"Seek out the company of those who are searching for the truth, but doubt those who claim to have found it!"

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

False LDS Traditions - Authority

False Traditions – Authority

Mostly posting this because I’m tired at looking at my other post while waiting for Mr. WFZ to update his blog, but also because I think it’s an interesting subject worthy of some study and debate.  In reading a quote recently about the perils of “false traditions” and in reading the scriptures which tell us “false traditions” take away our light and knowledge, I began to think about it in relation to something I’ve been studying and reading in my free time.

D&C 93:39 says it this way, without using the word “false”, though clearly it’s referring to “false” traditions:
39 And that awicked one cometh and btaketh away light and truth, through cdisobedience, from the children of men, and because of the dtradition of their fathers.
I think one of the biggest “false traditions”, passed on down through the generations, and one we lean heavily upon is our claims to “authority”.  Whether it be through our blessings, our preachings, missionary work, general conference talks or whatever…we’re taught to rely heavily on the fact that, thanks to Joseph Smith, God’s “authority” had been restored.  That, in turn, serves to imply that our arguments, whatever they may be, are superior and the “right” ones, no matter what.  No matter the logic, it ends with one side of an debate professing to hold “authority” and if that entity holds “authority”, or a person within that entity holds the right “title”, then their argument is correct.  The truth of the matter is the cacophony of our appeals to authority are shooting beyond the mark…

“Well intentioned and devout followers of a false tradition rejected Him [Christ] solely because they trusted in the traditions handed down to them.  They wrongly believed God would never send someone to tell them anything important unless he were to occupy a position of authority among them.  And so they rejected our Lord because He was not in the hierarchy.  With that rejection they also forfeited their own salvation.”
Take, for instance, John 8:9 and Matthew 21:23-27.  These are examples of the way authority was championed and used as a support and buttress used to control and grant support to the scribes and Pharisees in their attempts to control the church of their day.

Today, we’re not much different.  We give more weight to a comment from a general authority than we do a regular, inspired man, and certainly rarely find ourselves quoting from that regular guy…especially because that person will hold much less sway with the person we’re talking with, if only because he/she isn’t a household name.  Instead, we read talks from general authorities and take them as scripture – regardless of a witness from the spirit – and use them to buttress and prove our points.  If something hasn’t been uttered by a prophet or apostle in this dispensation, then, as the argument goes, it’s either something that “isn’t important to your salvation” or something that borders on the fringes of the gospel…an area best avoided at all times…or too mysterious for us to seek after.

