05 November 2013

Until Further Directed . . .

Joseph Smith wrote in his History 1:26:

"I had now got my mind satisfied so far as the sectarian world was concerned--that it was not my duty to join with any of them, but to continue as I was until further directed." 

Then, he continues in the next verse:

"I continued to pursue my common vocations in life until the twenty-first of September, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-three, all the time suffering severe persecution at the hands of all classes of men, both religious and irreligious, because I continued to affirm that I Had seen a vision." (JSH 1:27)

The ensuing verses detail some of what Joseph went through in those intervening three-plus years, while he waited for further direction.  He never denied what he had seen and experienced. But he waited.  And waited.  Until he grew so worried for his standing with God that he was driven to his knees:

"In consequence of these things, I often felt condemned for my weakness and imperfections; when, on the evening of the above-mentioned twenty-first of September, after I had retired to my bed for the night, I betook myself to prayer and supplication to Almighty God for forgiveness of all my sins and follies, and also for a manifestation to me, that I might know of my state and standing before Him; for I had full confidence in obtaining a divine manifestation, as I previously had one."

Joseph had a tremendous work ahead of him.  (A work which was stymied and distorted almost from the very first. But that's a whole 'nuther post for another time.) And yet, the Lord had to be invited to give Joseph further instructions.  Even Adam, at the beginning of time, actively looked for messengers from his Father, while following the commandments he had been given.

I've heard over and over lately from members of my church things to the effect that if the brethren were doing something wrong, or if the course of the church was awry, God would step in and fix it.  He would come down and appear to President Monson and fix his wagon.

But that is not the pattern set forth in scripture.

God will not--I would even go so far as to say He cannot--step in and give us knowledge we don't ask for.  Blacks' ordination in the priesthood wasn't a glorious vision handed down from on high. The restoration had hit Brazil, and they were having one hell of a time determining who was "white" enough to hold priesthood, and who was "black" enough to be barred from ordination.  It was a crisis in the church which finally drove the leadership to the Lord with sufficient humility that they could hear what God would have told them all along.

He is the same 
yesterday, today, and forever. 

If blacks today are worthy of holding the priesthood, then they were worthy all along.  They didn't suddenly become MORE worthy in the 70's.  Christ's sacrifice wasn't somehow held back from them until that point. There is evidence Joseph ordained black men--and Nephi has something to say about this kind of thing:

"[F]or [the Lord] doeth that which is good among the children of men; and he doeth nothing save it be plain unto the children of men; and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile." 
~2 Nephi 26:33

That leaves us with a rather uncomfortable conclusion, though, doesn't it? It leaves us with the glaring fact that the leaders of the LDS church are simply what every one of us are: mortal beings, called of God, to do a work on this earth. We are, each and every one of us, imperfect.  Christ can, with His infinite grace and loving mercy, fix so many things we wreck up with abandon.  That not everything that happens in the LDS church is His will.  (Thank heavens!!!)

We are people.  ALL of us.  God is NO respecter of persons.  So, if He let Joseph marinate in his own trials and mistakes for three and a half years, waiting for young Joseph to take his spiritual progression into his own hands, the same holds true for leaders today.  They are men.  Good, kind, often inspired, earnest and well-intentioned men, doing the best they can to run a monstrously monolithic megabusiness, with fingers in a thousand pies.  It is not only unreasonable, but abusive, to persist in asserting that God micromanages those good men.  He is not a God who controls. He commands, invites, entreats.  But He does not force.  That is satan's pattern and plan.  Not His. He just IS.  We can move toward Him or away . . . and the rest is consequences of the direction of our movement.

Look at Joseph's life.  He was the most obviously approved of by God.  (Hello . . . he's our dispensation head. 'Nough said.)  He healed. He prophesied. (Prolifically.) When he asked, he heard God's answer.  Usually right then.  When he taught, he taught scripture, or God's word received through revelation (which is the same thing, just not printed in earthly records).  And he stood accountable for every bit of it.  He also made some colossal blunders in business.  He lost a tremendous amount of money.  Gave his store's stock to those in need, and went into tremendous debt doing so.  He was in the process of going into bankruptcy at the time of his death.

God doesn't demand perfection from His leaders.  Nor does He step in to prevent their blunders.  If asked, He will guide us--collectively and individually.  But when we don't ask, don't listen, don't watch for messengers from our Father, we're left to our own strength, our own wisdom.

I don't know about you, but I'll keep asking, keep listening, keep watching to see His hand in my life . . . and afford ALL men the dignity of expecting them to be in full ownership of their agency, and let rest on them the full responsibility thereof.

The alternative simply isn't appealing.

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I welcome questions and concerns--they are most often what spur us closer to the truth. I only ask that we all give everyone the most generous benefit of the doubt, assigning the best motives possible. A soft answer truly does turn away wrath, and an atmosphere of Jesus's love is the best for learning, no matter which side of a discussion you're on.

Thanks so much, and God bless you!