Doing good when you feel like it

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.

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14 Responses to Doing good when you feel like it

  1. Thanks, John, this really hits home for me and gets at what I really hate about Mormon culture.

  2. Holly says:

    I like the way you spelled this out–I don’t think you rambled at all. This seems to be a pretty common response to leaving the church. The fact that it’s so common is one reason I am increasingly convinced that leaving the church is a sign of spiritual maturity, a step that is necessary to our growth as individuals and a species.

  3. David T. says:

    As an ex-Utah Catholic, I relate to your aversion to the church’s “isms.” I still wince at certain things (I perpetually wince at certain saints), but I don’t think that’s enough to excuse one from taking the Sacrament. Unless, of course, they decided the Sacrament was the baby to be tossed out with the bath water. Then we’re talking about a lot more than just not agreeing with the Church’s cultural expectations.

  4. I wish I could write as clearly as you about the reality that happens as one leaves the thought-mind-control behind and starts to learn how to be HUMAN. Meaning, well, human…that state of being that we naturally assume without being told (and signing up for being told) how to ‘be’.

    Is that the natural man? I certainly hope so. Who created the natural man? God. Rod. Evolution. Dunno. I still lean towards God, but not the LDS version of God. Regardless, I think he/she/we are inherently good, tatoos, multiple piercings, pre-marital sex, homosexuals and drug users. Cuz we are human, with the capacity to LOVE. And LDS Inc. places more focus on obedience and conformity than on love. Sad, but very true.

    I also think controlling how people view good and bad and demanding they hand over all individuality and critical thinking, is, well, hmmm…who’s plan involved control? I forget. Satan must have me in his grasp.

    You describe the exact same experience that both me, and my wife, have had these past several months as we’ve determined how to live on our own non-programmed non-directed terms.

    Amen and amen* to all you said.

    *Non-religious secular version of “Amen”. 🙂

  5. martin says:

    david t, if you need to participate in some group ritual of metaphorical cannibalism in order to feel good about your relationship with god, I have to agree, you need the mormon church.

    especially since the metaphor is provided by one of the blandest, least nourishing food-like substances known to man. mormonism is about as nourishing to a truly active soul as white bread is to a truly active body.

  6. Michael says:

    Isn’t there something in the Book of Mormon (Moroni?) about a gift given grudgingly being the same as if the gift were withheld?

    So, if I pay tithing “because I have to” and I resent it and do it grudgingly, then it is the same as if I did not give it. So, why pay? It isn’t helping or blessing me.

    Of course, the church’s guilt trip is, “You just do it until it becomes a habit and you eventually give it willingly.” B.S.

    • BeverleyClarke says:

      What GOD requires of us is to not hide what he has given to us but to let it grow, bear enough “fruit and seed”, so that we can GIVE UNTO OTHERS. I tithed for years to a church that fell because it’s judging the Mormons. That is NOT what GOD wants of us. WE have to bear good fruit then we can share and help others. I haven’t tithed since but I am seeking how I can help others. There are no poor people here, not really because if they are on welfare they have plenty! And I owe GOD MUCH!

  7. Jeff says:

    Nice observation. I’ve been emotionally out of the church for a couple of years and haven’t been to a church meeting for about six months. When I was a believer I thought I needed the church to keep me in check. For me, though, without the church, moderation comes pretty naturally. My life is stable and, without the constant guilt trips from church, much more comfortable than it used to be.

  8. BeverleyClarke says:

    In Gander, Newfoundland there are always mormon missionaries, always pleasant, friendly, and very stupidly waves at every driver that passes them by.
    All the new missionaries always ask me if I heard “their message”. It’s CHRISTS message, not theirs! It has absolutely disgusts me that a giant Papa S.M.U.R.F. stands in their window for 362 days a year and a photo of CHRIST goes there on Good Friday to Easter Sunday! What messahe are they actually spreading? One that proves that an overactive imagination and stupid representation of Joseph Smith is more important to them than CHRIST himself!
    Thank God you people have grown and are standing on your own feet without the Mind-control of Joseph Smith!

  9. Melissa says:

    I, for one, have on occasion experienced the do-good-until-you-feel-like-it and think it can be quite effective. Children often learn this way and I don’t think it’s so bad. I do, however, think it’s better if it just occurs naturally, as it seems to with you and it often does with me. That’s fantastic. It’s interesting how the teachings/rules/whatever-you-want-to-call-it can be so restricting to some, yet so liberating to others. To each his own, I suppose.

  10. Laura says:

    I came to catch up on your blog and this topic struck me. I was just having this very discussion with a 15 yr. old boy two days ago. We talked about doing something because you’re told to vs. doing something because you want to vs. doing the opposite just to be rebellious.

