There were lots of great comments and complaints about my new theory that I informally presented in the last post. They made me really consider what the theory entails and what it doesn’t. I think it would be helpful to step back a little and look at this theory in a larger context.
First, it should be noted that this is not as much a theory about obedience or prophets as it is about God. This is really about the way God interacts with humankind. The focus is on the behavioral counsel we receive from church leaders — where it originates and what God thinks of it.
One of the concerns brought up was that the idea that God lets his stewards make things up and then He supports them in their decisions gives too much power to fallible men. Craig aptly asked:
If the prophet told us that we all need to start walking backward from now on are you implying that God would say, “Yes I agree”?
There are at least two safeguards in place to make this scenario unlikely if not impossible. One is the quote from President Woodruff that promises God would never let the prophet lead the church astray. The other comes to us in the experience Nephi had when he received the sealing power:
4 Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments.
5 And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will.
6 Behold, thou art Nephi, and I am God. Behold, I declare it unto thee in the presence of mine angels, that ye shall have power over this people, and shall smite the earth with famine, and with pestilence, and destruction, according to the wickedness of this people.
7 Behold, I give unto you power, that whatsoever ye shall seal on earth shall be sealed in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and thus shall ye have power among this people.
The point here is that God only gives this sealing power to those who have proven they can and will properly handle it. He only turn the keys of the car over to those he can trust to bring it back in one piece and with gas in the tank. He also has safeguards of 14 other men to protect against things like physical or mental health failures. We have seen more than one case of that in the last few decades and never once did we get bad counsel. God is directly involved in this process after all.
Matt questioned how to separate underlying doctrinal assumptions and the behavioral counsel. I think it is an easy thing to do. For example, Elder Peterson counseled against interracial marriages for young people at BYU in 1954. Did God approve of that behavioral counsel or not? I think he did for that audience at that time. When it came to behavior, all of the explanations he gave at the time for the counsel are moot. All that matters is that a behavior was recommended and God agreed. (Rusty posted on explanations recently too.)
More recently we have been counseled against gambling and on how many earrings LDS women should wear. President Hinckley gave some examples of problems that arise due to gambling. But those examples again don’t really matter. The question is does God agree that we should avoid gambling or not? If he does then what else matters? And regarding the earring counsel: Does God agree that it is a good idea for LDS women to wear only one set of earrings or not? If he does then what else matters?
Perhaps the shocking aspect of my theory to most is that I am suggesting that not all these ideas originate with God. Maybe, as some have asserted, his steward thought of the gambling counsel or the earring counsel on his own. My theory is that even if that is the case, God will agree with and support it anyway. I am asserting that the sealing power of a prophet can extend further than many realize and that things that God may not have cared about before He will care about after his steward says we should care.
Craig was also worried that those stewards are giving counsel that he would not give and that he was not comfortable with. This is a separate issue but the same test of importance applies. Does God agree with the counsel or not? If he does then it really doesn’t make much difference if we like it or not. We are left to freely choose to follow or ignore it.
The good news for us and God is that finding out of what He cares about requires personal revelation. It requires true dialogic prayer. That is what he really wants anyway. After all “…this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17: 3)
Of course so far I have only talked about what I think happens. The question of why God might have such policies is probably even more fun… We know God likes variety after all, and since the future in not fixed this sort of thing must make being Him a lot more fun… So many theological questions to speculate about and so little time…