Imagine being called into the HR department at work and being told, "You are being terminated for violating company policy."
You: "What did I do?"
HR: "Last month when the building was on fire, you shouted, 'FIRE!'"
YOU: "Yes, I was trying to save lives. Some of my coworkers hadn't smelled the smoke yet."
HR: "Company policy clearly dictates that only members of the Fire Department are authorized to delcare 'fire' in the workplace."
YOU: "So even though we were getting third-degree burns, and saw the flames ourselves, we're not allowed to warn others?'"
HR: "That's right. That's not your purview."
I think we all have "purview" to warn our neighbors. No permission is ever necessary to do as the Lord directs.
I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor.
Yesterday in Sunday School we studied the Book of Amos. I couldn't resist texting my friend sitting next to me a link to my poem, Amos, which is a meditation on the current fire raging in religion and in the Church.
I laughed at the respone, "What in the world is this? I have no idea what I'm reading."
What would Amos tell the Church today if he attended our Sacrament Meetings?
No one in Sunday School pointed out the delicious irony of how "purview" today is sorta like High Priest Amaziah telling Amos to stop preaching bad things against the Israelites and to take a hike; he wasn't welcome in Israel (see, Amos 7:10-12).
Behold, I am pressed under you, as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves.
Over the past couple of months I've pondered how Elder Renlund's words fit within the framework of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Is purview something taught in Christ's words?
If it is, we would be wise to hearken.
If it isn't, then we can shove "purview" into the kitchen junk drawer of our mind with all the other odds and ends ― loose batteries and rubber bands and expired coupons and polygamy ― that clutter our faith.
"I have wondered why it is important to the Lord that we should know the righteous from the wicked. Isn't it enough that He knows? Why do we need to know who hears and is acquainted with His voice and who does not hear or is not acquainted with His voice?"
Every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father.
And by this you may know they are under the bondage of sin, because they come not unto me.
And whoso receiveth not my voice is not acquainted with my voice, and is not of me.
And by this you may know the righteous from the wicked.
(D&C 84:47, 50-53)
Clark concluded, "Do not mistake the words of men, even those in authority, as the words of God.... It is up to us to know the difference."
Applying this test, do you hear the Lord's "voice" in the doctrine of "purview?"
Does it help us come to Christ, or does it discourage us from approaching Him with our questions and concerns?
The old rank-and-file military mindset isn't working anymore.
In our walk with God, setting personal boundaries between ourselves and the Church is often viewed as rebellion or apostasy.
I reflect regularly on what Martin Luther said at his "membership council":
"Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason ― I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other ― my conscience is captive to the Word of God."
(Yes, Luther said that about the Catholic Church― and they didn't even have to deal with Adam-God or polygamy.)
But I think it's healthy for the Church when its members "try the spirits" and ask God to opine on the way we do things. Faith is not something that can be rubber-stamped from a common mold (although obedience can, which explains perhaps why there is so little faith left in Church).
So I'm to the point where I don't feel the need to accept everything taught in General Conference as the gospel truth, unquestioningly.
Whereas before I was taught "Cafeteria Mormons" were less faithful, now I observe members becoming more discerning, choosing the better part. The dross, the commandments of men? It holds no appeal to them any more than warmed-over lasagna under the heat lamp that has sat for days and is filled with botulism. Even if the Lunch Lady tells them to eat up, their own intuition warns against it.
By nature I am a questioner and a truth-tester, searching for a more excellent way by experimenting on the Word in my labratory like a mad scientist.
So I listen to what is taught in General Conference with one ear, and with the other ear I listen to what the Spirit is whispering to me.
When I hear something that appeals to the light of Christ in me, I hold on to it.
Other times I hear things that earn an eye roll. And every once-in-a-while something comes along that makes my ears burn. I rewind the TV and ask myself, "Wait, did he really just say that?"
Such was the case with Elder Renlund's talk "A Framework for Person Revelation". It is the kind of talk that motivates me to take up goat yoga or something to lower my blood pressure.
My mother says the secret to life is to be "triggered" by nothing.
