Counsel of Prophets and Hot Coals

A recent post on Wheat and Tares has got me thinking. The post is titled, “Blaming Parents vs. Mourning with Those Who Mourn.”

I know people whose children have left the Church, who did “everything right.” They had scripture study, gospel conversation, family home evening, bore regular testimony, and did all this with love — and despite that, their children left the Church. I also know parents who did not do all of these things — that is, I know for a fact that they did not have family home evening, regular scripture study, and gospel topics were rarely discussed in the home except perhaps over Sunday dinner. And some of their children have also left the Church.

If I were the teacher of the fifth Sunday lesson, here’s what I would want to say. I certainly would follow the Spirit with a prayer in my heart, and I’m sure that, in the moment and facing brothers and sisters who are clearly hurting, I would probably speak these things in gentler ways than I do here, where I am at a distance and in a blog post.
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The Council System in the Church

Rational Faiths has recently posted an article arguing that — by the LDS Church’s own definitions — the LDS Church has slipped into apostasy. The central argument (there are side arguments I won’t touch on here) is that in LDS rhetoric and literature, the primitive Christian Church fell into apostasy when it began to rely on councils and creeds rather than apostolic direction and prophetic revelation.

Today, the author argues, the LDS Church does the same — rather than being led by a prophet receiving direct revelation from God, the Church is led by the Council of the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles, a council, he argues, that directs the Church by issuing creeds, activities very similar to those the LDS Church attributes to the great apostasy. Two comments: Continue reading

King Benjamin on Prophetic Fallibility

Recently, I was studying the words of King Benjamin, and was struck by his opening remarks. I feel as if he touches on issues that concern many members of the Church today, about the nature of prophets and apostles.

We Treat the Words of Prophets with Weight

King Benjamin starts, “My brethren, all ye that have assembled yourselves together, you that can hear my words which I shall speak unto you this day; for I have not commanded you to come up hither to trifle with the words which I shall speak, but that you should hearken unto me, and open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view.”

In other words, we should not trifle with the words of prophets. We should not treat them as silly, ridiculous, backwards, bigoted, irrelevant, or anything else along that spectrum. We should take them seriously, examine them, treat them as having weight in our decisions. We should seek to learn from them, open our hearts to their wisdom, and open our minds to their insights. We should see the words of prophets as conduits for revelation, and occasions to have the “mysteries of God unfolded to [our] view.”

But not Because They Are Perfect

He then goes on to say, “I have not commanded you to come up hither that ye should fear me, or that ye should think that I of myself am more than a mortal man. But I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind.”

In other words, we should do none of this because prophets are perfect, or anything more than mortal men. They have limitations, biases, weaknesses, just as we do. They have infirmities in both body and mind. They do not know everything, and they sometimes get things wrong. We should not fear them as we would God — we fear God not man, and prophets are men.

But Because They Are Called of God

He goes on: “Yet I have been chosen by this people, and consecrated by my father, and was suffered by the hand of the Lord that I should be a ruler and a king over this people; and have been kept and preserved by his matchless power, to serve you with all the might, mind and strength which the Lord hath granted unto me.”

In other words, we should not trifle with the words of prophets, but treat them with weight — not because they are perfect or anything more than mortal men, but because they are called of God and sustained by us as His servants. They have been consecrated, set apart, ordained to a holy calling, and we have sustained them to this holy calling. This is why we treat their words with weight. Treating their words as having authority does not imply that they are perfect, simply that they are called of God.

In other words, in the first few sentences of King Benjamin’s speech, we are rather directly instructed on the nature of prophetic teaching, and shown the path to walk between the false assumption of prophetic infallibility and the recklessness of treating their words with frivolousness of callousness. If we treat prophetic teaching with weight because they are without flaw, we will be sorely disappointed. If we ignore their teachings because they are imperfect, we will damn ourselves. But if we heed their teachings because they are called of God, we will have the mysteries of God unfolded to our view.

Discussing Marriage: Why Should We Support Traditional Marriage?

Discussing Marriage has posted a summary of all of the arguments on their site, in their newest (and likely final) installment: Why Should We Support Traditional Marriage? Eight Reasons to Support Traditional Marriage, with Answers to Your Questions

If you share anything from the Discussing Marriage project, let this be the article. Given the Supreme Court ruling that is expected later this month, we encourage all of our readers to share this article on social media, and to invite their friends to share it too.

Many thanks!

On Being Accused of Asserting Prophetic Infallibility

Recently, I responded to an article, “How to Stay Mormon when You Are Tired of Mormons,” in an article of my own, “Some Thoughts on Discipleship and “Staying Mormon.” In response to my response, Rational Faiths has posted an article, “Of Pride and Prophets.”

First of all, I think this is the way conversations should happen in the LDS blogging world — blog “cross talk”, where we can productively respond to each other in thought out articles. It’s much better, I think, than long, contentious comment threads. I’m making my response on my own turf, and thus not “trolling” their site, and they’re making their response on their turf, and thus not “trolling” our site. We welcome comments that disagree, and so do they — but when people get into drawn-out contentious comment threads (as I do on a regular basis), civil discussion often breaks down and those dissenting in the comments sometimes overstay their welcome and become trespassers (metaphorically speaking). Anyways, sorry for the tangent.

Anyways, Jeff Swift praises me for aptly summarizing the article I critique. But then he presents me as saying things that I never say, nor will ever say. In short, he gets me wrong, and in ways that are plainly obvious to those who read my article in great detail. Continue reading