My wife and I live in a ghost town in Idaho. Over the years when we were younger we would home school our kids some years and other years we would bus our kid over the hill to a small town where we would subject them to the school system of Babylon.
Many years ago when our oldest daughter was graduating from the high school over the hill, we got an invitation from the school to pay for a display in the local newspaper which would contain our advice to her as she prepares to go out into the world. This apparently was a long standing tradition in that community… I suspect others do it as well. Most of the parents succumbed to the social pressure of doing it.
Of course, our daughter lived in the same house as we did and we did bump into her frequently at family parties, meals, evening prayers, etc., so we did see her from time to time, therefore I am not sure why we needed to take out an ad in the newspaper to communicate with her.
I guess it provided a little revenue for the school and the newspaper… and what a great opportunity for all of the parents in the community to broadcast to the world what great parents they are and what great advice they give their kids!
You can imagine the kind of profound advice that was given by parents to their children..
Being the non-conformists that we tend to be our initial thought was to not participate.. but on further thought we decided to publish some advice.
Ours was the shortest advice any parents had ever given… just two words:
I suppose most people in the community were horrified when they saw the advice we gave to our daughter in our newspaper display, particularly those IN authority… ie, the local sheriff, principal, judge, Bishop, Stake President, etc, etc.
Please understand, we were not counseling our daughter to resent authority or the be disrespectful of authority or to categorically be rebellious toward and reject authority, simply to realize that sometimes irresponsible people are in positions of authority and that it is healthy and appropriate to have a questioning mind anytime someone in authority gives questionable advice or attempts to require questionable actions.
I have lived long enough to see that many people in positions of authority can and do lead people astray… and many people tend to blindly follow the counsel and example of human authority figures.
Many years before the graduation of my daughter, as a young married couple with several children, I had the opportunity to serve in a Bishopric.
One day an Aaronic Priesthood Adviser was absent and I had to fill in at the last minute to teach his class.
The lesson for that day was on morality. As I was reading from the manual the boys appeared to be their typical rowdy and relatively inattentive selves as I talked about the importance of keeping themselves chaste prior to marriage.
While reading from the manual I found it interesting that the lesson did not mention anything about homosexuality and I had an impression to just touch on it.
When I mentioned that word, one of the boys raised his hand and asked what the word meant… As I gave a very brief explanation, every head dropped and all of the boys became very silent and just leaned forward and looked at the ground.
The silence that fell upon that room was deafening.
I had no idea what was going on. The bell rang and we had the closing prayer and as I was gathering up my lesson manual and scriptures one of the boys walked to the front of the room and handed me a note and then walked out.
It said: “Thanks for the lesson… now I know what I need to do”
Shortly thereafter I walked into the chapel and sat on the stand as sacrament meeting was getting started. My wife had her hands full with three tiny children and no husband nearby to help with them during the meeting.
There was a kind brother… we’ll just call his name Tom, that would always sit in the back of the chapel and help her. He would always volunteer to hold one of our little kids for which my wife and I were very grateful.
Tom was a genealogy guru. He was always taking trips to Europe to do genealogy work. He was a long standing member of the scout committee and he was the High Priest Group Leader. He worked for an LDS book publisher. He was about 45 years old.
He was probably one of the most respected men in the ward and the stake.
As I sat on the stand looking down at Tom holding one of my children on my lap and feeling grateful for his helpfulness, I had no clue that a child molester was holding my child and that Armageddon was about to hit him and our ward
To make a long story short, the deacon that handed the note to me met with the Bishop and Stake President and told them a little secret about Tom.
Tom had been sexually abusing this boy for years.
When Tom was confronted by the Bishop and Stake President, he burst into tears and confessed. Within a week, as things began to unravel, we found that he had been abusing virtually all of the boys in that class. Several families in the ward sued Tom. He lost his wife and family over it.
When the court case became public, many men of various ages came forward to testify against Tom and tell their experiences of growing up in that neighborhood with Tom. Many said their ability to have normal relations had been destroyed. After it was all said and done, over 22 men came forward to testify against Tom. I have to believe there was an even greater number that chose to continue remaining silent about the horror they experienced because of a questionable authority figure in their lives.
Tom went to prison for a long time.
