Last week in my ward, the Sunday school lesson included 1 Samuel 15, where Samuel speaks for God and tells Saul, “go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.”
So Saul kills the Amalekites, except the king, while sparing the best animals, ostensibly for sacrifice. Then, as is well known, Samuel tells him that “to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” Followed by this: “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.”
1 Samuel 15 is an extreme example from the Holy Bible, extreme in that Samuel says God says to massacre, and extreme in that obedience is defined here such that taking human lives is scarcely an afterthought. But it raises important issues for less extreme examples too. At what point does obedience become a cult? And what are the dangers of speaking for God?