Doctrine: #2) Salvation is personal even for prophets, apostles, and saints in leadership callings/positions.
This is continued from PART ONE
A common reason people leave the church is that they have issues with the leadership or the church policies that doesn’t immediately make sense. So, why don’t I leave when leadership appears to be human or because I don’t immediately understand a policy? Well, I don’t leave because it’s no surprise to me that the leadership is not perfect. And that, indeed, God is leading them to their salvation just as He is leading me to mine. It’s no surprise to me that they have to run into issues and concerns before they ask questions and seek revelation from God for the Church just like I have to run into issues and concerns before I ask questions and seek personal revelation from God for my life. The process of revelation is the same for all of us (Doctrine and Covenants 8:2-3; 9:7-9) whether prophet or member.
Those who study the scriptures (OT, NT, BofM, Pearl of Great Price, Doctrine and Covenants) on a regular basis should never be surprised at the humanity of God’s chosen prophets, apostles, and leadership of all types from the local, ward, level to worldwide level. Every prophet that I’ve studied was human, made mistakes, learned to repent and change, had to be tutored and taught through years of trial and personal struggle the importance of consistent righteousness and the path to receiving revelation. Sometimes the Lord gave revelation without much work. Other times the revelation and counsel came through others with the experience or knowledge. Or, in other words, when the information wasn’t available through study and counsel with others, the Lord gave it once it was sought in prayer. Other times the answer took lots of work, seemed like it would never come though it eventually did, or came through others. (1 Nephi 3 and 4 & Exodus 18 are two easy examples, but there are many more.)
My mother always taught me that if God had revealed the information I needed to others and if it was accessible through study, research, and wise counsel, that that was the only way I’d get the information. God would not speak to me from the heavens information that He had already dispensed. So, I did the work and when I found the information and answers I needed the Holy Ghost provided the clear witnesses of truth. It is the same for every child of God no matter what calling or position they hold in the church.
As well, simply because God has called people to stewardships of leadership in which their decisions, actions, and weaknesses affect everyone beneath them doesn’t mean that God expects them to make perfect decisions, or to carry off His kingdom in a way in which no one gets offended, or in a way that no one’s faith gets tested. He has given them these callings to help perfect them—and us. He expects those in leadership to live by grace and we are expected to grant grace to them in their service. The leadership is allowed to lead us despite their weaknesses because of grace, and we learn the doctrine of grace by supporting and sustaining them. It’s that simple. Does it mean it’s easy? It might not be. But it can be.
If we are to be honest, people got plenty offended by Christ who was perfect. So even if our leaders were perfect everyone still wouldn’t be happy. Truth can set people free—if they want it—but most truth causes offense and is painful to hear (1 Nephi 16:2-3). So my faith in God’s church and its leadership can’t be shaken by the imperfections of fellow-servants in Christ, it can only be shaken by my own deficiencies—or in other words, the state of my heart (see the parable of the sower in the NT) and my willingness to accept grace for myself as well as allow it to embrace others.
It’s interesting these days as the church works to be more transparent more and more information is coming out about Joseph Smith. People are leaving the church over it. Of course, not all of the information that comes out is true. Some of the less favorable things that people like to toss around have some truth to them, but many inferences and suppositions made in light of these truths are not true, or are purposely presented in an unfavorable light. But the hints of truth make it all seem true to those who read it. Indeed, it’s become a hobby of some to dig and dig and infer as many weird and negative things about Joseph Smith, and the early leaders of our church, as they can.
I find it interesting that these people take such a passion in trying to make sure that I know what kind of man restored the church—my church. I have to ask myself… Have they really taken a look at my life and my religion and are they genuinely worried about my eternal salvation? Are they really worried that I’m getting shafted by my religion? Are they really worried about whether I’m becoming less Christlike by reading The Book of Mormon? Or, are they worried that I’m bound down by silly religious traditions (Alma 30:12-18, 22-28)? That I dare not look up and grab hold of the privileges my religion tries to deny me (Alma 30:12-18, 22-28)? Are they worried that I’m being made a fool (Alma 30:12-18, 22-28) or that my religion’s standards are too high? Or, do they want to make it easy for me to disavow Joseph Smith, leave the church, and justify doing things they believe I should be able to do (Alma 30:12-18, 22-28)? Do they want me to be afraid that I’ve been hoodwinked? And if so, why?
