Our priesthood lesson in High Priests quorum this morning was based on a talk by President Eyring from the October 2008 general conference titled O Ye That Embark. As part of the lesson, the instructor went around the room and we were each to tell of some experience we had as part of a calling where we learned something.
When it came to me, I spoke of an experience from my mission. My companion and I had just opened up a new area. The branch president had called us into his office and told us of a part member family where the husband was an inactive member and his wife was very anti-Mormon. He then gave us explicit instructions to not visit them. A few weeks later, my companion and I both had a strong impression that we should visit the family - and, to make a long story short, the husband became active and his wife was baptized. The thing I learned from that experience is the importance of following our own personal inspiration. To this day, we still exchange Christmas cards with this family.
As I sat there listening to others tell of their experiences, it occurred to me that many of them spoke of a time when they had been asked to do something which was difficult for them and the blessings they gained from following their leaders counsel. I began to reflect on the contrast of our experiences. While others spoke of the importance of obedience - I spoke of open rebellion and doing what we believe is right regardless of what others are telling us.
I began to think of other things I've done throughout my life where my actions were not in harmony with what I've been taught - nothing big, just little things - but I did them because I believed it was the right thing to do. I've always felt it was more important to live the spirit of the law rather than blind obedience to the letter of the law. Mind you, I don't advocate disobeying the law simply because I think it's dumb; but, when it comes down to doing what somebody else it telling me to do verses doing what I believe is the right thing to do - I will follow my heart.
Authoritarians believe following the spirit, but not the letter of the law, is the same as disobeying the law - arguing that allowing others to follow their own interpretation of the law results in anarchy. I've always had a problem respecting authoritarian type people - another character flaw of mine.