Saturday, March 14, 2015

Prophets, Conclusion:
Manifesting the Gentile Affliction

Behold, they do not desire that the Lord their God, who hath created them, should rule and reign over them; notwithstanding his great goodness and his mercy towards them, they do set at naught his counsels, and they will not that he should be their guide.
—Helaman 12:6

In this series, we’ve examined the common LDS understanding of prophets, as compared with scriptural teachings.

If you haven't yet read the first six parts of this Prophets series, they're necessary to understand today's final installment. Here are links to the prior posts:
And now, before we conclude, let’s review some of the ideas already covered:
  • God calls and speaks to whomever he will when he wants His message delivered. There is no office, credential, position, or authority required, other than God’s word to one whom He has chosen. The message is the authority. 
  • Prophecy, seership, and revelation are spiritual gifts, not church offices. The church cannot “ordain” a man as prophet.
  • Christ told us specifically to know true prophets by their fruits. If there are no fruits, there are no prophets.
  • A message from God is identified as coming from God. We cannot claim something came from God simply because a particular man spoke it. God’s messengers clearly state the origin of the message.
  • Those called prophets in the LDS church exhibit no prophetic gifts, but rather live and function as wealthy, celebrity rulers over an earthly kingdom we call a church.
  • True messengers are almost never recognized and heeded, but rather are persecuted, cast out, and often killed. This pattern has persisted as long as mankind has been on this earth.
  • The LDS leaders and members make the unscriptural claim that it is utterly impossible for them to lead us astray, even though every prior dispensation was led astray and degenerated into apostasy. Somehow, we’re supposedly immune to this constant pattern of human religious failing. Because we’re special. Or chosen. Or something.
  • Yet our scriptures plainly state that the church was under condemnation by 1832; that the Fulness of the Priesthood was taken from the church by 1841, and the conditions for its return were never met. It remains lost today.
  • But God has indeed followed the prophetic pattern again in our day, to begin restoring what was lost with the death of Joseph Smith. The Lord has sent a man named Denver Snuffer to deliver a message. 
  • True to the prophetic pattern, the message has been rejected by those who claim they cannot be deceived, and the messenger has been cast out. 
And so, this brings us to today’s concluding installment of this series. It’s time to ask why. More specifically:

WHY do otherwise intelligent LDS people insist on “following” men, and calling them prophets, in light of everything discussed so far in this series? Why do they refuse to recognize or admit what is plainly obvious to anyone who cares to study the matter out in scripture? And why has the “follow the prophet” doctrine become elevated above every other teaching or practice in the LDS church, to the point that it’s the only doctrine left and the one that will get you excommunicated if you disagree?

To put a finer point on it, consider this scene which is familiar to every temple-endowed Latter-day Saint:
Adam, on finding himself in the lone and dreary world, built an altar and offered prayer…But his prayer was interrupted by Lucifer: 
LUCIFER: What do you want? 
ADAM: I am looking for messengers. 
LUCIFER: Oh, you want someone to preach to you. You want religion, do you? There will be many willing to preach to you the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture. 
ADAM: But I am looking for messengers from my Father. 
And there, in this brief exchange, lies the crux of the question. Behind door number one, we’re offered the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture. Behind door number two we’re offered true messengers, sent from God. Adam chose door number two, and he got true messengers.

Adam’s descendants have almost universally opted for door number one, seeking men who “teach with their learning” while denying the Holy Ghost and the power of God. (2 Nephi 28:4-5). According to the words of Jesus Christ, it was THIS VERY CONDITION which prompted the latter-day restoration in the first place:
“…they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” (JSH 1:19)
And so we’re back to the question: Why? Why do we tend to adore false messengers and shun true ones? Why will some angrily shout that they KNOW a man who has never prophesied—is a prophet?

The Gentile Affliction

In Luke 22, we find the following vignette:
And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. (Luke 22:24-25)
When Christ’s followers argued about who should be the greatest, our Lord reminded them that the Gentiles sought to rule and be ruled. In fact, the Gentiles even went so far as to call “they that exercise authority upon them” benefactors.

Did you get that?

