I was reviewing things I’d read and the point came out that we often believe in people or scriptures without believing what they say.
There is a popular LDS book about Believing Christ. Not believing in Christ but rather actually believing things that Christ had to say.
That got me thinking about scriptures and which ones we actually believe as to what they say.
This is the one that comes to mind.
34 Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?D&C 121 35-42
35 Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson—
36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
37 That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
38 Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God.
39 We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
40 Hence many are called, but few are chosen.
41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
Do we believe we or others can maintain power or influence by virtue of the priesthood? Or that influence is only maintained by kindness, gentleness, long-suffering and persuasion?
Do we believe that other approaches are unrighteous?
Do we believe that attempting to cover or hide sins or to act other than in gentleness means that God is being rejected?
How much do we believe in what D&C 121 says and how much of that shapes our expectation of how our interactions at church and hone should go?
What do you think?
What other scriptures come to mind as ones you believe in what they say?
If we believed D&C 121, then we would *immediately* know that D&C 132 is not of-God and we wouldn’t have bothered studying it the very next week in CFM.
Here’s another one we don’t believe: “All are alike unto God.”
This section is one my favorite things that JS ever wrote.
The way I read it: the priesthood can’t be used to compel anyone to do anything. Any unrighteous dominion exercised in the name of the priesthood is null and void in God’s eyes. Any good things that come to us in this life come of their own free will “without compulsory means.” Nothing happens in the kingdom of God without consent. The powers of heaven only show up in response to love, kindness, and humility.
Which makes it all the more tragic that JS himself couldn’t live up to these beautiful ideals. He repeatedly tried to leverage his priesthood/prophethood for his own gratification—lying under oath, threatening Emma with destruction if she didn’t embrace his adultery, playing the “angel with a drawn sword” card, and destroying a printing press to cover his sins. By the standard he himself wrote, he should have lost whatever connection to the divine he had and none of us should be required to recognize the legitimacy of his priesthood.
The church today also fails to live up to this scripture—sequestering unflattering documents, covering up scandals and enabling sexual predators among the leadership, and using worthiness interviews to threaten us all with church discipline and Sad Heaven if we don’t follow the prophet. Compulsion is the source code of how the church is run today.
So, in answer to your question, no. I don’t believe we, as a church, “believe in what D&C 121 says.”
As a child sexual abuse victim, I had issues trusting men, especially men who demanded my trust rather than taking the hours it would take talking and interacting with me to EARN my trust. So, the bishop who demanded my trust “because [he was] the bishop] “ and several times went behind my back to discuss me as if I was a small child with my husband, he actually got angry when I said that I needed time before I trusted him enough to disclose details about my childhood abuse. Then there was the bishop who told me I was a worse sinner than my rapist father because I was “unforgiving” when the truth was that I had never been given half a chance to heal, then got angry when I flinched when he touched me. Yeah, I would say they were trying to exercise their priesthood position by being set apart as bishop rather than by patience and love.
Or maybe we should talk about a certain member of the 12 who demands that the audience stand when he enters the room and remain standing until he sits down. He is after a grand show of respect rather than trying to earn respect, and demanding respect because of his position of authority (as he supposes) rather than loving the people he is supposed to be Shepard over.
Or maybe we should talk about an institutional church that demands 1/10 of the widows total income before she even buys food, and then of course isn’t grateful if she waits to see if she has a mite left over at the end of the month and then gives all that she has in her bank account to the church. Or a church that cares more about the rich alumni who donate to BYU than it cares about the LGBT students who go there. Of course then there is “we do not apologize” even when they are caught red handed in racism, or other forms of bigotry. Or maybe we should talk about amen to the priesthood of those men when they sit on a hoard of 150 billion dollars, then claim that they are not a wealthy church when poor people beg for a source of drinkable water.
Sorry to get off the subject but Kirkstall wins the “understatement of the day” award. He’s correct…Joseph Smith tried to leverage the priesthood for his own gratification and advantage. But it goes way beyond that. Not only did JS leverage the power and authority of the priesthood, he invented the restoration of such priesthood.
