Saturday, December 19, 2020

Slothful and Unwise Servants

I was reading an LDS Living magazine an article which I will link here about the church handbook updates. The article went on to list new additions and changes and what caught my eye was this change:

An added section titled “Seeking Information from Reliable Sources” counsels Latter-day Saints to be wise in their pursuit of truth. “Seek out and share only credible, reliable, and factual sources of information,” the text says. “Avoid sources that are speculative or founded on rumor. The guidance of the Holy Ghost, along with careful study, can help members discern between truth and error (see Doctrine and Covenants 11:12; 45:57). In matters of doctrine and Church policy, the authoritative sources are the scriptures, the teachings of the living prophets, and the General Handbook.”  (emphasis is theirs, not mine)

Two things broke my heart when reading that. First, the General Handbook has been placed on equal footing with scripture (see the last sentence). There is no mention of consulting the Lord and seeking His spirit to obtain your answer. I think the argument could be made that, "we have living prophets and they wrote the handbook and prophets write scripture so, there you go." I have multiple concerns with that argument so I ask you, does it read like divine scripture to you? To me, it reads more like Exodus 21. Exodus 21 comes after Exodus 20 where Moses invites the children of Israel up the holy mount to meet their God face to face. 

Remember their response?

"And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die." (v.19)

They wanted a prophet, not God Himself, so they got what they desired. God is good - He truly gives you the desire of your heart.

If you pay attention to Exodus 20 and Israels rejection of an intimate relationship with God...the chapters following Exodus chapter 20 get gnarly....rules that make my head quite perplexed and sometimes shocked. As I've pondered on those chapters where God writes an ancient handbook of instructions I came to the conclusion that they didn't want God, they wanted what they wanted. "Hey Moses, what about if a man steals an ox, or a sheep, and like - they kill it, or sell it...what rules do we have? Or like, if a man shall cause a field or vineyard to be eaten and shall put in his beast, and like - you know, he feeds in another man's field, how should we handle that one? Or like, what do we do if a man shall deliver unto his neighbor money or stuff to keep, and it be stolen out of the man's house - what do you say we do?" You get the gist. 

Like the current handbook of instruction, if we aren't willing to engage with the Lord directly, then we must be commanded in all things. Are we so distant from the Lord that rulebooks and guidelines are considered equal to Holy Scripture with no mention of Seeking the Lord and His Righteousness? We are the chosen people, right? We know the way to salvation? Yet, we are modern day children of Israel saying, "President Nelson, if I want to take a picture in the chapel after sacrament meeting, what should I do? If I feel prejudice towards someone, is that okay with the church? How should I dress and groom myself? Can I be cremated and still be resurrected?" You get the gist.

Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. (Jeremiah 17:5)

President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel–said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church–that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls–applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall–that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds…”
TPJS p.237
The second thing that is heartbreaking is the blindness and hardheartedness and refusal of members to not only see where we are at, but to see it as a problem at all. If we are at the point where we need rules, rules, and more rules, we are so far strayed from the spirit we claim to be in possession of. From the words of the hymn, 'Let the Holy Spirit Guide':

1. Let the Holy Spirit guide;
Let him teach us what is true.
He will testify of Christ,
Light our minds with heaven’s view.

2. Let the Holy Spirit guard;
Let his whisper govern choice.
He will lead us safely home
If we listen to his voice.

3. Let the Spirit heal our hearts
Thru his quiet, gentle pow’r.
May we purify our lives
To receive him hour by hour.

I often wonder if the Book of Mormon Prophets were to show up at one of our Sacrament meetings if they would be "exceedingly astonished." The structure, the repeated phrases, the unilateral uniformity. Moroni shows us a pattern of what his sacrament meetings looked like: (Moroni 6)
9 And their meetings were conducted by the church after the manner of the workings of the Spirit, and by the power of the Holy Ghost; for as the power of the Holy Ghost led them whether to preach, or to exhort, or to pray, or to supplicate, or to sing, even so it was done.

One of my favorite Book of Mormon moments is in Mosiah 26 when King Mosiah gives Alma authority over the church. In this chapter, the children of the people who listened to King Benjamin were too young to understand the words of King Benjamin and so they grew up not believing in Christ and were causing many to commit sin. Alma was deeply troubled. He didn't know what they had done personally but many witnesses came testified against them.

Alma had a conundrum. He was, "troubled in his spirit." And so what did he do? He went to King Mosiah and essentially said, "Help! You take this one." And King Mosiah, being a great leader said, "Behold, I judge them not; therefore I deliver them into thy hands to be judged."

Alma is stressed out, troubled to the max. He has the weight of grievous sins of the church members on his mind and heart. Things in the church were going so well since King Benjamin died. This was all too much. And Alma had been a sinner himself at one time in King Noah's court. How can he judge them. Alma's relief and answer could only come from one source and it wasn't a handbook of instruction on do's and don'ts and how to's...

13 And now the spirit of Alma was again troubled; and he went and inquired of the Lord what he should do concerning this matter, for he feared that he should do wrong in the sight of God.

14 And it came to pass that after he had poured out his whole soul to God, the voice of the Lord came to him, saying:

15 Blessed art thou, Alma, and blessed are they who were baptized in the waters of Mormon. Thou art blessed because of thy exceeding faith in the words alone of my servant Abinadi.

16 And blessed are they because of their exceeding faith in the words alone which thou hast spoken unto them.

17 And blessed art thou because thou hast established a church among this people; and they shall be established, and they shall be my people.

18 Yea, blessed is this people who are willing to bear my name; for in my name shall they be called; and they are mine.

19 And because thou hast inquired of me concerning the transgressor, thou art blessed.

20 Thou art my servant; and I covenant with thee that thou shalt have eternal life; and thou shalt serve me and go forth in my name, and shalt gather together my sheep.

In that moment, Alma received eternal life. He received a DIRECT covenant with the LORD that he would have eternal life. And how did it all come about? "Because thou hast inquired of me concerning the transgressor". Thank goodness that King Mosiah told Alma to solve the situation. Because of Alma's fear to do wrong in the sight of the Lord, he was blessed. He received Eternal Life.

How many mistakes have been made in leadership positions because they consulted a book rather than the Lord? How many missed opportunities to wrestle with the Lord in prayer over another soul, fearing to do wrong in His sight? How many times would He have gathered you as a hen gatherers her chicks, and you would not? I heard a speaker say, "I once paid $1,000 for advice that I could have received after an hour on my knees."
D&C 58: 26 For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.   

It Starts Right Here
Casting Crowns