Friday, August 29, 2008

Sunday Observations, Part 2 - Quotes

When I started writing the other post, I actually had some notes from Sunday that I was referring to. I related part of my Sunday experience from my notes, and then I became distracted by other past memories, thoughts and feelings.

Here is a continuation of another thing I wanted to mention.

In Sunday School. as we were learning from lesson #32, "They Did Obey...Every Word of Command with Exactness." (referring again to the 2000 stripling warriors.) At one point a quote was read that made me nervous. I didn't know where a discussion from the quote might lead.
President Harold B. Lee taught:
“The power of Satan will increase; we see it in evidence on every hand. …

“Now the only safety we have as members of this church is to do exactly what the Lord said to the Church in that day when the Church was organized. 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&C 21:4–5.) There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.’ (D& 21:6.)” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 152; or Improvement Era, Dec. 1970, 126).

Fortunately the discussion didn't really go anywhere, other than some brief joking about Mitt Romney. But it did make me think, and my thinking really didn't go anywhere. What do I make of this quote when I compare it to other quotes that I have recently enjoyed.
“The greatest fear I have is that the people of this Church will accept what we say as the will of the Lord without first praying about it and getting the witness within their own hearts that what we say is the word of the Lord.” - Brigham Young

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. (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56), 3:203–204 ISBN 0884940411)

As a General Authority, I have the responsibility to preach general principles. When I do, I don’t try to define all the exceptions. There are exceptions to some rules. For example, we believe the commandment is not violated by killing pursuant to a lawful order in an armed conflict. But don’t ask me to give an opinion on your exception. I only teach the general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord.
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught this same thing in another way. When he was asked how he governed such a diverse group of Saints, he said, “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.” In what I have just said, I am simply teaching correct principles and inviting each one of you to act upon these principles by governing yourself.

- Dallin H. Oaks, CES Fireside May 1, 2005

I told my sister about Scott this week. As part of our conversation, she mentioned that when she was a college student in the 80's, she and my mom took an institute class that focused on how as members of the church, we have a responsibility to pray and learn for ourselves that what our leaders tell us is true. She said the text for the class was Eternal Man by Truman Madsen.

Anyway, is it just me, or does it seem that church members mostly follow the first quote, thinking that anything the Prophet or leaders do or say has to be true and perfect simply because of where it comes from? Are they doing the right thing? Or is it good and actually needful that we each gain a confirmation of their words for ourselves?

My testimony is strong, I believe that much of what the leaders of the church tell us is inspired and true. But I am confused at what different and conflicting messages some of their "inspired" words seem to send to the church populace. Any thoughts?


Silver said...

I wanted to thank you in all sincerity for the quote from Elder Oaks. It confirms what I have always believed; that the counsel given by the brethren is often very general and non-specific in nature; as it must be.

I am comforted by his statement that there are sometimes exceptions, although he doesn't want to be responsible for "my exceptions". I believe in personal revelation. I believe in my right to chart my own course. Of course I have to be careful to comply with the core principles, but I know that to blindly follow without using my own good judgment and the guidance of the spirit can also be an unwise course.

I have always valued the guidance of the spirit in applying the law in my life. Blind compliance with the law would have at times cost me the blessing of my own experiences.

It is delicate and difficult to express, and others may not approve of my unconventional behavior at times; but I'm glad I don't always just blindly charge forward without first weighing my own thoughts and seeking the spirit in applying "general counsel".

Original Mohomie said...

I thought, even in the moment Elder Oaks gave that statement during the CES Fireside I was watching, that was a refreshing and bold statement. I think most members gloss over it (it's maybe a little unnerving to face the implications of it), but I certainly noticed it.

So many members fail to understand the individuality of the application of true principles. Textbook answers are safe and helpful and often right, but I think at some point in most people's lives, a different road is demanded than the one paved and traveled by so many, the challenges slightly different, and the choices less obvious.

I understand that sounds, to some, like the slippery slope of hell-bound apostasy, but probably only to the extent that unquestioningly strict adherence to formulaic answers sounds, to some, like the slippery slope into fascist hysteria. As I see it, there's truth in both camps, as you've outlined in your quotes. :-)