18 March 2017
(This post came in response to one sentence I recently read online: "We probably shouldn't be listening to any pastors, ministers, prophets or any man".)
We do not need anyone to stand between us and Jesus Christ. But we ABSOLUTELY need pastors to reach out and bridge the gap that opens so easily between us and Jesus on a regular basis. We need ministers who are passionately on fire to preach the good news that JESUS WON, and what that really means for us right here, right now. We need prophets to declare how God sees the circumstance, and to call out the things we can't see with our own wisdom. We need those with greater experience and wisdom and knowledge and testimony so we don't have to forge the path entirely on our own, but can stand on the shoulders of others so we can do greater things and go farther in the work of saving souls than they did. And we need other people. Oh, how we need one another!
If we don't need anyone else, then "meeting together oft" wouldn't be in scripture. Yet the scriptures state that the believers met together oft to have the sacrament and to talk together about the welfare of their souls. In Ephesians 5 it talks about how prophets, pastors, evangelists, teachers and apostles are given to the church--the ekklesia/assembly/ones called out--for the equipping of the saints and for the work of the ministry. Joseph Smith talked about how, once a man is truly saved, he can't rest, but is driven to leave his loved ones at times to roam the earth in search of souls to save. The scriptures are here because people heard God and they wrote it down-that is listening to men/prophets/etc. Listening to others isn't making them our saviors. It's allowing them to bless and strengthen us so we can get a leg up on our climb to the mountain top.
The sacrament was instituted at a communal dinner: the Passover feast. And at the beginning of his ministry, Jesus gathered a group of others around himself--even *he* ministered in community. He taught his disciples so they could become apostles and then teach and disciple and impart to others.
Even in the very beginning of scripture, we have in the story of creation the fact that God saw that it was not good for man to be alone. And Adam knew it wasn't good for Eve to be alone, so he ate the fruit also.
However, the adversary prowls like a young lion, looking for those whom he might devour. Who are the ones picked off by lions? The ones isolated from the community, unprotected and alone. You know when I have the hardest time with accurate discernment? When I'm "in my head" because I'm alone. When am I most likely to be decieved? My experience shows, hands down: when I am trying to do things on my own.
From the beginning of time, God has touched human hearts, spoken to his children, and those children have written and spoken and served and loved those who haven't yet heard, or who aren't hearing in that moment. I hear from God a lot. I've healed, had visions and dreams, spoken words I've heard in the spirit that have changed people's lives. I've also had times of desperate lonliness and misery--and the ONLY thing that pulled me out of those was community. Community in the Body of Christ that included people who heard the Holy Spirit speaking and could tell me what God spoke to them for my benefit. People who could let the love of God flow through them to fill me when I was weak and broken and cut off from that love because of my own false conceptions of the nature of God.
We NEED one another. Always. God gives gifts, not for the edification of the individual, but for the blessing and comfort and exhoration and encouragement of others. I find it interesting that communities of believers are such a deeply-grounded part of the history of God's people that the scriptures don't really say "Be sure to get together with other believers, because it's really important". It's more like the idea we have today of individuals forging their own paths into heaven was so foreign to the authors of scripture that it would have never occurred to them to address it.
There is not one of us who is perfected enough to avoid gross error while in isolation. There is not one of us who is perfected enough to avoid erring while in community. BUT: the function of healthy community is to nurture the injured, strenghten the weak, and BLESS BLESS BLESS one another. To offer perspective outside of the emotion of the moment, or the emotion of the circumstance, and help keep one another from going off the rails. Our individual weaknesses are opportunities for others to bless us. And those weaknesses and blessings knit us all together in an incredible network of love and service that teaches us who God is and how he loves.
Do I believe scritupre necessary to healthy belief? ABSOLUTELY. And community is every bit as important. The Holy Spirit must speak through both in order for a believer to have a healthy and fruitful spiritual life.