Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Name of Jesus Christ, Part 2:
Agents and Power


Wherefore, let all men beware how they take my name in their lips—

For behold, verily I say, that many there be who are under this condemnation, who use the name of the Lord, and use it in vain, having not authority.
—D&C 63:61-62


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8


You know what a power of attorney is, don’t you? 

In its simplest form, it’s a document authorizing someone to speak or act for someone else. The one so authorized is legally called an “agent” for the other, who is called the “grantor.” Such documents can be brief or lengthy, general or limited in scope, and called by various names. They are commonly used in personal and business affairs; for example, here’s one signed by President Monson, giving Robert Cantwell financial control over the LDS church:

Click for Larger View
An agent, authorized in this way, can act in the name of the grantor, even to the point of speaking, entering into contracts, issuing instructions, and signing legal documents in behalf of the grantor. This is serious business, because the agent could even act against the wishes of the grantor, and still legally bind the grantor to the outcome. This is why most powers of attorney are limited in scope and specify the sorts of actions an agent can take.

Obviously, power of attorney is not automatic, but must be specifically granted. One who presumes to act in the name of another, but without authorization, commits the crime of fraud.

I think you can see where this is headed, so let’s discuss speaking in Christ’s name. 

What does it actually mean when you speak, teach, or act “In the Name of Jesus Christ?” There’s no shortage of people in the world who claim to do so—ranging from popes and presidents to pastors and pedophiles. The use of Christ’s name is so common, in fact, and associated with so many contradictory teachings, that it’s no wonder Christianity in general is a hodgepodge of confusion. Such was the case in Joseph Smith’s day, as well:
In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it? (JSH 1:10)
The Lord’s response to Joseph Smith’s inquiry is telling:
I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” (JSH 1:19)
And there it is. Through 1,800 years of Christianity, and millions professing to speak in Christ’s name, the Lord claimed exactly none of them. They were all frauds.

When you get right down to it, if  you claim to speak in the name of Jesus Christ, you are asserting the following:

—that He authorized you to speak for Him,
—that you are accurately representing Him,
—that He gave you the words to speak, 
—and therefore, that your words are, in fact, His words.

If the above items are true, then the one speaking is indeed the Lord’s servant, delivering the Lord’s word. Such is a worthy goal for us all, and is exactly how the Lord operates:
What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same. (D&C 1:38)
Note that in the above verse, the Lord honors HIS word. If HE has spoken it, then it will be fulfilled, even if it is delivered by the mouth of His agent. 

On the other hand, if one presumes to speak or act in the name of the Lord, without receiving His word and authorization, that person commits fraud. Anyone who does so will be rejected by Him:
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:21-23)
It’s pretty clear that the use of Christ’s name is reserved only for those He authorizes (and “knows.”) Furthermore, whether you’re authorized or not, if you speak in Christ’s name, you will be accountable to Him for what you say. Those who claim to speak Christ’s words, but do not, bring shame upon his name and damnation upon themselves.

It Ain’t Priesthood, Folks.

So who is authorized? Well, the common belief in LDS circles is that priesthood is the authorization to act and speak in Christ’s name. Therefore, anyone ordained to priesthood is automatically authorized, and anyone else is not. Or so the story goes.

Trouble is, ordaining someone to priesthood doesn’t automatically put him in touch with the Lord’s voice, or give understanding of the Lord’s will. I’ve witnessed many priesthood holders teaching utter falsehoods “in the name of Jesus Christ” out of sheer ignorance. 

Similarly, holding an office in the church doesn’t convey the automatic authorization to speak for Jesus. Whether that office is deacon, seventy, patriarch, apostle, or church president, the duty to first obtain the Lord’s word is the same. It is, and always has been, exactly as the Lord told Hyrum:
Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men. (D&C 11:21)
The Lord will authorize and send whomever he chooses. But it’s never automatic with an office, position, or ordination. Even the president of the church can speak falsehoods, and the Lord is not in any way bound to honor what he says. The fact that the LDS church now openly accuses past presidents of teaching falsehoods only drives home the point.
God will not acknowledge that which He has not called, ordained, and chosen. In the beginning God called Adam by His own voice. “And the Lord called unto Adam and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked, and hid myself.” (See Genesis 3:9-10.) Adam received commandments and instructions from God: this was the order from the beginning. TPJS 168
Look at the third commandment: 
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. (Exodus 20:7)
Isn’t it interesting that the verb used is to TAKE the Lord’s name in vain? To “take” implies to lay hold on, or seize, rather than to simply receive what is offered. To claim Christ’s name without His authorization is to take what isn’t yours. It’s deceptive. It’s stealing. And it has powerful potential to mislead others. Is it any wonder the Lord put this sin on His top ten list?

