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Follow The Prophet & Uncomfortable Propositions

Velska - September 29, 2008

I bet you think I’m going to write about Prop. 8? If at all that should come up tangentially at best (worst). I was going to write about repentance, but with the General Conference coming next weekend, I have been thinking about following the prophet. I’ll get back to repentance later.

One of the things that I’m most grateful for in the framework of the Restoration is restored revelation. And not only the kind of revelation that Joseph Smith received, or pres. Monson et. al. receive. I’m talking about the kind of revelation that Jesus referred to, when he asked the disciples “whom say ye that I am”? When Peter answered that he was the Christ, Jesus said that Peter had that knowledge from the Father (see Matt 16:15-17). In the following verses Jesus talks about the “rock” (with a subtle word play) of foundation for his kingdom – meaning that the rock on which the kingdom would be built is revelation, the same that allowed Peter to know that Jesus was the promised Messiah. By the same revelation I know that Jesus of Nazareth is the Anointed One (or Messiah, or Christ, pick your language), who took upon himself the sins of mankind; who was resurrected on the third day and ascended to the Father; who will come back again, as promised. And who, ultimately, through his grace will let me partake of the divine, if I show my willingness to follow him.

And by the same revelation I know that Joseph Smith, despite his human weakness, was called of God. Likewise Thomas S. Monson. That does not, however, mean that I think that everything they say or have said is revelation. Let’s look at the Old Testament. Remember Moses sitting in judgment for Israel all day, day after day. His father-in-law told him that he should only be involved in major issues and let mundane administrative issues be dealt with by other authorized people (see Exodus 18:13-26). If prophets are supposed to be infallible, then how come Moses didn’t come up with this himself – or with the help of the Lord? In the same vein, was Moses a fallen prophet because he didn’t lead Israel to the Promised Land – which is what the Lord commanded him to do?

My answer to this is that prophets, like everybody else, grow up among people whose culture and world view are usually incorporated in their religion. Getting one revelation does not make persons omniscient, but leaves them to come up with their own solutions to a number of questions. Sometimes people can speculate from the pulpit and make it difficult for others to make a distinction between revelation and opinion. Remember what D&C 68:4 says about what is scripture; the qualifier is, “when moved upon by the Holy Ghost”. This opining from the pulpit has not been nearly as common in the last couple of decades. The early Church leaders probably consideree General Conference more like firesides, where you can talk about marginal issues and speculate (but still, they talked mostly about basic principles!).

But we have a way around the speculative issues, a way that has been advocated by Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and their followers: We can pray and ask God if what we hear is right (first searching the scriptures in an effort to reconcile the ideas with them), and with the usual conditions that we are sincere and willing to act upon the knowledge we get, we can have our own answer (see for example D&C 76:5-7). We just have to remember that our revelation is to help us in our own stewardship.

I have two examples of different attitudes. One brother wanted a certain thing from his bishop, and the bishop didn’t grant his wish. So the brother appealed to the Stake President without the result he hoped. He became bitter and withdrew from activity for many years, only coming back when there had been two new bishops and a new SP called. Thankfully, during his inactivity he had home teachers who showed him love and compassion, thus reducing the damage. The other example is a family that was in a sticky situation (they also wanted a certain thing from the bishop). The bishop tried to help them, and turned to the Stake President, who in turn sought help from the Area President. The Area President gave an idea that was relayed to the family. They asked the Lord for an understanding, which led them to make a decision. It was not popular with their nonmember relatives, but it helped keep that family together. I think that a major factor in the outcomes in these situations was the expectations of the people and their attitude towards priesthood leaders (neither of those got what they wanted at the time).

As for the tangential reference to the CA legislative initiative: I would do just what I would with any other counsel. I would ponder and pray, with the prejudice being on the side of following the prophets even when I don’t fully understand or even like what they’re suggesting.

But think a moment about what pres. Hinckley talked about during his years as a prophet. Things that come to mind are warnings against pornography; condemning abuse of children or spouse; the Family: A Proclamation to the World; speaking against racial or any other kind of bigotry; finding joy in service of others; being good neighbors, etc. And retention, retention, retention. I know there are those, who would have liked him to have spoken about some obscure tenets of our doctrine. Pinpointing some deep doctrine seems important to some, and it’s okay to want to know more (refer back to the beginning of D&C 76). But the big problems seem to have more to do with how we choose to go about the business of our daily lives. Don’t live beyond your means, save for a rainy day. The gospel is also a matter of practical living, and following the prophet can make life more fulfilling, if not easier (sadly, we often look for the easier).


