Last Sunday in priesthood class we were reading chapter 22 of the lesson manual. There were several quotes of Joseph Smith's relative to our responsibility in regard learning (quotes I give in this post are all cited in that lesson manual). Yet, sadly, I found so much of the class ready to just hand their learning over to another person/s. For example the last statement of the lesson material quotes the following-
"God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them.." Joseph Smith (History of the Church 3:380, 1839 discourse reported by Willard Richards).
This was interpreted to mean that we should just listen to prophets and apostles. Yet the statement to me teaches exactly the opposite. Joseph Smith is trying to inform members generally and the Twelve that they can have personal revelation, rather than thinking that they have to wait for prophets to tell them.
If we are to believe that all our new knowledge must come from prophets then we are in a sad state indeed. The last new (ie. never having been revealed to the church generally, of, at least, recent times) thing a prophet said was by Spencer W. Kimball in regard the priesthood in 1978. Over thirty years ago!
Are we to believe that this is what Joseph Smith meant in his quote above? Is this the least Saint coming to "know all things as fast as he can bear them"?
I had someone leave a comment, on this site, saying, in accusational form, that I had a preoccupation with theology. I had to, obviously, be complemented by this attempted slur. Yet this also further increased my concern in regard the laziness that so many in the church demonstrate toward their own salvation. Here we are, a people saying we want to be Gods and Godesses, and this person is suggesting that my interest in theology (the study of the things of God) is a bad thing. That almost sends shivers down my spine, considering that I think I know (online) who the person was (a church member).
The doctrinal responsibility of the prophet for the church is to give that which can be accepted by the weak and weakest of Saints (D&C 89:3). Must we remain no further raised in doctrine than that?
If we want eternal life we must begin to think like that which we plan to be. We must be getting more knowledge of what God is doing and why. We must come to think as God thinks. Christ prayed that his believers would be one with him and the Father (John 17:21-23). This oneness can only be acheived when we do that which the Father would do. How can we do such without knowing the thoughts and feelings of the Father? No man can teach us this, no matter how eloquent his speaking ability. Only the Father can help us understand how he feels. And the Holy Ghost is the only continued instructor.
I certainly don't advocate that we shouldn't listen to prophets, of course. But it must be remembered that our gaining of eternal life can only be acheived by us taking on the responsibility for our own learning beyond the basics. There are no Gods with only a basic knowledge.
Joseph Smith made it plain that if the members wait to just learn it from prophets they will only receive backward doctrine _
"The Israelites prayed that God would speak to Moses and not to them; in consequence of which he cursed them with a carnal law." Joseph Smith (History of the Church, 5:555, Aug. 27 1843)
To learn the greater laws we must accept responsibility for our own learning.
"Joseph Smith taught that every man and woman should seek the Lord for wisdom, that they might get knowledge from Him who is the fountain of knowledge.." George A. Smith (Deseret News: Semiweekly; Nov 29 1870)
"The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man: if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity- thou must commune with God." Joseph Smith (History of the Church 3:295-296, Mar 20 1839)
Should we believe our own soul will gain salvation without following this instruction?
"..A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge..." Joseph Smith (History of the Church, 4:588, Apr 10 1842)
So will I have to wait yet another 30 years before I get more knowledge from the prophet to help me in my salvation? Christ may well be here by then, for his second coming, and it could be a bit late.
Joseph Smith has plainly taught that it is up to us to do something serious about learning the things of God, beyond that which any man can teach us.
My advice, beyond taking Joseph Smith's words seriously, is to remember to keep your feet on the ground while your head is in the clouds, or you may find yourself carried away by strange winds. In other words use your heart and the Spirit as well as your head. And seek knowledge for righteous reasons, rather than the vanity of having others consider you wise.