of heaven" is not because being obedient is the most important law we can obey. It's the first law because it was sequentially the first "law" to come into existence. Without this first law there would be no order in the universe.  There would likely be no universe at all.  Order, or the requirement that the elements be obedient to the order of heaven, was the first law to be established. All other laws of the universe would logically follow after.

Elder Joseph F. Smith was correct in his explanation of the law of heaven, and what that law meant. Unfortunately, he took things a step too far and tried to apply the analogy to people:
"Sisters, do not flatter yourselves that you have nothing to answer for so long as you may have a good husband. You must be obedient."
 Uh-oh. Here it comes.

Shape Up, Sisters!
Joseph F. Smith was suddenly sounding more like a Shaker than a Mormon. By the mid 19th century, the Shaker community was already functioning under an aberrant interpretation of the meaning of the law of heaven, and Joseph F. Smith seemed determined for us to follow in their wake by misapplying it as well:
"Since it was a Shaker precept that 'order is heaven's first law,' it was the accepted responsibility of the sisterhood to keep the household clean and orderly and prepare and serve the meals on time." (Work and Worship Among the Shakers, by Edward Deming Andrews, pg 200)
Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against having women prepare and serve me meals; I'd like to try a system like that in my own home sometime.  It's just that Joseph F. Smith, like the Shakers, was trying to use this lesson about how wonderful it is that the elements "know their place," as a motivation to get other people to change their behavior to suit him.  Elder Smith, like his colleagues in the Quorum and the First Presidency, spent a considerable amount of conference time ragging on the women of the church about being obedient -obedient not to God, mind you, but to their husbands.  This was 1873, when polygamy was in full swing, and it was often a constant struggle for the men to keep the wives in check.

When I was younger, I set out to read all 26 volumes of the Journal of Discourses, thinking it would give me a broad understanding of LDS doctrine.  It didn't, of course, because our doctrine is supposed to come from God, and these guys literally never received any direct communications from the Almighty the way our founding prophet had all the time.  What they often did in general conference was present their own opinions and speculations, and these speeches were published in the Journal of Discourses so that future historians could be bored out of their skulls same as I was. Some of the things they taught were consistent with the scriptures, and some were wildly off base.  What I found surprising in my reading was how often Brigham and his cohorts thought it necessary to chastise the women for being unhappy in their positions.

The women of the church would grumble about their situation, and their husbands would get up in conference and grumble about all the grumbling the women were doing. It looked to me that if this system of plural marriage was to bring peace and joy to these people's lives, it was going to be an uphill climb.  This conference talk of Elder Smith's was just one of many that carried with it a rebuke against the sisters, encouraging them to bite the bullet and keep still about their lot.

For his part, Smith cajoled the menfolk in the congregation into being more obedient, too. But that was the problem. He took what should have been an explanation of how the heavens operated, and tried to extend the metaphor where it didn't fit.  We have been suffering from that misapplication of thought in the church ever since.

Is obedience a trait we should cultivate? Absolutely. I don't know how we expect to gain salvation without being obedient to God. The problem arises when so many of our members choose to obey the precepts of the leaders, and by doing so assuming they are following God.  It's this "obey the leaders" mentality that results in good people believing God cares how many holes they have in their ears.

No Wonder They Call Us A Cult
After a particular appearance where President Hinckley wondered aloud why any woman would want go go around with two earrings in each earlobe instead of just one, a whole slew of our young women began assiduously obeying "the one earring rule" as though it were a commandment handed down from Mount Sinai. So powerful is the mantra "obedience is the first law of heaven," that thousands of women rushed to be obedient to a commandment God never uttered. "If the prophet asks you to do something and I can do it 100 percent," declared a chipper young BYU coed sporting only one ring in each earlobe, "then I'm happy."

Well, good for her. Except the prophet never asked her to do any such thing, and even if he had, it would not have been a commandment unless God had told Hinckley to announce it as one.  This Church is fast becoming a Cult of Obedience, even over matters that have nothing to do with God's will.

Perhaps I should say especially over matters that have nothing to do with God's will.

