Sunday, April 4, 2010

Follow the...

I have to admit that I am a little cautious about how much my own primary aged daughter comes home from church singing "Follow the Prophet" ("follow the prophet...don't go astray...he knows the way"). Don't get me wrong, there's great value in following the prophet. It's just that following the "prophet" is no sure road to infallibility, and beyond that, I want my daughter to know the true Source. Considering the fact that we have a perfect Savior and not an infallible prophet, I thought it might not be a bad idea to add some new verses that simply express a child-like faith. I thought it would be perfect to post them today, since they go so well with the thoughts expressed at General Conference:

Extra verse #1:
Follow the Savior, follow the Savior, follow the Savior
Don’t go astray
Follow the Savior, follow the savior, follow the Savior,
He is the Way!


Extra verse #2
Follow the Savior, follow the Savior, follow the Savior
Don't go astray
Follow the Savior, follow the Savior
Follow the Light, the Truth, and the Way!


I think they go quite nicely with President Monson's parting words today:
My counsel for all of us is to look to the lighthouse of the Lord. There is no fog so dense, no night so dark, no gale so strong, no mariner so lost but what its beacon light can rescue. It beckons through the storms of life. The lighthouse of the Lord sends forth signals readily recognized and never failing.”

16 comments:

R. Gary said...

Clean Cut,

May I suggest an additional (but not competing) view?

The Savior himself has said: "For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me; And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father." [1]

In other words, it is by heeding the words of living apostles and prophets that we receive Christ and the Father into our lives.

The Savior has placed priesthood holders under commandment to "live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God." [2]  And "whether by [God's] own voice or by the voice of [His] servants, it is the same." [3]

Marion G. Romney, a former member of the First Presidency, while serving earlier as a ward bishop, invited President Heber J. Grant to talk in a ward meeting, about which President Romney tells this story:

" 'After the meeting I drove him home ... Standing by me, he put his arm over my shoulder and said: "My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it." Then with a twinkle in his eye, he said, "But you don’t need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray." ' " [4]

For my own personal purposes, the apostles and prophets do NOT need to be infallible for God to keep that promise.

Let me state again, very clearly, that this comment is not intended to show that anyone is mistaken about anything. This is just an additional point of view about following the Savior.

Notes
1. D&C 84:36-37.
2. D&C 84:44.
3. D&C 1:38.
4. As told by Ezra Taft Benson in First Presidency Message, Tambuli, June 1981, p.3.

Bored in Vernal said...

He is the way!

Awesome, Clean Cut.

Eric said...

I find the recent words of Elder Dallin H. Oaks appropriate here: "We respect our leaders and presume inspiration in their leadership of the Church and in their teachings. But we are all privileged and encouraged to confirm their teachings by prayerfully seeking and receiving revelatory confirmation directly from God." (Emphasis added; from a Feb. 26 presentation at Harvard Law School)

the narrator said...

Here are some random thoughts.

I don't like the phrase 'follow the prophet' at all. This doesn't mean that I'm against following the inspired teachings of the prophets, but I'm against the notion that whatever is spoken by the President of the Church is prophetic.

In other words, there is a huge mistake in equating 'follow the prophet' with 'follow the President of the Church.' In fact, the call to simply follow the President of the Church, by virtue of his being the presiding priesthood holder seems to be a direct violation of D&C 121 which states that "No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood."

Joseph Smith once said that he is only a prophet when acting as such. What exactly does that mean? Another time he implied that he even struggled with distinguishing which of his own revelations came from God, himself, or the devil (a feeling that we all have at times).

In the scriptures, the prophets and the leading priesthood authorities are almost always two different and distinct roles. In fact the prophets are usually outside of the priesthood leadership and are called by God to rebuke the leading priesthood leaders.

The great war in heaven was supposed fought over free-will. It seems quite ironic that Mormons today want to give up that will and just have someone else (the President of the Church) tell us what to do.

Elder John A Widstoe, in his Rational Theology, argued that it is the people of the Church as a collective whole who ultimately judge the words of the Church leaders. According to him, God's method of ensuring that his leaders do not lead the Church astray is by allowing the member toss out the leader if they feel he is uninspired. The purely token practice of sustaining today has largely removed the possibility of that working today.

The challenge of saying 'follow the savior' is still problematic though. The words of Jesus are given to us through faulty interpretations, memories, and re-envisioning. We are never given the actual words of Jesus. In the end, we are always left with the words that a human believed Jesus said.

My view is that God expects us to actually be free agents who choose for ourselves, and not just expects us to set aside our own God-given abilities to think and let someone else do the thinking for us.

I believe that God actually wants us to seek out personal revelation and doesn't want us to set that aside and let someone else do all the revealing for us.

This doesn't mean that we ignore the words of the Church leaders and prophets (whether in GC or in the scriptures--I actually see them on a somewhat equal level). Rather it means that we utilize those in helping us seek out our own personal revelation and making our own decisions.

m&m said...

It seems quite ironic that Mormons today want to give up that will and just have someone else (the President of the Church) tell us what to do.

