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Rebellion is about taking free will in our hands

March 6, 2010

Free will. Rebellion. Loyalty. Obedience.

My brother needed our car this weekend to attend a leadership/training event for one of his clubs. I didn’t necessarily see a way that such a transfer could work out well…he was 1.5 hours away, and his training would be at least 7 hours away…meanwhile, I am on my internship, so getting to work every day is crucial to me. I wanted to help him, but I couldn’t see any solutions that would be fair to us both that I would want to consider.

He had a suggestion about taking taxis. I wasn’t very thrilled about that, but I was fully prepared to just go along with the plan. I felt from the beginning that I’d probably acquiesce no matter what, but when my mom also suggested the plan, I was on board and committed to the course of action.

I like to think that this story shows how close-knit my family is becoming. We have one another’s back and I love that.

But were things always this way? Definitely not.

I know that my brother and I didn’t always get along this well. We never had a terrible relationship, but I guess it wasn’t until a while back that we realized that we must be each other’s biggest ally and fan.

But that’s for brothers! My relationship with my parents would still be different.

I know that that relationship has changed over time. I wouldn’t say that I was particularly…rebellious…as a teen (at least, not in contrast to the rebelliousness of some others I know)…I’m sure my parents would disagree. Such is life. But I can reflect upon a time when I said something that clearly could be taken as rebellious.

I remember that one day I went into my parent’s bedroom and said, “You can’t make me do anything. I will only do what I want to do.”

So simple. So matter-of-factly. They didn’t flip out. I wonder what would’ve happened if they had?

This was a crucial statement for me to say. It was one of the most meaningful comments I had for my parents, I think. It changed my relationship with them, I think.

The interesting part is that I think it changed it for the better. While I of course used such a statement to refuse to do certain things, after making such a statement, I feel like I obeyed my parents in “bigger” issues a lot more after the statement. Huh…why would that be?

I think that I needed to make such a statement for myself. As a kid, I obeyed because that’s what kids do. It’s expected. You’ll get punished if you don’t, and you are driven by the fear of punishment.

But when I was growing up and becoming something other than a kid, I wanted to throw off those shackles. So I had to establish my independence. I had to take free will in my hands. And that is, I believe, what that comment was about.

Some time afterward, I think my mom asked me about that. Why, if they couldn’t make me do anything, was I more obedient?

I thought the answer was simple. They weren’t making me be obedient. I was choosing to obey because I saw the consequences were good. I’d reevaluate with each choice. (I don’t think mom was too thrilled with that answer.)

Over time, this has developed. Whenever I have big decisions, I call, email, text, whatever, for guidance. And when I get the guidance, I usually put what I was doing down and do what they advise…or at least, give *quite* a bit of thought to it. Interestingly enough, from the earliest “rebellious” comment, I have become more loyal than anything else…to the family’s needs. So that is why it was easy for me to just give up the car to my brother. Family: serious business.

What I thought about all of this was: isn’t this how our relationship to the church is supposed to be? And yet, for me and many others, it is not. Why is that?

I think that the Mormon church makes some missteps, and we as individuals get derailed.

For example, I think growing up in the church, I’ve always felt like the “child” who obeys because that is what children do. You’ll lose blessings if you don’t, and you’re driven by the fear of forgone blessings. For all the talk about free will, I feel like many people — maybe me included — don’t take it in their hands. So they go to church meetings, fast, pay tithes, whatever, because obedience is golden, obedience is for blessings, obedience, obedience, obedience. They don’t dare skip a beat to test their free will because they are in the routine.

As I’ve written before, though, when I was able to say no to all of the routine, that had a similar effect to me as my comments to my parents have had with my relationship to the family. I can’t quite say that I am at a point (or will ever be at the point) where I will put whatever I’m doing down to obey the church’s advice, but isn’t it interesting how I’ve paid more attention to General Conference, more attention to the scriptures, and more attention to LDS conversation and blogging from the outside than I ever did on the inside? I recently got a comment by email, and I think this person was spot on:

Ironically, I enjoy thinking, talking, and reading about Mormonism now more than I ever did when it was supposed a matter of belief – a matter that caused me no end of nagging discomfort and vague guilt and choking to construct public statements that felt positive but were passive enough for me to live with (“In the Church, it’s believed…” or “Most Mormons feel…”) I’ve found that identifying and taking responsibility for my own thoughts and feelings lets me look at Mormonism with a more loving, less judgmental eye than I had when I felt the pressure of actually having a dog in that particular fight.

Even if the *church* would probably say they still see only rebellion in me, I feel like to my *culture* I have become loyal.


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  1. Carson N permalink

    This is why I’m against forced internet filtering in the home. Besides the fact that internet filters don’t work, it changes the perspective from “I shouldn’t visit that website because it’s harmful” to “I can’t visit that website because it’s blocked.” This pits parents against the kids in a technology war (that kids often win) and removes the feeling of responsibility from the kid by casting these websites in a tempting, forbidden fruit hue, while implicitly labeling all the other unblocked websites as perfectly appropriate.

  2. While I tend to agree, Carson, I feel like this could be stretched to undesired extremes.

  3. Carson N permalink

    Afraid I might go off the deep end? 😉

  4. I ultimately am not afraid for *you*. Nope, not at all.

    What I’m afraid for is some kid who is ignorant. Now, in the vast majority of cases, ignorance doesn’t have the potential to ruin everything. But what I fear are the things that can kill/maim/disable only after one time.

    But I still see your point that just forbidding these things misses the point and can be counterintuitive…

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