Recently the president of the Fresno California Mission announced a new policy for his missionaries demanding "Exact Obedience." Exact obedience to what? Why, obedience to the rules the president himself laid down, of course. Among the demands he is making of the missionaries under his charge, you'd be hard-pressed to find anything that resembles an instruction from the Lord. What the missionaries are being asked to obey are standard sales practices: the more people you pitch your product to, the better your chances that one out of ten will result in a sale.

And that's all this strategy is. The president has set a goal for his missionaries to make 100 sales a month.  Oh, excuse me, did I say "sales"? I meant baptisms. But he is marketing these baptisms as the product these missionaries are expected to hit the streets and sell.  This is the sad result of the corporate thinking that has overtaken our Church: the greater the number of potential customers you're able to reach, the greater the chance you'll be rewarded with a bite on your line.

I previously addressed this unfortunate propensity we have of equating baptisms with collecting converts to the church.  The goal of every missionary should be to help others come to Christ. What they shouldn't be doing is hustling people into joining our club.

This mission president's celebration of obedience is so over the top that when I first read it I thought it was satire. In fact, when the proprietor of Nearing Kolob reported on it, he titled his piece "Is This Satire? Nope, This Mission President's Blog is Real."

Our out-of-control culture of obedience results in all kinds of corruption of the gospel of Christ, as typified by an astonishingly misguided children's book that one reviewer aptly labeled Satan's Plan 2.0.

And let's not forget that when we wallow in the belief that obedience in the church is paramount over everything else, we often end up expelling from our society those who are not seen as 100% loyal to the leaders. Four weeks ago blogger Adrian Larsen compiled a shocking list of church members who had been harshly disciplined by their bishops and stake presidents in only the past six months because they failed to kiss the ring of authority when instructed to. "Those who follow Christ most rigorously," writes Adrian, "are often the ones most targeted for 'discipline,' which almost always consists of an ultimatum to either stop following Christ, or be thrown out of the LDS church."

Darn Right The Church Can Be Led Astray
Aside from the reality that the way strict obedience is taught in the church today is flat-out wrong, this false teaching is accomplishing what we were told could never be done: it's leading the church astray.  Bruce McConkie insisted that the teaching that states "obedience is the first law of heaven" is "the cornerstone upon which all righteousness and progression rest."

That would be a pretty heavy notion if it were true.  Recently, in an essay titled "Why Obedience is NOT the First Law of Heaven," the proprietor of  The Perfect Day blog presented four reasons why McConkie's declaration is problematic:
1." I've known plenty of people who were flawlessly obedient -attending all church meetings, paying full tithes/fast offerings, 100% home/visiting teaching, working in the cannery, going to the temple every week, doing family history -you name it. Yet they avoided associating with people they didn't like.  They prided themselves on not "giving to those deceitful beggars" (a direct quote) just outside the Walmart parking lot.  A few were verbally abusive to their spouses and/or kids.  Wearing the finest clothes, driving the finest cars, and living in the finest house was of paramount importance.

2.  "If you tried to count how many commandments we are expected to obey -including instructions to grow a garden, visit the sick, do your family history, learn the signs of the times as well as all the written commandments -you'd find thousands.  And what do you think the chances are that you'll obey them all? Zero, right? There are just too many "commandments" to keep them all perfectly. With that being the case, then technically none of us should make it into heaven.

3.  "Obedience" itself is never declared a "law." The Ten Commandments? The Law of Moses? Now those are laws! But obedience, as I understand it, denotes a voluntary compliance to laws. (See D&C 130:21)
4.  "Logically, even if obedience were a law, it would be impossible for it to be the first law of heaven.  After all, unless another law existed first, there would be nothing for obedient souls to obey.
Jesus long ago taught us the true first law of heaven. There are two of them, in fact. If you can't remember what they are, why not read the rest of that post on The Perfect Day? This is the best, most thorough examination of the topic I've ever seen, so if you have any interest at all in jettisoning false teachings from your life and replacing those false notions with truth, I promise you it will be well worth your time. Here it is again:

Why Obedience is NOT the First Law of Heaven

Getting It Right
With so much rampant falsehoods now circulating in the church, how can we know whether we are following a true teaching or a false one? Harold B. Lee gave us the key back in 1964:
“It is not to be thought that every word spoken by the General Authorities is inspired, or that they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost in everything they write. I don't care what his position is, if he writes something or speaks something that goes beyond anything that you can find in the standard church works.”
If we expect to be worthy to face our Lord at the judgement bar, we latter-day Saints deserve to shrug off the unbelief and falsehoods that have kept us devoting ourselves to the mundane while ignoring our true purpose. We can begin by resolving to obey the first two commandments of God, and diligently questioning any supposed "doctrines" that come from any source other than Him.

1. I've known plenty of people who were flawlessly obedient -- attending all church meetings, paying full tithes/fast offerings, 100% home/visiting teaching, working in the cannery, going to the temple every week, doing family history -- you name it. Yet they avoided associating with people they didn't like. They prided themselves on not "giving in to those deceitful beggars" (a direct quote) just outside the Walmart parking lot. A few were verbally abusive to their spouses and/or kids. Wearing the finest clothes, driving the finest cars and living in the finest house was of paramount importance.
- See more at:
"the first law of heaven, the cornerstone upon which all righteousness and progression rest" is problematic:
- See more at:
"the first law of heaven, the cornerstone upon which all righteousness and progression rest" is problematic:
- See more at:

Update May 8th, 2015:
Readers may find this blog of interest:
The Hazards of Obedience

Important Announcement:
I've been losing the battle against spam getting through on the comment forums here (how many testimonies to the effectiveness of spellcasting African witch doctors must I be forced to delete?) So I'm forced to eliminate the ability for readers to post comments under the "Anonymous" and "Name/URL" options.  There are still plenty of options for posting comments, either by registering with a Google name, or selecting one of several options provided under the Open ID drop-down box.  I hate forcing readers to take that extra step in order to post a comment, but limiting the number of options appears to be the only way to keep the riff-raff from sneaking in. Thankfully, once you register a username for the first time, you won't have to do it again.

My opinion is that obedience, which one of the ancient prophets said was "better than sacrifice," is the first law of heaven - See more at:
It is frequently said that order is the first law of heaven. - See more at:
"It is frequently said that order is the first law of heaven. I wish to put this in a different light. Order in the Church is the result of obedience to the laws of God and to the discipline which He has established among men. My opinion is that obedience, which one of the ancient prophets said was "better than sacrifice," is the first law of heaven - See more at:
"It is frequently said that order is the first law of heaven. I wish to put this in a different light. Order in the Church is the result of obedience to the laws of God and to the discipline which He has established among men. My opinion is that obedience, which one of the ancient prophets said was "better than sacrifice," is the first law of heaven - See more at:
"It is frequently said that order is the first law of heaven. I wish to put this in a different light. Order in the Church is the result of obedience to the laws of God and to the discipline which He has established among men. My opinion is that obedience, which one of the ancient prophets said was "better than sacrifice," is the first law of heaven - See more at:
"It is frequently said that order is the first law of heaven. I wish to put this in a different light. Order in the Church is the result of obedience to the laws of God and to the discipline which He has established among men. My opinion is that obedience, which one of the ancient prophets said was "better than sacrifice," is the first law of heaven - See more at:
"It is frequently said that order is the first law of heaven. I wish to put this in a different light. Order in the Church is the result of obedience to the laws of God and to the discipline which He has established among men. My opinion is that obedience, which one of the ancient prophets said was "better than sacrifice," is the first law of heaven - See more at:
"It is frequently said that order is the first law of heaven. I wish to put this in a different light. Order in the Church is the result of obedience to the laws of God and to the discipline which He has established among men. My opinion is that obedience, which one of the ancient prophets said was "better than sacrifice," is the first law of heaven - See more at:
"It is frequently said that order is the first law of heaven. I wish to put this in a different light. Order in the Church is the result of obedience to the laws of God and to the discipline which He has established among men. My opinion is that obedience, which one of the ancient prophets said was "better than sacrifice," is the first law of heaven - See more at:
"It is frequently said that order is the first law of heaven. I wish to put this in a different light. Order in the Church is the result of obedience to the laws of God and to the discipline which He has established among men. My opinion is that obedience, which one of the ancient prophets said was "better than sacrifice," is the first law of heaven - See more at:


Jared Livesey said...

