Monday, April 28, 2014

Tiptoe tithing use

I've been looking into how the Church runs its finances a little bit lately.  I find this data very interesting.  The University of Tampa published a study offering an annual number for donations received by the Church.  The result was, and this includes tithing and other donations, 7 billion dollars annually.  (link here)

The Church has a three-year system for collecting and spending tithing money received from the members.  This is just referring to the tithing.  The first year the funds are collected, and invested.  The second year the funds remain invested while a budget and a plan are prepared for spending the tithing. The third year the original funds are spent.

During the time when the funds are first collected, they are put to use in investments or deposits which yield a return. Same for the second year.  When the third year comes and and the funds are being spent on budgeted expenses, they continue to collect interest or a return until they day they get spent.  

Here is where the Church makes a big and far reaching designation between types of money.  The amount of tithing collected in the first year is the amount designated "tithing".  This is the exact amount that is budgeted and spent in the third year. All of the return on tithing obtained from interest or return on investments is treated as and called "investment income".

In terms of things like temples, chapels, manuals and such, "tithing" money was used.  Meaning the original contributions collected.   When the church spends "investment income" that money is from the interest, return, etc. collected on the tithing money during the three year cycle from when originally collected until the time it is spent. It also includes the returns on the returns as they accumulated during this strategic plan.

So when Citi Creek Shopping center and housing development was built for around 5 billion dollars, or land purchases are made, and the Church says that "no tithing money was used"; they are saying they used only the "investment income."   

However, and this is important.  The argument could be made that the Church used nothing BUT tithing money to fund the shopping center.  They most certainly did "use" the tithing money.  

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Hastening Inactivity

Interesting article yesterday about the recent increase in LDS missionaries.

"The stats are staggering.
In the year and a half since the LDS Church lowered the minimum age for full-time missionary service, the Utah-based faith has seen its proselytizing force swell from 58,500 to more than 83,000. That’s a 42 percent leap.  The number of convert baptisms last year grew to 282,945, up from 272,330 in 2012. That’s an increase of — less than 4 percent."
If the age change was supposed to hasten the work, as it has been presented, seems it's getting off to a rather slow start.  24,500 more missionaries, less than 4%  increase in convert baptisms.   Something isn't working.  And we should perhaps all be saying something, or starting to wake up to the situation we, and the Church, find ourselves in.  If the field is white and ready to harvest....why is there nothing being harvested?  Why are the things harvested not staying?  Why are waves of people leaving the Church?

What's interesting to me is that the missionary age change has been put in context of "hastening the work".   Or in other words "speeding things up".   Some things can be sped up, some cannot.  The scripture backing all of this is  based on D&C 88:73.  "Behold I will hasten my work in it's time".    Lowering missionary age, and having more of them was, I suppose, to hasten the work.

What really goes against the hastening is the statistics about how many returned missionaries go inactive....  That's downright discouraging.  But that's a post for another day.  Here's an article, and additionally a blog post a friend wrote about it.     
This makes me wonder about the age change for the missionaries.  Was it truly to hasten the work?  If so what work is being hastened?  Was it to build Zion?  Isn't that the object of the latter day restoration?  To bring again Zion?  The scriptures and temple both remind us of the importance of building Zion.  The interesting thing is Zion can't be built with haste (see scriptures below).   Was the age change to fulfill the verse in D&C 88?  Or merely a policy change with "hoped" for expectations?   Was it perhaps to help retain membership?  Returned missionaries are after all more likely to stay active and committed.  Which is a repeatedly sore spot for the Church.  Inactivity rates are high among the younger groups.   
In the scriptures, when it comes to the establishment of Zion, "hastening the work" is the opposite of what they teach is the process to create such a place.  In fact it says NOT to use haste.   Seems funny to watch the missionary initiative "hastening the work of salvation" while at the same time doing something that we are taught in scripture can't be done in order to establish Zion.  Odd indeed.   
3 Nephi 20: 42, Christ speaks about the final gathering: "For ye shall not  go out with haste nor go by flight; for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel shall be your rearward."
 D&C 63: 24: “ This is the will of the Lord your God concerning his saints, that they should assemble themselves together unto the land of Zion, not in haste, lest there should be confusion, which bringeth pestilence.” 
D&C 101: 68, "Nevertheless, as I have said unto you in a former commandment, let not your gathering be in haste, nor by flight; but let all things be prepared before you. And in order that all things be prepared before you, observe the commandment which I have given concerning these things Which saith, or teacheth, to purchase all the lands with money, which can be purchased for money."
3 Nephi 21:29, "And they shall go out from all nations; and they shall not go out in haste, nor go by flight, for I will go before them, saith the Father, and I will be their rearward."

