Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Role of a Prophet

I've retained this title from my initial journal entry, and I think I'll keep it that way. This entry was built around this scripture, which then accumulated a lot more information pertaining to it in a relatively short period of time:
10 Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness and hath no light?
11 Behold all ye that kindle fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks, walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks which ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand—ye shall lie down in sorrow. (2 Nephi 7)
The first time I read this I thought, how can someone obey the voice of his servant and still walk in darkness?
What I think it means is that there are those who are afraid to submit to the Lord directly. Sometimes we don't want to hear the truth from God. We don't want to repent. We don't want to sacrifice everything we have to know God. Instead, we'll just listen to His servants and obey them. It takes real, genuine effort to come to God and face Him, to sacrifice everything to know Him. Geesh, this sounds harsh, but these are all pretty great things! Seeking God in our lives brings true peace. It's not seeking God that brings unnecessary pain in our lives.
Is that what it means to “walk in darkness and have no light”?–To follow the prophet blindly?–To trust in your own ways and not the Lord's?
Here is the Old Testament's version in Isaiah (difference in bold):
10 ¶Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.
11 Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow. (Isaiah 50)
This verse clarifies what it means between walking in darkness and light. Can it be any more clear?:
12 ¶Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. (John 8)
Is there much faith required in blind obedience? By the way, it wasn't blind obedience when Adam did not know why he made burnt offerings to the Lord. He did it because God Himself told him to. It's not blind obedience when God tells us to do something.
54 And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received— (D&C 84)
On the other hand, did Laman and Lemuel obey Lehi? Yes, although grudgingly and usually unwillingly. Did they see it as obeying Lehi or obeying God? If they did understand God's will and followed Nephi's example and asked God, I'm confident that we would have likely seen a different type of Laman and Lemuel in the Book of Mormon. But they obeyed to some degree, nonetheless, and still walked in darkness. I imagine that one still has to have pure intent initially to receive a witness if it's after the trial of faith.
Brigham Young said this:
Do you read the Scriptures, my brethren and sisters, as though you were writing them a thousand, two thousand, or five thousand years ago? Do you read them as though you stood in the place of the men who wrote them? If you do not feel thus, it is your privilege to do so, that you may be as familiar with the spirit and meaning of the written word of God as you are with your daily walk and conversation, or as you are with your workmen or with your households. You may understand what the Prophets understood and thought—what they designed and planned to bring forth to their brethren for their good.“
That is, read the scriptures with the guidance of the Spirit. Is there any other way to read them? If the scriptures were written with the guidance of the Spirit then surely we must attune ourselves to that same Spirit of understanding. In this way, it is God we obey in the end. Not His servants. So, how do we do that?
There is a correlation with following God and obeying our leaders. We need to know, to some degree, that what our leaders say comes from the Lord. Then we can act in faith–-not blind obedience. So, what's the difference? Faith requires some assurance. Is it in line with scripture? Do we have a witness from the Holy Ghost? It is then that we can act with some faith to act accordingly.
Our leaders want and need our prayers just like we want and need prayers to fulfill our callings. It's a unified effort to bring souls unto Christ. But we have to learn directly from God. We must act in faith by some assurance. Otherwise, there is no faith to act on. It would become faith in our leaders. Faith placed in anyone/anything but God is a form of idolatry. That includes faith in a church. Faith must lie solely in our faith in God, and be detached from anything/anyone else.
21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. (John 3)
What if we go through this life without seeking God? This scripture parallels well with Isaiah's words. Here, Job is speaking of those who don't know God (see entire chapter):
5 Yea, the light of the wicked shall be put out, and the spark of his fire shall not shine.
The light shall be dark in his tabernacle, and his candle shall be put out with him.
7 The steps of his strength shall be straitened, and his own counsel shall cast him down.
8 For he is cast into a net by his own feet, and he walketh upon a snare. (Job 18)
Here is another key to unfolding Isaiah's words found in TPJS:
President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel—said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, 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, envious towards the innocent, while they afflict the virtuous with their shafts of envy.
Additionally, from TPJS:
Could we read and comprehend all that has been written from the days of Adam, on the relation of man to God and angels in a future state, we should know very little about it. Reading the experience of others, or the revelation given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation to God. Knowledge of these things can only be obtained by experience through the ordinances of God set forth for that purpose. Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject.
Even Wilford Woodruff stated (in reference to the parable of the ten virgins):
These judgments that I have read will come to pass, and though Brigham, Joseph, Noah, Daniel and Job, or anybody else were in the land, they could not do more than deliver their own souls by their righteousness. The man that is righteous cannot save the wicked. We have got to live our own righteousness, that is keep the commandments of God.