Can you smell the paternalism?

Unknown said...

I find that the more that leaders lack understanding of truth the more they just want compliance or obedience. Truth can be testified of and encourages discussion and welcomes questions. It is shamefully that our leaders are not bloggers. They seem scared of real discussion and real questions. They are finding that coming out of their cloister twice a year to give a speech geared to a sixth grader doesn't endear them to the people like it did in the past.

Anonymous said...

Rock, after reading this, all I can say is, "Well, Duh!" Thanks for presenting the idea so clearly.

Anonymous said...

I love the ideas you have presented, but I also think that the obedience and order of the universe is a proper metaphor for the way in which God lives and can exalt us to become. The elements are obedient to God, why aren't we? I think this is a worthwhile thought, because God's actual commandments are not arbitrary statutes, they are instructions that will help us get our lives in harmony with the eternal laws of Heaven. For example if you disobey the law of gravity to your detriment, you will fall to your death. So while it is true that we cannot disobey the laws of heaven in an absolute sense, it us also true that the Lord gives us instructions ofd how to employ these immutable laws to the greatest benefit. That is what his commandments are all about. Through them we can learn for ourselves the principles upon which the order of the universe functions, and have the discipline to employ those principles in the manner that will bring the greatest Joy.

That's just my two cents.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for disobeying the laws of spelling. I hope you understand anyway. ;)

Sam said...

I find it fascinating that Nephi speaks of the law being dead because we are alive in Christ. I am afraid that all to often in the Church we teach that life is found in obeying the law as opposed to Christ being "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6):

2nd Nephi 25:
23 For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

24 And, notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we keep the law of Moses, and look forward with steadfastness unto Christ, until the law shall be fulfilled.

25 For, for this end was the law given; wherefore the law hath become dead unto us, and we are made alive in Christ because of our faith; yet we keep the law because of the commandments.

26 And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.

27 Wherefore, we speak concerning the law that our children may know the deadness of the law; and they, by knowing the deadness of the law, may look forward unto that life which is in Christ, and know for what end the law was given. And after the law is fulfilled in Christ, that they need not harden their hearts against him when the law ought to be done away.

Jerry Johnson said...

Thanks for this post Rock. My wife and I really appreciate your study and thought that go into the things you write. This post on obedience is spot on and we appreciate it. Hope you are feeling much better and can continue to write your blog posts.

Gary Gibson said...

To hell with you oh "commandments of men". I have no desire for you, anymore. I want the real thing. Oh God, soften my heart, that I may hear and hearken to your glorious commands.

Unknown said...

I've found that there are very few people in my life that understand the "laws of heaven". I feel like the whole obedience to everything that is passed on by our leaders are like training wheels until you come to a point where you understand gospel principles well enough to make good judgments by the spirit.

Inspire said...

I like this:
"This is a pretty silly law; it doesn’t even say any­thing at all. If I ini­tially planned to obey, the law does noth­ing. "

It would be like saying, "Floating in the air is the first law of flying."


Alan Rock Waterman said...

Gospelfulness, I agree with you, of course. My objection to the current mantra is that for the large part, God is cut out of it. "Being obedient to your leaders is being obedient to God."

You'll notice that even after all that preaching Joseph F did about obedience to God, he told the women they needed to be obedient to their husbands.

I had intended to include the video of David Bednar using fear of the devil to scare that kid to the point of tears, but the only version of it I found on Youtube included commentary by the person posting it about how the Mormon Church "mind F's" its members and I didn't feel it appropriate to send my readers there to have that word staring back at them.

Unknown said...

Rock - this clip?


Steve said...

