Thursday, November 4, 2010

Not the same. And it was just Joseph.

Wanted to cover a few common D&C verses that are frequently taken out of context and misused to teach something the verses themselves do not teach. If this sounds like just my opinion keep reading.  I think by the end you'll see that the context of the actual scripture cannot be removed without altering the meaning of the verses completely.

First is Doctrine and covenants 1:38. ".... whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same."

That verse is typically used just as I have used it above.  Without context and using "....".  The verse is short enough to not merit "...." but the dot dot dot ellipsis is used so frequently I had to investigate.  Turns out this is a pattern of omitting half the verse, it's really common.  It causes the verse to seemingly saying something which is not supported by the scripture itself.  I'd watch out for this.

Here's a bit more context
36-38 And also the Lord shall have power over his saints, and shall reign in their midst, and shall come down in judgment upon Idumea, or the world. Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled. 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 only portion typically quoted in Sunday School or even General Conference is the last part. ".... whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same."

What's the message you get when that is the only part of the verse you are given?  The message comes across that we have no reason to doubt anything a leader of the Church says because it’s the same as if the Lord Himself had said it, right?  Tuns out our high school English teachers were right.  Context really does matter.  And when we misquote people or manipulate source material for some other agenda we risk doing damage to both parties.  It's not a good idea.  Seems it would be even more important to keep this in mind in matters of God's word.  Perhaps we should be double careful when we use scripture to teach something.
When you look at the entire context of that verse we learn that this tiny phrase is actually just a small part of a whole idea. That idea is a continuation of the preceding verse, and as you can read above is basically stating that the Lord has given us many prophecies and they will all be fulfilled. The Lord will not make excuses for seemingly unfulfilled prophecies or things He has said. They shall all be fulfilled. Even though the heavens and the earth, which are practically eternal in comparison to human lifespans, will pass away, His Word will never pass away. All His word will be fulfilled. Not all man's words, or all man's philosophies or all the false and vain things said in the name of Jesus Christ. Those are not promised to be fulfilled. The only thing promised to be fulfilled are His words, His promises, and prophecies He gives.   

Then comes the familiar part where The Lord says whether that fulfillment comes by His own voice or by the voice of His servants, "it" is considered the same. The fulfillment can be counted on.  Regardless of who the players are.  Even enemies of God sometimes unknowingly fulfill Gods prophecies. But lets delve even more into the word "it" as it's used here.  What is "it" referring to when it says "it is the same"?  The object of "It" has to have reference to the previous part of the verse "What I the Lord have spoken". Whether He speaks it Himself or He authorizes someone else to speak it, "it" can be viewed as the same. But if He didn't speak it, nor authorize it, and if the message is not in aliment with Him then it's clearly not the same. We have to discern if what we hear is from God or not.  Because one will be fulfilled, the other has no promise.  Discernment is not a matter of finding out what the persons Church title is, and then believing whatever they say the higher their calling.  That's not discernment.

What this verse being discussed is not saying is that a person's Church office or calling automatically makes their words the same as if God spoke. That's backwards. If the words spoken are not in aliment with God's words how can we claim "it" is the same as if God spoke? No one can can just make stuff up, or pontificate, or share their own ideas and opinions and philosophies then claim it is the same as if God said it. And therefore it will be fulfilled. Nope. That's a little ridiculous when you think about it. That would amount to God being obligated to honor man's words simply because the man held a religious position of authority. That's making God obey man.

Whatever someone holding a Church office says obviously does not bind God into ownership of whatever that person says. The source and content of the message is what matters, not the speaker.  Whether or not you got warm fuzzies.  This hopefully has helped clarify these verses.  It's not difficult to understand once you look at the context.  Joseph Smith remarked that a Prophet is only a Prophet when acting as such. (TPJS pg 278).  Everyone has the freedom to think and act for themselves. Our duty is to discern when God's Spirit accompanies a message.

