My wife says I become sentimental when I am sick.
Tomorrow I am going under the knife for major surgery. And, because I like to do things in spectacular fashion, it is going to be an experimental procedure to boot.
Two doctors will attempt to 3D print a bone-substitute that will serve as a pillow for a titanium plate which will be screwed into my head. (I never thought of myself as much of a Metalhead, but here we are.)
So I should probably spend today repenting and getting my affairs in order . . . you know, just in case.
Since I am feeling sentimental, let me share how much I relish having a body, experiencing life here upon this earth ― from the lazy summer evenings spent as a child lying on the trampoline in the back yard being eaten by mosquitos as I watched the stars slowly emerge, to the thrill I experience each time I taste banana-flavored salt water taffy, to the magical smell of coffee grinds that remind me of my grandmother and the little sugar bowl she always kept on her kitchen table for my Cheerios . . .
And perhaps the sweetest thing of all has been the soul-stirrings that have punctuated my life unexpectedly, reassuring me that I am Known.
They say we are the heroes of our own stories, but I have never felt like one.
And, anyway, I have never felt like my life was about me.
That may sound strange, but I have always viewed myself as a sidekick in someone else's story, someone whose story is much more wonderful and real than my own:
He is the hero of my story. I am just a supporting player in the unfolding chronicles of His marvelous work and glory.
And if my life amounts to nothing more than a footnote in His Book, then I shall be honored, and let the footnote read:
The Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.
(2 Nephi 1:15)
Now back to business. In this Series so far we've seen:
1. Essential. Prophets are integral to the gospel of Jesus Christ because they speak the words of Christ by the power of the Holy Ghost.
2. Gender. Both men and women can be prophets.
3. Numerous. The Lord always sends "many prophets" among the people to warn, bless, prophecy, and to prepare the way of the Lord.
4. Meek. Prophets are not jealous of their authority and are tickled pink to share the mantle with others, like Moses when he told Joshua, "Would that all the Lord's people were prophets!" (Numbers 11:29).
5. Fruitful. A true prophet does not boast but bears fruit. We see their ministries marked by:
a. making intercession; b. declaring repentance; c. caring for the poor; and d. performing miracles in Christ's name.
6. Called. Prophets are called by God's own voice, and not by other men. For example, the Lord spoke to Nephi as a boy, "Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart. And inasmuch as thou shalt keep my commandments, thou shalt be made a ruler and a teacher over thy brethren" (1 Nephi 2:19, 22).
7. Authority. When God speaks and gives us a task, it is accompanied by all of the authority and power we'll ever need to accomplish it.
8. Keys. When God gives us a job to do, we symbolically call this authority "keys." In other words, keys always accompany a commission from the Lord.
9. Powerful. Power always accompanies authority granted from the Lord, whereas when authority comes from an institution it is often sterile.
10. Outsiders. In scriptures we find the Lord generally calls prophets from outside of the established order, hierarchies, and leadership ranks.
11. Fallible. In the post about Brigham Young, I may have struck a nerve. I was hoping to start a conversation about why the Lord gives us leaders, even to our condemnation. As members, we have a responsibility to hold leaders accountable, and not to simply say that if they are out-of-line it's God's job to kill them (i.e., think of King Noah).
12. Fallible x2. Mosiah gave us some of the best reasoning on why hierarchies are dangerous, ticking time bombs. All Satan needs to do is corrupt the top and he scoops up all the followers. King Noah was the High Priest, for heaven's sake! "It is not expedient that ye should have a king [President] or kings [Presidents] to rule over you. For behold, how much iniquity doth one wicked king cause to be committed, yea, and what great destruction! Yea, remember king Noah, his wickedness and his abominations, and also the wickedness and abominations of his people" (Mosiah 29:16-18).
13. Fallible x3. If you think that a wicked High Priest could never happen to us, think again. The Lord allowed Caiaphas the honor despite being a murderer and liar. The Lord said in our day, "I, the Lord, have looked upon you, and have seen abominations in the church that profess my name. Verily I say unto you, there are hypocrites among you, who have deceived some. Wherefore, let every man beware lest he do that which is not in truth and righteousness before me" (D&C 50:4, 7, 9). That last part indicates that the Nuremberg Defense will not be available to any of us. "But Lord, I was just following [name of person]!"
14. Fallible x4. The other point of the Brigham Young post was that the Church is not like a city set upon a hill but rather a suburb of Babylon the Great, allowing cultural corruption of Christ's gospel. In many respects, Church history has paralleled that of Catholicism and Protestantism in falling away into a legalistic jumble of creeds and worldly entanglements.
15. Courageous. Prophets speak truth to power, condemning the rampant priestcraft contaminating religion, calling church leaders to repent of their pride and greed.
16. Revelators. Prophets often bring to light things that have not before been revealed, loosing the mysteries of God and opening the curtains of heaven.
Putting Down Authority and Power
If the Sons of Mosiah had been serving missions today in New Guinea or somewhere, they would probably get in trouble for not following the lesson manual and White Handbook. Where was Ammon's companion? Why was he wearing a skirt? Who gave him a sword and permission to use it?
I heard someone say once that if a person arose in Sacrament Meeting from the congregation, speaking in tongues, the elders would probably escort them out for being disruptive.
The point I want to make is that, ironically, we often suppress the gifts of God in others.
Why do we fight against those who have power and authority from God, as our fathers did in times of old?
If history has shown us anything, it is that God sends messengers who are usually not in our socio-economic class.
They are Lamanites (like Samuel) or outside of the ruling class (like Amos) or have no insignia of authority (like Jesus).
It's almost like God is teasing us, sending us prophets who are not necessarily likable, and who we have every reason to reject, except for the fact that . . . they speak God's words!
Satan loves make-up. Satan knows how to make his messengers look appealing. He knows how to make them appear respectable.
We all like a little flattery from a handsome face, right?
Mormon described how the Nephites were quenching the Spirit of God in his time by rejecting those whom God had sent before their destruction:
In this part of the land they are also seeking to put down all power and authority which cometh from God; and they are denying the Holy Ghost.
Sadly, what happens in the Church when someone with power and authority from God butts heads with someone with "keys?"
The keys always win.
The Great Escape
So we live a cliché, repeating the mistakes of our ancestors who embraced "the doctrine of Balaam" (Revelation 2:14), thinking we are so much better than they ― when all the while we follow along the same wagon ruts in their footsteps, killing the prophets and casting them out of our midst.