  1. Erring on the side of prophetic counsel tends to make most problems easier. At least that has been my experience as well. Of course there needs to be room for personal revelation, but how often have people, not liking the counsel they’ve received, truly prayed about it with humility and faith and then decided against the counsel? I’m sure it must have happened sometime, somwhere, but I’ve never heard of it. That’s not to say we shouldn’t be praying about counsel –quite the opposite –but I find it interesting that when sincere and humble prayer is applied, the prophetic counsel tends to win out.

    This cannot possibly be coincidence.

    Granted –I am referring to Prophetic Counsel and not Bishop Counsel or EQ Counsel, although it really can be applied to all Priesthood leadership.

    Comment by cheryl — September 29, 2008 @ 6:15 am

  2. This is well written and beautifully said. The only problem I have with what you’re saying is that the church’s entire claim to doctrinal superiority is based on the infallibility of revelation given to the prophets through the years. You seem to be saying that members are at liberty to pray and seek their own guidance regarding direction given from the prophet and that really isn’t the case. Everything the church teaches, beyond the basic truths taught in the Bible, is based on revelation. If the prophets are suceptible to human failings in this realm, where is the claim to absolute and superior truth?

    Comment by Kate — September 29, 2008 @ 7:28 am

  3. Nice post!

    It was not popular with their nonmember relatives, but it helped keep that family together.

    We simply can not see all that is involved in these decisions. Being blocked by your Bishop and/or SP doesn’t necessarily reflect on their humanness or yours. They may be humble instruments of the Lord. You may have done all you can do, you are worthy and ready, the Spirit may be comforting you. But he not may be giving the B or SP the green light.

    The best examples of this are related to the temple in some way, a recommend or a change in status of a temple marriage. For example; we tend to think of temple work as mass production, just get it done and let them sort it out. They can chose later to accept it or not. But sometimes temple work is closely timed to create an incentive to improve for those who went before.

    Don’t take it personally; you may simply be sitting at a stop light waiting for the right timing on the other side.

    Comment by Howard — September 29, 2008 @ 8:09 am

  4. #2: “the church’s entire claim to doctrinal superiority is based on the infallibility of revelation”

    Here is where we must make the distinction. JS said the prophet is only a prophet when he acts in that capacity. One could say that Church leaders have not been very good at saying, “this is my opinion”.

    Speaking about doctrinal issues, there are times when we can make conclusions based on how someone’s ideas are developed by his successors. Or then, as in the case of 1978 Priesthood revelation, a whole batch of conjecture was wiped out by a new revelation.

    But as I was saying, we can know for ourselves, and we should strive to be in tune with the Spirit.

    But actually, although there are LDS doctrines that answer important questions (i.e. premortal existence, age of accountability), the deciding factors are not necessarily doctrinal. At least to me decisive was that there is a living prophet (we don’t have to rely on scholarship only), and, most importantly, that the Keys of the Kingdom have been given restored. The baptism I received was by Authority.

    Comment by Velska — September 29, 2008 @ 8:30 am

  5. Welcome again, Velska, I’m greatly enjoying your submissions. In this one you’ve touched on something that’s near & dear to my heart.

    When my wife was, not exactly a rebellious, but a questioning teenager, she told her stake president father, “I’ve got no problem with the Church doctrine, but I have a hard time with Joseph Smith. He bugs me. That whole Joseph Smith story is just weird.” Her dad—a physicist for Boeing and someone who chafed at illogic—gruffly replied, “Either the Church is true, or it isn’t. Either it happened, or it didn’t. Either it’s right, or it’s wrong.” End of subject.

    I’m not the old school hardliner my father-in-law was, but I do pretty much persuade my spiritual growth along that direction. If one aspect of the Gospel– Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith’s First Vision, a living prophet or the restored priesthood authority, etc.– is true, then the others must be as well. Despite curves thrown my way from time to time, I feel it’s my responsibility to adhere to the principle, and then find my personal conversion afterward. As you put it:

    But we have a way around the speculative issues, a way that has been advocated by Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and their followers: We can pray and ask God if what we hear is right (first searching the scriptures in an effort to reconcile the ideas with them), and with the usual conditions that we are sincere and willing to act upon the knowledge we get, we can have our own answer (see for example D&C 76:5-7).