Monday, April 21, 2014

I know of no revelation

I found the following explanation of Revelation from the Church News Room. It's titled Divine Revelation in Modern Times

"Here are some snapshots of what revelation looks like among Latter-day Saints. At home, a mother and father kneel in prayer and receive inspiration on how to raise their children, where to lay down their roots, which employment to seek or ways they can help their neighbors. In a congregation, a local bishop prays to know which parishioners to select as leaders and teachers, how to put food on the table of a family who is out of work or how to help youth navigate a confusing world.

The same process works for senior Church leadership. Mormons consider themselves fortunate to have experienced and inspired leaders, including the First Presidency — consisting of a president with two counselors — and a Quorum of Twelve Apostles. These senior leaders receive revelation for the Church as a whole on matters that range widely. This inspiration helps them govern the Church’s affairs and discern the current needs of its members. In preparation for their addresses to the Church during worldwide general conferences, speakers (both men and women) prayerfully seek insight to know the matters they should address. By fervently searching to know the will of God, they open themselves to the understanding that He provides. Church leaders are blessed with revelation in their capacity as Church leaders, just as individuals are enlightened in the context of their own lives. Revelation permeates the entire Church — bottom, top and in between."

There was nothing in this that was really all that noticeable or attention grabbing.  But at the same time I got to thinking nothing about that description is much different from any other religious organization who believes in answers to prayer.  The Restored Gospel, as I understand it from studying Joseph Smith's words was headed towards accomplishing so much more.  The Church News Room passage reminds me of a passage from the Book of Mormon that is eerily relevant: Omni 1:11 "And behold, the record of this people is engraven upon plates which is had by the kings, according to the generations; and I know of no revelation save that which has been written, neither prophecy; wherefore, that which is sufficient is written. And I make an end."

And from President Hinckley:

Q: And this belief in contemporary revelation and prophecy? As the prophet, tell us how that works. How do you receive divine revelation? What does it feel like?

A: [Gordon B. Hinckley] Let me say first that we have a great body of revelation, the vast majority of which came from the prophet Joseph Smith. We don’t need much revelation. We need to pay more attention to the revelation we’ve already received. Now, if a problem should arise on which we don’t have an answer, we pray about it, we may fast about it, and it comes. Quietly. Usually no voice of any kind, but just a perception in the mind
-Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday Interview, April 13, 1997, by Don Lattin

Visions, Angels, Visits from the Lord...such things in a certain sense are denied now days.  (Or are believed to be exclusively the right of the 12 or First Presidency)  They are not mentioned or spoken about, or claimed by any leaders anymore. This wasn't always the case.  We're not taught much to expect, or even seek for such blessings. We are taught that such things are too hush hush to mention. The Church in some ways has needed to be politically correct and such teachings could conflict with the PR agenda. Even though we preach belief in a book of scripture that claims all of these in the FIRST chapter, we ourselves neglect to mention them when defining "Modern Revelation".

Compare the kind of revelation claimed by the Modern Church above, with these statements:

Joseph Smith: "It is my meditation all the day & more than my meat & drink to know how I shall make the saints of God to comprehend the visions that roll like an overflowing surge, before my mind" (WJS, p. 196).

1 Nephi1:8 And being thus overcome with the Spirit, he was carried away in a vision, even that he saw the heavens open, and he thought he saw God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels in the attitude of singing and praising their God.

