Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fourteen Fundamentals Examined Part 5

Ezra Taft Benson (president of the Quorum of the Twelve apostles at the time) gave a talk entitled “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet” (Address given Tuesday, February 26, 1980 at Brigham Young University).

His claims are somewhat controversial. In fact even some relatively conservative members have given them negative reviews of late, not just the DAMs. It is neither my intention to defend over simplifications he's given, on the one hand, nor to find fault where it doesn't exist, on the other. So I am seeking to do a realistic appraisal of his claims a few at a time.
In looking at his statements I think we have to remember that he was talking at BYU. He wasn't anticipating that his words would be analysed under a microscope on the internet. Also I think the talk was anticipated to be simplistic, not used as a doctrinal backing for a particular line of thought (as has occurred).

Also we need to observe that, except for one, these qualities aren't entirely unique to the president of the church. He has only attempted to inform us what to keep in mind in following instructions from the president.

Brother Benson states the following, "Here then is the grand key — Follow the prophet — and here are fourteen fundamentals in following the prophet." He then qualifies that when he uses the term "the prophet," he means "the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." This qualifying of the title "the prophet" is important to the subject, as we view the claims.

I'm doing these back to front as that way when they are completed they can be read from start to finish. Claims 12 and 13 shouldn't really have much controversy from a church member's point of view. But claim 14 does need some discussion to put it in a more universally understood manner.

Claim Twelve: The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.

"As a prophet reveals the truth it divides the people. The honest in heart heed his words but the unrighteous either ignore the prophet or fight him. When the prophet points out the sins of the world, the worldly either want to close the mouth of the prophet, or else act as if the prophet didn’t exist, rather than repent of their sins. Popularity is never a test of truth. Many a prophet has been killed or cast out. As we come closer to the Lord’s second coming you can expect that as the people of the world become more wicked, the prophet will be less popular with them."

I don't think that too many would disagree with this. The only thing that I feel some would like to qualify is that it pertains to anyone preaching the gospel of Christ. So all members who speak out must expect the same.

Claim Thirteen: The prophet and his counsellors make up the First Presidency—The highest quorum in the Church.

"In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord refers to the First Presidency as “the highest council of the Church” (D&C 107:80) and says “whosoever receiveth me, receiveth those, the First Presidency, whom I have sent …” (D&C 112:20)."

I don't think any member would have trouble with this Claim.

It should be remembered that he didn't claim the 14 fundamentals were all unique to the president; only that they should be remembered in following him. But this one is the one that is unique and fully qualified.

Claim Fourteen: The prophet and the presidency—the living prophet and the First Presidency—follow them and be blessed—reject them and suffer.

"...In a general conference of the Church, President N. Eldon Tanner stated:
“The Prophet spoke out clearly on Friday morning, telling us what our responsibilities are …
“A man said to me after that, ‘You know, there are people in our state who believe in following the Prophet in everything they think is right, but when it is something they think isn’t right, and it doesn’t appeal to them, then that’s different.’ He said, ‘Then they become their own prophet. They decide what the Lord wants and what the Lord doesn’t want.’
“I thought how true, and how serious when we begin to choose which of the covenants, which of the commandments we will keep and follow, we are taking the law of the Lord into our own hands and become our own prophets, and believe me, we will be led astray, because we are false prophets to ourselves when we do not follow the Prophet of God. No, we should never discriminate between these commandments, as to those we should and should not keep.” (CR, October 1966, p. 98.)..."

I agree with this idea in the main. The only problem with this type of thinking is that it refutes the teaching of even past presidents that we should be getting our own revelation and become a prophet unto ourselves. It blocks a person from personal spiritual progress beyond the point that the president receives revelation for the weak and weakest of Saints (D&C 89:3). It also ignores the point that some members feel the importance of living higher commandments that have been extracted from members generally, because of failure to abide higher laws of God (D&C Section 119 heading).

The Prophet Caiaphas received revelation about Christ. He interpreted its application to mean that they should seek the death of Christ (Jn 11:49-53). Should I have followed the president of the church (the Prophet Caiaphas) had I been there?

