Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Tis

Yesterday I posted an outline of my conversion from traditional Christianity to Mormonism. While many who read applauded what I had written, my friend Scott Stover commented that some of my views could cause me to lose my position as an ordinance worker as well as my temple recommend. Since it is my wish that these things do not occur, I would like to take a few moments here to clear the air and make sure that I have not been misunderstood. Most problems in life have there foundation in the slippery sod of misunderstanding.

I said in the 8th paragraph of the aforementioned post "I do take a different look than most orthodox Mormons on a few things however. The two main points would be that while I believe Joseph Smith was a prophet, I do not believe Brigham Young or any of the other presidents later were or are prophets. Why? Because they do not do any of the same kind of works of Joseph. I sustain them as the men who hold all priesthood keys and as the oracles God will speak through if he needs to communicate to all of his children, but they do not have the right to re-write history or to ignore things that Joseph Smith taught. Thankfully, this is changing to a certain extent. The other is that I do not believe that leaders are above criticism. There are no sacred cows in the church. If something is wrong, it needs to be called out and addressed regardless of who is doing it, whether that be the President of the Church, an apostle, a seventy, a stake president, a bishop, or anyone else in the church, myself included. I never raised my voice when my leaders railed against me, why should they not accept the same conditions?"

Some will have read what I wrote and think to themselves "Does this man sustain the Lord's anointed?" Or, perhaps a more pragmatic person may say "How can a person believe Joseph Smith was a prophet, but not his successors?"

These are fair questions, and I will attempt to answer them honestly. In connection with the first question, I will say that I sustain whom the Lord sustains. If a person is asked to receive my sustaining vote, I will raise my hand to the square and give them my full support. Support does not mean that I will accept everything the person does or says as something that the Lord himself would have said if he himself were present. Criticism is a sign of concern in most instances, at least it is in my case. Using your position as a shield for wrongdoing or as cover from criticism is not bravery, rather it is cowardice.

The statement "the Lord's Anointed" is a very ambiguous one, and one that I know of no concrete definition. I myself take it to mean Joseph Smith, since I know of no one else in our modern dispensation that we know of a surety was anointed by the Lord. I have never spoken ill of Joseph Smith, and quite frankly disagreeing with a priesthood leaders ideas is not speaking ill either if a person does what the leader asks, even in his/her disagreement.

As to the question of the Prophet Joseph's successors, suffice it say that I do not hold them in the same regard as I do Joseph Smith, similar to the way that one did not hold Paul in the same regard as Peter. One was the head the church, the other was a great theologian and philosopher. Both were needed, but no one would say that Paul was equal to Peter.

The same is true of the Prophet and his successors. Most people share my view implicitly if not explicitly. Notice that Joseph Smith is called "the Prophet" while his successors are called "President". Why is this the case? Because Joseph Smith is the Patriarch of our age, similar to Moses and Abraham. He deserves a higher standing in our eyes than his successors because while we could take away everything his successors did and still have pretty much the same church, you cannot take away the revelations Joseph gave us without becoming lost in a swamp of philosophical ideas that will not gain a person exaltation.

Before I was baptized, the then Elder Zach Ngawaka interviewed me for baptism and asked the following question: "Do you believe that [current Church President] is a prophet of God? What does this mean to you?" I answered that the person was Joseph's successor, held the keys of the priesthood, and was the oracle with whom God could speak to the entire world if he chose to do so. He smiled and went on to the next question. My position has not changed since August 23, 2009, the day this interview occurred.

To sustain is to support. My priesthood leaders at the local and general level have my full support, even if I am skeptical at times of their decisions. I try to remain objective enough so that I can remember that I do not have all of the information, and perhaps if I were in the situation myself I would make the same conclusion that they did.  I hope this clears the air on what I believe for those who are interested.

1 comment:

  1. Are you familiar with Max Weber's observations on religion? There are two kinds of religious leaders, the charismatic and the priestly. (This is a very quick, offhand description, not actually using his terminology.) In order to start a religion, you need a charismatic, a dreamer, a revealer: Moses, Mohammed, Joseph. But in order for a religion to survive and continue, you need a systematizer, a stabilizer. These are the "priestly" who come along and survive the founder. Without a charismatic, there's nothing to pass on. But without a priestly, the religion dies with the founder. I don't think there's anything wrong with seeing post-Joseph Presidents of the Church (their formal office) as being prophetic in a different way than Joseph.

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