Facebook Dumpster Fire? Or "The Spirit of God like a Fire is Burning?"
I know, I know. I should stay off Facebook. In my defense, I am a late adopter of technology and only signed up for Facebook around the time of the COVID pandemic, wanting to reconnect with missionary buddies and old friends.
Today, however, I experienced my first Facebook explosion. Nothing viral, but exciting for someone who is usually in bed by 8:00 p.m.
This is what happened:
Facebook recommends "groups" to join based on some unknowable Algorithm. A lot of the groups I belong to are, naturally, associated with Mormonism and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And the comic strip Dilbert.
A couple of weeks ago the All-Knowing Algorithm recommended a group called "Thoughtful Saints."
While the name "Thoughtful Saints" does not necessarily describe me, I thought it to be at least aspirational. So I joined.
I've enjoyed some of the content, but sometimes things are posted that are little too toothy in the donkey's mouth, if you know what I mean.
Such as, this morning, when I read, "Beware the saints who advocate a Mormon Protestantism," in which the author was saying we have a hierarchy so there is no priesthood of all believers, I felt like responding.
Here it is . . . .
My Original Post
Recently I've read several posts and comments and wanted to offer some reflections on them.
1. "Beware the saints who advocate a Mormon Protestantism."
I suppose we could, instead, advocate a Mormon Catholicism? Because the Catholics wrote the book on hierarchy and keys. Instead, would it be more productive to frame the discussion around the latter-day Mission-Statement of the Restoration contained in D&C 1 that says "man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh--but that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord" (D&C 1:19-20)? That description of the latter-day work sounds like a "priesthood of all believers." Am I wrong?
2. "You can’t follow Jesus Christ if you don’t follow those he has sent (apostles)."
I think I understand this precept, but it requires some nuance. The Book of Mormon gives an interesting counterpoint: "The keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there" (2 Nephi 9:41).
A prophet is only a prophet when he speaks the word of God. And so I find it unhelpful to advocate any kind of carte blanche obedience to those in authority. I would not boast of following apostles' politics when they legalized slavery in the Utah Territory when D&C 101 says it is not right for man to be in bondage one to one another; I would not follow an apostle's social views who advocated for racism in the 1960s during the Civil Rights movement; I would not sustain policies that sell tokens for tithes when Christ forbade His Father's house from becoming a den of thieves, where sacred ordinances of the temple can be obtained only upon payment of money, when Nephi and Lehi taught "salvation is free" (2 Nephi 2).
Instead I would encourage hearkening to our leaders when they speak by the power of the Holy Ghost the words of Christ. For truth is known by the message, not the messenger.
3. "Hold to the rod. Follow the Prophet."
Here we see the conflation of two things which are not always simpatico.
Yes, prophets can speak the words of Christ; but they also have agency to preach Adam-God.
Following our "leaders" in lockstep is a kind of idolatry that Nephi warned against in 2 Nephi 28.
After all, we already follow a Living Prophet, even Jesus Christ.
So following a lower-case, mortal prophet is not "holding to the iron rod." The iron rod is the Word (Christ) of God, whereever we find it, and from whomever's mouth (even the mouths of babes, see 3 Ne. 19).
Taken together, the sentiments expressed seem to center the good news of the gospel on having latter-day authority figures to follow, as if to eclipse the reality that we already have the gift of the Holy Ghost, who is a God, to follow.
Does a doctrine that detracts from Christ remove our single-eye-focus from God? Does it create a spiritual bureaucracy that would disappoint the Apostle Paul, by bestowing greater honor on the nose and ears than the feet and knees?
Didn't Paul teach us to "covet to prophesy" (which would make us all prophets, as Moses hoped). I would suggest that Christ is the door, and anyone who stands to block His sheep from entering is a hireling and a thief.
Apostles and prophets are witnesses of the name of Christ, but do not replace Him as the object of our loyalty and faith.
I expected some pushback but was delighted by how my expectations were exceeded.