Sheep’s Clothing

Christ is the lamb of God—so the wolves will always be willing to clothe themselves in His name, attempting to appear as something they’re not. Of course this isn’t unique to Christ. Fraudsters and deceivers clothe themselves with false titles, credentials, and names—even impersonating doctors or apostles to get some respect or make a buck. It seems that when some people find they aren’t convincing enough on their own, they’ll lay hold on the identity of someone more convincing. Whether it’s innocent name dropping, or outright criminal impersonation, the purpose of the ruse is always the same. 

People don the sheep’s clothing to get what they want—whether it’s acceptance, money, power, fame, or sex, the unscrupulous find Christ’s name profitable.

Speaking of Name Dropping...

The correct name for the Melchizedek Priesthood is “the Holy Priesthood after the order of the Son of God. But out of respect or reverence to the name of the Supreme Being, to avoid the too frequent repetition of his name, they, the church, in ancient days, called that priesthood after Melchizedek, or the Melchizedek Priesthood.” (D&C 107:3-4)

Our Lord’s name was so respected and reverenced that early saints hesitated to even use it when it was proper to do so. Those who knew the Lord best were the most hesitant to cheapen His name by making it common. I notice the same pattern today. Those who know Him best reverence Him most, and generally refer to Him by one of his many, honorific titles, rather than his personal name. Therefore, isn’t it ironic when mortal men who lead religious institutions try to imitate God in their insistence on being called by honorific titles?

At the other end of the spectrum are those who use the name of Jesus as a sort of calling card, almost intentionally trying to see how frequently they can use His name in casual conversation, or in association with their own good works—as if using it in such a familiar manner will somehow lend authority to their statements, or convince others (or themselves) they’re intimate and familiar with the Ruler of Heaven. Thus, they not only take His name in vain, but seem to relish doing so as frequently as possible. Throw in a pitch for donations, and you’re ready for the high-dollar world of selling Him for money. Those who know Him least drop His name the most.

Don’t believe me? Go watch a TV preacher sometime.

Doubling Down

The message taught most often, by those who name drop most often, is a message of reassurance. In an effort to make the gospel palatable, easy, and popular, the emphasis shifts from repentance and humility to prosperity, rejoicing and celebration. Whether among LDS people, or other types of Christians, there’s a growing shift toward a gospel of ease, enjoyment, comfort and endless blessings. Sacrifice is for suckers.

Those who teach such messages doubly dishonor our Lord by both stealing his name, and claiming He said something he never did. They bear false witness against Him, lie about Him, and in essence, join the throngs in Jerusalem, shouting “crucify him!” in preference of a false Christ. We’ll go further into this idea next time.

What Should we Do? 

In my opinion, we ought to be much more careful with the name of Christ. Teaching vain, idle or foolish words in His name condemns both the teacher, and those who believe what is taught. There IS NO blanket authorization for just anyone to step up and use Christ’s name when teaching. Those who do so without His permission take His name in vain. 

It’s a grave responsibility to claim to speak in His name. We ought not mislead others by claiming to speak Christ’s words if they weren’t received from him. We ought not desecrate the God of truth by associating his name with falsehood.

On the other hand, truth needs to be taught. We therefore ought to do just as the Lord advised Hyrum Smith: Seek to obtain His word, then declare it. 

Christ does, in fact, give power of attorney. He does send servants. We can, and should seek to become those servants—to properly speak and act in His name:

Verily I say unto you, he that is ordained of me and sent forth to preach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the Spirit of truth, doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way? And if it be by some other way it is not of God.

And again, he that receiveth the word of truth, doth he receive it by the Spirit of truth or some other way? If it be some other way it is not of God.

Therefore, why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth? Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together. 
—D&C 50:17-22

17 comments:

  1. I so so wish I had read this 25 years ago!

    Jared E.

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  2. Adrian, I assume you saw this news article out of Utah? It goes incredibly well with your post.

    http://www.ksl.com/?sid=38609525&nid=148

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    1. Yep. What an interesting and unfortunate story. I linked to it in the post.

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    2. Oh, sorry, I should have clicked the link in the post. I would have seen you had already linked to that story. My bad.

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    3. No, I love that you thought of the same story, and I appreciate you sharing it!

