Monday, June 13, 2011

Listening to a prophet today

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).


  1. I was reading the scriptures yesterday and something stuck out to me. And I think it is relative to your post.

    D&C 58:26-29

    26 For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.

    27 Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;

    28 For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.

    29 But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.

    We shouldn't have to wait for a leader to command us to do something before we are obedient. We should be diligently searching the scriptures and counseling with the Spirit to know what we should be doing.

    Verses 27 and 28 tell me that as long as we are doing good things, and trying to bring to pass righteousness; then even if we are doing things without "proper authorization", while it may not correct, it is still counted unto us as good and we will not loose are reward.

    I feel the general populous of the Church it to afraid to act and be out of line with Church policy. So instead of going about doing good and possibly being procedurally wrong, people just sit back and wait to be commanded to act.

  2. Zo-mo-rah, thanks for your comment. I think it is related to my post, too. But I don't agree with your final statement. It's certainly not true in the ward I live in now, nor has it been true in the wards I've lived in around the world.

    My observation is that people tend to look to the leadership for guidance on the big things, and for specific policy when it comes. But as for doing good Christian service, the members I know don't wait. They're quick to help a neighbor (member or not) in need. They're trying to rear their kids the best way they know how. They're studying their scriptures and saying prayers. And they're listening to the promptings they get.

    Fortunately, the members I know well aren't judging one another for tattoos or piercings, but they're teaching the standards of the church. They aren't arguing politics in church, but they are voting their conscience and are politically active.

    I don't think there is disharmony between the verses you read and the observation about looking to our leaders for the big issues of the day.

    I'm grateful for the inspired guidance about where I can (and maybe should) focus my energy, but as I said in the OP, I acknowledge my own responsibility to read and study and pray and seek the Lord's guidance for my life.

    I can, of course, only talk about members I actually know. Perhaps you know "the general populous of the church". If you do, you must be very busy, and I count myself lucky that you make time to read my blog. :-)

  3. Zo-ma-rah -- sorry for misspelling your name. In my defense, I can't even remember my own children's names...

    Thanks again for reading.