How many TBMs know that we don’t have an actual date for the restoration of the M Priesthood. And why is that? Why did JS not mention the visitation of Peter, James, and John until many years later? The first time anyone in the Church body heard of this restoration was in 1834 at a Kirtland High Council meeting. Yet this restoration supposedly took place in 1829. Go back and look at journals of JS’s contemporaries and nobody knew about this restoration even between 1829 and 1834. But in Kirtland, JS’s power and authority was being challenged so time to retrofit the narrative.
It’s one thing to leverage the power and authority that you have. It’s quite another to invent said power and authority.
@Josh H, agree. I think it’s crazy that people are getting more hung up over multiple accounts of the first vision when this is such a more glaring problem and foundational to the Church’s claims of exclusive, exclusionary priesthood authority. I don’t know why it doesn’t get discussed more.
I fixated on verse 34. The focus there is on being “called” or being “chosen.” And unfortunately, “priesthood” has been mostly understood and taught a synonym for power, authority, rights, stewardship, justification from God.
We would be far better off if “priesthood” as a gospel concept was less on those structural facets, and more as the total embodiment of the virtues described in verses 41-42.
Ivy, “But the church leaders telling people to get vaccinated is clearly unrighteous dominion”
The church is urging people to get vaccinated, it isn’t enforcing it at all. Same thing with masks. It is urging people to wear masks at church. It isn’t enforcing it. I’ve never heard of any punitive action taken against someone for not getting vaccinated. It isn’t asking people to show proof of vaccination to enter a chapel and participate in a meeting. How exactly is this in any way overstepping bounds? I’m curious. What do think about the church asking people to do anything, Ivy? What about adultery? Is it wrong for the church to ask people not to commit adultery? Plus, if someone confesses to committing adultery to a bishop, it is highly likely that some sort of punitive action will be taken in the form of disfellowshipment.
Josh and Elisa, I agree there is a problem in the historical record about the restoration of priesthood. But if it were entirely manufactured out of thin air for self-serving purposes only, would it also produce scripture that says things like “No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;”
How do you square that? Similarly, if JS’s other revelations are all created for his own selfish reasons, why do they sometimes criticize him and call him to repentance? I’m interested to hear your thoughts.
Your Food Allergy: Here’s my quick answer…Joseph Smith was clever enough to understand that he needed to at least pretend to be humble. So yes, you’ll see D&C references in which the Lord chastises him. And you’ll read scriptures that admonish him and the rest of us to be gentle and meek. That doesn’t mean he was operating that way.
Here’s an illustration: We know that JS married many women who were younger than he was (lookout of you were working in his home). But he also married older women who were not as desirable. It is my view that the older women were used to cover for him while he primarily pursued younger ones. Likewise, it’s difficult to criticize him for being self-serving and power hungry when he writes the quote you referenced above about the priesthood. Only Kim Jong Un claims to be virtually perfect.
@your food allergy, I don’t claim to fully understand his motivations and I don’t think he was a totally evil, selfish person. I do think the narrative of the priesthood restoration is probably a fabrication / myth and that Peter / James / John probably did not appear in person to give him some kind of special priesthood authority that men in the Church now have and women don’t (and that black people didn’t have until 1978), and I think he created that story to buttress claims to authority when he started being challenged by other Church leaders. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t want to create a reasonable authority structure with limits, including that the power be exercised righteously. That said, he seems to have exempted himself from 121 given some of the actions outlined above like section 132, lying under oath, destroying the printing press, etc. etc. etc. It’s not uncommon for leaders of all sorts of organizations to think they are above playing by rules that apply to everybody else, including rules that they themselves wrote.
“Compulsion is the source code of how the church is run today.”
Something I’m hearing more and more often at church is, “We are a church of assignments, not volunteers.” I believe this mindset leads otherwise well-intentioned people to engage in behaviors that exercise control over others. I’ve seen compulsion in many forms in my corner of Zion and I think a “church of assignments” is at the root of much of it.
