Mormon Isaiah Date: April 20, 2023Author: Stephen R. Marsh 24 Comments How would you apply this scripture today? Share this:TwitterFacebookRedditLike this:Like Loading... Related
The first question that comes to mind is what are the teachings being neglected in this “Us” (God/Isaiah/Followers of God and/or Isaiah) vs “Them” (everyone else) framing of the question?
Isaiah is essentially saying to some of team “Us”
– You are not “Us” because you are hypocrites.
– You are not “Us” because you teach “Team Them” stuff.
– You are not “Us” because you like “Team Them” hobbies.
– You are not “Us” because you are creating your own traditions outside of “Team Us regulations/laws”.
Nephi makes similar charges against his brothers for “dancing on the boat” – we always assume the worst-case scenario (that there was more to it than that), but if I was stuck on a boat for days on end without a book I could read or other entertainment, I would probably dance too in terms of movement break and entertainment.
I guess ultimately, I don’t want to talk to Isaiah directly ever because I don’t see the world anymore in such black and white terms.
One way to apply this scripture today is when we conflate politics and religion in the church, imagining that whatever we believe politically is also reflected in the gospel, and that whatever our political opponents believe is not.
However, having stood on both sides of that fence at this point in my life, I know that it all depends on which direction you are looking.
For starters, I no longer see a distinction between “the commandments of God” and “the traditions of men.” No one has the “real” commandments or gospel—while they’re not all equally rational or healthy, all religious traditions are equally valid and come from human traditions and philosophies.
I do, however, think there’s value in aligning what crosses your lips with what’s in your heart. Integrity vs hypocrisy. For example, if you privately, “hate [a certain someone] passionately” and think of him as “a demonic force,” and then proceed to earn your living by sycophantically kissing said person’s butt on a popular news network for years, it’s quite possible you might be lacking in integrity.
Or for a more Mormon example, look no further than GC suits talking about handling money “in accordance with Church-approved budgets, accounting practices, and policies” while lying to the SEC for years on end or JS swearing under oath that he had no plural wives.
Hmm…I posted a comment a several minutes ago, but it’s not showing up again after several comments on other posts that had no issues. This is a test comment to see if it stopped working.
Did it not submit correctly or did it get sent to spam again? I apologize for posting support comments here; I don’t want to end up with a bunch of duplicate comments – how does one ping admins/mods here?
This scripture is directly applicable to the younger members of the Church. They put on a show as if they are following God, but they are really following popular culture.
One cannot follow God when when never ventures beyond the confines of a parent’s basement. Following God requires leaving a basement once in a while to serve real-life people. Slaughtering other players on World of Warcraft simply does not count.
And neither does looking up former flames in Facebook in hope of arranging a liaison at Dairy Queen. This is not service.
Indeed, the younger generation takes its moral guidance from Dua Lipa and Cardi B, all while putting on a show via Instagram that paints themselves as stalwart members. This is exactly the hypocrisy that Isaiah foretold.
JCS: Don’t you think older folks are more likely to look up old flames than younger ones? And neither is going to Dairy Queen to make it happen.
It’s been about an hour, so I’m going to try posting again. Sorry again if a near duplicate suddenly makes its way through the filters.
(Thanks anonymous grumpy person for the thumbs down on my comment about a technical issue. I look forward to an additional thumbs down on this comment as well 😂)
I think this passage is very interesting in how its message tends to be reversed when removed from its original context. As quoted, I’ve often heard it used as a rebuke for people not following the commandments to the letter and thus attempting to establish their own traditions in place of the commandments. However, when taken in context of Mark’s entire retelling of the event, the meaning shifts:
The context of this passage in Mark 7 is that Jesus was directly addressing a group of scribes and Pharisees – effectively a group of Jewish lawyers and legal scholars. He’s saying to them, “You are using your intelligence and knowledge to find legal technicalities and justifications to step around the essence of the laws and commandments, AND you’re smart enough to know it. Be better and go do some good.”