If only we could see (!) the fence we have so proudly built with barbed wire is a prison keeping the flock in their pen, in their place . . .
. . . whilst Christ stands at the gate of the sheephold and throws open the door!
On the wrestling mat we watch two people throw each other around and we call it “competition.”
But the very same conduct, off the mat, suddenly becomes "assault and battery!"
Or take sex. Within the bonds of matrimony we call it "procreation." Something ennobling and sacred and part of a divine plan, right?
But removed from the wedding bed and taken across town to the seedy mattress of an extramarital motel hook-up, that very same act has now become "adultery" or "fornication."
The Gig is Up
Well, guess what? Satan knows that context is everything, too.
There's no reason for Lucifer to reinvent the wheel. It is much more effective to take something God has ordained and . . . tweak it. Twerk it?
We see the devil taking something that is good and godly in certain contexts, and placing it in another context, thereby creating what the scriptures call an "abomination."
An abomination is not just something bad, or sinful, or reprehensible.
An "abomination" in the sight of God refers to a religious rite, ordinance, practice or doctrine that has been corrupted by churches.
Grandmother's Recipe for Sticky Abomination Buns
Here's how to cook up a hot batch of abomination:
Step 1. Take something good and godly; and
Step 2. Put it into a context where it is no longer good or godly; but (and here's the important part)
Step 3. Treat it as if it were still good and godly.
Voila! Now, remove from the oven our hot-n-ready "Dead Work."
This is how apostasy works. Or what we call a "falling away."
According to the Lord, the same practice (at least, it looks the same on the outside) can either be "living" or "dead."
Wherefore, although a man should be baptized an hundred times it availeth him nothing, for you cannot enter in at the strait gate by the law of Moses, neither by your dead works.
Well, this is alarming! Apparently baptism a hundred times is not good.
Nowhere in Section 22 does it talk about "authority." Nowhere does it mention "priesthood."
But did you notice what is mentioned three times in just four verses?
The scary part is where the Lord warns us that we "cannotenter in at the strait gate" under a legalistic religion, or by keeping the law, or by any other "dead work."
The reason I am sweating bullets now is because (as we all can attest), our LDS traditions are (1) legalistic (just read the Handbook); (2) filled with obedience to laws; and replete with "dead works" (just ask Mormon to quote Moroni 7:6-12 to you).
Hmm. So we see the problem.
Religions, ironically, are the main source of abominations because we practice a gospel wherein we have broken (perverted) the everlasting covenant and yet we still think our rites are efficacious.
Satan does his very best work in our churches, where most of his mischief is accomplished (do you really think he is spending quality time on skid row? No, he much prefers the refined sanctuaries of the Great and Spacious Buildings we furnish for him).
This is why Satan's church is called The Great and Abominable Church.
I mentioned baptism, so let's use it as an example by running it through our Recipe: Step 1. Take the ordinance of baptism; and Step 2. Place baptism in a context where infants need to be baptized to escape Limbo; but
Step 3. Act as if infant baptism is good and godly, since baptism is, after all, part of Christ's gospel.
Maybe this explains why Mormon was so mad about infant baptism. Perhaps his anger was not directed at the sincere parents who just wanted to bless their babies with baptism, but at the religious leaders who taught the parents to participate in this abomination in the first place.
As we read the following words about baptism, open your mind to other practices this could relate to in the Church:
I know that it is solemn mockery before God, that ye should baptize little children.
He that supposeth that little children need baptism is in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity . . . For awful is the wickedness to suppose that God saveth one child because of baptism, and the other must perish because he hath no baptism.
Wo be unto them that shall pervert the ways of the Lord after this manner, for they shall perish except they repent.
(Moroni 8:9, 14-16)
What came to your mind?
Does God save one person because they don't drink coffee, but the other must perish because he drinks coffee?
Is it solemn mockery for leaders to implement a policy where we must pay tithing to enter into the temple to receive saving ordinances, which effectively places a price tag on them?
I met a highwayman journeying to the Sea. Pity in his coral smile showed, so I thought, as he took my eyes from me, and much more, until, blind, in disbelief I cried, ”You cannot charge a toll on this straight and narrow road!”
Laughing, he said, “No living soul can pass this gulf without Charon’s fee. Did you think salvation would be (or ever could be) free?” And laughing cut my throat.
I fell among thieves who unburdened my boat as I sailed a forsaken, tempestuous Sea. I had no coin for their hungry purse as they bound me gleefully and severed my tender flesh, until, a eunuch, in agony I pled, “I’ve nothing left; just let me live!”
“There is always more to give,” they laughing said. “Bodies sink but corpses float to greet the devil’s hearse. Will you buy his token to pay the final fare in lovely lilac blood?” and slit my throat.
I sank beyond all breath into the depths of the cool, calm Sea. I asked, “Does no one care what happens to me?”
I heard a voice and looked up to see a man dressed beautifully in fairest silk and ivory pearl. He stretched his hands in prayer, smiling down at me, and kissed my throat.
“Of course I can help you,” Master Mahan said, “In death there is much to gain. Have you not learned the lesson descended down from Cain?"
Are There Toll Booths Along the Strait and Narrow Way?
Religions present themselves as toll booths along the straight and narrow path, inserting themselves as blockades on our journey back to Father.
And the leaders of religion, who man these toll booths, use priestcraft to become popular and to profit from their labor.
What price have we paid in order to purchase our ticket through the Gate?
Sure, Lehi taught "salvation is free" (2 Nephi 2:4); and Nephi explained that redemption does not require any money, not one red cent (2 Nephi 26:25); and Peter made it very clear that the ordinances of the priesthood could not be purchased for 10% of our income (Acts 8:18-21); and Alma spoke truthfully when he said Church leaders should not receive any money, not a single penny, for serving in their spiritual offices (Alma 30:33); and Jesus himself never taught his disciples to pay tithing, but used a Full Tithe Payer as the ultimate example of the damned (Luke 18:9-14) . . .
This is written for those who just want to "get stuff done."
So often, when we are warned about our awful situation, or the coming calamity, or the judgments long foretold staring us in the face, we wonder, "Okay. But what can I do?!"
This question is not new. As the Lord told John Whitmer in 1829:
Many times you have desired of me to know that which would be of the most worth unto you.
