DANGER! DANGER! The Spirit of the Law

As promised, here’s a look at some of the possible dangers of embracing a ‘Spirit of the Law’ understanding of the Gospel. These are not necessarily connected with such an understanding, but from my experience are more closely linked with the ‘Spirit of the Law’ than the ‘Letter of the Law’. I still believe that there is more value than harm in a ‘Spirit of the Law’ understanding, but recognize that there are some tendencies if aspects of that understanding are extrapolated and applied incorrectly, that could lead to negative and spiritually damaging results.
Sometimes being obvious is necessary. 
Many of these difficulties are related to those that come for those that tend to the progressive, liberal or intellectual side of the spectrum, so as I address the concerns it may be with slightly broader strokes that touch a bit more than the narrowed realm of the Spirit of the Law.
Here are the three main issues that can arise from the ‘Spirit of the Law’ worldview:
1.    Motivations Trump Actions
2.    Discount the Role of Authority
3.    Relativistic Worldview
To address them one by one, beginning, naturally, with the first.
1.    Motivations Trump Actions
While operating under the SL worldview, it can become tempting and alluring to say that motivations matter more than actions. Motivations play an undeniably large role in determining the quality and righteousness of our behavior, but I feel that this attitude can become a scapegoat for inaction. If taken to far, all one needs to do is want to do good—to hope that good and light will triumph, whilst sitting by doing nothing. I think that the well-known Batman quote is particularly applicable here, “It’s not who I am underneath, but what I do that defines me.”
Batman understands that our motivations must translate into action or they are meaningless. We cannot be defined by our motivation, unless that motivation is manifest in choices. The SL understanding complicates this, by forcing us to really examine someone’s motivations, circumstances and overall situation before making a judgment call, while a legalistic, Letter of the Law interpreter could rather simply distinguish between what was and was not ‘right’.
2.    Discount the Role of Authority
As the SL framework relies inherently on personal revelation, there may be a tendency to dismiss authority figures and revelation and guidance that they may receive on our behalf. The balance between personal revelation and priesthood authority can be a difficult one to strike and is an incredibly personal journey and decision. There are certain things that are required for full participation as a member, but they are relatively few and still up to the individual to interpret and apply as they understand, in most situations—leaving the process between an individual and the Lord.
It can be tempting to discount quotes and statements from priesthood leadership when it conflicts with our personal understanding. However, I think it is important to maintain humility and to always strive to reconcile what we hear with what we have felt. To bring a sense of harmony and to always be ready to reinterpret our past understandings, while also being able to recognize the fallibility of Church leadership. Mistakes are made and those should not cause trauma that damages our eternal salvation. Finding the harmony with personal and authoritative revelation is important and individual.
3.    Relativistic Worldview
While adopting a SL framework, it can be tempting to slip into a purely relativistic worldview, where right and wrong is dictated by circumstance and culture, with no absolutes. Such an approach is more complex than I can really go into here, but I personally believe that there are absolutes, but that those absolutes are more nuanced and involved than simple shall’s and shalt not’s can truly convey. Thus the need for the SL worldview. Again, the possibility is that all things become free game.
I think we need to understand that under typical circumstances, the letter of the law suffices, but that the Spirit of the Law provides, if anything, a stricter interpretation of what we should and should not do. This may occasionally violate the Letter of the Law, but generally speaking is in line with grander principles than the simplistic expressions that we have convey.
He’s about to say something very important. You can tell from his raised fingers, poised for bringing dramatic emphasis.
The words of Albus Dumbledore are fitting here (taken from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the film, although, the text is largely in the book, albeit not in quite the same construction as it is presented in the film).
“Dark and difficult times lie ahead. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.”

We all face difficult times. I think it is particularly important in following the Spirit of the Law to understand that we should be choosing what is right and not what is easy (at least most of the time. It is possible that the easy and the right choose are the same, depending on how good and pure your soul is. Although, choosing right may be like Wolverine letting out his claws, “It hurts every time…”)

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