Archive for the 'Living Prophet' Category

23
Aug
12

THE ONLY SAFETY?

The following quotation is found in the teacher’s manual for lesson 32 of the Gospel Doctrines Class.  It is from President Harold B. Lee.

“Now the only safety we have as members of this church is to do exactly what the Lord said to the Church in that day when the Church was organized. We must learn to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through his prophet, ‘as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; … as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.’ (D&C 21:4–5.) There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.’ (D&C 21:6.)” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 152; or Improvement Era, Dec. 1970, 126).

Just before this the teacher is encouraged to write on the chalkboard, “Follow the prophet ‘with exactness’”.  This is just one example of many illustrating the fact that the LDS Church teaches that its final authority is not the Bible. It is not even their other scriptures.  The final authority in the LDS Church is the living prophet.

All this coincides with its belief in continuing revelation – that God needs to give revelation because the world and circumstances change.  This point was made to me years ago by a LDS leader who told me that he felt sorry for me because all I had to live by was the Bible!

A couple of things come to mind because of this emphasis on the living prophet.  One is that this is still another in a long list of proofs of how much Mormonism differs from Christianity.  Christians do not think that their only safety comes from giving heeds to the words of the living prophet.

Another thought is the question of why the Lord is not revealing more new things through his prophet.  The last official “new” doctrine was the proclamation in 1978 allowing blacks to be in the priesthood.  Now almost everybody is agreed that the world has seen more change in the last thirty years than ever before.  It would seem that if the reason why there has to be continuing revelation from God is because things change, then it seems that we should have expected a whole lot of new revelation these past 30 years!  If not now with all this rapid change, when?

But most seriously of all, if people follow the words of the prophet as he reinforces the LDS doctrine that eternal life in the presence of heavenly Father is not solely the work of Jesus but is something that people also have to earn – if they follow that teaching the gates of hell will prevail against them while the gates of heaven will remain close to them.

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29
Mar
12

General Conference

 

This weekend the LDS Church holds its semi-annual General Conference.  Both on Saturday and Sunday the General Authorities of the LDS Church give talks.  In LDS churches around the world, the regular Sunday schedule is suspended so that members can listen to these talks.

The March edition of the LDS magazine, Ensign, had a number of articles stressing the importance of these General Conferences.  In one of those articles, entitled Follow the Prophet, Elder Randall K. Bennett of the Seventy, relates how he and his wife have benefited from following the words of the prophets.  He writes:  “In the years since, we have been blessed in many other ways by heeding the prophetic word.  We have learned not to question the validity of what the prophets and apostles teach or to wonder if it makes sense.  We have learned that by acting – and acting immediately – on their counsel, our lives are blessed.”

“Some might call our actions blind obedience.  But we have the Lord’s personal promise that the prophets will never lead us astray.  Knowing this helps us hear their voices as we would hear His own (see D&C 1:38).”

Note the example he holds up – and the LDS Church holds up by having this in its official magazine.  No questioning the validity of the teaching – no wondering if it makes sense.  Rather acting immediately on it.  So much so that it looks like blind obedience. Reliance on the personal promise of the Lord that the prophets will never lead them astray.

It will be interesting to see what will be said this weekend.  It will also be interesting to read blogs and comments written by LDS members in response to General Conference.  How many will follow that example?  If the reaction to the last General Conference is any indication, there will be some who won’t follow this example.  And if they don’t but instead question and wonder about what is said, what does that mean for them personally?  How does questioning the prophets affect their worthiness in the church?

14
Mar
12

The Living Prophet

Chapter 6 in the Teachings of George Albert Smith deals with the responsibility LDS members have to sustain their leaders.  Incidentally this is also emphasized in the March issue of the LDS church magazine, the Ensign.  Leaders are sustained at conferences by the members raising their right hands.  As both this chapter and the Ensign articles emphasize, the more important aspect of sustaining the leaders is by following their counsel, accepting the calls the leaders call them to, and by praying for them.

