Posts Tagged ‘Jeremiah’


Amateur Hour

The other day, reading a few random talks from random individuals, I came across a very short essay written by Hugh Nibley.  This essay discussed the idea of a paid clergy within the church and the pros and cons of a paid clergy.  What is so interesting about many of Nibley’s essays is how they discuss history and how that applies to a modern context.  That essay, entitled “The Day of the Amateur,”[1] is still as applicable today, if not more so, than it was then.

The article, as the title alludes to, is little more than a discussion and contrast of professionals on the one hand, and amateurs on the other.  Professionalism is, as Nibley states, “the child of the universities.”[2] Before there were professionals, there was what is called the Sophoi, “ancient traveling teachers who gave the modern world its moral and intellectual foundations.  They were, to a man, amateurs.”  Professionals, as we all well know, are paid for their opinions, works and teachings.  Amateurs, like Olympian athletes, are not.  They simply do what they do either out of charity or because they feel compelled to do so out of some duty to the human race.

According to Nibley, the amateurs were required by law to be amateurs, “because what they were doing was holy business and not to be contaminated by ulterior motives and ambitions.”[3] In ancient history the Sophists, the great imitators of the Sophoi, eventually overran everything and professionalized it all.  These Sophists were the great professors and the reason why Socrates eventually “advised students to examine prospective teacher’s credentials very carefully and critically.”[4]

As Nibley opines about a day gone by in his usual manner:

“Learning, [now] forgotten in the universities, was revived in academies, salons, societies, courts and coffee houses where amateurs came together to revel in the things of the spirit and make the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the high point of western civilization.  It was the Age of the Amateur.”

Fast forward a few years to the mid-nineteenth century, universities slowly took hold of society and by the twentieth century (and now in the twenty-first century) everyone goes to school for accreditation of some sort.  College teaching, for the most part, offers a “safe birth for mild and mediocre souls who in time, by the sacred role of seniority, [end] up ruling [the] institutions.”[5] Professionals, in this regard, can be boring, inept and lacking of any real inspiration, but the amateur, to get any recognition of any kind, has to be good and inspired.  To maintain the status of an amateur, as the Sophoi of old, the amateur must be honest, dedicated and incorruptible.

Professionals, however, all they need is a certificate, a piece of paper hanging on a wall, a couple of initials after one’s name and, magically (at least in today’s society), they’re granted virtual hero status.  People fawn over them, accept their word as scripture and certainly give much more credence to a professional than some guy with no initials after his name, no degree.

What is particularly troublesome about this essay, to me individually, is that I have often fallen prey to some of the arguments used by the Sophists.  I have been swayed by their opinions, their calls for degrees and certifications.  I went to college because I felt I needed a degree to succeed (financially) in the world, not thinking that there were other ways to succeed, to get by, to live and learn.  I had bought into the following statement, hook, line and sinker:

“You are moving into the most competitive age the world has ever known.  … You need all the education you can get.  Sacrifice a car; sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to qualify to do the work of the world.  That world will in large measure pay you what it thinks you are worth, and your worth will increase as you gain education and proficiency in your chosen field.”[6]

I went to school to get a degree in order to get paid from the world “what it thinks [I’m] worth.”  While I appreciate the opportunity to go to school, I nevertheless look back on those years wondering why it was that I fell in line with the crowd and failed to think for myself.  Today, however, I would hope that this statement would raise a few red flags for someone interested in establishing Zion and someone who is, if only slightly, aware of LDS history from the 1800s.   While I agree that education is important, I disagree with the premise of the above statement that implies that education is found only through college and universities, institutions where we may become a “professional” and get a degree, a certification, or whatever it is these days to tell the world that you are now “[qualified] to do the work of the world.”  This quote was restated in the April 2009 New Era, page 19[7], and is juxtaposed between statements of youths from across the United States discussing the importance of attending college and gaining an “education.”  Even more bothersome for me is the urging of the President of the Church imploring the youth of the church to “sacrifice anything that is needed … to qualify to do the work of the world.”  Seems, to me at least, to be a bit too Babylonian in nature, especially when prophets of old have given counsel in direct contradiction to this statement.

According to a discourse given by Brigham Young, Joseph Smith appeared to him in a vision “given right in broad daylight” and gave him a message relating to the building up of Zion.  Young related the following:

“Said [Joseph Smith] – ‘Never spend another day to build up a Gentile city, but spend your days, dollars and dimes for the upbuilding of the Zion of God upon the earth, to promote peace and righteousness, and to prepare for the coming of the Son of Man, and he who does not abide this law will suffer loss.”[8]

Yet, in spite of this statement by Brigham Young, we are much further away from the “upbuilding of the Zion of God upon the earth” today than we ever were then.  Now, in lieu of counsel to build up Zion, we receive counsel which essentially builds up none other than the Great Babylon.  Truly, it is an interesting juxtaposition.  Nevertheless, this quote is used in this article to merely discuss our proclivity to obtain certifications, degrees, and an “education” at the hand of Babylonian professors.  We, naturally, then rely on these certificates to be taken seriously in our personal and professional lives.

