I assume that most people in the bloggernacle are aware of the Liahona/Iron Rod distinction wherein those who surrender personal responsibility by following the prophet (like the Iron Rod) are contrasted with those who accept a more robust kind of responsibility by following their own spiritual promptings (like a Liahona). This metaphorical distinction, I submit, is nothing but the philosophies of men mingled with scripture – a clever sophistry which serves to undermine the prophets by democratizing priesthood authority.
My beef is not with the Iron Rod metaphor whose meaning is not currently in dispute – we are supposed to follow the word of God as given to us by His uniquely authorized representatives. What I do want to dispute is the idea that this is in anyway different from the metaphorical meaning behind the Liahona. Remember, the Lord did not give each person in Lehi’s family a Liahona of their own. Rather, a uniquely authorized few were to consult the Liahona regarding the entire group’s plan of action while the rest of the group were to follow the directions of that uniquely authorized few.
The only metaphors in Lehi’s family which do suggest the democratization of authority and leadership were Laman and Lemuel. They thought that their own reason, experience and preferences were just as legitimate as Nephi’s consultations with the Liahona. The thing is, if you look at things from their perspective, their case sounds rather familiar. Nephi’s directions were neither consistent nor infallible in that the group was forced to backtrack on a number of points. Nephi openly and humbly admitted that he wasn’t sure about a number of his decisions, decisions which often causeed a significant degree of hardship and suffering. Unsurprisingly, Nephi was occasionally outnumbered (outvoted?) and it seemed arbitrary (unfair?) that his views should outweigh those of so many others. Accordingly, it sometimes seemed necessary for Laman and Lemuel to take matters into their own hands and undermine Nephi’s leadership.
This, I submit, is a strikingly accurate depiction of the self-identified Liahonas within the bloggernacle. Like Laman and Lemuel, these people never tire of pointing out the inconsistencies in church policy across various contexts, reminding us of the admitted fallibility of church leaders, the equality if not superiority of their own qualifications when it comes to many topics, the hardships which church leadership has inflicted upon themselves and others, the tension between current church teachings and public opinion, etc. Furthermore, just as Laman and Lemuel were able to compromise the performance of the Liahona, sometimes leading both Nephi and the entire group astray, so too these people have occasionally compromised the direction of the church, leading it down worldly paths which the Lord never intended for it.
In summary: If you are not a duly authorized priesthood leader, you are not really a Liahona – but you still might be an Iron Rod. If, however, you use reason, experience and preference to critique, evaluate or judge the prophets, you are not really a Liahona or an Iron Rod – you’re a Laman/Lemuel. If you think that the fallibility or inconsistency of church leaders somehow authorizes you to “correct” them, you are not really a Liahona or an Iron Rod – you’re a Laman/Lemuel. If you think that a general consensus in public opinion trumps the uniquely authorized church leaders, you are not really a Liahona or an Iron Rod – you are a Laman/Lemuel. If you think that the hardships suffered by those within the church authorize you to speak against the church leaders, you are not really a Liahona or an Iron Rod – you’re a Laman/Lemuel. I could go on, but I think you get the picture.