If, however, an apostle (a “favorite” apostle is even better) says X or Y, then we automatically accept X or Y and use it – especially if it’s the most recent proclamation on that topic – to prove our points and discussions.  Instead of relying on truth from wherever it comes, we rely on positions, callings and an institution to tell us what truth is.
“(Matt 21:23-27) … ‘by what authority doest thou these things?’ For those who have no connection with heaven, authority is always everything.  Once they establish they have ‘authority’ the debate is over, so far as such people are concerned.  They never learn that the rights of the priestly authority are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven; and when they have no connection to heaven they have no authority.”
To show this point from a scriptural point of view, we have Joseph Smith who described himself as one who “frequently fell into errors, and displayed … the foibles of human nature” (JS-H 1:28), Enoch who described himself as “but a lad, and all the people hate me; for I am slow of speech; wherefore am I thy servant?” (Moses 6:31).  We also have the examples of relative unknowns – Abinadi, Samuel the Lamanite, etc., and many others.  Simple, average men striving individually to find their path of truth, coming from outside the hierarchies of the church to call the people to repentance.
“(Numbers 12:6) … This foreshadowed the many chosen prophets sent between the time of Moses and the coming of Jesus Christ.  During that time very few of the prophets came as presiding authorities, and were often not form the priestly tribe of Levi.  The New Testament account begins with a lone, obscure priest, cycling through his duties at the Temple, and to his surprise, encountering a vision of the Lord’s angel, Gabriel.  It wasn’t Annas, nor Caiaphus, nor any of the Chief Priests or notable scribes or lawyers.  Rather it was an obscure, elderly priest chosen from outside the hierarchy to whom the Lord “made Himself known.”  Mortal man is here to be tested.  The test is not whether they can conform to the expectations of a broad, mainstream, self-congratulating “chosen” people.  The test is far more individual than that.  It is a lonely quest to find the Chosen One of Israel.  Those who really find Him, not an imaginary version of the Living God, but actually meet the Risen Lord, the Savior of mankind, generally do not rely at all upon their chosen status.  Rather they are usually somewhat at odds with the chosen mainstream.”
The more I reflect on the matter, the more I think that we, as a body, are trending towards the same proclivities, weaknesses, traits and personalities of the scribes and Pharisees.  One of their great “false traditions” was assuming that the hierarchy was an end-all – all debates and matters of scriptural, or any for that matter, significance originated from within this hierarchy.  The scribes and Pharisees loved the attention, their high seats in the synagogues, being greeted in the market, the bests seats at the feasts and certainly loved the power they had at being the policy makers and scriptural wizards to whom everyone would come for a doctrinal interpretation…are we really any different than they were (see Luke 11:43; Luke 20:46)?
“They [scribes, Pharisees, etc.] learned to practice fanaticism.  They resented any challenge to their rights and authority.  They learned to defend their claims of righteousness.  … Too many historic indignities had made them resent any trespass onto their remaining turf.  So they resorted to claiming they had “authority” and that was enough.  God “told them” to do what they did.  Their “traditions” were handed down from holy sources and were beyond being subject to any questioning.  However, when a religious leader is one of God’s true messengers, his message will never rely upon a claim of authority as reason to follow him.  Indeed, true messengers always understand that no power or influence can or ought to be asserted because of their authority.  The words of truth alone are sufficient (see D&C 121:41-42).  Their testimony has authority which transcends any institutional trappings.  When there is no Spirit which animates the messenger, then he knows his voice is weak.  Because of an internal recognition of this weakness, these religious leaders always buttress their words with claims to priestly authority.  This claim of priestly authority empowers them to impose their will upon others.  This is one of the reasons it is so abhorrent to “take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain,” which was included as one of the Ten Commandments.  Whenever someone proclaims their own agenda in the name of the Lord they take His name in vain.  It is not swearing, but rather when one claims to speak from the Lord when they do not, that violates the command against vainly using the Lord’s name.”
This last quote encapsulates this idea…of how our false traditions set up stakes around what we accept as truth and inspiration and revelation.  The current mainstream LDS belief is that if an idea doesn’t originate from within the hierarchy, from a calling that has the title flashed across our TV sets 2x/year of “Elder” or “Apostle” or “President”, then it’s not truth and we are to reject it…which is, if I may submit, a false tradition we hold to with everything we have…all we have to do is go to any LDS oriented forum or blog and 99% of the support for any argument is a statement by someone within the LDS institution and with a title of either Elder or President accompanying his name.

“Christ’s message is his authority.  His words are what distinguish His true ministers from false ones He never sent.  Anyone teaching His truth should be recognized as His messenger.  He taught this to Moroni.  Those who will receive Christ in any generation do so because they hear and recognize His words (see Ether 4:12).  Anyone who will not believe in His words, no matter who He sends to speak them, will not believe in Christ or His Father.  Those who trust only institutional sources of truth, whether they are Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, or Latter-day Saint, believe in an institution, and do not believe in Christ.  The ability to individually recognize His words distinguishes those who are saved from those who are lost.”
As with those who were present during Christ’s ministry, our pathways are intersecting even today and our decision is likewise similar with what they had to choose:
“…darkness can take hold of any people.  When it does they are inevitably led to take offense when the Lord (or any messenger sent by Him) walks in the light.  Darkness and light are always two different paths.  They are incompatible.  The people hearing Christ’s sermon at this time were required to choose between everything they had been taught all their lives and what Christ was teaching.  They were God’s chosen people, led by leaders chosen by God.  They were taught respect for the priestly authorities of their society by reading the scriptures, which assured them they were God’s “chosen people,” and by observing the traditions of their fathers.  They were led by recognized leaders, chosen in an established system of succession, on the one hand, and then this Man from Nazareth, lacking any sort of credentials, on the other, asking them to “come follow” Him.  Even though they had shouted “Hosanna!” at His arrival the day before, this sermon (Matt. 23) demanded they reject the established authorities in order to follow Him.”
You may have noticed that none of these quotes (those italicized and indented) have a name, book or reference and you may have wondered why.  This was done on purpose and certainly not in an attempt to deceive.  It should serve as a reminder of our reliance on titles, quotes and “authority.”  Would these quotes and statements mean more to you – and carry more weight in your mind – if it was your favorite author, your favorite general authority, your favorite apostle/prophet, or even if it was just from someone you respected for that matter?  Is the authority in the name and title, or the message?

Or, conversely, do they stand alone as truth…come from whence it may?

1 comment:

  1. I believe that those who found Jesus were struck by His words, not by His claims of authority or lineage.

    I think I may know your common man author.