Relating this to things of the spirit and the church, some of you may have noticed a certain trend that occurs within the halls of most meeting houses and places of worship, especially among the LDS faith.  Other than the first Sunday of the month, members are asked to prepare and given talks over the pulpit.  This is a way of encouraging mere members of the church to share their experiences, knowledge and spirit with the congregation at large.  It is an inspired practice, it would seem.  It serves as a way for member’s to learn to acquire the spirit, to study the gospel and teach everything by the spirit.

What is an inspired practice, however, has morphed into uniformity of thought.  It’s a true LDS oddity how this could happen.  Pay attention to the next week’s talks, those given by regular members on any given Sunday.  What you will likely find, if your ward or branch is anything like mine, is that most members will simply relay their thoughts in the form of an old Ensign or General Conference talk.  Some of these members will simply read the old Ensign or General Conference talk as if it were their own words, others will re-read the talk word-for-word giving due credit and others still will intersperse their words with the words from the talk.

What makes this unique to the LDS faith is largely the role of general authorities and members of the first presidency and quorum of the twelve apostles in the lives of everyday members.  These men, once called to one of these positions, take on super-human status.  They are no longer capable of error, of giving bad advice or interpreting scriptures to fit a box for which they weren’t meant to fit.  Instead, they become mostly infallible (though no one will admit as much).  Obedience to their words is what is required to be a card-carrying member of the LDS church.  Somehow their words become inspired, their statements become scriptures.  No longer do we, as mere members of the church, filter their words through the spirit to verify whether it is the spirit that is teaching us or whether we’re hearing the man’s opinion.  Instead we rely, word-for-word, on what they say.  Their words then, as a result, become our words.  We quote them, reference them, and repeat them, verbatim, over countless pulpits nearly every week of every year.  Instead of using the scriptures and allowing the spirit to speak through us, we draw on their words to give authority to ours, we rely on their words to justify ours – everything we do is filtered by what “so-and-so” apostle or general authority said.

I am, in this regard, no different.  I have used these very same practices to justify my statements both here on this blog and in talks I have given over the pulpit in years past.  My ability to recognize this issue is highlighted mostly by my own experience, day in and day out, practicing this very method to support and uphold my words.  Only recent have I begun to question what it is, exactly, that we are doing by practicing this sort of “idol” worship, if I may say as much.

Somehow, somewhere along the way, the “general authorities” have taken on expert status when it comes to the gospel and the doctrine of the gospel.  Somewhere along the way we gave them what they never (to my knowledge) asked for – doctrinal authority.  Christ, in his interactions with the Scribes and Pharisees, “distinguished between their right to preside over the church (which He did not challenge), and their assumed exclusive right to teach and interpret scripture (which He utterly rejected).”[9] The scribes and Pharisees, as well as the Sanhedrin, jealously guarded their right to claim leadership by asserting their authority.  “Their appointment to leadership offices, … priestly trappings, and possession of the temple were all used to buttress their claimed rights to preside and exercise control and dominion over the Jews.”[10]

I am not prepared to place these same accusations on the LDS hierarchy, though I see striking and troubling similarities.  At this point, it is the members who presume that the LDS leadership has an “exclusive right to teach and interpret scripture,” though certainly the leadership has, in certain instances, declared that to be their right as leaders.  This exclusivity to teach and interpret scripture is the reason why so many talks rely on so many quotes and statements from “professionals” within the LDS church.  By professionals, I mean those who have a title in front of their name, be it Elder or President or something else.  In our private lives we generally rely on the initials which follow someone’s name to know what to do, what to believe and how to act, be it an M.D., a PhD or something else, while in our religious lives we do exactly the same thing, the only difference being how we rely on the title which precedes a general authority’s name.  No longer, as the logic follows, is it the message that is the most important thing, though surely it is important, rather it’s the title in front of the name which lends especial credence to the message.

