21 November 2010

THT: The Brother of Jared and Why I Believe

Often, I have people wonder why I bother believing at all. Some consider me young and naive. Many probably think that one day I will stop believing- that it is just a matter of time. And you know what? Perhaps they're right. But right now, I still believe. As hard as it is sometimes, I still have faith. I guess I choose to write about this for two reasons. The first is because of my most recent post about my initial disaffection with the church. The second is because, well, it's Sunday and I'm going to church.

I heard someone say once that the Catholics say the Pope is infallible, but they don't believe it. The Mormons say the prophets are imperfect, but they don't believe it. I find a bit ironic. Although our doctrine and scriptures teach (and provide examples) of the fallibility of men called of God, if you so much as mention that you disagree with the words of one of the servants of God, you are faithless, unbelieving, and on the road to apostasy. In fact, I've been called to repentance on a couple occasions. I fear that Mormon culture has turned into this mass of people that want to be told the answers to everything. We have a church handbook for bishops that is now over 400 pages long separated into two volumes. Have a question? Just look in the book!

We go to Sunday School and learn the scriptures through manuals carefully prepared for us. The important parts are selected in our behalf and we simply need to show up, nod our heads, and say amen. "What? You have a question not related to the lesson? Well, sorry, but we can't be wandering into strange paths- let's get back to the manual. Every word that comes out of a prophet's mouth is as good as scripture. It is as if Christ were speaking them. So don't you dare question them."

Okay, so maybe I am being a little harsh, and surely this isn't the case for everyone. But I feel that, in general, this is what our culture has become.

Prophets have never been perfect. The very men called by Christ in the flesh to follow him, who walked with him, taught with him, witnessed and performed miracles, and saw him return from the dead- these men denied Christ and were unbelieving on more than a few occasions in the short glimpses we have into his earthly ministry. These men, who literally WALKED WITH CHRIST through 2000 year-old cities down roads of dirt and gravel did things that are almost unbelievable. What would we call a person today that watched Christ breathe life into a person 3-days dead, and then denied him or betrayed him? Yet what do we think of Peter, the head apostle who did this very thing on the eve of Christ's crucifixion? He spent years after Christ's death preaching and establishing churches and teaching congregations. Yet I make a comment about disagreeing with a statement Boyd K. Packer says in General Conference and I am called to repentance and labeled an apostate. An Anti- Mormon.

Perhaps I am wrong, but I feel like the doctrine I was taught teaches me to ponder and question all things, whether a prophet speaks them or not. That I have the right to personal revelation regarding truth and light. And when the spirit confirms to me that something that was said is untrue, I will listen. I strongly believe that God is teaching his servants as much as he is teaching us. I don't think God gives all the answers to the prophets. I think he wants them to think things through and make decisions the best they can. If their ideas are adequate, he endorses them. But even if they aren't, he often allows his servants to make the wrong decision. Think of Joseph Smith and his consistent pleading with God to allow the 116 pages of the manuscript of the Book of Mormon to leave his hands. It was the wrong decision, but God allowed him to make it.

Ok, so getting to the Brother of Jared. In Ether (in the Book of Mormon) it tells the story of a group of people who traveled across the ocean to the Americas in air-tight vessels. The Brother of Jared as some kind of amazing. He was shown more by God than anyone else in the scriptures except maybe Adam (if my memory serves me correctly). Point is, he was a great prophet. Well, the BoJ (Brother of Jared) had a problem- the boats were dark. He went to God in prayer:
"O Lord, behold I have done even as thou hast commanded me; and I have prepared the vessels for my people, and behold there is no light in them. Behold, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that we shall cross this great water in darkness?"
So the Lord told him what to do for light. NOT! God did no such thing! This was his reply:
"What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels? For behold, ye cannot have windows for they will be dashed in pieces; neither shall ye take fire with you, for ye shall not go by the light of fire... Therefore what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?"
Well the BoJ had some thinking to do. Electricity was far from being available, and I imagine he was so humbled by the experience of trying to come up with a solution that God would approve. Nevertheless, he did come up with an idea:
"And it came to pass that the brother of Jared... went forth unto the mount... and did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones; and they were white and clear, even as transparent glass; and he did carry them in his hands upon the top of the mount, and cried again unto the Lord, saying:

I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea."

Apparently this idea was adequate, because the Lord agreed to touch the stones and make them light up. If I were God I would have been so crazy with how cute the idea was. I'd want to just embrace the BoJ and would probably smile big for days. I mean really- how cute is that?? "Well Lord, I was thinking, can you touch these rocks and make them shine maybe? So we can have light?" Okay, sorry- back to my point.

