Monday, October 12, 2009

I tag-team teach Sunday School (Gospel Doctrine) with two other teachers. I had my turn this past Sunday. The lesson was number 37 in the Doctrine and Covenants manual. The topic was "We Thank Thee O God For a Prophet." I was impressed with the timing of the lesson being only one week since General Conference (GC). Evidence again of a master plan.

I was looking around for stories, quotes, or anything else by or about Thomas S. Monson. What I found, among other things, was a blog attacking the credibility of a talk he gave in GC years ago. The blogger was pretty clear with his opinion that President Monson was a fraud, a liar, and one worthy of our disdain and not our praise. There was a tremendous amount of vitriol aimed at our beloved leader. Others had found this blog as well and defended President Monson with their faith in hand. The testimonies were heartfelt, and the desire to set the record straight regarding our living prophet was an apparent catalyst for their responses. The blogger was not to be outdone by these "stupid" latter-day saints and his additional responses revealed a deep resentment towards a church and a people he considered evil, and even Satan (I wish it wasn't appropriate to capitalize his name) inspired.

He used all the typical arguments regarding the authenticity of the restoration. For example: Joseph Smith (JS) had twenty plus accounts of the first vision, the only church "accepted" one being given in 1838, some eighteen years since the alleged event (giving JS time to adjust and distort his experience to fit his needs while the church expanded). He also quoted Brigham Young (BY) making statements that seemingly contradicted the restored gospel as it is understood today, etc, etc.

This blogger was driven, and seemed angry. He was determined to paint the picture that every faithful member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints had been and was currently being duped by evil and designing men, bent on the manipulation of their followers. I was a bit sickened. I wrestled with my own desire to launch a retribution worthy of posting, but I decided not to. (The thread had been dead for a few months, I decided it was pointless.)

I found the strength of his arguments rested on the notion many in the church mistakenly share, specifically, a prophet must somehow be perfect in order to be a mouthpiece for God. This is backed up by other seemingly faithful assumptions such as:

"God will not let his prophet say or do anything that could embarrass or otherwise mislead the church." (An egregious misquote of the promise that God will not permit his prophet to lead us astray.)

"A true Prophet would never believe or preach a doctrinal point that wasn't one hundred percent in compliance with the will of the Lord."

"Prophets are not capable of making mistakes in thinking, speech, thought or deed."

"Everything uttered by the prophet has to be gospel and directed by the mind and will of the Lord."

"If a so-called prophet gives improper advice, makes a doctrinal assumption that is later contradicted by his own words, or misspells a person's name in a revelation from God, then he is clearly unworthy of his post, and the church that leaves him in it is therefore of Satan, patently evil, and a bane to the existence of every Christian in the nation."

Why do we allow ourselves to think this way?

It seems ironic to me there are those who would assign traits of Satan to their Father in Heaven. Satan's plan was to leave himself in complete and total control over all the rest of God's children. He wanted to force the mind of man, in every way possible and at all times. What we forget is that God is the exact opposite. He will never force the mind of any man, let alone his prophets, not even His own Son upon whom rested the full weight of responsibility for the rest of us.

The bible is replete with examples of the prophets making fools of themselves with God. This has nothing to do with what God will allow and will not allow, for He "allows" everything.

We needed a school in which to learn the differences between righteousness and evil, pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, and progress or regression. We needed free reign in the classroom to decide the pace and nature of our own progress while allowing everyone else the same privilege. He knew we would fail to figure out the experience without mistake or injury to ourselves and others, and so he provided a Savior (who, strangely enough, had to figure out his own way to). He sent prophets who had to figure out their own way as well while at the same time being given the task of guiding us along the right path. There is a pattern here. God will never force the mind of man. It would be of no profit to the experience of his children to have provided us with a fool-proof church with leaders of impeccable minds, hearts, and talents.

Why would it be his plan to control any of his children here on earth be they idiot, savant, pseudo-intellectual, genius, layman, clergy, prophet, or even his only begotten Son? Inspire? Invite? Bless? Yes. Control? Guarantee? Force? Coerce? Manipulate? Never.

What would be the point? In fact, were he to actively "interfere" for our benefit, then he would destroy the purpose of our experience. It would not be our own, but rather His. Progression would be impossible. He would have acted simply to ease his own sorrow while destroying all of our hopes to be like him.

There are those who cannot contemplate a life without guarantees and safety nets. They suppose that if God were loving he would control the outcomes of man's choices (at least in his church, so his children would have a safe place to play and interact with others). Others take the opposite approach of "How can you say God loves us when he allows such great suffering to occur?" They seek or are unwilling to accept anything but a system which can promise desired benefits if they simply follow the rules. "If I do this then I can expect this. If I am obedient neither I nor any member of my family will suffer. When people have to suffer in life it is probably because they were not obedient or had enough faith. I am unworthy of God's love because of my disobedience, my blemishes are too great to ever be accepted by the Father again." Absolutes can be an addiction.

What is not typically understood is the very un-guaranteed nature of life and the tremendous faith it took for us to agree to this "experiment" and to place our trust in our Father's eldest Son to take care of the details of our salvation. I wonder if we ever uttered words of doubt like, "What if he doesn't go through with it?" or "What if we never get to come back?" or "Why would Father leave so much to chance, isn't that dangerous and uncaring of him, I mean does he actually want us to be exposed to heartache, pain, and sorrow when he clearly has the power to keep it from happening? What if it hurts too much?"

Even if only for a second.

To one third of us, it seems, the notion of a guaranteed outcome was more appealing than leaving it up to forces beyond their control. It therefore makes perfect sense to have some of us engaged in the same philosophical struggle here on earth. In fact it makes perfect sense for all of us, at some point or another, to question why there is so much room given for us to be idiots.

How fortunate are we? Throughout the history of our church, we have had valiant men, who are very often above reproach, to lead guide and direct the Kingdom of God on earth. If you seek blemishes, you will find them. If they become your focus, the beauty of all else will pale, until finally you have only ugly to contemplate.

There is simply too much beauty and truth upon which to gaze and I am personally grateful for all the room God gave his children to grow.

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