I am, admittedly, not quite sure why we have such a fascination with quoting others.  As I previously stated, I am as guilty as the next.  It is, indeed, easier to write and share my thoughts when I bring in quotes from outside sources.  That all being said, it is simply not a black and white issue, though the current practice in the LDS church, in my opinion, is overkill.  Members are all too eager to pick up their favorite talk or a talk which has been given either to them by a member of their Bishopric or one on the subject at hand, and regurgitate it for all to hear.  That, to me, does little more than destroy the spirit of the meeting.  It is true that a well placed quote, a poignant thought and outside sources can indeed enhance the message we are trying to convey, but all too often those quotes become paragraphs.  The paragraphs extend into pages and, before you know it, the talk is over and it turned into one giant quotation.  So be it.  I can only change myself – and I aim to – and you can only change yourself.  The change starts at an individual level and hopefully it does.  Let that change begin with you.  Instead of opening the most recent Ensign, open your scriptures and your heart to hear what the Spirit would teach you.

John Taylor Gatto wrote, in his book Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, the following, which underscores one of the reasons why we are so quick to look for the expert to lead us, guide us and save us from ourselves:

“We are addicted to dependency; in the current national crisis of maturity we seem to be waiting for the teacher to tell us what to do, but the teacher never comes to do that.  Bridges collapse, men and women sleep on the streets, bankers cheat, good will decays, families betray each other, the government lies as a matter of policy, corruption, shame, sickness, and sensationalism are everywhere.”[11]

In writing this, ironically enough, I was reminded of a book I just started reading.  A friend recommended this book several months back, at which time I bought it, but it’s been sitting on my shelves gathering dust until this past week.  In the introduction to this book, I found a statement that rang true to my spirit and one which I am trying to convey in this article:

“…What I have tried to convey are the thoughts and consciousness of Jesus that were behind his words when he uttered them.  I commune with Christ and ask him:  ‘I don’t want to interpret the Bible from my own views.  Will you interpret it?’”[12]

Encapsulated in this brief sentence is a meaning that is easy to forget:  we are all too often eager to use someone else’s opinion of the scriptures to justify our thoughts, beliefs and intentions.  Rare, indeed, is the man who searches the scriptures and seeks out the only true interpretation from the true source of light and inspiration.  We would do well to seek Christ and His interpretation of the scriptures as opposed to another man’s interpretations, no matter how good that person’s interpretations may be.  The Pure Source is really the only source from which we should drink.[13]

Nibley, in closing his essay, addresses this very issue and states his opinion on the importance of everyone contributing to the dialogue:

“If we have no professional clergy in the Church, it is not because the Church cannot use expert knowledge, but because all members should be experts where the gospel is concerned, and as such they should make their contribution. All the same contribution? Not at all! The Church is structured for eternal progression, and that takes place as we all feel our way forward along a broad front. Seeking and searching are among the most common words in our scriptures; we are all supposed to be seeking all the time. Just as missionaries go forth as an amateur army, searching out the honest in heart in the most scattered and unlikely places, on the widest possible front, so the rest of us increase in knowledge, here a little and there a little, not by trusting a few experts to come up with the answers, but by all of us searching, all along the line, finding out a fact here and a document there, and reporting the discovery to the whole body.  When he was editor of the Times and Seasons, the Prophet Joseph invited all to contribute.”[14]

The next time you give a talk, or assign someone to give a talk, I hope you take these thoughts to heart.  Stop quoting others and start trusting the spirit and your ability to be taught by the spirit.

What is especially interesting is Nibley’s typical retort at the end of one of his lectures, after having discussed similar ideas:

“Just remember — these things we’ve talked about here today aren’t really that important. What is important is that you keep the commandments and pray for the Lord’s guidance.”[15]

Truly, that is what is most important.  Instead of relying on others to tell us what to believe, to interpret the scriptures for us, to give us quotes and statements to justify what the spirit has undoubtedly taught us, we should pray for and then rely on the Lord’s guidance.[16]

**Approximate percentage of this essay which is made up of direct quotes from others:   23.2% – (676 out of 2,916 words)**


[1] Nibley, Hugh.  “The Day of the Amateur.”  New Era.  Volume 1, number 1.  January 1971.  Pages 42-44.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Hinckley, Gordon.  “A Prophet’s Counsel and Prayer for Youth.”  New Era.  January 2001, Page 8.

[7] “Questions & Answers,” New Era.  April 2009.  Pages 18-19.

[8] Young, Brigham.  “The Priesthood, Etc.” JD 12:59.

[9] Snuffer, Denver.  Come, Let Us Adore Him.  Page 97.

[10] Ibid.  Page 60-61.

[11] Gatto, John Taylor.  Dumbing Us Down:  The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling.  1993, page 99.

[12] Yogananda, Paramahansa.  The Second Coming of Christ:  The Resurrection of the Christ Within You.  2004, page XXX.

[13] See John 4:10.

[14] Nibley.

[15] See http://www.zionsbest.com/amateur.html and the “About the Author” section.

[16] See Jeremiah 31:31-34 for a better discussion on this principle and idea.


