My wife says I become sentimental when I am sick.
Tomorrow I am going under the knife for major surgery. And, because I like to do things in spectacular fashion, it is going to be an experimental procedure to boot.
Two doctors will attempt to 3D print a bone-substitute that will serve as a pillow for a titanium plate which will be screwed into my head. (I never thought of myself as much of a Metalhead, but here we are.)
So I should probably spend today repenting and getting my affairs in order . . . you know, just in case.
Since I am feeling sentimental, let me share how much I relish having a body, experiencing life here upon this earth ― from the lazy summer evenings spent as a child lying on the trampoline in the back yard being eaten by mosquitos as I watched the stars slowly emerge, to the thrill I experience each time I taste banana-flavored salt water taffy, to the magical smell of coffee grinds that remind me of my grandmother and the little sugar bowl she always kept on her kitchen table for my Cheerios . . .
And perhaps the sweetest thing of all has been the soul-stirrings that have punctuated my life unexpectedly, reassuring me that I am Known.
They say we are the heroes of our own stories, but I have never felt like one.
And, anyway, I have never felt like my life was about me.
That may sound strange, but I have always viewed myself as a sidekick in someone else's story, someone whose story is much more wonderful and real than my own:
He is the hero of my story. I am just a supporting player in the unfolding chronicles of His marvelous work and glory.
And if my life amounts to nothing more than a footnote in His Book, then I shall be honored, and let the footnote read:
The Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.
(2 Nephi 1:15)
Now back to business. In this Series so far we've seen:
1. Essential. Prophets are integral to the gospel of Jesus Christ because they speak the words of Christ by the power of the Holy Ghost.
2. Gender. Both men and women can be prophets.
3. Numerous. The Lord always sends "many prophets" among the people to warn, bless, prophecy, and to prepare the way of the Lord.
4. Meek. Prophets are not jealous of their authority and are tickled pink to share the mantle with others, like Moses when he told Joshua, "Would that all the Lord's people were prophets!" (Numbers 11:29).
5. Fruitful. A true prophet does not boast but bears fruit. We see their ministries marked by:
a. making intercession; b. declaring repentance; c. caring for the poor; and d. performing miracles in Christ's name.
6. Called. Prophets are called by God's own voice, and not by other men. For example, the Lord spoke to Nephi as a boy, "Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart. And inasmuch as thou shalt keep my commandments, thou shalt be made a ruler and a teacher over thy brethren" (1 Nephi 2:19, 22).
7. Authority. When God speaks and gives us a task, it is accompanied by all of the authority and power we'll ever need to accomplish it.
8. Keys. When God gives us a job to do, we symbolically call this authority "keys." In other words, keys always accompany a commission from the Lord.
9. Powerful. Power always accompanies authority granted from the Lord, whereas when authority comes from an institution it is often sterile.
10. Outsiders. In scriptures we find the Lord generally calls prophets from outside of the established order, hierarchies, and leadership ranks.
11. Fallible. In the post about Brigham Young, I may have struck a nerve. I was hoping to start a conversation about why the Lord gives us leaders, even to our condemnation. As members, we have a responsibility to hold leaders accountable, and not to simply say that if they are out-of-line it's God's job to kill them (i.e., think of King Noah).
12. Fallible x2. Mosiah gave us some of the best reasoning on why hierarchies are dangerous, ticking time bombs. All Satan needs to do is corrupt the top and he scoops up all the followers. King Noah was the High Priest, for heaven's sake! "It is not expedient that ye should have a king [President] or kings [Presidents] to rule over you. For behold, how much iniquity doth one wicked king cause to be committed, yea, and what great destruction! Yea, remember king Noah, his wickedness and his abominations, and also the wickedness and abominations of his people" (Mosiah 29:16-18).
13. Fallible x3. If you think that a wicked High Priest could never happen to us, think again. The Lord allowed Caiaphas the honor despite being a murderer and liar. The Lord said in our day, "I, the Lord, have looked upon you, and have seen abominations in the church that profess my name. Verily I say unto you, there are hypocrites among you, who have deceived some. Wherefore, let every man beware lest he do that which is not in truth and righteousness before me" (D&C 50:4, 7, 9). That last part indicates that the Nuremberg Defense will not be available to any of us. "But Lord, I was just following [name of person]!"
14. Fallible x4. The other point of the Brigham Young post was that the Church is not like a city set upon a hill but rather a suburb of Babylon the Great, allowing cultural corruption of Christ's gospel. In many respects, Church history has paralleled that of Catholicism and Protestantism in falling away into a legalistic jumble of creeds and worldly entanglements.
15. Courageous. Prophets speak truth to power, condemning the rampant priestcraft contaminating religion, calling church leaders to repent of their pride and greed.
16. Revelators. Prophets often bring to light things that have not before been revealed, loosing the mysteries of God and opening the curtains of heaven.
Putting Down Authority and Power
If the Sons of Mosiah had been serving missions today in New Guinea or somewhere, they would probably get in trouble for not following the lesson manual and White Handbook. Where was Ammon's companion? Why was he wearing a skirt? Who gave him a sword and permission to use it?
I heard someone say once that if a person arose in Sacrament Meeting from the congregation, speaking in tongues, the elders would probably escort them out for being disruptive.
The point I want to make is that, ironically, we often suppress the gifts of God in others.
Why do we fight against those who have power and authority from God, as our fathers did in times of old?
If history has shown us anything, it is that God sends messengers who are usually not in our socio-economic class.
They are Lamanites (like Samuel) or outside of the ruling class (like Amos) or have no insignia of authority (like Jesus).
It's almost like God is teasing us, sending us prophets who are not necessarily likable, and who we have every reason to reject, except for the fact that . . . they speak God's words!
Satan loves make-up. Satan knows how to make his messengers look appealing. He knows how to make them appear respectable.
We all like a little flattery from a handsome face, right?
Mormon described how the Nephites were quenching the Spirit of God in his time by rejecting those whom God had sent before their destruction:
In this part of the land they are also seeking to put down all power and authority which cometh from God; and they are denying the Holy Ghost.
Sadly, what happens in the Church when someone with power and authority from God butts heads with someone with "keys?"
The keys always win.
The Great Escape
So we live a cliché, repeating the mistakes of our ancestors who embraced "the doctrine of Balaam" (Revelation 2:14), thinking we are so much better than they ― when all the while we follow along the same wagon ruts in their footsteps, killing the prophets and casting them out of our midst.
If only we could see (!) the fence we have so proudly built with barbed wire is a prison keeping the flock in their pen, in their place . . .
. . . whilst Christ stands at the gate of the sheephold and throws open the door!