I feel this also needs to be brought up. President Wilford Woodruff once said:
I say to Israel, the Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so he will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty.” (Discourses of Wilford Woodruff [Bookcraft, 1946], pp. 212–13.)
The key word here, of course, is attempt. I highly doubt any prophet has deliberately attempted to lead us astray. The word attempt implies putting forth an effort to do something. But could it be that we have erred in doctrine to some degree, in some ways? Has it ever happened?
Pres. E.T. Benson sheds more light on this subject, quoting various church authorities with the same insights:
Said Brigham Young:
“You may know whether you are led right or wrong, as well as you know the way home; for every principle God has revealed carries its own convictions of its truth to the human mind …
"What a pity it would be if we were led by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire of themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path that the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually.”(JD 9:149-150).
Elder Heber C. Kimball stated: “The time will come when no man or woman will be able to endure on borrowed light” (Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, 1888 edition, p. 461).
How then can we know if a man is speaking by the spirit? The Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants give us the key (see 1 Cor. 2:10-11; 2 Ne. 33:1; D&C 50:17-23; D&C 100:5-8). President Clark summarized them well when he said:
“We can tell when the speakers are moved upon by the Holy Ghost only when we, ourselves, are moved upon by the Holy Ghost. In a way, this completely shifts the responsibility from them to us to determine when they so speak … the Church will know by the testimony of the Holy Ghost in the body of the members, whether the brethren in voicing their views are moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and in due time that knowledge will be made manifest.” (Church News, July 31, 1954.)
Will this Spirit be needed to check actions in other situations? Yes, and it could be used as a guide and a protector for the faithful in a situation described by Elder Lee at the last general priesthood session of the Church when he said:
“In the history of the Church there have been times or instances where Counselors in the First Presidency and others in high station have sought to overturn the decision or to persuade the President contrary to his inspired judgment, and always, if you will read carefully the history of the Church, such oppositions brought not only disastrous results to those who resisted the decision of the President, but almost always such temporary persuasions were called back for reconsideration, or a reversal of hasty action not in accordance with the feelings, the inspired feelings, of the President of the Church. And that, I submit, is one of the fundamental things that we must never lose sight of in the building up of the kingdom of God” (Conference Report, April, 1963, p. 81).
Maybe Paul is right that we need to "work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling” before God (Philippians 2). How confident do we feel in our ability to obey God than it is to obey the prophet? If the lights were turned off, could we still see? My experience is that God will prove us greatly and see how far we will go to obey Him. He may ask of us things to do that seem so easy ordinarily, but for some reason will challenge us greatly in the moment. Hearkening to the Spirit greatly expands our faith over time much quicker than faithlessly obeying the words of the prophet. I admit that many times I have shrunk in fear to obey, but the goal should be “that [we] shall live by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 98). I strongly believe this is possible.
So, what am I trying to say?
We should only revere bishops and prophets for what they are–-men. It is always about the message they carry and never about the person, with the exception of Christ.
From TPJS:
Wednesday, Feb. 8.—This morning I read German and visited with a brother and sister from Michigan, who thought that “a prophet is always a prophet;” but I told them that a prophet was a prophet only when he was acting as such.—DHC 5:265.
The duty devolves upon ourselves to know when the prophet, or any of our leaders, speak in the name of the Lord. Nothing has to be done in blind obedience. We should only trust in God. Obtaining the gift of salvation requires knowledge, and it must be gained by seeking His voice. In my opinion, the prophet (today, or in the past) doesn't want us to follow him. They're only trying to show us the way to the Father:
28 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them.
29 And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!
30 And Moses gat him into the camp, he and the elders of Israel. (Numbers 11)
So, what is the role of a prophet? In part, I would say they give us a jump start in how to approach God. But it's still our individual journey. We can't live on borrowed light in these last days. The end result should be to obey God.
Like Paul said:
24 Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand. (2 Corinthians 1)
26 Yea, wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost!
27 Yea, wo be unto him that saith: We have received, and we need no more!
28 And in fine, wo unto all those who tremble, and are angry because of the truth of God! For behold, he that is built upon the rock receiveth it with gladness; and he that is built upon a sandy foundation trembleth lest he shall fall.
29 Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!
30 For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.
31 Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost.
32 Wo be unto the Gentiles, saith the Lord God of Hosts! For notwithstanding I shall lengthen out mine arm unto them from day to day, they will deny me; nevertheless, I will be merciful unto them, saith the Lord God, if they will repent and come unto me; for mine arm is lengthened out all the day long, saith the Lord God of Host. (2 Nephi 28)

