In preparation for the Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults tonight, President Russell M. Nelson released a special video invitation on his Twitter feed. In the video he gave some homework to help listeners prepare.
Sister Nelson and I are looking forward to being with you at the Worldwide Devotional this Sunday. To prepare, I invite you to read Doctrine & Covenants Section 84, verses 43 to 45. I also invite you to consider what you are doing to ‘live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.’ Please ponder this in your hearts, and we’ll discuss it on Sunday. We’ll see you then!
I reported on President Nelson’s controversial Worldwide Devotional address last January, so I was interested to see what’s in store for tonight.
43 And I now give unto you a commandment to beware concerning yourselves, to give diligent heed to the words of eternal life.
44 For you shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.
45 For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
Part 1: Scriptural Analysis
D&C 84 was declared by Joseph Smith as “a revelation on priesthood” (see section heading). The heart is the well-known Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood, so I thought it interesting that President Nelson asked both men and women to take a look. When I was serving in Young Women’s a decade ago, all the Young Men in the Stake were challenged to memorize the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood in D&C 84, and all the Young Women were challenged to memorize Proverbs 31. It was a blast explaining to the Young Women what it meant for good wives making sure their husbands didn’t feel a need to go looking for spoil. Regardless, ever since then I’ve considered D&C 84 “guy stuff.”
I’ve been all excited about the new Doctrine and Covenants Gospel Doctrine curriculum this year and thought I’d take a look at what the teacher’s manual says about it:
[God] revealed the oath and covenant of the priesthood, which is found in D&C 84:33-44. These verses outline (1) the covenants a man makes with the Lord when he receives the Melchizedek Priesthood and (2) the covenants the Lord makes with faithful Melchizedek Priesthood holders.
Okay, not exactly disproving my “guy” classification. Does it say anything about Nelson’s specific verses?
Priesthood holders covenant to…
d. Give diligent heed to the words of eternal life (verses 43-44).
But President Nelson really wants both men and women to ponder that point about living “by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.” Well, I grew up in this church. You think I can’t figure out how something regarding men also applies to women? Ha!
4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
11 And I give unto you a commandment, that ye shall forsake all evil and cleave unto all good, that ye shall live by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God.
I can safely say that phrase applies to women even though church curriculum declares the verses President Nelson quoted were specifically for male priesthood holders.
Depending on your view, verse 45 may or may not be part of the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood. In a Sidney B. Sperry Symposium a few years ago, S. Brent Farley analyzed section 84, and suggested verse 45 is the beginning of a chain of logic extending to verse 48. It argues that the Light of Christ (a conscience) is given to all people, and that Light of Christ ultimately leads people to the gospel. After participating in priesthood ordinances, people will follow the Holy Ghost, which leads men to the oath and covenant of the Priesthood. Finally, verse 48 is “the apex, the grandest key in understanding the oath and covenant of the priesthood: a man who holds and honors the Melchizedek Priesthood will be taught of that holy covenant by God.”
But President Nelson only really covered verse 45, which is the lead in to the Light of Christ (a conscience) in verse 46. The Light of Christ applies to both men and women, but based on the omission of verse 46 I’m not confident the Light of Christ is what President Nelson wants us to take away from that.
Maybe he just wanted to include the phrase, “the word of the Lord is truth.” It is pretty cool.
Part 2: Consider Our Own Actions
The second part of President Nelson’s homework assignment is to “consider what you are doing to ‘live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.’”
Have you noticed this part really depends on what is meant by “every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God”?
What to Expect?
Well, President Nelson picked a scripture applying to priesthood covenants. He has a mixed audience, so I assume he’ll keep it out of context. He wants to focus on “living by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God,” but he didn’t ask people to read verses about personal revelation via the Light of Christ and voice of the Holy Ghost.
So… I’m thinking he’ll do a D&C 1:38 take on it:
38 What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.
My money’s on another talk about adhering to the words of current church leaders as proxy for adhering to the word of God. If so, it’ll be a repeat of many themes from last year’s devotional. Last year he talked about how prophets see things that others cannot, which ties in nicely to “the word of the Lord is truth.”
My only wish? This time he’ll leave the Policy out of it.
 President Nelson’s statement in that January 2016 Worldwide Devotional that the Policy derived from revelation caused a backlash. The remarks also had the dubious honor of being incorporated into and subsequently removed from official seminary curriculum materials.
- Do you have a different prediction based on the assignment?