    Especially on the blogosphere, we seem to encounter second-guessing within the ranks every day. I don’t think it has to be that complicated. We either sustain our Church leaders and their direction, or we’re piecemealing our testimonies of the Church’s truthfulness– and piecemealing our blessings.

    When I hear members say, Well, the bishop told me to do this, but… or I can’t get behind that proclamation ’cause I don’t believe it came from God… I’m troubled. What church do they belong to? We’re here to see if we can obey, and even if we think the leader’s a bonehead and wrong, we go with it because obedience is more important than their being right. Heaven knows there are things I don’t agree with regarding the way my ward and stake are run. Doesn’t matter.

    Take the example President Hinckley gave in a 1995 talk:

    “The assignments given us or the lots we receive in life may be difficult. Surely many a latter-day pioneer must have felt that way—or some who pioneer today for the Lord in challenging circumstances. Naaman the leper came with his horses and with his chariot, with his gifts and his gold, to the prophet Elisha to be cured. And Elisha, without seeing him, sent a messenger saying, “Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.

    But Naaman, the proud captain of the Syrian host, was insulted at so distasteful a thing and went away. Only when his servants pleaded with him was he humbled enough to return. And the record says, “Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (see 2 Kings. 5:1-14). (“If Ye Be Willing & Obedient”, Ensign, July 1995)

    I do believe questioning is essential to gain a healthy, strong, deeply-rooted testimony. But call me obtuse, I don’t understand how second-guessing the Lord’s representatives fit the Plan. Where does it say that? And if thou hath difficulty swallowing the words of the leaders of My Church, take it upon thyself to heed it not, for it is thy prerogative; and while ye are at it, cast out whatever else suiteth thee, why not?

    Crud. I guess I’m like my father-in-law after all.

    Comment by David T. — September 29, 2008 @ 9:28 am

  6. “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, June 27, 1839

    Brother Brigham said that we are not only entitled to know, but we should petition the Lord to know for ourselves (sorry, no time to search for a link now).

    Comment by Velska — September 29, 2008 @ 12:08 pm

  7. David T.-
    That is exactly the main problem I have with contentious community blogs within the Bloggernacle. There seems to be a gathering of Saints who find it okay to bash and whine, fidget and protest.

    But at the same time, one of those websites saved my aunt’s testimony. She said that if other people, who doubted as she did, could still go to church and keep trying, then she knew she could, too. It was hard for me to understand where she was coming from, because I am very much like your father-in-law in the way I think. But her confession made me see it a tad differently. That doesn’t mean I’ve changed my mind about prophetic revelation and/or counsel –I just have a tad more compassion than I did before. Oh, and I stay away from sites that rile me up. That helps, too. :)

    Comment by cheryl — September 29, 2008 @ 12:40 pm

  8. the church’s entire claim to doctrinal superiority is based on the infallibility of revelation given to the prophets through the years.

    I think this is a mistake. The Church does not claim “infallibility of revelation.” The Church claims to be guided by a prophet who holds the priesthood keys restored to the earth for revelation of God’s word to the world. He is the only one who holds those keys, but that does not guarantee infallibility, either personally or of the words spoken by any particular prophet. I believe there have been and will continue to be mistakes made by prophets. That is exactly why personal revelation is such a vital part of this Church and our individual roles in it.

    Comment by MCQ — September 30, 2008 @ 12:07 am

  9. Another thing we have that can help discern true revelation is the law of witnesses that Pres. Eyring talked about.

    In our own time we have been warned with counsel on where to find safety from sin and from sorrow. One of the keys to recognizing those warnings is that they are repeated. For instance, more than once in general conferences, you have heard our prophet say that he would quote a preceding prophet and would therefore be a second witness and sometimes even a third….

    The Apostle Paul wrote, “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” (2 Corinthians 13:1). One of the ways we may know that the warning is from the Lord is that the law of witnesses, authorized witnesses, has been invoked. When the words of prophets seem repetitive, that should rivet our attention and fill our hearts with gratitude to live in such a blessed time.

