Roles and Limitations

My wife is gone and I have access to the blog, so I will add a thought to this line of discussion as an aside:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a role in the Gospel, but not the central role which some have tried to make it assume.  It prints copies of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants and Pearl of Great Price.  It conducts Sacrament Meetings at which an essential ordinance is performed.  It provides missionaries an opportunity to teach, and then gives the ordinances of baptism and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.  These are important and I do not think there will be any freelance practice of these rites so long as the Church exists.  All of these things take place at the lowest level, where the hand of the Lord is still apparent.  Elder Oaks’ examples of the Holy Ghost come from that lowest level of the Church.  It was at this level I first received companionship of the Holy Ghost as a gift, and not merely a visit to bear testimony of the truth.

The Church above this local level, however, has become somewhat of a deterrent to the Saints’ progress and happiness.  Mandates and control from an increasingly distant hierarchy more often than not detract from what could be enjoyed.  The Church has first sought to obtain the ability to micro-manage every member’s lives through the correlation process, then upon securing that ability has felt duty-bound to exercise that control.  Now it is a matter of whether you are a “good member” if you conform to the central authority’s direction on everything from opening your scriptures in Sacrament meeetings, to engaging in an order of prayer in the privacy of your home, to your lesson’s content when permitted to teach in a class of the Church.  The color of the priests’ shirts, the length of their hair, their dietary habits and dating restrictions are all weighed against programs like “Duty to God” and conformity to “Church Standards.”

The standards and conditions ALWAYS have as their goal the betterment of those involved.  But the results are to mislead those who conform into thinking they’ve become better as a result.  The practice of universal conformity becomes a distraction in which the distracted believe their strict Church regimen pleases Christ; when it was the heart He was always after.  It was the religiously scrupulous who persecuted and killed Him.  His persecutors were careful about their diet, dress, language, behavior and conformity.  We may be reminding Him of His mortal opposition when we engage in this conformist behavior.  He captured the hearts of fishermen, outcasts, prostitutes, tax collectors, the heretical and rebellious.  Their outward behavior may not have conformed, but their hearts were in the right place.

The Church has something to add, to be sure.  But what it adds comes to an end, so far as I can tell, once you move above the ward level.  As LeGrand Richards quipped: “Everything above the Stake is just talk.”  He’s right, but I would have said the Ward instead of the Stake.  And some of that “just talk” actually interferes with the development of the Saints’ hearts.  It would be better to remain silent than to speak up and justify interference by a flawed program between a man and his God, or a woman and her Lord.

I am active, but not merely in my weekly Church attendance.  I am active also in my daily obligations to the Lord.  It is my daily service which I consider the more important of the two.

15 thoughts on “Roles and Limitations

  1. Well said! Here is a quote from Boyd K. Packer

    In recent years I have felt, and I think I am not alone, that we are losing the ability to correct the course of the church. You cannot appreciate how deeply I feel about the importance of this present opportunity unless you know the regard, the reverence, I have for the Book of Mormon and how seriously I have taken the warnings of the prophets, particularly Alma and Helaman.

    Both Alma and Helaman told the church in their day. They warned about fast growth, the desire to be accepted by the world, to be popular, and particularly they warned about prosperity. Each time those conditions existed in combination, the church has drifted off course. All of those conditions are present in the church today.

    Helaman repeatedly warned, I think four times he used these words, that the fatal drift of the church could occur in the space of not many years. In one instance it took only six years. (Helaman 6:32; 7:6; 11:26) (“Let Them Govern Themselves,” Reg. Rep. Seminar, March 30, 1990)

  2. Thank you. I so much wish that I would have had this post about 6 years ago. When my children, although good kids, began to question and buck against some of the “conformity” issues. It really threw me for a tailspin for quite awhile. How can you feel worthy when your kids aren’t “doing” what all the other kids are….and it turns out that the “doing” in reality has nothing to do with anything that is crucial.

  3. Thank you for this aside; my son and I used to visits each month to members who hadn’t been fellowshipped in over three years. It was so delightful to truly get to know them. it was a wonderful experience for both of us. He grew up with no fear of long hair, smoky-smelling people, and so forth.