Here are a couple examples that come to mind:
1) Blessing of food before every meal. Nowhere in scripture is this a commandment of any kind, yet it’s a tradition that is applied like a law. It’s doubtful that God is worried about someone taking a bite of an unblessed sandwich, or foregoing the prayer when hosting company of mixed beliefs for dinner. The broader commandment is to be grateful to God – do that, eat your food, worry about more important things.
2) The Word of Wisdom. How much collective time has been wasted fretting over very narrow interpretations of something that was originally intended to act as guidelines? When I was in Europe there was an argument among missionaries about whether it was sinful to eat a dollop of a particularly delicious sauce for fries that happened to contain a tiny bit of whiskey on the ingredient list. HOURS were spent debating it, to the point where it was finally escalated to the mission president. The MP literally rolled his eyes and said, “Eat the sauce, it’s delicious. Stop being ridiculous and get back to work.” The mountain of french fries was certainly less healthy than a few drops of whiskey in a tablespoon of sauce anyway.
Given the full context applied to today, I think this passage still means to stop focusing on the minutiae and technicalities and focus on things that actually matter. According to Jesus there are only two real commandments after all. Let’s all be better people and go do some good in the world.
Depending on your point of view, the Isaiah scripture and its repetition in Matthew 15:8 have deep implications. I especially relate to the “teaching as truth the traditions of men” language. This practice is typically on display in force during monthly F&T meetings. While bishop, I used to dread certain people as they walked to the pulpit to dispense their own philosophical interpretations. With sweat on my brow, I kept my index finger firmly hovering over the microphone button in anticipation of the worst. It was an exercise in restraint. All topics seemed to be fair game during these meetings – from politics to women to polygamy. The worst part was the aftermath as people immediately came to my office to complain. F&T meetings are an antiquated practice that need to stop.
@John Charity Spring: Hey now, this scripture applies to far more than the pesky youths and was directly addressed to adult legal professionals of the day. The young are all trying to figure out themselves in the world, just like we all once did when we were pesky youths.
I don’t know what music you listen to, so this may or may not be applicable personally. More broadly speaking I get a kick out of every generation saying that the pop music of their youth is generally wholesome, while the current stuff is salacious.
(also, Dua Lipa is kinda fantastic)
@Josh H – Additionally, I’d say there’s nothing innately wrong about being curious with what’s going on with someone who at one time was likely the most important person to you. “Lusting after them” at a DQ while married to someone else certainly falls into the category of things Jesus advised against…
The OP didn’t give a citation (chapter and verse), and I don’t have the Wayment translation, but I think this is Mark 7:6-9. The context leading up to these words of Christ is very important (Mark 7:1-5, KJV):
“Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables. Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?”
In other words, the situation is that people in positions of power in the Church (Pharisees) were finding fault with Christ and His disciples for not following the Church tradition of washing His hands before eating. Christ’s response to this is in the OP where He basically tells the Pharisees, “You find fault with me for not following Church traditions (of men), but I find fault with you for prioritizing following Church traditions over the actual commandments of God.” In other words, the tradition of washing of hands before eating was a manmade construct that the Pharisees found very important. However, Christ chastises them for meticulously washing their hands before eating while ignoring the much more important commandments of God. In fact, in the verses immediately following the quote from the OP, Christ gives them an example of how the Pharisees have created their own manmade law that supersedes God’s law (Mark 7:10-13):
“For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.”
In other words, God gave the Church a commandment that children should honor their parents by making sure that they are financially taken care of. Christ is chastising the Church for creating its own rule that allows Church members to circumvent this law by dedicating their wealth to Corban (i.e., the Church/temple) instead of supporting their parents.
I can think of many potential examples of this type of behavior by the Church. Of course, Church leaders today claim that they essentially always act through inspiration/revelation, so many of them (and their apologists) would argue that Christ’s warning from these verses simply doesn’t apply to them, but a review of Church history and my personal moral compass makes it pretty clear to me that modern Church leaders often create their own rules to circumvent the will of God.
