President Monson opened the conference with the announcement of five new temples. From a scriptural perspective, building temples is considered the ‘works of men.’ (See 3 Nephi 27:10-11, 23). A church based on the works of men shall ‘have joy in their works for a season’ but then will be hewn down. The foundation of strength in the church should not be in bricks and mortar but in the efforts to bring people unto Christ.
He also cited that missionary work is an obligation for the young men of the church. When did this become an ‘obligation?’ Was it just recently or should it apply to all of us? Would President Monson care to explain why he was exempt from this obligation? Of course, back in his day, missionary work was not considered a requirement of the body of the church. I do suggest that this is somewhat hypocritical to place an obligation on others that we ourselves did not complete.
When I went back to the lds.org site this morning to make sure I heard his words correctly, I found that the morning session began, not with the words of President Monson but with Elder Holland. What happened there?
Elder Holland’s words on gratitude were timely and worth an emphasis. We live in day when the ‘love of men shall wax cold.’ I have encountered many who are not grateful but feel entitlement. The people of King Benjamin did not receive the baptism of fire until they expressed humility and gratitude for what God had given them.
Sister Wixom reminded us that we are to ‘hold tight to the Iron Rod.’ The Book of Mormon tells us in 1 Nephi 11:25 that the ‘rod of iron…was the word of God.’ If one searches the Book of Mormon for the phrase ‘word of God.’ The first reference in the index to the entry of ‘word of God/word of the Lord’ is 1 Nephi 2:3 where we read of Lehi being ‘obedient to the word of the Lord.’ The word of the Lord, in this case, was personal revelation received in a dream.
Later in the same chapter, verse 13, we read that Laman and Lemuel did not ‘believe that Jerusalem, that great city, could be destroyed according to the words of the prophets.’ It is interesting to note that in this chapter, both the word of God and the words of the prophets are cited. I would strongly suggest that the ‘word of God’ applies specifically to personal revelation and that this is differentiated in the First Nephi from the scriptures which represent the ‘words of the prophets.’ We are told to hold fast to the rod – that rod being personal revelation.
Sister Wixom also recited the story of a youngster’s soccer match where the spectators formed a ‘victory tunnel’ for both the winners and the losers. Is there value in teaching our children that it doesn’t matter whether you win or lose, you will get the same treatment? Wasn’t that the plan of Lucifer to make sure that we all got back to the Father, winners and losers?
Elder Costa told us of his prayers to receive confirmation that Joseph Smith was a prophet. He talked of how he had read of the history of Joseph Smith and prayed after each paragraph. He said that the Lord ‘gave me the assurance that Joseph Smith was his prophet’ and went on to say that because he received this answer, ‘I know that all of his successors are prophets, too.’ Does this mean that if I prayed to gain an assurance that Peter, James and John were prophets, that all of their successors are prophets, also? (Wouldn’t I be a Catholic, then?) Can one assume that because the church started out correctly that it will always remain so? The latter day scriptures are replete with warnings of the circle of apostasy and prophesy of the rejection of the gospel. Are we so proud as a people that we believe we are exempt from this path?
Much of Elder Costa’s address was taken from a 1980 talk by Ezra Taft Benson at BYU on obedience to the prophets (The talk is found at http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=6751). As I remember, this original talk was quite controversial and there was talk that President Kimball asked Benson to apologize to the twelve for his words. Of the points that Costa reiterated, here are some of them. Living prophets are more vital than the scriptures, living prophets are more important than dead prophets, the prophet will never lead the church astray. We must make our own decisions on this but for me, I cannot flush the scriptures because a ‘prophet’ has provided a new direction in a talk. If such is the case, why wouldn’t it be called revelation and added to the canon of scripture? I believe that the scriptures provide an anchor with whch to assess whether purported revelation is consistent with the current word of God. Giving man the ability to replace scripture is exactly what led to the apostasy in the meridian of time.
All living prophets became dead prophets, so the words we hear from prophets today will soon become the words of dead prophets. I have come to be very sensitive to this idea. Can we assume that the further away we get from the restoration the more ‘truth’ we have? Could it also be possible that the more likely scenario is that we stray from the ‘truth’ over time? As we see today, can’t we be tossed to and fro by the words of men?
The most deflating talk to me had to be that of Elder Christofferson where he talked of the law of consecration as a celestial law that can be applied to life here and now. He identified five elements of a consecrated life, including purity, work, respect for one’s physical body, service and integrity. What I heard was a redefinition of the law of consecration. We were presented with the idea that the law of consecration as it applies to us here and now is not a structure of a community of God, but a set of personal expectations.
We have seen the idea of the gathering to Zion replaced with the idea that we can build the kingdom of God wherever we are. Zion is now all the world, not a specific place. With this talk, we are now to accept consecration of all we have, something to which we covenant in the temple, relegated to a set of personal objectives. Congratulations, the law of consecration no longer requires you to give your wealth and riches to the kingdom, just purity and integrity.
In the same vein that Hinckley transfigured the gospel into six be’s, we now have the basis of a Zion community reduced to five elements of personal progress. I have a hard time accepting these ideas, so fundamental to the latter day scriptures, can be redefined and restrained to the individual rather than the community of God.
We have lost our way. The central theme of the restoration was to gather a people together who could lay the foundation for the city of God – Zion. This is now an artifact of one of those dead prophets, cast aside by the precepts of men.
What think ye?