Found this on and e-mailed it to Rock:

Elder Harold B. Lee further defined scripture when he said: “It is not to be thought that every word spoken by the General Authorities is inspired, or that they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost in everything they read and write. Now you keep that in mind. I don’t care what his position is, if he writes something or speaks something that goes beyond anything that you can find in the standard church works, unless that one be the prophet, seer, and revelator—please note that one exception—you may immediately say, ‘Well, that is his own idea.’ And if he says something that contradicts what is found in the standard church works (I think that is why we call them ‘standard’—it is the standard measure of all that men teach), you may know by that same token that it is false, regardless of the position of the man who says it.” (The Place of the Living Prophet, Seer, and Revelator [address delivered to seminary and institute of religion faculty, 8 July 1964], p. 14.)

According to the article, who is allowed to go beyond or contradict the standard works? Rock and I read it differently.

Steve said...

So, how do we include the law of obedience (and sacrifice) into our discussion here?

Jared Livesey said...

If the President of the Church is a member of the Church then is he not bound by the scriptures which we have, as a Church united, by common consent, in General Conference, sustained as binding upon all from the least to the greatest?

Jared Livesey said...

There really seems no reason to bring "the law of obedience (and sacrifice)" into the discussion, being, as it is, merely symbolic of a real covenant the Lord impresses upon those that repent of all their sins and believe in Christ according to the commandments.

There is but one law in heaven that I know of, and it is this: "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them: for this is the law and the prophets."

Clean Cut said...

Solid post, Rock. I'm going to have to update my "Hazards of Obedience" post to include some of your thoughts. :)

Steve said...

It seems to me that the Lord gave the law of obedience and sacrifice to Adam and Eve to, at least in part, emphasize the importance of obeying God's law and keeping His commandments. Given that their previous lack of success with the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

I know it seems odd to have a law of obedience, but it seems important to the Lord.

Jared Livesey said...

It seems odd that an item of such seeming importance was seemingly entirely left out of the scriptures, don't you think?

What could explain this seeming mystery? Seriously. If it isn't the explanation I already offered, then why?

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Clean Cut, thanks for that link. I added it as an update to the original post.

Anonymous said...

Deut 6:5
And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

Matt 22:38
This is the first and great commandment.

John 14:15
If ye love me, keep my commandments.


Put two and two together. I'll agree the way in which traditional LDS frame the issue is problematic. As LOVE is the first commandment, obedience flows from it, but shouldn't be conflated as being the same thing. And the beautiful thing is, if you read what John recorded in context, Jesus then COMMANDS them to love one another as he loved them.

Then churches jump in and want to delineate the rest of your conduct, when really that's between you and God. Your chief duty to other men is simply love.

Jared Livesey said...

There is no "two and two" to put together - there is no "law of obedience" in the scriptures.

Also, if I may, Jesus's response about "the greatest commandment(s)" was a specific answer to a specific question about the Law of Moses.

Jared Livesey said...

Speaking of the "failure" at the tree of knowledge of good and evil...

Jon said...

Rock, I look forward to your posts each month, and they are greatly appreciated good sir!

Thank you for your beautiful writings, may they continue for many years to come.

Jon said...

The book The Lucifer Effect is another great book on the bad effects of obedience training on people (although the author didn't opine so, that is what I got out of the book). This includes church, government schools, and dictatorial parents.

Jon said...

P.S. I'm not the impostor Jon that posted above me! LOL!