Most of chapter 6 deals with sustaining the president of the church, who is also their living prophet.  The following quote from that chapter gives the flavor of its advice.  Note how it ties in salvation with following LDS leadership.

“There is only one pathway of safety for me in this day and that is to follow those whom the Lord has appointed to lead.  I may have my own ideas and opinions, I may set up my own judgment with reference to things, but I know that when my judgment conflicts with the teachings of those that the Lord has given to us to point the way, I should change my course.  If I desire salvation I will follow the leaders that our Heavenly Father has given to us, as long as he sustains them.” (p. 60)

A number of years ago, Ezra Taft Benson, who was one of Mormonism’s living prophets, gave a speech entitled, “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet”.  Over the years, numerous Mormons have not entirely embraced these fundamentals.  But they remain a good summary of Mormonism’s teachings about the living prophet especially because they have been quoted in their entirety twice in recent General Conferences.  Here they are as given by Elder Kevin R. Duncan of the Seventy in the October, 2010 General Conference.

“First: The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.

“Second: The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.

“Third: The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.

“Fourth: The prophet will never lead the Church astray.

“Fifth: The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.

“Sixth: The prophet does not have to say ‘Thus saith the Lord’ to give us scripture.

“Seventh: The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.

“Eighth: The prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning.

“Ninth: The prophet can receive revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual.

“Tenth: The prophet may be involved in civic matters.

“Eleventh: The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.

“Twelfth: The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.

“Thirteenth: The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency—the highest quorum in the Church.

“Fourteenth: [Follow] … the living prophet and the First Presidency … and be blessed; reject them and suffer.” 

The second and third points are especially enlightening.  The standard works are the books the LDS Church views as Scripture including the Bible.  The living prophet, it states, is more vital than Scripture.  Or consider point 3.  Who are the dead prophets?  Included in that list would be all the biblical prophets.  In light of statements like these, who is reflecting the teachings of official Mormonism more consistently:  the person who says that the highest authority in Mormonism is the Bible or the one who says that the highest authority in Mormonism is the living prophet?  And if the claim is made that there is no conflict between the two, than what is the purpose of the second and third fundamental listed above?

When Mormons sustain their living prophet, something they will do again in a couple of weeks at General Conference, they are saying that his words are the most important words in the entire world – more vital than Scripture – more important than those of Moses, Isaiah, and all the biblical prophets.

A LDS leader one time told me that he felt sorry for me because the only thing I had to follow were the words of the Bible.  Today I want to express my sorrow that Mormons, by their sustaining of the living prophet, are declaring that he is more vital than the Bible, that he is more important than all the prophets in the Bible. That not only does dishonor to the Bible; that also puts their eternity into jeopardy.

15
Mar
11

The Living Prophet

Ever since last fall’s General Conference, the LDS Church has been emphasizing the authority of the living prophet.  Twice in that General Conference, President Ezra Taft Benson’s 1980 speech, “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet”, was not just referred to but cited quite heavily.  In fact, two different speakers listed all fourteen fundamentals.  This is striking because this was and has remained a controversial speech even among Mormons.  Numerous active LDS members have told me how they take that speech with a large grain of salt.  That critical attitude was also evident in numerous posts made by Mormon bloggers after General Conference.

It’s not difficult to see why this speech causes discomfort among some Mormons.  Here are the 14 fundamentals.  Elder Kevin R. Duncan of the Seventy listed them with this introduction: “Because they are of such great importance to our very salvation, I will repeat them again.” (my emphasis)

“First: The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.

“Second: The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.

“Third: The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.

“Fourth: The prophet will never lead the Church astray.

“Fifth: The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.

“Sixth: The prophet does not have to say ‘Thus saith the Lord’ to give us scripture.

“Seventh: The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.

“Eighth: The prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning.

“Ninth: The prophet can receive revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual.

“Tenth: The prophet may be involved in civic matters.

“Eleventh: The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.