Here are some of the highlights:
Group Member: Here's a scenario Tim: I feel the Holy Ghost tells me that gay temple sealings will be a reality of the future. I therefore become an activist against the Church. Am I laboring for Jesus Christ?
The keys necessary for governing the Church in the latter days were restored to Joseph Smith by heavenly beings—for instance, John the Baptist, Peter, James, John, Moses, Elias, and Elijah. The current 15 have those keys. Adam-God, slavery, etc have already been filtered in time, Tim. Without the 15 and the keys, you're going to be at the whim and mercy of personal biases and cultural morality (that will make whatever you believe appear correct.) How will you choose between popular cultural morality, bias and the divine direction that contradicts those forces?
I see the problems as well, as you've pointed out, regarding "personal biases and cultural morality." But is the Holy Ghost also subject to those? If so, then what is the point of having the gift? If not, then doesn't it create an objective standard for God's standard of truth?
Regarding the keys held by men today, I think we need to have a broader discussion of their transmission and the Last Charge Meeting. See, "The Last Charge Meeting."
Group Member: It seems to me that you are still stuck with the "15" since they have outwardly demonstrated that they can and continue to fulfill the purposes of the keys given from John the Baptist, Peter, James, John, Moses, Elias, and Elijah manifested outwardly than anyone one person or combined persons (DC 107:18). Which other group has fulfilled these purposes greater than the Quorums (First Presidency, Quorum of the 12, Seventy) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? You're saying there is a better vessel to fulfill the Lord's purposes, right? Where is it?
If keys cannot be lost, then how did the Great Apostasy occur? And if they were lost then, could they be lost in our dispensation? I sustain the Q12 not because their authority comes from above, but from below: by the prayer and confidence of the body.
It says it right in D&C 107:22: "Of the Melchizedek Priesthood, three Presiding High Priests, chosen by the body ["body," so NOT BY GOD] appointed and ordained to that office [who appoints and ordains them to their positions? The President of the Church, so again, even if he is inspired in his calling, it is NOT the same as being ordained BY GOD], and upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayer of the church [that's us again, the Church, so NOT GOD], form a quorum of the Presidency of the Church."
This explains how the leaders can call their successors and why we have the means of succession as we do, rather than requiring an angel to come down from heaven, as was the case for Joseph Smith. We voted for Brigham Young, and therefore God worked through him.
Group Member: No offense, but this seems like splitting hairs. You're saying that something significant exists here when it doesn't seem to matter all that much to the body, the mission, or the establishment of Zion in the latter days. Are you not personally inserting "Not by God" as an exclusive definition into this, striving to separate God's intervention or "choosing" emphasizing only the body's support, making that the exclusive hinge point of authority, rather than wanting to admit that those chosen are the ones chosen by God?
As for splitting hairs, I'm bald. 🙂 But when it comes to my eternal welfare, I am happy to split hairs.
I am only offering a counterpoint to show authority does not always need to be divine, and that God can work through his children in all kinds of ways. Those who harp on keys usually have tunnel vision when it comes to God's dealings with us.
[Do I get any points for using an emoji?]
Group Member: I sense that you are overstating the role of the Holy Ghost, our privilege to receive revelation, and our relationship with Christ relating to the governance of the Church and to change or alter doctrine in the present or the future. Is that accurate?
"I sense that you are overstating the role of the Holy Ghost." If so, I am in good company, for Joseph Smith answered President Van Buren, "We differed in mode of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands--We considered that all other considerations were contained in the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Joseph Smith and Elias Higbee, "Letter to Hyrum Smith and Nauvoo High Council, 5 December 1839).
This quote subordinates "keys" to the gift of the Holy Ghost. As a further point, I would argue the Church undervalues the gift of the Holy Ghost, because truth is manifest by the power of the Holy Ghost, not by what is taught from the pulpit (Moroni 10:5).
HG > Keys, as God > Q12.
[Do I get points for using mathmatical symbols correctly?]