    Personally, I think this law of witnesses is something that is often overlooked in its importance in the process of discerning truth. It can protect us from mere personal opinion. It can help us look for patterns of prophetic power and authority. It can guide personal choice and action. And my experience is that is coincides with personal revelation as well. I cannot think of a time when I have not felt a witness of the Spirit when the law of witnesses has been invoked.

    Comment by m&m — September 30, 2008 @ 12:47 pm

  10. m&m: I think it’s the witness of the spirit that is the key. Repetition is nice, and it does focus the mind on the idea being repeated, but it seems to me that repetition alone does not necessarily establish much for us to rely on, absent spiritual confirmation. After all, there was a great deal of repetition of the theological underpinnings of the priesthood ban, all of which went out the window in 1978.

    Comment by MCQ — September 30, 2008 @ 3:28 pm

  11. MCQ, sure there is a combination, but more often than not, when you hear prophets repeating themselves, I believe that itself is a result of revelation. Again, I cannot think of something in my lifetime where I haven’t felt that repetition led me to revelation.

    Note also that Pres. Eyring wasn’t just saying that it’s about repetition in isolated places, but about prophets repeating and quoting each other as well. That might be another layer to it all.

    Comment by m&m — October 1, 2008 @ 1:09 am

  12. I think I remember reading (sorry, no link) about Brigham Young talking about a concept that sounds much like what was later called Family Home Evening.

    I think that when prophets talk about the things that have been said before, it’s because we need to take them to heart more than we have. To use the FHE example, it was disheartening to see how many families did not set apart a time for family discussions (results of a confidential questionnaire done locally perhaps a dozen years ago). We need to be living the level of light we have been given before we can obtain more, IMO. That is why the most important things get repeated.

    Comment by Velska — October 1, 2008 @ 2:33 am

  13. I really appreciated this post, and I could have used a copy of it in Sunday School a few weeks ago.
    The teacher said that there have been a few occasions when a prophet hasn’t necessarily acted prophetic. There have also been times when local leaders haven’t given the best counsel. He emphasized that although most of the time our leaders, and especially the prophet, are right, so to speak, that they’re not perfect. So, he asked, what should we do if we suspect a leader is giving less than inspired counsel? This teacher stated that we would always be blessed for following the counsel of our leaders, even if they were wrong, so, we should always do what our leaders tell us to.
    That statement went a little too far for me, and I raised my hand with a comment. I said that while it’s usually a good idea to follow our leaders counsel, that in times of doubt, we aren’t required to follow them blindly. This is because we can always pray for our own confirmations about counsel given to us by leaders.
    I was afraid I would come off as someone who advocated questioning the prophet, or that I was trying to say that we should ignore the hierarchy of revelation. Which wasn’t what I was saying, but at the time I couldn’t figure out how to phrase it just right, and as a generally shy person, speaking up in Sunday school is a bit anxiety-ridden for me.
    Well, the teacher responded that he happened to disagree with me, and that although it’s OK to disagree, that we better end the discussion there, and that he hoped that no one was confused, or that their testimonies were shaken.
    I was a bit shocked by his response, and I admit that it will be that much more difficult for me to make a comment again in the future (if he will ever call on me again, that is.)
    However, this concept is something that is very dear to me. I had spent most of my life believing that questioning a church leader’s counsel just meant that you didn’t have enough faith. That if one part of the Gospel was true, that EVERYTHING was true. I believed my father when he said that paramount principle of the Gospel was obedience.
    When there were times in my life that doubts crept in, I would just push them out, and think of all the reasons that the church must be true.
    Eventually I came to a point, during an especially difficult time, that it was impossible to push them out. I started by dissecting the scriptures. Instead of simply underlining things I liked, I wrote questions I had on the margins in addition to underlining things that helped clarify my questions. I wasn’t looking for ways to discredit the scriptures, I was looking at them objectively for the first time. I discovered some things that I thought were taught in the scriptures, weren’t, and discovered new concepts, too. Through this I prayed a lot, and received a lot of understanding. This is getting way too long, but in short, the idea that we can pray to Heavenly Father about doubts or questions we have, including questions we have about counsel, saved my testimony and now it is stronger than ever.
    After all, we do not worship our leaders, we worship the Lord. Although a prophet’s or leader’s counsel often coincides with the Lord’s counsel, even if a leader is wrong, I can say that we will always be blessed for following Heavenly Father’s counsel.