    I was reminded when GBH declared that males shall have no piercings and females shall be limited to 1 pair of earrings only. I obeyed the commandment because I could (meaning: I was mentally okay with the idea) and because I should (follow the prophet, right?). But ultimately I was pretty bummed out that I had to let the 2nd holes grow in. I mean, I paid good money for that 2nd piercing! 🙂

    Thanks for writing about this. I think once people start being moral for morality’s sake, and not for some unseen deity’s self-indulgent arbitration, we’ll all be better off.

    • BeverleyClarke says:

      But remember that good morals are expected of us by GOD. He is unseen but He dwells in our heart when we invite Him in. He knew how weak we were and still are, so that’s why JESUS was sent to take away from us all our weaknesses and He took them to hell for us. In all our current lack of good morals, we are FORGIVEN ALREADY because of what Jesus has done for US!! AND!! no one not even our Elders, Pastors, etc.. have a right to controll us in our weaknesses. They have no right before GOD either to control us. GOD taught us to respect them AND He also expects us to PRAY for them always.Our GULIT has been borne upon JESUS so ALWAYS GIVE THANKS to HIM and DON”T be bitter about the misguided Elders but FORGIVE AND GIVE THANKS to GOD!

  11. BeverleyClarke says:

    On top of this page is a link to a message for “Anti-Mormons”. I am in no way against Mormons. But I am Really confused about this SMURF portrayal. Why does it exist? I chatted, or at least TRIED to chat yesterday with on-line Missionaries about this and two out of three of them blatantly refused to answer my question; Why do the missionaries here in Gander have a huge Papa SMURF in their window 362 days a year and a picture of JESUS ther only on Good Friday to Easter Sunday?
    Do it portray, the likeness of Joseph Smith? Don’t whomever created this character understand that magic is NOT the way to overcome evil but by Trusting in Him and in JESUS and by using His armor of
    Faith in Him, Salvation in JESUS, Truth, Righteousnes
    s, the Gospels of the New Testament,His WORD, and by Praying always in His Spirit? GOD HATES magic. Why is this connected with the missionaries? Are they being mislead?
    The Mormon believers are beautiful people and as loving as CHRIST Himself, so I am not “Anti-Mormon” but I truly confusedabout this ghastly misrepresentation of something that has Nothing to do with JESUS, GOD or the love of the Mormon people!

  12. Seven says:

    Nice post.

    An interesting feeling I had soon after going inactive (I have since returned to the church but as a New Order Mormon), was a new FREEDOM to help with charities and non LDS organizations. I was finally free to do the right thing for the right reason.

    As a TBM I felt so chained down to all the LDS activities and expectations that it left no time to do any of the non LDS humanitarian work I desired.
    I also felt frustrated by the strict non sensical rules in trying to do humanitarian projects in the Mormon church when the opportunity came.

    A good example is visiting teaching. Having a person call to check off if you visited the sisters and scold you if you hadn’t seen them yet, does not inspire one to visit for the right reasons. Having a numbers goal to meet is also very non inspring. There was no spiritual value in it for me when it’s guilt driven.
    As a New Order Mormon, I believe the Relief Society and visiting/home teaching programs are a wonderful support system (especially in times of crisis) and I find more spiritual value in it now than I ever did as an obedient TBM. I appreciate the organization of the church and how we take care of each other in a Ward Family, but now I do it on my own terms. I have no worries about making it to the CK with my eternal companion anymore, so I do church service for the right reasons now.

    In discussing this topic with some TBMs, they said how grateful they were for the LDS church to organize service because they wouldn’t do humanitarian work otherwise. Without the church, they believe they would become slothful and immoral people.

    I recently read the book “Life of Pi” and the author uses a Zoo analogy in describing the safety of religous dogma.
    I think many LDS are more content to stay in their zoo cages and have everything fed to them. To be told when to play and when to eat. There is safety and security in living the law of obedience without asking questions. Some people need that kind of rigid structure to stay on the right path.
    Unfortunately this thinking leads to the Pharisaical type Mormons that dominate LDS Chapels today.
    They might pass the temple recommend interviews, but do they have charity in their hearts? Do they posess the pure love of Christ toward their fellowman?

    For those of us who dared question the church doctrines that didn’t make sense, we felt our spiritual progress was stunted by living in that cage like existence. We took those brave steps into the wild and for the first time in our life felt what it was like to really be human, as “Mr. Brightside” mentioned. (one of my all time favorite songs by the way!) I have had more spiritual growth since losing my religion than I ever had as a TBM.

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