Why I don’t believe obedience brings blessings
At least, not how most Mormons express it.
I was very confused today about a newly returned missionaries talk. In the first part, he described how he felt good about breaking a mission rule about playing N64 with a future convert. In the second, he proceeded to talk about how being obedient brings blessings.
Now, I’m all in favor of the op-amp viewpoint of obedience and blessings that is implied by DC 130:
20 There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated— 21 And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.
However, I think the common, folklore Mormonism belief must be modified somewhat to be inline with the scriptures. Unchecked, the folklore belief leads to those believing they can “bind the Lord, by their obedience” or even “bargain with God.”
I guess I should define my terms ever so slightly. For those non-electrical engineers who read this blog, an op amp is an integrated circuit that is usually used in a mode that provides some sort of a gain. You put something in, and you get something else out depending on the circuit.
For electronics, it looks like this:
For the general outline of obedience brings blessings, it looks like this:
K, up till now, I think the picture matches the scripture. When we are obedient God blesses us.
The problem, is that some Mormons don’t stop there. They continue forcing the metaphore. “Well if God blesses us when we’re obedient, maybe we can choose the blessings we want to, and we’ll bargain with God so that we can earn those blessings.” “Um, that’s not what the scripture says.” “Yeah, I know, but I read some talk on my mission about binding the Lord by our obedience, I think it was by a general authority.”
Hm. So the problem, as I see it, is that bargaining with God is a testable hypothesis. If I believe all I need to do is “be obedient enough” then I just have to “be obedient enough”, if I get what I want, and I always get what I want simply by being obedient, then the hypothesis is true. If, however, I’m “obedient enough” and don’t get what I want the hypothesis is false.
Now the problem, my problem, is I used to believe that could test it. I use to think the gain was the same for everyone. That is, if I view “marriage” as a blessing, and “abstaining from inappropriate movies” as an obedient acts, then I could assume that continually abstaining from inappropriate movies would eventually lead to a blessing, like perhaps marriage. In fact, I could compare many different obedient acts. Say, abstaining from swearing, abstaining from off-color jokes, word of wisdom obedience, etc. And yet, I can show you many people who watch R-rated movies, swear, tell off-color jokes, don’t obey the word of wisdom, etc. who get married/engaged, who are Mormon. Thus saying obeying specific commandments brings specific blessings is not true for everyone. I mean, if it were, it’d be a really unfair, cruel, and mean God that treats some Mormons different than others.
Therefore, I’m left recognizing the assumption that God treats everyone as if they had the same gain, is a false assumption. God apparently blesses some people for some levels of obedience, and withholds blessings from others for the SAME levels of obedience. In fact, for the same person, the gain may change at different points in their life. But we mortals have no way of knowing WHY the gain changes. We can’t tell if the gain goes down because God’s testing us, or because we aren’t being obedient enough. We have no way of knowing if the gain of others is higher because they’re less experienced, or more obedient. The problem is, trying to figure it out leads, in the end, to depression.
I accept and support the doctrinal teaching that obedience brings blessings. But please don’t try and quantify it. Please don’t tell me “If I want something bad enough God will give it to me.” Please don’t say, “If you were just more obedient, you’d get what you want.” Please don’t say, “We should just bargain with God, and bind Him with our obedience.”