A basic distinction which I draw in my attempts to undermine intellectualism, a distinction which I think serves to highlight the contingent nature of the intellectual’s values, is between a pre-modern/religious worldview and a modern/secular worldview. Very briefly, the ways in which statements and actions are justified within a pre-modern, religious worldview include appeals to authority, tradition and revelation. By contrast, within a modern-secular worldview statements and actions are justified by appeals to egalitarianism, logical coherence and empirical data. So many of the debates in the bloggernacle can profitably be construed as a competition as to which of these worldviews is the uniquely right way to view some phenomenon.
One such phenomenon which I would like to briefly discuss is that of loyal obedience to the prophets. Those who see the world through secular lenses are very ambivalent toward such a loyal obedience. They worry that any obedience which is too loyal, meaning that it is not constrained by the secular values mentioned above, amounts to a blind abdication of personal responsibility amounting to “blind obedience’. Phrased differently, they worry that if these secular values are not able to constrain loyal obedience then we are left with something akin to Lucifer’s plan wherein we don’t really have any responsibility or choice worthy of those words. This worry is only valid, however, if the loyal obedience to the prophets is not constrained by anything at all and to be sure, secular intellectuals do think that if their values do not constrain obedience to the prophets, then nothing does.
Such, however, is simply not the case. Remember, that the vast majority of human action throughout history has been constrained not by secular values, but by religious values. Significantly, within the religious worldview of which Mormonism is very much a part loyal obedience to authority is not the only value – although it certainly is one of them. Within the religious worldview, we are not only expected to follow our duly appointed authorities, but we are also expected to constrain this obedience by an active and frequent consultation with tradition (as found in the scriptures, moral institutions, etc.) and revelation (by way of personal prayer). Consequently, the loyal obedience to the prophets within the religious tradition is by no means blind, even if it is not at all constrained by egalitarianism, logical coherence or empirical data. If anything, the faithful follower is able to see the true nature of their obedience better than the secularist whose vision is continually clouded by values which were never meant to be co-exist alongside a loyal obedience to the prophets.