A building contractor was being paid weekly for a project. One payday he looked at the check and said to the owner of the property:
"Excuse me, but this check is two hundred and fifty dollars less than we had agreed upon."
"Yes, I know," said the owner. "Last week I overpaid you by two hundred and fifty dollars and you never complained."
"I don't mind an occasional mistake," replied the contractor, "but when it starts to be a habit I feel I have to bring it to your attention."
Structure and Standards
In any organization, we find both (1) structure and (2) standards.
The question is whether the structure of the organization should inform its standards, or whether our standards should inform the structure?
Structure ----->> Standards
Standards ------>> Structure
I submit the Church has chosen Option A. The Church's structure is an authoritative hierarchy led by a President (see, D&C 107:65).
Interestingly, the way the Church is structured influences its doctrine and teachings―which seem to coalesce inevitably on the unassailability (I did not say "infallibility," but you know what I mean) of the leadership's authority.
This was evident after the November 2015 Policy involving the children of gay parents. When the policy was leaked to the press, many members were alarmed. Many felt conflicted about the "rightness" of this policy but were uncomfortable saying anything for fear of appearing critical of leadership.
The funny thing is that the 2015 Policy was demonstrably contrary to the teachings of our Savior by preventing worthy individuals from being baptized based on the decisions of their parents.
Despite the Policy being clearly erroneous (which was confirmed when the Policy was rescinded in April 2019), many members sought to justify the Policy while it was in force by invoking the ultimate Trump Card: Leaders cannot be wrong, or if they are, the Lord will bless us for following their error.
Explain that to me. How is it we can believe that "an angel of God who was in authority in the presence of God" (i.e., Lucifer) could be wrong, but not a mortal octogenarian?
As others have pointed out, the Church structure dictates our doctrine, which boils down in the end to a single principle: We follow a man whom we call Prophet.
While Protestants have adopted the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, Latter-day Saints have embraced instead Sola Auctoritatis.
Rather than defying the authority of Rome, as the Reformers we celebrate did, we instead have created New Romeinstead of the New Jerusalem!
So what are the real-world consequences of our chasing the tail of authority?
Well, by tripling-down on a hierarchical structure, we had to sacrifice common consent. Sayonara, suckers!
Yes, we shouldfollow a Living Prophet:
For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.
I submit that we should choose Option B, allowing our standards to inform the structure of Christ's Church.
And what are Christ's standards? Well, I think we find them in the Standard Works. As we search the scriptures, we find:
- Equality - Love - Sacrifice - Common Consent - Humility - Faith - Repentance
But the way the church is currently structured as a hierarchy actually makes it more difficult to live these values.
1. Equality. A hierarchy divides us based on callings, offices and labels, which creates status instead of equality.
2. Love. Authority kills love. Instead of exercising the moral authority that comes from love, we have been taught instead to love authority.
3. Sacrifice. Who needs sacrifice when we have spiritual celebrities and billons of dollars?
4. Common consent. While common consent is a commandment from God, it actually threatens the status-quo and therefore must be "reinterpreted" to fit within the structural hierarchy . . . which effectively renders it meaningless.
5. Humility. As we learned from the Lord's excoriation of the Pharisees, the secret of true religion is religion in secret. A hierarchy requires a public relations department. The Church of Christ requires anonymity.
6. Faith. The gospel teaches unshakeable faith in Christ. A hierarchy seeks to supplant the seat of Christ with a lesser substitute, teaching confidence in the arm of flesh.
7. Repentance. We cannot repent if we cannot acknowledge our sins, including our past sins. For example, the Gospel Topics essay on the denial of the priesthood based on race . . . wait for it . . . blames the members of the Church, not the leadership who implemented the policy. The Inevitable Conclusion
Everywhere we turn, we see ourselves betraying the standards we profess.
But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.
Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous.
(Matthew 23:13, 28-29)
Did we just go there? Yes.
We need to repent. We need rise up and follow the gospel law we covenanted to live at baptism rather than the lesser law by which we are now bound.
Common consent is key to unlocking the gate.
Internal vs. External Structure
Okay, since we need structure (order), we must decide whether that structure is going to be:
(1) Internal structure by which we "govern ourselves"; or
(2) External structure that is imposed upon us.
A child needs a parent to enforce rules and boundaries.
But now I am grown up and I don't need my mother telling me, "Don't eat five hot dogs--it will give you heartburn!"
We become adults. We spiritually mature as we learn self-reliance and stop relying on external (parental) control to dictate our actions.
Now I stop eating after 4 hot dogs. See? I've learned my lesson.
(1) Internal structure = maturity and independence;
(2) External structure = patronizing and creates dependence.
While I appreciate the fact that members in the Church are at every level of spiritual maturity, there never seems to be a time where we matriculate out of 8th Grade. We just keep repeating the same grade over-and-over, ever learning and never coming to a knowledge of the truth.
So, is there a point where the Church structure actually arrests our spiritual development, catering to an 8th Grade level, after we've graduated in Christ to a more excellent way?
The Lord asks us to keep his commandments because we love Him (love = internal motivation).
For I delight in the law of God after the inward man.
The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts.
But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts.
Hierarchy Creates External Control
A hierarchy, unfortunately, focuses on outward performance. A hierarchy requires reports, numbers, statistics, social studies, lawyers, bankers, press releases, fixers . . . to keep up appearances and maintain a good image.
The Lord, on the other hand, does not seem impressed by our efforts to appear "righteous."
Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
Common consent is for those ready for something greater. For college, say. This is the way.