To start off this sacrament we got another letter from the First Presidency. But this was the standard, “There’s many members writing to the Leaders of the Church about doctrinal and personal questions. These questions should be directed to the local leaders.” or something like that. I don’t have any real issues with this. After all the Brethren are very busy and probably don’t have much time answer everyone’s questions. But I think this serves to further distance the Leaders of the Church from the members. The leaders of the church become “untouchables,” “the higher-ups,” “those who receives communication from God and give it to us.” Ultimately it sets up a leader mentality where, rather than all of us being equal in Christ, there are some who are closer to Christ than others. There develops a caste system where there are the lowly members which have an inferior communication with God. And then there are those who are much better, more knowledgeable, and closer to the Savior. These people have a purer line of communication with God and thus we, the lowly members mut rely on them for major communication and revelation.
But at the same time it also help members realize that the bishops and other local leaders(there’s that pesky word again), have authority to resolve questions. But then again, although I haven’t been a leader, I wonder if “Official Policy” determines what a leader’s response to questions would be. Would a leader be able to help people as dictated by the Spirit or must they do what is dictated in the Handbook of Instructions?
I, in my own, personal, imperfect opinion, think that a much better letter would direct members to do as the scriptures dictate, meaning search out and study the doctrinal/personal questions. The ponder them. Following that ask Heavenly Father. Then when one receives an answer by the Spirit they should act upon it. Rather than relying on other imperfect men to be your emissary with God, just go to God Himself. The great thing is that Heavenly Father will give you the answer you need for you current understanding and progression. His answers are always right for you. But that doesn’t mean that His right answer for you is right for someone else.
We had a primary program which, for the most part, was centered on Jesus Christ. There was a brief tangent into how we should follow the prophet. And while listening to the council of a prophet is a good thing; we should, as the scriptures teach, seek to become prophets ourselves. We should seek for the Gift of Prophecy and establish our own direct line of communication with God.
I’m not that big a fan of primary programs though. I think it’s because it make me nervous watching the children hoping they will say the right thing. This probably stems from my time as a primary child and being afraid of public speaking. But I was pleased to have such a Christ centered Sacrament meeting.
Our Sunday School lesson was also very Christ centered. Our teacher was a friend of mine. He did a great job keeping the lesson Christ centered. I hope he will read this entry but won’t mind a few of my comments.
To start the lesson we sang “Come unto Jesus” for our opening hymn. He then asked for comments about what we felt during the hymn. I said how I felt, “the title of the hymn says it all. If we come unto any thing or person other than Christ, we are not doing it right.” I tried to make it a subtle jab at the “Follow the Prophet” mentality. We should hearken to the council of Prophets, but the only one we should follow is Christ.
The title of this week’s correlated lesson, was, “How Beautiful upon the Mountains.” Our teacher asked how this could relate to Christ. There were some comments. I was going to raise my hand but then our teacher said the exact comment I was going to. Basically, he said that the Mountains and temples are symbolic of each other. And that at the temple we can come near to the presence of Christ.
I really enjoyed a lesson that focused on Christ so much. Yet I still think it missed some great teaching opportunities. Now I don’t know how much his lesson was taken from the Manual™. I hadn’t read the study guide for that lesson. And I hope Brother J doesn’t take offense to what I’m about to say. But this lesson could have included teachings about Zion and how far we as a church are away from Zion. I think all these things could have been tied into Christ. But now I’m not the teacher so I can’t say my ideas are better, their not, they are just my opinions. It is not my place to dictate to the teacher what the Spirit tells him. And had I been in the same place maybe my comments would have been different.
Anyway, Isaiah chapters 50-53 are filled with references to Zion. I was surprised to see it wasn’t even mentioned once. Isaiah 50 is all about Israel and how instead of being faithful have sold themselves because of their iniquities. Chapter 51 is encouragement to the righteous. The Lord is telling the righteous that if they are faithful the day will come that He will redeem them.
