Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fourteen Fundamentals, Part 2

[Words in blue are from this talk.  Commentary follows in black.]

To help you pass the crucial tests which lie ahead, I am going to give you today several aspects of a grand key which, if you will honor, will crown you with God’s glory and bring you out victorious in spite of Satan’s fury. …Here then is the grand key – Follow the prophet.

First: The [president of the Church] is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.

In section 132 verse 7 of the Doctrine and Covenants [D&C 132:7] the Lord speaks of the prophet—the president—and says:

“There is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred.”

Then in section 21 verses 4–6 [D&C 21:4–6], the Lord states:

“Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;

“For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.

“For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.”

You have to understand Ezra Taft Benson's feelings about obedience to the brethren before analyzing his talk.  It seems his ideas about this are akin to Marion G. Romney's feelings mentioned here.  You'll remember that Joseph Smith felt differently.  

A grandson of President Benson recalls his grandfather's idea of obedience to the leaders, and the status that should be given to their words: 

"Still, he told me that obedience to the General Authorities--even if what they claimed to be true was, in fact, wrong--constituted a fundamental principle of the Gospel.

"He assured me that God would bless those who followed the Brethren, even when the Brethren were in error"
 (Steve Benson, article written 11 Feb 2008).

Understanding this was his belief is helpful in understanding the intended meaning of his "fundamentals."  The first "fundamental" states that the president of the Church is the only man who speaks for God in all things.  This is written in such a way that it could be interpreted a number of ways.  However, the way this statement is succinctly worded could be mistaken to mean: "In everything the president of the church says, he is speaking for the Lord."  The scriptures chosen to support his main point seem to indicate he wouldn't mind listeners to believe that's what he meant.     

Elder Benson used D&C 132:7 in the talk to demonstrate the president of the church “is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything,” but it doesn’t prove the point. 

That verse teaches about the power to seal on earth and in heaven.  It says Joseph Smith was appointed by the Lord to hold this power in the last days.  It says there is never but one on the earth at a time who holds that power.  It says that all things will pass away with this earth unless sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise.

Elder Benson also used D&C 21:4-6 in support of the idea that the president of the Church is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.  Those verses are speaking about Joseph Smith, plain and simple.

The church was to give "heed unto all his words and commandments," meaning Joseph Smith.  "His word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth" meaning Joseph Smith.  "For thus saith the Lord God: Him have I inspired to move the cause of Zion in mighty power for good, and his diligence I know, and his prayers I have heard," meaning Joseph Smith (D&C 21:7).  

This kind of approbation from the Lord to a prophet cannot be passed on from generation to generation like hand-me-down pantaloons.  An examination of the Book of Mormon alone would reveal that one man's approval with God is not inherently a part of the conferral of a kingdom (Zeniff and Noah are one good example).   Though we've chosen through vote or consent who to sustain as presidents of the Church after Joseph's passing, it does not mean every divine sanction Joseph was given passes to each of them.      

These are examples of using the scriptures to make a point that the scriptures themselves do not make.  It sets a precedent for the haphazard application of scriptures to broader groups than the revelations themselves intended.

A prophet is only a prophet when he is acting as such.  Joseph taught that.  He believed that was true even of him; he to whom the verses just quoted actually applied.  That means that if he is revealing the mind and will of the Lord about a matter we are bound to receive that witness.  Nephi made it very clear to his audience that he delivered his message as a prophet with authority from God (2 Ne. 33:14-15).  

You cannot be nearly as interested in the opinions of men as you are the voice of God.  When God's servants speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost then there is something to pay attention to (D&C 68:2-4; D&C 1:38).  

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