Personal Revelation – Part I

I had a discussion in a class I attended a couple of weeks ago in church.  Being a member of the LDS Church, a member growing more and more at odds with the ‘mainstream’ definitions and teachings, I posed a question in class.  I posed said question to elicit a meager discussion of some sort, having sat through the first half of the lesson with crickets chirping throughout the audience as the teacher went on.  A comment had been made in Sunday school, the hour prior, on a lesson on how to build and sustain Zion, that we “need to be obedient to the brethren.”  This lesson and discussion was followed by a one on the importance of obedience as a pillar of our faith.

Obedience to “what” was the essence of my question.  As the discussion flowed most agreed that we are obedient to Christ, but I was semi-surprised when even more agreed that we should be obedient to the brethren as they are the mouthpiece(s) of the Lord.  No qualifiers were offered, just obedience to the brethren with the tacit understanding that they are teaching – always – what Christ would teach.

I don’t necessarily disagree with that as it is proving increasing difficult to assume that what they teach is what Christ would teach were he were here on earth leading His church.  For one such reference, one can look at the April 2009 New Era magazine, a magazine geared for 12-18 year olds.  The focus of that month’s articles is, from the cover, “Learning and Earning.”  Therein one finds a quote by Gordon B. Hinckley, when he was President of the Church, which reads:

“You are moving into the most competitive age the world has ever known.  All around you is competition.  You need all the education you can get.  Sacrifice a car; sacrifice anything that is needed to be sacrificed to qualify yourselves to do the work of the world.  That world will in large measure pay you what it thinks you are worth, and your worth will increase as you gain education and proficiency in your chosen field.[1]” (emphasis added.)

While this article is not about how divergent current counsel is from what Christ may have taught, it is nevertheless worth noting in this context of whether we follow what a mortal man is telling us or what Christ through the Holy Ghost may be telling us.  After all, we were not sent to this earth to obedient to a man or men.  We were sent here to learn to be obedient to the Lord.  It can and does happen that He sends a servant who preaches His message, and in these instances we must be obedient to that message.  Nevertheless, it is incontrovertible that we are obedient to the One who sent the servant who preached the message, not the messenger.  This is true regardless of whether the messenger is inside or outside the Church.

By this point you may have begun wondering how this relates to personal revelation, and why I am discussing it here.  During the conversation I discussed previously I made a comment regarding our need to be “prophets” – as Moses indicated (see Numbers 11:29) – and that we needed to follow personal revelation in our own lives.  It is my opinion that the Iron Rod, the rod which leads unfailingly towards Christ, is personal revelation, coupled with the scriptures and inspired teachings.  I probably could have phrased it better and introduced the topic better during this class period, but it nevertheless provided the prelude to this write-up.  Both during and after class, one member of the class stated a few things along the lines of our individual personal revelations are all too often tainted by personal wants, desires, and ideas.  These tainting then corrupt our divine personal revelation, leaving us disjointed and unable to rely on this revelation.  As a result, we should look to the “brethren” to teach us and lead us to Christ because their revelation is untainted.  Therein lays the issue I would like to discuss.  Do we look to someone else to teach us and lead us to Christ because we are prone to relying on our own desires, wants and ideas?  If so, in what ways do we do it and in what ways should we not do it?

The difficulty of addressing this topic is underscored by the fact that modern day leaders have repeatedly said that we do not need much additional revelation, at least at the upper echelons of the Church and as an institution.  Gordon B. Hinckley, while acting as President of the Church, rather infamously stated in an interview that, “Now we don’t need a lot of continuing revelation.  We have a great, basic reservoir of revelation[2],” as well as reiterating in a separate occasion, “…we have a great body of revelation, the vast majority of which came from the prophet Joseph Smith.  We don’t need much revelation.[3]

Jeffrey R. Holland also declared something along similar lines when he said, “To help us make our way through these experiences, these important junctures in our lives, let me draw from another scriptural reference to Moses. It was given in the early days of this dispensation when revelation was needed, when a true course was being set and had to be continued[4](emphasis added).  Lest we think this is a modern development in the Church, we turn to Joseph F. Smith when he was also President of the Church.  During the Reed Smoot Senate Confirmation Hearings Joseph F. Smith was asked by the confirmation committee, “Have you received any individual revelations yourself, since you became president of the church …?,” to which Joseph F. Smith responded, “I cannot say that I have.[5]

With a body of leadership stating that there is a less of a need to have and receive revelation today, it’s no wonder that individual members may be at odds with the need for personal revelation.  Even if they see a need for personal revelation, all too often this need is given to general authorities of the church to whom members look for guidance.  This is further compounded when personal revelation is viewed as being tainted by personal wants and desires, all the while the hierarchy of the church is seemingly protected from these tainting aspects of revelation.