Perhaps the most pressing current example of Church leaders creating their own rules to circumvent the commandments of God in the last 50 years is all of the rules the Church has created related to gender, sexuality, and the family. On the one hand, we have Christ’s commandment to love God and love others, and on the other hand we have a continual stream of rules and proclamations from Church leaders on how we can ignore Christ’s admonition and actually not love others. All of these rules seem to just originate from the personal sensibilities of elderly, straight men who cling to the traditions of their youth–exactly what Christ warned against in the OP. Some examples:
1. LGBTQ individuals must be celibate or cannot participate in Mormonism. How on earth are we loving our LGBTQ brothers and sisters with this sort of rule in place? What is known about how the Family Proclamation came about just seems like such a knee-jerk reaction to changes in society where Church leaders clung to their own traditions and created really bad rules to allow the hating of LGBTQ individuals.
2. The POX. Boy, if there is a better example of modern Church leaders, like the Pharisees, creating rules to avoid following God’s commandment to love everyone, including children, I don’t know what it is.
3. Fighting against the ERA. Church leaders again cling to traditional, unequal treatment of women rather than lovingly treating all of humanity as equals.
4. Refusing to treat women as equals in the Church.
5. Not allowing female seminary teachers to continue working once they have a child.
6. Denying birth control coverage to Church employees under the Church DMBA health plan.
The Church once basked in the glory of “defending the family”–many outsiders respected the Church for its strong stance on these issues. Society has moved on, and the Church now looks worse and worse for taking these same positions. Church leaders and their defenders say this is because “the world” has become more evil, but it must continue to enforce its rules, however unpopular, since they are the will of God. However, it appears to me more like the Church actually made up these Pharisaical rules on its own and is now looking really bad because society has learned from and is repenting of its past mistakes on these issues.
To follow up on my previous comment, I can imagine a modern-day scenario where Christ is here on the earth. He gains some disciples, some of which are women and LGBTQ individuals. Because they have no Church buildings available, Christ starts holding and presiding over non-Church-sanctioned sacrament meetings at a local Salt Lake City park each Sunday. I can picture Oaks, Packer, and Bednar getting wind of these ever-more-popular events and popping in to visit one Sunday (probably in large part so that they can figure out who needs to be ex’d). They are shocked to see that Christ is letting a woman run the meeting, and half of those blessing and passing the sacrament are women with also a few LGBTQ individuals are mixed in.
I can imagine Oaks, incredulous, asking Christ, “Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but allow women to run meetings and gays to bless and pass the sacrament?” and Christ essentially responding with the verses quoted in the OP, “…Your Family Proclamation honors me with your lips, but your heart is far from me…You depart from the commandments of God and follow the tradition of men…When did I ever tell you to treat women and LGBTQ individuals as second-class citizens in my Church?”
@Mountain Climber – It’s worth noting that for #6 on your list there has been movement as of this January – the SL Tribune reported on it on Jan 28.
For #2, I genuinely think this was a sad product of the mental deterioration of Pres. Monson. It was harsh, divisive, and unnecessary…and after watching some of my own family members suffer from dementia and deteriorate to shadows of their true selves, I (at least personally) try to allow some degree of forgiveness here.
I’m glad it was walked back after his death. There was obviously some time that elapsed after his death, but I imagine there was a great deal of time spent by the Q15 discussing the topic…plus surely some amount of time to try to be respectful to Pres. Monson (whether others would agree with that or not). That said, there is plenty of road left to travel on that front.
@The Pirate Priest — Yes, the Church finally back down on #6, and they backed down on #5 as well in 2014.
As far as #2 goes, I don’t know that we know the full story of how the POX was enacted under Monson in 2015. It seems unlikely that the POX being enacted just a few months after the SCOTUS Obergfell ruling was just a coincidence. My understanding is that Monson had severe dementia at that point, so it is possible that the POX was Monson’s doing, which is how Nelson said it happened, but I’m pretty skeptical of some of Nelson’s reporting of events in this case as well as others. I suspect it is very likely that the next-in-line-to-the-prophet dynamic duo of Nelson and Oaks may have pushed Monson to “approve” the POX in whatever way he was still capable of approving anything at that point in his life. The fact that the POX was enacted under Monson may have made things significantly easier for Nelson to reverse it when he became the prophet. I’m not sure if Nelson would have managed to officially reverse himself had the POX been enacted under his reign.