Joel 2: 28 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:

Helaman 11:23 And in the seventy and ninth year there began to be much strife. But it came to pass that Nephi and Lehi, and many of their brethren who knew concerning the true points of doctrine, having many revelations daily, therefore they did preach unto the people, insomuch that they did put an end to their strife in that same year.

And these:

Jacob 7: 5 And he had hope to shake me from the faith, notwithstanding the many revelations and the many things which I had seen concerning these things; for I truly had seen angels, and they had ministered unto me. And also, I had heard the voice of the Lord speaking unto me in very word, from time to time; wherefore, I could not be shaken.

Alma 9:21 Having been visited by the Spirit of God; having conversed with angels, and having been spoken unto by the voice of the Lord; and having the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and also many gifts, the gift of speaking with tongues, and the gift of preaching, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the gift of translation;

Ether 4:7 And in that day that they shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son 
of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are.

There are some notable degrees of difference between what scriptures speak of, and what this dispensation began with, compared to what we are currently taught about revelation.

The voice of inspiration the News Room speaks of is a wonderful thing. I'm not discounting that. The point is our experiences are increasingly different from those at the start of the Restoration, and from those in the scriptures we claim to believe in. We can still reject the fullness, and not receive revelations from God all the while claiming to be permeated by them. D&C, and Revelations in scripture are so different from the description of the revelation our leaders proclaim that I can hardly call the two by the same word.

It's good individuals and their access to God are not limited by what others do or do not experience. It puts the responsibility on the individual to develop faith and be accountable for what they receive.

Moroni 7:37 Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Holy Week, Giving and Receiving

This week, from Palm Sunday to Easter Morning are some of the most sacred and holy days of the year.  As I think about that sacred Sunday morning I remember the account of certain women and disciples coming to the tomb.  The stone was rolled away, and the Lord had risen. The stone being rolled away is an interesting thing both as a historical fact, and as a symbol. Jesus, as we learn from his miraculous entrance into a room with closed doors, did not need the stone rolled away from the tomb in order to get out.  Therefore that wasn't the reason the stone was moved. The stone was rolled away more likely so the disciples could see in. So they could witness for themselves the resurrection of the Lord and that what Christ had said did indeed come to pass.  The tomb was empty, so we don't have to be.

Makes you wonder about the "stones" in our lives that get in the way of us having our own witness of the truth.  They could be a variety of things.  The angel moved the stone.  The ministry of Angels is something we are all supposed to receive.

While still in the tomb we know from D&C 138 that Christ personally visited the Spirit world. This would have been occurring today, Saturday.  Christ personally visited those who needed Him, were prepared, and would accept Him. There was no corporation that came between the giver, and the receiver.

This, and some thoughts on tithes and offerings got me thinking today. What happens if someone or some organization comes in-between a person in need, and the person who has come to help satisfy that need? This is how our tithes and offerings currently operate. We fill out a form, put money into an envelope, hand it in, and poof! It's gone. There is no disclosure of who was benefited (other than the benefit the giver gets come tax season).  We are placed at a distance from the recipient. We get deprived of many of the joys serving because we did not see any relief in the eyes of the poor, nor minister and witness the softening of  a persons heart as they receive.

Instead, we are told in fine print that the donation once given now belongs to the organization to do as they see fit.  I guess we are supposed to be content with that.  And I suppose we are to continue feeling satisfied when we hear about the large scale humanitarian work and what a great job this worldwide organization does with all the donations, and all the manuals and chapels etc...  

Consider for a second how many people in need in your current sphere will not receive your offering if you don't see to it that they receive it directly.  They may not be members, they may not go to Church, they may appear to be unworthy and unclean.  There are a hundred ways that the people in your direct experience will miss out on a "corporate" gift.  A corporation doesn't see the daily needs you do.  It doesn't see at all.