Isn't that true of all of us? Wouldn't it be nice to have some direction on how to spend our time, talents and treasure before the world goes up in smoke?
So this post is going to offer some down-to-earth, practical suggestions for anyone who wishes to build the kingdom.
If you're tired of being benched, sitting on the sidelines, waiting for coach to put you on the field, jump up!
God is literally blowing his whistle:
Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God YOU (!) are called to the work.
Our time has come.
Tim's Short List for Prophetic Engagement
This list is not going to talk about how to become a prophet (we've covered that in the first nine posts ― but for those of you just joining us, the short version is God calls prophets by his own voice).
Instead this post will address the question:
What are prophets supposed to do?
Well, the simple answer is: anything the Lord asks them to do.
But there are some general things that will help us see more clearly their role, and I hope these will spark some ideas and inspiration for the rest of us to become more anxiously engaged.
So here we go. Here are some of the great tell-tale signs (i.e., "fruits") of prophets.
1. Prophets Make Intercession.
Intercession tops my list.
Christ is the great Intercessor (John 17) and is the ultimate example of a prophet for that reason.
Prophets "call upon God" not just for themselves but for others.
We find prophets facing the Lord and pleading the cause of sinful people. Which is odd, right?
Why would prophets care so much about wicked and depraved and fallen people?
It's because they have charity. As Mormon said:
Notwithstanding their wickedness I had led them many times to battle, and had loved them, according to the love of God which was in me, with all my heart; and my soul had been poured out in prayer unto my God all the day long for them.
Since making intercession is an essential part of a prophet's job description, let's look at a few other examples.
Brother of Jared
We just saw how Mormon loved wicked Nephites. Now we're going to see the Brother of Jared loving wicked Jaredites:
O Lord, look upon me in pity, and turn away thine anger from this thy people, and suffer not that they shall go forth across this raging deep in darkness.
There are too many examples to fit in this post, but I must include one more.
We can't forget Moses, who made intercession for 40 years on behalf of wicked Israelites. It was not easy. I mean, how many times did Moses plead for the Lord to kill and take him?
Talk about a tough job: you've got your brother making golden calves and the people (whom you just delivered) slipping back into idolatry with the attention span of a toddler.
And the Lord sees the Israelites' stiff-neckedness and says to Moses (let me paraphrase), "Well, we tried. Time to start over with another people. I guess I'll wipe out all these Israelites now" (Exodus 32:10).
And Moses stood up and pled with the Lord to spare the people. And he succeeded (!) in changing the Lord's mind:
Turn from thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against thy people.
Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou swarest by thine own self, and saidst unto them, I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever.
So if we've got a free evening alone at home, here's an idea:
Let's call upon God on behalf of those who don't pray; plead for mercy for all those terrible, conniving sinners; meekly make intercession for the hardened terrorists, the lying politicians, the Nehors and Korihors and local school boards and Jerry down the street; that we offer ourselves a living sacrifice on their behalf.
Because we can't be prophets to a people we don't love enough to cry for, bleed for, and die for!
For I pray continually for my people by day, and mine eyes water my pillow by night, because of them; and I cry unto my God in faith, and I know that he will hear my cry. And I know that the Lord God will consecrate my prayers for the gain of my people.
(2 Nephi 33:3-4)
Jesus wept for Jerusalem. When was the last time we wept for Los Angeles?
2. Declare Repentance
Okay, we've seen how prophets face God to cry intercession.
Now we're going to do the hoky-poky and turn ourselves around and observe how prophets face the people to cry repentance.
I say unto you, that the thing which will be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto this people, that you may bring souls unto me, that you may rest with them in the kingdom of my Father.
How do we "declare repentance" in 2022?
Well, the Lord kindly tells us right there in the verse ― anything that "brings souls unto [him]" is worthy of our time.
If it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
I want to make something clear: prophets are not just missionaries; a prophet has a public ministry.
They are called by the Lord to deliver a message to a specific, or to all, people, warning them of God's judgment to come.
Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments;
And also gave commandments to others, that they should proclaim these things unto the world; and all this that it might be fulfilled, which was written by the prophets.
But don't buy airplane tickets just yet, eager to globe trot with your megaphone (I mean, trumpet).
Therefore, go ye into all the world; [so be willing to travel at least] and unto whatsoever place ye cannot go [whether due to health concerns, a tyrannical political regime, or your passport was cancelled] ye shall send, that the testimony may go from YOU (!) into all the world unto every creature.
Isn't it convenient that the "world wide web" is an instrument that allows us "send" our testimonies "into all the world?"
Except China. (I haven't been able to beat their firewall just yet.)
But we saw the Iron Curtain come down. We saw the Berlin Wall crumble.
It is just a matter of time.
3. Take Care of the Poor. For Real.
If you're a prophet, chances are you're looking out for the little guy.
Remember who Jesus identified as the greatest of all prophets born of woman?
That's right: his cousin John.
So I think we'd be wise to check what John was up to.
And the people asked John, saying, What shall we do then?
John answereth and said unto them: He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.
The reason the early Saints failed to establish Zion was because they ignored this advice (and, by the way, we still are).
The Lord lamented:
My people are full of all manner of evil, and do not impart of their substance, as becometh saints, to the poor and afflicted among them.
That's an interesting way of viewing "evil," isn't it?
It seems that prophets today would rather forego the coarse cloth of the Baptist for wool suits and silk ties.
Jesus continued in the same vein as John, preaching a gospel of, by, and for the poor (Luke 14:13).
4. Prophets Perform the Works of Christ.
When you think about a modern-day prophet, does an image of a well-trimmed old man who gives sermons and oversees Church administration pop into your mind?
Because when I think of a prophet, I usually imagine some young men being eaten by she-bears and fire raining down from heaven and the Red Sea crashing down on Pharaoh's army and a-day-and-a-night-and-a-day with no darkness.
Jesus was very clear about the signs that would follow his prophets and apostles:
And Jesus ordained twelve . . . that he might send them forth (1) to preach, (2) and to have power to heal sicknesses, and (3) to cast out devils.
Jesus was foremost a Healer.
He taught us everything we really need to know about God by the way he cared for the leper, the blind, the sick and possessed.
He held their brokenness in his bare hands and made them whole.
When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.
Isn't it remarkable that Christ invites us to do the works He did? Rather than being jealous of his power, He's driving around in an Ice Cream Truck giving away popsicles to anyone who will come at the sound of the music.