Leaving priesthood aside for a minute, I took this very much to heart as a mother. I tried to put myself in my kids’ place and feel how much power I had in their lives. 121 was a good reminder to be careful with it.
(Of course, I didn’t always succeed.)
Thanks for your comment.
Not challenging you, just a request for more information. What I’ve always heard, (admittedly against the cultural background of, we serve where we are called) is, “this is a church of volunteers, and we thank you for your service.”
When I have turned down a calling or an assignment, I have never gotten any blowback. Then again, I am known for mixing the service I do give with crankiness, and leaders get gun-shy about someone who stands up to them.
If what you are saying is the beginning of a trend, that is distressing. If you share names with me, I promise to pelt their front doors with rotten tomatoes.
During a bishopric stint a few years ago, my experience was that the bishop wouldn’t compel any calling, but he did hold a grudge. If you didn’t take the calling he gave you, expect to be blacklisted for a while from any meaningful assignment. Of course, YMMV.
@Taiwan Missionary When I was in the bishopric most recently (~6-10 years ago), we had a high counselor who came to almost every bishopric meeting (highly unusual)and insisted that he give input on everything from callings to ward goals. If we reported that a person had turned down a calling, especially a Melchizedek priesthood holder, he would be upset that we wouldn’t play the “oath and covenant of the priesthood card” and insist they take the calling. He was also constantly trying to make us assign families to have the missionaries over for dinner, rather than pass a sheet around asking for sign-ups (same for going on splits with missionaries). This was at a time when the MP was also insisting that dinners with missionaries be at 5 pm, a time when almost none of our members were home from work. In the HC’s mind, every member with a temple recommend had agreed to do whatever we asked them to do. It was one if the most unpleasant times dealing with a HC being in our meetings I ever had. After 2 years, he was finally replaced with one of the most loving and non-authoritative HC I know. So mileage definitely varies.
Most recently, I deal with this in terms of emails about church cleaning. The couple that is in charge is one that I have a lot of respect for, but they seemed to have been told the same thing in terms of just assigning people dates to clean. Back when I still went to the LDS church, I would do it or try to exchange if needed. Now that I haven’t been in an LDS church for more than 18 months, I don’t even bother to decline, I just ignore the email entirely. But I feel bad for the few of my friends that do go as assigned, because they have to do all the work with a skeleton crew. One friend’s husband refuses to go now because of the $100B thing. He is like, the church can afford to hire people to clean the toilets. But his sweet wife still feels duty-bound to go when assigned. Its definitely not an approach I have seen with the United Methodist Church. They seem to recognize people can legitimately feel “called” to do something and ask for volunteers.
Well, 10AC and Chadwick have given me good examples. Distressing, but good examples.
To survive in the Church, one has to learn when it is okay to say no. When I served in a Bishopric in Maryland, our Bishop was bent out of shape that one man turned down a calling as Ward Mission Leader, which is a time-intensive calling. The man’s wife was fighting stage-four cancer and handling it fairly well, but he did not want an intensive calling, and simply said no. Then his wife abruptly died six months later right in the middle of a treatment; and I said to my Bishop, now we understand why he felt prompted to turn down the calling. The Bishop, a rigid man of limited imagination, did not like the point I made. He had an attitude of Church callings taking precedence over family. Pardon me for saying it so nastily, but there are clods everywhere, and they do exist in the Church.
During my late wife’s protracted health decline of several years, I became very good at saying no to requests I felt I could not handle. Fortunately, I never got any blowback.
One must set the parameters of his or her own involvement with Church, or one will regret it. I also found this to be true at work, and the Great Pandemic seems to have started in gear the Great Resignation. People are re-evaluating what is worthwhile to dedicate their efforts to.
I think many Church leaders are yearning to restore activity levels to pre-Pandemic states, but I am skeptical that will happen. I think that as a Church, a people, a culture, we are figuring out new normal.
Section 121 was something I had in mind often. Although I failed to live up to it quite regularly, I really did try.
Maybe that is why I get genuinely upset when men (and the occasional RS of YW president) use their positions and authority to coerce compliance and rain down shame if they don’t get it.