In essence the poor or the person in need (whom we are supposed to not turn away Mosiah 4:16), and the giver are too often separated by a non living entity.  When you give to someone, even if they have no clue it was you that gave, or served, it's a very different experience than filling out a form, handing in a check, and then not knowing anything further about who or what may have benefited from the gift or donation. One thing for sure, if it's tithing money we are talking about, tithing is not immediately used.  It becomes part of an investment plan that builds interest over a few years before any of those donations are used.  The resulting investment income is then used to fund for profit ventures.  Like Citi Creek Shopping Center.  Fast offerings are dealt with differently but those too have their regulations, restrictions, budgets, and allowances.

Try this, and see for yourself.  Give to someone in need and see if the relief in their eye or voice does not help you understand why Christ said to give to the poor, so we may all be more equal. Then try giving alms to an ecclesiastical leader, which then becomes the sole property of an organization, and notice the difference.  

I wanted to end with this sobering description from D&C about Christ's life and ministry.
D&C 128:36 26 And yet, notwithstanding his mighty works, and miracles, and proclamation of the truth, in great power and authority, there were but few who hearkened to his voice, and rejoiced in his presence, and received salvation at his hands.

At HIS hands. He is willing to work directly with those in need who are willing to accept. As should we.  I wonder what prevents people from receiving salvation "at his hands"?  Are folks maybe looking for someone else? Some leader?  Or some institution to do it?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Prophetic Expiration

In case you don't visit, here's a little cut and paste snapshot of the website.

Did You Miss Conference? 

Good news—there's no expiration date for prophetic messages. Watch, read, or listen.

Have you ever heard one of the 15 people we sustain as "prophets" call themselves one?  In all my life I've never heard any of the 15 refer to themselves as one.  It's often said about or for the current President of the Church, or about other of the 15 but they themselves never do when referring to themselves. Even when asked directly on live TV, they can't seem to be able to state so directly.  It's always indirect, or implied, or something other than direct.  

Anyway, back to the picture and heading above.  Intrigued by the potential for prophetic messages which don't expire I watched, read, and listened.  What seemed to be more prevalent were policy and procedure changes or clarifications.  Those definitely don't seem to expire, in fact I'm sick of them already.  Policies change all the time, but that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with prophecy.  If we define "prophetic" to mean a message from a person who we sustain as a prophet by raising our hands, then yes, such would occur by default each LDS conference. However if we define prophetic messages as a message containing prophecy from The Lord then we have to look for content, rather than title or office of the speaker. There wasn't much identifiable as prophetic in those links from the LDS church's main website. There was lots of good advice. Great talks about good principles.  Elder Uchtdorf seems to always give a great talk.  But no prophecy.  

I also looked for revelation in the talks but didn't find much of that either. I can't remember at time in my lifetime when I heard a revelation given by any of the 15.  Doesn't mean I didn't agree with and enjoy what some speakers have to say.  Elder Holland talked about people wanting a God who doesn't ask anything of them, and has them run along to pick marigolds.  haha, that was funny.  However what differentiates us from other Churches is not our ability to talk about the Gospel with platitudes, or make good points and timeless principles.  Every church does that. Very average Christian pastors do that.  Some better than others.  Our claim is that the LDS church has ongoing revelation, prophecy, and that we sustain the 12 and first presidency as "seers" as well.   But yet we don't display any of that.  Something has expired and no one has noticed. 

This is from Elder Oaks during Priesthood session. 

The divine nature of the limitations put upon the exercise of priesthood keys explains an essential contrast between decisions on matters of Church administration and decisions affecting the priesthood. The First Presidency and the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, who preside over the Church, are empowered to make many decisions affecting Church policies and procedures—matters such as the location of Church buildings and the ages for missionary service.

There's a fairly widespread view that the missionary age change was an example of revelation in the Church.  However the actual words of our leaders do not support that assumption.  Some speakers used the word revelation when it first happened, or in advance of the announcement but those who announced and explained the change to the world did not. Even though that is squarely within their responsibility to do so. When there is a revelation, we should expect to be told, and if not, we should not read revelation into something that they did not say was one.  Read President Oaks comments.  He called it a policy and a procedure change.  This former Utah Supreme Court Justice is capable of using the correct terminology, and I accept his terminology he gave in Priesthood Session.  Which makes me need to question the members assumptions that the missionary age change was revelation.