For the works which ye have seen me do, that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do; Therefore, if ye do these things blessed are ye.
(3 Nephi 27:21-22)
As I said in Part 3, "When authority comes from God (as opposed to from an institution) it is always accompanied by power."
The Lord promised, "Signs follow those that believe. Yea, signs come by faith, not by the will of men, nor as they please, but by the will of God. Yea, signs come by faith, unto mighty works" (D&C 63:9-11).
So where are the signs? What would it be like to drive on the Freeway if there were no signs?
Mighty works are needed for the signs of the times.
I just returned from a family vacation to the Oregon Coast (heaven-on-earth).
By the third lighthouse, my 7 year old said, "Daddy, no more lighthouses!"
I am fascinated by lighthouses and their symbolism. I didn't know that in the United States lighthouses still operate under the Coast Guard's jurisdiction.
Back in the 1800s and early 1900s before things were automated, there were always 3 keepers per lighthouse: two on shift and one off (sound familiar?).
It is hard to describe the beauty of a Fresnel lens (made in France in the 1800s by a guy named Fresnel). Back then they couldn't get enough candle power to make a beam of light bright enough to be seen very far offshore; so Fresnel was commissioned to engineer a solution, which he did by directing all the rays of light through a single focal point.
Here's a picture of one of the massive Fresnel lenses used in lighthouses:
Let's Talk Perspective
We are the candles of the Lord: and Jesus is the lens that joins our light into a focused beam as a city set upon a hill (Zion).
Notice that when the rays of light are combined you cannot distinguish one ray from another: they become one light. The Lord's light.
There are two things that provide us with eternal perspective (like the light from a lighthouse), assisting us in our journey home:
1. Prophecy (seeing forward); and
2. History (seeing backwards).
I want to suggest that we are uniquely situated in the history of the world because we possess a greater abundance of prophecy and history than ever before.
1. We possess a compendium of prophecy that exceeds any had by previous generations, including the Bible, Doctrine and Covenants, Lectures on Faith, Book of Mormon, and Pearl of Great Price.
When you think about it, we are awash in prophecy.
2. Here in the end times we can look back and learn from the cumulative lessons of our past. We have more stories, histories, examples, success and failures, than any previous generation.
When you think about it, we are gifted with these two powerful tools to help us create something better: Zion.
Of all peoples, we should have the broadest views.
Because this is "the dispensation of the fulness of times."
Last Days: Prophets Needed
Joseph Smith taught:
The dispensation of the fullness of times will bring to light the things that have been revealed in all former dispensations; also other things that have not been before revealed.
(Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 4:426; Oct. 3, 1841)
Who is going to reveal all these new things?
Moses made a very interesting prophecy at the end of his life pertaining to the latter days. As you read this prophecy, ask yourself what role you have to play in this, the last dispensation:
But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.
When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the Lord thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice;
(For the Lord thy God is a merciful God) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.
I think it is important to note that the Lord remembers the "covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them" ― as opposed to our individual covenants.
(Of course, we can enter into the covenant of Abraham Isaac and Jacob as well, but let's not make everything about us, okay?)
Plenty of Prophecy to Go Around
Years ago I was speaking in Sacrament meeting and unexpectedly blurted out a prophecy.
I didn't plan on it!
It just happened. One minute I was talking, telling jokes, expounding on a verse from the Book of Mormon, and then the next thing I knew my mouth was saying something new to me.
I don't think I would have gotten in trouble except that, like an idiot, I prefaced it by saying, "I prophecy that . . . ."
My father was in the congregation listening, and took me aside afterwards. "Be careful, son," he said, "I wouldn't prophecy too freely because most members aren't prepared for it."
Well, that advice seemed odd to me.
Why aren't members prepared to receive prophecies?
Didn't Paul tell us:
He that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.
Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.
(1 Cor. 14:3, 39)
I guess I may be a little more reckless than most, and I know the Lord doesn't want us to cast pearls before swine (loose lips sink ships).
But the Lord doesn't want us to be tight-mouthed, either, with closed lips, as if clenching our teeth could prevent his words from rushing (spewing?) out of our mouths by the power of the Holy Ghost.
But with some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them, because of the fear of man. Wo unto such.
I think the principle is when the Spirit fills our mouths, we speak and prophesy. As the Lord said in the D&C:
Remember that that which cometh from above is sacred, and must be spoken with care, and by constraint of the Spirit; and in this there is no condemnation.
So let's go ahead and fill this dispensation with prophecies not a few.
Well, you don't need my permission. The Lord's word is all the permission you need.
He said to the Church:
And as ye shall lift up your voices by the Comforter, ye shall speak AND prophesy as seemeth me good.
I guess I've never been embarrassed to prophesy because I'm not the one who has to cash those checks. If the Lord utters his voice, then it's up to Him to make good on his words. We're just messengers.
I believe we will see in a coming day Joel's prophecy fulfilled more fully (or to a greater extent than we've ever seen in the past):
I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.
I don't think we've seen the plenitude of prophecy from God's daughters yet.
I don't think we have listened to our young women's visions enough.
Isn't there room in the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times for all of us? For young and old, male and female . . . for God voice to ring from the rooftops, from the isles of the sea, and from the nethermost parts of his vineyard?
Almost 20 years ago, while I was still in college, I passed on the chance to buy stock in Google.
Back then I was young, bull-headed, and traded stocks like Evel Knievel.
At that time the world was still "Asking Jeeves" their questions (for you Millennials, that was an early entry in the internet search wars of the late 1990s to early 2000s).
But I was told Google was just another passing tech-bubble company and so I didn't invest. If only!
My personal bad decisions, though, pale in comparison to some of the bad decisions others have made in history.
- Filling the Hindenburg blimp with hydrogen
- The Donner Party taking a 'shortcut' - Decca Records in 1962 passing on the opportunity to sign a little unknown band called The Beatles.
- Allowing Brigham Young to lead the church for 30 years
Okay, that last one is going to need some explanation.
Brigham Young got almost everything wrong.
Brigham Young was the "American Moses."
He accomplished a lot of impressive things. Like you, I admire many things about President Young. I can honestly say I am looking forward to getting to know him in the Spirit World (where I am sure he is raising Cain right now).
So this is going to be challenging because I want to reorient our perspective on his tenure as President of the Church.