    Comment by Meisha — October 1, 2008 @ 7:56 am

  14. We’d better end this discussion. I hope nobody was confused or had their testimonies shaken by Meisha’s comment.

    Comment by Tom — October 1, 2008 @ 9:13 am

  15. Ha! Tom, I was thinking of saying the same thing before I got to your comment.

    Comment by David T. — October 1, 2008 @ 10:04 am

  16. Hahaha, thanks Tom.

    Comment by Meisha — October 1, 2008 @ 10:28 am

  17. Meisha,

    I wholeheartedly agree with you. I don’t believe the Lord wants us to mindlessly acquiesce to everything taught to and asked of us. We have to fight for our testimonies– think, question, doggedly pray. That said, we are here to demonstrate obedience, too– to our leaders as well as the Lord. To what degree we assume both of these schools of thought is a large dynamic part of our developing relationship to God.

    Comment by David T. — October 1, 2008 @ 10:34 am

  18. Comments that were prompted by #13 & #17:

    Obedience Is the paramount principle of the gospel. I have learned that we must question authorities – not in the sense of trying to discredit them, but in the sense of getting our own understanding. The Lord doesn’t micromanage our lives through Church leaders. He uses them to give us general counsel, and then invites us to take our questions to him.

    Take an example: Don’t live beyond your means. While it’s unreasonable to doubt the general wisdom of this counsel, it doesn’t say how big of a gamble we should take in borrowing towards a house on our future earnings. We must use our judgment and our privilege of asking the Lord.

    I reiterate my conviction, gained through experience, that it is better to err on the side of obedience when I’m not getting definite answers. I have at times gained a definite answer only after doing what I was asked to do – it was thoughtful obedience that relied on my testimony of the things I did know already. Remember Adam’s sacrifices after expulsion from Eden (see Moses 5:6-7)? To me that established his right to know why he was commanded.

    Comment by Velska — October 1, 2008 @ 11:25 am

  19. I agree with those who have stated that faith must come before revelation can happen. The Lord waits to see where our heart and actions are before He provides spiritual evidence. Part of this due to the operation of eternal laws, and part of it is due to His love and mercy.

    The mercy part applies when He knows we are not spiritually ready to accept the truth we are asking for. He never will grant us an undeniable witness if He knows we would rebel against it, because He has no desire for any of His children to become perdition.

    It is up to us to be worthy of having the Holy Ghost with us so we can “know” if what the prophet is saying is truth or not. In my opinion, the prophet is “acting as a prophet” whenever he is representing the Church. This means that whatever he says in personal conversations with his children or next door neighbors or store clerks etc. doesn’t necessarily qualify as scripture or doctrine because whatever he’s saying may only apply to that person and that circumstance. But when he’s in a suit talking to Church members or the world (as in media interviews etc) in the role of “President of the LDS Church”-he is acting as a prophet and his voice and the Lord’s voice are the same.

    Comment by xoxoxoxo — October 1, 2008 @ 12:00 pm

  20. Regarding #10

    “After all, there was a great deal of repetition of the theological underpinnings of the priesthood ban, all of which went out the window in 1978″.

    What did not go out the window was the repeated statement that the Lord was in control of the ban; prophet after prophet testified that it would be removed by the Lord when the time came, and it was. One can believe that the ban itself served a divine purpose without believing that any of the theories that were put forth actually addressed that purpose.

    The fact remains that there are many official declarations and testimonies born by prophets that indicate in no uncertain terms that the ban came from the Lord. But time and again that fact (and others) are ignored in favor of taking one sentence spoken after the ban was lifted by Bruce R. McConkie completely out of context and manipulating it as “proof” that the ban was a mistake made by human beings.

    Oddly, I have never encountered one active/faithful Latter-day Saint who will testify that God granted them a personal witness through the Holy Ghost that every modern prophet until 1978 was wrong about the ban being the will of the Lord.

