Thoughts About Human Authority and Human Law
When I was quite young and impressionable, it was not uncommon to get home after school and find my mother cozied up on the couch or her bed, engrossed in a thought provoking article from the Readers Digest. (back then they had some really good articles) I had quite a close relationship with my mother and I would always report to her after school before going off to cause havoc in the neighborhood.
Frequently she would engage me in discussing things she had been reading about. She was a master teacher and she would take these opportunities to get me thinking about deep things.
On one occasion she had been reading an interesting article about the military, the dynamics of war, and what had made some of the generals so successful as leaders, or something along those lines.
During this particular discussion I remember quite vividly how she taught me about the importance of the “chain of command” in the military. She painted some pretty interesting scenarios to help illustrate how a group effort will quickly disintegrate if the designated followers refused to follow the orders of the commanding officer.
She effectively pointed out to me that it was not the responsibility nor was it appropriate for a buck private to be critical of how the officer in charge was running the outfit, nor was it acceptable to deviate from the orders that were given.
She emphasized the importance of authority and how authority needed to be respected and followed. She also went into great detail regarding the need for rules, regulations and laws, in running any kind of large organizations, including countries. Hence, the need for governments to enact laws that needed to be heeded. She warned about the consequences of not following the rules and respecting authority, particularly in the military. She taught me about what a “mutiny” was and what a military “court martial” is.
She even touched on the concept that many people ascribe to, that a person acting as an agent, in behalf of another person, organization, or legal entity, is not personally responsible for the actions they take in behalf of the person, organization, or legal entity they are acting as an agent for.
After doing a pretty good job of getting me on board with some of these general concepts, she then threw a real curveball at me.
She asked me something like:
“what do you think a military person should do who is commanded to do something that is required according to the rules of military conduct and according to the orders received by the commanding officer, yet the orders are contrary to the person’s moral judgment and integrity and furthermore, contrary to the commandments of God?”
Had she asked me that question before the discussion that preceded the it, I suspect the answer would have come quickly and effortlessly. But she had done such a good job of extolling the virtues and necessity of respecting human authority and human laws, that I was in a bit of a quandary in knowing how to answer her question.
Needless to say, an interesting discussion followed.
I am so grateful for a mother that engaged me in deep moral and religious concepts. The impact of a righteous mother on her children are among the most important priesthood responsibilities that a mother has been given, as the designated “helpmeet” in the family organization, in my opinion.
But I digress.
This post is not about the importance of Moms. It is about the role of AUTHORITY and LAW in the gospel of Jesus Christ and its relationship with the church.
A few weeks ago, a person that reads my blog, forwarded me an email that he got from a person that was concerned about his spiritual welfare.
The person who sent the email to my friend, is a published author of at least one LDS book and he is probably more knowledgeable about the scriptures than the average member of the church.
The email was so incredibly provocative, fascinating, and indicative of how many Mormons think, that I could not resist asking my friend if I could post some of the contents of the email on my blog. I have received permission from my friend, and indirectly from the author of the email, on the basis on anonymity, to post it.
I am not going to share my response to my friend. I don’t think I even need to. The readers of this blog probably already know what I had to say about it and how I feel about authority.
Here are some excerpts from two emails that were sent to my friend from a concerned person. Since I am not providing the emails that my friend wrote to the author, you may need to read between the lines for context in a few places. Tithing is one of the issues briefly mentioned. Denver Snuffer is another one. I have made a few minor alterations to avoid providing exact quotes, that might have otherwise, showed up elsewhere.:
” But what you are also not understanding from my perspective is that Joseph Smith’s understanding, like everyone else’s is incremental. Therefore, the original intention of Joseph Smith doesn’t have much to do with the intention at the end.”
“I wish you would come to agree on the idea that Heaven has legal authority, just as there is legal authority on the earth. Authorized, legal officers have the right to do what they do, [regardless of whether their decisions are inspired or not] and that is their calling.”
“..by not standing in their way is the way you can go about your own business and your own beliefs, just submitting to them, giving that which is their due in the important things (like ordinances, tithing, callings, etc). And I’m not saying that you are wrong about tithing. I’m saying that these guys have the legal authority to require of us that which they require of us, whether they are right or wrong.”
“And so, on matters of obedience, we obey, not because we agree with them, but out of acknowledgement that they are legal officers who are performing their duties. I wish I could communicate this to you in such a way that you could believe what you want, but be in legal conformity with the legalities of the things of heaven. They are two separate things. One is the ideal. The other is the reality”
“I really, seriously wish you could understand that God requires obedience and loyalty to things that are not right sometimes, only because he allows these men to fulfill their duties. It is what we have been asked to do. And by self sacrifice to that, we make ourselves legally bound to the law of heaven. Things will be fixed in their time. For now, there is obedience. I really wish you could understand these concepts.”
“Not that you are wrong in many of your beliefs. It’s just that, you aren’t submitting yourself to the legal requirements to qualify for the blessings of eternity because you want to protest the things that you know are not right. Please think these things through. In other words, it is not about what you know is true, or what you believe. Its about submission to the imperfection until things are made perfect. Submission to legal authority is the weightier matter here. If only you could see that your idealism is going to have eternal consequences.”
“You cannot have everything the way you’d like it to be at this time, so you have to take what you can get. That is why, right or wrong, tithing as it is preached from the pulpit is what we obey. That doesn’t mean it is the right implementation. It means the legal authority has made it a mandatory thing to be in conformity with legalities, and without obedience to the legalities, you are out of conformity with that which qualifies you for your blessings. Please try to understand that concept.
“As an example. I know plural marriage is real and true, and that I have a right to it by inheritance in that which will be mine in eternity. I know that in eternity I will be a polygamist. So why don’t I just go be a polygamist and join the AUB? Because then I will LOSE my blessings. Why would I lose my blessings? Because the legal course of heavenly law that I have to conform to is to wait until my inheritance is legally given, not taking it of my own accord to assert my rights as I perceive them without legality.”
The type of thinking displayed in the above comments is not exclusive to Mormonism. Americans have been conditioned to this kind of thinking, particularly when it comes to the military and law enforcement. It is very difficult to break the paradigm once people have become indoctrinated.
The following video is an interesting attempt by a well meaning gal to help those in law enforcement to differentiate between which kinds of orders they should follow and which ones they should not follow, once the crap hits the fan in this country.“the life you save my be your own...” (because law abiding citizens are going to start shooting back!)