Finally, a lesson that really makes you think! This is probably my favorite JS lesson this year (no one dies or has to move to Missouri). For those who are teaching, you may also enjoy the excellent essay at Feast on the Word blog by joespencer.
This lesson tees up some interesting dichotomies. Consider the delicate balance between the following as you prepare:
- Old doctrine vs. new revelation
- Dead prophets vs. living prophets; written revelation (scripture) vs. verbal revelation
- Personal revelation vs. doctrinal revelation for the church
- What we know vs. what we don’t know (what God knows that we don’t)
On a more personal note, consider the following:
- Desire for stability vs. willingness to change
- The tendency to validate our own opinions vs. the tendency to spiritualize things that are not revelation or are trivial (e.g. God’s favorite breakfast cereal)
- Seeking a confirmation of our own beliefs vs. being completely open to God’s viewpoint
- Our imperfect ability to receive, comprehend and communicate vs. God’s perfect communication
- The First Presidency as a council on earth vs. The Godhead as a council on the other side of the veil
Our Will vs. God’s Will
“We never can comprehend the things of God and of heaven, but by revelation. We may spiritualize and express opinions to all eternity; but that is no authority.” (1843)
Q: How can we avoid the temptation to spiritualize things that were not inherently spiritual?
Q: How can we avoid the temptation to limit our understanding of God to only what conforms with our own opinions?
“Revelation” Rules, “No Revelation” Drools (anyone else think that would make a great title for a GC talk?)
“The doctrine of revelation far transcends the doctrine of no revelation; for one truth revealed from heaven is worth all the sectarian notions in existence.” (1844)
“Salvation cannot come without revelation; it is in vain for anyone to minister without it. … No man can be a minister of Jesus Christ except he has the testimony of Jesus; and this is the spirit of prophecy.” (1839)
Q: How is revelation necessary to our salvation and to being a minister of Jesus?
Q: What are the risks of a closed canon (no revelation)? What are the risks of an open canon (ongoing revelation)?
New vs. Old
“We are differently situated from any other people that ever existed upon this earth; consequently those former revelations cannot be suited to our conditions; they were given to other people, who were before us.” (1834)
Q: Should we liken scriptures to our day or liken our day to scriptures (through GC talks)? How can we get the best of both ancient and modern counsel?
Q: Do living prophets always trump dead prophets? Why or why not?
Revelation is Key to Mormonism
Articles of Faith 1:9: “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”
“The President then gave a relation of obtaining and translating the Book of Mormon, the revelation of the Priesthood of Aaron, the organization of the Church in 1830, the revelation of the High Priesthood, and the gift of the Holy Ghost poured out upon the Church, and said: ‘Take away the Book of Mormon and the revelations, and where is our religion? We have none.’ ” (1834)
Q: Why is revelation a key concept of the restoration? Could there have been a restoration without revelation? What does revelation mean to you (inspiration, spiritual channeling, divine dictation, or something else)?
Q: What are the great and important things yet to be revealed? Any guesses?
Organizational vs. Personal Revelation
It is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church, or any one, to receive instructions for those in authority, higher than themselves; therefore you will see the impropriety of giving heed to them; but if any person have a vision or a visitation from a heavenly messenger, it must be for his own benefit and instruction; for the fundamental principles, government, and doctrine of the Church are vested in the keys of the kingdom. (1833)
Q: How does the above revelation provide order to the church? When does our personal revelation trump organizational revelation?
Q: Can members of the church disagree with church leaders without becoming apostate? If so, under what circumstances?
Being Open to Revelation
There are a great many wise men and women too in our midst who are too wise to be taught; therefore they must die in their ignorance, and in the resurrection they will find their mistake. Many seal up the door of heaven by saying, So far God may reveal and I will believe.
It always has been when a man was sent of God with the priesthood and he began to preach the fullness of the gospel, that he was thrust out by his friends, who are ready to butcher him if he teach things which they imagine to be wrong; and Jesus was crucified upon this principle. (1843)
Based on the second half of this statement, God’s teaching should be controversial and provoke us to action (or outrage, depending on your position), not be limited to what we can come up with on our own.
Q: How can we question our assumptions and avoid limiting our ability to receive personal revelation?
Q: How do we avoid the trap of being “too wise to be taught”?
So, what are your thoughts on this provocative lesson and the questions it raises? Are there other questions you would ask? Discuss.