“Twelfth: The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.

“Thirteenth: The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency—the highest quorum in the Church.

“Fourteenth: [Follow] … the living prophet and the First Presidency … and be blessed; reject them and suffer.”

Those are quite lofty claims!

But this emphasis on the living prophet hasn’t ended there.  In subsequent months, statements about the importance of following the living prophet have been appearing on the pages of the official LDS magazine, Ensign.  In fact, March’s edition spotlights this again in its column, “What We Believe”.

I, for one, am happy to see this emphasis.  I say that because it has been an ongoing frustration to quote a living prophet only to have it downplayed by Mormons as not binding.  But that is not what Benson said above.  It’s obvious that, by twice quoting those fundamentals at General Conference, the present Church agrees with Benson.  As the January edition of the Ensign states, “God continues to reveal truths to living prophets through the revelation of the Holy Ghost.  These truths are considered scripture (see D&C 68:4).  They come to us primarily through general conference, held the first weekend in April and October, when members throughout the world hear addresses from our prophet and other Church leaders.”

With statements like the above, the proper method for seeing what Mormonism truly teaches is looking at what its prophets and leaders have said rather than what individual members say.  And when a individual member’s position differ from that of the prophet, doesn’t honesty demand that, on the specific topic under discussion, that the member is not representing official Mormon teaching?

 

10
Aug
10

Living Prophets

     I have found it interesting, and I must also admit frustrating, to hear the different values different Mormons place on the words of the living prophets.  More and more when I quote one of their sayings, some Mormons respond by saying that they don’t accept all their words as true – that they are only human and thus also make mistakes.  Other Mormons respond more traditionally and place quite a high value on them.

     But there is really no question how the LDS Church values its living prophets.  The Church manuals consistently hold them up as authoritative and trustworthy sources.  Those manuals even label their words as scripture.  Take, for example, the following quote from the teacher’s manual for the course “Preparing for Exaltation” – the course being taught this year to 12 and 13 year olds.  It says, “Explain that the scriptures (including the teachings of latter-day prophets, which are considered scripture) contain the word of God to his people.” (p. 87)

     Who then is more fairly representing official Mormonism?  Those Mormons who downplay the words of their own living prophets or Christians who use them to show what Mormonism truly teaches?  After all, Mormonism itself says that their words are scripture.

11
May
10

Personal Revelation

 

     I recently received the May issue of the Ensign (the official magazine of the LDS Churchh) which contains the talks from last month’s General Conference of the LDS Church.  This is an important issue because General Conference talks are so important.  How important?

     Elder Mark E. Petersen, said:  “A general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is far more significant than most people realize. . .

      . . .it is one of the most important events of the present day.  Many do not regard it, even among the Latter-day Saints.  But for those who appreciate its true significance, it is of transcending importance, for in it PROPHETS OF GOD SPEAK, living prophets.

     When God gives a message to mankind, it is not something to be lightly cast aside.  Whether He speaks personally, or through His prophets, He himself said, it is the same.

     And in this conference HIS PROPHETS SPEAK!”   (Teachings of the Living Prophets, p. 63)

     Ezra Taft Benson said, “The most important prophet, so far as we are concerned, is the one living in our day and age. . .Therefore, the most crucial reading and pondering which you should do is that of the latest inspired words from the Lord’s mouthpiece.  That is why it is essential that you have access to and carefully read his words in current Church publications.” (Teachings of the Living Prophets, p.19)

     Because of the importance Mormonism places on these talks, I take extra time reading them.  I have just read the first few talks but what has already struck me is how much emphasis there is on the Holy Spirit and on receiving personal revelations from him. Mormonism teaches that personal revelations come through feelings and impressions and a person has to be worthy to receive them.

     For many Christians, this has always been a puzzling aspect of Mormonism because feelings are notoriously fickle.  How many times haven’t people, even with the best intentions, done something because it felt right, only to discover that it was the wrong thing to do?  Over the years I have asked numerous Mormons how they can determine if what they feel is truly from the Holy Spirit.  Has a feeling, which they thought was a personal revelation, ever led them astray? 