- Do you expect any controversial statements?
- Is it a good idea for general authorities to provide a reading assignment ahead of time?
“My money’s on another talk about adhering to the words of current church leaders as proxy for adhering to the word of God.”
That’s my fear. Bugs me no end when they do that.
“My money’s on another talk about adhering to the words of current church leaders as proxy for adhering to the word of God.”
Would this be so bad? After all, consider just a few verses before, D&C 84:36-38:
For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me;
And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father;
And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.
See also Matthew 10:40 and D&C 112:20. Receiving the servants of the Lord is important, isn’t it? Receiving the Lord’s servants is a prerequisite to receiving the Lord, which is a prerequisite to receiving the Father.
What does it mean to “receive” the Lord’s servants? Might this include listening to them and giving hearkening to their counsel?
I agree, I see a talk about following the prophets, with a good dash of thou shalt not criticize. But beams and motes dear friend, the other side to that is that the messages are inspired, that both are edified and that we are unified in the Lord, at least the brethren are unified. A lot of work needs to occur on both sides, so it’s hard to swallow what I anticipate will be a good spoonful of obedience medicine. I’d instead like to hear something along the lines of, “hey, we all need to do better. We are and I am going to do x, and you need to do y. Let’s improve together. ” we certainly have a lot of work to do together after the past few years of bumpy going (prop 8, pox, OW, MoTab Jan 21st, etc.). Oh dear, I really miss president Hinckley’s “let’s all try to be a little better” attitude.
Any live commentary, Mary Ann..?? I’m also listening now… to Aunt Wendy, apparently.
Why is it that ‘the Lord’s servants’ in that verse ONLY refers to prophets and apostles and other people (men) in positions of authority? Aren’t I serving the Lord when I teach Primary, therefore calling the same promises of that verse down upon myself?
LDS_Aussie, No live commentary. With family tonight. I’ll be listening later and reporting back.
Nothing really mind blowing.
Sister Nelson – spoke about sex a lot. Was a bit creepy with all the mention of all the other people involved in your intimate relationships (God, Holy Spirit, etc). Might be its own post, actually.
Pres Nelson- spoke about the lessons we can learn from all the prophets of the restored gospel. Also advised to start tonight to read all about the laws of Christ.
ji “Would this be so bad?”
Well it all depends doesn’t it. All too often “whether by my own voice or by the voice of my servants it is the same” is taken to mean everything the servants say comes from God. Not so. Only when they are speaking the words of God is that the case – i.e. God’s words are the same whether he delivers them himself or has his servants do it. I’ve even heard some argue that God will “adopt” whatever the servants have said should they have been in error! I’m not buying that one.
Given Sister Nelson’s life experiences, while I’m sure she’s well-qualified to talk about a great many things, I’m not sure that I’d trust anything she has to say on that particular subject matter.
Sister Nelson is a marriage and family therapist and has published a number of books on intimacy. She actually is pretty well qualified to talk about sex.
Ji, “Would this be so bad?” It’s an appeal to position, and in today’s anti-authoritarian culture it’s a weak argument. It’s also incredibly easy to exploit. I had a friend who was getting into publications arguing that the church relies too heavily on the “arm of flesh” and idolizes our leaders. Every time she heard “follow the prophet, he’ll never lead you astray,” “just trust church leaders, they know best,” or “since church leaders speak for God, we need to follow their words just as we’d follow God’s word”, she became even more convinced that the church really did have a problem. Also, for people getting into uncomfortable church history, the idea of “follow the prophet, he’ll never lead us astray” begins to look questionable.
So I think of it like a doctor. Back in the day a doctor could just say, “Hey, I’m a doctor and that’s why you should trust me.” Some older docs still do that, but younger ones tend to recognize that approach doesn’t work on a lot of people. So they’ll sit and explain as much as possible what’s really going on in the body and why common internet theories are bunk, but then they’ll point patients to reliable resources and give them the right medical terms so patients can educate themselves. Millennials are flocking away from organized religion and moving toward spiritualism, but we already have quite a bit of more personal spiritual experiences built in our theology with the Light of Christ, Holy Ghost, and personal scripture study. I feel the appeal to position/organizational authority can often backfire in today’s culture.
But the scripture repeatedly encourages us to receive the Lord’s servants. I only gave three citations, but there are yet others. You and others here may refuse to receive the Lord’s servants for whatever reasons you may cite, and that is your decision, but you should be willing to admit that such a decision is contrary to our scripture.
