One of the central tenets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that God reveals His will through living prophets, this is called Modern Revelation. As an extension of that principle, Latter-day Saints believe it is essential to follow what the Living Prophet says. Twice a year, members of the Church have the opportunity to listen to talks from Church leaders during a semi-annual General Conference. These talks include addresses from the Church’s Prophet. In our day this is President Thomas S. Monson.
Now, if you are a Mormon, like me, you may have noticed that there is a growing number of what are referred to as “cafeteria Mormons.” These are members of the Church who pick and choose what they want to believe. When it comes to following to the Prophet , I find that many of these Mormons want to put words in the Prophet’s mouth rather than listen to what has actually come out of it. When they hear the Prophet speak they excuse themselves from following what he said and instead follow what they wish he said.
I fear that this is why many members of the Church didn’t notice the ground breaking modern revelation that came through President Monson at this latest general conference. If we believe that whatever the Prophet has most recently spoken about a subject is God’s will revealed through modern revelation, then I can only conclude that too many of these “cafeteria Mormons” are stuck in their own traditions and not willing to follow the Prophet.
So just what did the Prophet say most recently that was an amazing revelation? This last weekend(as of this writing) Thomas S. Monson, President and Prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke at General Conference. He gave two talks, both of which I will talk about here. In his second talk on Sunday morning he said:
“Essential to the plan is Jesus Christ. Without His atoning sacrifice all would be lost. It’s not enough, however, merely to believe in Him and His mission; we need to work and learn, search and pray, repent and improve. We need to know God’s laws and live them.”
Wow, isn’t that incredible! Unfortunately too many members of the Church will simply gloss over his words or ignore them and continue on doing what they’ve always been doing. They will say, “He didn’t actually mean what he said he really meant(insert-favorite-false-teaching-here).” Others, if you ask them what the Prophet’s most recent message was they will probably draw a blank, so I will reemphasize the crux of what he said:
“We need to know God’s laws and live them.”
What is it President Monson reminded us to know and live? God’s Laws. Notice anything missing? I’m willing to bet those cafeteria Mormons didn’t. But for the sake of clarity I’ll point it out what you probably already know. If you listen to President Monson’s talk you’ll notice he told us to know and keep God’s Laws, yet he never mentioned knowing and keeping Church culture or tradition. He also didn’t mention knowing and keeping Church policies and handbooks. He said, “We need to know GOD’S LAWS and LIVE THEM.”
Yet, there are some spurious groups of Church members, including unfortunately, some leaders; that completely missed this modern revelation and continue to take President Monson’s words out of context. God, through President Monson’s most recent words just changed the entire landscape of the Church.
Ok, ok, maybe I’m over reacting a bit. Maybe when he spoke he implied the handbook and other policies even though he didn’t actually say it. But, as you know, implication doesn’t count as modern revelation. However, just to make sure I’m not going crazy here, and to avoid standing on a shaky foundation let’s look at His talk during the Priesthood session of this same Conference.
During this talk President Monson spoke about the Word of Wisdom. At the end of his talk he reaffirmed the importance of observing it by saying:
“May we care for our bodies and our minds by observing the principles set forth in the Word of wisdom; a divinely provided plan. With all my heart and soul I testify of the glorious blessings which await us as we do.”
So let’s have a quick look at the Word of Wisdom. Looking at the actual text of Section 89 we notice that the revelation contains stuff that is slightly different than what is contained in the modern Church policy and tradition version. That’s not really a problem if you believe that God uses modern revelation through living Prophets to tell us what His will for us NOW is.
Modern Church policy and tradition holds that the Word of Wisdom contains the following provisions, to name a few:
– That that the Word of Wisdom is a commandment.
– That all alcohol use is forbidden.
– That caffeine is forbidden.
– That the don’ts are more important than the dos.
However, the actual text of the Section 89 is somewhat different than what we think of when we hear the phrase “Word of Wisdom.” These differences include:
– It is explicitly stated that it is not to go by way of commandment.
– Wine can be used for the sacrament.
– “Hot drinks,” not explicitly tea and coffee, are forbidden.
– Caffeine is never mentioned.