    Comment by xoxoxoxo — October 1, 2008 @ 12:41 pm

  21. #17 Yes, that is what I was trying to say in Sunday School. Only much more eloquent.
    #18 You think that obedience is the paramount principle of the gospel? While I think obedience is one of the most important principles of the gospel, I’m not sure about it being the topmost one.
    However, rating gospel principles in order of importance aside, in trying to keep my original comment shorter, I didn’t explain myself very well when I mentioned that my Dad believed that obedience was the paramount principle of the Gospel. Let me expound a little. He took this idea to an extreme. He taught that obedience was the only purpose in this life. For example: If one of us (his children) didn’t want to say a prayer for FHE, the offending child was pushed, and punished until they said the prayer. We weren’t really allowed to not obey. Questions we had about the church were usually met with my parents being disappointed in us for not being faithful and obedient enough. Questioning church leaders was not an option. Further cementing my Dad’s spiritual authority was the fact that he was not only my father, but my bishop.
    I think he thought he was doing us a favor, because if we couldn’t disobey or question, in his mind we would all make it to the celestial kingdom. It’s weird, thinking back, because my Dad’s plan sounds similar to Lucifer’s plan for salvation. For some reason, this didn’t occur to either him or anyone else in my family at the time.
    Now, I’m not saying that anyone who thinks that obedience is the most important principle, is a supporter of Satan’s plan, ha ha ha. I realize that most people don’t take it as far as my Dad (although, I know that he’s not the only one.) Besides, again, I think it’s still extremely important.
    My point was, in my original comment, was that I was raised in an environment that discouraged asking any kind of questions, and valued absolute obedience, and that that environment nearly destroyed my testimony. I didn’t belong to the church, I belonged to a cult of sorts. (One of the things that finally made me realize this was when I unwittingly attended a real cult. You know, the kind with brainwashing, love-bombing, chants and worshipping an all knowing leader? I was under the impression that I was attending a week long self improvement seminar that several family members and friends had highly recommended. One family member paid for it as a gift to me, so I went. That was one crazy week.)
    Also, lest there was any confusion, I agree that it’s best to err on the side of obedience.

    Comment by Meisha — October 1, 2008 @ 12:43 pm

  22. Yeah, it sounds weird to say that the paramount principle of the Gospel is obedience. That to me deemphasizes the journey towards becoming like God. It puts doing above being, if that makes any sense. Of course it takes obedience to become like God, but it’s not just obedience.

    I think the danger in overemphasizing obedience is that it becomes obedience for obedience’s sake and people get bogged down and focused on rote compliance and perfectionism to the exclusion of higher virtues like charity.

    Comment by Tom — October 1, 2008 @ 1:19 pm

  23. Is it really that weird?

    The first principle of the gospel (on which everything else centers) is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and such faith is defined as “confidence and trust in Jesus Christ that lead a person to obey him.” Obedience, or lack of it, is the manifestation of our faith-it is the “fruit” that distinguishes good trees from bad.

    Christ was a perfect being, and a perfect sacrifice because He CHOSE to obey the will of Father perfectly. He CHOSE to put the Father’s will above His own-not because of rote compliance or perfectionism, but because He loved the Father perfectly and had perfect faith (trust) in His Father’s plan.

    It is impossible to BE or BECOME a God without being willing to DO the things that lead to that end. It is impossible to become truly charitable without obeying the principles that lead to it. You can’t “be” a charitable person unless you choose to “do” charitable things.

    There is no salvation without faith, and faith is a principle of action-not of “feeling”. Faith without works is dead. Abraham states that the purpose of mortality is for God to “prove [us] herewith, to see if [we] will do all things whatsoever the Lord [our] God shall command [us]“, every blessing we receive comes through obedience to the law attached to it, and only those who “doeth the will of the Father” will enter the kingdom of heaven.

    Of course, like Meisha’s father proves, you cannot create faith through “force”. Rather than teaching his children to love and have faith in the Lord-which leads to true and sincere obedience, he only taught them to fear and have faith in his wrath-which only led to forced compliance.

    Comment by xoxoxoxo — October 1, 2008 @ 3:14 pm

  24. You can make an argument that it all hinges on obedience but yes, it is weird to me to say that obedience is the paramount principle of the Gospel. It just doesn’t sound right to me. If I’m filling in the blank of this phrase, “The Gospel is essentially about ______,” obedience doesn’t come immediately to mind. Some things that do come to mind are charity, happiness, progress, grace, etc. One could probably make a logical case for each of these as the ‘paramount’ principle of the Gospel. But they are all so intertwined and related that which one you actually cite is a choice about which to emphasize. Choosing obedience above all others kind of misconstrues what the Gospel is about, at least the way I experience it. Ultimately, I don’t think you can fill in the blank with one word or phrase and accurately capture the essence of the Gospel.