R. Metz said...

The law of obedience . . . even the First Law of Heaven. A law? Obedience is a principle, not a law . . . there was a war in heaven fought over it, and it was Free Agency that did prevail (this being a principle as well btw).
Again such a funny typical Mormon mantra. All of these have there own particular place of origin; where did this one come from? Could it be that it has something to do with the story of the Angel visiting Adam, explaining the reason for the sacrifice that Adam was offering? “I know not, save the Lord commanded me” says Adam to the Angel (Moses 5: 6) and we love it don't we? However, the things that the Angel is relating to Adam have nothing to do with obedience at all but everything with explaining the plan of salvation and the role of the Savior therein, and btw it is a wonderful example of how the Lord is teaching us and dealing with us: little by little, and by asking us questions. I have heard this vers being abused over and over again and once I said something about it in a meeting and immediately came under attack by the Bishop's wife over it (since then I don't like bishop's wives very much).
At the same time we must realise that we are living in a system of causes and consequences, which is beautifully described in D&C 130: 21; “when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated”, and we better learn something pretty well about which laws this is talking about.
Jesus has said “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart” etc. and “thy neighbour as thyself” as equal important, which is the principle format for every follower of Christ, and “If you love me keep my commandments”. Also very relevant in this regard is of course what the Lord is saying in Matthew 25: 31-40 and James in his letter, especially in Chapter 1 verse 27.
But always the Lord is not imposing, but instead inviting, advising us to follow Him. It is not a coincidence that He is using the parable of the wedding party to have us as His guests.

Emmanuel Segui said...

obedience can reveal the worst in you. It can easily expose the dark side of human nature

Unknown said...

I have always called B.S. on this teaching. It never made sense.

Thanks for the history on where this came from. I had never considered the historical aspect of it. I should have, because most false teachings come from misconstrued ideas or definitions of past history, then mixed with current understanding. We then get pure B.S. that doesn't make any sense getting repeated and recited over and over again, until the false doctrine becomes a sacred cow(golden calf). And many of us like to think we are so much smarter and advanced than the children of Israel. The current church membership as a whole is no further advanced in many ways than they were, imo.

What is the first great commandment? What is like unto it? Who is like the pharisees, adding commandments and "laws" to the gospel? When you honestly answer those questions, you realize why Nephi so adamantly warned all men to never trust in the arm of flesh.

Insightful Nana said...

Obviously, the mission president in California took liberty with Alma 57:21. "Yea, and they did OBEY and observe to perform every word of command with EXACTNESS: yea, and even according to their faith it was done unto them; and I did remember the words which they said unto me that their mothers had taught them."

There mothers had taught them to not doubt God (Alma 56: 47-48) and put their trust in God continually (Alma 57:27.) There was no mention of trust in man. Not a prophet, not Helaman not a mission president, but trust in God.

This is a good lesson for mother's as well as young men and women. As moms, we much teach that God comes first, before a parent, bishop or mission president. I don't believe the concept is being taught very well at this time. Do you?

I think the Mission President missed the message as have many others.

Genius said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alan Rock Waterman said...

What? Looks like spam is still getting through.

Oh well, at least Genius registered.

Anonymous said...

I thank you for the information presented here and totally agree with the main idea of this post. However I would like to give my opinion about the next sentence:

"The tiny particles that make up the molecules of a lead brick do not have the agency to transform themselves into gold, or water, or cauliflower"

I disagree with this as I understand that even the tiniest, most basic elements, have agency to either obey or disobey the law of heaven: those things who act being permitted to chose wether to act or not, and those things who are acted upon to chose wether let themselves to be acted upon or resist it. If they would not have this agency, there would be no existence. The order in the universe and itself are always in the possibility to dissapear and return to the original nothing and is God's work to mantain the faith, love and respect of even the tiniest of His creations so this would never happen.

I got some of these ideas from here:

Also I think LDSA analizes the law of heaven here:

Again, I find your post very informative and support the idea that we are not required to obey our leader's counsels or policies in order to go to heaven.

Sorry if I have some grammar error, I am not an english speaker.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

You know, Jared, I think you're right and I was wrong.

Without having yet read the links you provide, it stands to reason the elements can choose to obey or disobey. The water molecules at Jesus' wedding chose to obey His command to transform themselves into wine.

I suppose what makes us different is we humans have the ability to choose either good or evil. I'm thinking the elements can obey or disobey, but I don't know if they are advanced enough to actually do deliberate harm.

Food for thought; grounds for further research. Thanks for your input.

Barbara Hanks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Barbara Hanks said...

My favorite quote about obedience:
"Morality is doing what is right no matter what you are told. Obedience is doing what you are told no matter what is right."

Doubting Thomas said...

Barbara I love this quote. Thank you for posting it.

Unknown said...

Odd how "Following Christ" has degenerated into "Obey the Church"...

