April 8, 2017
The Illusion of Obedience
In the LDS church as well as many other religions the most prominent idea presented is to obey God and keep his commandments. The idea is to become perfect as God is perfect by being strictly obedient to everything that comes down the pike.
There are several problems with this idea.
(1) A lot of the commandments, rules and traditions given out are commandments of men and have little to do with being in harmony with the will of God.
(2) It is almost impossible to be in perfect obedience to the demands of any religion. This creates a feeling of frustration, guilt and unworthiness for many decent people.
(3) Being perfectly obedient is often seen as the ultimate goal in life. This is a huge mistake, especially when obedience is to the commands decreed by some external human person and not the voice of God within. Even most of the obedience to the scriptures boils down to some authority’s interpretation of what it says that the flock is supposed to follow.
Then there are problems in attempting to strictly follow the scriptures. No one tried harder to be black and white about this then did the Jews in the days of Jesus who crucified him. That attitude did not serve them well.
The seeker really does not get a lot of benefit out of following the commandments of men though there is some. He gets a little self-control that he can use for other things. In addition, numerous commands gives him a little structure to his life that he may not have without them.
Some of the commands may help him be a better person. If a person has an addictive personality a command not to drink or smoke may give him a little extra incentive to not get out of control. It does take discipline to give money to a church, but how much good is accomplished by the donations? In most cases it would be more productive to hand the money out to the homeless on the streets.
Many of the commands such as to not steal, murder, lie, or commit adultery are obeyed by those who are not religious at all, just because they see it as the right thing to do.
The elephant in the room fact of the matter is that the basic ability to be obedient to a set of rules is just the first small step in our eternal progression. The goal behind obeying a set of moral instructions is to merely become a decent and caring person. This is not the end of our quest but only sets us up for the real beginning.
The scriptures teach that God is like a father and we are his children. Let us correspond this to our relationship with our children. When they are young we give them all sorts of commandments, or rules and expect obedience. If they obey they are considered good children and if not they are naughty and are usually given some sort of punishment.
BUT… this relationship does not continue forever. When they become adults rules from you are no longer necessary. Your guidance early on may make their adult life easier, but now they must move on to greater things.
When the kid leaves the nest the important thing for him to possess are skills and knowledge to be useful to society so he can be of service to his fellowmen and women.
Even so, when the churchgoer learns the basics through the schoolmaster of commandments and rules he must not rest on this achievement but onward move. Joseph Smith spoke truly when he said, “A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge.” DHC 4:588
And what should we do with that knowledge?
“For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.
“Verily, I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.”
Here we have two important things we must do that goes beyond standard obedience. We must gain knowledge and then apply this knowledge of our own free will in productive service.
Does this not sound a lot like what a child must do after he leaves home and strikes out on his own? The parent is no longer giving him commands, but expects him now to take his basic lessons, learn useful knowledge and accomplish something worthwhile.
Okay, let us say that you have learned the basics of regular religion, you’ve acquired what you can by practicing obedience for you are now approaching adulthood and see you must do things of your own free will to bring to pass much righteousness and good works.
Question: What are some of the steps that lie ahead for the seeker? What must he now accomplish?
I ended a recent post with:
“Okay, let us say that you have learned the basics of regular religion, you’ve acquired what you can by practicing obedience for you are now approaching adulthood and see you must do things of your own free will to bring to pass much righteousness and good works.
“Question: What are some of the steps that lie ahead for the seeker? What must he now accomplish?”
We received an interesting assortment of answers such as establishing better soul contact, fine tuning virtues such as humility, independent thinking, self knowledge, balanced thinking, increasing love and will… These all head the disciple in the right direction.
Then the important word of “service” was brought up.
Why do you suppose the Higher Lives care and nurture us upon the path?
The whole idea is that we will progress to the extent that we can join them in the great Vineyard of the Lord and be of service to our fellow men and women. We can thus take some of the burden of the workload off the few who do useful spiritual service.
If we are to be useful servants what qualities must we develop? Here are a two.
(1) Make sure your labors are pointed in the right direction.
What good does it do to perform a lot of service if your labors support a work that does nothing to move the minds of people toward spirit?
Many who are willing to serve are merely obeying the commands of men who are substitutes for the inner voice of God. Their labors thus build up the kingdoms and the interests of selfish or deluded men rather than accomplishing something of real value.
The solution to this problem is establishing inner soul contact and getting confirmation that our labors are approved by the Spirit.
Okay, let us suppose you have freed yourself from the beast of outer authority. What is next?
Next you must labor in some work that has value to the progress of our fellow humans. This you can do as part of an established work that is endorsed by the inner voice or something self initiated.
How much value your labors will have will depend on the second thing that must be developed.
(2) Develop skills and talents so your labors can be effective and useful.
This is a point often overlooked by many seekers on the path. Many just want to obey some prophet or priest, have a spiritual experience and then wait to die and go to heaven.
That is not the path of true service. The valuable servant must make himself useful and develop some skills.
The parable of the talents teaches this idea. It is interesting that a talent in the days of Jesus was a sum of money, but the current meaning of the word is also appropriate. After all, we use our talents to make money in this world.
“For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
“Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.
“After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.
“His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
“He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.
“His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
“Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.
“His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.” Matt 25:14-29
This parable reveals to us that Jesus expected a good servant to do more than seek to achieve salvation and then burry his talents, but we must expand on what we have so we can be useful.
