Following with Exactness

Not long ago, a young couple scraped together what they could and bought a modest house in the town where the husband was teaching high school and working on a graduate degree. They had student loans, but because the husband was still in school, payment was deferred.

One Sunday they attended stake conference, where the visiting General Authority warned church members against the dangers of debt. He told them they must do everything in their power, even if it meant selling everything they had, to get out of debt.

That evening, they prayerfully pondered the General Authority’s counsel and decided that they would sell their house and pay off the debt that they had. They sold the house, paid the balance of the student loans, and then discovered that they could not afford to rent in the town where the husband worked. Consequently, he quit his job at the high school, and they moved into the wife’s parents house with their two children.

I’m sure the GA thought that he was simply giving sound financial advice, and I’m doubly sure that if I brought this up with believers over on the Mormon boards, the couple would be mocked for being fanatical and “fundamentalist” in their thinking.

But when were we ever taught to think through the counsel we were given? We weren’t. We were taught to listen and obey “with exactness.” Questioning was not a virtue but a sign of weak faith.

I’m reminded of the mocking refrain I’ve heard from so many believers: “You took the church too seriously.” Maybe so, but isn’t that what we were supposed to do?

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5 Responses to Following with Exactness

  1. Eric Nielson says:

    The story you give seems to imply they acted on an answer to prayer. Is that the case or not?

    • runtu says:

      You’d have to ask them. What I know is that they made the decision and then prayed about it. Seems to me that God usually answers prayers the way we think He should.

  2. Kameron says:

    Faith is fundamentally (ha ha) at odds to critical thinking. Essentially all religions teach ideas that falter or fail when examined critically. And when a particular concept has practical merit (e.g., avoiding debt), the concept retains its merit when divorced from the religious content.

    So perhaps the example of the married couple who sell everything they own to avoid debt is a case of the signal getting lost in the noise.

    And prayer, in my assessment, is a series of double-binds and rationalizations. When prayer “works,” people interpret it as evidence of their religious perspective. But when prayer fails, people tend to resort to special pleading and other fallacies. Maddening…

    But for a laugh, here’s a Daniel Clowes strip on Christians:

    http://bravojuju.blogspot.com/2007/09/bravo-clippings-7.html

  3. MC says:

    I don’t see this act as a sign of fanaticism or fundamentalism. It’s just plain, old fashioned foolishness. It doesn’t take well-developed critical thinking skills to check the rental market before you go selling your house.

  4. Before meeting my Mormon friends, prayer had always been more of general gratitude for blessings, expressing sorrow for wrongdoings, and, if requesting assistance, had also been more general, like: “Lord, please help me/her/him in X/Y/Z situation” or “Lord please help me make the right decision on this or that issue”. Very broad and allowing me to be open to the solutions God creates in my life that I might never have thought of myself. After being with my Mormon friends, I experienced them asking yes/no questions to figure out some specific path on specific questions, which felt very much to me like using God as a Ouija board or magic 8 ball. This was especially weird in retrospect, because agency was also very important to my Mormon friends. But agency tended to be interpreted as, I am free to choose exactly what God tells me to do and if I freely choose the opposite of the promptings, then I’ll be rightly punished. Not much of a choice in my mind. Similarly, the members were to prayerfully consider prophet’s words to determine whether or not to follow them, but there really was only the illusion of coming to a different conclusion. My “friend” indicated that if the prophet said computers were no longer good, he’d go home immediately and throw away the computer that was the basis of his career. That really scared me. Then there is the issue of couples praying over something, like getting married or if the non-believer in the relationship should convert, and getting different answers….that caused some questions about the nature of the message or which receiver was worthy enough to have received the correct response. Frankly, it can be really hard to argue with someone who hears God and that differences of opinion are “contention”=devil. Isn’t it weird that that person always won any argument?

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