So, let me get right to it. Many knowledgeable and articulate people like to find fault with Joseph Smith (or other church leaders or policies made by church leaders). They like to pick on the prophet’s human weaknesses and personal idiosyncrasies. Or they like to show how they can’t be inspired because they are so out of touch with the world and God. They like to make light of Joseph’s susceptibility to the culture of his time. They delight in making suppositions and inferences about Joseph’s struggles to almost single-handedly restore God’s church upon the earth. They try to prove he wasn’t God’s prophet because of weaknesses he had in administration. The list goes on.
I don’t mean to draw this out, but do they realize that none of what Joseph Smith did ever brought him any personal gain? He wasn’t paid to be prophet. He was never praised by the world. He barely ever had a roof over his head. He lost children and friends. He was beaten and persecuted, tarred and feathered and shot at and was driven and torn from his family and associates time after time. He of all people had every right to throw up his hands and say, “this is stupid. Why am I doing this?” Why then did he insanely persevere? How many people will die for what they believe? Few, unless they were truly called by God. The only reason Joseph did it, the only reason he kept going, was because God called Him to do so and who would turn against God just to please the world?
Those people who study Joseph’s life and make light of his efforts never take time to mention that despite his weaknesses (the ones they deride him for) he kept going when no sane man ever would. He kept doing what God asked even when he knew it led to him sealing his testimony and prophetic role with his blood. Did not Alma (30:34) say: “And now, if we do not receive anything for our labors in the church, what doth it profit us to labor in the church save it were to declare the truth, that we may have rejoicings in the joy of our brethren?” As well, didn’t wise Gamaliel say in Acts 5:38-39: “And now I say unto you, refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to naught: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it, lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.”
Finally, St. Matthew 7:16, 20 says, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” Moroni 7:15-17 teaches us clearly how to judge if something comes from God or man by whether it leads us to Christ or not. St. John 7:17 says, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of god or whether it be of myself.” Or, in other words, “experiment upon the word” (Alma 32).
I can see the fruit of Joseph Smith’s life and mission and so did the people who lived in his time, when he was actually visible to them. Those who had a witness of his prophetic role were not swayed by his weaknesses. Those who didn’t have a witness or who let their fear crowd out their faith left. Everyone thought the church would die with Joseph when he was killed. It didn’t. And, the church rolled on despite his and other church leaders’ weaknesses. This church, it’s unprecedented growth, it’s incredible reach across the earth, the fullness of God’s plan it provides, the amazing blessings and miracles I have seen in my own life and the lives of others, the good the church does the world over, the priesthood authority and the ordinances and covenants it provides, the growth and goodness of the leadership… I just can’t figure out what about the fruit of Joseph’s Smith’s work that is not leading me to Christ and to a joyful life now and a joyful eternal life.
So, if people want to sit around and make a pastime of picking at Joseph Smith’s or other church leaders’ weaknesses, they can do so. But, it seems to me that sitting around and picking at other’s shortcomings and weaknesses is not a past-time that is very Christlike. And, indeed, Christ says that we are allowed to have weaknesses in this life that we may be humble (Ether 12:27) and that those who mock the weakness of those trying to do His work are fools (Ether 12:26).
As well, concerning Joseph Smith, God says in the first section of the Doctrine and Covenants that the weaknesses and mistakes of early church leaders—including Joseph Smith—will be included in the record that His word may be fulfilled “That the fullness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers. Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.” He also says to Joseph Smith that his name, “should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.”
Well, it appears that this promise has come true. So, I don’t leave the church over it. My faith is strengthened by it.
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