    When he got older he petitioned for and then initiated a rock climbing club while in high school. He then gathered outcasts in the school and taught them to climb. I won’t share the detail of what transpired but without exception, each of these long-haired down and outs are now serving missions. My son, the youngest, leaves September 15. It’s been amazing to watch.

    One daughter has a standing weekly invitation to several gay BYU students who come to her house to play various card and board games. Several have approached her expressing a desire to go straight and have thanked she and her husband for loving them. I don’t know how to sufficiently describe these experiences, but they are right.

    Regarding our personal study, will you please add to this post your top recommended doctrinal books? You’ve done this before, but I cannot find the post where this information exists. Thank You.

  4. Whatever other ‘daily service’ you perform I thank you most sincerely for the service rendered by the writing of these blogs. They are greatly appreciated and in this instance, they are being ‘studied out’ in an effort to understand the mind of the Lord in their content and there is a diligent search being made to understand the reality of the ‘fulness being offered. I ran across a definition of this ‘fullness’ being the attributes and powers of eternal life that Christ received by His life of consecration and service which was “after the power of an endless life” [I.R. John 1:4: 17-18] An awesome thing to consider.

  5. I think there’s some recognition of this at the top levels. I have been in meetings reports were given( this happened a few times) where it was said that the Church was attempting to push more administration and decision making power down to the stake level. I recall being told that Pres. Hinckley told a group of area presidents / area authorities straight out, “stop micro-managing your Stake Presidents.” More recently, I think, Elder Perry has been trying to get this across with regards to missionary work.

    I think a main part of the problem is that a huge bureaucracy has been created between the 12 and the local units, made up mostly of paid church employees, some of whom feel, I think, that they ought to be GAs, or at least hold the same influence. Kingdom building politics ensues and they become members of the “Quorum of the Wannabes.”

    I’ve seen good results from these employee divisions of church administration (I served a Mission in Hungary only 8 years after it was opened for missionary works. Things like the Presidents of the Church manuals were amazing resources), but I think the church employees suffers from nearly all the same problems any large corporation suffers from, with the addition of religion in the mix of office politics the problems get exponentially worse.

  6. Anonymous,

    I think the list of books you are looking for can be found in the April 17 post.

  7. The last paragraph on this post says it all to me. It seems to sum up all that I’ve been feeling and learning – that it is all between me and the Lord. It is so individual, so glorious! It fills me with such love and inexpressible gratitude to a God that will reach down to me, personally, with all my back-sliding, horrible weaknesses and ignorance! That He will take me where I am and work with me is hard for me to comprehend. Truly, “(I) love Him because He first loved (me.)”

  8. Dan, Is there a place where we can have access to Boyd K. Packer’s complete talk? That was an awesome quote.

  9. May I share an experience related to me of what I perceive to be the principle that the spirit is moving Denver to bring so forcefully to our attention? This sacred experience relates to a dying son and the pleadings of his father with the Lord. Please respect it’s sacred nature.

    My first thought as I prayed was, ‘Heavenly Father, take my life if it means that my son can live.’ The response was, He (Heavenly Father) could take my life and that of my son’s at any time as He held the power to give or take away all life according to His will. So, my life for my son’s life was not really a sacrifice that I could make. I was offering the Lord nothing.

    The second thought was that, ‘I would try harder for the rest of my life to be obedient and live the principles of the gospel better, if my son could be spared’. The response was, ‘________, you have already made a covenant to do that. You are not offering anything more than you have already covenanted to do.’ Once again, I was offering the Lord nothing.

    Then the thought came to me very clearly and with great feeling, ‘The only thing that was truly mine to offer, was my will/ my heart’. As I genuinely placed these small offerings and the life of my son into the hands of the Lord, to be swallowed up in the will of my Father, and accepted that my son may be either taken or left in mortality, even though I may not know the reason, I would embrace it with all my heart as if it were my will.