According to the scripture, one receives the Lord by receiving His servants. Yes, I think we should listen to what they have to say, insofar as we have any desire to receive the Lord (a good objective, I would think). Any suggestion or implication that such receiving is a demand for blind obedience is unreasonable. Maybe you can help others understand what it means to receive the Lord’s servants?
Ji, you accused me of refusing to receive the Lord’s servants. In my example of the doctor, where did you see me suggest that people shouldn’t go see doctors?
Sister Nelson’s comments were all but an admission that the church endorses the practices of sex magic. Sanctification is the process whereby human beings are , through the working of the Holy Spirt, turned into holy vessels. Sister Nelson said that marital intimacy is “sanctifying.”
Sex magic (Wikipedia): Sex magic (sometimes spelled sex magick) is any type of sexual activity used in magical, ritualistic or otherwise religious and spiritual pursuits.
Sanctification is a spiritual pursuit. To use sexuality for that pursuit is sex magic.
Elder Packer, in his final address at Conferences said that procreation isn’t just one aspect of the plan of happiness…it IS the plan of happiness. “The power of procreation is not an incidental part of the plan; it is the plan of happiness…”
Mormonism is a sex cult. It has a God who IS God by virtue of the fact of his sexuality. And human beings, by wielding their own sexuality in accordance with eternal law, will also become Gods.
John, Mormons have long tied procreation and marriage to godhood. Most religious justifications I’ve seen for keeping sex within the bonds of marriage is it’s sacred character.
As far as sex cult classification, no question our early practice of polygamy was/is considered sexually deviant according to social norms. But classifying our current monogamous practices as a sex cult? That’s a stretch.
Another reasonable take on this that I believe seeks to create checks and balances in priesthood leadership is D&C 121, specifically versus 38-42. I particularly think 41 is important – no power or influence ought to be sought or maintained by virtue of the priesthood. To me that means a direct appeal from priesthood leaders that says, “Do what I say be because I am X (your husband, your bishop, stake president, 70, Apostle, whatever) – is trying to influence or assert power by virtue of priesthood office. And Amen to the priesthood of that man, no matter how well intentioned. It’s a violation of priesthood as servant. Instead, those holding priesthood offices are required to persuade through love, kindness and logic. And we have a sacred obligation to listen and consider their teachings to accept or reject them.
This is a pretty nice system. The men in the offices know that they must be able to make a loving, gospel centered argument and appeal. The membership gets the agency and responbility to vet our leaders teachings. As a leader I would find this comforting in doing a hard job, knowing that those I am trying to lead will help me not mistake my own ideas for moral truth. The moment men get power where people will just accept what they say because of their position without vetting it through their own light of Christ…that is the exact power that tends to corrupt and lead to unrighteous dominion according to these versus. Keep in mind these versus were given as a warning to Joseph and the leadership of the early Church. So they are meant exactly for men in the priesthood who are trying to do the right thing not nefarious actors.
This is a warning I believe we as a church have not been heeding and it is hurting us. My take: Ever since Benson’s 14 fundamentals, a direct repudiation of 121 as a system of priesthood governance (for which he was censured twice), has culturally taken hold of the church we have been suffering. Things like the POX don’t come about if you have to persuade people of its gospel centeredness. It gets pushed as “because we are prophets”.
I have found very few people that are persuaded by the moral logic of POX or Prop 8. I am sure that there are some that really do think these have been deeply moral acts. Most that I know that are going along are in the “yeah not persuasive to me but I follow because they are prophets or I just trust they are speaking for God and we will understand later.” The check and balance has been lost culturally except through painful losses to membership, faith crises and the like.
We would be far better off if kids marching in military step to “Follow the prophet” were not an apt symbol for the spiritual culture of the Church. It’s not only creepy but the antithesis of 121. I have listed carefully to church leaders attempts to persuade that these policies and proclomations are moral and of God. I am flatly, stupor of thought, makes reason stare, unpersuaded. However, when they speak of other things I can feel uplifted and edified. However, their continued insistance that I just follow them because of their position especially as they have invoked it about things I find honestly morally wrong, even repugnant, is poisoning the well for me. And I know I am not the only one. It looks like it is also turning off many of the youth.
Bringing 121 back for real inside the institutional church would go a long way IMHO. But who am I? Just a member of the body of Christ who isn’t Church broke.