It just feels like almost everything that the Church has done ever since it started emphasizing families/sexuality/gender 50 years or so ago ended up just being flat out wrong. When I was much younger and these societal changes were much newer, I felt I was so lucky to be in God’s Church where we were working to “save the family”. Looking back at the history, it really looks like Church leaders were just reacting to changes in society that they weren’t comfortable with, so they simply decided to embrace the “traditions of men” while declaring it to be the will of God.
Hmm, who ordained Sunday Sabbath? Man?
An argument could be made that the Pharisees didn’t believe the prophets. The Savior even tells them that if they truly believed Moses they would believe him as well. And in light of that reprimand I can see a similar scenario today–wherein the Lord has spoken by the mouth of his modern prophets but we don’t believe them. Which, as a corollary, would mean that we don’t believe the Savior either.
And so, if what I’m suggesting is within the ballpark of truth it would mean that our first order of business should be to learn whether or not the current apostles are the Lord’s anointed.
Jack, you appear to be just parroting the orthodox position on modern prophets repeated over and over again in Mormon church services on a weekly basis: our Church is special because we have modern prophets that communicate with God in ways that other people generally do not, so Church members ought to pretty much always believe and do whatever these prophets teach.
It seems like most W&T bloggers and commenters are very familiar with this position, but perhaps you believe that you’re saving some lost souls that happened to wander into my comments here by reminding them of the orthodox position. If you are one of these lost souls and are reading my comments, please, on behalf of Jack, go back to to the Church’s website and read some approved materials: conference talks, the Family Proclamation, etc.
I’m not claiming any special revelations or knowledge here. I admit I could be totally wrong, and there is some (very) remote possibility out there that everything the Q15 is teaching right now is totally right and perfectly reflects God’s will. That said, I do have a conscience, and I feel deep inside that the Church’s positions on some of the things I mentioned above are just wrong. I also have a brain, and a bunch of things that prophets taught and did throughout Church history just plain doesn’t make any sense. I’ve shared some reasons for that on this blog in the past, but for a quick sample:
1. One of the only people I baptized on my mission loved the Church and actively participated for a number of years after baptism. He was a senior in high school when he was baptized, and I didn’t know he was gay (I’m not sure he knew he was gay either). He ended up marrying a woman, quickly divorced for obvious reasons, and had to stop participating in the Church as he is now married to a man. The Church didn’t have a place for my good friend.
2. My child’s best friend in high school is gay. He wanted to go to BYU, but ended up going to an elite Ivy League school instead because he wanted to date (without sex) boys in college like his straight Mormon friends can date girls. The Church didn’t have a place for my child’s best friend.
3. My mother has a master’s degree and wanted to have a career. She chose to stay home because of prophets. She now regrets doing that, especially now that prophets aren’t teaching that any longer. The Church coerced my mom into living her life in a way that probably wasn’t the best for her or her family, and I don’t think God necessarily wanted her to stay home.
In my comments that you responded to, I am indeed suggesting that the Q15, in some cases, appear to be acting like the Pharisees in the scripture quoted in the OP. It appears to me that at times that it is the Q15, like the Pharisees, that doesn’t believe in Christ’s teachings. Is there any reason the Q15 can’t at times be guilty of pharisaical behavior just like the rest of us, or does the fact that they have been ordained to the office of apostle/prophet preclude that possibility?
There are a number of possibilities for your ballpark of truth:
1. The orthodox position–prophets are essentially infallible (lip service frequently given to fallibility, but no one ever mentions when a prophet was wrong, so effectively infallible). I know this is essentially your position from multiple previous interactions with you, but this possibility seems extremely unlikely to me given Church history and my own moral compass.