Author Denver Snuffer dedicated an entire chapter of his book Eighteen Verses to this idea taught by Gordon B. Hinckley and Jeffrey R. Holland regarding the time we find ourselves and the revelation we should or should not expect to receive.  This chapter in his book is based off an obscure verse of scripture found in an obscure book in the Book of Mormon.  Omni 1:11 states:

“And behold, the record of this people is engraven upon plates which is had by the kings, according to the generations; and I know of no revelation save that which has been written, neither prophecy; wherefore, that which is sufficient is written.  And I make an end.”

As a response to this proclamation by Omni, Snuffer offers this poignant thought:

“The writer confirms “that which is sufficient is written” and sincerely believed this to be true.  This thought illustrates what his ancestor, Nephi, condemned when he warned against any who should say:  “We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!” (2 Nephi 28:29).  This is an illustration of the kind of religion which endlessly repeats old inspirational stories while failing to add any new ones.  Having faith in what others did long ago, when events in their lives caused their faith to be tested, is no substitute for having faith to see the miraculous in your own life.  Joseph Smith had this to say:  “Reading the experience of others, or the revelation given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation with God ….” (TPJS 324).[6]

One may be led to ask why revelation ceases, or why some feel that “we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!”  Whatever the answer to that question, it may also provide insight into why some are afraid to seek personal revelation, or are afraid of being misled by personal revelation, and instead rely on others to show them the way.  This is discussed at length in Eighteen Verses, from which I quote only a tiny portion:

“The reason revelation ceased among the direct descendants of Nephi’s line, who originally maintained the plates, is not explained in full.  Nor is the reason for the word of the Lord abandoning the Israelite leadership at the time of Eli.  It seems likely the reasons had more to do with the inclinations of the leaders to seek revelation than the Lord’s willingness to give it.  It may well be those former leaders did not seek revelation because they thought they already had a great store of existing truths which were not being lived fully.[7]

This statement describes Gordon B. Hinckley’s statement perfectly.  In the Book of Mormon we find many, many examples of people using their agency to both pursue and seek for personal revelation, as well as examples of those who turn from it.  The Book of Jacob contains one such instance.  In the opening chapter of book of Jacob we read:

“For because of faith and great anxiety, it truly had been made manifest unto us concerning our people, what things should happen to them.  And we also had many revelations, and the spirit of much prophecy; wherefore, we knew of Christ and his kingdom, which should come.[8]

Here, in contrast to what is mentioned by Omni, is a group of people who received “many” revelations, possessed the spirit of prophecy, and were greatly blessed because of their desire to seek after these things.  They were not content merely with past revelation that was written and given to people of a day gone by.  They exhibited a level of faith sufficient to receive answers and it is noted that they had a “great anxiety” to be taught and instructed.  They acknowledged that they did not have all the answers and, instead, they actively sought for revelations and the gift of prophecy.  Christ instructs throughout modern scripture that if we ask, we shall receive (see Matt. 21:22; John 16:24; 1 Ne. 15:11; Enos 1:15; among many others).  The use of the world “shall” in scripture, especially in this context of asking and receiving, “implies a promise, command or determination … when shall is uttered with emphasis in such phrases, it expresses determination in the speaker, and implies an authority to enforce the act.[9]

This is no empty promise.  Christ wants us to ask and, indeed, is imploring us to ask.  He wants to give us light, knowledge and truth.  He wants us to grow.  He is not content with us merely surviving this mortal experience, simply going through the motions.  It should also be noted that Christ is disappointed when we do not ask and do not search out things we do not know.  Christ mentioned as much when he visited the Nephite disciples at the time of his appearance on the American continent.  While teaching these disciples about the meaning of the “other sheep I have which are not of this fold” statement he had told to the apostles who were at Jerusalem[10].  Christ specifically mentions in 3 Nephi 16:4 that “if it so be that my people at Jerusalem … do not ask the Father in my name, that they may receive a knowledge of you by the Holy Ghost, …,” implying that there is knowledge and insight to be gained from asking questions, especially questions on topics for which Christ has left a trail of breadcrumbs.  It is interesting to note, then, in this context that Christ was troubled “because of the wickedness of the House of Israel” (3 Nephi 17:14), wickedness which can be related to this very discussion of not seeking for further light and knowledge and having an inquiring mind.[11]

As quoted above, the inclination to ask seems to be lacking in our day, most importantly at the individual level, but also at the institutional level.  To say that the odds of receiving something we do not ask for are slim would be an understatement.  While it is true that we do, on occasion, receive blessings for which we have not specifically asked, many blessings await us and are only given once we ask and petition the Lord.  We are a complacent people, content to let others teach us and tell us what we should be doing, what we should be taught, how it should be taught and how to think and act.  From media pundits who tell us what to think to books telling us how to improve ourselves, from radio personalities informing us of our opinion to uninspired leaders interpreting life’s important truths[12], we find it much easier to turn to someone else than we find it to develop our relationship with the Divine.