Over the years I've managed to defuse a lot of my "triggers" and I am much more Zen now (though I still have a few quirks, but I like to think of them as endearing eccentricities).
Occasionally something comes along that puts a bee in my bonnet, and try as I might to swat it away, it keeps on buzzing.
Elder Renlund taught:
"We receive personal revelation only within our purview and not within the prerogative of others. In other words, we take off and land in our appointed runway."
"Doctrine, commandments, and revelations for the Church are the prerogative of the living prophet, who receives them from the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the prophet’s runway."
"Years ago, I received a phone call from an individual who had been arrested for trespassing. He told me it had been revealed to him that additional scripture was buried under the ground floor of a building he tried to enter. He claimed that once he obtained the additional scripture, he knew he would receive the gift of translation, bring forth new scripture, and shape the doctrine and direction of the Church. I told him that he was mistaken, and he implored me to pray about it. I told him I would not. He became verbally abusive and ended the phone call.
"I did not need to pray about this request for one simple but profound reason: only the prophet receives revelation for the Church. It would be “contrary to the economy of God” for others to receive such revelation, which belongs on the prophet’s runway.
"Personal revelation rightly belongs to individuals. You can receive revelation, for example, about where to live, what career path to follow, or whom to marry."
Elder Renlund's talk has popped up repeatedly in my ward at Church during the past month: in sacrament talks, priesthood lessons, and even in a bishop's interview I attended.
In my Post The Sword of Laban I made a passing mention to Elder Renlund's talk and I wasn't planning on saying anymore about it (because it speaks for itself and no commentary I can give could ever do justice to what the Spirit has to say about it).
But a comment made by Laura to the Sword of Laban Post made me reconsider. She said, "Mortals will formulate rules that put God and his revelations in a box.... Doesn’t make sense to me, but who am I to argue? There was so much more that was false about that talk, I hope you will do more posts on it."
I agreed with Laura, though I had no desire at the time to deconstruct Elder Renlund's talk, the way a person plugs their nose when shoveling manure (having cleaned out numerous horse stalls and chicken coops, I am not being hyperbolic).
I responded to her comment, "I have found that messages of this nature, which are proscriptive and dogmatic, carry an energy of judgment which is like a magnet for those who crave certainty. But the fallout, of course, is that such talks grieve the Spirit because they carry a big stick, but ignore the Cross."
A little like Jonah, I wanted to get as far away from "purview" as possible.
Make no mistake: there is real power in Elder Renlund's words (as evidenced by the traction it has already gained in the Church discourse) ― mind you, it's not a power that edifies, but controls; it carries a power I find radioactive, like leaking uranium. But powerful, nonetheless.
Sad to report, Owls, this talk is already being wielded as a billy club (as it was in my bishop's interview) for crowd-control.
When someone tells you, "That's not your purview" (as my bishop did) they are effectively saying, "You don't get a say in the matter. You have no seat at this table. Your opinion isn't relevant."
It is a conversation killer; there is no discussion after you get beaten down with "purview."
But you know what? It's not the number of times you get knocked down, but the number of times you get back up.
The Truth About Purview
Like sucking snake venom from a wound, several impressions have come to mind as I've pondered "purview."
1. What effect does the doctrine of "purview" have on the Law of Common Consent (D&C 26:2)?
2. Does the doctrine of "purview" help us to become "one" or does it divide us (D&C 38:27)?
If Elder Renlund had been speaking about the diversity of operations or the differences of administration, it may have made more sense. But he was not. He was talking about the gift of revelation.
One of the problems I see with Elder Renlund's analogy of runways is that it divides members on the tarmac into spiritual castes.
Leaders assign us to different lanes which creates inequality rather than unity among the Body of Christ. I mean, how could Elder Renlund keep a straight face while arguing, "Feet, you have no purview so I (the head) have no need of you" (1 Cor. 11:21)?
And it keeps getting worse the farther we follow this analogy: within each airplane, we're stuffed into separate classes: some get to fly First Class, others in Business Class, and the rest of us seated in Coach (Economy) munching on peanuts to keep our mouths full.