The Gentiles not only wanted rulers to rule over them, but they actually honored and praised their rulers. Why? Because they WANTED to be ruled. It’s as if they said, “Please, tell us what to do! Make our decisions for us! Exercise lordship over us! Give us rules to follow! Command us in all things.” (D&C 58:26-27) Although that sounds harsh, and even foolish, this was exactly the case, and not just for the Gentiles.

In fact, this condition is nearly universal among ALL of us fallen mortals. Monarchy was the most common form of government on earth until the 19th century, and since then we’ve just swapped it for a panoply of “elected officials” who, for the most part, seek after power and gain by exercising authority over the rest of us. Some don’t even bother pretending to follow the constitution anymore. Hence the saying that when it comes to elected office, anyone who actually wants the job should never be trusted with it.

But think about this: the issue of who should rule didn’t originate in this world. Read this from Moses 4 (emphasis mine):
 1 And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying—Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor. 
 2 But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever. 
 3 Wherefore, because that Satan rebelled against me, and sought to destroy the agency of man, which I, the Lord God, had given him, and also, that I should give unto him mine own power; by the power of mine Only Begotten, I caused that he should be cast down; 
 4 And he became Satan, yea, even the devil, the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men, and to lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken unto my voice.
As you can see, Satan proposed to redeem all mankind on the condition that he receive the Father’s honor and power. Or in other words, he sought the right to rule over the human family. And he proposed to do it by destroying our agency.

Even now, in his fallen state, he seeks to captivate all men to do his will, which they do by ignoring the voice of God. Satan cannot enforce his rule by coercive power, so he seeks to do so by enticement, pretending to be the God of this world, and even wearing the emblems of his pretended power and priesthoods in the endowment presentation.

Prior to his eviction from on high, Satan managed to convert a part of the hosts of heaven to his way of thinking. There were actually a good number of those who stood in the presence of God who thought Satan’s approach was better, with its no-loss guarantee, because of its no-agency stipulation.

Fearsome Freedom

I believe Satan was successful in convincing many because of fear. Without guarantees of success in place, some would be lost. I believe many feared to face this possibility, and so sided with Satan. I believe the rest of us, though still fearful, sided with Christ and came here to try.

That fear yet persists in nearly all of us.

And so we’re back to the Gentile affliction. We want to be ruled, and call our rulers our benefactors. We want to be told what to do, so we can be absolved of the terrifying responsibility for how we exercise our agency. We want to be able to point to a man and say “I'll follow him! He CANNOT lead me astray!”—which was, and still remains, Satan’s plan. And thus, stripped of agency and the growth it was designed to bring us, we seek and follow rulers into Hell as Satan laughs. That serpent is subtle indeed. (Moses 4:5)

Hearing the voice of a man speaking banal platitudes is easy. Hearing and hearkening to the voice of the Lord is difficult. Man's voice is offered to you, even forced upon you, because men rule by force. The Lord's voice, however, must be humbly sought. He never compels belief.

Let’s Talk About Rulers

The Book of Mormon—the most correct of any book on Earth—has much to say on the topic of rulers. In fact, I was planning to quote some items here, but the ruler theme is SO prevalent that I simply don’t have space to quote all that is relevant.

So I’ll summarize.
  • Upon arriving in the promised land, after fleeing the destruction of Jerusalem under a wicked king Zedekiah (Jer. 52:2), the Nephite group soon asked Nephi to be their king. Within a few generations, the Nephites were largely destroyed (Omni 1:5) and in complete apostasy (Omni 1:11).
  • Upon arriving in the promised land, after fleeing great destruction brought about by apostasy, the Jaredites asked for a king, which the Brother of Jared said surely “leadeth into captivity.” (Ether 6:22-23) They got their king, and they got their captivity. (Ether 7:5).
  • Other rulers in the Book of Mormon provide similarly disastrous results (Noah, anybody?). And yet, even late in the Nephite history, a group called “king-men” who “were in favor of kings” because they “were those of high birth, and they sought to be kings” nearly proved the entire destruction of the Nephite civilization. Again. 
  • “They were supported by those who sought power and authority over the people.” (Alma 51:8) Fact is, when men lust for power and authority, destruction is always the result. 
  • Maybe this is why Jacob warned us that “this land shall be a land of liberty unto the Gentiles, and there shall be no kings upon the land…For he that raiseth up a king against me shall perish, for I, the Lord, the king of heaven, will be their king.” (2 Nephi 10:11-14) Too bad so few listened to Jacob, right?
But this is all kind of silly when you think about it, because those Book of Mormon prophets sure wasted a lot of time and gold plate space warning us about kings, when we don’t have any. Right? Why would they do that?