Anonymous said...

Great post. My only comment is that we lost the fullness long ago, even prior to the martyrdom of Joseph. There is not a vestige of it left. This post delineates it clearly.

Also, the myth that you mentioned regarding a prophet not being able to lead people astray is debunked here:

I had an interesting experience listening to an "Apostle" a couple of weeks back where he gave everyone a blessing that their righteous desires would be realized. If we had the fulness he would have lifted the lady in the wheelchair up and made her whole. The story of that stake conference talk is here:

God bless you for your work.

R. Metz said...

onewhoissearching, hello, thanks for the links you presented. They look very interesting. Things come together on this web page. It is a good thing to help each other to come out of the mist of darkness.My conclusion is that likely this Church today is no longer acceptable for the Lord as an institution, which means that it conseqently has lost its claim on the priesthood keys, but that nevertheless worthy individuals in it could still claim their priesthood rights on account of their personal righteousness.

Randy and Julie said...


I found these little historical gems on line and thought I would share. We are taught a lot of strange stuff at times. The only thing consistant id the expectation to obey.

Unknown said...

Love Barbara's quote above!

If the Lord in a one on one asks me to lie... OK I guess. Never happened.

When a man/women in between asks me the answer is no until I get personal confirmation.

The truth only hurts when it should. And the truth has hurt the LDS church so much that my allegiance to them has me saddened.

SMSmith said...

Over the past few years, it seems that "law" and "obedience" have been getting somewhat of a bad rap in the blogosphere, so maybe it would be useful for us to study the scriptural context of their uses, including their derivatives. God's preference has always been "obedience" to Him, His Son, and the Holy Spirit; and He doesn't seem too impressed with the arm of flesh (which ALL of us have fallen heir to). Sure we are subject to laws for the orderly conduct of society (civic, religious, etc.), but when man-made laws / customs / traditions, etc. conflict with our moral / ethical conscience, then maybe Daniel, Shadrach et al. point the right way. At some point we all have to learn that "spiritually-safe" obedience is only to the confirmations of the Spirit. No matter the level of authority, the voice of the Spirit is the final arbiter. So when matters concern us, what is the point of two or three witnesses, if we are not one of those witnesses? (How many of us even pursue that assurance when callings or changes are issued?)

SMSmith said...

Five observations:
> "first" does not have to mean first in time. It can rate importance;
> as to "The Perfect Day" blogger's extended description of "people who were flawlessly obedient"!!! Hmmm, didn't Jesus call those types "hypocrites" (Matt. 23:25-29)? Maybe such latter-day Pharisees were not such fitting examples to use in critiquing obedience!
> Abraham 3:25 seems pretty crucial to understanding "obedience";
> law and obedience seem inescapably central when one reads D&C 88:21-24; and
> what if obedience is, in final analysis, the ONE great, transcendent law? (For explanation, see the essay: Rule of Law; Ten to One at )

Unknown said...

I would like to offer Log (and anyone else I've offended, wronged, or trespassed against) a public apology here.

Please forgive me.

Larry said...

Ditto on feelings about Elder Holland. He used to be my Bishop. I love the guy. I'm certain he is 100% sincere and not merely attempting any form of manipulation. Yet I see clearly he is totally caught up in the doctrine of enthroning obedience to General Authorities above all other considerations. I walked away from my 39.5 years of Mormon true-believer status precisely because I got tired of obeying men rather than God. As well-meaning as Jeffery Holland is, he is still just a man. He, nor any other of the General Authorities every make any direct claim to speak for God, as Joseph Smith did. But I joined the Mormon Church at 18 years of age precisely because I aimed to follow God rather than flawed men. I sought God's opinion as opposed to any opinion of mortal man. When the Church failed to deliver I thought, perhaps, they were just waiting for me to prepare myself better. So I dove into the scriptures and the histories -- for 39.5 years. In all that time Church leaders, including the "Prophets", never once said, "Thus saith the Lord..." I waited, perhaps too long, till those great spiritual experiences that convinced me of Joseph Smith's dealings with God and which brought me to Christ were nearly forgotten. In February of 2008 I walked away, temple recommend in my pocket. I never looked back. I have learned so much more in the last few years. I now seek obedience to my own highest self. Yes. I no longer look outside myself but I now look within for verification of what is right and good and true. I now discovered reincarnation, Chakras, and many other inevitable truths. I now found many sources for good thinking and revelation of principles, rather than just facts. For example, I believe I have read about 80 Near Death Experience books. The best of these "other" sources is a simple fiction story told in four books, The Immortal series by JJ Dewey. First book is free on the Internet. Try it, you'll like it.
Your brother,
Larry Woods
Guthrie OK