But should offices in the Church work like Delta's Medallion Frequent Flyer Program?
Since Elder Renlund is invoking "purview" as a means of organizational behavior and management, we can see that the talk was not, in fact, about personal revelation at all; it's about Traffic Control.
And guess who sits in the airport's Control Tower?
Don't worry where the planes are headed; we're not consulted on the Flight Plans. And don't even try to enter the cockpit: the TSA will bind you hand and foot.
Does the Lord Teach "Purview?"
Compare the doctrine of "purview" with the following principles taught in scripture:
1. Common Consent. "And all things shall be done by common consent in the church, by much prayer and faith, for all things you shall receive by faith" (D&C 26:2).
2. Reasoning Together. "And now come, saith the Lord . . . and let us reason together, that ye may understand; let us reason even as a man reasoneth one with another face to face" (D&C 50:10-11). Does "reasoning" with each other sound like "when the prophet speaks the debate is over?"
3. Equal Privileges. "And that every man may have an equal privilege" (D&C 88:122). Does purview promote equality?
4. Teach One Another. "I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom" (D&C 88:77). Umm. Didn't Elder Renlund say "doctrine" is the prerogative of the Prophet? Is this why we're asked to use a General Conference talk when we teach a lesson or speak in Church, so we can recite their words like a catechism?
5. No Respeter of Persons. "I the Lord am willing to make these things known unto all flesh; for I am no respecter of persons, and will that all men shall know [me]" (D&C 1:34-35). But the Lord will only reveal the important stuff to those with purview, right?
6. Don't Trust People who Claim to Hold Purview. "That man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh" (D&C 1:19). Wait, aren't we instructed to take counsel from the Prophet and to trust him?
7. Everyone Can Speak the Word of God. "That every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world; that faith also might increase in the world" (D&C 1:20-21).
I suppose if we took this seriously, we'd see a correlation between faith increasing and "every man" speaking in the name of God. But purview has a way of decreasing faith by limiting the number of men (those with "keys") who are authorized to speak in the name of the Lord.
8. The Church Holds the Keys Collectively. "And now, I speak unto the Church.... Lift up your hearts and rejoice, for unto you the kingdom, or in other words, the keys of the church have been given. Even so. Amen" (D&C 42:18, 69).
Ah, now it all makes sense. "Purview" is just a new catchphrase, a new way of referring to the authority held by those with priesthood keys, a shortcut furthering the wholesale disenfranchisement of the membership.
"Economy of Heaven"
Elder Renlund invoked the Economy Class when he quoted Joseph Smith in support of purview. "It would be 'contrary to the economy of God' for others to receive such revelation," Elder Renlund said, "which belongs on the prophet’s runway."
Let's investigate Joseph Smith's statement and see what we can learn from it. On April 5, 1833 John Carter wrote a letter to the Elders in Kirtland seeking guidance (we no longer have Carter's letter, which is too bad).
On April 13, 1833, F.G. Williams and Joseph Smith responded to Carter's letter, including a report of Jane Sherwood receiving a vision of angels and of God.
Williams and Smith said, "As it respects the vision you speak of we do not consider ourselves bound to receive any revelation from any one man or woman without being legally constituted and ordained to that authority and given sufficient proof of it, I will inform you that it is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church or any one to receive instruction for those in authority higher than themsleves."
Seems clear, doesn't it? I agree with everthing in that statement. Since we're discussing rank, we merely have to ask ourselves whose authority is "highest" in the kingdom of God?
Well, that would be Christ Jesus.
I mean, this is His church. So I will continue to follow Him and, with the blessing of this quote from Joseph Smith, feel at liberty to disregard any instruction that is not the word of Christ given by the power of the Holy Ghost, since following such counsel would be bad for the "economy."
But I'm afraid Elder Renlund is using "purview" like the Methodist minister who chided Joseph Smith for claiming he saw God and angels.
I was greatly surprised at his behavior; he treated my communication not only lightly, but with great contempt, saying it was all of the devil, that there were no such things as visions or revelations in these days; that all such things had ceased with the apostles.
See? The Methodist preacher was telling Joseph he didn't have "purview."
