Following Prophets

There is a great story in the Old Testament about following prophets.  It is a cautionary tale.  I will get back to it in a bit.

In the LDS Church we are taught to follow the prophet. The Primary children are taught a fun song about it.  All the children I know enjoy that song.  The chorus of the song hammers the idea home. “Follow the prophet, follow the prophet, follow the prophet; don’t go astray. Follow the prophet, follow the prophet, follow the prophet; he knows the way.”

I believe in listening to prophets and determining if their words are from The Lord. Even when I already believe someone is a prophet or a messenger from the Lord, I believe in the importance of determining whether the message they are giving at the moment is from the Lord.  And when I believe it is from the Lord, I believe in heeding that message. I believe the Lord sends prophets, true messengers, and that it is vital to recognize them (another topic for another time: how do you recognize a prophet or true messenger from the Lord?) and listen to and do what the Lord lets us know, through them, that He wants us to do.

But I also believe it is paramount that we personally learn to hear the Lord’s voice directly to us. And that that is what the Lord sends prophets and messengers for mainly, to point us to Christ, to help us learn that the Lord wants us all in direct contact with Him.  He wants each one of us to be a prophet.

Numbers 11:29 And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!

D&C 1:9 The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh-

10 But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world

Jeremiah 31:34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

Hebrews 8:11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.

D&C 84:98 Until all shall know me, who remain, even from the least unto the greatest, and shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, and shall see eye to eye, and shall lift up their voice, and with the voice together sing this new song . . .

It has been more recently in my life that I have realized that even beyond determining whether they are a true messenger, and actually speaking for the Lord at the moment, that I also have to be aware of what the Lord has told me personally, and that no matter what, I must do what the Lord has told me personally, even if it goes against what a true messenger says.

Now that is a scary prospect! Most of my LDS friends would probably read that and think I have really totally gone off the rails and into very dangerous territory if I believe something crazy like that.

Well, it is dangerous territory. We are all in very dangerous territory here in this wicked telestial world.  And the game is afoot, the test is on, and how we meet that test is eternally important.

Sitting back and believing all is well, and ignoring the warnings from the Lord all over in the scriptures because they grate against the lulling voices telling us that we are the chosen people, and we are special, and our leaders can’t lead us astray, is very dangerous.

We want to rely on others. We want to rely on prophets. We like hierarchies and file leaders and people to lean on above us whom we can listen to and follow and know we will be “safe” if we do.  We have even been taught by some that if we follow a leader and do what they say, even if they are wrong (and I have heard people say even if we know they are wrong) that we will be blessed for it.

I believe that to be dangerous false doctrine! That is the kind of belief that gives rise to very sad cult-like behavior.  I have seen it happen to people I know.  I have known of otherwise loving, kind people totally shunning and cutting off people they love, because a leader advised them to do that.  I have seen very cruel and emotionally abusive treatment of many, because someone in higher authority told them or suggested to them that they needed to do that.

In history we see more extreme things come from this mindset, like people drinking the poison cool-aid, and Nazi’s and others murdering people and later claiming they were just following orders. You may say those are extreme cases, but they come from the same mindset of following the leader, and that mindset has caused millions to suffer and even to die.

Are we supposed to be learning something from these examples? Are we wasting the lessons of this telestial world and these horrific examples, and just blithely going along making the same mistakes that almost every generation and every people makes, because we think we are chosen and special and cannot be led astray or fall as a people?  And that we should always follow our leaders?

We could play dueling quotes here now. People could put up a quote from a President or Apostle in the LDS Church saying that the leaders will never lead us astray, and then I could put up a quote from the same level of “authority” saying the opposite, and we could go on all day doing that. The quotes are all out there; you can Google them all and read them (unless you first read quotes about fearing reading information on the Internet, and therefore decide doing a search, or getting more information, is too dangerous because you might run up against something that goes against your beliefs or something false. Yes, it is a dangerous world, and much information is false. But the restriction of freedom of thought and information is another tactic of scary cults, and I can show you dueling quotes about all truth being part of Mormonism, too, and how we must seek and search out truth.)

The fact is, we are cautioned repeatedly in the scriptures not to trust in the arm of flesh, and that God is no respecter of persons.  Yes, the Lord uses prophets, messengers, servants, teachers, etc., to get His messages to the world.  But we must be very discerning of those messages, and above all, never give our agency away to another arm of flesh!  And as a leader, we must never use our position to coerce or even force someone to follow us or believe us.  That is Satan’s plan. (You key holders, don’t jangle your keys at people! And what does having keys even really mean anyway?  Another topic to maybe explore another time.)

Acts 10:3¶Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons

D&C 38:2For what man among you having twelve sons, and is no respecter of them, and they serve him obediently, and he saith unto the one: Be thou clothed in robes and sit thou here; and to the other: Be thou clothed in rags and sit thou there—and looketh upon his sons and saith I am just?

27 Behold, this I have given unto you as a parable, and it is even as I am. I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.

2 Nephi 4:3O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.

2 Nephi 28:31 Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And again:

D&C 1:9 The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh-

10 But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world

It requires a large paradigm shift to realize we are even doing this, trusting in the arm of flesh.  We don’t mean to do this. We believe that we can follow the men called into positions where we give them the title of Prophets, Seers, and Revelators, and that that is the same thing as following the Lord.  Because it is believed that they are called by the Lord Himself, and therefore what they say is the Lord’s word and safe to follow.

But we are on dangerous ground with that. We are on a razor’s edge.  And that paradigm is a strong one and hard for the Lord to shift us out of.

