A comment at another blog a week or so ago got me to thinking. The discussion was about modern interpretation of the Word of Wisdom and the present (lack of) focus on the counsel to eat meat sparingly. The commenter observed that the general authorities today don’t seem to be too worried about that particular item (based on her observation of their behavior). She said, “If they start emphasizing it, I’ll worry about it. Until then, I’ve got plenty to worry about.”
That’s a practical approach for many things. It does not say (in the specific example) that the meat issue is not important, but it doesn’t seem top-of-mind for the brethren today. It suggests instead that there are other matters that seem more urgent. I hear a speaker recently talk about going through the general conference talks and finding direct counsel he felt he should consider. He said as he read with that thought in mind, he quickly developed a list of things that were important for him to focus on (including his own personal scripture study, his own contributions to the general missionary fund, and others), based on what was taught in general conference.
It occurs to me that the leaders of the church will emphasize particular doctrines or teachings or practices at one time that may not be emphasized at another time. For instance:
In the early- and mid-20th century, there was plenty of discussion about which hand to use in taking the sacrament. Today’s handbooks and recent general conference talks are silent on the matter. Either everyone should remember the teachings from nearly 100 years ago (an interesting requirement for a church that has such growth from converts around the world), or it’s not top of mind for the folks who worry about what things we ought to worry about. I don’t suggest that it was wrong to focus on this matter years ago. But there simply isn’t the same focus on it today.
These days there is plenty of talk about tattoos and the number of earrings our youth should wear. President Hinckley felt strongly enough to address those matters in a General YW meeting and in subsequent general conference addresses and the standard has been reinforced in For The Strength Of Youth, so for now that’s important. But in fifty years will it be? Maybe. Maybe not.
Since I sustain the members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve as prophets, seers and revelators, I feel safe in looking to them for guidance on issues of my day.
This position doesn’t absolve me of my responsibility to study my scriptures, study church history and to align my behavior with the Lord’s expectations. Of course I need to honor my covenants, keep the commandments, and listen for personal promptings along the way. Looking to church leadership for guidance seems prudent to me because I sustain the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve as prophets, seers and revelators.
But what I don’t need to do is look for areas where I believe my neighbors or my local ward council members or even the general leadership of the church are deficient (or divergent from the path I think is right).