I've recently been reading Avraham Gileadi's interpretation of Isaiah. I agree with his interpretation of the Isaiah verses I've used (Isaiah 50:10-11). His interpretation is as follows:

For verse 10: He implies, because these two ideas are in parallel, that those who fear the Lord are the ones who heed the voice of the Servant. Those who don’t fear the Lord don’t heed his voice. The Servant is the light who is sent to light up the darkness of these people. So those are all word links. They’re also metaphors. The voice is the Servant himself, in that sense, and thelight is the Servant himself. He personifies the light. Walking in the darkness, since the king of Assyria, and Babylon personifies darkness, it means that you’re influenced by him, in a metaphorical sense, on that level. But, if you trust in the Lord, and rely upon God, it has its own power—then the light begins to dawn for you and things begin to make sense out of the chaos, out of the confusion. And then there is hope and there’s the possibility of deliverance for you, from the powers of darkness, from the king of Assyria, and from the destruction of Babylon, from the Sodom and Gomorrah calamity.

For verse 11: Since he’s talking mainly, here, to a reprobate group—the ones who were cut of—or the ones who have alienated themselves, the ones who have a bone to pick him—this is the final summary. “ But you are lighters of fires, all of you, who illuminate with mere sparks. Walk then, by the light of your fires and by the sparks you have kindled. This shall you have from my hand: you shall lie down in agony.” In other words, they’re just trouble-makers who are lighting fires all over the place, that people need to keep putting out. The light of truth that they have is like a mere spark, in comparison to the light that the Lord has sent in the personhood of his Servant, or to the greater light that the Lord himself is. The Servant, although he’s a light, which is a power of creation, is only a forerunner to the Lord himself who is the greater light. He’s like the sun, peeking up over the horizon, and the Servant leads into God’s presence. But they won’t even have anything to do with the Servant, so they’re going to end up in agony. “This shall you have from my hand,” that is from his left hand, the king of Assyria. They will experience all of the covenant curses that come upon the wicked, through the instrumentality of the Lord’s left hand, the king of Assyria.

Here is his website:

1 comment:

  1. The duty devolves upon ourselves to know when the prophet, or any of our leaders, speak in the name of the Lord. Nothing has to be done in blind obedience. We should only trust in God. Obtaining the gift of salvation requires knowledge, and it must be gained by seeking His voice. In my opinion, the prophet (today, or in the past) doesn't want us to follow him. They're only trying to show us the way to the Father:.........YOU HIT TH NAIL ON THE HEAD! Like the Moon, Prophets, seers and revelators REFLECT the original light (the sun - SON) and light up a dark night when it is full to show us the way. That is why they are called LEADERS, and not gods.Everyone is responsible for his salvation, and we learn truths - receive counsel - BUT it is up to us to get the Spirit to confirm. HE wants us to do that - it is by design to have us reach for ourselves. Blind obedience does not exercise out agency or testimony :) FMIL