    Then came this overwhelming feeling of peace, joy and a completeness or at-one-ment that I cannot describe in words nor will attempt to do so. I had been taught first hand by the Spirit – ‘my will’ had become ‘THY Will’.

    I have often wondered since – did part of Christ’s atonement pay for the small miracle that changed my heart that day? Similarly, was the small miracle of a life, my son, who was brought back in the arms of a loving Saviour from the brink of death, paid for by the Atonement? Well, I think I know the answer to those questions, but I just can’t quite imagine how much of the Saviour’s suffering was for me, my son and our family. One’s heart is a very small price to pay for such wonderful blessings.

    I can honestly say that the change of heart continues and there is a greater desire and effort to both accept and follow the Spirit in all things.

  10. Thank you anonymous, for sharing your personal, sacred experience. I have been pondering sacrifice….even just before I sat down to read these comments. That really helped me a lot. It is such a simple concept, yet not always easy to achieve. Line upon line….

  11. Thanks Denver, Dan and all here. These are the things I have learned for myself over the past 3-5 yrs. I don’t want to cause dissention or offend anyone in the church, but the more I study and pray, the more the confirmation to me that we as a formal organization are heading the wrong direction. What a sad, grave thing to contemplate. A people who were given so much. Principles and eternal truths that Joseph died to establish to give us the fulness of Christ’s gospel now treated lightly and even hated or not understood by most. Joseph tried to do his all to live up to the WILL OF THE FATHER that the Savior and His angels taught him. He hesitated with sharing some of the principles with the church members that he did (one he lived quietly by himself for a time), but he did it, because the Lord commanded it. He placed the Father’s will above his and others… and the world persecuted him and took his life for it. This is the key. This is were I think the scriptures really point out how a covenant people fail… they would rather do their own will instead of the will of the Father. They feel it’s better to succomb to the will of others to avoid persecution. They lack the faith in the promise of the Lord when He said He would deliver and make a way for us to accomplish the things he commanded.
    I have spent years trying to teach others what I’ve learned from my quest for truth and greater connection with heaven for myself. Simply trying to get others to investigate for themselves, to see with their own eyes. To teach others that the fulness of the gospel is so much more than taught today. Look at what we were given. Look at what we have done and were we are heading. For the most part, this message has fallen on deaf ears. Not many seem to really care to intently study the life of Joseph and sacred texts and to compare to ourselves. So it please me that so many others out there are understanding these things. I still believe much good is done with the church… but I also see where my progression and my opportunity to live all of the gospel in the modern church is no longer a choice for those who wish to do so. My own agency to live Christ’s gospel as it was restored to us within the past 200 yrs has been taken away. We have not repented by petitioning the governments to allow us to have the right of choice as consenting adults to build our families or all things in common communities like the early saints were. And not many of us are seeking to even understand those things, let alone be restored to those things. These things will be had again. EVERYTHING that the Lord had Joseph live and more will have to be restored so that we can be a fully covenant people. Even to this day we still covenant to obey the laws of the gospel. We covenant to God, not mortals on earth. The laws of the gospel were lived by Joseph. Brigham spent the rest of his life as president trying to get us to live all of it. Taylor wouldn’t give up on plural marriage for anything. That man will be exalted above the rest for sacrificing to conform to the revelations and the will of the Father for a righteous people to live all of the restored gospel…