This takes me back to President Monson's words when the Missionary age change was announced. I happened to be there in person.  President Monson's words describing the change agrees with Elder Oaks.  See for yourself.

Brothers and sisters, I now turn to another matter—namely, missionary service.

For some time the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have allowed young men from certain countries to serve at the age of 18 when they are worthy, able, have graduated from high school, and have expressed a sincere desire to serve. This has been a country-specific policy and has allowed thousands of young men to serve honorable missions and also fulfill required military obligations and educational opportunities.

Our experience with these 18-year-old missionaries has been positive. Their mission presidents report that they are obedient, faithful, mature, and serve just as competently as do the older missionaries who serve in the same missions. Their faithfulness, obedience, and maturity have caused us to desire the same option of earlier missionary service for all young men, regardless of the country from which they come.

As we have prayerfully pondered the age at which young men may begin their missionary service, we have also given consideration to the age at which a young woman might serve. Today I am pleased to announce that able, worthy young women who have the desire to serve may be recommended for missionary service beginning at age 19, instead of age 21.

No revelation was mentioned, or claimed.  Even though President Monson's role and office is to declare such things.  The only thing claimed was that they prayed about it. After that, we hear nothing further from or about God having any involvement.  It was referred to as a matter of policy or procedure that was tested on target groups, and it worked. Testing ideas and thereby finding one that works to me is not revelation.  It's what you do when you sell a new tech gadget, or try to market something.  So why do the members insist this was revelation when the leaders say it was a policy change?  Are the members perhaps so hungry for messages and direction from God that they are willing to go as far as to call things revelation when they are not?       

Would you agree there has been an expiration of the prophetic voice in general conference talks?  It's just not there, even though I hoped it would be.  All members seem to hope there would be.  They want it so bad they are willing to ignore the actual words of the leaders and project revelation onto it themselves. 

Conference is now statistics, market research, opinion polls, common good principles, and good morals, and corporate utilization of public feedback.  Revelation is absent.  Something vital has gone missing and it's easily detectable if you pay attention and are familiar with scripture.  

In response to a recent ordain women petition the Church said this: "The recent changes you have seen, most notably the lowering of the missionary age for sisters," it says, "serve as examples and were facilitated by the input of many extraordinary LDS women around the world."   Another example of policy changes based on feedback from the public?  Revelation is supposed to be alive and well within the Church but yet, our leaders don't even claim it.

Things have changed a great deal since Joseph's day.  Especially in terms of revelation and prophecy.  A lot of things expired when Joseph died.  And I think we should notice the changes. Not to be expert critics, or withhold support of those who are called to lead, but to awaken to our situation.  Once awake, then we are to arise.  Prophecy is unfolding in many ways but not in the way the website seems to want us to believe.

Most of us will be sleeping tonight when the Lunar Eclipse occurs.  A Blood Moon.  Let us not spiritually be asleep and miss the signs continually upon us simply because LDS leaders do not mention or notice them. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Religious Puppettering

Last conference (fall of 2013) there was a talk given about a man who one Sunday decided to not go to Church and instead went on a drive in the countryside.  I would guess most of us at some point have contemplated something similar.  This talk was the assigned talk for 2 of our sacrament meeting speakers this month, so I got to hear the story 2 more times after conference.  Troubled by hearing a group of teachings I didn't care for 2 additional times, I thought I would write down what didn't sit right and why.  This is just my view, and I mean nothing disrespectful about the speaker nor those who may have felt touched by the message.  I respect that others may have a different view.  

In the story it had not dawned on the main character of the story that not going to church was even an option.  "The idea that there was an option to Sacrament meeting had never occurred to him".   Obedience because you haven't considered or become aware there is an alternative to me is not noble enough a concept to promote from the pulpit. It doesn't even sound like true agency to me.  Seems more like conditioning than obedience.  One implies conscious choice, the other veers off into a weird king of automatic unthinking behavior.  I have a very hard time accepting this as an example of behavior of one who follows Christ.

