Wednesday, January 20, 2016

This seems pertinent to the prophets issue

“It is a little dangerous for us to go out of our own sphere and try unauthoritatively to direct the efforts of a brother. You remember the case of Uzzah who stretched forth his hand to steady the ark. He seemed justified when the oxen stumbled in putting forth his hand to steady that symbol of the covenant.
“We today think his punishment was very severe. Be that as it may, the incident conveys a lesson of life. Let us look around us and see how quickly men who attempt unauthoritatively to steady the ark die spiritually. Their souls become embittered, their minds distorted, their judgment faulty, and their spirit depressed. Such is the pitiable condition of men who, neglecting their own responsibilities, spend their time in finding fault with others” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1936, 60). David O. McKay

This is an important point. 

The entire "prophets are fallible therefore I don't have to obey" is actually a distraction. Really the issue is "The prophets said something I don't like.

What do you do about that?

The scriptures would indicate (repeatedly and at length and with many, many examples) that it's not really a good idea to reject the prophets when we disagree with them. They would also indicate that it's not a good idea to "steady the ark"--correct their mistakes yourself, as if it is our personal jobs to keep the Church on track (our track, obviously...).

Given the scriptural emphasis on listening to and obeying the prophets, it seems like it might be a bad choice to reject the prophets when they say something we don't like, no matter how we justify it (it was a mistake, or they're going to change that one, or that makes no sense therefore it isn't right, or whatever).

So what do we do?

Perhaps start with an understanding of God.
       We know He knows everything.
       We know He has power to do whatever he needs to do.
       We know He loves us and is working for our good and our exaltation.
       We know He has greater vision and greater capacity for vision than we do.
       We know that we actually cannot comprehend what He can.
       We know He has ways to communicate with us.
       We know He gives us instructions, commandments, ordinances, etc., in order to help us.
       We know He has ways to re-direct us when we're going wrong (call us to repentance and whatnot).
       We know He sent Jesus to help us out and heal us so we could get through life, which is difficult and painful at its best.

Given what we know about God, we get to make a choice. Do we reject His servants? Do we ignore them? Do we try to agitate for reform as if God were not in charge? Do we point out how they are wrong now or all the mistakes they've made in the past?  Do we work our hardest to discredit them so we don't have to feel guilty for not obeying? Do you stick to your ideas with the assumption that you really do know best and couldn't possibly be mistaken?

Or do we remind ourselves that God loves us, He knows far more than we are capable of comprehending, He actually can redirect us if we're heading the wrong way (like a good parent would, actually), and if we follow Him even when it doesn't make sense, the understanding can come?  Do you assume that you might possibly be wrong?

What's the wisest course of action, pride or humility?

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Much more clearly than I could say it

I've been struggling with how to say this all clearly, explaining why I still believe in prophets and choose to obey them.

This article, by my brother, sums up all my thoughts and in a coherent, succinct way.

Thank you, thank you Jon!

Now everyone please read:

Friday, January 15, 2016

One thing I missed about prophets

One thing I missed that my dad pointed out:

Who is to say that what I see as a mistake was actually a mistake?

Especially given the nature of continuing modern revelation. Just because a policy or doctrine or script or whatever got changed doesn't mean it was wrong when it started. Sometimes it just means the world changed.

Just because I disagree with or don't understand something, historical or present, doesn't mean it's a mistake or ever was. (It might have been; but it might not have been. Tim pointed out nobody has ever claimed the priesthood ban itself was a mistake. They only have clarified that the folk doctrines that sprung up to explain it were mistakes. So perhaps the priesthood ban was not a mistake--and the history and words of prophets who tried to end it and were told not to would bear this out. Perhaps there was something going on in the world at that time that made it a policy God wanted for a short time, just like He wanted polygamy for a short time. It doesn't mean polygamy was a mistake that it got cancelled eventually. It only means that God had finished whatever work He was doing with it.)

Also, I really feel strongly that it's worth repeating: claiming the prophets are human and fallible and therefore we don't HAVE to follow them assumes that while they are human and fallible and make mistakes, we are human but infallible and never make mistakes.

And that is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.

