Thursday, March 17, 2016

Abrahamic Sacrifices

Recently I’ve been seeing some posts from LDS friends saying “I support the Prophet” on various controversial issues. The implication behind this is that one should give unquestioning loyalty to the Lord’s anointed servants, and that those who do not are failing in their covenant duties. I’d like to go through the extreme implications of this statement on LGBTQ issues as well as their more general applications.

One of the arguments that queer members of the Church often make is that the current policies and doctrines of the Church are harmful and that they do not feel loved or accepted as a result. In light of prophetic infallibility in matters of Church governance, the answer to this should be: tough luck. God and his mouthpieces are in no way obligated to spare you any pain. If anything, it’s inevitable that you’ll suffer a lot. For anyone who thinks that God wants you to be healthy, happy, and whole, you should probably reread Mark 9:43-48. Jesus had no mercy for extenuating circumstance:

If thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched... And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched... And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

In other words, if your sexuality is impure, cut it out, mangle it, destroy it. If you suffer intense emotional trauma, if you want to kill yourself, if you can barely function through the pain and loneliness that such a sacrifice causes, remember that it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God as a broken, shattered mess than to be cast into hell fire. Obedience is all that matters; your well-being does not. As general authorities often repeat from the Lectures on Faith:

Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things.

Obey. You don’t have to like it. It doesn’t have to be good for you. You just have to do it.

Now, lest those who do not deal with LGBTQ issues nod their heads and sagely apply this counsel, let’s remember that they too are under the same stringent requirement of absolute obedience. Do you really know what that means? President Monson could issue a proclamation tomorrow on any topic and you would be bound to follow it. He could demand the assassination of Donald Trump, and we would have to pull the trigger. He could declare genocide on everyone in the state of Nevada, and we would have to take up arms and enact the slaughter of every man, woman, and child. He could ask that all members murder their own children, and if we wished to stand by the prophet, we would each need to hold the pillow over our babies’ mouths until they stopped breathing.

“But the Prophet would never command such a thing!” you might say. Actually, God already has (1 Nephi 4:12-13; 1 Samuel 15:3; Genesis 22:2). They are known as Abrahamic sacrifices, and President Nelson has recently reminded us that we are all called upon to make these sacrifices in our lives. Abrahamic sacrifices are when we suspend our own moral compass because we trust that God knows better; we sacrifice what is most precious to us, even when such a sacrifice may be illegal or immoral. We must be willing to commit any atrocity in obedience to God and his prophets, so that like Caesar's soldier, we can say:

If you bid me bury my sword in my brother's breast or my father's throat or the body of my pregnant wife, I will perform it all, even if my hand be reluctant.

We need to tear away this facade of love and happiness in the Gospel and recognize that it is cruel, harsh, and unyielding. And yet that does not necessarily make it invalid. It is the way things are, and we do not have the option of changing it. We can only choose to make the sacrifice or reject it.

Are you truly willing to completely sublimate your own will and place it in President Monson’s hands, or even in God’s? It is a question of faith. Because after enduring all this suffering, the promise is that God will make it all better in the next life. Obey unconditionally, and all suffering, including the suffering of our conscience, will eventually be removed and healed. Dostoevsky famously had his character Ivan reject salvation that was built on the suffering of innocents, even a temporary suffering:

I don't want harmony. From love for humanity I don't want it. I would rather be left with the unavenged suffering. I would rather remain with my unavenged suffering and unsatisfied indignation, even if I were wrong. Besides, too high a price is asked for harmony; it's beyond our means to pay so much to enter on it. And so I hasten to give back my entrance ticket, and if I am an honest man I am bound to give it back as soon as possible. And that I am doing. It's not God that I don't accept, only I most respectfully return him the ticket.

So here are questions I cannot answer. Do we trust God and his prophet? Will they make it all worthwhile? And if they do, is it morally justifiable to perpetuate suffering at their behest? Dare we trust our own moral compass over God’s commands?

1 comment:

  1. If I personally find it abhorrent, which I do, to even think about killing someone, I am not going to follow any prophet who tells me to do that, even if it is the prophet of the Church. If Heaven wants to then condemn me because I was not "obedient", so be it. I am NOT going to kill anyone just because someone tells me to.