    Comment by Tom — October 1, 2008 @ 3:43 pm

  25. I’m not saying that obedience is ALL the gospel is about, or that the word obedience defines the gospel, and I don’t believe that is what velska said or meant either. Of all the definitions I’ve heard, the one that rings the truest for me is that “The gospel is the Father’s plan of salvation for man”.

    Anything we obtain through that plan or become because of that plan will be the result of our faith and obedience to it.

    Comment by xoxoxoxo — October 1, 2008 @ 7:20 pm

  26. Tom’s #22:

    I think the danger in overemphasizing obedience is that it becomes obedience for obedience’s sake and people get bogged down and focused on rote compliance and perfectionism to the exclusion of higher virtues like charity.

    That is right, isn’t that what Jesus condemned the pharisees for? One should perhaps not try to condense something as rich as the gospel into a catchy slogan. That always seems to leave something out. One could argue that the most important attribute of the Savior is his love towards us. At the same time one could argue that it is his submissiveness to the will of the Father. How can one put them in an order of preference?

    I myself had to deal with a perfectionist ideal I created for myself and I hope I have learned my lesson.

    Comment by Velska — October 2, 2008 @ 1:42 am

  27. Kate (comment #2),

    Regarding your comment:

    You seem to be saying that members are at liberty to pray and seek their own guidance regarding direction given from the prophet and that really isn’t the case. Everything the church teaches, beyond the basic truths taught in the Bible, is based on revelation. If the prophets are suceptible to human failings in this realm, where is the claim to absolute and superior truth?

    Every member of the Church MUST receive a testimony of the instructions they are given.

    Perhaps you need to get more acquainted with Church History to understand that our leaders, even our Prophets, are not perfect beings, they are not Gods and are subject to make mistakes. Even when their mistakes may not be ill intended, they are humans, and they do make mistakes.

    Perhaps reading about the Mountain Meadows Massacre you will find out how important it is for every member to be a pure and righteous vessel (by keeping the commandments) to be able to receive a confirmation from the Holy Ghost of ANY instruction they may receive. Perhaps the most extreme case in Church History, when leaders have made painful mistakes; and therefore we must learn something from it.

    Our leaders are not Gods and we MUST NEVER follow them blindly. We have been given a gift, the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is our DUTY to be worthy and to use it to guide our lives. No prophetic command should come before the precious guide of God himself.

    The scriptures teach us in numerous times that prophets are not perfect. Nephi confesses that his father Lehi murmured against God. Jonah was angry when the pepole from Niniveh, whom he was sent to preach repentance, repented and the Lord forgave them… he was hoping they were going to be destroyed.

    I am not going to go into any of the controversies of our very own Church leaders… but sufficeth me to say this: they are not perfect, they have made terrible mistakes.

    This is the time in which we cannot live on borrowed light. We cannot follow blindly. We have been given the gift to light our way, we just need to be worthy of it.

    There is a difference between obedience and blind obedience.


    16 And the Book of Mormon and the holy scriptures are given of me for your ainstruction; and the power of my Spirit quickeneth all things.
    17 Wherefore, be faithful, praying always, having your alamps btrimmed and burning, and oil with you, that you may be cready at the coming of the Bridegroom—

    “The time will come when no man nor woman will be able to endure on borrowed light. Each will have to be guided by the light within himself. If you do not have it, how can you stand?” (Heber C Kimball)

    That time has long arrived.

    Comment by Jesse — October 8, 2008 @ 3:42 pm

  28. [...] Following Fallible Prophets October 31, 2008 This is another post that was first posted at Nine Moons. You can read comments and post your own here. [...]

    Pingback by Following Fallible Prophets « Velska’s Blog — October 31, 2008 @ 1:28 am

  29. [...] essentiality due to rogue Mormon culture. Mormons don’t believe in prophetic infallibility, for example, but due to cultural expectations, it might seem like if a prophet has said or done something off [...]

    Pingback by All or Nothing Part 2 — Switching Dogmas « Irresistible (Dis)Grace — February 21, 2009 @ 1:55 am

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