Virtual RS/PH #16: Revelation & the Living Prophet

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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

http://scriptures.lds.org/en/mainimage.jpgOur 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)?

http://www.mormonmomma.com/images/first-presidency.pngNew 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?

http://www.markdroberts.com/images/Sallman-Heart-Door-3.jpgBeing 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.

Comments

comments

Comments 11

  1. I really enjoy these.

    I was teaching the death and dying lesson today (I had someone cover for me when I was gone, but part of that was that I had to teach that lesson anyway).

    I’ll be thinking on what you have to say, I find it helpful when I prepare.

    Thanks!

  2. Very interesting and thoughtful questions. I missed church today; wish I couldn’t been part of a class like this.

    Of these:

    ” Could there have been a restoration without revelation?”
    I don’t think so. No revelation means no restoration and no LDS church. I think it’s (revelation) what keeps the church alive.

    “Q: What are the great and important things yet to be revealed? Any guesses?”
    Probably that related to the millennium and later kingdoms. Also clear cut revelation on issues such as homosexuality and same sex marriage could be timely now, but then the recent letter from the 1st presidency could be just that.

    “Q: Can members of the church disagree with church leaders without becoming apostate?
    Most definitely, but we need to avoid the spirit of contention when doing so. Disagreement is very different to hostility or belligerency.

  3. Do living prophets always trump dead prophets? Why or why not?

    Beware of those who would pit the dead prophets against the living prophets, for the living prophets always take precedence. President Wilford Woodruff stated

    The prophets since Joseph Smith may have been wrong about doctrinal and historical matters. (There are probably better examples than the follow)

    1. Brigham Young taught that Adam was our God.
    2. Joseph F. Smith’s explicit denial of evolution
    3. Teaching that the Hill Cumorah that Joseph found the plates in, was the same Hill Cumorah mentioned in the Book of Mormon where two great battles were fought killing over 2.2 million people. (No archaeological evidence has been found at that hill, Mormon scholars are considering there may be another Hill Cumorah ).

    If the current prophet can say that a previous prophet was wrong about doctrine, Then how do we know what the current prophet says won’t be judged invalid by the next prophet?

  4. #4 “Do living prophets always trump dead prophets?”

    I say that we as followers of the prophets trump all prophets. We are our most important prophet, because we must receive revelation for ourselves as to what the Lord has for us to believe and to do. After that though, I believe our Church teaches it like this:

    Living prophets > dead prophets
    More recent prophets > prior past prophets

    It’s the prophet closest to your time that has the most relevant info normally, at least that is my understanding of our system.

  5. If we truly believe in continuing revelation, then I believe we have to place the words of current prophets over the words of prior prophets, exempting, of course, Jesus Himself. That’s why I place the NT over the OT, the Gospels (Jesus) over the Epistles (prophets), the BofM equal to the Bible, the OD1 and OD2 over the D&C, etc. **when there are conflicts and contradictions**.

    I need to add one more thing that is critical, so I will capitalize and bold it:

    NEARLY ALL OF CHRISTIANITY DOES THIS! IT’S NOT UNIQUE TO MORMONISM.

    There are very few Christian denominations today that require the women to remain silent in church, as just the simplest example. Even though they might teach the Bible as the inerrant word of God, they still choose to ignore parts they can’t accept – and that includes actual religious teachings, as well. The words of the Christian fathers who wrote the Athanasian Creed and the Protestant leaders who wrote the Westminster Confession, for example, are accepted by MANY as the canonized interpretations of Biblical doctrine, taking the Bible’s place as the authoritative word of god in a very real way.

    It’s easy to forget that, but it’s critical to this discussion.

  6. I think one needs to be very careful in choosing old versus new ‘revelation.’ At the time of Martin Luther, the idea that current revelation trumps past revelation was exactly the justification the Holy Roman church used for indulgences; the practice of purchasing a reduction in purgatory for a loved one. It was not scriptural, but condoned by the pope and the money was used to build St. Peter’s.

    Personal revelation is essential for our salvation according to Alma 12:

    “9 And now Alma began to expound these things unto him, saying: It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.
    10 And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.
    11 And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.”

    So, we are captives of the devil unless we seek to receive the mysteries of God. This knowledge, as I read this scripture, is only given through personal revelation.

  7. Q: How can we avoid the temptation to limit our understanding of God to only what conforms with our own opinions?
    Listen to and seriously consider the different opinions of others.

    Q: What are the risks of a closed canon (no revelation)? What are the risks of an open canon (ongoing revelation)?
    Closed cannon locks you into potentially obsolete knowledge. Galileo stood up for what he new was correct. Time proved the point and religion followed, albeit the slow lane. With open cannon new information may contradict the old, giving the old less credibility in general.

    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?
    Scriptures need to be put in the context of the limited knowledge of the times in which they were written.

    Q: Do living prophets always trump dead prophets? Why or why not?
    Depends on the topic and their position.

    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)?
    Revelation is the “authority stamp” to new concepts.

    Q: How does the above revelation provide order to the church? When does our personal revelation trump organizational revelation?
    It asserts authority to the hierarchy. The difficulty is that title and understanding do not always coincide.

    Personal understanding trumps when it exceeds the organizational understanding.

    Q: How do we avoid the trap of being “too wise to be taught”?
    Most will find the more they learn the less they know. Keep an open mind, allow yourself to think freely. Don’t be strictly bound to the limited wisdom of the past.

  8. My name means rythym or dance. Kim is clearer of wood and neal means infinite.My birthday is repeated several times in the old testiment as the rainbow of god and i have thrown the first bow and i do ride a white horse. as revelations stated and i have spent two years of study in a holy place.

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