Brigham was 43 years old when Joseph died. (He assumed leadership of the Church despite the fact that D&C 107 clearly required a high priest to be President. Brigham was never a High Priest.)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as we know it today is the outgrowth of the policies, practices, and doctrines of Brigham Young.
So while I don't mean to judge the man (that is between him and his Maker), I think it is okay for us to judge his legacy (especially if we try to do so objectively ― and as charitably ― as possible).
Where the Red Fern Grows
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous.
What does this mean? I think Jesus was saying, "It's hypocritical to revere those whom we regard as prophets who have died, but reject the living prophets standing right in front of us today."
Well, are we garnishing the grave of Brigham Young?
I want to suggest something that is not going to be popular. I think the Church has not yet recovered from Brigham Young's presidency.
What do I mean by that? Here we are, 150 years later, and still untangling the messes he created. It's like Brigham took some of the worst errors and excesses of Nineteenth Century America and . . . made them part of our religion. Including:
- Railroad and business speculation (treating religion as if it were a business)
- Prejudice against Native Americans (treating those who are different as inferior human beings)
- Racism against Blacks (structuring a hierarchy that disenfranchises a whole race of people)
- Misogynistic views of women (structuring a hierarchy that disenfranchises a whole gender of people)
- Making heteronormative sex the crowning attribute of deity(structuring a hierarchy that disenfranchises a whole orientation of people)
- Teaching blood atonement and the Adam-God Doctrine (which the Church has disavowed; but these were central, saving doctrines under Brigham Young, like polygamy (though polygamy endures on life support today through sealings to multiple women in our temples)
How can we measure the generational damage caused by Brigham's legacy?
A Walk Down Memory Lane
Some highlights of Brigham Young's presidency, and a modern-take on them:
1. Brigham made Utah a Slave territory in 1852
Slavery is immoral and against God's law. Is now, was then (D&C 101:79).
2. He denied priesthood ordination and temple covenants to Blacks
Racism is immoral and against God's law. Is now, was then (2 Nephi 26:33).
President Nelson said: "Any of us who has prejudice toward another race needs to repent" (June 1, 2020).
3. Taught the Adam-God Doctrine
This doctrine has been Disavowed by the Church and called a false doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie in the Eugene England Letter.
4. Practiced polygamy and declared it was necessary for exaltation
Polygamy as practiced by the Church was a "whoredom" that created a religious sacrament out of institutional adultery. This was condemned by the Lord in Jacob 2:26-28.
5. Died the richest man in Utah in 1877 with a wealth of over $2 Million
Jesus taught his disciples to take neither purse nor scrip. The law of Zion is "to be equal" as stewards of what God has given (D&C 82:15-21).
6. Preached blood atonement, waged war with the Indians, and covered up the Mountain Meadows Massacre, using his adopted son John D. Lee as a scapegoat
The Lord strongly condemns secret combinations and all manner of lyings, deceits, mischiefs, hypocrisy, murders, and priestcrafts (3 Nephi 16:10).
7. Voted on January 29, 1845 to exempt himself and the other apostles from paying tithing
So much for pure religion. Jesus taught his disciples to not devour the widows' houses (Luke 20:46-47).
8. Distrusted women, disbanded the Relief Society after Joseph's death, and said, "I don't want the advice or counsel of any woman — they would lead us down to hell. There is no woman on the face of the earth that can save herself— but if she ever comes into the Celestial Kingdom, she must be led in by some man — God knew what Eve was." (Discourse, March 9, 1845)
God is not sexist. Men and women are equal (1 Cor. 11:11-12).
Brother Brigham is Challenging for the Saints
Let's get one thing straight: the Lord loves Brigham Young. Just as He loves all of us.
But we might wonder, "Why did the Lord allow Brigham Young to lead the Church down such a misguided path?"
Contrary to popular belief, Church leaders can lead us into foolishness and error: as shown by the Church "disavowing" Brigham's Adam-God doctrine and his teachings on race.
This is how the Church tacitly admits that prophets do, at times, lead us astray, while claiming the opposite.
It only makes sense. After all, we all have agency. Presidents of the Church have agency. And we have learned by sad experience, that when a man gets a little authority, as he supposes . . . .
How did all of this happen? How did the Church get hornswoggled into being a sexist, elitist, racist, rich organization?
Well, it was easy. The reason is simple: the members of the Church went along with it.
They followed Brigham Young (at least those that came West) and turned a blind eye to his egregious policies and practices.
So in the end, we stuck the Lord with Brigham, not the other way around.
(But the funny thing is that we're still doing it.)
Take King Saul. The children of Israel petitioned Samuel for a king. Remember how Samuel tried to talk them out of it, but they insisted?
So the Lord relented and gave the people what they asked for: a king. For better or worse.
Brigham Young was our Saul.
Abinadi Speaks Truth to Power
Several years after Joseph Smith's death, after Brigham had successfully solidified his power among the Quorum of the 12 and over the Church, on February 12, 1849, the Council of Fifty anointed him as the "king and president" of the Kingdom of God on earth.
(I guess something like that could go to one's head.)
There was a man among them whose name was Abinadi; and he went forth among them, and began to prophesy, saying:
Behold, thus saith the Lord, and thus hath he commanded me, saying, Go forth, and say unto this people, Wo be unto this people, for I have seen their abominations, and their wickedness, and their whoredoms; and except they repent I will visit them in mine anger.
Well, the problem, you see, is that Abinadi did not hold a position of prominence; nobody recognized his authority; he had no ecclesiastical muscle.
Now when king Noah had heard of the words which Abinadi had spoken unto the people, he was also wroth; and he said: Who is Abinadi?
What we see in the scriptures is weird: we discount true prophets because they don't come from the recognized ranks of leadership.
Why does the Lord send prophets to help us course-correct from outside the established channels?
Well, maybe it's because history has shown it is nigh-impossible for those within the system to recognize the problems or to have the gumption to do something about it.
So the Lord didn't go to the President of the Presbytery in 1820 to amend the creeds; he went to a know-nothing kid named Joseph Smith.
Careful: how do those seated in power react to criticism? Not well. (Just ask Herod.)
And so Brigham Young ensured that there would be no space in the Church for Abinadis. He created a hierarchy that forbade prophecy against leadership from within the ranks.
What an Elysium of, by, and for the leaders, right?