We read from Isaiah 52:3
3 For thus saith the Lord, Ye have sold yourselves for naught; and ye shall be redeemed without money.
I think to really apply this verse to day we need to read the two previous verses.
1 Awake, awake, put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city; for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean.
2 Shake thyself from the dust; arise, and sit down, O Jerusalem; loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion.
These verses speak concerning both Zion(New Jerusalem) and Jerusalem. We read in Doctrine and Covenants 133:12-13
12 Let them, therefore, who are among the Gentiles flee unto Zion.
13 And let them who be of Judah flee unto Jerusalem, unto the mountains of the Lord’s house.
The two cities, Zion and Jerusalem will be gathering places for the gentiles, and Jews respectively. Their histories and futures have amazing parallels.
The verses in Isaiah are a command to both Zion and Jerusalem to be built up, to be redeemed. This is because both Zion and Jerusalem are in bondage. If we look at Jerusalem today it is a city of conflict. The Muslims control the Temple Mount.
If we look at Zion the different sects of the LDS church control the Temple Lot. It took the Israelites 40 years in the wilderness before their could redeem their holy land. We often look towards them and used them as an example of wickedness. We look to them and say how said it was that they took 40 years. But yet we overlook the fact that it has been about 180 years and we still have not been able to redeem our holy land. In fact, for the most part, we have forgotten that we even NEED to redeem our holy land. We sit here wandering in our wilderness for about 180 years and we have become content. We say that we should, instead, build up Zion where ever we are. But is that even possible? Can we build up Zion while we encourage and wallow in Babylon? It would have been nice to see in our lesson a small reminder that we are not on the path to Zion. That we need to redeem Jackson County. I thought about bringing this up but then the lesson moved on. And again I wasn’t the one teaching so it’s not my place to say that what the Spirit inspired him to say was wrong.
Some other comments about our lesson. We read and discussed Doctrine and Covenants 43:3-5
3 And this ye shall know assuredly–that there is none other appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations until he be taken, if he abide in me.
4 But verily, verily, I say unto you, that none else shall be appointed unto this gift except it be through him; for if it be taken from him he shall not have power except to appoint another in his stead.
5 And this shall be a law unto you, that ye receive not the teachings of any that shall come before you as revelations or commandments;
These verses seemed out of place in the lesson but what an amazing teaching I learned! It is talking about Joseph Smith and his successor. The only one appointed to receive commandments and revelations for the church was Joseph. This was to be so until we was taken from the earth, as long as he was righteous. Verse four, no one else will be appointed to that gift except it is through Joseph Smith. Also even if the gift is taken from Joseph we will still have the power to appoint someone. Then in verse five it says that this is a law and that if anyone comes before you do not receive their teachings as revelations or commandments.
Where have these verses been all my life? Or better yet, where were these verses in 1844?! When we look at the history of the Anointed Quorum(a Quorum consisting of endowed members that taught and received mysteries of God and sacred things) we see that Joseph Smith gave the Priesthood keys to the Quorum of the Twelve. He didn’t give them to Brigham Young but to the Quorum as a whole. In fact later after Joseph died Brigham Young did not claim to be Joseph’s successor, he did not claim to be the next prophet. Rather he claimed that it should be the Quorum of the Twelve to lead the Church and there should not be a First Presidency. Some time later, I believe after having started the move west, Brigham decided to form a First Presidency.
Brigham Young was never appointed individually to be the next leader of the Church. But there were two people who were(aside from Hyrum Smith who died in Carthage).
Joseph Smith III, the Prophet’s son, was appointed four times, by Joseph. Alexander Hale Smith, also Joseph’s son, wrote in his diary:
May Saturday the 14th . . . then went to see Old Bro Whitehead stayed all night with him he gave me some useful information told me some things that I did not know and can not understand [other unrelated items; then one page torn out of diary] Bishop Whitney held the horn and po[u]red the oil John Taylor Wil[l]ard Richards, Alpheus Cutler W. W. Phelps Dr Bernheisel, R Cahoon Word of my Father Bretheren I am no longer your Prophet This is your prophet (Laying his hand on his son Joseph[‘]s head) I am going to rest
This is but one account of one ordination, there are three other ordinations for Joseph Smith III to be Joseph’s successor, yet not one(that I know of) for Brigham Young.