And anyone reading Elder Renlund's story about his friend seeking buried scriptures to translate (and footnote no. 18 which says "arrangements were made for him to receive the help and treatment he really needed") will sense Elder Renlund's "contempt" for anyone having the audacity.
Let's See What Christ Says
Rather than using "purview" to outmaneuver each other in the Church in a foolish game of spiritual Checkers, let's look at what Jesus says in D&C 38 about His Church:
I am no respecter of persons.
Well, sure, but the Lord divvies up different callings so we don't have pilots crashing into each other, right? So it's natural to have some priesthood offices come with the perks of greater purview.
Wherefore, hear my voice
Whose voice? Those who have "purview!"
and follow me,
Follow who exactly? Those who have "purview!"
and you shall be a free people
Free to listen only to those with "purview!"
and ye shall have no laws
"No laws" except those given by those with "purview!"
but my laws when I come, for I am your lawgiver.
Christ is our lawgiver who gives us laws through those with "purview!"
And let every man esteem his brother as himself
But we "esteem" those with "purview" a bit more, don't we.
And again I say unto you, let every man esteem his brother as himself.
For what man among you having twelve sons, and is no respecter of them,
Oh, so you were serious about that?
and they serve him obediently, and he saith unto the one: Be thou clothed in robes and sit thou here
You mean, sit thou here on the stand at Church? Sit thou here in these plush red chairs in General Conference? You mean sit thou here in the high seats so we will know who has "purview?"
and to the other: Be thou clothed in rags and sit thou there―
Oh, I see: sit thou there in the nosebleed section? Sit thou there where we have no voice in the peanut gallery, shorn of purview? Sit thou there and raise an arm to the square and hold your tongue?
and looketh upon his sons and saith I am just?
Why would those who claim purview create a hierarchy and preach purview to their subordinates?
Behold, this I have given unto you as a parable, and it is even as I am. I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.
(D&C 38:16, 22, 24-27)
Does the principle of purview reflect these words of Christ?
It's funny what jumps out at you when you're reading the scriptures with something on your mind.
Yesterday I read in 3 Nephi 6 with my children about the inequality that broke up the Nephite Church, which says:
Now the cause of this iniquity of the people was this― Satan had great power . . . tempting them to seek for power and authority and riches.
(3 Nephi 6:15)
Most of the mischief we get into comes from seeking power and authority (and riches). Why won't we learn this one, simple lesson?
Elder Renlund uses purview to elevate those with authority above others; when we all share equally in the gift of the Holy Ghost; when Jesus said he that is greatest shall be the least of all.
In other words, those who claim to have purview probably don't; and those who make no claim to authority probably do.
For what is the doctrine of purview but a way to aggregate, consolidate, and preserve the authority of leadership?
Why was Christ a spiritual populist? Why did He reject the aristocratic airs of the Pharisees, teaching us to be like little children (not apostles)?
Jesus didn't go around telling everyone to look to Bartholomew for purview.
Temptations of Christ
Now we conclude with the main point of this Post. If you've read this far, you've earned it.
The kernel of inspiration for this Post came when I thought of the devil tempting Christ. What else was the devil saying, but "You're the son of God, you have purview, let them know it!"
Then Jesus was taken up into the holy city, and the Spirit setteth him on the pinnacle of the temple.
Yes, yes yes. What a perfect place to demonstrate your purview, Lord: the temple of God itself.
Then the devil came unto him and said, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee, and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
Yes, yes yes. The devil's idea is good: let the people know of your godly, special status; let them see your power and authority, and then they'll know they should follow you!
And again, Jesus was in the Spirit, and it taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them.
Yes, yes yes. Now we're getting somewhere: global glory for a global faith leader; authority to extend from the rivers to the ends of the earth!
And the devil came unto him again, and said, All these things will I give unto thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.
Finally! Jesus can flash His purview around like a heavyweight and get all these kingdoms to fall in line. All He has to do is follow Satan's way.
Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
Jesus was tempted to take up his purview. So what happened?
Why'd He run around incognito as a Nazarene nobody?