And it may be precisely when I DON’T feel that witness when one of the brethren speaks in conference that I might feel a need to speak to my bishop or stake president.
One principle time when people come to their leaders for counsel is in times of transgression, when the member may not be able to receive his own witness.
Another time may be when a member is advised to counsel with the bishop, as in the case of a woman contemplating abortion for a pregnancy that came as a result of rape or incest.
There are lots of times when members will counsel with their “file” leaders.
As for being “commanded” to become fully versed in receiving personal revelation, I think the Prophet Joseph lamented that not everyone could do that (of course I wasn’t present, so I didn’t get an instant ratification…), and therefore he (the prophet) had to share what he knew.]]>
It sounds as if our understanding of the Restored Gospel, the workings of the Holy Ghost, receipt of personal revelation, and the expectations from local leadership differ significantly.
As concerns counsel from the Lord’s prophets, seers and revelators, it has been my experience that a witness is provided by the Spirit as they are speaking. A confirming experience separate from the witness borne with the actual communication is usually not necessary.]]>
If you want to cut out the middleman, and never seek counsel from leaders or the prophet, good luck to you. I think that’s moronic. We have leaders for a reason. One of those reasons is that we can’t always get the knowledge or wisdom we need directly from God ourselves, for a variety of reasons. We sometimes need to counsel with our local leaders or get guidance from prophets and apostles. This doesn’t mean we should follow what they say blindly, but it does mean we can and should seek their counsel and guidance when we need it and confirm the soundness of their counsel through the Spirit.]]>
I think most bishops and stake president make themselves available to members who seek counsel. And I think most men who sit in those chairs recognize the responsibility that comes with such a position.
I also think that many members honor the position of bishop and stake president enough to seek counsel of the one who sits in that chair. In some cases, we’re advised to do it, and in other cases, a member may just want the advice of a spiritual adviser.
That said, we should remember that our lay leaders are not trained counselors, so we should accept their counsel with that in mind. Further, we can seek our own confirmation of the wisdom and correctness of their counsel. (And I’ve generally been advised by them to do just that.) Finally, those men should not be shy about telling their interviewees when they are speaking “from the corner” and offering their own advice, compared with clarifying policy.
All members can, of course, look to the scriptures and the writings of church leaders, and can go to their Father in prayer.
When we receive conflicting counsel, it’s probably not a bad idea to discuss that. When I was in a position to counsel members, I welcomed any information they could bring to the discussion. And when I’ve received counsel, the answer was often that I should expect to resolve the question myself.]]>
Why wouldn’t the leader giving the counsel have a clear responsibility to tell the one he or she is counseling as to whether the counsel is from God or is just personal opinion? Why would you let them off the hook for something so important? If they cannot tell the difference should they be in a position to counsel?
And I would disagree with your statement that we cannot cut out the middleman. We are commanded to become fully versed in communing with the Spirit and in receiving personal revelation. As long as we do not get deceived by unorthodox teachings or by seeking revelation outside our areas of responsibility, it is incumbent upon us to do so.]]>
This does not mean that we can necessarily always “cut out the middleman” and just go it alone. Sometimes we are unable to get the right information ourselves and need either prophetic counsel or counsel from an inspired leader to set us on the right track. The responsiblity is then ours to seek spiritual confirmation and act according to the confirmation we receive.]]>
Anything one might be subject to ecclesiastical discipline for disregarding is by no means “counsel”, but something much closer to an divine commandment or ecclesiastical dictate. “Thou shalt not commit adultery” is not some sort of counsel or suggestion. It is a commandment.
Likewise, “we instruct you to quit publishing books critical of church leadership (on pain of your standing or membership in the church)” isn’t “counsel” either. It is an ecclesiastical dictate.]]>
Advice yes, counsel yes. Inspiration on your behalf? That is certainly not in the proper order of things.]]>