I think this is a misrepresentation of what it means to follow the prophet. We use our will to choose to follow prophetic counsel. That is nowhere near abdicating free will by doing so.

The pattern the Lord set for following Him includes prophets as His mouthpieces. Of course, that includes seeking personal guidance and revelation and confirmation, but I don't think it should be set up as an opposing principle to following the Savior. The two principles are really tied together.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful, Clean Cut. You gave us the new chorus; how about a new verse, too? (Am I being too greedy?)

R. Gary, c'mon, be honest -- you ARE expressing a competing view to Clean Cut's post where he expresses caution about singing "Follow the Prophet" too much, etc. You just disagree wih Clean Cut in the role that the President of the Church fills; own it, brother!

--Hunter

Mitch said...

I follow the prophet, but I did not vote yes on Proposition 8. My vote against the proposition had little to do with the church because I was very familar with the bad information presented in the church building. My vote had everything to do with my own research and life experience with the gay community (I'm straight, but have a gay brother) and my knowledge of past politics by the church.

I don't see how my no vote goes against believing in President Monson. I still must go to the higher power to confirm my choices. And that's what I did. I don't see this as hypocritical since I did everything I could to make sure my choice in voting was the most correct one to make.

Clean Cut said...

I want to thank everyone for your comments here. You all deserve a thoughtful response, and I've been too busy to provide that until now.

I'll go ahead and post my personal response for everyone below.

Clean Cut said...

R. Gary: "

The Savior himself has said: 'For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me; And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father.] 

In other words, it is by heeding the words of living apostles and prophets that we receive Christ and the Father into our lives".

First off, like you recently reminded me on your own blog, I too want to say that your views are welcome here. I also apologize if I ever made you feel otherwise in the past. I can think of one time where I believe I misread you (on the priesthood ban post), but I appreciate your kindness and respect your conviction.

I would like to respectfully add to your thoughts here, however, and I appreciate just being able to have the conversation. It sounds as if you believe that the two (following Christ and following the prophet) are synonymous. While I believe the two can be harmonious, I don’t believe they’re synonymous.

Moreover, I’m not quite sure about interpreting that scripture to equate receiving Christ and the Father with “heeding the words” of the prophets. It still seems to me that “receiving” (them and Them) can be more a matter of the heart rather than strict obedience. I know we all "heed" in varying degrees, and the gospel is so much more than that. It includes the condition of my heart--my righteous desires--not just my right acts, or lack thereof. I see the gospel more in terms of having faith, hope, and charity than obedience to a bunch of commandments anyway. I'm not suggesting that we necessarily disagree on that. I'm just not sure if I would articulate things the same way as you.

For example, you wrote: "“The Savior has placed priesthood holders under commandment to "live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God." And "whether by [God's] own voice or by the voice of [His] servants, it is the same."

Because of what I already wrote, I feel a bit uncomfortable linking those two verses together. Don't get me wrong, I’m not uncomfortable with the actual verses—just the way they get interpreted sometimes.

I just want to caution against extremes here, and recommend a balance. I fear too many members of the Church place TOO much faith in "the Bretheren" or in "the Church" and not enough in our perfect Savior. While I appreciate and respect living prophets, simply having a calling or position of authority in the Church is not automatically synonymous with speaking for God.

I get “following God”, but if we can only follow God by following all the words of all his servants—I’m done for. And not just because I believe he has servants outside of the Church, but because many of his servants inside the Church have said so many different things (sometimes in disagreement with each other). For example, am I not following God because I don’t follow his servant Brigham Young’s teachings about Adam as God? Or am I automatically following God if I heed the teachings of the current prophet (which, of course, the people in Brigham’s time were supposed to do as well)?

There’s still that nagging thought that if there is a possibility that our prophets have and can be wrong (then or now), then I’d be much better off making sure I’m putting my faith in the right Source, as long as I’m receptive of the Spirit no matter when or how it speaks.

Clean Cut said...

You also shared the following story in which Marion G. Romney's relates President Heber J. Grant's remarks to him after a ward meeting: 'After the meeting I drove him home ... Standing by me, he put his arm over my shoulder and said: "My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it." Then with a twinkle in his eye, he said, "But you don’t need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray."

I’d say that that story supports the current verses of “Follow the Prophet” pretty good. And in this post I’m not deleting verses, but rather adding verses, and there’s plenty of scriptural support for following the Savior (“Follow me”) without adding to the equation.

Even still, the skeptic could read that story and reasonably ask: “So just because someone related this story I’m supposed to accept it as doctrine? By following the prophet no matter what, we'll always be right, even if he's wrong? Furthermore, what about the circular reasoning? (ie: I know the prophet won’t ever lead the people astray because the prophet said so.)

Of course much depends on how we define “astray”. Does it mean that the prophet will never teach false doctrine or never be wrong? (Cause that’s already out as an option.) Or can “not leading astray” mean not completely wrecking the Church? Or something else?