– “Do’s” such as eating meat sparingly; and that herbs, fruit and meat are to be used with thanksgiving.
– Barley based “mild drinks,” not excluding beer, are acceptable.
It is believed in the Church that modern revelation trumps past revelation. So if the current President of the Church says that we should not drink alcohol even though Section 89 says wine and beer are ok, then we should follow what the living prophet says NOW. I believe most Mormons would agree with this.
So what did President Monson most recently say about the Word of Wisdom? Less than two days(at the time of this writing) ago at the beginning of his Priesthood session talk President Monson said:
“In 1833 the Lord revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith the plan for healthy living. That plan is found in the 89th section of the Doctrine and Covenants and is known as the Word of Wisdom. It gives specific direction regarding the food we eat and it prohibits the use of substances that are harmful to our bodies. Those who are obedient to the Lord’s commandments and who faithfully observe the Word of Wisdom are promised particular blessings among which are good health and added physical stamina.”
Did you catch what President Monson said? He said first that, “the Lord revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith the plan for healthy living.” So he is confirming that the Lord’s plan for healthy living was reveal to Joseph Smith. Then he told us that “That plan is found in the 89th section of the Doctrine and Covenants and is known as the Word of Wisdom.” Here President Monson specifically tells is what he means when he refers to the Word of Wisdom. He specifically stated that he is referring to section 89 when he referred to the Word of Wisdom in his talk. He did NOT say the handbook, Church website, policies, and/or traditions were the correct definition. So I’m not crazy. That is two talks where he told us to obey God’s laws and gave no mention of the handbook, manuals, and policies. He also directly contradicted the Church website and manuals in one talk.
Why isn’t this in the news?! This is huge. President Monson just told us that the Word of Wisdom is the actual text of Section 89 and did not include what the handbook or Church website says about it.
This is seriously a mind blowing change for any Mormon who believes we should Follow the Prophet.
Now I’m sure there are some segments of Mormonism who are probably screaming, “We’ll he may not have said it, but he meant that we should follow the Church’s teachings about the Word of Wisdom and other things.”
But these people are clearly ignoring the doctrine of Modern Revelation. President Monson clearly stated that we need to know and live God’s Laws and that the Word of Wisdom is found in section 89. These members of the Church would rather stick with what was said in the past than what has been said RIGHT NOW. These are the same people who would have stoned the ancient prophets for saying anything other than what they wanted to hear.
Just what are God’s Laws as President Monson mentioned? Well in his second talk he clearly referenced section 89. So maybe the scriptures are a good place to start. As a point of fact the handbook itself says it is not scripture:
The standard works of the Church are the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. In many languages, the Church has approved one edition of the Bible to be used in Church meetings and classes. Likewise, the latest authorized edition of the other three books of Latter-day Saint scriptures should be used. No other works are to be promoted or used in the Church as scripture.
Fortunately the scriptures in the standard works are readily available to us. Just crack them open and read. But, to save you some time I’ll summarize a few of God’s Laws here and how this emphasis on God’s Laws, by a modern prophet, will affect us.
This means that unless you give that initial surplus as commanded in Section 119 you cannot be a full tithe payer. After you have done that, only 10% of your interest is required for tithing. Additionally, tithing need not be money only.
Missionaries are to be guided by God’s Laws in Section 84 and other commandments, which state that they are to go forth without purse or scrip, neither staff nor two coats. They are to receive their subsistence from the generosity of those they encounter. This is so that God may judge the people of that city through their actions(how willing they are to help the poor). Missionaries are also commanded that if they receive money and they have families they need to send it home to them. Or if they don’t have families they should send the money to the bishop.
This means that the missionary program of the Church is going to need a complete overhaul. Any missionaries out there take your white handbook and throw it in the garbage. Any families of missionaries, stop paying into the missionary fund. There is to be no missionary fund. Missionaries will receive their food, clothing, housing, etc. from the generosity of those around them
Christ declared in Matthew 5:32 that any man who divorces his wife, except in cases of fornication, and she remarries is causing her and her new husband to commit adultery. We are then under the command given in 1 Corinthians 7:11 that if a man and woman separate(not divorce) then she is to remain unmarried while he is to receive her if she comes back. We should see a lot fewer divorces.
