Guest Post: Liberation Through Obedience

by Blaire Ostler

You might find yourself scoffing at the title of this post, but hear me out. For me, obedience in my religion is quite liberating, especially as a woman. Here’s why.

God gave us the greatest commandment through Jesus Christ. The greatest commandment is to love God and love each other. All other commandments hinge on this commandment. If any other command or request conflicts with the first commandment of thou shalt love, it should be reworked, reimagined, or discarded. No other command can supersede God’s ultimate commandment to love.

Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22: 36-40)

God didn’t say, ye must be obedient to unrighteous authoritarians, tyrants, and patriarchs. God didn’t say, ye must be obedient to homophobic, transphobic, racist, sexist ideals. God didn’t say ye must vote according to the political requests of your religious institution. God didn’t say ye shall not seek after priesthood ordination. God didn’t say ye must take all commands unquestionably, ye shall not doubt religious leaders, or ye shall obey all requests from patriarchs like robots. No. God didn’t say these things.

God said love me and love your neighbor. No other commandment, rule, policy, or request may conflict with the first. This is the commandment that all other commandments hinge upon. Which is explicit permission to disobey a teaching that conflicts with the greatest commandment to love.

Any patriarch who is telling you to obey a command that conflicts with love is acting as a false prophet. False prophets will tell you to obey at the expense of God’s first commandment, to love. They may even try to manipulate you into believing a command, policy, and regulation is made from their ‘so-called’ love. However, if their ‘so-called’ love doesn’t promote life, flourishing, and joy it is not love. (2 Nephi 2:25, Moses 1:39) They preach falsehoods and should be resisted through strict obedience to God’s first commandment.

For me it is not a matter of if we should be obedient, but rather how we should be obedient.

How do we obey? How do we love?

Obedience fundamentally requires agency, and that we think and act as free agents. God will not micromanage our obedience to his commandment to love God and each other. “For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.” (D&C 58:26) Furthermore, we “should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness.” (D&C 58:27) Obedience to God’s greatest command is not simple, dogmatic, or easy. It requires your thoughtful engagement as a free agent. At times you must disobey an unrighteous authority to obey a higher authority—love.

God is not interested in robotic obedience or we wouldn’t have a need for agency—that was Satan’s plan. We must be agents unto ourselves, and free ourselves of tyrannical falsehoods which equivocate obedience to God’s law of universal love with dogmatic compliance to authority. These are not the same. Each person has the right and responsibility to obey God’s commandments according to the dictates of their conscience with an open heart and willing mind. (Article of Faith 11, D&C 64:34).

In this context, obedience to God’s greatest commandment can liberate us from dogma, tyranny, apathy, and thoughtlessness. If the greatest commandment is to love, by all means, be obedient. Obey God with every fiber of your being. God is love. (1 John 4:8) Feel love in your bones—let it motivate your every thought, decision, and action. It is in obedience to God’s commandment to love one another that we are free to act as agents.

We have been taught correct principles and it is now time to govern ourselves.

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4 Responses

  1. anon says:

    Yes, love is liberating. Yet the challenge we still face is in understanding and making decisions about what is truly love, and how is that manifest. I think this is where our conflicts arise. I think almost all people within the church would agree that love is supreme, yet they/we don’t agree on which actions to take to demonstrate that love. To each of us it seems like common sense, and is baffling when someone else acts differently. Ultimately we must each decide on our own how we show that love.

    • Eliza says:

      Hmmmm, I think that, as with most things, we can actually look to Christ for an extraordinarily reliable example of how to demonstrate love. The disagreement generally occurs when we try to subsume Christ’s very clear directive under our established political or personal value system.

  2. April says:

    If you have been raised on a steady stream of fear mongering and othering lectures it can be difficult to tune in and follow intuition. It takes a lot of trial and error to correct. Once we have developed skills to receive revelation it is important to check those powers each time we think our body is receiving instructions on what someone else should be doing in their body. I find it most helpful to ask others what they want, need, or find peace in doing or being. If it differs from what I think, I defer to them and do my best to respect every child of God as the expert on themselves. (Which is difficult when I deeply believe I am right and they are wrong!)Love your neighbor the way your neighbor wants to be loved. Don’t guess at what that looks like. Ask them!

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