665 Followers? Make That 666!

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:

Flawlessly Obedient?

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.


  1. Oh, the Un-blog, where righteousness goes, “cha-ching!” It’s full fine little glurges, isn’t it? Here’s a template for writing a successful comment on the Un-Blog: “Dear Brother John, I simply loved–lovety, lovey, looOOoovve,LOVED–your book, _________. Surely you are writing more? Tell me what to buy next!”

    Although brother Pontius (Brother John sounds nicer somehow) does not “know how to write about what [he does] and what [he is] without sounding self-aggrandizing,” we can rest assured that he “doesn’t mean to.”

    1. I don’t know what the name Michael means, nor what the meaning of the name has to do with identifying characters. I mean, that wasn’t his name then, right? And if so, we don’t really have its meaning, either? The reading of Satan as proposing to test those already declared good is plain, when you remove the layer of Campbellite theology.

      1. I don’t think all of the intelligences were declared good, though. It says AMONG the intelligences were many noble and great ones, and He says He’ll make the good ones rulers… rulers over whom, if not the less-than-good ones? And since many of them kept not their first estate, they weren’t all good. I can’t find a link between the speaker in verse 24, and the two volunteers in verse 26…
        I mean, I guess it’s entirely possible that you’re correct. I’ve learned more about my religion in the last two months than I have in my entire life, and I’ve had so many assumptions turned upside down that I’m still dizzy. 🙂

  2. So this is very late in the game, but I think it may be relevant to this post. First, I must say that I completely agree with the statement: “We are not here to prove we can be perfect.” Before moving on, I should say that I have read most of your blog, and am currently reading the BoMammon and CHBoMormon, and while I agree with many of your conclusions, and am very grateful for the deep thinking that you cause (shall I call it pondering?), I think that you are mistaken with respect to who is speaking. But I’m trying to be open; I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    D&C 98: 12 For he will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept; and I will try you and prove you herewith.
    13 And whoso layeth down his life in my cause, for my name’s sake, shall find it again, even life eternal.
    14 Therefore, be not afraid of your enemies, for I have decreed in my heart, saith the Lord, that I will prove you in all things, whether you will abide in my covenant, even unto death, that you may be found worthy.

    D&C 124: 55
    And again, verily I say unto you, I command you again to build a house to my name, even in this place, that you may prove yourselves unto me that ye are faithful in all things whatsoever I command you, that I may bless you, and crown you with honor, immortality, and eternal life.

    TPJS, page 150
    When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter,12 which the Lord hath promised the Saints, as is recorded in the testimony of St. John, in the 14th chapter, from the 12th to the 27th verses.

    ​Not sure what your stance is on D&C 138, but vs. 13 seems relevant. So does Lecture of Faith #6.

    We have 3(ish) scriptures which seem to suggest that the Lord will “try and prove us” that we “are faithful in all things” and will “serve Him at all hazards.”

    In light of that evidence, I find it hard to come to the conclusion that the following is Satan speaking:
    ” And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;”

    But that’s just me. What say you?

    1. I’m not opposed to Jesus speaking to them of “proving” in order to get them to do what is, apparently, right. But he doesn’t also add the part about first estate-second estate, and glory and so on, right? A little truth mingled with error, maybe.

  3. Thank you for making me think deeply about this. I think you may be right here. The line between Satan and Christ is sometimes hard to find, because the counterfactual seems so like the original! Thinking more about this led me through a fun scripture chase.

    I’m not sure how you read section 132, but I think it helps clarify the difference between:

    21 Verily, verily, I say unto you, except ye abide my law ye cannot attain to this glory.
    22 For strait is the gate, and narrow the way that leadeth unto the exaltation and continuation of the lives, and few there be that find it, because ye receive me not in the world neither do ye know me.
    23 But if ye receive me in the world, then shall ye know me, and shall receive your exaltation; that where I am ye shall be also.
    24 This is eternal lives–to know the only wise and true God, and Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent. I am he. Receive ye, therefore, my law.

    My thoughts:
    21: Abiding a certain law allows us to “attain to” a specified level (or weight) of glory see also vs 16 and Section 63:66. There are things to be obeyed–but rather than a blind obedience, the law is something to be received. Like how you’d receive a guest into your home perhaps?
    22: 2 thoughts: 1) the purpose of life (or our lives) is to receive (aka know) the Lord, not blindly follow a set of laws. 2) this earth doesn’t represent man kinds only opportunity to obey God. Alma 13 seems to support the following thought: the concept of “eternal lives” pokes some holes in the concept of a first and second estate; it doesn’t hold water, in light of this verse, as eternity is an eternal round, God’s punishment is eternal (and therefore “of Him” rather than lasting forever). The idea of a 1st and 2nd estate seems to imply only one shot at this life–which I reject–especially since Abr. 3 describes both souls and spirits (meaning some who were coming down had resurrected bodies?) that are good among the council.
    23-24: Again, we must receive the Lord to “receive exaltation.” And to receive Him, we must first “receive” His law.

    In sum, where Satan is off is on the strict obedience and the estate idea. But, we will be proved here, we must receive God’s laws (also described as abiding the law), which, if done, will lead to glory, exaltation, and other cool prizes, but more importantly, knowing God. Abraham was God’s friend. At that level, I think he would listen to God’s suggestions…but it doesn’t sound like this obey-at all-costs idea.

    Thanks again. Another passage from section 63 seems relevant too:

    61 Wherefore, let all men beware how they take my name in their lips-
    62 For behold, verily I say, that many there be who are under this condemnation, who use the name of the Lord, and use it in vain, having not authority…
    64 Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit; and in this there is no condemnation, and ye receive the Spirit through prayer; wherefore, without this there remaineth condemnation.

    I thank you because in general I (we) take these words too lightly. We think we can take an isolated scripture and give a discourse on it, and even command others because of our interpretation! It might be wiser to “obey” the wisdom of vs. 64 or D&C 121 before seeking to command/direct/compel/coerce another. Taking the name of the Lord seems to be commanding others, when you don’t have the divine mandate.

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