Yes, the scriptures tell us that God will use the weak things of the world to confound the mighty and strong, but when we examine those who have made a difference we see that the weakness was an illusion. Jesus was considered no one of importance by the authorities when he started his work, but it turned out he was a man of great skill and ability.
Then his apostles were also considered very ordinary by those in power, but it turned out that they had enough talent to change the world.
Even so, we as aspiring servants must develop some skills so we can be useful in building the kingdom.
If you were God what kind of skills would you look for in choosing someone to carry out your work?
If you were God what kind of skills would you look for in choosing someone to carry out your work?
If you were a general you would find it valuable to have a group of soldiers who respect you and are willing to carry out your orders, but a willingness to obey will only take you so far.
Of what use would your soldiers be if they had no skills, especially if you were up against an enemy with very talented soldiers?
You would need some of the following talent:
Good marksmen and sharpshooters.
Strategists and much more.
To think that all God wants in his servants is obedience to his commands is a great error. What great intelligence is there who wants to be surrounded with a bunch of syrupy-eyed sycophants who do nothing but worship at your feet? I personally would run from such a crowd.
Yes, it is important to for any leader to have people at his disposal who are in alignment with his goals, but in addition to needing the willing he also needs the talented and the able.
So, what kind of talent is needed by those servants who seek to carry out the will of God? Quite a few things are helpful for the seeker to possess. Here are a few.
(1) He makes good use of his time.
I list this as number one because the development of just about every talent you can think of requires time, often at a sacrifice of some pleasure.
A disciple who claims to be willing and able to follow Higher Will yet uses his free time frivolously will not be of much use when needed.
(2) Communication skills
The fulfillment of Higher Will usually involves some type of message that needs to be communicated to the public. It is very helpful to have workers who can communicate that message accurately and as widely as possible.
(3) Writing ability
I could have included this with communication skills, but it is so important that it deserves a category of its own.
Because of the internet people are writing more than they ever have in history. We have available now more writings that are both good and bad than we could have imagined a few years ago.
Because there is so much material people’s attention span has diminished and good writing skill has become more important than ever, or else the text may never get read or just glossed over.
Of course, the first step to good writing is to get the basics of grammar down, but after that the most important thing a person can do is just write. Most successful writers are good because they have written a lot. Writing courses are always helpful but nothing beats practice.
Fortunately with Facebook and other mediums there is plenty of opportunity to practice. It is good practice to find interesting posts and comment on them in a thoughtful way or create a blog to post your thoughts.
Any writing skill that a seeker develops will follow him from life to life and prove useful in the vineyard of the Lord.
If not this life maybe the next you’ll write something revered as a work that elevated the spirits of humanity.
(4) Likeability and charisma.
People do not listen to or follow anyone that they do not personally like. The good thing is a pleasing personality can be acquired. Books like “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie are always useful tools for the seeker to absorb.
(5) Become self sufficient.
Being poor is greatly overrated. How many seekers do you know who really want to dedicate themselves to spiritual work, but cannot do so because they are worried about paying the bills? The answer is way too many. Financial worries are a tremendous distraction from spiritual work.
Unfortunately, a lot of seekers suffer financial distress because of a lack of talent or focus in earning a living. This sometimes demonstrates as a lack of talent in furthering a spiritual work.
A seeker should develop enough talent to be self sufficient in the world so worldly cares do not consumed him and distract him from some type of free will service with his spare time.
If a disciple’s main talent is making money then he can assist by donating to those workers with other talents. Money is an essential ingredient in furthering any movement, spiritual or otherwise and many good ideas die or stagnate for lack of financial support.
(6) Good health
Like financial distress, bad health can be a tremendous distraction from the spiritual work.
An important ability that each disciple should attempt to master are the laws of good health. Most people with good health did not acquire it by accident, but because they pay attention to their diet, got the needed exercise and practiced positive thinking, for energy follows thought.
I’ve read quite a few health books and it is amazing how many authors became interested in healthy living because of a life threatening illness earlier in life. Many of them tell stories of how they suffered intensely and were actually looking forward to death and something turned their life around.
Yes, the body you were born with and your karma has an effect, but in most cases the disciple can maintain good health if he gains and applies the knowledge that is readily available.
There are many other talents that can be put to use in spiritual service such as
Computer related skills
Building – construction – repair.
The list could go on and on for many are the talents required by the various spiritual enterprises in order to elevate the planet into the new age.
A reader basically asked me why the good guys are not able to accomplish more despite making great attempts to use their talents.
As I have noted in the past the Brotherhood have given disciples too much help and this caused various movements to begin, but they turned out to be greatly flawed or outright failures. The decision now is to leave humanity on its own as much as possible. This is a slower process demanding more patience, but the results will be more positive and long lasting.
You’ll notice that in this present time the closer a teacher is to pure s spiritual truth the more difficult it is for him to make progress. Unless he gets supernatural help this will always be the case.
The task of true teachers at this point in time is to use all the talent they have to move the work ahead. If one path doesn’t work then he must use another and another until he finds something that does work. I get internal guidance from time to time but as far as figuring out what works in promoting my teachings I am on my own.
One of my recent changes was to post an original thought each day on Facebook. This is slowly gaining traction and seems to be worth continuing. Also coming to Facebook around a year ago was another change. This gives us more exposure than Yahoo Groups did.
So, in summary the basic answer is this. There is a solution to every problem. If what one is doing is not working, stop and analyze and ask yourself what changes can be made to become more successful? It is usually different for each individual.
Copyright by J J Dewey
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