Thursday, July 2, 2009

Proximity & Obedience

Closeness can lead to confusion - and maybe some complaints

A wonderful series of letters between George Albert Smith and J. Raymond Cope were recently highlighted in a blog post at By Common Consent (which btw is a great blog for all things mormony). I recommend all go there and at least read the post if not the discussion as well. In essence though, we do not believe as a church that we should blindly follow our leaders, rather we should ponder and pray to gain our own testimony about the counsel.

Of course any sane person (I make myself smile with that adjective) will have a gradient of personal confidence when it comes to their individual church leaders. This comes about due to our personal relationship with said leader. The logic works like this; all of us are human – being human we make mistakes, like all the time – the more you know someone, the more of their mistakes you are exposed to – the more you are exposed to the less confidence you will have in their counsel. So the closer the proximity to the leader, the more pondering/prayer it will require to accept the counsel.

Now I think this is a good thing as life and the general experience that lands you in one of the red chairs at conference is a lot different than your local Deacon’s quorum president. We are all learning as we go through life and I would like to think that those who have reached larger responsibilities have retained and used some of that knowledge. Don’t get me wrong, I am not discounting the calling and leadership of the anyone; it is possible to accept that sometimes people, even though called of God, can and do make mistakes. But they can and do get a lot of things right and do tremendous work.

I am just saying it is worth your time to think about what your local leaders say, and then pray about it, and then being okay with the response. Sometimes that means changing your general direction in life to get in line with the counsel, and other times that means they are just plain wrong and just weather the storm while still retaining your testimony the church is true but managed by human beings (and of course be very very grateful you aren’t the one having to make the decisions).

Now all this is just prelude to my initial thoughts I had about the two letters referenced above. What is my personal gradient of confidence of my church leaders’ counsel based on proximity? So for the basic positions I have (off the top of my head):

  • Current Prophet – about 99.5% confidence (i.e. I would just about always accept their counsel with little need to ponder it – but I still would anyway). I would be totally there but we can all bring up times wherein certain theological theories have been put out there that have over time lost favor or been denounced as mistakes – Adam God anyone? (Proximity – seen him speak)

  • Current Apostles – 97% (Proximity – handshake once or twice)

  • Past Prophets – 85% (not that I think they are wrong that much, it is just their counsel can and is dated)

  • GA’s – 80% I have heard one or two doozies from this department.

  • Stake President – 60% ((Proximity – actual conversations)

  • Bishop – 50% - Proximity gets really close here as I know these guys from way back, when they were young whippersnappers. I have hung out with their families. You get it.

  • My Elder’s quorum president – 10% this guy is an idiot and about 90% of all my life’s mistakes have come from following his counsel**

I think about the second half of the old saying about church leadership:

The Mormons say that the Prophet is a fallible man and does not always speak for God, but no one believes it.

It would serve us all well to remember that. We are all human, full of mistakes, just trying to do right by God and our fellow man. But if you think that every word that falls from your leader’s mouth, local or otherwise, is absolute truth and exactly what God wants you to do at that time; well do not lose your testimony when it goes astray. God has clearly told you that they will make mistakes. How else do we grow? And if you don’t get that, then I sincerely hope and pray they call you as the next whatever.

And for the record, I do have one church leader who I can give a 100% rating to. That would be my Home Teacher as I haven’t seen him ever. No proximity means he has yet to screw up, and I can have complete trust in his counsel.

**When I get released I am sure the next guy will do much better – he can’t do any worse.

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