Monday, January 05, 2009

Our Responsibility VS Listening to Prophets

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.

15 comments:

Anthony E. Larson said...

Well put, Doug. I find my fellow Mormons to be both intellectually and spiritually lazy. They all seem to suffer the Cowdery syndrome. Joseph Smith wanted informed and enlightened believers, as you so aptly pointed out.

You may wish to read my thoughts on this matter:
http://mormonprophecy.blogspot.com/2008/10/last-lecture-speech-outline.html
and
http://mormonprophecy.blogspot.com/2008/10/cinderella-story.html

My question: So, how do we jar them out of their stupor? How to you combat apathy? If you really want to contribute to the betterment of your fellow Saints, how do you shake them out of their trance? I've tried everything I know, only to be rebuffed and reviled for my trouble. Any suggestions?

Doug Towers said...

Anthony

I read your first post, and will read the second one later. Very good stuff.

As to your questions, even Heavenly Father would like to hear the answers to those.

I must admit that I have had some success (in all fairness). In fact I could say that I have had a great amount of success. Unfortunately it seems to be mostly with the females and almost the opposite with males.

Females seem to be able to grasp the point of a truly loving God (being more into heart issues). The idea sounds good to them. This has probably allowed them to consider more carefully what I'm on about. And this could be why I have had the foundation of such success, to build upon.

But overall I have to empathise with what you have said. The Israelites were told that if they put their hand on the lamb it would take away their sins. Yet, in a literal sense, that isn't true. Those attending the temple today have not learnt anything from that. They still think that the mere performance of actions, in the temple, will make it real.

Yet, as you say, it is difficult for people to get off those chairs. If you place a bomb under them you aren't regarded very well. You have threatened their comfortable seating position.

Thanks for your comment.

Amonhi said...

WOW, I really like that you have put this site and your comments together! On this topic, I have so many quotes it would make your head spin. Here are 2 I really like...

"There are those among this people who are influenced, controlled, and biased in their thoughts, actions, and feelings by some other individual or family, on whom they place their dependence for spiritual and temporal instruction, and for salvation in the end. These persons do not depend upon themselves for salvation, but upon another of their poor, weak, fellow mortals. I do not depend upon any inherent goodness of my own, say they, to introduce me into the kingdom of glory, but I depend upon you, brother Joseph, upon you, brother Brigham, upon you, brother Heber, or upon you, brother James; I believe your judgment is superior to mine, and consequently I let you judge for me; your spirit is better than mine, therefore you can do good for me; I will submit myself wholly to you, and place in you all my confidence for life and salvation; where you go I will go, and where you tarry there I will stay; expecting that you will introduce me through the gates into the heavenly Jerusalem....Now those men, or those women, who know no more about the power of God, and the influences of the Holy Spirit, than to be led entirely by another person, suspending their own understanding, and pinning their faith upon another's sleeve, will never be capable of entering into the celestial glory, to be crowned as they anticipate; they will never be capable of becoming Gods. They cannot rule themselves, to say nothing of ruling others, but they must be dictated to in every trifle, like a child. They cannot control themselves in the least, but James, Peter, or somebody else must control them, They never can become Gods, nor be crowned as rulers with glory, immortality, and eternal lives. They never can hold scepters of glory, majesty, and power in the celestial kingdom. Who will? Those who are valiant and inspired with the true independence of heaven, who will go forth boldly in the service of their God, leaving others to do as they please, determined to do right, though all mankind besides should take the opposite course." (Brigham Young, presented in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on February 20, 1853, found in Journal of Discourses, 1:312)

"We have heard men who hold the priesthood remark, that they would do anything that they were told to do by those who preside over them, if they knew it was wrong: but such obedience is worse than folly to us; it is slavery in the extreme; and the man who would thus willingly degrade himself, should not claim rank among intelligent beings, until he turns from his folly. A man of God...would despise the idea. Others in the extreme exercise of their almighty authority have taught that such obedience was necessary, and that no matter what the saints were told to do by their presidents, they should do it without asking any questions. When Elders of Israel will so far indulge in these extreme notions of obedience as to teach them to the people, it is generally because they have it in their minds to do wrong themselves." (Apostle Samuel Richards on Nov. 13, 1852, recorded in the Millennial Star, 14:393-395)

But in the end, people have to find the interest themselves. Here's the trick, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink." BUT, you can feed him SALT which makes him thirsty and he will choose to drink for himself.