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  3. I just discovered this blog several weeks ago, just after having finished up Brother Snuffer's 10 talks. I'm grateful for the wisdom that I find here at this blog. Thank you. I'm a convert to the LDS Church of almost 30 years. Held and hold many leadership positions, married, many kids, served mission, and was baptized because of the BoM. Just after my baptism and after my sacrifices and "trial of faith" (Ether 12:6), I received a powerful spiritual manifestation which I knew instantly was the baptism of fire. Interestingly, I have rarely heard others testify of this experience. But it changed me. It was life-changing.
    One fruit of that experience was my sense that the BoM was a powerful witness for Christ and that I had to hold onto the iron rod every day. So I've been through it dozens of times now, reading it every day, and have an understanding of its doctrines which are largely not taught in the Church. I've view the book as a prophesy or type for our day. For example Ammonihah is America. As are the Nephites/Jaredites akin to us Americans.
    And so, quite naturally, I've recognized many of the truths taught by Brother Snuffer, and have felt his testimony to be so obviously true according to reason like 2+2=4, but also by the Alma 32 promise, and know that he has been commissioned by our Savior to deliver a message, like Abinadi did, like Samuel the Lamanite did.
    Since knowing of our awful situation with modern Gadianton robbers (the Fed, the CFR, the Bilderbergs, Illumati, etc. who run this world under the inspiration of the god of this world), I've ALWAYS had doubts about our apostles’ inspiration, or worse, their legitimacy. How could they be so conspicuously silent and so "all is well in Zion?" Could there be tares planted by the enemy, as Benson's book titled the same suggested?
    I assumed too much. I assumed that because the BoM was true, that all subsequent prophets/apostles were called of God. I am now repenting of my idolatry.
    I am grateful to God for setting His hand again the second time in these latter days. Just as I'm grateful beyond words for the purity and faith of Joseph Smith, Jr. so I am grateful for Brother Snuffer as well, for his faith, for he has proved that God DOES speak in plain humility as one man speaketh to another, that the Second Comforter is real.
    Now I am refocused on my personal prayers...now repenting of my slothfulness in prayer. I desire to see once again My Father in Heaven and His Only Begotten. I used to seek His face (DC 93:1), but had long since stopped seeking. No more. I’m seeking again, buoyed up by Joseph’s and Brother Snuffer’s testimony that He lives, for they have seen Him.
    About this particular topic you write about today, it’s a topic that has been at the back of my mind, but I’ve tuned it out. Perhaps because the implications go straight to the unpopular charge of church apostasy. We are taught in the Church to give blessings and perform ordinances and to speak in the name of Jesus Christ. Acting as an agent for Jesus Christ is a serious matter. “I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ.” Just what does that mean?

    I guess through the years I would say my interpretation of us Mormons saying or doing things in His name has been that, it’s not that we are claiming that everything we SAY in a talk was authorized by Christ, but more like we sincerely hope that what we did was pleasing unto Him. I think most Mormons would say it would be blasphemy to assert that every word we said in a blessing or talk was specifically approved and authorized by Jesus Christ. If put on the witness stand, most surely would say, “Heck no, I don’t believe that!”

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  4. Then they might be cross examined with the question, “But you ARE saying ‘I do or say this in the name of Jesus Christ’. So what does that mean then”?

    If forced to answer that question, many Mormons might confess honestly, “I do it because of tradition.” Some others may reply, “Well, in DC 1:20, we see that the Restoration occurred “that EVERY man might speak in the name of the God the Lord, even the Savior of the world. So I do it because the Lord encourages me to do so!”
    But in DC 1:16, we hear the Lord saying that the people of the world, “seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way…”
    And so this is mostly true today.
    So the questions is: WHEN should we do or say something in the name of the Lord? That’s a good question. “Priesthood is the authority to act in the name of the Lord.” That’s what we’re taught. And this is a foundational block of the Mormon Church being ripped out by the teachings of Brother Snuffer. Just how does one get the authority?
    You quote DC 50:17: “Verily I say unto you, he that is ordained of me and sent forth to preach the word of truth by the Comforter…” to teach us that we must be ordained of Christ and then sent forth to preach. “Of Christ”, it says.
    So a question for your Larsen: WHO is ordained of [Christ] and sent forth to preach? And who is not? We know from Mosiah 18:18, that a man like Joseph Smith or Brother Snuffer, in this case “Alma, having authority from God, ordained priests…to teach them concerning the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” At this point in the BoM narrative, Alma still had not received his calling and election. He was a convert very possibly just as most converts today, even Brother Snuffer back in the Fall of 1973. And yet Alma claimed authority and was ordaining priests. Were those ordinations legit? Were those priests speaking in the name of the Lord in vain? Were they authorized or not?
    It seems to me that based on Mosiah 18 and based on what seems right to my mind and feelings of discernment, that a personal visit by the Savior is NOT required to have authority. Agreed? If so, then what is required?
    From the story of Abinadi’s convert, Alma, we learn that Alma wasn’t promised eternal life until Mosiah 26, which was AFTER he and his people made it to the land of Zarahemla where King Mosiah presided. Mosiah 26 records that Alma was hearing the voice of the Lord by then, not to say he wasn’t before. He probably was. But at least the record indicates the covenant to give Alma eternal life wasn’t until well after Mosiah 18, which was shortly after they fled King Noah.
    So it appears that getting ordained of Christ and being qualified to be sent froth to preach the gospel can and does come by the Holy Ghost. Your insight is appreciated. These are my thoughts for the time being.
    The question of authority is supremely important. Even among the different communities sprouting up now, this is a key question that EVERYONE should be clear on. I don’t believe this question should be clouded in mystery.
    One big contribution of the church, at least to my mind, has been the feeling of “order” in the world. Another way to ask the question I’m asking is, “What is the order of the kingdom of God?” Is the order more like the Protestants have, where one man feels he’s called of God and therefore THAT is his authority? That seems to be the direction this discussion is going. I’ve always thought that was chaotic in nature, compared to the order in the church.
    Anybody’s thoughts are welcome on my question on who has authority, and/ or what is the order of God’s kingdom or church here on earth?

