Part 2: Authority can be toxic
This is a continuation from the previous post and goes through a a few notes on the second and third sections of the article I've been taking a deeper look at. Posted here for reference: https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2020/03/the-lord-leads-his-church-through-prophets-and-apostles?lang=eng
Here's a basic recap of the logic of the article: God requires an organization. God requires an organization led by men called prophets and apostles. The LDS Church is that organization. The leaders of the LDS church are Prophets and Apostles. And therefore the article describes these leaders in these descriptive words: (These bold bullets below are taken directly from the article with some food for thought on each one)
- "These leaders did not volunteer, and they were not elected by believers".
Except for Brigham Young, who campaigned for the position and was voted on (The Mormon Succession Crisis of 1844 Author D. Michael Quinn).
But to be fair, most of the leaders did not publicly volunteer and were not elected. But lets face it..... when you want a position of authority there are numerous ways to indirectly "volunteer".
On a related note, when it comes to not being elected by the believers, what the article says is not only accurate but as we saw with President Nelson, the leaders can assume the highest positions of authority before the body even has a chance to sustain them. So people don't vote on them typically, or even have to sustain them before they claim these Church positions and titles of authority.
-"A paramount function of Apostles in the Church that Jesus established was to hold the keys of the priesthood."
Paramount means: more important than anything else; supreme. This bullet teaches the most important, supreme function of an Apostle is to be a key holder. Essentially the person with the most authority on everything. If you hold the keys, you would be a gatekeeper or opener. And the paramount function we are taught is to be the guy with the biggest key ring enabling them to dictate and supervise the most things. Very hierarchical. No chance for equality with this type of setup. These men acquire power and authority and become the gatekeepers due to possession of keys.
Christ in scripture is described as the keeper of the gate and he employs no servant there (2 Nephi 9:41). That truth is affirming and edifying. It points to Christ. But coming directly to Christ without an intermediary is not the objective of this article. It may be one of the objectives of the scriptures but it's not being promoted or even offered by this article. Despite that, it is still something I believe worth teaching. So, lest we forget, Christ is the owner of the priesthood keys. He has't surrendered them. We can come to him directly. That truth is not something however that the article being talked about in this post bothers to remind you of. It only focuses on the key holders you need to look to and or appease. Here's a picture from the Rome Temple photo shoot posted on the official Church Newsroom site.
-They identify truth and error and authoritatively state, “Thus saith the Lord.”
No LDS Church leader in the last 100 years (to my knowledge) has used that phrase to declare Gods word. Prophets in scripture of course did. But the scripture stopped growing after Joseph Smith's day. And now only the handbook grows and changes.
-The Bible also shows that religious leaders must have the authority of God’s priesthood, which is conferred by one already holding that authority.
When a teaching such as this only reference conferral of authority it leaves out important information, such as:
That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.President Packer in a general conference talk distinguished between power in the priesthood and the authority of the priesthood. Authority can be conferred, but power in the priesthood comes form God. When authority becomes the primary focus and what gives license to govern other people that's all that gets focused on. But actual power in the priesthood has to come from God.
This from Joseph Smith:
“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.’ [Genesis 3:9–10.] Adam received commandments and instructions from God: this was the order from the beginning.
All Priesthood is Melchizedek, but there are different portions or degrees of it. That portion which brought Moses to speak with God face to face was taken away; but that which brought the ministry of angels remained. All the prophets had the Melchizedek Priesthood and were ordained by God himself.” (Teachings, pp. 180–81.)Someone who has been ordained by God himself is likely to point out examples of that pattern. Such as Joseph Smith, who above does point out that pattern. Someone who has not had any such ordination is not likely to mention it, especially if doing so would be problematic for their claim to authority.
-Apostles “have the right, the power, and the authority to declare the mind and will of God to his people, subject to the over-all power and authority of the President of the Church.”
Apostles are subject to the President's over-all power and authority. The chain of central command is made very clear. There will be NO insubordination. I think it's all to common to forget that being "called" a prophet apostle or any other calling, is different than being "chosen". Matthew 22:14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.” D&C 121:34 Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen.
Luke 22: And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. 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.The thing to avoid is priestcraft. There is an overabundance of evidence that priestcraft is toxic.
2 Nephi 26: 29 He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.-They teach and counsel as directed by the Holy Ghost, with no desire other than to speak what is true.