Tom had been an authority figure in the Ward and in the community. He was an authority figure that was so impressive and overpowering that many of the boys assumed that what he was doing was ok while others felt too much fear and guilt to tell on him.
I am sorry to sicken you with this story but it personifies how dangerous human authority can be.
Human priesthood authority needs to be questioned just like any other authority figures need to be questioned. There are numerous instances in the scriptures of prophets and priesthood leaders who made mistakes and led God's children astray. In fact, Jeremiah prophecies that in the end times, just before the nation of America is invaded by a foreign army, Gods people will have been led astray by their shepherds:
"The aword that the Lord spake against Babylon and against the land of the Chaldeans by Jeremiah the prophet.
In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the children of Israel shall acome, they and the children of Judah btogether, going and cweeping: they shall go, and seek the Lord their God. They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a aperpetual bcovenant that shall not be forgotten. My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their restingplace."
The Prophet Joseph Smith once said:
"We have heard men who hold the priesthood remark that they would do anything they were told to do by those who preside over them -- even if they knew it was wrong. But such obedience as this is worse than folly to us. It is slavery in the extreme. The man who would thus willingly degrade himself should not claim a rank among intelligent beings until he turns from his folly.
"A man of God would despise this idea. Others, in the extreme exercise of their almighty authority have taught that such obedience was necessary, and that no matter what the Saints were told to do by their presidents, they should do it without any questions.
"When Elders [leaders] of Israel will so far indulge in these extreme notions of obedience as to teach them to the people, it is generally because they [the leaders] have it in their hearts to do wrong themselves."
-- Joseph Smith, Jr.
Millenial Star, Archive Volume 14, Number 38, Pages 593-595
How odd that despite Josephs warning that priesthood leaders should never require blind obedience… other modern priesthood leaders have contradicted the words of Joseph Smith on this matter.
Notice this statement by a modern Priesthood Leader:
"Brethren, keep your eyes on the President of this Church. If he tells you to do anything and it is wrong and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it" (Harold B. Lee who as quoting Heber J. Grant Ensign, October 1972).
Normally, when one of our modern leaders contradicts the words of the prophet Joseph Smith, it is pretty obvious who is inspired and who is not, however any time priesthood leaders contradict each other, it is always important to search out the truth in Gods infallible word in the scriptures. From the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.
Let us therefore review a few scriptures that verify that the above teachings of Joseph Smith are congruent with God's word in the scriptures and that the other mentioned teaching is not sound doctrine:
The above scripture in Mosiah requires the individual to able to discern which leaders are men of God and then only accept them as their teacher or minister.
"O then, my beloved brethren, acome unto the Lord, the Holy One. Remember that his paths are righteous. Behold, the bway for man is cnarrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name. 2nd Nephi 9:41
The above scripture in 2nd Nephi reveals that ultimately, Christ is the only keeper at the gate.
The inspired version of the Bible informs us that priesthood leaders can lead us astray and it is our responsibility as individual Saints to pluck out any priesthood authority that is supposed to watch over us if they are acting in a way that is offensive to God and our well being:
“Therefore, if thy hand offend thee, cut it off; or if thy brother offend thee and confess not and forsake not, he shall be cut off. It is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands, to go into hell. For it is better for thee to enter into life without thy brother, than for thee and thy brother to be cast into hell; into the fire that never shall be quenched, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And again, if thy foot offend thee, cut it off; for he that is thy standard, by whom thou walkest, if he become a transgressor, he shall be cut off. It is better for thee, to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell; into the fire that never shall be quenched. Therefore, let every man stand or fall, by himself, and not for another; or not trusting another.
Seek unto my Father, and it shall be done in that very moment what ye shall ask, if ye ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive. And if thine eye which seeth for thee, him that is appointed to watch over thee to show thee light, become a transgressor and offend thee, pluck him out. It is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God, with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. For it is better that thyself should be saved, than to be cast into hell with thy brother, where their worm dieth not, and where the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9:40-48 The italics distinguish the added light from the inspirted version from the regular King James Version of the Bible)
The above verses contain a very important principal that was meant to protect the Church from wicked priesthood leaders, but it is no longer believed by many Saints. Now days we only seem to hear about obedience to human priesthood authority, we never talk about the very real possibility that priesthood leaders may become corrupt and the need to discern wicked leaders and protect ourselves from being led astray.
