- Elder Nelson asks if we understand what sustaining means. I wonder if he does. This talk mentions "common consent", which is where the idea of sustaining comes from, but it doesn't talk about what it meant at the time nor the scriptural basis for that meaning. Instead, it builds on modern tribal interpretation to concoct a whole new meaning for sustaining.
- He claims the counsel of the prophet will be "counsel will be untainted, unvarnished, unmotivated by any personal aspiration, and utterly true!" Where does he get that idea? The scriptures are full of examples of prophets that were far more fallible and human than that. For a few examples, let's look at 2 Samuel 7, where through Nathan the Lord promises David a prophet descendant and predicts that the prophet will sin, and be chastised by men because of it. Or 1 Kings 13 where a prophet sinfully accepts an invitation to dinner, and is killed because of it? Or all the times Joseph Smith is chastised for his failures in the D&C? Or the comments from modern church leaders about never landing on the moon? Or the chapters in Ezekiel that warn that the Lord will blind the peoples' prophets if the people trust them too much (Ezek 14:4 is one such)? Frankly I think that last promise has been fulfilled in our day, in spades.
- "Prophets testify of Jesus Christ—of His divinity and of His earthly mission and ministry." Exactly true. And through the time of Joseph Smith, they actually testified that they had seen Christ and stood in God's presence.
- The verse he cites regarding common consent doesn't have anything to do with common consent. Common consent means the members of the church have to agree when they do things, and that's how it was treated for some time after the founding of the church. These days, however, voting against whatever the leaders say will get you disciplined.
- "No prophet has ever been elected." That's sort of true. He's right that most of the time people don't campaign (the 1844 succession crisis is one notable exception). But some have not taken office, or have been delayed, because the people didn't sustain them. Frederick G. Williams is one notable example.
- "You and I do not 'vote' on Church leaders at any level." Not anymore, we don't.
- "Man’s ways remove people from office or business when they grow old or become disabled." God's way is for people to remove themselves, like King Benjamin did.
- "Our sustaining is an oath-like indication that we recognize their calling as a prophet to be legitimate and binding upon us." What does it mean that some other person's calling is binding upon us? Does that mean that if they're in a position of authority over us, we are by our sustaining vote indicating we've sworn an oath always to follow their instructions? The Lord certainly wouldn't ever ask us to swear such allegiance to a fallible human, so either the prophet is infallible (something Church leaders routinely deny), or we shouldn't be making that kind of oath.
- For that matter, the only test for a prophet's legitimacy given in scripture is that that prophet brings forth prophetic fruits. Few Church leaders have even claimed to have brought forth such fruits, let alone proven their claims.
- The George Albert Smith quote helps clarify this, particularly in that "we will strive to carry out [the instructions of the person we sustain] as the Lord shall direct." I might be willing to take an oath to carry out some person's instructions if the Lord ratified those instructions.
- "They hold all the priesthood keys that have ever been conferred upon man in this dispensation." It would be fascinating if someone would finally talk about what priesthood keys there are, and who has them. Right now the entire subject is, in its details, a matter of cultural speculation.
- "[The] decisions of these leaders must be unanimous." They also need to follow the scriptures. Unfortunately many of those decisions made today don't.
- "These 15 men—prophets, seers, and revelators—know what the will of the Lord is when unanimity is reached!" This brings up an important point, namely how we know what the Lord's will is, or more generally, how we recognize the Spirit. I've felt the same good feelings others have, when a church leader enters the room and everyone stands, or when listening to General Conference, or when taking the sacrament or attending the temple. I have, however, come to doubt that those feelings are a reliable indicator of truth. Joseph Smith said the Holy Ghost communicates pure intelligence, and many of those feelings in my experience don't communicate intelligence. Moreover, I've felt much the same feeling in entirely non-spiritual situations, like at a rodeo, when there has been nothing for that feeling to confirm as true. Finally, psychology shows people have feelings like that all the time, like when they're raised in North Korea and the Dear Leader comes on TV. On the other hand, I have felt pure intelligence, and I've had confirmatory experiences when I've followed that intelligence. I do know the Spirit works, but it doesn't work the way the Church teaches.
- "Counterbalances and safeguards abound so that no one can ever lead the Church astray." So why do the scriptures predict the institutional Church will grow apostate? D&C 85 says the church will require "one mighty and strong ... to set in order the House of God".
- Having those people in whose hands the Church rests say "I assure you that the Church is in good hands" doesn't necessarily mean a lot. It's like when Elder Ballard quotes himself saying he and his colleagues can't lead the Church astray.
Sunday, October 25, 2015
"Sustaining the Prophets" By Elder Russell M. Nelson
Find this talk here.