No wonder Caiaphas and his cohort "envied" (Mark 15:10) Christ. He was an outsider. He was not recognized from their ranks. He held no ecclesiastical office.
In other words: he destroyed their priestcraft.
But while we can sit in Moses' seat all day long until the cows come home, it is stunning to behold a person bearing real power and authority that comes directly from God:
The people of king Noah durst not lay their hands on Abinadi, for the Spirit of the Lord was upon him; and his face shone with exceeding luster, even as Moses’ did while in the mount of Sinai, while speaking with the Lord.
And Abinadi spake with power and authority from God; and he continued his words, saying: Ye see that ye have not power to slay me, therefore I finish my message.
This is true power: a lone man delivering the word of God to those in authority at the peril of his life.
A Prophetic Warning
I want to repeat Alma's prophetic warning that he gave to Nehor. Nehor was popular and he taught the people that priests should be supported financially in their religious labors (just like the priests of King Noah, Korihor and General Authorities).
Were priestcraft to be enforced among this people it would prove their entire destruction.
I want to suggest something. This is going to be a tough pill to swallow.
But before you spit out this bitter pill, please give it due consideration:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been practicing the doctrine of Nehor since the time of Brigham Young.
Chastity for Churches: A Poem
The congress of bodies making love has an unusual way of crossing interstate lines. The power to tax is the power to destroy what is most holy. The windows of hell open for the widow whose dowry is devoured by the oldest profession of Nehor. Eternal revenue services the treasured Mystery-of-the-Bed:
You can skip the wedding supper and exchange money instead.
Just take the example of Nephi in Helaman Chapter 10. How was the sealing authority conferred?
And it came to pass as he was thus pondering in his heart, behold, a voice came unto him saying: Blessed art thou, Nephi . . . I declare it unto thee in the presence of mine angels, that ye shall have power . . . that whatsoever ye shall seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
This is perhaps the best example I can think of for how it all works.
1. God's "voice came" unto Nephi.
2. God called him by name.
3. God made an oath and covenant with Nephi with the angels as witnesses.
4. God bestowed power and authority to seal on earth and in heaven merely by stating it.
5. God's word was good enough; no written contract or laying on of hands necessary.
Example 5: Abraham.
Do we think of Abraham as a prophet? He was one, and so much more. He was a patriarch prophet, and now he sits on a throne in heaven (D&C 132:29), so I guess we could call him a king, too.
A prophet-father and king (this is starting to sound like a Christ-figure).
Lets look at how prophets are (1) called and (2) what their missions entail.
Chances are, we're going to see the same pattern repeated.
Which means you'll be ready to receive your own call from the Lord.
1. Abraham's Call
Amos was out with the sheep in the field when the voice of the Lord came to him; Samuel was in bed with a cup of chamomile tea; Elijah was dodging earthquakes in a cave; and now we have, taking the cake, Abraham being sacrificed along with some virgins on Pharaoh's altar when the voice of God confers upon him power and authority.
(It goes to show that the call can come anywhere, anytime.)
And as they lifted up their hands upon me, that they might offer me up and take away my life . . . his voice was unto me: Abraham, Abraham, behold, my name is Jehovah . . . Behold, I will lead thee by my hand, and I will take thee, to put upon thee my name.
Notice how the Lord called him by name, and put upon him His name?
And in Abraham 1:17, the Lord referred to Abraham as "my son."
Why is that significant?
2. Abraham's Mission
And what was Abraham called to do?
He had to leave behind the false traditions of his idolatrous fathers and receive greater light and truth from the Fathers.
In other words, he destroyed the priestcraft of the Egyptians (who were the religious authorities of his day) and brought his family unto the True and Living God.
EXAMPLE 6: Moses
1. Moses's Call
Surprise, surprise: history repeats itself.
Abraham lived around 2000 B.C. and Moses about 1200 B.C. (six hundred years later), but the story is eerily similar.
And God spake unto Moses, saying: Behold, I am the Lord God Almighty, and Endless is my name. And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son.
(Moses 1:3, 6)
Just like the Egyptians tried to kill Abraham, they also tried to kill Moses (as a baby, and when he fled Egypt).
Hmmm. Notice how the Lord called Moses by name, and put upon him His name?
And in Moses 1:4, 6, 7, and 40 (that's four times!) the Lord referred to Moses as "my son."
Why is that significant?
2. Moses's Mission
Let's see. Moses destroyed the priestcraft of the Egyptians (who were the religious authorities of his day) and brought his family unto the True and Living God.
EXAMPLE 7: Samuel the Lamanite
1. Samuel the Lamanite's Call
Let's change hemispheres to see if we can get some variety, shall we?
Behold, the voice of the Lord came unto him, that he should return again, and prophesy unto the people whatsoever things should come into his heart.
Well, this is interesting. The Lord personally sends Samuel (to whom he gives the gift of prophecy) to preach to the Nephites, even though Samuel held no ecclesiastical office and had no "authority" they would recognize.
In fact, the Nephites were predisposed to disregard anything Samuel had to say because of their prejudice; and they had already "cast him out" for preaching the word, so Samuel's obedience is all the more remarkable considering he knew their hearts:
And now, because I am a Lamanite, and have spoken unto you the words which the Lord hath commanded me, and because it was hard against you, ye are angry with me and do seek to destroy me, and have cast me out from among you.
I always get a kick out of the Nephites' response to Samuel:
"Take this fellow and bind him, for behold he hath a devil."
Likewise said they of Jesus.
2. Samuel the Lamanite's Mission
So Samuel was called to preach the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Nephites, which happened to destroy their priestcraft, wanting to bring them unto the True and Living God.
We're not done, oh no. Next time we'll be looking at the examples of Abinadi, John the Baptist, Joseph Smith, and the Lord himself, Jesus Christ. Stay tuned, my friends!
In fact, in this Series we're seeing not just a pattern but a portrait of a prophet's calling emerge.
So far we've looked at (1) Samuel, (2) Amos, and (3) Elijah.
Elijah has a special place in my heart:
1. Joseph Smith said Elijah was the last Old Testament prophet to hold the sealing powers of the Priesthood. (History of the Church, 4:211; 6:251–52).
2. Elijah is the closest prophet I can think of to Gandalf the Grey. "And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there" (1 Kings 18:40). "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!"
3. My dad published a book on Elijah and really loves to do family history.
"Will You Accept a Collect Call from God?"