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  5. Thank you for your comments Underdog! Who has authority today? Many of the baptisms being performed outside the LDS church in the Fellowships today, since Denver's talk 10, are being done by those who have been given authority to do so by the voice of the Lord them. Ultimately the Holy Ghost has to ratify anything done. Only by the Holy Ghost can the truth of all things, even pertaining to someone's authority, be testified to you.
    As to the order of God's kingdom one can look to the scriptures to see the pattern the Lord sets out in the order of things.
    We all must obtain authority from the Lord himself, we all should be prophets. Numbers 11:29-And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the LORD’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!
    These are just some of my thoughts, not really answering all the questions.

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    1. Thank you anonymous. So in summary, the "order" is nothing like we are familiar with in the LDS Church. Callings or positions held are virtually meaningless. Is that an accurate statement?

      Unless one is directed by the Holy Ghost or the Lord directly, the act/blessing/sealing/utterance is of man and not of God.

      Which begs the question, how is a calling or position or office in the priesthood relevant?

      A: Callings and positions are helpful in establishing an "order" or organization. Otherwise there would seem to be chaos or anarchy.

      We know the Lord is organized. He specifies how to organize quorums in the D&C.

      The trick is to remember that these organized societies or quorums are DIFFERENT from "the Holy Priesthood after the order of the Son of God".

      The true priesthood is organized after the order of, or by Jesus Christ Himself. Whereas earthly kingdoms (the Church) seem to follow the Lord's organizational blueprint, but automatic ratification should not be assumed.

      Comments welcome as I try to sort this out in my mind.

      Thank you Adrian for this post. I've re-read it and spent most of the day reading older posts.

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  6. Adrian,

    Good post.

    You quoted D&C 1:38.

    What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.

    The common implication is that whatever a servant of the Lord speaks in the Lord's name, the Lord will honor it.

    I used to believe that too, until I focused a little more on the punctuation of the verse.

    To me it's saying that what the Lord has spoken he has spoken and it will come to pass.

    Then comes the new thought: If the Lord fulfills what he's spoken or someone else, it is the same.

    That it is the Lord who is in charge and it is his servants who fulfill his purposes.

    Am I off base?

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  7. D&C 11:21 was the name of the game at the MTC when I was there in 2003. They just changed it from rote memorizing to "obtaining the word". Back then, I studied the scriptures and really enjoyed that and thought I was obtaining his word. But now, I see that it's about obtaining the living word from the Lord directly. If that does not happen, nothing really has and the grandeur of Mormonism is still waiting to shine forth.

    Great post by the way!

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  8. What about prayer? Should we say "...in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen"? When the Lord instructed his disciples how to pray, "The Lords Prayer", on both continents, He didn't suggest so.

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    1. Hi SB,

      See the post prior to this one for a discussion about using Christ's name in prayer.

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  9. Oh yeah. Do'h. hahaha. Thanks,

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  10. I think the power of attorney comparison is right on the money. It's interesting, though, that those who are baptized, receive the Holy Ghost and are accepted by Jesus are commanded to do all things in his name, using this power of attorney — not sometimes but all of the time.

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    1. Exactly--which highlights the need to receive the Holy Ghost, so we can know Christ's words and speak them. The obligation that comes with the command is that we don't misuse His name.

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  11. Having used the name of Christ many times in the past, without authorization, nowadays I'm much more hesitant to invoke it, ever really. I pray the Lord forgives, because I only did then what I believed at the time was right.
    Now his word becomes clearer and clearer to me, I feel there is less need for me to invoke his name, and more to just bear witness that others can know him too.

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