Why I choose to trust the prophet instead of myself

I’ve been pondering the argument the liberal/progressive mormons are making about the prophets. Their argument is that we are duty-bound to research and get a spiritual confirmation of everything the prophets teach, and if we don’t feel right about it, then it’s probably the prophet who is wrong and not each of us. Because, you know, the prophets and apostles are human and therefore fallible.

They really are convinced this is right, but my gut says that’s not so.

Here are my reasons I’ve come up with that it doesn’t work to view prophets that way:

1. It’s too much work. Regular everyday humans in reality don’t want or need to get another spiritual confirmation about every single thing prophets and apostles say, much less research it all in detail (especially since the “research” the progressives mean is actually searching for reasons the prophets might be wrong, not why they might be right).

2. If we have received a confirmation that the prophet is, in fact, a prophet whose job is to bring us information from God, that should be sufficient for us to trust him and he won’t actually ask us to do something wrong, and if he asks us to do something stupid, we’ll be blessed for obedience more than rebellion.

3. How can a prophet call us to repentance if we are free to reject whatever words don’t “sound right” to us? Because asking people to repent never sounds right or they wouldn’t need to be called, they’d just do it.

4. You have to trust your grasp of revelation an awful lot to know for sure you know whose voice you are hearing. It’s too easy to answer your own prayers, especially if you really want something or want to be right.

5. There has to be a way for God to speak with authority. Otherwise, His voice becomes yet another equally valid competing voice clamoring for attention.

6. This is insisting that God be an expert at marketing and convince us of His ways; this is not God’s way because it becomes a matter of marketing and logic instead of faith and trust.

7. When society as a whole is going the wrong way, the wrong way feels normal and right. It’s familiar and comfortable and socially supported. So if the prophet says to go against that, it will never “feel right” and the research will never back it up. God has to be free to give us instructions that don’t “ring true” at first.

8. It’s supposed to be a confirmation that it’s right, not if it’s right.

9. What is the point of a prophet if we can pick and choose what we believe of what they say?

10. Trusting isn’t weak, once you know it’s a prophet.

11. If you embrace the “don’t trust” as the default (instead of “trust” as the default), you are looking to prove the wrong thing (that they’re wrong instead of that they’re right)

12. It is prideful to assume that your understanding of what is going on trumps God’s

13. If God can’t choose fallible humans to bring us His messages, what else can He do, since humans (especially sinning ones) can’t be trusted to hear the Spirit on their own

14. It takes a great deal of spiritual maturity and experience to get the kind of revelation the prophets just hand us. People just aren’t all there yet (even after years, I’m working on understanding “yes” and “no” still!). Most of us never will be. It would be silly of God to require that of every member in order to know which way to go.

15. We can’t always tell when we’ve lost the Spirit. Pride is sneaky that way. One of the hints we have is that our ideas are going against the Prophet’s advice. If we claim he is human and fallible and therefore we don’t need to listen, we lose that guidepost.

16. The prophets are supposed to be there to help us along, not make things more difficult or confusing. If we refuse to listen to them….well, let’s just say there are many scriptural examples warning us against that.

17. I’d rather go along doing all they ask me to do than risk rejecting the wrong advice. I trust they’ll clear up the mistakes eventually, but that’s not my job.

18. If you’ve already decided they are wrong about some things, or something, then what happens when they state unequivocally that it is God’s will? That is a position that is difficult to recover from.

19. If a person is a prophet and they are speaking for God, then what does it say about us if we reject it? It says we think we know more than God. Talk about hubris!

20. What is the point of having prophets if we aren’t supposed to listen to them unless it suits us?

21. The point of modern revelation was to deal with current problems as they arise. Which means sometimes we solve a problem to our liking and then God tells the prophets we’re wrong. And if we already like our answer, we’re likely to cut God’s out, especially if our echo chambers are encouraging that. It’s too hard to correct course if we don’t need to listen because the prophet might be wrong. It’s pretty much impossible to trust a leader who we are pretty sure might be wrong all the time. And that defeats the purpose of modern revelation. Course correction requires humility, and for us to hear that they are saying to we are looking the wrong way.

22. There are so many great blessings out there. Why waste time on this? This is the baseline, not advanced doctrine that you get to eventually. This is the starting point: What is a prophet and do we have one or not? IF we have one, why aren’t we begging to listen to them? Don’t we want to hear the word of God? Or do we only follow God when it is convenient and strokes our egos?