I shared a little bit of my own personal "calling" nearly two years ago, when the voice of the Lord came to me in my Zeezrom-like foolishness, which I wrote about in the blogpost, Reflection, back on August 7, 2020.
What I didn't tell you was how the Lord asked me to put into poetry (I know, how crazy?) the truths which the Spirit spoke to me, and I felt that was a gentle way to say some hard things.
And so Owl of the Desert was born, which is a phrase I lifted from the book of Psalms. I didn't know back then how to blog, or how to make a website, but I googled how to do new things and here we are.
I published my poems for my family and friends and left the rest in the Lord's hands. But primarily, I was writing for the Lord and his angels (who can always use a good laugh).
You see, what I write on this blog is mine, and I take responsibility for its imperfections, as Moroni said; these words could have been my own:
Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been. And now, behold, we have written this record according to our knowledge.
But the poems? You will have take those up with the Lord, for what I have written in them is by the power of his Spirit; and the words are not mine but those he placed in me like fire shut up in my bones.
The poems, you see, are his.
And if you've read any of them, you've probably noticed the Lord is not well pleased with us.
In the poem, Elijah, I borrowed imagery from Elijah's day to speak to our own.
Here we go . . .
Flies swarm an ass’s head selling for thirty pieces of silver in Samaria. Its eyes stare blankly upward as whispered voices in the wind are heard: When will this famine end?
Desert truths lie threadbare on the loom for moths to eat, their abandoned skins shed like old garments. Wretches satisfy hunger grinding stone into lepers’ bread.
Sandy tombstones testify against those who consume the ripe wheat, spreading chaff over the cremains of the poor. In the shroud of authority priests shake cinder dust from their feet.
Then a message out of Gilead! To Ahab, King of Israel, from the mad Tishbite: You reposed trust in a priesthood sown with sterile seed and tithed Zarepheth’s oil in God’s name. The clouds shall hide their faces in spite because you acknowledged not your shame.
Two measures of barley sold for a shekel in Samaria’s gate. Who dares dissent from lords that cause Jordan to run dry and slake thirst with water drawn from the Dead Sea? Who will enter their bathhouses filled with fresh figs and call them to repent? Where are the seven thousand prophets who have not practiced priestcraft, their mouths pure of mammon’s wine, who are fed with manna carried in ravens’ beak?
O Nineveh! See how high the hedge has grown round the shining crematorium on the hill radiating a form of godliness, a scorpion’s kiss. We are drunkards who think themselves sober still. How did it come to this?
A graveyard for Abraham’s children cut from angels’ tongue, we craft coffins for God’s mysteries. No more hobby horses of fire! No more chariots rising up on eagle’s wings! We walk single file toward Assyria in mass lobotomy of all that transpired prior to Nineteen Seventy.
Murmurs heard from Samaria’s wall: Boil thy son so we may eat. And so has the great and dreadful day come at last Elijah? Will you return to pour twelve barrels of water onto this barrenness? Will faith be made new by rolling waters that gush from the rock altar of our heart and spill forth holy fire to crush the desert snake opening to swallow our agency (or do they not know water runs until dammed at the end of the row)?
His body claimed by the whirlwind. What did he hear in the still small voice? Listen at the end of the world to the oven speak its final word aflame the stubble and forbidden fruit. Shout it among the wicked, Ahaziah: your father left neither branch nor root!
Do not worry: the dead do not murmur heaven’s secrets. Elijah is gone. His mantle has fallen to the ground and someone must pick it up and bear it anew to Carmel’s mount.
In the last post, Part 4, we began searching for a prophetic pattern regarding the way the Lord calls us to labor in the vineyard.
We started with Samuel and Amos, but I think two examples are not enough to establish a baseline; after all, they may be flukes.
So we're going to need several more examples in order to see if any predictable patterns emerge.
But first we need to talk about the "voice of the Lord." Who better to explain it than the Lord himself:
Behold, that which you hear is as the voice of one crying in the wilderness― in the wilderness, because you cannot see him― my voice, because my voice is Spirit; my Spirit is truth; truth abideth and hath no end; and if it be in you it shall abound.
See? The voice of the Spirit is the word of God. It calls us.
If you're wondering why the Lord should take notice of us, a bunch of nobodies (I mean, doesn't he have someone better suited for this job?), remember that it is "all hands on deck" in these last days.
So the Lord makes due with what He has to work with; what right do we have to be picky?
We're weak. We're simple. We're sinful.
Therefore, if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work; For behold the field is white.
"It doesn't take skill. It doesn't take wisdom. It doesn't take good looks, fame, or fortune. It doesn't take strength. It just takes submission.
"It is just the willingness to take upon you the name of Christ. It is the determination to serve him to the end. It is the simple, child-like desire to serve him. When he calls, you say, "Here am I, send me."
"It doesn't mean you are the best match for the task at hand ― you aren't. It doesn't mean you are the best fit for what is at hand ― you aren't. However, if you stop and look around, you'll see hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people (maybe even billions) who are NOT volunteering for the job. What separates you from them is that you said yes, and they all said no."
"God will make up for what you lack in being able to perform the job. After all, the works are His."
Elijah and the Still Small Voice
Wait! God calling me by the voice of the Spirit isn't special enough!
Where's my certificate? My spiritual quinceañera? And what about the pageantry ― the burning bushes and thunder, the pillars of fire and singing angels with hot coals and beautiful gowns?
Listen. When God needs something done, he's probably going to ask in a still small voice.
Remember Elijah, who fled to a cave after he defeated the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel (now that was dramatic)?
We find Elijah majorly depressed hiding in his cave when the Lord speaks to him.
But the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
(1 Kings 19:11-12)
Nowadays when prophets are called we hold press conferences. Bright lights and flashing cameras and periodontally-enhanced smiles.
But the work of the Lord goes on largely unnoticed, as it did when the Lord called to Elijah in a still small voice.
Sure, it would be nice if the Lord dispensed flashy Las-Vegas-style revelation, announcing our calling by airplane-flown banners, but please don't discount the personal voice of God that enters into our minds and hearts.
And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?
(1 Kings 19:13)
That was King-James-speak for, "What the heck, Elijah?"
You see, Elijah was feeling sorry for himself. He was having a pity party with a few ravens as party guests.
The children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
(1 Kings 19:14)
Wow. See? No one said being on the Lord's errand was easy (or joyful).