Accessing the airwaves of personal revelation is no easy feat.  It is one that must be fine tuned and understood.  It is not like turning on a television set to our favorite news show or the radio to our favorite station.  While personal revelation can happen much more frequently than it probably does in our individual lives, God will still try our patience.  It is perhaps this line of thinking which led Neal A. Maxwell to declare:

“One’s life … cannot be both faith-filled and stress-free … how can you and I really expect to glide naively through life, as if to say, ‘Lord, give me experience, but not grief, not sorrow, not pain, not opposition, not betrayal, and certainly not to be forsaken. Keep from me, Lord, all those experiences which made Thee what Thou art!  Then let me come and dwell with Thee and fully share Thy joy! … Real faith…is required to endure this necessary but painful developmental process.[13]

In our quest to acquire more constant personal revelation we will still be led, nevertheless, through times of trial, doubt, uncertainty and difficulty.  Yet in this process of fine-tuning and in viewing those instances of personal revelation, we should view the instances of personal revelation which we receive as gifts from God as we try to walk the path which He would have us follow.  In thinking over this topic I was reminded of an experience Edgar Cayce, who some call either the “sleeping prophet” or the “sleeping (false) prophet,” had.  Before sharing that story; however, this scripture in the Doctrine & Covenants is applicable to this conversation:

“For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift?  Behold, he rejoices not in that which was given to him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.” (D&C 88:33).

Complement this verse with this dream Edgar Cayce supposedly had, as related by Jess Stearn:

“Cayce was literally a dreamer, and he felt people could learn about themselves and the world about them by studying their own dreams. “Consciousness is sought by man for his own diversion. In sleep, the soul seeks the real diversion or the real activity of self.”  If he didn’t understand a dream, he would lie down and interpret it in trance.

“In one dream, he saw himself climbing to a heavenly chapel to pray. A celestial custodian showed him a large room crammed with packages, beautifully wrapped and addressed to different people. They had not been delivered, and the custodian sorrowfully explained why, “These are gifts for which people have been praying, but they lost their faith just before the date of delivery.[14]

Of the many gifts our Heavenly Father and Christ would give us, surely personal revelation is one of the greatest for in receiving it we are receiving pure knowledge, inspiration and guidance from the pure source.  Indeed, personal revelation is a very real connection with the Divine.  Do we, on occasion (more frequently?), fail to view personal revelation as both a gift and guidance from the Divine?  Do we reject the gift if we are afraid to utilize it, or prefer to hear someone else tell us what guidance we’re seeking?  To be sure, church leaders and inspired individuals do provide words of counsel which can bless and uplift, but there’s a greater goal to be gained and a greater gift to be received than merely listening to the experience of others.  As quoted previously, Joseph Smith stated this very thing when he said, “Reading the experience of others, or the revelation given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation with God ….[15]”  It is only in establishing our own connection, our own familiarity with God that we can begin to grasp a complete view of our condition and our true relation with God.  Anything else is inferior.

Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, as well as others, forewarned us about our tendency to rely on other men, especially leaders.  Brigham Young once stated, during a conference at the Utah Bowery in 1867, that, “Brethren, this Church will be led onto the very brink of hell by the leaders of this people. ….”  Joseph Smith similarly addressed the saints, though in a different context, whereupon he was expounded the meaning of the fourteenth chapter of Ezekial in the Old Testament.

As found in The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, we read:

“President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel – said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church – that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls – APPLIED IT TO THE PRESENT STATE OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS – SAID IF THE PEOPLE DEPARTED FROM THE LORD, THEY MUST FALL – THAT THEY WERE DEPENDING ON THE PROPHET, HENCE WERE DARKENED IN THEIR MINDS, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves, envious towards the innocent, while they afflict the virtuous with their shafts of envy.[16]

The idolatry evidenced in Ezekiel 14 was that the people went to the prophet for their knowledge of God, not to God himself. They set up a stumbling block, a mediator for THE mediator (our Lord and Savior).  That is to say that instead of approaching God through prayer, supplication, fasting or whatever method, for knowledge of Him and his Son, we tend to approach a man.  No matter how inspired that man may be, the gospel is an individual gospel meant for “the one.”  That one, to me, is me.  That one, to you, is you.  As mentioned above, it is an imperative duty we have to seek an individual relationship and connection with God and when we do not undertake to fulfill that duty our minds must become “darkened.”