Another example of a verse used to communicate that whatever someone says is scripture:

D&C 68: 2-4 And, behold, and lo, this is an ensample unto all those who were ordained unto this priesthood, whose mission is appointed unto them to go forth— 3 And this is the ensample unto them, that they shall speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost. 4 And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.
This verse says: And whatsoever "they" shall speak....shall be scripture.  So there are some limits.  Who is "they"?  The chapter heading also identifies some specific Elders.  It's also those who are ordained unto "this" Priesthood.  So what Priesthood is that?  Aaronic?  Melchizedek?  Is it an ordination by man?  Can one man (who was only ordained by other men) ordain another man to speak for the Lord and reveal the mind of the Lord?  Is it the kind of priesthood that only comes from God?  Does it not matter as long as the Holy Ghost moves the speaker?

The other limit stated in the verse are those who have a mission appointed unto them to go forth.

Another limit stated in the verse is "as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost".  The priesthood office alone in the LDS church doesn't confer this ability to speak the mind and will of God.  Despite some traditions stating it does.  The condition is "as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost".  The Holy Ghost as we know bares record of the Father and Son.  It's the instrumentality through which God works.  So rather than someone sharing their own opinions, their own ideas, or own philosophies, this limitation to me seems to clearly limit the "scripture" to only things coming from the Holy Ghost. Not the man. Seems like common sense that God isn't obligated to own words and messages a man speaks that God never gave, never endorsed and never vouched for.  As 2 Peter says: For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

Here's another verse that is often used out of context, and manipulated to say something different than what the text actually says.
D&C 21:4-5 " Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.
I'm surprised the English teachers of the word don't notice this one being blatantly removed from it's historical context, which is right there in the heading.  That verse is used consistently in general conference as support for why the members should look to the (Current) President of the LDS church and what he says as if from God's mouth.  See example from General Conference here.  Yet, if you read the verse in context it's unmistakably clear and unmistakably NOT saying what many speakers, top leaders, as well as manuals have used the verse to teach.   

Here's the verse in context.  The revelation heading is important. It reads: Revelation given to Joseph Smith the Prophet, at Fayette, New York, April 6, 1830.  This revelation is to Joseph Smith.  As the first few verses indicate. This is a revelation to Joseph, about Joseph.  That's why the first few verses use "he" and "his" in the singular.  (parenthesis below are mine).  Because it's about Joseph.  Which is obvious if you don't take the 1 verse out of context.

The revelation reads: Behold, there shall be a record kept among you; and in it thou (Joseph) shalt be called a seer, a translator, a prophet, an apostle of Jesus Christ, an elder of the church through the will of God the Father, and the grace of your Lord Jesus Christ,  Being inspired of the Holy Ghost to lay the foundation thereof, and to build it up unto the most holy faith. Which church was organized and established in the year of your Lord eighteen hundred and thirty, in the fourth month, and on the sixth day of the month which is called April. Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his (Joseph's) words and commandments which he (Joseph) shall give unto you as he (Joseph) receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; For his (Joseph's) word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.

The revelation is referring specifically to Joseph Smith who's message God vouches for. There is no justification for taking the verse, divorcing it from Joseph Smith, and applying it to any subsequent leader of the Church.  Where in the verses is any such license given?  In what industry or arena is it ok to take what applied to 1 individual, and making it apply to someone else?  Plagiarizing off someone else long since passed away as evidence that what another person now say is as if God was speaking seems quite troubling.  This type of thing wouldn't be tolerated in even the political sphere.  Yet it's passed by in the religious sphere in matters of God speaking to man.  That misuse and out of context utilization of those scriptures would seemingly concern people but it doesn't.

What's also of note here is how important God things Joseph Smith's words are. The LDS church drifts or discards what Joseph Smith taught more each year.  Many topics taught by Joseph are never taught or mentioned.  Just look at the manuals and seminary and institute manuals.  In place of Joseph's Teachings are more and more conference talks. Because as you saw last post, a living prophet is more important than a dead one.  God vouched for Joseph.  I have not heard God vouch for subsequent Church leader's words.  So if nothing else, we should appreciate, value what Joseph taught.  

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