     The responses have been interesting to say the least.  Some have said their feelings have never led them astray.  Others admitted that their feelings had led them astray, but the problem was with them.  It has been interesting to see this topic being discussed on Mormon blogs with again differing reactions.

     More than one Mormon has told me that they felt sorry for me because the only revelation I had was the Bible.  I, however, would much rather rely on it.  It is perfectly sufficient for me. It especially reassures me that Heavenly Father considers me worthy to live eternally with him, not because of what I do, but because of what Jesus did for me.  It emphasizes that the temple work that needed to be done to live with Him was already done for me by Jesus when he was sacrificed for me.  It gives me great guidance for life.  It comforts me with tremendous promises of the Lord’s protection and provision.  I receive revelation not through feelings, but through His Word.  For me, that is much more solid ground to stand on.

11
Nov
09

Misrepresentation

     Whenever there is interaction between people, there exists the real possibility of misunderstanding and misrepresentation.  Communication is difficult.  It’s difficult, at times, to express ourselves clearly.  It’s even more difficult to listen carefully.  Good listeners are few and far between.

     The importance of good communication is paramount when people of different faiths interact.  Such interactions demand clear speaking and careful listening.   Naturally, because of the nature of this blog, I am here mainly thinking of communication between Mormons and non-Mormons.  I would like to outline some of the issues that have made this difficult for me.

      1.  Who do I listen to when I want to get a true picture of Mormonism?  Do I restrict myself to its scriptures – do I include the words of the living prophet seeing that often they are also labeled as scripture – do I also look at the official church manuals as more than one LDS leader has encouraged me to do?  Or do I listen to what individual Mormons tell me?  And what do I do when they either contradict each other or some official sources? 

     Permit me one small recent example.  It is my experience that LDS sources are quite consistent in defining eternal life as equal to exaltation, life in the celestial kingdom.  More than one source goes out of its way to make it distinct from immortality.  As I said, this seems to be quite consistent.  Therefore I think it is only right for me to observe that distinction when talking to Mormons.  But recently that distinction was ignored by a Mormon and I was told I was misrepresenting Mormonism.  When that happens, that brings to mind a couple of questions:  Who should I be listening to understand what Mormonism teaches about eternal life?  And how can I get the conversation on track again when discrepancies like this arise?  In other words, suddenly the discussion revolves around the definition of a phrase, rather than the original topic.

     I hasten to add, that Mormons face the same problem when talking to Christians.  They too probably end up scratching their heads on who to listen to.  This is my two-cents worth of advice to Mormons.  If you want to know what a certain denomination of Baptists, or Lutherans, or others believe, look at what they have stated officially.  I will be the first to admit that many Christians don’t accurately represent all the beliefs of their churches.  Yes, if I want to know what an individual person believes, whether Mormon or Christian, I need to listen to him or her.  But I think it is also proper to point out to people where their beliefs differ from those held by their church. 

     2.  My second problem is when people don’t listen and, at the very least, seem to be intentionally misrepresenting the position of others.  Again, I will be the first to admit that this is something I have seen Christians doing with Mormonism.  But I have also seen it go the other way.  The one that I find irritating is when Mormons say that Christians think that because salvation is free, they can run amuck and sin all they want.  I know of no Christian church that teaches that.  I don’t know how many times I have tried to explain that, when it comes to being saved- being justified – works have no place.  In that context, the Bible and Christianity teach that works are deadly.  The only works that apply there are the works of Christ for us.  But the Bible and Christianity also teaches that, as a result of being saved, as a fruit of faith, Christians will do good works. 

         I have made that point repeatedly in this blog.  But I still have Mormons misrepresenting what I and others Christians believe.  At the very least, that doesn’t aid in communication.

     I will try my best to avoid misrepresenting the teachings of any church.  All I ask is that you do the same.




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