But Joseph Smith III was too young to lead the church at that time. He was only eleven years old at the time of Joseph’s death. It wasn’t until 1860 that Joseph III felt inspired to lead the Church. The church he lead was the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints(now the Community of Christ and several splinter sects) Interestingly there was another man appointed to lead the church who fits neatly into the gap between Joseph’s death and Joseph III’s inspiration to lead the church.
That man is James J. Strang. James. He received a letter of appointment that was written by Joseph Smith prior to his death. He also claimed that at the time of Smith’s death angels visited him and ordained him to be the President of the Church.
It is my belief that, had the Saints been more faithful and stayed united rather than break apart, then James Strang would have lead the church after Joseph’s death. James received a revelation appointing Joseph III to the First presidency. After James’ death Joseph III would have fulfilled his ordination as Joseph’s successor.
Real life events:
Joseph Smith dies – June 27, 1844
James Strang ordained – June 27, 1844
James Strang dies – July 9, 1856
Joseph Smith III receives revelation to lead the church – 1860
Those verses in D&C 43 should make us look for the legitimate successors of Joseph Smith. They should help us look towards the other splinter sects of the original Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, as sources of truth too. Do we accept the revelations of James Strang, or Joseph III? According to D&C 43 we should. I ask you should we let the petty rivalries and contentions of the early saints continue to dictate our beliefs today?
Later in combined Priesthood and Reliefs Society, the Bishop spoke. He talked about home teaching. We quoted Ezra Taft Benson.
I feel impressed to speak to you about a priesthood program that has been inspired from its inception—a program that touches hearts, that changes lives, and that saves souls; a program that has the stamp of approval of our Father in Heaven; a program so vital that, if faithfully followed, it will help to spiritually renew the Church and exalt its individual members and families.
I am speaking about priesthood home teaching. With all my heart, I pray that you will understand, by the Spirit, exactly my feelings about home teaching.
He read from Doctrine and Covenants 20. First we read verse 51.
51 And visit the house of each member, exhorting them to pray vocally and in secret and attend to all family duties.
This verse seems to support home teaching. Yet section 20 speaks nothing of the program called “Home Teaching.” In fact verse 51 speaks of the duties of a Priest. Yet this fact was never brought up in our lesson. Rather these verses were construed to imply they are the duties of an elder.
Granted Elders can perform the duties of the Aaronic Priesthood offices yet elders are told only too:
42 And to teach, expound, exhort, baptize, and watch over the church;
Now I won’t say that Elders CAN’T go out and visit the homes of the members. But I will say that when Priests are present this is their duty. This is even emphasized twice in 50-51. I thought about mentioning this fact to the class but I was probably too afraid to get run out of town or something. This was, after all, the Bishops power lesson on making us a “Home Teaching Ward.”
Another scripture was verse 55.
55 And see that the church meet together often, and also see that all the members do their duty.
Again it was presented as another verse to support Home Teaching. This might make sense if the chapter had anything to do with Home Teaching, but it doesn’t, it is the duties of the Priesthood offices. Verse 55 is actually, according to verse 53, the duty of the Teachers. But then you will never guess what happened. Now I just want to say that I love my Bishop. He is a great, faithful and wonderful man. I am probably spiritually nothing compared to him. But our Bishop next had us read verse 53.
53 The teacher’s duty is to watch over the church always, and be with and strengthen them;
This just shocked me. Now I mean no offense to our Bishop. And I did not bring these things up in church out of respect for him. But our bishop then proceeded to (if you read this Bishop C please don’t take offense. I don’t mean to be demeaning. I only wish to give a commentary on what happened) wrest the scriptures. You could have knocked me over with a feather, as the entire class nodded in agreement that this verse speaks of Home Teachers.