When I was asked about this in the comments section of my post Why I Don't Believe That God Instituted The Priesthood Ban , I made the case for the latter. While I believe the ban did and continues to do harm to the Church, the Church is still traveling in the right direction--even if more "course corrections" may be necessary.

Lastly, you wrote: “For my own personal purposes, the apostles and prophets do NOT need to be infallible for God to keep that promise.”

I guess I'm not entirely convinced that it was God that gave that promise in the first place. But even still, I agree that the prophets don’t need to be perfect in order for God to accomplish His purposes and keep His promises.

As long as we agree that "not leading astray" doesn't mean infallibility/never making mistakes, than I have no concerns. But I'm concerned about those who might take that statement as license to put faith in the false belief that prophets will never make mistakes. I fear for them, and that they will reach a faith crisis some day because their faith is not grounded properly.



Elsewhere I wrote: "I just think it is much more wise to place your faith in God and His eternal truth and doctrine, rather than men. I’m not saying that prophets, as men, can’t speak for God. But even Joseph Smith said, “a prophet is only a prophet when acting as such”. There are times the prophet speaks for God and times when even he is entitled to his own biases and opinions…[Marvin Perkins once wrote:] ‘The Lord’s plan is not set up for us to gain a perfect knowledge of all things from His leaders, but through His spirit. We can only look to perfection to receive perfection.’ The spirit will always be a personal key.”

Clean Cut said...

Bored in Veral--thanks.

Eric, I'm glad you included that quote by Elder Oaks ("We respect our leaders and presume inspiration in their leadership of the Church and in their teachings. But we are all privileged and encouraged to confirm their teachings by prayerfully seeking and receiving revelatory confirmation directly from God."

It’s definitely applicable. At the same time it too can raise questions. For example, what happens if we try to confirm that their teachings are from God but receive no such confirmation from the Spirit? Or what about if we receive confirmation that the opposite is the case?

Clean Cut said...

the narrator said: “I don't like the phrase 'follow the prophet' at all. This doesn't mean that I'm against following the inspired teachings of the prophets, but I'm against the notion that whatever is spoken by the President of the Church is prophetic.”


Great point. Especially considering the amount of scriptural support for following any mortal when compared with “Come follow me”. And great additional insights. Thank you for sharing in the conversation.

“My view is that God expects us to actually be free agents who choose for ourselves, and not just expects us to set aside our own God-given abilities to think and let someone else do the thinking for us.”

Agreed. In fact if it were otherwise we'd be going back to Lucifer’s plan.

“This doesn't mean that we ignore the words of the Church leaders and prophets (whether in GC or in the scriptures--I actually see them on a somewhat equal level). Rather it means that we utilize those in helping us seek out our own personal revelation and making our own decisions.”

Ditto. I think this works quite well with my My Prophet/Parent Analogy.

Clean Cut said...

m&m, perhaps he could have simply said “some Mormons”, because it’s an obvious caricature to imply that this is what everyone is doing. Thanks for your contribution.

Also, thanks for the comment Hunter!

Mitch, thank you for sharing that. I actually agree with you 100%. Leaving doctrine aside, I can personally wish that the Church hadn’t made Proposition 8 a matter of policy, getting involved with the political arena (even if it considered it a moral one). I believe that people ought to be free to make their own choices, regardless of what "religion" teaches.

The Church doesn’t have to change its teachings on marriage and family even if it were to allow others (including the homosexual community) the privilege of following their own conscience.

Clean Cut said...

Another related post: Institutionalized Lying

Eric said...

CC asked: For example, what happens if we try to confirm that their teachings are from God but receive no such confirmation from the Spirit? Or what about if we receive confirmation that the opposite is the case?

Of course, there's no easy answer to the question. And I can't say I've had either of those things happen yet on anything of importance -- partly because our leaders usually (not always) speak in generalities and principles that we're free to apply in a way that seems appropriate.

But suppose that, in theory, I did get personal confirmation that something taught by a current prophet or apostle was wrong. I guess it would depend on the nature of the matter. If it involved a matter of doctrine, I would probably feel free to believe what I thought was right as long as what I believed was consistent with the Standard Works, although I probably wouldn't teach my belief in a class, as there's something to be said for some sort of institutional unity. (You said in another thread about some things being binding on the institution but not necessarily individuals, so I'd probably view the matter something along that line.)

And if it involved a matter of behavior? As a practical matter, most of what we're told by by general authorities is counsel rather than commandment. But if doing what I was commanded violated my conscience, I suppose I would have to follow my conscience and let whatever the consequences are follow. If I'm right and the church leader is wrong, perhaps that's the way the leader would come to see the truth. And if I'm wrong ... hopefully I'd be humble enough to see my mistake eventually, and my misperception would be a good learning experience for me.

Again, I'm only talking in theory here. The sort of things that might cause me to question my membership in the church (say, a pronouncement that the priesthood ban for men of African descent has been reinstated), I just can't imagine happening. Even so, on lesser matters, if the theoretical you raise were to become fact, I'd definitely have more thinking to do about it.

I'm not sure if that's a complete answer, but it's where I am.

Clean Cut said...

Great response Eric. I'll add an amen to that.