What if one Sunday someone feels drawn to spend time out in nature?  Is this a sin?  If you had been conditioned to not entertain anything other than attending church in a chapel would you feel guilty even considering another option?  

The speaker later in the same talk said: A seemingly small decision such as whether or not to attend a sacrament meeting can have far-reaching, even eternal, consequences.

Matching eternal consequences to instances of church attendance in a religious building is making a sham of the Gospel.  It's fear based.  Judging from the number of people bored out of their minds I see at church each week I would say yes, such a meeting can have far reaching consequences.  Sitting there, consuming spiritual saw dust (dry, difficult to swallow, lacking nutrients) for 3 hours could very well harm you eternally.  The Gospel is so much more than a meeting.  So often we focus on outward behaviors that "omit the weighter matters" (Matthew 23: 23-28).  The fear, obligation, and methods we sometimes use to promote Church attendance are not the tools of the Spirit.  They don't work anyway.  Should we attend our meetings? Of course.  But how many people throughout history attended church meetings yet did not accept nor live what the Gospel offered?  How sturdy a foundation for salvation is "whether or nor to attend a sacrament meeting"?

Lehi saw a vision of people holding to a Rod of Iron that lead to the Tree of Life.  The author of the talk referred to above had this to say in the same talk: "Continually holding fast to the rod means that whenever possible we attend our Sunday meetings: sacrament meeting, Sunday School, and priesthood or Relief Society meetings."

Equating holding fast, or living the Gospel to church meeting attendance makes the gospel boring, dull and lifeless.  A trend we should watch out for.  Too many LDS folks feel too much of that already.  What we need is NOT more lifeless and dull "worship" meetings.  We are all sick and tired of those.  What we need is the fire of the Holy Ghost burning within us.

As I was hearing this story of the man for whom not attending church had never occurred to him, I found a parallel that is related.  What if questioning or assessing what leaders teach you is not even an option, or has not occurred to you?  You can evaluate and consider people's teachings without speaking evil of them.  I've given bad talks in church, and I don't mind if others do.  But shouldn't we seek something higher?

What if you've never considered that you should distinguish inspired moments and words spoken by a leader from all other moments?  Can you truly follow what is taught if you don't perceive that the message could have an alternative?  Or be false?  Or so misleading that is borders on false?  (I'm not saying it is, I'm saying you have to perceive it's a possibility otherwise your not making much of a choice). When there's no alternative your basically acting the part of a puppet.  Obeying your leaders may in fact look nothing like obeying God.  Obeying God may actually bring upon you persecution.

Obedience to God is freeing. It will bring you light and truth, not just bring you to a chapel on Sunday.  It doesn't require guilt or fear, and it's not being a puppet who doesn't know he has other options.  That almost mocks the truth.  The obedience to God the scriptures speak of is so very often unlike the kind of obedience we get taught at church.

If your fed up with that stuff, come to Christ.  Find out what the real obedience is.  Then you'll see what real joy is.  But be patient with others who haven't yet seen it.  They need someone to help them wake up, just like each one of us.  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Conference Conundrums

General Conference is a good time to reflect on and evaluate ourselves, and consider the messages our leaders bring to us. I always use the semiannual event for this purpose. I am sometimes surprised by what I find.

The purpose of the restoration was to once again connect man with God, and not necessarily to connect man to a Church.  That's not all that radical of a concept, but it's true, and I think it's inspiring. The absence of such teachings from modern teachings is very surprising to me.  Christ didn't condescend and atone for our sins so we could be part of a religious organization, or be a follower of another mortal. It was so we could be "one" with Him.  Isn't that the primary focus of scripture? To the extent some other person, or some thing, comes in-between our connection to God it may just serve as an idol, or an impediment. This too is not a difficult concept but given it's importance it too is strangely infrequent in our teachings.

As was beautifully put by a friend over at "The main purpose in establishing a church is to gather and to teach others to connect with God. The church should be the means to the end, and not the end itself."

