Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fourteen Fundamentals, Part 3

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

Second: The [president of the Church] is more vital to us than the Standard Works.

President Wilford Woodruff tells of an interesting incident that occurred in the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith:

“I will refer to a certain meeting I attended in the town of Kirtland in my early days. At that meeting some remarks were made that have been made here today, with regard to the living prophets and with regard to the written word of God. The same principle was presented, although not as extensively as it has been here, when a leading man in the Church got up and talked upon the subject, and said: ‘You have got the word of God before you here in the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants; you have the written word of God, and you who give revelations should give revelations according to those books, as what is written in those books is the word of God. We should confine ourselves to them.’

“When he concluded, Brother Joseph turned to Brother Brigham Young and said, ‘Brother Brigham I want you to go to the podium and tell us your views with regard to the living oracles and the written word of God.’ Brother Brigham took the stand, and he took the Bible, and laid it down; he took the Book of Mormon, and laid it down; and he took the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and laid it down before him, and he said: ‘There is the written word of God to us, concerning the work of God from the beginning of the world, almost, to our day. And now,’ said he, ‘when compared with the living oracles those books are nothing to me; those books do not convey the word of God direct to us now, as do the words of a Prophet or a man bearing the Holy Priesthood in our day and generation. I would rather have the living oracles than all the writing in the books.’ That was the course he pursued. When he was through, Brother Joseph said to the congregation; ‘Brother Brigham has told you the word of the Lord, and he has told you the truth.’” (Conference Report, October 1897, pp. 18–19.)  

To see how mis-aligned our culture has become on issues like this requires more writing than I can manage.  We are like the citizens of Clarity.  Generations have come and gone, and come and gone again since the Lord offered to establish Zion, but we would not.  We are by and large blinded to the history of the past 180 years, even when we study it.  We live in one moment of time and cannot see afar off (Moses 6:27).

Joseph Smith taught what you need is an administrator who "has the power of calling down the oracles of God."  When you've got that, and "subjects to receive those oracles," though their number may be few, there is the kingdom of God (William Clayton Journal, January 22, 1843).  Joseph Smith was such a man.  

The restoration of the gospel had its beginnings in visitations from the Lord and other heavenly angels.  It was very much unlike other Christian faiths.  The creeds of Christianity are an abomination in the sight of the Lord (JSH 1:19).  They tout the scriptures, profess to know God with their lips, but have no connection with the heavens.  When angels cease to minister unto the latter-day Saints it is because there is no faith, and the religion becomes vain (Moro. 7:37).  It then becomes like all other Christian denominations.  It is having a form of godliness, but denying God's power.  The whole purpose of the restoration of the gospel was to fix all this.

During Mormonism's beginnings the Priesthood of God was associated with divine communication (D&C 107:18-19).  Those who held the holy priesthood were given power to see the face of God.  
We have a difficult time understanding what is meant by "oracles" because the word has been used in a number of different ways.  For example, Joseph F. Smith believed and taught those who are called to presiding offices in the Church are your oracles:

"... We have the written word for example, for instruction, for admonition, for reproof, for counsel and for exhortation. Every man should read and understand them, and then all will know that the oracles of God are in their midst. But when they do not read the word of God nor understand it, when the oracles speak they may not listen to them. The Stake Presidency are your oracles here. They are chosen of the Lord. … You ought to sustain and uphold them, and listen to their counsels. They will not guide you wrong; they will not direct you in wickedness; they will make no mistake in their counsel to you..." (Teachings of Presidents of the Church, ch. 24, p. 216, emphasis mine). 

When Joseph Smith spoke of the oracles of God he did not have in mind men holding church offices, who were considered by the people to be 'practically' infallible, and who were good for counsel and direction.  His understanding and aspirations were not so base.   

The revelations Joseph Smith received from the Lord did not replace or nullify the existing cannon of scripture.  His revelations were added to that cannon.  When Joseph F. Smith saw in vision the world of spirits it did not contradict former revelation and scripture; it was added to them.  Their revelations supplemented, not supplanted, the existing body of revelation.  Their revelations added clarification to the existing body of revelation.  It is not that their revelations were more vital to the Saints than the standard works, their words became a part of the standard works.  It is valuable to you to listen to the words of those who have a message from God.    

What do you believe about this?  What are the oracles of God?  Are revelations from heaven oracles?  Are men who hold offices of leadership in the Church?  What qualifies them as oracles?  Office?  Revelation?  Kindness?  The fact that they will never lead you astray?  Does the president of the Church become the living oracle because of his office?  What if he does not believe there is a need for continuing revelation?  What other information do you know about this incident mentioned above from Wilford Woodruff's 1897 conference report?  Where did it occur?  When?  Who was the unnamed brother?  Where else can you find record of it?    

There are so many questions this teaching raises it is worth your time to search out these things.   

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