  12. Cont: Those things will bring a people closer to the Savior, for it is His gospel in it’s fullness. If Joseph was wrong, along with Adam, Moses, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Brigham, Taylor, JF Smith, Grant and so many other great prophets… then our whole restored religion is a farce! I don’t believe it is. I know the Lord restored the fullness to a people who just could not accept the Lord’s ways over the ways of the world. Our early leaders basically gave their lives trying to maintain these things. We later caved in. Today we seek to be even more accepted and to avoid persecution from a wicked world. What is the will of the Father? For us to continue farther off the path from living celestial laws and ordinances that were available to our priesthood in the past? To further alienate ourselves from truth, from restored principles that only bring us closer to the Son and more like Father? These things bring us closer to becoming a true Zion people were we are set apart, a light to the world, and are sitting often at the feet of angels and the Lord to learn from them face to face. We covenant to build up truth, to build Zion upon this continent. The church was just a vehicle to get it done. Now the church is everything and we need no more. So many declare it’s just fine the way it is and Christ will just come among us one day. We wonder why it seems we are left to ourselves. Why we as a whole can’t figure out why our people are beocming more like the wicked world so easily… sometimes worse. Were much was given, much is required and expected. If our eyes remain closed, we will never stop to think wether or not the Lord accepts us as we are. Just as sheol wants it… delusion, carnal security, as is well, we are still the only covenant people. According to the great spiritual gifts and manifestations found in our scriptures and early revelations in the church, I think it’s safe to say that it’s not too hard to see where we stand. The scriptures are being fulfilled. The gentile church was given the fulness (doing all to actually come into the Lord’s presence), and we have lost it. I only fear that thru the calamity of the nations being made low will be necessary to get us to see just were we actually stood before the Lord. But I also believe, we can repent. We can turn it all around. All of us, including the GA’s could get on our knees and plead for forgiveness and to restore us to the ways He wants us to live. To become a light to the nations, a place of safety. We could build up our Zion communities, especially with the assets the church and members own today. If we die in the tribulations that are quickly approaching, at least we died trying to conform to the will and revelations already given us of the Father. Maybe it’s too late in the day for us. But at least we go trying to come back to the presence of the Lord and to the fulness of His restored gospel.

    Q: But the promises of the indian remnant still have to come true some how. None of the leaders in the church have the fulness to teach them? And what indian group doesn’t know about the BOM by now? Surely, by the small and unrecognized his mysterious work must come to pass?

    How much more of a test and trial for us and all those in or out of the church, come what may, to come into the presence of the Lord individually, so that we may behold and be part of such great work. I for one do not want to be left on the outside looking in. I would love to do all I can to show the Father I am willing to do anything to conform to HIS WILL. That is my will.

  13. Good day brother Snuffer.

    While it is true that micromanagement is not the ideal, when one learns to obey with exactness and be a “reglista” as one was called on my mission, one comes to know the principles behind the counsel, and one comes to realize and recieve the blessings that come from obedience to those counsels. So while I find merit in your argument to a degree that micromanagement is a bit undesirable, I think that I sense lately in your writings and posts a tendency more and more to find fault with the way the Church is currently doing things. I know that you put a disclaimer saying that you are just acknowledging the faults of the Church for the sake of those to whom you are trying to give counsel, and that to some degree you are a defender of the Church, I think you spend too much time on these types of topics, and moderately disaffected people are seizing on your words and running with them, and justifying their attitudes of disobedience with your words.

    I am actually disaffected from the scholarly world of the Church (i.e. from FARMS/FAIR/BMAF types), and the apologetics scene. But I’m disaffected from the fact that there are those out there that are claiming authority for their speculations that is not theirs to make, and trying to present themselves as if they are the last word on subjects where things are not settled doctrinally. So I acknowledge how difficult disaffection is, and how hard it is to maitain a good attitude towards something one is disaffected from.

    I am a pragmatic theologian myself, and don’t take everything from this correlated environment we live in hook line and sinker, and take it all with a grain of salt. But you aren’t putting enough stress on using one’s free agency to obey good counsel, and not take offense at the fact that that counsel is delivered from on high in a way that is less than ideal.

    Ed Goble

  14. One can obey with exactness and still admonish others in their faults, even if those others are the Brethren, so long as we don’t command those that are at our head. I would venture they would welcome the admonishments. Pres. Packer’s talk that is linked to above evidences he already agrees with Denver’s view point.

    I disagree with MJ’s two posts above in their tone, for instance, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a right to say it. Are we inquisition police here for the Brethren or something? Ed Goble has just as much right to say what he says, even though that tone sounds just as bad to me as MJ’s, but on the opposite end of the spectrum. That’s not saying I don’t veer left and right myself sometimes. That’s my two cents anyway.

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