Saturday, April 14, 2012

Tradition of Their Fathers "The Arm of Flesh"

Many who hold high positions in the church are good and honorable men. They are concerned for their families and want to do good. At conferences of the church there are some good talks that repeat meaningful and good principles. I try to meet my obligation to uphold the first presidency by my "confidence, faith, and prayers."(D&C 107: 22) When it comes time to sustain these men, I raise my hand, and I mean it. I want them to be what the Lord needs them to be as humble ministers of the people to bring souls to Him. Whether or not they actually do that has nothing to do with my obligation to "uphold" them. 

When I see mistakes, errors, and foolishness among leaders of the church, I have an obligation to forgive and pray for them. They are just men. I am taught by the giver of law, to love, forgive, and not judge all men, including them. There was a time in my life when I believed these men were more than what they actually are. There was a time when I believed they actually conversed regularly with God. There was a time when I believed the "keys" they purportedly held gave them power over my eternal success and salvation. There was a time for me, as Nephi said there would be, when I erringly believed God had "given his power to men."(2Nephi 28: 5)

As a continuation of the discussion about "traditions of their fathers" and how those traditions are a leading vehicle by which the evil one "taketh away light and truth" (D&C 93: 39) from the children of men, we ought to consider what has become the foremost "tradition" of the LDS people. Somehow, the enemy has successfully instilled the mantra "Follow the prophet" among those the Lord has commanded to "Come follow Me." (Matt. 10: 38, 16: 24, John 10: 27 many others) In order to appease the minds of those that might recognize the commandment to "Come follow me," there has developed the twin false idea and tradition that "following the prophet" is the same thing as following the Lord. The evil one has baited the hook so adeptly as to have the entire tradition wrapped in a foil that falsely convinces there are men that "will never be allowed to lead them astray." The tradition has it that as a sign of His displeasure, God would kill the man before he would be allowed to lead you astray. Therefore anything the man does or says, unless he dies in a way that is known to be God killing him, is to be taken as the word of the Lord. 

Interestingly, this is the very same tactic the evil one used to get the Catholic people to take the very same hook regarding their "infallible" leaders. This tactic of false tradition is tried and true. It seems to hook men every time it is cast into the stream of humanity. There seems to be recognition by the evil one that men have a natural penchant for relying on the arm of flesh. Works every time. 

A part of the reason this false tradition is so potent against men, and has been repeatedly throughout history, is that there never seems to be a lack of "leaders" ready to step up to the post of "infallibility." Rare is the "leader" of God's people who completely and correctly understands who and what they really are. This is why the Lord would say,

"We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion." (D&C 121: 39)

Almost all men when given a position and a title will immediately begin to think incorrectly they have "power." They, and their followers, begin to think incorrectly, there is something about them that has led to God's favor. Why else would anyone be called to "lead" people? In fact, the Lord's children need far fewer "leaders" and more of the kind of godly ministers the Lord always intended to have among His children.

The entire package of this false tradition is a slick way for the enemy to completely cover the hook of "relying on the arm of flesh" with bait designed to trick Gods children into thinking they are really following Him. And the bait has been swallowed along with the line and sinker. Despite repeated warnings in the Book of Mormon, "the arm of flesh" (2Nephi 4: 34 and 2Nephi 28: 31) leads the people in a way that even the humble followers of Christ are "led that that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men." (2Nephi 28: 14)

In the restoration, the Lord provided a mechanism for offices and positions in the church to be filled so that the church would be able to function. That mechanism of common consent provides all that is needed to staff the organization of the church including the first presidency. If things were done as the Lord has revealed, even the first presidency of the church would be "chosen by the body" of the church. (D&C 107: 22) Even though that revealed procedure is ignored today, we still have an obligation to "uphold by our confidence, faith, and prayer... the Presidency of the Church."

"Upholding" these men does not mean we are under an obligation to ignore foolish or unrighteous behavior when we see it in them. When we see error or foolishness we ought to recognize it and see it for what it is. For example, it was difficult for me to take seriously or meaningfully the tears and emotion displayed at the pulpit during general conference by the very same man that three weeks earlier cut a ribbon with a big pair of scissors then shouted out, "LET'S GO SHOPPING!!!" at the grand opening of a major retail shopping complex in downtown Salt Lake City. In complete opposition to such a "prophetic" call, the beloved apostle John said, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (1John 2: 15) Materialism is destroying people and families and our nation. Materialism has been preached against over and over at the pulpit of general conference itself. The Lord Jesus taught it is not possible for a servant to serve two masters. He said a servant would either "hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." (Luke 16: 13) I was left unclear given the true teachings of the Lord Jesus, exactly which master this man and those with him actually serve? If it is not even a possibility to serve them both, then which one was being served with a loud and hearty call to God's children, "LET'S GO SHOPPING!!!”? Is this now the clarion call of the "living prophets" of God? If the Lord Jesus or any of His true messengers ever taught such a thing, I completely missed it.

So, "leaders" are just fallible, erring men like all men. It is a spiritually fatal mistake to rely on the arm of flesh even, (or perhaps especially) when that flesh holds a title or position that should imply holiness. (2Nephi 28: 31) As has been pointed out before, "following" men and not the Lord Jesus Christ will earn a person nothing more than a telestial reward. (D&C 76: 98-101) 

We ought to pray for these men. We ought to "uphold them" with our faith and prayers. But above all our obligations, we ought never to think they are more than what they are. There is one and only one that deserves and should receive our love, devotion, and loyalty. He is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind. He alone has power to save and redeem men. He has not, nor will he ever "give(n) his power unto men." (2Nephi 28: 5) The church is His. He invites men to be humble, godlike servants and ministers to His children. If they receive that invitation from Him, they are to be "even as (He) is," (3Nephi 27: 27) the least and the servant of all. (Mark 10: 43-44) Given the tradition of their fathers, this is increasingly rare.

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