The law of common consent and the principal of sustaining church leaders was not given to categorically determine if individual Saints are valiant by unconditionally supporting priesthood leaders, these principals and protocols were provided as checks and balances to protect the Saints from unrighteous dominion and help the flock protect itself from wicked leaders that creep into the fold.
Since human priesthood authority is fallible, each individual Saint is responsible for their own beliefs and actions despite the counsel they get from those in leadership positions.
Another quote from Joseph Smith on this topic that he made while instructing the Relief Society Sisters is as follows:
"President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel [see, for example, verses 9-10: 'If the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing...the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him.']...said the Lord had declared by the Prophet [Ezekiel], that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church -- that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls -- applied it to the present state  of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall -- that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves..." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith pp. 237-38)
The above statement is pretty clear and pretty revealing... furthermore, it leads us to Ezekiel 14 which proves that God sometimes allows prophets to be deceived to test us.... it is part of the program! Please read Ezekiel 14.
In fact sometimes it is God that actually sends delusion upon his people if they reject the truth. Notice the following statements in the Old Testament and the New Testament.
"I also will achoose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I bcalled, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not." Isa. 66: 4
"And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.." 2 Thes. 2: 11
It is not a coincidence that Satan was, at one time in a position of authority in heaven. How do you think he got in that position? God certainly put Satan in that position and God, with his infinite foreknowledge knew from the beginning that Satan would fall and lead his followers astray!
There is no getting around it. We are each required to discern the truth for ourselves. We can never put our spiritual welfare in automatic pilot blindly following any human priesthood authority.
Here is a profound statement from President Joseph Fielding Smith showing that anytime a modern priesthood leader is not congruent with the the inspired and infallible word of God, we should follow the word of God as outlined in the four standard works:
"It makes no difference what is written or what anyone has said, if what has been said is in conflict with what the Lord has revealed, we can set it aside. My words, and the teaching of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear. We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man's doctrine. You cannot accept the books written by the authorities of the Church as standards in doctrine, only in so far as they accord with the revealed word in the standard works. Every man who writes is responsible, not the Church, for what he writes. If Joseph Fielding Smith writes something which is out of harmony with the revelations, then every member of the Church is duty bound to reject it. If he writes that which is in perfect harmony with the revealed word of the Lord, then it should be accepted" (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:203-4)
the Apostle Paul said:
“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”
As missionaries we often used those words of Paul to persuade members of other denominations to be open to the message of the Gospel even though they have differing beliefs. Yet it is interesting to note that Paul was speaking to the Saints when he gave that counsel.
To me, Paul is saying that we should have an open mind and be willing to investigate any doctrine that sounds like it may be true.. regardless of whether it has been taught to us by the existing authority figures in our lives, then after studying it out, we should consult the word of God and the Holy Ghost to determine if it is true.
Interestingly, Paul was giving this advice to the Saints, not to investigators, Paul would not have been persecuting the Christians before his conversion had he followed the advise that he gives there.
I believe that any leader or church or religious organization that is insecure enough about their own standing that they would threaten individuals with disciplinarian action for looking into the interpretations of Gods word that are presented by others with differing views, is going against the inspired counsel of Gods word.
I firmly believe that when each of us stands before the bar of Christ, none of us will be justified in saying “I did what I did or believed what I believed because my parents told me to... or my Bishop told me to… or my Stake President told me to.. or the President of the Church told me to…. or some heretic blogger told me to ”
We are each responsible for discerning the truth for ourselves. As JST Mark 9 says:
“… let every man stand or fall, by himself, and not for another; or not trusting another…”
The prophecy of Jeremiah that God's people will have been led astray by their shepherds just prior to the great invasion of of America by a foreign army in the latter days, provides another witness that the Marvelous Work and a Wonder was to be a future event.
Let me end this post by saying that by virtue of the fact that I am blogging about the Marvelous Work and a Wonder, and a host of related doctrines, there is a tendency for some to assume that I am a credible authority in these topics… maybe I am, maybe I am not.
I hope you do not believe a single word that I have said in any of the posts that I am doing simply because I said it. The main purpose of this blog is to motivate people to get into the scriptures. You are ultimately responsible to search the infallible word of God and to discern through the power of the Holy Ghost what the truth is.
“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”