Ultimately, the Savior did what He did for us as individuals.  The relationship we need to be nurturing and cultivating is that relationship with Him, on an individual level.  To suggest that we need a mediator for THE mediator is rightly preposterous, and yet that’s what we largely believe today – that the knowledge of the Savior is best obtained through other “inspired” men.  We forego drinking water from the Pure Source for water from another source.

The problem we have, as I see it, is that we have been instructed by leaders of the Church that they (the leaders) simply cannot lead us astray.  Even if they wanted to, they are somehow prevented from so doing because of their position in the Church.  This teaching seemingly originated with Wilford Woodruff and the now famous Manifesto that did away with the practice (at least publicly) of polygamy in 1890.  Since his statement those many years ago there has been an increasing clarion call by the leaders reiterating this very same line of thinking.  Perhaps Joseph Fielding Smith summed this feeling up best when he stated:

“There is one thing in which we should have exceedingly clear in our minds.  Neither the President of the Church, nor the united voice of the First Presidency and the Twelve will ever lead the Saints astray or send forth counsel to the world contrary to the mind and will of the Lord.[17]

To be sure, Joseph Fielding Smith is not alone in this belief.  Whatever the original intent of this statement, or the current meaning, many members rely on this teaching and is even shared in the form of a testimony during numerous church meetings.  This teaching only serves to promote the idea that all we really need to do is trust the brethren, trust the leaders of the church and do, ultimately, whatever they instruct us to do over the pulpit, in magazines or in manuals.  Given that they profess that their unified voice always represents the “mind and will of the Lord,” all we, as lay members, need to do is follow them and what they say.

As attractive as this teaching is to the natural man and the idea that there is some mortal being that we can trust at all times, in all places and no matter what, it simply is not scriptural.  The Lord, in the Doctrine & Covenants, instructs us that:

“… man bshould not counsel his fellow man, neither ctrust in the arm of flesh – But that every man might aspeak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world…[18]

In a couple of different scriptures in the Book of Mormon, Nephi spoke of trusting in what he called the “arm of flesh”.  The arm of flesh, quite literally, is trusting in man to teach and preach and lead the way to God and Christ.  It is trusting in man to protect, guide and instruct us.  It is trusting in man – any man – for our salvation and spiritual education.  Some may argue that a “prophet” is not a “man” in this definition, but I have yet to find any example which qualifies “man” to exclude someone holding a certain calling in a Church, no matter how elevated.  Clearly trusting in the arm of flesh has other ancillary definitions, but trusting in the arm of flesh has a direct correlation with our ability to receive and obtain personal revelation.  When we seek to be taught from men, we will obtain men’s understanding.  When we seek to be taught from the Spirit, we will obtain divine understanding.  These two are not the same and no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves otherwise, we are still left alone with the intimate decision of who we follow.

Nephi makes these two statements in regard to trusting in the arm of flesh:

“O Lord, I have atrusted in thee, and I will btrust in thee forever. I will not put my ctrust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his dtrust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.[19]

“Cursed is he that putteth his atrust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the bprecepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost.[20]

The second statement contains a very appropriate and important exemption for trusting in man, that being when the precepts taught by a man are “given by the power of the Holy Ghost.”  How, then, can we know when something taught to us is given by this power, or if it’s merely given without the power?  It would seem that personal revelation is what is needed to interpret discourses, articles, lessons, teachings, preaching and any idea put forth which claims to be from God.  Truth is not confined to an institution, to a calling, or to a specific group of men leading a specific religious institution.  Truth transcends the boxes we create for it.[21]

Christ specifically told us that He, personally, will teach any and all willing to listen; all we have to do is “open the door[22]” and ask God who “gives liberally.[23]”  Sometimes this teaching does come from a messenger He sends, but mostly it comes while we are on our solitary road, when we ask and seek for the knowledge and truth only He can provide.  Christ also taught, elsewhere, that we should all stand or fall by ourselves, trusting in no other person than Him alone[24].

Indeed, it’s an individual journey and process which we must undertake in our own solitary way.  The end goal, the only goal, after all, of personal revelation is to create and gain an intimate relationship with our Savior.  Without that personal relationship life loses its meaning and we are left alone, man/woman, in this lone and dreary world.  On speaking of this individual journey contrasted with the seeming comfort we may find in a collectivist view of being a “chosen” person, Denver Snuffer opined:

“Each of us must find Christ for ourselves.  Popular opinion and the collective view of who are God’s “chosen people” cannot be trusted.  There has never been a safe, broad mainstream which reliably prepared or can prepare anyone to receive Him.  It has never happened this way.  We delude ourselves into thinking it will be otherwise for us.  It was always designed that the Gospel of Christ requires you to find Him in His solitary way.  His way is that of a “thief” who comes without credentials, without trappings and without public acclaim.  His only sign of authority may be that your heart will burn within you as He speaks to you while in the way.  Often times He will require you to first accept the unlikely truths which save, originating from unlikely sources, before He will permit you to come to the Throne of Grace.[25]

Of all the scriptures which discuss the nurturing of this vital relationship with Christ, I think this scripture in Jeremiah clarifies it best:

31 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a anew bcovenant with the house of cIsrael, and with the house of Judah:

32 Not according to the acovenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:

33 But this shall be the acovenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my blaw in their inward parts, and write it in their chearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all aknow me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their biniquity, and I will remember their sin no more[26].

