What does it mean to be a "lord over God's heritage?" Is it a good thing? After all, don't we want to be good stewards over what God has entrusted to us?
Let's first look at what a "lord" is. In order to be called a "Lord" (at least in the British aristocracy) you must have a proper title.
In descending order, you must hold the title of:
1. Duke 2. Marquess 3. Earl 4. Viscount 5. Baron
I'm not British, but I've read enough Jane Austen novels to know that you can also address Dukes as "Your Grace."
If you're visiting Buckingham Palace and happen to run into Prince William, feel free to use his full, proper title: His Royal Highness William Arthur Philip Louis, duke of Cambridge, earl of Strathearn and Baron Carrickfergus.
Now, if you like lots of titles, check out all these names reserved for the Catholic Pope:
1. Vicar of Christ 2. Prince of the Apostles 3. Supreme Pontiff 4. Church Patriarch 5. Sovereign
So if you're visiting the Vatican and run into the man who goes by any of the names cited above, you may properly address him as "Your Holiness."
Calm down. This won't hurt. We can't forget about all the titles we give to the prophet of The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints. As members we've outshown even the Romans in heaping praise and bestowing titles upon our leader supreme:
1. President of the High Priesthood 2. Beloved Prophet 3. Seer 4. Revelator 5. Polygamist 6. Spiritual giant 7. Watchman on the Tower 8. Dear; devoted; divinely-called 9. "Remarkable man"
Just to give you a taste of the typical General Conference tribute we get each year for our prophet, it goes something like this:
"When I envision a Christlike heart in daily practice, I see President Nelson. I have not met anyone who exemplifies this trait at a higher level than he does. It has been a remarkable tutelage for me to be in the position to observe firsthand the manifestations of the Christlike heart of President Nelson."
And so, if you are on Temple Square and happen upon the prophet, don't worry about how to properly address him. Chances are, he'll be flanked by security guards and escorted through underground tunnels away from the masses. (But if, on the off chance you do see him, just call him "Brother.")
Peter, the Apostle Who Cried Wolf
Now that I've highlighted the absurdity of our fixation on titles, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. Who cares if we honor, sustain, praise, admire, follow, adore, and obey the living prophet?
Isn't that what God wants?
Good question. Let's consider the following advice from Senior Apostle Peter, given to the leaders of the Church:
Feed the flock of God
Well, immediately we are given the key to discern between true shepherds and false ones: do they feed us the good stuff ("nourished by the good word of God") or are they just fattening us up on swill for market day?
which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly;
Notice that shepherds are NOT to use "constraint" as they invite, persuade, love, and teach.
not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
Oh boy. Shepherds aren't supposed to be paid or collect a stipend, salary, fee, or pension. Good heavens, they're not "hirelings" (John 10:12)!
Neither as being lords over God’s heritage,
Well, this goes without saying. After all, Jesus said himself that his apostles were NOT supposed to "exercise lordship" over the flock like kings, using their authority to act as our "benefactors" (Luke 22:25). So why in the world do we treat apostles like spiritual nobility?
but being ensamples to the flock.
What examples do current Church leaders offer?
And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.
(1 Peter 5:2-4)
Every leader is just a lower-case "s" shepherd. Because we all have One Shepherd, who is Christ.
We all know titles are important. We look at a person's spiritual credentials to know whether we have to listen or not.
Unfortunately, appealing to authority is the worst way to discern truth.
But a hiearchy removes the need for individual discernment because we can all read nametags.
A title will tell us everything we need to know: whether to listen, whose bread we need to butter, whose ring to kiss, whose name to hold on the tips our tongues with reverence as we petition heaven in our prayer circles to bless them.
The Pharisees, now! They understood this. They knew the worth of titles. Jesus said they loved the "greetings in the market, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi" (Matt. 23:7).
Christ, on the other hand, was not impressed with their rank and offices. The Lord said:
Be not called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.
