Thursday, April 26, 2012

Envying of them who belong to their churches?

I came across two scripture phrases that I wanted to write about.  The specific parts are in bold.  

Mormon 8:28 

28: Yea, it shall come in a day when the power of God shall be denied, and churches become defiled and be lifted up in the pride of their hearts; yea, even in a day when leaders of churches and teachers shall rise in the pride of their hearts, even to the envying of them who belong to their churches.

This is a pretty direct prophecies and accusations laid upon a latter day audience.

If The Book of Mormon is not instructing or referring to Mormons, than it must be about someone else.  And if God gave us a book with which to judge others, than.....well that doesn't make any sense.  My view is that the warnings should be taken seriously as if they were about and apply to us, as we are the primary readers.    

1.  The first phrase is this: "in a day when leaders of churches and teachers shall rise in the pride of their hearts, even to the envying of them who belong to their churches."

So are these unspecified church members envying the leaders of the churches?  Or do the church leaders envy those who belong to their churches?  The way it's written is that older form of English and the grammar isn't 100% clear.  Therefore, I wonder about both possible ways to view the the phrase.  Both church members envying their leaders, and leaders envying the members.  Basically leaders and members are full of envy.

Envy is usually defined as a resentful emotion that occurs when a person lacks another's perceived superior quality, achievement or possession and wishes that the other lacked it.  Given that the leadres are full of pride, I would guess the members are the ones envying the leaders.  And remember this is in a religious context, and comes from a religious text.  This chapter already addressed the love of money, so I don't think this part is directly referring to an economic envy, it's more envy of something religious, a position, a perceived achievement or status thing.

But for sake of a good discussion lets take the view that the leaders envy the members.  Why would leaders of churches and teachers who have risen in the pride of their hearts envy those who belong to their churches?  That seems funny to to even think about.  What perceived quality or achievement or superiority would church members have that the leaders would envy?

As a leader or renown teacher you are expected to have had various experiences and expertise.  But often leaders are called who may or may not have these things.  All are invited to receive the things of God but obviously not everyone does receive them (many called but few chosen: D&C 121).  A calling or position within an organization doesn't automatically grant you spiritual achievement, deep conversion, or things of that nature. The things of God are not granted on a man made criteria, it's based on teachings found in scripture and personal righteousness.  Otherwise tyrants could rise in power, claim God's power, and rule and reign with dominion and control over others.  Although this has happened within mankind all the time, God's power and influence are however taught to be based, and only maintained, on different criteria (D&C121:40-43).  

So in that context, lets suppose a common member of these unspecified churches had or was having spiritual experiences or outpourings of the Spirit of God and a leader was not.  If common members were advancing in the Spirit, knowledge and understanding, this could indeed lead to a situation where Church leaders and teachers of churches in their pride envy those who belong to their churches. This is just one possibility. 

Now back to that first option for how to read the scripture.  In this option members of churches envy their leaders.  This one seems by far the most common and easy to see happening.  When respect and admiration of leaders go to such degrees that it borders on celebrity worship and total reliance.....envy may begin to develop. It's idolatry.  It's a cult of personality, and most members of the Church would frown on it, all the while they may be neck deep in it.  Members may begin to envy the leaders, their achievements, the respect and awe they get, the attention they get, the obedience and power they get, and the "special spiritual endowments" that some leaders are taught to possess.  The prophet writer Mormon puts this prophecy in the context of a warning.  It's describing a degraded day full of falsehoods.  Therefore should we not apply this to ourselves?  

I'm sure there are other ways to view these verses.  Especially if you're of the view that the Book of Mormon is not addressing the predominant religious people (Mormons) who are reading and believe in that very book.  If it in fact addresses another people, who are not reading the book, then the situation would be entirely different.  But.... it's not.  It's about us.

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