Wednesday, July 1, 2015

"Free Forever, to Act for Themselves", Elder Christofferson, Oct 2014

Find this talk here.
  • This was an excellent talk, and a topic many of us refuse to follow to its logical conclusion. We slavishly subject ourselves to government and church leaders in the name of such lofty ideals as patriotism and propriety, shuffling our sense of personal responsibility off on leaders and the ivory thrones we construct to elevate them beyond the benighted reach of their sometimes questionable personal merits. Having weaseled ourselves out of answering important questions on our own, we mistakenly declare ourselves unburdened by the difficulties of the world, and take the resulting euphoria as a sign our self-imposed indenture is approved by the higher power we now consider ourselves free mostly to ignore.
    • For instance, Mormons are largely an orderly and subservient bunch when it comes to government authority. Which means we tend not to complain even when we're obviously being fleeced. Our national tax rates far exceed the 20% the Book of Mormon describes as the province of horribly corrupt despots, and if that wasn't enough copying from King Noah's legacy, our church leaders have constructed not one but two "tower[s] near the temple" (Mosiah 11:3) as monuments to their earthly power, without the scripturally required common consent (D&C 104:71).
  • His quote from Shakespeare ("Every subject’s duty is the king’s; but every subject’s soul is his own.") is absolutely correct, and directly contradicts Heber J. Grant's famous counsel as quoted by Marion G. Romney: "My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it."
    • We are, as Elder Christofferson points out, "accountable for [our] own sins in the day of judgment" (D&C 101:78) Obeying a mortal when he tells you to do something you know is wrong precisely invites the curse mentioned in 2 Nephi 28:31, "Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost."
    • Pres. Grant went on to moderate his statement with the claim that the prophet cannot lead us astray, but that idea is never supported in scripture. Brigham Young advocated it at least once (and contradicted it at least twice, once in the quote Elder Anderson shares), and Wilford Woodruff famously used it to convince people he was mostly serious about the Manifesto, but in scripture the only ones that can't do wrong are God the Father and Jesus Christ.
      • Quoting again from Elder Christofferson, "God will not live our lives for us nor control us as if we were His puppets, as Lucifer once proposed to do." The president of the church is no more or less a puppet than the rest of us, and nowhere has God promised to kill him off before allowing him to mess up.
  • Elder Anderson refers to Moses 6:57, which explains why Christ is called the "Son of Man". I remember thinking, when I discovered that scripture, that it was pretty cool the scriptures work together that way to define things.
  • I'm not sure the commandments are "the" real manifestation of God's love; certainly they're "a" manifestation of His love.
    • 1 Nephi 11 talks about the "love of God" being represented both by a fountain of living waters, and the tree of life, and that the love of God "sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore it is the most desirable above all things." Not all those descriptions can apply solely to the commandments.
    • The above might seem overly pedantic, but in my own experience, we of the church tend to focus so much on behavior and following those commandments we've been given, that we in Pharisaic fashion invent our own commandments as a buffer around the God-given ones. Hence our insistence through the years on elevating to the level of divine dicta certain philosophies of men: don't watch R-rated movies, don't date until you're 16, stay out of debt, marry within your race, stay away from face cards, only have one piercing in your ears. Wise counsel, perhaps, but not commandments of God. On the other hand, we regularly ignore the very possibility of an actual relationship with our Lord, the same relationship He subtly commands us to develop while in mortality: "That through the power and manifestation of the Spirit, while in the flesh, they may be able to abear his bpresence in the world of glory." (D&C 76:118, see also v. 74). We're supposed to develop a relationship with the Savior in this life, so as to be prepared to withstand His glory in the world to come.
  • "Justice demands ... that none of this [cleansing and character development] happen [sic] without our willing agreement and participation." In my own experience, it's amazing the stuff you can find Christ ready to bless you with, if only you realize you 1) can ask for it, and 2) have to ask for it to get it.
  • It's interesting that in his discussion of how we can have faith in God because of His justice, Elder Anderson doesn't cite Lectures on Faith, which says exactly he's saying.
  • I loved this part: "We must defend accountability against persons and programs that would (sometimes with the best of intentions) make us dependent. And we must defend it against our own inclinations to avoid the work that is required to cultivate talents, abilities, and Christlike character."
    • I'm grateful he brought up that freedom takes actual work from us, and that it means we can't shunt our responsibility off on someone else.
  • "It is God's will that we be ... free from the humiliating limitations of poverty"? Where does he get that idea? Christ was clearly among the poor. His best friends lived in Bethany, which means "House of the Poor". When He walked through the field eating the corn on the Sabbath, the only reason He wasn't breaking the law was that He was poor.
    • I read an interesting article fairly recently on all the indications from Christ's recorded New Testament ministry that prove he spent the whole time dirt poor. I may have to dig it up again.
  • "And we do not need to achieve some minimum level of capacity or goodness before God will help—divine aid can be ours every hour of every day, no matter where we are in the path of obedience." This, too, is wonderful to hear someone say, and absolutely right. Christ is far more forgiving that we give Him credit for. Obedience brings blessings, yes, but certain blessings are always available to whoever will ask for them.
  • This was a great talk; most of it passes muster with the scriptures. I feel to point out that it's an example of an excellent talk that shows none of the fruits we're supposed to use to identify a prophet, seer, and revelator. There's no prophecy, translation (Mosiah 1 tells us a seer is someone who translates), or revelation to be found in it. Elder Anderson may of course have manifested those fruits somewhere else (and I'd love to hear about it if he has), but this particular talk, wonderful though it was, cannot bear evidence he is a prophet, a seer, or a revelator.

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