Here’s a very curious blog, written by a sincere Mormon who has been, I think, terribly mislead. I post it here in hopes of bringing some realization that we need a different reading of “obedience” and of “atonement” in our Mormon doctrine. This blog in particular condenses many mistakes Mormons inherited from Campbellite-Calvinist-Rigdonite-Christians.
My comments appear in Italic type, whenever inserted into his own essay, which I reproduce below:
When I describe the level of obedience required to call down the ultimate blessings of heaven as “flawless obedience” it usually gets some raised eyebrows.
Indeed! On with the First-Person-Plural Calvinism, then…
The reason I use that term is because “perfection” is so far beyond us. We cannot change our own nature to any great extent. We cannot by acts of discipline be much more than we presently are. We cannot become more Christ-like merely by acting more Christ-like. That sanctifying change can only occur through the atonement as Christ lifts us and changes us from our natural state to a state of holiness.
We love “We cannot…” sentences, for such things restore the Gospel of Calvin. We are rubbish. No need for Jesus here: we need an impersonal salvation machine: “the atonement,” some sort of cleaning device: you think I’m joking? Read onward, brave soul.
In every case, those sanctifying changes come as a result of obedience to promptings, laws and ordinances, not by acts of self-determination and grit. Though largely unable to change what we are at any given moment, we are always able to obey. No matter how derailed we become from the correct pathway of our lives, we can always obey. And, there is always the voice of truth to show us every moment of our lives what we should be obeying. Yielding our hearts to God in obedience to His will in large things and in small will always begin the process of changing us into the Christ-format. Flawless obedience is required at some point to transcend from changing to changed.
Notice the common LDS use of “obey” as an intransitive verb, rather than a transitive: Y Obeys X. Power is masked thereby. Rather than declarative sentences coming about for discussion and refusal, we end up embedding self-referential imperatives inside declaratives: “there is always the voice of truth to show us every moment of our lives what we should be obeying.” The true authority never says what is to be obeyed, for obedience itself is sufficient. So, at this point “Christ” is a format, and obedience itself the sanctifying thing (although it only makes us ready to accept sanctification reformatting, at the whims of this god). Get ready for how he removes Jesus entirely from the cosmos:
Being flawlessly obedient does not mean we are flawless, or perfect, or that we have overcoming the natural man that rages within us – it means that whatever we presently are, when we perceive that there is a right and wrong course of action before us, that we always choose the right. This is flawless obedience – to always choose the right, even when we falter again and again.
Sometimes, often, I think, flawless obedience begins as a great desire to be flawlessly obedient. I do not believe that mortal man reaches true flawlessness, perfection if you will, while still mortal, but that we are always striving, always willing, always desiring, always repenting of not quite being enough. Since God judges us according to our acts and our desires, (D&C 137:9) and by the thoughts and intents of our hearts, having and acting with a flawless desire is the same as actually being flawless.
When the author renders a wish for something the same thing as the something, what he actually does is reduce the mercy of God to a vanishing nothing: God judges strict adherence to rules, and desire for strict adherence is the same thing as adherence itself. Not only does this cheat God of mercy shown the wicked, but it also means we have no way to know whether God, or Satan, is really so very different from us. Did God become God by desiring obedience (compounding abstractions of process and product); is desiring evil the same thing as doing evil? What then, is evil? Here the author seems confused, and this confusion will color his final argument, given in the concluding passage.
The simple discipline of obedience will yield all other blessings we seek, and will over time expose us to greater degrees of the sanctifying and justifying power of the Holy Ghost. By obedience we engage the mighty gears of the atonement, and allow Jesus Christ to change us into whatever form of perfection He grants us while mortal.
See, a machine metaphor to explain how “the atonement” “works”. Jesus Christ here is the name of a being who runs the machine, taking something that has renounced agency, and which insists on being commanded in all things; and then makes “us into whatever form of perfection He grants.” Totally arbitrary: which is to say, pure power, domination, control by one over another. Note also that no actual forgiveness or healing comes about, for one is “obedient” just by willing to be obedient. Hence, by willing to be righteous, one is righteous, and there is no need for a savior, nor, in fact, any reason to repent, except of one’s desire to not desire obedience. One can embed the phrases infinitely: desire to desire to desire…. On the fictive-psychological entity “desire,” the author places all his hopes. Given that he never defines nor gives us ways of knowing when “desire” is really real, rather than meta-desire, we can assume that repentance will indeed be constant, ubiquitous, and unfulfilling (like every abstract nouns, not coincindentally). Except, of course, if we turn the logic to its completion: by desiring to repent, we are repenting; thus not needing repentance. All is timeless, abstract, impersonal. Finally, the author’s use of “form of perfection” is a classic “Whorfian” construction (which I discuss in my dissertation), as if ‘cup of water’ was not much different from ‘form of perfection’: count-noun + preposition + mass/abstract noun. Thus ‘perfection’ and ‘form’ becomes a relation he will metaphorize mythically as like the relation between spirit (mass noun) and body (count noun):
God, our Father, took our spirits, which were pure, innocent, uncorrupted and powerful, and placed them into mortal bodies that are impure, guilty, corrupt and dangerously weak. These weaknesses we possess, this mortal propensity to be carnal, sensual and devilish, is a result of the fall we experienced when we entered mortality. It is not who we really are.
So, I am to understand that God (our Father) took our spirits, and “placed them” into things corrupt and already “guilty”? Where did these bodies get those qualities? Rather than answer such a puzzle, he suggests that the cause of their guilty corruption was the Fall! When was the Fall? “When we entered mortality”! What is mortality? When the spirit enters the mortal body! Note that the passage begins with God as agent of placement, and ends with wicked Man entering mortality. One word hides the fact that he’s saying the same thing happened, but ascribing two totally different causes to their coming about. It seems like this god took good things, and put them in bad places, and then blamed the good things for “entering” the bad places. Thus, we don’t even know ourselves, any more than we can understand how God put us into something which was a fall when we entered it. Here comes more sleight of tongue:
We are not here to prove we can be perfect. In fact, I suspect we were a great distance down that path before we were born. We are here to prove that we will obey. Before the world was created Father stated the purpose of it. “We will make an earth whereon these may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” (Abraham 3:24-25). And, thus Father took his noble and great spirits, we, His sons and daughters, and placed them into fallen bodies where our only true asset is our agency, our personal will, and our only true manifestation of premortal greatness is obedience. Everything else He already knows about us.
Brother John http://unblogmysoul.wordpress.com/
Now, here’s an interesting thing from that passage in Abraham: God came among them and declared the souls and the spirits (two different entities) “good”. Then in response, “one like unto God” devised a way to measure just how “good” such entities are; and nominated himself the surveyor of their righteousness, and the distributor of the rewards. He is also the one who departs, angry, after his plan is rejected by the Lord. Once you grasp that reading, you may want to rethink how much value you put on “obedience,” which, Jesus tells Joseph Smith, even the rocks and dust of the earth are flawlessly perfect at being, though they are not the children of God. We are to be merciful creators, not demanding dictators. Currently, however, we can say we are a much confused people.