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Connie and I were very much influenced by The Immortal series, Larry. Can't recommend it highly enough.

Randy and Julie said...


I saw you as a guest on Jon Dehlin's podcast today. I am so sorry to hear you are going through what he did. Hang in there. Whoever is doing this isn't the Church. They are just afraid of your writings and influence. So sad really.


Unknown said...

I have hardly ever disagreed with you, Rock. You've been pretty right on, on most topics.
I was reading through this blog post of yours, and wanted to pull the reins in. "God's laws consist of commandments we are expected to follow", is what you wrote. I know that the scriptures are replete with commandments from God. But, I've got to say that 'commandments' just don't sit right with me. To command nature, or an element or energy, is fully within God's power/domain, but I know that He does not command us. It's not even part of His ability or desire. Here I quote the definition of 'command', from "verb (used with object) direct with specific authority or prerogative; order: The captain commanded his men to attack. require authoritatively; demand: She commanded silence. have or exercise authority or control over; be master of; have at one's bidding or disposal: The Pharaoh commanded 10,000 slaves. deserve and receive (respect, sympathy, attention, etc.): He commands much respect for his attitude. 5. to dominate by reason of location; overlook: The hill commands the sea."

He instructs, inspires and other encouraging assisting, but not commands. To command, is to tell another what to do, while instead, I believe that He shows us the way, then allows us to use our free agency. Joseph Smith said so eloquently, "We teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves". And 'expecting' is not what He feels, and with 'commandments', there's guilt, shame and duty that man ends up feeling (quite often), all less-than-godly attributes. Yes, it's good to know the boundaries, so we don't fall off the cliff, but telling my child, 'Don't', doesn't inspire him to realize the pain of falling off, as I know what's up ahead, and I, as his parent, want him to learn to be the best adult that he can be, not to do something because I told him so, or because of fear of the pain he will have if he doesn't.

And in the Doctrine and Covenants, it says:
41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;

42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile— D & C 121:41-42. That's how God has been with me and everyone that I know. And He continues to be kind, patient, etc. He doesn't: command me, and if I don't follow through, there's a punishment that hangs over me. Instead, He entices me, I feel it, I respond, then I feel the 'rightness or wrongness' (negative or positive) of my new choice. And so it continues that way between He and His children.

You even wrote: '...we are expected to follow.' His love does not include expectations. If I expected my child to perform a certain way, and he didn't come through, then there is his choosing to perform so as not to disappoint me. Is that the best way to be with my child? Instead, I'd like to tell him what is in his best interest, and what the pitfalls are, then inspire him through my loving wisdom to rise to the occasion. And if he didn't choose in the best way, then there are always repercussions.

So, I see and know God as loving, in ways that inspire me to be like Him. I'm glad that He doesn't command me, or I would be tempted to have some rebellion bubble up in me, and then not want to be like this commanding 'God'..


Alan Rock Waterman said...

Well Irene, you got me. You're absolutely right on this, and I was wrong to phrase it like that. I know better. Elsewhere on this blog I pointed out that they're called CO-mandments, not DEMAND-ments. "Co" as in an invitation to come "with" Him.

Also, I was smart enough when I wrote my piece on tithing to point out that His "law" has little to do with something we are expected to obey. The law of tithing is procedural law, or a directive. In other words, "this is how it is to be done" not "You HAVE to do this or else!"

Thanks for taking me to task on this, Irene. It slipped right past my sleepy brain as I was writing it.