I don’t know, maybe I’m missing something(and I probably am). But doesn’t this verse say that it is the TEACHERS duty? How can someone take the Priesthood office of Teacher and make it mean “Home Teacher?” It just doesn’t compute in my tiny brain.
Verse 53-55 state that it is the Teachers(Aaronic Priesthood office, not Home Teachers) duty to:
– Watch over the church always
– Be with and strengthen them;
– See that there is no iniquity in the church
– See that there is no hardness with each other
– See that there is no lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking;
– See that the church meet together often,
– See that all the members do their duty.
If we look into the early history of the church we see that it was in fact the Teachers who went around to member’s homes. They were the ones who did what our modern “Home Teaching” program is just a shadow of. The teachers ensured members were doing what they were supposed to. They resolved conflicts and other things. As teachers were not always able to fulfill their duties the Elders helped them.
Later the Aaronic Priesthood began to become more of a youth program rather than adult men. As teachers became younger they were less able to fulfill their duties. So the Elders had to cover for them even more. Today we have developed Home Teaching as a way to compensate for our young Teachers who cannot fulfill their duties. All was have to do is leave out and wrest a few verses in Section 20 and poof, Home Teaching!
But I’ve already blogged about Home Teaching. Later in class we patted ourselves on the back for our Stake losing count at the over 7000 people we had done proxy work for at the Temple. I just wonder if we should find names where ever we can and then throw them at the temple. Or should we seek he spirit of revelation and try and develop communications that will draw us nearer to our deceased ancestors. Those who then wish to have the work done will make themselves know to us. We can then proceed to do the work for them. It seems like an awful lot of wasted hours and to do work for people who don’t want it. And it seems that we are more content to rely on the internet to find names rather than the spirit and having spiritual manifestations.
We later brought up the scripture about how the voice of the servants is the same as the Lord. My biggest question is, what are we to assume if the voice of people we claim to be God’s servants is different than the Lord’s? If the voice of the Lord’s servants is the same as the Lord, does that mean we accept anything from anyone claiming to be the Lord’s servant? Or should we use it as a check to see if someone really is the Lord’s servant. If they are they will teach the same thing as the Lord’s words(scriptures). If not, they will teach us to do things that are different from the Lord’s word.
The lowest of the low in the Priesthood/Relief Society Lesson was toward the end when our Bishop(again I don’t mean to be demeaning) quoted Brother Christofferson’s version of the Law of Consecration. Brother Christofferson, in his talk, mentioned that the Law of Consecration “has and economic role.” He then went on to talke about how we should live a concerated life. Well according to the scriptures the Law of Consecration doesn’t just have an economic role, it is an economic system! The law of Consecration is basically this, anything you receive you give to the Lord through the Bishop. The Bishop will then grant you stewardship over some of those things you previously owned. You also receive a piece of Land that is your inheritance. You then use your land and those properties to bring and increase. The excess of what you owned before and the increase from your stewardship are all put together in a tearsury. It is from this treasury that the poor are given their stewardships and anyone at any time may withdraw money for those things they need or want. That probably grossly over simplified but it will work. Living “a consecrated life” has nothing to do with the Law of Consecration. Rather we should be living a consecrated life as part of the Law of the Gospel. We should live our lives accoridng to the Gospel and then use the Law of Consecration to economically lift ourselves and our brothers/sisters. To say that we can fulfill, in whole or in part, the Law of Consecration by living a “consecrated” life is not scriptural.
Sunday this week was filled with highs and lows. I had some great revelation and also some moments that made me want to run crying from the room. I don’t think my own thoughts reflect on the Spirituality or integrity of those giving the lessons. I cannot dictate to others what the Spirit tells them. Nor do I think someone is lesser than me because they believe something different or don’t look at the scriptures the way I do. We are all on our spiritual journey together. I hope my words will be seen more of a personal commentary on the times we live in, and my stage in life, rather than saying I am right and other people are wrong.