. . . if it were an actual commandment, this message would be followed by a theologically sound explanation . . .”
No, seriously. In one of the many beard discussions, I suggested that perhaps this little bit of Mormondom is simply a test of obedience. Ralph replied:
In all honesty, I guess to get to the heart of the matter, I see people who are ready to jump on the “test of obedience” bandwagon as a bit lazy.
That is NOT intended to be an insult like it sounds.
I just do not believe God or his true chosen leaders need to create anything trivial (or substantive for that matter) as a pure test of obedience without there being more depth or reason.
It seems to be a favorite Sunday School answer in modern times to excuse irrational behavior on the part of our leaders. God doesn’t sit back thinking of ways to test our obedience. His commandments and counsel come from greater depths to benefit US.
Even Christ said the Sabbath was for us, not us for the Sabbath. We don’t exist to be obedient to random rules. Our leaders don’t have callings to create stumbling blocks to see if we’ll stop thinking.
The “test of obedience” thing reminds me eerily of my former brother in law who would randomly create rules to test his kids and when they saw through his ineptitude and disobeyed he’d punish them. Is that the type of God we worship?
I’ll take a different Father in Heaven, thank you.
Very eloquent, Ralph, but I am going to disagree.
Perhaps our best example is the Akedah, or Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac. Could there have been any other purpose to this event than a test of Abraham’s obedience? While many commandments might have purposes other than ‘just testing,’ I am not sure that we can limit God by saying ‘every command will have a reason.’ What would be the justification for this?
I’d also like to note that one of the factors making the Akedah a particularly good test of obedience is Abraham’s background of, and presumed hatred for, the human sacrifices practiced by his own people. So, there is a level of irony here–a crown to the challenge. (We also see this in the parallel story of Hagar and Ishmael in the wilderness, where Hagar being kicked out has an ironic and painful echo of her own decision to leave the camp years previous.) I’d suggest that something like The Beard Rule is a good candidate for being a test of obedience, because it does seem ironic that the Church and/or God would care about appearances. I think the SSM debate (which you are welcome to discuss on another thread, not here) may also serve this purpose (i.e., a test of obedience, with the ironic level given the Church’s history with polygamy) for some of the Saints.
However, I do agree with Ralph that it would not be a good idea to knee-jerk with every commandment we don’t understand and claim that it is just there to test our obedience. I am not sure what we might do to stop that from happening, however. Can we articulate a standard?
P.S.–If there are any teenagers reading this, my brother got a lot of mileage out of the following for several years:
Child: “Just testing.”