Doing good when you feel like it

July 14, 2009

I hadn’t been to church in a couple of months, but I went to sacrament meeting with the family Sunday (dunno why). Anyway, a young student couple spoke, and I don’t remember the assigned topic, but both talks quickly turned to obedience being the key to everything.

The young man said that it’s really hard to be obedient because we don’t always feel like being obedient. But we shouldn’t just obey “when we feel like it,” but rather, we should force ourselves to obey, even when we don’t want to. I’ve been pondering this since then. Is our “not feeling like it” due to our evil natures and temptation, or is it more an indicator of the arbitrary nature of LDS commandments? I suspect it’s more the latter.

In many ways, obedience for church members involves jumping through visible hoops that really serve no purpose except to bind the members to the group. Hence Mormonism has long since abandoned its spiritual innovativeness (I’m thinking of early church culture) in favor of a set of boundaries so restrictive that even the color of a man’s shirt or the number of a woman’s earrings represents inclusion in the group.

So, there isn’t any motivation to “do the right thing” because the right thing isn’t a moral issue at all but a simple matter of cultural expectation. The only question for the believer is whether or not to deal with the guilt and social pressure of nonconformity. Hence we have David Bednar spelling out clearly that nonconformity is a window into the soul, and that soul is wanting.

I know I’m rambling, but I thought that since leaving the church, I find myself completely free of any temptation or guilt because I generally do the right thing. Why? Because generally I feel like doing the right thing. I don’t treat my neighbors kindly because I’m expected to do so, but I do it because I want to. I’m not honest because dishonesty would make me feel guilty; I’m honest because I want to be.

I used to feel beset by temptations, to the point that I would set daily and weekly goals to avoid temptation. When I finally let go of the guilt of nonconformity, for some reason the temptation faded into the ether. I’m sure some believers would say that’s because Satan already has his hands on me and doesn’t need to tempt me. But I think something else is going on. I’ve finally discovered my own morality, which is far deeper than the one I accepted for so long.