So now I am going to make up my own story, because the scriptures didn't really cover those 344 days on the sea in-depth. It does say, however, that they were tossed about and buried deep in the ocean in the midst of fierce winds and waves. So I imagine that it wasn't long before people started to kind of question the BoJ's status as a real prophet. I mean, if he was a prophet, why didn't he see that these stones would be flying around the vessel hitting people in the face and covering their bodies in bruises as they were tossed about in the ocean? Cotton, or something else a bit softer, would have been a much better idea. A lot less painful, that's for sure. It would be easy to criticize the prophet's choice when they could look back at it having suffered through the experience. But remember, God didn't provide the solution. He allowed Jared to come up with his idea of a solution. I'm sure if the BoJ could have redone that little trip he would have done it differently.

Okay, what am I trying to say? Well, the prophets of our day have done quite a lot of hurtful things to gay members through their words. They chose to light the stones instead of cotton. And although this is bruising some of us pretty badly, I have faith that we will still end up at the correct destination because my faith rests in Christ who I believe, for some reason, saw it fit to allow the prophets to take the approach they have. I don't understand the reason for this. Perhaps it is a lesson in humility for the members and leaders of the church. I don't know. But the leaders of the church have already significantly adjusted their stance on the issue of homosexuality. I have faith that this process will continue. At the end of the journey, I have no doubt that they will look back and wish they would have done things a bit differently. In the meantime, I am doing the best I can to hang in there despite the blows from those stones, looking forward, and having faith, that when the end comes- we will land in the promised land where (and when) Christ will be here upon the earth and his church will be perfected.

So again I say, I believe because my testimony is built upon Christ. Helaman, one of my favorite Book of Mormon prophets said:
"And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall."
He did not say our foundation should be built on the Book of Mormon, or Joseph Smith, or the Bible, or Adam or any man. He said that the rock is Christ. So when I am sitting in church today and listen to people quote leaders saying that people like me will be the demise of our society, or read from a book written by a prophet of the Lord that tells me that it would be better that I had not been born, I fight to remember upon what my testimony is built on. That is Christ, who I have full faith and trust in. And I feel completely comfortable when I remember that I am doing the best I can to do what I feel is right, and that my judgment rests in Christ's hands, and his hands alone.

3 comments:

Neal said...

Interesting post.

No, the Brethren are not perfect. But they do hold the keys of the Priesthood, and what they bind on earth is bound in heaven. Important item to remember.

I think a lot of us forget that the Brethren are being tried and tested just as we are. Becoming a GA doesn't automatically make you perfect, as you have pointed out several examples in the scriptures that clearly isllustrate this, and there are others.

The Brethren are allowed to make their own judgements and decisions, and just like the Bro. of Jared, the Lord will back them up most of the time. But they are accountable for those decisions just as we are accountable for ours. The decisions they make, however, are far more serious, since they affect so many of God's children.

I have an African-American friend who has researched the "blacks and the priesthood" issue, and its really interesting to hear his perspective on it all. In the early days of the Church, Josph Smith ordained black men to the priesthood. After his death the Brethren began to put the brakes on that, and this was due mainly to the "hardness of their hearts". So it became policy. And almost doctrine. But eventually, when the Church was ready to recieve it, the Lord set things straight and sent a clear message and things changed. I think a lot of times the Lord is waiting on us as a people to become ready for his higher laws and ways of thinking. I'm sure he's frustrated with the current negativity in the Church over gay people. He wants ALL of us to return to him. Yet, as a Church, we are far from being ready to succor all of his Children and accept everyone with love, compassion, and joy.

But where we are as a people does not change the truths of the Gospel or our obligation to live it. The Gospel remains, even when the people harden their hearts or turn a deaf ear. And so some of us must endure patiently for the day whent the Church "catches up". I know we'll be blessed for staying faithful.

Debra Cooper-Stewart said...

I don't find this post harsh or critical. I love your honesty. And let me say this, your perspective gives me hope for us all! Our world and church need more people able to have faith and yet be candid/honest about how we can do better...examine our failures so that we can improve. I truly believe that is why Jesus Christ is literally "the man." He always provides an example for us...how to be better. And we have a long way to go. Keep up the writing. You're amazing!

apronkid said...

Hahaha I love your take on the Brother of Jared story. Such a simple and seemingly childish request must have made God smile :)

This was a great post; it's really important to remember General Authority's are human.

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