2. Mormon prophets are chosen by God, but God lets them make some relatively minor mistakes sometimes.
3. Mormon prophets are chosen by God, but God lets them make some pretty big mistakes sometimes, like the priesthood/temple ban, for example.
4. Mormon prophets are kind of randomly chosen, but God helps them guide the Church in the same way he helps the rest of us.
5. Mormon prophets are kind of randomly chosen, and they are just as good as anyone else at knowing God’s will on any given matter.
6. God doesn’t even exist, so why are we talking about God’s prophets in the first place?
I once very firmly believed #1. I have many reasons to now believe that #1 is almost certainly wrong. In fact, I would go so far as to say that #1 is approaching heresy, as it suggests that the words and actions of prophets are the same as the words and actions of Christ. See the controversy around Hamilton’s recent BYU devotional and Haynie’s recent GC talk to see what I’m talking about. So, no, at least for me, I don’t think that my “first order of business” is to find out whether #1 is correct or not as you appear to be suggesting. Been there, done that.
I do appreciate your participation, but I am not planning to respond again to you on this particular thread. I can’t disprove your point of view, however unlike I think it is, because we’re talking about things that really can’t be proven or disproven through logical reason (they are spiritual in natural and involve supernatural beliefs that, by definition can’t be 100% empirically disproven) I think we can get close, but we can never get all the way there. I don’t want to go back and forth on what I believe is the tiny possibility that #1 is right, so like I said, I am not going to respond again on this thread.
@Garee Braun – I mean technically yes, Sunday Sabbath was made by man. The Sabbath was always on Saturday until some first-century Christians liked Sunday better. I’m just being snarky though 😉.
Could you please expound on your comment?
@Jack: Many of the Pharisees probably did believe the prophets, they just expected something entirely different. Many jews contemporary with Jesus were expecting the Messiah to be a military leader. Some (like the Essenes) believed that the Messiah would be a spiritual leader who would kick off a new era of peace and righteousness. Others (like the Sadducees) may have been skeptical of the idea of a Messiah altogether.
I’d say that the Lord chooses his prophets knowing full-well that they will make mistakes — most of them relatively minor — because they’re human. And I’d add that, as time rolls out ever more swiftly in these latter-days, many folks will believe that the Lord’s prophets have made some very grievous mistakes because they (those who are critical of the prophets) don’t understand that society has never changed so rapidly as it does today. Because what may have been appropriate counsel at one time — not so long ago — may no longer be appropriate now. And by the same token, some folks have difficulty with what may seem like outmoded counsel — because of the rate of change in society — when it is still deemed appropriate by the apostles. And so, in all of these goings back and forth on this particular issue–I think we need to remember that we live in wacky times. Never has society changed so quickly as it has today–and the rate of change is increasing. Joseph Smith had more in common with folks who live a thousand years before him than we do with those who lived a hundred years before us–or even less.
I’ve seen many people (on the blogs) liken the current leadership of the church to the Pharisees of the past. And perhaps the reason for that is because they both occupy a place of established leadership. Even so, I think there’s a lot to be gained by likening the current apostles to those who led the church after the Savior’s ascension–both in the new world and the old.
The Pirate Priest,
I agree. Even so it was the Savior who called them out on their unbelief of Moses’ writings. And perhaps he was suggesting something akin to what you’re saying–that they believed in what they hoped the scriptures meant rather than in what they were really saying.
Having reviewed the history of Saturday to Sunday, one haas only a few options:
1. There is no justification for the change other than what appears to be general (but not all) Christian tradition sine the first century after Christ based on a desire to accommodate Sun worshipers and distinguish a difference with the Jews.
2. Heavenly Father changed the Sabbath for which if we are honest with ourselves there is non biblical support (even early LDS leadership admitted such).
3. It makes no difference which day one rests upon. Say, let’s make it Tuesday! Our Father could care less.
Sun worship occurred on Saturday, the day of the gate of lead, the first step towards heaven.