Thursday, December 16, 2010


A few weeks ago at church we had a guest speaker present a talk on the subject of obedience. Obedience is a common theme lately in LDS meetings. Despite the scriptural support to the contrary you’d think it was the greatest commandment in the law.

Anyway, the purpose of this post is to express my puzzlement with a motivational story that was given during the talk. This speaker closed his 20 minute talk with a story about a boy who was lost in a mine. A group of boys had gone into a mine and one of the boys got separated form the rest of the group. When he didn’t come out they went back and retraced their steps. When they still didn’t find him the authorities were called and a full search was initiated.

A local man felt the need to go volunteer his services since he was familiar with the mine. When he showed up on site he was sent back home by the authorities, who assured him that they had it under control. This happened a few days in a row. The local man offered his services and was sent home every time.

On something like the forth or fifth day of the search the authorities were no closer to finding the boy and announced that they were going to call off the search. One last time the local man went and pleaded with the authorities to be allowed to look for the boy. They reluctantly agreed. Being more familiar with the mine than any of the other searchers so, far he was able to check out a little known passage and he found the boy in about 20 minutes.

Now here is my question. How in the world is a story about the virtues of obedience? If the boy had been obedient to his leaders in the first place he wouldn’t have been alone. If the leaders had been obedient to scout policy they wouldn’t have been in a mine in the first place. But they were not the focus of the story. The most glaring problem I had with it was the prime focus of the story, the local man’s actions. Since he knew the mine better if he had been disobedient and defied the so-called authorities the boy would have likely been found days earlier. I saw this as a story about perseverance to do what you know is right in spite of what you are being told, but obedience?

Sometimes I really enjoy the talks at church. Sometimes I may disagree with the concept but still understand it from their perspective. But this one just eluded me completely. I just couldn’t see how in the world this story would support the idea that we need to be obedient.


  1. That is really odd. It really sounds as if the speaker undermined his own point. If you get feedback from someone else in attendance who has another interpretation, please share it.

  2. The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailors, constables, posse comitatus, etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgement or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can be perhaps manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs. Yet such as these even are commonly esteemed good citizens. Others serve the state chiefly with their heads; and, as they rarely make moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the Devil, without intending it, as God. A very few serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and are commonly treated as enemies by it.

    Henry David Thoreau
    Civlil Disobedience

  3. Excellent quote, Jim.
    I too felt myself reflecting on Civil Disobedience during this speech. I'm paraphrasing but Thoreau believed that when authority acted immorally it was a requirement of moral people to defy that authority.