Let's think about it. They were NOT writing to the Nephites. They wrote to us. Moroni saw our day (Mormon 8:35) and sought “that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been.” (Mormon 9:31) The continual warnings about our rulers are NOT there by mistake. Indeed, Mosiah warned us about kings saying “it is not expedient that such abominations should come upon you” (Mosiah 29:24). Abominations are sins that are justified and enforced by false religious belief. Ask King Noah's people how that worked out for them.

The warnings are not about our political rulers. They are about our religious rulers who seek “power and authority over the people” (Alma 51:8) because, as Joseph Smith reminds us from prison, “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood.” Period. (D&C 121:41).

And now, here’s the decision you must make. When you own up to your agency, stop following Satan, and seek to act, rather than be acted upon, you’ll have to choose who to believe. Just like Adam, you will encounter many willing to preach to you the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture. And, if you ask for them like Adam, there will also be true messengers, bearing a message from the Lord. You MUST discern for yourself the difference. You cannot rely on a man's office or title to make him a true messenger.

This brings us back, as always, to the words of Christ. As you recall from Luke 22, Christ identified the Gentile affliction:
And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest. And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. (Luke 22:24-25)
And, now, having warned us, in the very next verses Christ tells us how to get it right:
“But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve. For whether is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth. (Luke 22:26-27)
Rulers are very different than servants, and that difference ought to be obvious to us. Christ came to serve. Others sought to rule. It was the religious rulers who rejected and killed the Lord. Can you see the difference between a ruler and a servant?

To help make it more obvious, here’s an outline, adapted from my friend Brian Beckle:

Serving Two Masters

Said our Lord, 
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24)
You cannot be loyal to Christ as your king while swearing an oath of allegiance to a man—particularly when that man claims to have a set of priesthood “keys” by which he can save or damn you, thus usurping Christ’s role of Savior as his own. Any man who makes such a claim is a false Christ, and may deceive many.
For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (Matthew 24:24)
There’s only one Savior, and when He comes he will wear red, not sit on it. And yet, in our last LDS General Conference, Elder Nelson taught the following, verbatim (his words are in blue, with my comments in red):
“But man’s ways are not and never will be the Lord’s ways.” 
Got it. Men screw up continually; the Lord doesn’t.
“Our sustaining of prophets is a personal commitment that we will do our utmost to uphold their prophetic priorities.” 
Wait, what? A man’s priorities? What about the Lord’s priorities? Didn’t you just say man's ways are not the Lord's ways? 
“Our sustaining is an oath-like indication that we recognize their calling as a prophet to be legitimate and binding upon us.”
So…this is like swearing an oath to be bound by a man? Does that make him…our ruler?
In the Roman Catholic church, the Pope is in fact a genuine, political king, complete with a sovereign kingdom. The cardinals are called “The Princes of the Church.” While I can’t agree with making men religious rulers, this approach is at least honest. They tell you what they are.

When we are similarly honest in looking at the way we regard our LDS religious leaders, we not only treat them as rulers, but we go so far as to treat them as actual idols. 

General conference is just around the corner. Now that Elder Nelson has taught you of the oath-like commitment that binds you to the one you raise your arm to sustain, the question is, to whom will you make that oath?

One thing is certain. You won’t hear the following words at conference:

It is proposed that we sustain our Savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as our sovereign Lord, God and King, putting His will above that of any other office, person or institution. All those in favor, please manifest it.

No, you won't hear that. You'll be asked to make an oath to a man. 

Therefore, when the oath-like indication is asked of you, what will you do? If you are loyal to the Savior, but you refuse to swear an oath to a man—and you are then punished for your refusal—whose church is it? What does that tell you?

This Easter Weekend at LDS General Conference, you’ll be given an opportunity to show your loyalty. You'll be expected to make an oath, binding you to a man who is your de-facto ruler. Are you in favor? Are you opposed? Heaven is watching, and more than you might realize, eternity hangs in the balance. 

Please manifest it.