Agency and Obedience

Agency and Obedience

I found a post from another group on free agency to be interesting. What caught my attention was a statement that the Mormon church has changed its direction on free agency and has downplayed it to the point of calling it dangerous in recent times. Apparently, the authorities are using the term agency leaving the word “free” out of it.

Since I left the church in 1978 I have not paid much attention to its progress in doctrine. I find the services so boring that it takes a special occasion from a family member to cause me to enter its doors. This happens maybe one every two years on the average.

Every once in a while, I may flip on General Conference on TV to see what I have been missing, but after about ten minutes of monotone repetition of admonitions a primary kid should know, I can’t take it anymore and change the channel. If I’m seeking for knowledge my time would be better spent reading the National Enquirer.

When I was in the church in the old days, they put some attention on free agency and my biggest gripe about it was how they put it into practice. Indeed, they did teach about it and emphasized that the difference between Satan’s plan and God’s plan was that God promoted free agency and Satan sought to destroy it and control the lives of all.

This was well and good, but I noticed a number of inroads in church doctrine and practice that ran counter to this fundamental teaching. Here are three:

[1] A subversive saying started to circulate round about the church and permeate the consciousness of the whole. It went something like this. “It is true we always have our agency, but to obtain exaltation in heaven we must give up part of that agency.” The implication was that we must use our free agency to give up our agency. And who were we to give our agency to? The church leaders of course – the arm of flesh.

[2] The church’s refusal to allow any thinking or speaking outside the box. And what was the box? The box was what the current crop of authorities said it was. This could be different from what it was yesterday or will be tomorrow. The box was what is accepted today and is not to be questioned, written or spoken contrary to, or one will lose his membership, and in the eyes of authorities, eternal salvation.

[3] The emphasis on blind obedience. I saw the attitude in many of the faithful that they would do whatever the Prophet or General Authorities said without question, no matter what it was. Fortunately, they were not commanded to do anything really outrageous, but who knew what the future would hold? The present conditioning could lay the foundation for a future inquisition where the obedient may do great harm to their fellow men.

This lack of respect for free agency, more than any other, made the church indigestible to me and doomed my membership.

And what do I hear almost thirty years later? Now the church is not even pretending to emphasize free agency but has replaced it with emphasis on blind obedience. Why am I not surprised?

Unfortunately, this trend is not restricted to the Mormon church. It seems that many of the peoples throughout the world are blindly obeying their authorities wherever they may be lurking.

We have a major problem with extreme Islamists who blindly obey their leaders to the extent they will strap on bombs and kill themselves to murder the innocent because some authority promises them virgins and great rewards in heaven.

We have two parties in the U.S. and other countries who vote in lockstep with their party authorities. This is happening as never before.

We have a media that filters its news to force predetermined conclusions. Some see through the deception but many blindly accept the “consensus” point of view.

The idea that most global warming is an apocalyptic threat is a perfect example. Because the major media only presents one side, it is accepted without question by the majority who blindly accept what they are told.

We have an educational system that is leaning more toward indoctrination than teaching unbiased facts. One thing I liked about the sixties was that there was a questioning of authority, especially by the young people. A popular bumper sticker said, “Question Authority.” Today few students question what they are taught and seem unaware when indoctrination is taking place.

This blind obedience has also crept into the scientific world. This should be the last place we find it, as a scientist is supposed to be trained to look at the facts and examine what is. Instead, many are taking predetermined notions and doing with it the same thing the media does with news. They filter the facts, leave out what does not agree with their mindset and present many erroneous conclusions. This problem is more prevailing now than any other in my lifetime.

One of the problems that exacerbates this is most scientists are dependent on funding in order to do their research and often to keep their jobs. They know that if their science does not agree with the source of the funding they may be out of a job. The result is often biased, unscientific and wrong conclusions that seem to be supported by science.

Because authorities then present conclusions that seem to be supported by science the majority believe without question.

The point here is there is a trend toward unquestioning blind obedience in all areas of life by all the peoples of the world. This trend is much bigger than the Mormon church or religion. It seems that many are approaching non religious parts of life as if they are set in a religious dogma.

So, are we doomed to continue to slip into an unending spiral of blindly accepting authority without question?

There are glimmers of hope. Fortunately, there are always a handful of intelligent voices in the media. Also, for the first time in history, we have the internet where every opinion one can imagine is available. This still doesn’t help the dogmatic person for he will ignore sites that do not agree with his preconceived notions. On the other hand, it is a boon to those on the fence and the curious. Many of these are reading both sides to the various issues and are being persuaded by the truth – wherever it may lie.

All cycles end and this cycle that is drifting toward blind obedience will one day shift toward a more questioning attitude. Let us hope that day is in the near future.

The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me. -Ayn Rand

Feb 17, 2007

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