The salt we give can't be the answers, that is the water, (water of Life). Instead, we give them questions that unsettle them and make them want to drink or find the answers. Ask them real questions, not questions which can be answered easily without using the seminary memorized answer. Ask them questions just above their current level of understanding so they can comprehend the question and why it makes a difference. Then let them suck on the salt for a while before asking them if they found an answer. This is really hard to do for guys like us who are well studied because we have so much to share. Then when they come back with excitement because they found an answer, you let them revel in the feeling as long as they can. Don’t squash it by saying you already know or you have a better answer, rather let them astound you. Go away and consider it further and then come back LATER with another question (same topic or a different topic). And repeat the process until they become like us and begin to create their own questions.

Doug Towers said...

Amonhi

Thanks for the quotes. They are good ones.

And I enjoyed your points.

I am at present having quite a lot of success with passing on doctrinal ideas. I don't know that all are catching the vision of searching, but some are.

I am mostly having success with women. But some of that could be contributable to the fact that I am presently single, and enough seem to want to change that status.

Yet, in all fairness, I must say that they aren't all single women who take on the idea of using the Holy Ghost as guide. And some, even single, have taken it very seriously.

I'm still struggling with the guys. Perhaps I need to change my brand of salt.

Amonhi said...

Doug, you said, "They still think that the mere performance of actions, in the temple, will make it real."

This reminds me of something I read, I can't remember the blog source but it made me really think. It said,

"Wow, very interesting, I think we have now proven that President Romney was incorrect on this matter. Also, that Nephi, son of Helaman, did not receive the Sealing power, (with all its covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations), because he did not get it by the “laying on of hands from the “anointed servant” via a required physical ordinance as you said, (Hel. 10). He must have only received the promise that he would receive it as soon as someone could perform the physical ordinance. And the Lamanites who were baptized with Fire and with the Holy Ghost at the time of their conversion, before physical ordinances were performed, (3Ne. 9:20), and knew it not, did not actually receive a remission of their sins which comes not from water but from the baptism of fire and Holy Ghost, (2Ne. 31:13-14, 17),. And God is not powerful enough to perform True life giving spiritual ordinances without the physical dead works performed by authorized servants.

D&C 84:23-27 points out that the Law of Moses is given to those who cannot “behold the face of God”. (This currently applies to the majority of the church membership.) It includes, among other things the Aaronic/Levitical Priesthood, repentance, baptism, the law of carnal commandments and more…

D&C 22:2-3 takes the above information and seems to contradict a myriad of scriptures by saying:
“Wherefore, although a man should be baptized an hundred times it availeth him nothing, for you cannot enter in at the strait gate by the law of Moses, neither by your dead works.
For it is because of your dead works that I have caused this last covenant and this church to be built up unto me, even as in days of old.”

But the Law of Moses includes the authority of the Aaronic Priesthood to perform baptism. And isn’t baptism the straight gate by which we enter? And yet here the Lord says we can’t enter in at the straight gate by the Law of Moses and its authorized Aaronic Priesthood baptism, or by any of our dead works (physical works/ordinances which in themselves do not bring life). (see also Heb. 6:1-6, Moro. 8:22-23, 2Ne. 25:24-27)

Can a person be baptized by Aaronic Priesthood authority and NOT receive the sealing promise that the baptism is accepted by God? I think we all agree, “yes” on this point. And as the baptism itself is a dead work and ordinance, even with the authority of the Aaronic Priesthood, where then is the Living Work or Ordinance that brings life and progression? It is not in the physical symbol of baptism, it is in the spiritual which the physical symbol points to.

The Children of Israel thought that their ordinances and sacrifices brought life, so too do we, (Mosiah 13:27-32, 2Ne. 25:24-27). And it is because of our reliance on dead works that this church, (with it’s covenants), was built up unto God, (D&C 22:3). So we are given laws and ordinances which point to life but which are not the life in themselves. All this is done to teach us and increase our knowledge because “we are saved no sooner than we can gain knowledge” and accept or reject the higher ways.

“That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.
Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made…
Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.
Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster…
And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” - Gal. 3."

What are your thoughts on this?

Doug Towers said...