Why do you think the Lord had to clarify that "all ye are brethren?" Is it because we like to create distinctions of importance? Do we treat each other like "brethren" when we stand for important persons when they enter a room? Or when we give the Sacrament to the presiding officer first, sitting on the stand so we can all know who's in charge?
When in reality, Christ is telling us, we're all the same; we're family; no one should put on airs because we're all just children.
Children of God.
(But boy, where did all these kids come from who are going through their bossy phase, right?!)
Uncle Tom's Cabin
If someone is our "master," then we're their servants (or slaves, the Hebrew doesn't distinguish between the two).
And guess what? No man can serve two masters.
So it is impossible for us to serve both Christ and a prophet. We must choose whom we shall serve.
Now, don't misunderstand. We can, and should, listen to the Lord's prophets; we can hearken to the word of God spoken by prophets and respond to their calls to repent; we can honor prophets with our hospitality ―
But we serve Christ alone.
Whenever a President or a Pope acts as our master, requiring our obedience to their precepts over the light of Christ given to each of us, then they are acting like we're slaves.
Maybe this is why Jesus declared:
Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.
I'm okay with Christ being my Master; I'll serve Him because my loyalty was earned by his lifeblood; my salvation depends upon Him.
I will gladly be His servant.
Which assumes, then, as servants of Christ, we will listen to ALL those who speak the words of Christ, whether they be angels, devils, men, or women.
It's impossible NOT to love this wonderful Master when he tells us:
I called you servants for the world's sake, and ye are their servants for my sake―
[But] I will call you friends, for you are my friends, and ye shall have an inheritance with me.
(D&C 93:46, 45)
Imagine that! What sort of Master leaves his estate to his servants? None that I know of.
But Christ says to us, "You were my servant, but now I adopt you into my family and you are my son. You will inherit everything I have."
As opposed to the modern church, whose inheritance practices are spelled out in the Articles of Incorporation.
(Spoiler alert: it all goes to the Prophet.)
Sugar with My Tea
One of the more prominent businesses the Church engaged in during the past was the sugar beet industry. As I've written before, the justification for being high-rollers in Babylon has always been to use the profits to finance Church operations.
I mean, how else is the Church (i.e., Body of Christ) supposed to finance missionary work?
Well, let's see:
(1) We could try the way Alma did it;
(2) We could try the way Paul did it; or
(3) We could create a sugar empire and lobby congress for tariffs against our competitors, engage in corporate malfeasance and violations of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, get sued by the federal government, secure enormous amounts of debt from eastern banking syndicates and experience many sleepless nights worrying how to pay back the loans, spend a lot of time as board members fretting over stock share prices and insolvency, receive dividends and salaries for said board memberships, lobby congress for larger sugar subsidies, engage in corporate merger and acquisitions to increase our sugar portfolio, deal with unhappy suppliers who refuse to plant beets . . . .
Or, you know, we could just stick to the gospel.
How Sweet: a Poem
I am Utah-Idaho Sugar Co. selling religious sweetener: the sucrose of circumcision popular among Judaizers. We offer sugar substitutes to the grace-resistant. I am Amalgamated Sugar Co. crafting artisan sweeteners for our signature line of authority: Lords Over God's Heritage®. We use a proprietary blend of dark molasses and honey to ferment the finest ales served world-wide.
I am Knight Sugar Company, Ltd. promoting the supremacy of beet sugar over competing brands of dextrose and fructose. We employ a patented process to convert beet pulp fibers into hardened crystal. Our sweeteners are superior to any in the market place.
I am Oregon-Utah Sugar Co. using modern manufacturing and old-fashioned Phariseeism to monitor quality control at our profitable factory. Those who invest in us will find our dividends pay in prerogative.
I am Canadian Sugar Factories, Ltd. I am I am I am I am Odgen Sugar Co. I am Lewiston Sugar Co. I am I am am I company sugar I am I am I am I am Layton Sugar Co. I am American Sugar Refining Co. I am United States Sugar Manufacturers Assoc. serving as trustee-in-truth, making God a Creditor and His Son, transferring debt on your behalf, a Money Changer.