If only blanket feel-good statements applied to everyone who ever occupied any religious position of authority. This type of thinking leads us to trust and over-rely on the men. The article doesn't teach you to differentiate between inspired moments and all other moments when men speak as men. This leads to abuse and can mislead people away from recognizing their duty to find and follow the voice of the Spirit themselves. How do we know they teach and counsel as directed by the Holy Ghost? Do they do this all the time? All of them? This statement from the article is a nice platitude but ultimately misleads.
-Their voices can be trusted.
Says the person who's also one of the voices you can trust. If this was said by a political figure the media would quickly point out the conflict of interest of such a statement. Aren't we taught in scripture NOT to trust in the arm of the flesh?
-Their voices are: clear, unpolluted, unbiased.
This is a tall order. And sets men up as a light. I think perhaps Christ is the only one that could rival these amazing descriptions of these Church authorities put forward by this article. Didn't Christ teach that His sheep hear HIS voice and follow Him? The concern here stems from scripture when readers are warned about men setting themselves up as a light. This is a clear warning in scripture but seems largely ignored.
-You can always count on them
Always means always. Aren't we supposed to rely on God? What about counting on them when their voices and teachings are later proved to have been in error? Doesn't relying on men set us up for failure? What about when President Hinckley led the "Meet the Mormons" ad campaign but later President Nelson said using terms such as Mormon and championing their use was a major victory for Satan and offends God? How can we count on contradictions?
-Their only motive is ‘the everlasting welfare of your souls’
Again, this is a sweeping generalization being applied to a whole list of LDS leaders both living and dead. I don't know what their motives are, but I always like to assume the best. I think everyone is doing the best they can according to their worldview. My question is why do I even need to assess their motives? That's a semi impossible task. Christ never said to discern true from false messengers by the motives they claim about each other. In contrast, Christ DID teach to assess them by their fruits. By their fruits we will know them he said. What path does it lead me down when I'm assured that the leaders of the required organization only have only pure motives? I feel like I'm being led to trust in men rather that pointed to my Savior and how Christ said to discern messengers. What if there are very few fruits?
-Neither the President of the Church, nor the First Presidency, nor the united voice of the First Presidency and the Twelve will ever lead the Saints astray or send forth counsel to the world that is contrary to the mind and will of the Lord.”
Except when they did. All the time. The Church essays explain the times the Church leaders have taught falsehoods and or been racist. The current trend of flip flopping policies and statements is hard to miss. This bullet sets men up as a light who cannot ever be wrong. Meanwhile they admit all the times there has been errors.
-To become the official doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ, the individual teachings of apostles and even prophets need to be affirmed through the process of approval by other apostles and prophets.
Is that all it takes to become official doctrine? Affirmation by other men? This didn't mention God at all. Aren't we supposed to affirm teachings by the Holy Ghost? The Holy Ghost was supposed to be the way to identify all truth wasn't it? While affirmation by other apostles and prophets is no doubt a process they follow, what I suspect is far more common it would seem is that the top leader needs to declare something and all the subordinates simply fall in line. Especially when the top leaders have the kinds of descriptions I'm discussing in this post applied to them.
-There is a long-standing rule that questions addressed to individual Apostles or other authorities about doctrine or policy that is not clearly defined in the scriptures or handbooks are to be referred to the First Presidency.
Because rules and organizational hierarchy. Rules are what organizations rely on and enforce to create am artificial version of unity. This is what you get with a top down organization, with someone always governing you with claims to keys, rather than a system of equality, which is what the scriptures teach.
This list of attributes being applied to the leaders portrays how worthy they are of our trust and obedience. This seems very dangerous and opposite of what scriptures say. Almost sounds as if these leaders are pseudo-Christ and a substitute for him. In fact why even look to Christ when we have these clearly elevated, powerful, inerrant, unbiased, unpolluted, infallible men holding all the keys to your salvation? They can do no wrong, have only pure motives, cannot lead you astray, and will never send forth counsel contrary to the mind and will of the Lord.
On the one hand God does send messengers and a true messenger's message will have God's voice resonating in the message. On the other hand you have men making claims. Three's a difference between hearing the voice of God in a message, and just listening to a religious leader. And we are warned about men setting themselves up as a light. Becoming an idol. A critical issue. These two things lead to two different places.
I think it’s pretty clear this article from the church is far more interested in hierarchy than heaven.
Heaven is much more interesting and exciting. Hopefully this blogpost and the food for thought comments about the article have provided interesting contrasts. I love this statement found in John:
John 10:27-28 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.