Well, I shouldn't be surprised. After all, there must be opposition in all things; how else could we choose between the bitter and the sweet; between faith and fear; 'twixt gold refined seven times in the fire versus a golden calf?
And so yesterday, at the same time I posted the conclusion to "Would God that All the Lord's People Were Prophets" (assuming I had said everything I needed to say about prophets), Elder Kevin S. Hamilton of the 70 gave a BYU devotional and pretty much said the opposite.
That's right: his address, Why a Church?, serves as a nice rebuttal to my post. What I like about the talk is the fact it isn't subtle at all; it is the clearest statement I have seen recently from a General Authority about what the Church actually believes.
Reading his talk made me sad; just when I thought the Church might be getting over the nonsense of the Fourteen Fundamentals of Following the Prophet; just when I thought we might be waking from our medically-induced coma of carnal security ― something like this comes along.
Let me share the words that whispered in my mind as I read Elder Hamilton's remarks:
But behold, and fear, and tremble before God, for [we] ought to tremble; for . . . [we] have wilfully rebelled against God, that have known the commandments of God, and would not keep them.
For context, those words were spoken by Abinadi to the priests of King Noah; and like them, we should really know better.
We're better than this.
The Church Is a Drug?
Yes, Elder Hamilton said the Church is a drug ― in perhaps the poorest analogy of all time (but it really is a propos since we seem to be getting a "high" off the fumes).
Elder Hamilton taught the students at the Lord's University:
"We can think of the Church using the analogy of a prescription drug capsule. The Church is the capsule, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ is the medicine delivered inside the capsule. The Church delivers the blessings of the Atonement of Christ to its members who are faithful disciples of Jesus Christ."
Ah, I was mistaken: the atonement is the drug; the Church is merely dispensing it. But do we want the Church acting as our pharmacist?
Me: "I'm here to fill my prescription."
Pharm Bro: "You can't have those narcotics; they are restricted."
Me: "Umm. My doctor, who I trust, prescribed them for my use."
Pharm Bro: "I think I know better than your physician."
Me: "I will call the licensing board unless you give me my prescription."
Pharm Bro: "Fine, fine; stop being such a jerk about it. Here is your medicine; it'll cost you $1,000,000."
Me: "My doctor said that insurance will cover the cost 100%. He has a very good plan."
Pharm Bro: "You think I work for free? The medicine might be covered, but my time is valuable. You need to pay me $1,000,000 or I won't give it to you."
Me: "That is, I think, extortion."
Pharm Bro: "So sue me."
Elder Hamilton taught it is impossible to completely follow Christ without following His Church and, therefore, His prophets.
"Substitute the word ‘Savior’ or ‘Lord’ or ‘Jesus Christ’ in place of ‘the Church.’ ... For me, personally, that seems to put a very different perspective on things."
Ummm. Did he really just say to "substitute" the Church in place of the Savior?
We Believe in . . . Who?
The Church Newsroom concluded their reporting on his talk:
"It is important to move forward with faith, 'trusting, hoping, believing,' looking to the prophet and apostles for guidance, said Elder Hamilton."
1.Guidance. Notice where Elder Hamilton tells us to look for "guidance." To the "prophet and apostles."
Look unto God with firmness of mind.
2.Trusting. According to Elder Hamilton, in whom do we trust?
O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh.
(2 Nephi 4:34)
3.Believe. If we follow Elder Hamilton's counsel, in whom do we believe?
Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom.
4.Hope. Finally, the idea that we should place our hope in our leaders blew my mind.
Ye have obtained a hope in Christ.
Notice I quoted here only verses from the Book of Mormon; so I am not some Jesus-crazed-evangelical; I am mainstream Mormon.
So the question is, how does Elder Hamilton ― who was a CEO and venture capitalist; obviously a bright fellow, who has served as a Stake President and Mission President ― reconcile his teachings with what the word of God says?
Well, we don't have to speculate; he told us! All of these gospel gymnastics make a sort of perverse sense when we substitute the Church for the Savior and vice-versa; when we treat them as one-and-the-same; when we play with the gospel and the Church as if they were interchangable arms on Mr. Potato Head.
The Church = the Savior
But the Church is comprised of normal, imperfect people; so we best not jump on the bandwagon with Elder Hamilton unless we'd like to see more:
1. Priesthood restrictions based on race;
2. Mountain Meadows Massacres, which was carried out under leaderhip's supervision;
3. Johnston's Armies because we believe in Adam-God, tithing offices, polygamy, slavery, killing Native Americans, and blood atonement; and
4. Policies of Exclusion and Church Handbooks as long as the US Tax Code.
Throwing Down the Gauntlet
Elder Hamilton may as well have taken out a white glove and challenged the gospel of Jesus Christ to a duel. His remarks were like a slap in the face (I almost reached for my musket).
Why? Because he's teaching the rising generation that the Covenant Path is the means of our exaltation; and the way we access the blessings of the atonement is through our temple covenants (and here's the fine print) which are only available through the mediation of the Church's authority. Ergo, Christ is subordinate to the Church.
Oh, that's right, I forgot we're Catholic! Compare what Elder Hamilton taught with what the Catholic Church teaches:
"The pope and the bishops provide the authoritative interpretation of scripture and to exercise authority as leaders over the entire Church and as the priesthood that administers grace through its seven sacraments. At the head of the Church is the Pope, who is representative of Christ on earth."
And their priests shall . . . deny the power of God, the Holy One of Israel; and they say unto the people: Hearken unto us, and hear ye our precept; for behold there is no God today [but the one you make covenants with, which covenants can only be obtained by subscribing to our annual payment plan of 10% of your moneys]; for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power [and keys and authority] unto men; Behold, hearken ye unto my precept.
(2 Nephi 28:5-6)
Has the time come to amend our Articles of Faith to conform to the current order of things?
Article of Faith 1: We believe in the President of the Church, the living prophet, and his counselors, the First Presidency, and in the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.