Amonhi

Again I find myself thanking you for some good quotes.

I completely agree with what you've quoted.

In the law of Moses people were told that if they brought a sacrifice to the temple and placed their hands on it, their sins would be transfered to the lamb/kid.

We know that the sacrifice couldn't take their sins away at all. Yet the ordinance said so.

Members would realise today that it meant that those people had to place their sins upon Christ to have them forgiven. And that those actions could only point to the real actions which needed to take place.

Ordinances are like parables. The apostles asked Christ why he taught in parables. He said that hearing they hear not, and seeing they see not.

This is what symbolism is about. It points to the spiritual reality that you must apply to obtain the desired result.

Not all people are ready for these instructions. So God gives the lesson in hidden form.

To have an eternal marriage you must acheive the spiritual objectives hidden in the sessions you do.

By thus doing you will satisfy, by your living, those requirements to pass (surpass) the angels and become eternal parents.

Baptism is done by every member. Yet the real occurrance of its meaning in the heart is rare. And it is that which counts.

Amonhi said...

Doug,

I agree. I appreciate your comments. I do not believe many can see that because of the strong emphasis on having authority to perform dead works. I believe that the one purpose for authorized agents to perform the physical works is to ensure the symbols are performed correctly so they accurately point to the true spiritual ordinance.

Understanding the symbols is very important. As you said regarding the temple endowment, many receive the ordinance but few receive the blessing and are "endowed with power from on high."

Regarding this topic of our responsibility to follow leaders, Here is an article that tells us to follow our leaders by following their footsteps rather than there directions blindly. The article is about how to make your calling and election sure and points out that we must build on the "rock from which we cannot fall". When we can't fall anymore, then we qualify to receive our calling and election made sure because we can't fall. It especially emphasizes the role of the Holy Ghost as essential to receiving that blessing and provides multiple examples of the very moment, mode & manor that others received it suggesting that we will likely receive the blessing in the same way.

http://elliaison.com/Articles/Fulness%20of%20Gospel.pdf

I would love to know your thoughts about that article.

Thanks,
Amonhi

Doug Towers said...

Amonhi

I will read through the item you've suggested and comment next week.

Doug Towers said...

Amonhi

In regard the article. I agree with the thrust of it.

I can't say that I can confirm every statement. Some I take a neutral stance on (could be right). I am dubious of the interpretation of a couple of Scriptures quoted. In fact I disagree with one. But the point is quite true.

Amonhi said...

Which scripture interpretation did you disagree with?

Doug Towers said...

Amonhi

I'll have to read it again and get back to you on that.

I wasn't aware that you were looking for a piece by piece evaluation. There were things in it that while I may not have put them the same way, I didn't disagree with the point being made.

It is a difficult subject to cover but not cover (both of which are presently essential). And I found that considering how far into it a person could go, it covered it well. In fact more subtly than I could have put it.

There were, as I remember, 2 or 3 Scripture references used that concerned me vaguely. But as I agreed with the message it didn't really concern me to raise it as an issue with the article.

Is this something you have written?

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is awesome, I have also noticed many of the members of the church are spiritually lazy. Somehow they seem to have gotten the strange idea that being entertained through life is the most important thing. It is nice to know that others are trying to seize all the wonderful opportunities for improvement this probation has to offer. I think the spirit has helped me to understand a lot of things that could help contribute to this site. However, i am going to be serving my mission soon and people keep telling me to stick to the most basic doctrine since that is what I will be teaching. But when i get back, maybe with the help of the spirit, I can contribute a little, but it will be years... But still, "Patience is a virtue."

Doug Towers said...

Anonymous

It is true that when dealing with investigators that basics are usually about all they can handle. You will find additional knowledge will be helpful to you however, in how you explain things to people, on some occassions. So I wouldn't let that stop you.

Using the Spirit in what you say is always the key to effective teaching.

As to your future comments on the site, after your mission, I look forward to your insites. It is good to learn from each other.

Doc3Vincente said...

Wow the more I read on this site the more ignorant I feel. The world makes it so very easy today to be drawn away into time wasting events... I better make some changes...

Doug Towers said...

Doc3Vincente

Having the truth flowing into you is a wonderful feeling. It beats anything the world has to offer.

And you are right, that it tries to take your attention away from what is important.

Good luck in your righteous endevours.