The only real tools available for a bearer of God’s priesthood are persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness and meekness, love unfeigned, kindness and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul. (See T&C 175:31) Which literally means no power or influence can or should be exerted because of claims to priestly authority or position. (Id.)

The most obvious result of these limitations is that some people will never give a fair hearing to the message. Without an accompanying claim to have authority, some people will dismiss it outright, no matter what the message contains. Even if it is expressed in kindness and unfeigned love, unless a person is willing to consider the message, it will not be received.

These limitations are inspired. Pure knowledge is not appealing to those who will not hear the Lord’s voice. Christ put it this way: “he that enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that enters in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him, the porter opens and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he puts forth his own sheep, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him, for they know not the voice of strangers.” NC John 6:24

The door is shut, and a “porter” guards the way. The shepherd is the one who enters by the door, and he tells the guardians to open the way for his sheep. The guardians open at the shepherd’s request, and then the shepherd calls his own sheep by name. This part of the Lord’s parable brings to mind the idea that He gives names to those who are His. They are not strangers. He brings them into His family by naming them.

The sheep belonging to the shepherd are twice identified: Once by having their names called out, and again by recognizing the voice of their shepherd, to whom they belong. Both the shepherd and the sheep are involved in the process. He leads, invites, persuades, and guides. His sheep respond, accept, recognize, and follow. Both the Lord and His servants can recognize each other.

Other sheep do not respond. No amount of persuasion can pry them away from petrified opinion. It is hard, very hard, to change your religion. I have done it twice. Both times required a great price to be paid. It was not easy to lose so many friends and associates, and to have those who once called me “brother” shun and disregard me because I heard a voice they could not hear themselves. But after paying the price twice now, I know that it is a very hard thing to ask others to do, and so few will be willing to do so.

Mark Twain once said: “Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul.” He was right. But the chains he spoke of were human slavery, and the greater chains to be broken are of darkness and ungodliness. We all let our opinions petrify. But the Good Shepherd often takes us through stages of understanding that become brighter and brighter until the perfect day. (See T&C 36:4) It is hard to imagine all the opinions that will need changing before we reach the end of that journey.

Religious traditions are very hard to set aside. Particularly when it was taught by your parents, affirmed by your grandparents, and shared across generations before. But traditions embedded in institutions are almost invariably corrupted by the cares of this world. As soon as men get a little power and authority over others, they begin to pursue self-interest and abuse the saints of God. (See T&C 93:9 also T&C 166)

If the Good Shepherd’s voice calls by offending a religious tradition, it is the tradition that must be abandoned, not the Good Shepherd. False traditions and the institutions that perpetuate them spread darkness, not light. As the Lord put it, the “wicked one comes and takes away light and truth, through disobedience, from the children of men, and because of the tradition of their fathers.” T&C 93:11

I have followed the Good Shepherd when He has called. It has required a great sacrifice of me repeatedly. But now both He and I know where my loyalty lies.

I cannot say it is easy to respond to the Lord’s call. But I can assure you that there is no better direction to follow than the one His voice beckons you to take. It may never be easy, but the Lord posed this question to Joseph in a Missouri prison: “if fierce winds become your enemy, if the heavens gather blackness and all the elements combine to hedge up the way, and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open her mouth wide after you, know, my son, that all these things shall give you experience and shall be for your good. The Son of Man has descended below them all. Are you greater than he?” T&C 139:8