1 Kings 13:18 states that a prophet lied deliberately to another prophet, causing his death. The story also demonstrates another prophet disobeying God (verse 26 states that this man was a prophet).

The prophet Balaam got the Israelites to do wickedly. His idea was to make God displeased with them so he could get paid by the king of the Moabites to curse them with God's approval. (Num 22:17,Rev 2:14)

So had I been a Jew at the time of Caiaphas would I have suffered if I didn't follow his council in regard opposing Christ? Was the prophet who was lied to by another prophet blessed because he followed his lie? Certainly not. And could I have supported the prophet Balaam in his wickedness and have been blessed?

Brigham Young stated _
"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.'" (Journal of Discourses: 1:Brigham Young 1853/02/20 : 310)

We have to do a lot more than just sit around like blind fools following another person other than Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father. We have to use revelation to gain eternal life (D&C 42:61 and 45:57). This is the thing that makes us different to any other religion claiming to follow Christ. We can talk to God and have him talk back. Either through the Holy Ghost, Jesus Christ or Heavenly Father.

Additionally Brigham stated _
"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..." (Journal of Discourses: 1:Brigham Young 1853/02/20 : 310)

From this examination of Brother Benson's talk we should be able to see that his intention was to encourage people to have faith in the person that God has chosen as mouthpiece for him in the church organisation. It is important to members and non-members to be looking to this source of truth. To propose that the president of the church is somehow flawless or that all he says is as if God were speaking, is an extreme, it is true. But to rip Brother Benson apart because he should have been less emphatic seems an even greater extreme to me.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Does God Really Want us to Obtain Food by the Sweat of our Brows?

I have often heard claim that God commanded us to work for a living. While I don't dispute that work is a good thing, and Solomon made some statements supporting it, is it true to attribute such a commandment to God? Or should we just stick to pointing out its importance to our balanced developement?

Moses 5:1 says, "...Adam began to till the earth, and to have dominion over all the beasts of the field, and to eat his bread by the sweat of his brow, as I the Lord had commanded him..."

This is interpreted by many to say that the commandment that God was referring to was the latter statement about work.

As a contradiction to this claim we have the following statement by Christ to his disciples, relative to obtaining food and clothing etc.

"But you seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you." Matt 6:33

This presents that some are called upon to look to God for sustanance. So how could God be giving two contrary instructions making one a commandment? - particularly both being in the gospel.

Looking at the idea that we are commanded to work we can also quote the statement to Adam, made by God, in the Garden of Eden.

"In the sweat of your face shall you eat bread, until you return to the ground; for out of it were you taken: for dust you are, and to dust shall you return." Gen 3:19

Quoted on its own, one option would be to read this as a commandment. So let's look at the surrounding statements to see what they reveal relative to what this statement means.

Looking back at verse 17 we find _

"And to Adam he said, Because you have listened to what your wife said, and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, saying, You shall not eat of it: cursed is the ground for your sake; in sorrow shall you eat of it all the days of your life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to you; and you shall eat the herb of the field." Gen 3:17-18

So God has pronounced a curse upon Adam because of his wrong action (as declared in verses 17-19 inclusive). The parts of this curse are that because of evil actions _

1. The ground won't produce its best.

2. Thorns and thistles will infest the ground.

3. That from then on we had to eat herbs also, instead of just seeds and fruit (Gen 1:29).

4. That we will now have to sweat from the work to get the ground to produce things.

5. That we will die and our bodies rot to dust.

Yet looking at this, number 4 doesn't come out as a commandment, merely a part of a curse. To turn these into commandments would be ridiculous looking at number 5 (not to mention the absurdity of seeing the first 2 as commandments).

So while I support productive living, I see this verse as being quoted out of context.

What does it matter, some may ask? It matters because God is giving a lesson for use in these verses which is being obscured by incorrect interpretation by people.

It would be better to quote Christ, in regard working _

"My Father is working up until now, and I work." John 5:17

This presents that both Christ and Heavenly Father are always working. Thus if we wish to do the same as them afterward, we must learn the principle of work now. Of course this is a spiritual work that they are engaged in.