In all likelihood God is speaking to us far more often than we realize.  Christ stated that He was the “light and life of the world – a light that shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not.[27]” This is the same light of Christ that has been given to every man, woman and child on this earth[28].  Unfortunately, most of us are walking in darkness at noonday and fail to recognize the light that is within[29].  In order to hear the voice of God and receive revelation, all we really need to do is to begin listening.

It would seem, then, that the ultimate goal that both God the Father and Christ have for us here in mortality, as the verses in Jeremiah indicate, is to come to know them for ourselves.  To establish a connection and relationship with them, a connection and relationship that transcends all other relationships and experiences we might otherwise have here in mortality.  That goal would include having his “law” written in our hearts and being numbered among “[His] people.”  In the movie The Other Side of Heaven, a dramatization of John H. Groberg’s missionary experiences, we hear this quote, which reiterates this very point:

“There is a connection between heaven and earth; finding that connection gives meaning to everything, including death; missing it makes everything meaningless, including life.[30]

We must find that connection, open that door, and seek for the Holy One of Israel ourselves.  That connection is the Holy One of Israel through revelation that He is waiting to give us, if we would but answer His call and knock.  That connection is what will open the doors of eternity to us.  He will write His law upon our hearts and we will become His people, but only if we trust in Him and no other.  We must approach the Mediator Himself, not some substitute, in order to be taught on an individual level from the Master teacher.


[1] Hinckley, Gordon B.  “A Prophet’s Counsel and Prayer for the Youth.”  New Era, January 2001, page 8.

[2] Hinckley, Gordon B.  Compass Interview.  9 November 1997.

[3] Hinckley, Gordon B.  San Francisco Chronicle interview with Don Lattin.  13 April 1997.

[4] Holland, Jeffrey R.  Cast Not Away Therefore Thy Confidence.  June 2000 Liahona.

[5] Reed Smoot Case, Volume 1, pages 483-484.

[6] Snuffer, Denver.  Eighteen Verses.  Pages 104-105.

[7] Id. Page 122.

[8] See Jacob 1:5-6.

[9] Definition of shall, Webster’s 1828 Dictionary.  http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/search/word,shall

[10] See 3 Nephi 15:11-24; 3 Nephi 16:1-4; and 3 Nephi 17.

[11] See Doctrine & Covenants 93:24.

[12] See Mosiah 23:14; 2 Nephi 28:31.

[13] Maxwell, Neal A.  “Lest Ye Be Wearied and Faint in Your Minds.” Ensign, May 1991.

[14] Stearn, Jess.  Edgar Cayce – The Sleeping Prophet, page 22.

[15] Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, page 324.

[16] Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.  Section Five.  Pages 237-238.

[17] Smith, Joseph Fielding.  Conference Report, April 1972.  Page 99.

[18] Doctrine & Covenants 1:19-20.

[19] 2 Nephi 4:34.

[20] 2 Nephi 28:31.

[21] In Come, Let Us Adore Him, Denver Snuffer discusses this idea.  On pages 70-71 of his book, he states, “Christ’s message is his authority.  His words are what distinguish His true ministers from false ones He never sent.  Anyone teaching His truth should be recognized as His messenger.  He taught this to Moroni.  Those who will receive Christ in any generation do so because they hear and recognize His words (see Ether 4:12).  Anyone who will not believe in His words, no matter who He sends to speak them, will not believe in Christ or His Father.  Those who trust only institutional sources of truth, whether they are Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, or Latter-day Saint, believe in an institution, and do not believe in Christ.  The ability to individually recognize His words distinguishes those who are saved from those who are lost.”

[22] Revelation 3:20.

[23] James 1:5.

[24] Mark 9:40-48 (JST)

[25] Snuffer, Denver.  Come, Let Us Adore Him.  Pages 68-69.  2009.

[26] Jeremiah 31:31-34.

[27] Doctrine & Covenants 45:7.

[28] Doctrine & Covenants 84:44-47.

[29] Doctrine & Covenants 95:5-6.

[30] Groberg, John H.  The Other Side of Heaven.