Saturday, June 1, 2013

But a GA Said...

Yeah, I've been gone for a while. Things got kind of crazy busy. They're still pretty crazy busy, but I think I might be back every so often. I miss blogging.

Something that has been weighing on my mind lately is the assertion that I have heard many a Mormon make that if a General Authority said/did it, that it must be the Lord's revealed truth for everything and everyone. Especially health matters. (Remember my post on what the American medical community could do to improve the abysmal rate of maternal and fetal death in the U.S.? One response I got on the post was that hospital birth was God's will because the General Authorities have said things in support of the mainstream medical establishment.) I believe the assumption behind this sort of argument is that General Authorities more or less have a direct line to God for every detail of life and that if we simply do whatever they do, we will be doing God's will. I believe a short look at Church history and doctrine as well as a little common sense should point to the idea that God would much rather we solve our own problems instead of expecting Church leaders to spoon feed us answers.

First of all, General Authorities are called as prophets, seers and revelators and the Lord has said that any prophet will be removed before he is allowed to lead the Church astray, but this doesn't mean that they don't have their own opinions, decisions, and even biases about how to conduct affairs in their personal lives or that they don't express their own personal thoughts and opinions. (I love President Hinckley's cheerful comment as to whether the the Brethren ever had arguments about Church policy: "Oh we never have arguments. We have spirited discussions!")

Even General Authorities have been known to make errors in judgement regarding things such as business affairs (the Kirtland Safety Society), and even on the reasons behind certain revelations on Church policies (a litany of pre-1978 quotes on blacks and the priesthood). The Old Testament tells of a Moses who had trouble delegating and sometimes spent too much time dealing with every problem the Israelites brought to him, sometimes straining his family life. Near the end of his life, Brigham Young wanted certain things included in the temple ceremony that the other members of the Quorum of the Twelve felt were Brigham Young's own thoughts and did not constitute revelation and had no place in the temple ceremony and thus were left out.

Obviously, being a General Authority is by no means some seal of perfection of understanding. I love this quote from Elder Bruce R. McConkie about pre-1978 speculation about blacks and the priesthood by General Authorities:

"All I can say to that is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world. We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness, and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don't matter any more. It doesn't make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of this year [1978]. It is a new day and a new arrangement, and the Lord has now given the revelation that sheds light out into the world on this subject."

I actually love the idea that everything a GA says or does is not God's personal opinion. The more I've lived, the more important the idea of agency has become. More wrong has been done in the world in the name of making sure that people do the "right thing" than has ever occurred from allowing people to choose to do good. If everything the General Authorities did and said was "doctrine" it would mean they're not learning and progressing and having to figure out their own personal lives. They would be like Borg drones, without free will, plugged into a collective and not progressing. Gratefully, we have prophets, not puppets, who speak for the Lord when they are acting in their calling as prophets, seers and revelators, but are left to make their own decisions about personal matters and even express their own opinions. I love the Church's statement on what constitutes doctrine

Over the past few years of I've had to deal with some of the most difficult experiences of my life and I've come to the conclusion that being a Latter Day Saint has never really been about lock-stepping into dogma or fulfilling a checklist. Rather, I've come to see it as an exciting search for truth. Truth is, after all, at the heart of eternal progression and the essence of intelligence, which is said to be the glory of God. Time and again, the scriptures carry examples of the Lord challenging His prophets to seek out answers for themselves and then consult Him. This, I believe is the example we are meant to follow. 

Searching for truth isn't nearly as easy as relying on someone else's actions or thoughts to order one's own life, but I have found it to be far more rewarding. My own personal search for truth on a number of different subjects has led me to make several wise decisions that earlier in my life I had scoffed at. Searching for truth means opening ourselves to new ideas and questioning long-held assumptions and ultimately standing apart from the world. But it's a peaceful and gratifying way to live. Whatever questions we have in life, as long as we earnestly desire and seek after truth, I believe that we need never be afraid of what answers may come.

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