Adultery and Fornication
We are to understand the scriptural meaning of adultery and fornication. That is, adultery is when a man has sexual relations with another man’s wife. This definition does not include a single or married man having sexual relations with a woman who is single. (Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 22:22)
Note: Just to clarify, I’m not saying that a single or married man having sexual relations with a single woman outside of marriage not a sin, nor am I advocating such behavior. I’m just saying that according to the scriptural definition it is not adultery. In fact the required act of repentance for such an action is given in the scriptures.
As for fornication we are to understand that it is a broad term referring to sexual sin and not specifically unmarried persons having sex. (Matthew 15:19; Jacob 3:12)
The church will kneel together when the sacrament is blessed. While water may be used for the sacrament wine is also allowed. Priests will only administer the sacrament when and elder is not present. (Section 20:40, 46, 50, 58, 76; Section 27:1-5;
As contained in Section 20 elders are to administer the bread and wine in the sacrament. Additionally they are to take the lead of all meetings. Elder are also to travel to preach the gospel. (Section 20:38-45, 66; Section 124:139, 140)
This means that Bishops will not be the presiding authority at Church meetings, though they will still be in charge of the temporal needs of members in Wards.
First of all Priests will not be limited to a certain age group. It will now become common for grown men to be priests. Additionally, when elders are present they are NOT allowed to administer the Sacrament. But when elders are not present they may take the lead of meetings. Priests are also to assist elders in travelling and preaching the gospel. (Section 20:46-52)
Teachers and Deacons
Teachers will watch over the church and make sure the church gathers to meet. Teachers will not be involved in administering the sacrament. But they will take the lea d of meetings when neither an elder nor priest are present. (Section 20:53-58)
Deacons will not participate in administering the sacrament. (Section 20:58)
Word of Wisdom
I already touched on this but I’ll summarized again here. To start off the Word of Wisdom is no longer to be considered a commandment. Additionally wine is acceptable for use in the sacrament(a much better symbol than water by the way). Third you can drink barley based “mild drinks,” not excluding beer, and still say you keep the word of wisdom. Eating meat sparingly and fruit in season with thanksgiving is on equal footing with all of the “don’ts.”
Gathering to Zion
We can now give up the so-called “spiritual gathering,” where members are called to gather and build Zion where they are. We must prepare to physically gather to Zion and the Lord will prepare the way for this to happen (Section 101:67-69).
I don’t think I need to go on much more. I’m sure you think I’m coo-coo-bananas at this point. But you have the scriptures, you can read for yourself. This is a very interesting time in Mormonism. President Monson has just given us modern revelation that we are to know and live God’s Laws. At the same time he did not emphasize the need to follow the handbook, when he could have. Thus in light of President Monson’s most recent words we can surmise that in cases where the Laws of God conflict with the handbook, policies, and culture; we should follow God’s Laws. As I showed earlier proof of this view was given in his Priesthood Session talk where he did not use the Church’s website reference to abstaining from all alcohol, and instead used Section 89 which allows wine for sacrament and beer.
Members of the church now stand at a cross roads. Do we say President Monson implied something that he never said, or do we listen to what he actually said? Do we continue to follow the traditions and policies of the Church the conflict with God’s laws, or are we going to Follow the Prophet?
Preach My Gospel says this:
“Those who listen to and follow the counsel of living prophets and apostles will not go astray. The teachings of living prophets provide an anchor of eternal truth in a world of shifting values and help us avoid misery and sorrow. The confusion and strife of the world will not overwhelm us, and we can enjoy the assurance of being in harmony with God’s will.”
Are you willing to listen to what the Prophet, President Monson, has said most recently? Or are you still stuck in the past. For me I will stand with President Monson. No matter what my fellow members say about me, or what discipline I may face from Church Leaders, at least I can stand firm and solemnly declare I was not being led astray, because I was willing to Follow the Prophet.
“May we ever be courageous and prepared to stand for what we believe, and if we must stand alone in the process, may we do so courageously, strengthened by the knowledge that in reality we are never alone when we stand with our Father in Heaven.” – President Monson, October 2011