Don't believe the tabloids: being a prophet is rough.
Go and Do the Works of Abraham
It's funny how one of the ways the Lord comforts us is by lifting us by the bootstraps and getting us moving again.
And the Lord said unto him, Go . . .
Here was the medicine Elijah needed.
There are times in all of our lives when we are called to "Be still, and know that I am God" (D&C 101:16).
But 9 times out of 10 the Lord calls us to "Go" ― to press forward in faith, trusting in the word we have received from God.
. . . Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria.
(1 Kings 19:15)
So Elijah gets another task. Miles to go before he sleeps. No rest for the weary.
And remember how he was feeling sorry for himself, believing he was the only righteous person left in Israel? Well, the Lord has something to say about that, too:
Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.
(1 Kings 19:18)
None of us are alone. Sure, we always have the Lord we can count on. But he will guide us to others who share our love for Him, in the great "fellowship of his sufferings" (Phil. 3:10).
We may not look like much, but that's because our countenances have received His image.
During an inspection of an aircraft carrier, a visiting admiral had all of the Navy and Marine personnel line up in formation.
While walking down the line, the admiral asked sailors questions and received appropriate responses until he stopped in front of a Marine and asked, “What’s the first thing you do after hearing “Man Overboard?”
Without hesitation, the Marine asked, “Officer or Enlisted, Sir?”
My grandfather served in the US Navy and fought on a Destroyer in WWII and the Korean war.
I remember him joking about differences between enlisted members and commissioned officers.
Now he has passed on to the Big Ship in the Sky, but this past weekend I thought of him as I watched the new Top Gun movie.
It made me wonder: are "we all enlisted" in the Lord's army (as the hymn says), or are we commissioned?
Either way, today I want to give the simplest explanation I possibly can about the way priesthood authority and power work.
No prior military experience required.
Priesthood Power and Authority For Dummies
I don't want to get lost in the legalese of priesthood mumbo-jumbo. We can worry about the small print later.
For now, I want to focus on how simple this is. In fact, once you spot it, you won't be able to un-see it. You'll wonder why we've complicated it for so long.
There is no mystery about it. You don't need to be hazed at West Point or inducted into a secret hand-shaking society to comprehend it.
Ready? Here's how it works:
Step 1. God gives you a task to do.
Okay, anyone lost so far? Good.
Now the great and grand secret of the whole matter, and the summum bonum of the whole subject that is lying before us this:
Any commission God bestows is always accompanied by:
a. authority (divine permission to do the thing God asked you to do); AND
b. power (divine grace to accomplish the thing he’s asked you to do).
This was summed up beautifully in one sentence by Nephi (and gives a new perspective on this scripture):
I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded . . .
When the Lord gives you a job, you have all the authority there is, or that you will ever need, because you have divine permission. Period.
for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.
(1 Nephi 3:7)
Here we see that the Lord gives us the power to accomplish whatever mission he has sent us on.
Now are you ready for the last part? (You're probably thinking, "Already?") See, I told you this was elementary.
Step 2. You do it, or you don't. That's it.
Alas, many are called (Step 1) but few are chosen (Step 2).
Step 1: The Call If divine authority and power are given by the Lord Himself, by his own voice, it creates some tricky issues (especially for those of you who are military-minded, who will be driven crazy by what follows).
1. The first problem we face is figuring out if God is actually speaking to us, or if we're being deceived.
That's what we're all worried about, isn't it? None of us wants to think we're on the Lord's errand while in reality we're being duped into following the devil.
We're told to judge whether we're on the right path by seeing if we're in line with what the current leaders are doing and saying.
As we will see in this post and the next one, trusting in our leaders is probably not a great way to discern if we're on the right path.
For example, Satan had greater priesthood authority than we did in the premortal world, but nobody believes we should have sustained and followed him (well, I guess 1/3 part of the hosts of heaven actually thought we should).
So we intuitively understand that any authority a person has is subordinate to God's.
2. Since God does not respect the chain-of-command (yes, I know we've all been taught to believe He does, but we will see that notion is a bunch of poppycock), how does this work on an institutional level?
EXAMPLE 1: The Call of Samuel
Is there a prophetic pattern in the scriptures regarding how the Lord calls us?
How does God bestow power and authority upon his servants?
Simple: by his own voice, like he did the boy Samuel.
Now remember, Samuel was not the presiding priesthood authority (that honor fell upon Eli and his sons, who really deserve a blogpost of their own).
So how exactly did God "call" Samuel? Did he place an ad in the Jerusalem Gazette? Did he send him a notarized letter by Pony Express? Did he have an owl named Hedwig from Hogwarts deliver his instructions to this boy-who-listened?
And Samuel was laid down to sleep; and the Lord called Samuel: and he answered, Here am I.
(1 Sam. 3:3-4)
That was it. Does it sound familiar? After Samuel heard the voice three times, he finally understood that the Lord was speaking to him.
Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth.
(1 Sam. 3:10)
Notice how the Lord called Samuel by name? ("Joseph, my son.")
One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other-- This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!
After getting Samuel's attention, the Lord explained that he wanted him to do probably the hardest thing Samuel could have imagined, because it meant the overthrow of Eli's house, whom he loved.
But the reason the example of Samuel stands out as such a great example is because:
And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground.
(1 Sam. 3:19)
How many of the Lord's words do we let "fall to the ground?"
EXAMPLE 2: The Call of Amos
Okay, next up is Amos. Like Samuel, Amos was a nobody.
Amos did not hold ecclesiastic office (in fact, all of these people we're going to see were not called from leadership, but were actually called to overthrow the priesthood hierarchies of their days. Interesting.)
Amos was minding his own business when the Lord called him. He explained to his priesthood leader at a quasi-disciplinary council:
Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah . . .
Amaziah, by the way, was the high priest. Why wasn't Amos sustaining the Brethren?
I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son . . .
Pause. I love that Amos is pointing out the nepotism that exists in hierarchies (I mean, we have three Joseph Smiths that require us to use middle initials and names to keep them straight).
Amos had absolutely no priesthood pedigree. And yet.
I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit
See, Amos supported himself financially (so I guess it was self-evident he wasn't part of the leadership, right?). He refused to practice priestcraft.
And the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel.
Amos didn't need to be called by man, or have an ordination by men.
He just needed to be called by the Lord's own voice.