While listening to the most recent Conference I found myself with a few dilemmas.
One talk said this:
As the Lord says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). 
Having heard the voice of the Shepherd, they fully committed their lives to living the gospel and following the direction of the Lord’s prophet. Responding to the call to gather to Zion, they left behind their home in England, crossed the Atlantic, and gathered with the Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois.

The Scripture from John is simple, but then becomes distorted in an all too common teaching. When the Lord says to follow Him we change it to mean we should follow a presiding authority.  We seem to insert an intermediary who is seemingly easier to follow. What happens is the focus shifts.  Those who hear His voice, yet then fully commit to following someone ELSE don't fit the description of his sheep as described in John. There's a bit of irony there. But that's up to you to notice.

Another talk said this.  (I'm not discounting the Christ centered and good things said.  Those things don't cause me dilemmas) However the below does.  Closely related teachings are flooding in on the Saints.  It's present in almost every talk, magazine, and every manual produced by the Church.  It's created such momentum that to even bring it up will almost always be rejected and misunderstood.  That doesn't bother me, it still needs to be said and pointed out.   
April 2014 Ensign:
As we follow President Monson and try to be more like him, we will inevitably succeed in being more faithful disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Troubling how common such teachings are.  In its' true light that sentience should give us all pause.  It's the teachings I"m presenting for consideration, not making or passing judgement on the speaker.

This from April 2014: Conference:
If you have a question about counsel from the leaders of the Church, please discuss your honest concerns with your parents and leaders. You need the strength that comes from trusting the Lord’s prophets. President Harold B. Lee said: “The only safety we have as members of this church is to … learn to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through His prophet. … There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes. … It may contradict your political views … your social views … interfere with … your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord Himself, … ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against you … and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you …’ (D&C 21:6).”16

The part in bold is odd.  Strength comes from the Lord.  That's where his servants get strength too.  So why get strength from trusting the servant?  Why put your trust in man even if they are called of God?  Why, after all the invitations to trust in the Lord himself are we told to trust in his mouthpieces?

The original message quoted by Harold B Lee, then again by Elder Anderson has undergone two cycles of change.  If we go to the actual quote from Harold B Lee without the "..." we read this:

"We must learn to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through His prophet, “as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; . . . as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith” (D&C21:4–5).

Again we get the "..." which prevents us from understanding the original message.  Lets to go D&C 21:4-5 and see what it is about this message that almost demands we use "..."  instead of the actual words of scripture.  We read in 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; 5 For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.

Harold B Lee's quote removed "which he shall give unto you", and replaced it with dots. Ask yourself why would that be removed?  Were space constraints in the manual THAT bad that 6 words had to be replaced by 3 dots?  Maybe something else is actually going on worth noticing.  Curiously those 6 words do raise the question of who "he" is referring to. Which then requires us to read the D&C verse in context. Which if we do, we find D&C was NOT referring to whomever happens to hold the office of President of the Church. It was referring specifically to Joseph Smith.  Now we begin to get a clear picture. The Lord, in a revelation, authorized Joseph Smith by name to declare His word. And if we followed we'd receive the corresponding blessings. However to piggyback off of that scripture applying it to ALL presidents of the Church is not justified by the scripture.  Yet it's used all the time to accomplish that.

Of course the Lord can speak through a prophet or servant.  But in such instances, the Lord is still the author of the message, and therefore we should still be following the Lord's voice when and if a messenger or mouthpiece speaks by the Spirit.  Right?  In order to do that we need to distinguish inspired moments and statements made by leaders from all other moments when words are spoken as a man or woman, or spoken as just a well meaning person or leader.  The difference is vital.  Otherwise all you follow is a mortal.  That is not what the restoration was intended to accomplish.

The counsel above said that that if we have a question about counsel from the leaders we are to approach our parents or leaders.  However if I approach my leader about counsel from my leader, how can I then get counsel from my leader about the leader who's counsel I have questions about?

Conference Conundrums.