I wonder who I should call upon to substitute for me?
The question asked by President Monson in the Saturday morning session of General Conference caused me to ponder upon an answer. What are the markers that one should use to identify those that are called to lead the church of Christ? How do we recognize the true leader versus a ‘substitute?’ What guidance do we find in the scriptures that can assist in our understanding of this role in God’s dealing with man?
There are fifteen men who were sustained on the first day of conference as ‘prophets, seers, and revelators.’ These men, the first presidency and quorum of the twelve apostles, represent the highest leadership of the organization tasked with the care and nurturing of the restored gospel. What have we sustained them to do?
Prophet – “The work of a Hebrew prophet was to act as God’s messenger and make known God’s will. The message was usually prefaced with the works “Thus saith Jehovah.” (LDS Bible Dictionany) Should a prophet be expected to prophesy? Should we expect those who claim to wear the mantle of a prophet to ‘forthtell’ the events of the future based on our actions today?
Seer – One of the callings of a seer is to bring forth knowledge through the use of translaters. In Mosiah 8 we read:
13 Now Ammon said unto him: I can assuredly tell thee, O king, of a man that can translate the records; for he has wherewith that he can look, and translate all records that are of ancient date; and it is a gift from God. And the things are called interpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commanded, lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish. And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called seer.
14 And behold, the king of the people who are in the land of Zarahemla is the man that is commanded to do these things, and who has this high gift from God.
15 And the king said that a seer is greater than a prophet.
16 And Ammon said that a seer is a revelator and a prophet also; and a gift which is greater can no man have, except he should possess the power of God, which no man can; yet a man may have great power given him from God.
17 But a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them, and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known.
18 Thus God has provided a means that man, through faith, might work mighty miracles; therefore he becometh a great benefit to his fellow beings.
A seer can know of things in the past, as well as the future. It is the greatest gift that God can bestow upon a human. A seer has all things revealed through them and knows secret and hidden things. Have the men who have been sustained to these positions within the Church demonstrated this greatest gift of God – the seership? Should we assume a man is a seer if he is misled by one offering them forged documents? Should we assume a man is a seer if he does not reveal the hidden things of the future?
There is no definition of revelator in the dictionary of our scriptures. A good example of a revelator is found in the Bible. Revelations was given to us through John the Revelator. Should revelations should be the product of a revelator? Should we expect to see the body of scripture expanded by this act?
What of a prophet that does not prophesy, a seer that does not ‘see,’ or a revelator that does not reveal? Are we not to measure a person by their fruits? Is it the expectation that these men deliver on their calling or simply be satisfied that if God needs to say something, these men are ready to provide the conduit?
What other markers of this calling can we find in the scriptures? When Jesus Christ ministered among the Nephites at the meridian of time, He taught the twelve disciples that, in order for the church to be His, it must exhibit certain criteria. Among these we find this direction in 3 Nephi, chapter 27:
10 And if it so be that the church is built upon my gospel then will the Father show forth his own works in it.
11 But if it be not built upon my gospel, and is built upon the works of men, or upon the works of the devil, verily I say unto you they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return.
12 For their works do follow them, for it is because of their works that they are hewn down; therefore remember the things that I have told you.
What are the works of the Father, what are the works of men, and what are the works of the devil? Perhaps it is easiest to deal with these in reverse order. The works of the devil could encompass war, bloodshed, anger, strife, and any other action that destroys human life, dignity, or the right to choose. I would suggest that unrighteous dominion is akin to the works of the devil in that it restricts our ability to exercise free agency.
I would suggest that the works of men are represented by the things we can acquire or build with our own hands. Certainly the construction of shopping malls fit in this category, but I would also add the construction of temples and other material structures. The works of men would also encompass the financial ‘kingdom.’ found among men. Are these church leaders relying on the works of men, including the building of temples, to fortify their ‘right and privilege’ as representatives of God? If so, we shall see them enjoy their works for a season and then see them hewn down.
And finally, what are the works of God? When Christ spoke the words quoted above, he was only speaking to the twelve disciples; not the general membership. After defining His gospel in 3 Nephi, chapter 27, He gave the twelve this direction:
21 Verily, verily, I say unto you, this is my gospel; and ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do; for that which ye have seen me do even that shall ye do;
The twelve disciples were to do the same things that they saw Christ do. Not only did Christ minister and preach to the congregation at large, but he healed the sick, caused the lame to walk and the deaf to hear. He healed many of their afflictions as recorded in 3 Nephi, chapter 26:
15 And it came to pass that after he had ascended into heaven—the second time that he showed himself unto them, and had gone unto the Father, after having healed all their sick, and their lame, and opened the eyes of their blind and unstopped the ears of the deaf, and even had done all manner of cures among them, and raised a man from the dead, and had shown forth his power unto them, and had ascended unto the Father—
These works of God continued after Christ ascended into heaven. The twelve continued to bless the people with miracles as recorded in 4 Nephi:
5 And there were great and marvelous works wrought by the disciples of Jesus, insomuch that they did heal the sick, and raise the dead, and cause the lame to walk, and the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear; and all manner of miracles did they work among the children of men; and in nothing did they work miracles save it were in the name of Jesus.
The marker of the true church of Christ and the true leadership of that body is the presence of miracles, of healings, and the other gifts of the spirit. If these things are not present and not demonstrated by those who lead the church, it is NOT the true church of Christ as defined in the scriptures.
Should a substitute be sought for the president of the Church? If so, I would hope that the designate can demonstrate seership. I would expect this person to exhibit the works of God in healing. I would rejoice as this person revealed the hidden things of the kingdom and not be duped by forgers and imposters.
The sad truth is that none of these markers are exhibited by the leadership of the church today. My only solace is that the apostasy of the restored church was prophesied by men who truly held the position of prophet, seer, and revelator. They recorded the prophecies of such an apostasy in the Book of Mormon, in the Doctrine and Covenants, and in the inspired translation of the Bible.
We are in the midst of apostasy and are generally oblivious of the fact. We go about our routines and rituals ignoring the core message of the gospel and pointing confidently at the works of our own hands as our validation. We shall enjoy our works for a season and then suffer the consequences.
As President Monson asked: “Who should I call upon to substitute for me?” One who demonstrates the calling of a seer. One who demonstrates the works of God. That would be a good place to start.
What think ye?