If a building is on fire, whose responsibility is it to put it out?
The home's owner? The neighbors, who are at risk of catching fire, too? The Fire Department? Passers-by who witness the flames? If a Church is on fire (not the building, but the religion), whose responsibility is it to put it out?
The members? The leaders? The government? Other churches?
(Me and my companion as missionaries in Paris, France, standing below the Notre Dame cathedral.)
A Cautionary Tale: 1857
In 1857, Isaac Haight was 44 years old. He was the Stake President as well as the commander of the Iron County Militia in Utah.
At a high council meeting, President Haight discussed a course of action against the Baker-Francher party, a group of migrants passing through town.
Invoking the "defense of Zion," Isaac Haight marshaled the men. As both their spiritual and military leader, how could people know whether he was acting in one capacity or the other?
Following their leader, on September 11, 1857, the men of southern Utah murdered 120 migrant men, women and children.
And then they blamed the Native Americans for the massacre.
The First Law of Heaven . . . ?
How can "obedience" be the first law of heaven?
Can someone explain that to me? Because how can we know whether we should obey, in the first place, unless we know we are doing God's will?
Obedience requires no discussion, no common consent, and no persuasion.
Just orders to be followed.
Discernment, on the other hand, requires far more: humility, temperance, and persuasion. Under common consent we know God's will . . . together.
Together? Isn't discernment supposed to be an individual, personal gift of the Spirit? For example, a way to detect evil in our neighbors?
Well, hold on. What if discernment was a corporate gift of the Spirit, as well? Intended to be shared by the Church?
Is our discernment enhanced when we share wisdom with each other, teaching each other, counselling together? I might have a blind spot. You might be near sighted. Fred might think of something the rest of us missed.
How did the 3 Nephites discern God's will? By having their Chief Nephite tell the others what was right? No!
It came to pass that the disciples were gathered together and were united in mighty prayer and fasting.
And Jesus again showed himself unto them, for they were praying unto the Father in his name; and Jesus came and stood in the midst of them, and said unto them: What will ye that I shall give unto you?
And they said unto him: Lord, we will that thou wouldst tell us the name whereby we shall call this church; for there are disputations among the people concerning the matter.
(3 Nephi 27:1-3)
What do we learn from this? They couldn't agree, so did they defer to the Nephite-With-The-Most-Keys? No!
They discerned the will of the Lord together, and asked Him to "tell us." They were equal before the Lord!
Then, possessing real intent, they moved forward in unity and in the strength of the Lord.
So can we, if we follow this pattern of common consent.
And maybe we should start saying that discernment is the First Law of Heaven.
(Otherwise, for all we know, we might be following an evil spirit.)
(Nauvoo Temple on Fire, 1848)
A Cautionary Tale: 2018
In 2018, Sam Young expressed publicly his concerns about the practice of priesthood leaders questioning children about sexually explicit conduct in worthiness interviews.
According to his discipline letter, he was excommunicated for his "effort to persuade others to your point of view by repeatedly and deliberately attacking and publicly opposing the church and its leaders."
Here's what I don't get: if the leaders agreed with his position (as apparently they did, as demonstrated by the fact that the Church changed its policy in response to the media attention), then why was he excommunicated?
I guess I am looking for an answer because I want to know what he was supposed to do? Stand by and watch the fire burn?
Or, convicted in his heart, was he supposed to take up a bucket of water and do his part in trying to put out the flames?
What flames are we willing to put out?
Because it's getting pretty toasty in here.
Cloven Tongues of Fire
There's a fire that purifies rather than destroys.
On the day of Pentecost, the people heard a mighty rushing wind and "there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:2-3).
Joseph Smith prayed that a similar experience would accompany those attending the Kirtland Temple dedication in 1836: "Let the gift of tongues be poured out upon thy people, even cloven tongues as of fire, and the interpretation thereof" (D&C 109:36).
Have we amputated our gift of tongues, and become mute?
According to Elizabeth Ann Whitney, she was promised by Joseph Smith that she would have the "pure language." She recounts that in the Kirtland Temple, she rose from her seat and sang in tongues, the first song of Zion ever given in the language of Adam.
If she is to be believed, Parley P. Pratt interpreted her song and wrote it down:
One of the nobles of the Earth, Had mighty power in blessing; Received the Priesthood, and went forth And blessed his seed. . . The Holy Priesthood long remained In all its power and glory, Until the Priests of God were slain, Their remnants sank in sorrow down. . . To misery and sorrow doomed, Their pleasant fields overspread. . . In Adam-ondi-Ahman, So shall our aged father bless His seed who dwell in righteousness Upon the land of Zion.