I have realized this starkly when friends whom I love have thought that I was following Denver Snuffer and/or a friend of mine named Dan who has also seen the Lord, because they imagine that if I am not following someone whom they consider to be a prophet, that I must have just shifted and be following some other person, because not following anyone is not really part of the paradigm. (As an aside, here is a link to Dan’s web site where he describes his experience.  This web site will only be up until early November 2015, unless the Lord tells him differently, so this link will probably not work after that:

I realized that because of a miraculous moment where the Lord changed my paradigm, I think so differently about this now than I used to, that it is hard for me to realize how people are going to take some of the things I say or write about.  It is my very profound weakness at communicating my thoughts that causes misunderstanding.  And it is also the very different paradigms that some of my friends are coming from that add to the misunderstandings.  I am sorry about that.  All I can do is rely upon the Lord to make things clear for those who truly want to know the truth, and who can put aside the fear and anger (and I believe the anger stems from the fear that if I could go so far off the rails, so could they) long enough to ask the Lord about the truth, with a sincere heart, with real intent. It is very hard to get an answer when you already are sure you know the answer. Then you usually get the answer you expect.  An open mind and heart is so important.  We have to soften our hard hearts and bend our stiff necks.  We have to be brave and want the truth above all else.

Anyway, I am a bit stunned when anyone thinks I follow Denver and/or Dan.  I will admit, the old habits and traditions and false beliefs and unbeliefs die hard.  I am a part of the gentile group warned about these things in the Book of Mormon.  I have been as susceptible to putting my trust in the arm of flesh as the rest of us.  But the shifting of my paradigm by the Lord has helped me greatly in that, although I always have to be on guard and continue to learn and grow in this understanding.

But I have to say that I felt to almost laugh once when accused of following these men.  No offense to them!  Because I have a great love for them and a gratitude to them for doing the hard thing of saying and doing what the Lord wants them to say and do in the face of pretty yucky persecution and hardship (What should really be used is persuasion and gentleness and meekness and love unfeigned when trying to save a soul you think has gone astray, not the persecution I have seen so many of my friends and acquaintances suffer.  Of course, that goes for people on all sides of the issue!) And I do believe they have seen the Lord as they say.  And I do believe that they were told to give the messages they have given from the Lord.  I believe the message because of the message, not because of where it comes from.  I believe the message because the Holy Ghost within me confirms to me that the message is true.  The particular arm of flesh chosen to deliver the message is actually inconsequential.  The Lord likes to use the weak things of the world to bring to pass His purposes.

I don’t know Denver personally, but I have a very personal relationship with Dan.  I consider him a super good friend.  We, along with a group of other friends who are very dear to me, have shared many things about our lives with each other, including some of our spiritual experiences and revelations to us.  The thing is, Dan is just one of us.  He has been asked by the Lord to share some things, and he has done that in his web site I linked to above.  But in this group of friends we have all learned so much from each other, from everyone, and there is no leader, no one to sit in the chief seat and be revered, just friends who try to serve and love each other, and become one, and move towards making sure there are no poor among us.  Dan and the rest of us are all arms of flesh.  I don’t follow any of them, and they don’t follow me.  But I surely do love them.  And if Denver wanted to come join us, that would be great.  And I hope and pray we would overcome our foolish nature to follow and just become fellow members of the family of God who all serve and care for and enjoy each other.

Now, back to the story in the Old Testament.  Back to the crazy thing I said earlier about not even following something a true prophet says if it goes against what the Lord has told you personally to do.  How can that be?  Well, there are certainly examples of that in our scriptures.  We know there have been times when people have been commanded personally to do things that go against commandments of the Lord spoken by true prophets.  Things like Abraham sacrificing Isaac and Nephi killing Laban.  I believe extreme things like that are extremely rare, but it happens.  I do believe the scriptures and the words of the Lord spoken by true messengers are given for our benefit, and those things should be followed, but I think it is clear the Lord wants us to follow the personal commandments He gives us above all.

So that is scary, because some truly insane individual might think the Lord has told them to do some heinous act.  And sadly that happens.  But at least it is one individual who is insane on their own, not a large group who is following a leader and drinks poison and gives it to their children on the leader’s say-so, or a huge group who manages to kill 8 million or so Jews and others on a leader’s say-so.  Or even just a generally kind and well-meaning and devoted group who gets carefully led down to hell because the flaxen cord of the sound of “All is Well” ringing in their ears deafens and blinds them to the truth of their awful situation.

I hope it pretty much goes without saying that everything we think the Lord has told us to do must be verified.  If it seems to be something wrong, we had better be sure!  But we cannot give up our agency to another arm of flesh because we are afraid of being wrong.  Any other arm of flesh is as likely to be wrong as we are!

Instead of repeating the whole Old Testament story and commenting on it myself, I am going to link to another blog post about it.  It is excellent.  Please read it before you go on. Here it is:

So, this all leaves us with quite a dilemma!  How do we ever know what to do??!!  If we can’t trust the arm of flesh, if we don’t know just by their position in a hierarchy that someone is a prophet, if someone we know personally who is just a guy or a girl (a prophet is without honor in their own country, isn’t that a truism?) says they have a message from God, then how will we ever figure out what is right to do or believe??!!

The only answer I know of is to go back to the scriptures:

Moroni 10:4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

We have to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ about the truth of it.  And then we have to trust the Holy Ghost within us to manifest the truth of it to us.

Because there is no other choice.  Everything and everyone else can fail us.

To me, it looks like the Lord has set up this whole marvelous, complex telestial experience for us, to get us to actually do this: to ask Him and to trust our answer from Him that is given to us through the Holy Ghost.  It forces us to turn to Him, which is what He has always wanted anyway, to have us turn our hearts to Him, to come back to Him, to become His children, part of His family, again.

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