23. It’s too easy to be influenced too strongly by other people if we don’t have an anchor. And, as much as we like the idea, we can’t be our own anchors. That doesn’t work for ships and it doesn’t work for people. You can’t make yourself your own foundation. This just sounds an awful lot like a certain building that was in the air… The prophet is there to give us better access to the anchor that is Jesus, so we can hear His voice even when we are distressed, confused, or being yelled at by a thousand opposing voices. There must be a reliable way to find the truth even when our own minds and hearts are confused or can’t hear--because it’s folly to assume that our intentions will always be pure enough and our hearts always still enough and our minds always clear enough to hear the Spirit that clearly.

24. God asked the Prophet to lead the church. Not me. Not us. Not a community. Not a democracy. He asked the prophet to do it supported by 15 apostles. Why would He set up a system that we aren’t supposed to trust? This makes no sense.

25. There is that question of stewardship. I don’t even have the stewardship to get revelation regarding the direction the entire church is trying to go. There is a good chance God wouldn’t even answer that prayer if I ask because it’s not my stewardship. He would tell me what I need to do, but He’s not going to tell me what the entire church is supposed to do. Instead, He has asked me to trust the people He called to get that kind of revelation--those with the right stewardship. And that’s not me or you.

26. There cannot be two truths that are completely opposing. God cannot tell one person that homosexuality is not a sin (and the church will catch up and allow gay couples to be married in the temple if we just wait) and one person that it is a sin (and gay marriage is cause for excommunication) and still be God, because those things are at odds and God cannot lie or He cannot be God (we can’t trust a God who lies; having an untrustworthy God destroys religion entirely. There’s no point if we can’t trust Him). THAT MEANS THAT SOMEONE IS MISTAKEN. Given the odds of a fallible prophet being mistake or a fallible me being mistaken, I’d put the money on me. The doctrine the progressives are teaching assumes that, while the prophet is fallible and can make mistakes, we individually are infallible and will never make mistakes. This is silly. It also leaves us with no authority.

27. God says his is a house of order. This doctrine is a foundation in chaos, not order. In an ordered system there must be an authority somewhere. Everyone cannot be their own authority, even if they are trying to find God themselves. If that worked, we would have never needed prophets in the first place!

28. The prophet’s job--his entire life and his calling--is to receive revelation for the Church and the World. My calling is to send the relief society email once a week. I think it’s safe to trust that someone whose JOB is to receive revelation for the Church might a) be able to do that, and b) actually do that. It’s silly to assume the prophets and apostles didn’t pray about _____ issue or that they never considered all the possibilities. This is the very thing they have been asked to do every single day. And Elder Nelson’s recent talk makes it very clear that the Brethren take this very seriously and do, actually, go through the appropriate, sacred, intense process. They make these decisions with way more discussion, input, exploration, fasting, prayer, and research than we ever could. Why not trust them? I think their process is superior to mine. I don’t have 14 other people fasting, praying, and discussing every single issue with me, catching me where I might be wrong, and coming to a fully unified conclusion with me. (And, if we trust their process, there is a lot of work involved in revelation--it’s not a matter of deciding what I’m comfortable with and assuming it “feels right” and therefore God spoke.)

29. I am furious when I take the time to give instructions to my children (sometimes through an intermediary) and they outright ignore that I said anything. Especially when they later complain that things went wrong as a result of their ignoring me. I suspect God feels the same way.

30. It makes more sense to me to be determined to do right and be right with God than to be right myself.

I guess what it boils down to is that I don't trust myself enough to get that kind of revelation. Especially since I've seen hundreds of times in my life that people who are trusting themselves over the prophets get "revelation" that leads them to do exactly opposite what the prophets are teaching--with disastrous results. 

Bottom line: IT DOESN'T ACTUALLY WORK. That's what common sense and a great deal of experience with "revelation" (which usually wasn't in the long run, even though the person was sure it was) have taught me. If you are getting revelation that tells you the opposite of what the Brethren are teaching, one of you is wrong. And my experience would lead me to put the money on the person who isn't called to be the prophet, even if human, fallible leaders have made mistakes in the past. Because human, fallible non-leaders have made a lot more.