Tuesday, February 25, 2014

# 31: The LDS Church Doesn't Have To Be Insular

You should stay LDS because our traditions and scriptures allow for spirituality and revelation outside of the Church.  

The thirteenth Article of Faith states, "If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”  It does not say, "If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, that is officially approved by the LDS Church, we seek after these things.”

People outside the LDS Church can and do receive revelation from God. Missionaries present the Book of Mormon to people and ask them to take the challenge in Moroni 10: 3- 5. They're asking non-members to receive personal revelation from God. This fits in with LDS doctrine that the Heavens are not closed, and that God is personally involved with people's lives.

God answers the sincere prayer of any of His children, regardless of their religious affiliation. When I hear people of other faiths say something like, "I prayed about it, and I felt like God was telling me to __________ [ fill in the blank]" I usually believe them.

And when Michelle Bachmann talks about how God told her to marry her husband, become a tax attorney, become a Congresswoman, and take care of a whole bunch of foster children, I believe her. Michelle Bachmann is a great Christian woman with a heart of gold. We need more people like her in Congress. And I think that God really told Michelle Bachmann, through the influence of the Holy Ghost, to make certain decisions in her life.

Consider William Wilberforce. Consider Mother Theresa. These were people were not members of the LDS Church, but I think most Latter-day Saints would agree that these champions of human dignity felt and acted on promptings of the Holy Spirit.

I read this interesting account in God and Ronald Reagan: A Spiritual Life, by Paul Kengor:

George Otis, a Christian pastor, prayed with Governor Ronald Reagan and prophesied that Reagan would be the President. Later, Otis recalls the prayer: "I was just sort of praying from the head... I was saying those things you'd expect- you know, thanking the Lord for the Reagans, their hospitality, and that sort of thing. [Then] everything shifted from my head to the Spirit - the Spirit... the Holy Spirit came upon me and I knew it." Otis started shaking, and he kept praying vocally, and started speaking for God, referring to Reagan as, "my son." The prayer concluded, "If you walk uprightly before Me, you will reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue."

Do you believe it? Do you believe that a Protestant minister can speak for God, and prophesy that Ronald Reagan would become the President? It's clear from reading God and Ronald Reagan that Ronald Reagan believed that he was an instrument in God's hands.

Ronald Reagan did so much good in his life. He turned the country's economy around, and he was instrumental in winning the Cold War. Because the Iron Curtain fell, Christianity has begun to go into Russia. Missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are being sent there, and the Lord's work is progressing. I think God had his eye on Ronald Reagan, and put inspired people in his life, including the pastor George Otis.

I used to be egocentric about my religion. I used to think that since my church was the only true church, that all human spiritual progression leads to initiation into LDS temple ceremonies. I used to think, "Well, Mother Theresa was a great lady, but she must have gotten to a certain point in her spiritual progression, and then stopped. If she would have kept progressing, she would have abandoned her apostate church and joined the true church."

Now I think that God probably wanted Mother Theresa to stay in the Catholic Church.  She was probably accomplishing more of God's will as a Catholic than she could have as a Mormon.

There are two scriptures that illustrate the attitude that Latter-Day Saints ought to have about revelation outside of the Church, one in the Book of Numbers and one in the Gospel According to Saint Mark.

In Numbers 11:24 - 29, Moses is with the Seventy in the tabernacle, and the Lord came down in a cloud, and spoke with Moses. The Seventy did not see the Lord, but they felt of his spirit. But there were two men far away from the tabernacle, not invited to the religious ceremony, Eldad and Medad, and they started prophesying. What did they prophesy about? The text doesn't say. Alas. Two well-intentioned members of the Seventy found out about Eldad and Medad, and they ran and tattle-tailed. They told Moses that there were these two guys prophesying, and Moses better put a stop to that. "Eldad and Medad are out of order," the two members of the Seventy probably said. I can imagine them saying, "They haven't been anointed, like we have. They're steadying the ark. They're not working through the proper channels."

But what does Moses say? Moses says, "Other people are prophesying? That's great! I wish every one were a prophet!"

The Old Testament Student Manual (prepared by CES, the Church Educational System, published by the LDS Church) says, "In this material [Numbers 11: 24 - 29] is another evidence of Moses' greatness. Some leaders would be threatened if subordinates evidenced gifts and abilities similar to their own because then their own statues and position would be jeopardized. Nos so with Moses... Not only was [Moses] not threatened by this remarkable sharing of spiritual power, but he expressed the desire to have every single Israelite share the same power with him."

OK, the next passage of scripture that I've been thinking about is Mark 9: 38 - 40. The Apostle John told Jesus that earlier he had seen people who were not disciples of Christ casting out devils. John said that he told those "non-members" to stop exercising demons, presumably because they didn't have the right authority, they didn't belong to the right church, and etc. All the text says is that the people casting out devils "followeth not us."

But what does Jesus say? "Other people are casting out devils? That's great! Don't stop them. We're all kind of one big demon-busting family, you know?" This passage could be taken as a kind of a prototype for inter-faith efforts. It leads me to believe that there is a lot of truth in a lot of religions, and there are a lot of good people in a lot of religions, and there is even some level of priesthood- meaning the power of God- in a lot of religions.

I think that Christ was interested in establishing a religion only insofar as the religion would be a vehicle to individual salvation. Christ was more interested in people than he was in programs. He spent more time preaching eternal truths than he did establishing an ecclesiastical hierarchy. I'm not saying that Christ, or anyone, has to choose between saving souls and establishing church programs. He can do both. We can do both. Most of the time, those two things go hand in hand.

But if somehow the church organization became an impediment to saving souls, then the church organization would need some inspired altering or abolishing. For example, if members of the Seventy are using their precious time to sort stacks of tithing money, alphabetize church rosters, correlate church activity calendars, and suck up to the Twelve Apostles, then things need to change. 

I'm not bashing organized religion. I love organized religion. But sometimes people can worship the religion, and not the Being who inspired the religion in the first place. Organizations come and organizations go, but Christ's true doctrine stays constant.

Most Christians agree that the Sermon on the Mount was Christ's masterpiece.  There really isn't anything about organized religion in that Sermon. In fact, The Sermon emphasizes the individual over the organization. He says, "Don't pray in front of people to show off. Do it in secret. Don't give charity in front of people to show off. Do it in secret. Don't fast in front of people to show off. Do it in secret. (Where do people commonly go to pray, give charity, and fast in front of other people? Church.) Don't judge people unrighteously (A lot of unrighteous judgement goes on in organized religions). Beware of false prophets (false prophets are usually found in organized religions).

And then Christ gives a chilling verse, in Matthew 7: 22 - 23, "Many will say to me in that day [Judgement Day] Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you. Depart from me, ye that work iniquity." This verse should make all church-goers reassess their status before God.

Christ's emphasis on people over organizations is evident over and over again. He said to the woman caught in adultery, "Go thy way, and sin no more." He did not say, "Listen, I know you're going through some struggles right now, but I have this religious organization that can really help you. On the third Thursday of every month we have this meeting called, Personal Family Enrichment for Adulterers, or PFEA, for short.  I hear this week there's going to be cheesecake! Oh and you know what? They need a Secretary! Are you good at taking notes?"

True prophets have a more inclusive attitude than a lot of their followers do. Moses had a more inclusive attitude than the guys who tattled on Eldad and Medad. Jesus had a more inclusive attitude than his Apostle John.  If you stay LDS, your view of spirituality and revelation can be just as inclusive.

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