LDS, who go to the temple, covenant to live the law of consecration. They promise to give their heart, might, mind, and strength to the building of the kingdom of God. In my late 20’s, I was commuting from Provo to Salt Lake, raising a young family, serving in a church calling that required 10-20 hrs a week, and received an additional calling. I was called in by a stake leader and invited to serve as a temple worker for a six hour shift once a week for three months. This was really tough, given my schedule. Even more tough because I am a huge BYU football fan, it was the start of football season, and the shift was on Saturday during a time I would miss some games. I accepted the calling due to my commitment to living the law of consecration. One could argue that more balance is essential, and I should have been more wise, but I felt good about this sacrifice. As a literal believing LDS, it was pretty black and white to me what the right thing to do was. If I’m asked by a priesthood leader to do something, I’ll try my best to do it.
Jesus has so much to offer, but he asks a lot from his followers.
Mark 10 17-22:
17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.
19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’ ”
20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Joseph Smith on this topic:
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. It was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice because he seeks to do his will, he does know, most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not, nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life.
This is another way of saying “you get out what you put in.” You’re not going to get much out of religion if you don’t invest yourself in it.
A great question. Does the Sacramental Paradigm approach require the sacrifice to produce that kind of faith?
The LDS religion asks a lot of its members. Tithing, Word of Wisdom, full time missions for youth, Law of Chastity, Sabbath Day observance, etc. The literal approach makes it easier to commit to this. I do it because I have to. I do it to get the reward. The reward is exaltation. I do it because I know God commands it.
Does changing to a metaphorical view change all this? The motivations do change. Some nuanced believers may not view all commandments as being directly God given. LDS commandments and prophetic counsel are best viewed as our common set of teachings and standards that we define as the best way to live and exert our faith in. The motivation and the reward is in the spiritual transformation that occurs and the joy and peace that come as fruits of living the LDS Christ-centered life.
This is the question I’ve wrestled with for a few years. At first, this kind of approach felt wishy-washy. If everyone shifted to this paradigm, would this be the end of missions, tithing, home teaching? But as I’ve tested this myself for a few years, I see that it for myself, the motivation to live the commandments is still strong, despite not having the motivations based in literal belief.
In theory, fine. But in practice?
It’s not difficult to look at various religions and see a strong correlation with how literal the religion is taught and how much discipline the religion commands. The extreme example being Islamic Fundamentalists who would die for their religion in an act of terrorism. Mainline Christian churches are generally deemed to be not as devoted to their religion as the more literal branch of American Protestantism, Evangelical Christians.
Another more relevant comparison might be the difference between the LDS Church and the Community of Christ (formerly known as the Reorganized LDS Church). The CoC went through a liberalization period where they did, intellectually, exactly what I favor. ie backed off historicity of BOM claims, backed off the exclusivity claims that come out of the First Vision, allow metaphorical views of Christ, etc. But I hope that if we do that, we don’t follow the same pattern in terms of how serious the average member takes their religion. This change for CoC also resulted in dramatic drop in activity levels, drop in tithing, drop in volunteer service, and severe financial problems. I don’t want these things for the LDS church. I hope we can continue with the same level of activity. Our kids will still serve missions. We will still pay tithing. We will still devote our time in service.
The best way for this to happen is for the LDS Church to start talking about the value proposition of following the prophet and obeying the commandments to be in the spiritual transformation and joy and peace of living that way. If we want to enable any kind of shift towards a sacramental paradigm approach, we need to back off the authoritarian motivations. ie The Book of Mormon is historical, so that means Joseph saw God, so that means he restored the priesthood, so that means the current prophet is called of God, so that means you must follow the prophet. We need to “sell” the gospel in terms of the fruits you enjoy from living it. This is why I focus my efforts in defending Mormonism in the “truth and beauty” of the lived experience of it not in the historical foundations.
We have a beautiful religion, worthy of devoting your all to it, and it doesn’t depend on the foundational claims.