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An Apostle’s Lament

quorum of the 12The following post is actually an extract from my journal of revelations.  It came to me very quickly one night when the Lord said, “Get up and write”.  I have made a few grammar corrections, but I was amazed at how little it needed to be changed.

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This fictitious scenario speculates about the possible plight of one who has been called as an apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, but as I was writing it, it became obvious that it may very much apply to any honest seeker of truth.  The dissonance, the, “wait a minute – this was supposed to be different” phenomenon applies to all of us.  This post is intended to encourage charity, and to urge caution in exercising judgment.  The first is an attribute that should define a Zion people – the second not so much.  Judgment without charity is, after all, poison to the soul.

Imagine yourself in their position.  Your ancestors were leaders in the church, probably pioneers.  The church is your life. Despite what you might know intellectually – that there is a difference between the church and the gospel – in practice you have found that they’re very hard to separate.

You worked hard preparing yourself to provide for your family, perhaps even to serve full time in the church.  The expectations were largely implied, but they were there nevertheless.  Your parents followed this path, so must you.  So, you studied, you practiced, you built.  You became a lawyer, or a doctor, or a successful businessman (or an airline pilot).  You made money and became very secure.  You overcame.  You “became”.  Unfortunately, you looked to the wrong place for your security, and what you became is not exactly what you had dreamed of.

You served as a bishop, then stake president, mission president, university president or all of the above.  You received revelation that came with the mantle of responsibility.  You know it was revelation.  You came to believe that you had His approval.  Over the years, maybe you came to know the Lord, and to trust Him.  You raised your family and were largely successful in doing so.  Most went on missions, earned degrees, and became successful, just as you had.  After all, the programs and direction in the church truly do help children grow up “in truth and light” – to a point.  The hearts of the children successfully turned to the fathers.  After that, of course, they must press forward on their own.  It is right that it should be so. The promises of those programs and direction were largely fulfilled as your family and your career grew.  You became “successful”.  You recognized the blessings of the Lord.

Your church responsibility increased until the day you were called to be an apostle – a “prophet, seer, and revelator”.  Your calling implies that you are called to ultimately lead the church to Zion.  Again, you know that intellectually, but you begin to wonder how this is ever going to happen, and as you face the day to day, the dream begins to fade.  You look around you, and you see a church filled with good people who are missing the mark…they have forgotten about Zion.  You see people who are looking to you to guide them.  Perhaps you know in your heart that they need to be following the Savior; that He employeth no servant there – but it’s too late.  The tide will not be stemmed.  They will not look away.  Your only choice is to actually BE their shepherd – to accept the mantle that they would force upon you.  Perhaps a few will be saved, as long as you do nothing to dispel the myth.

As an apostle – a “prophet, seer and revelator” – you expected to be privileged to receive heavenly manifestations.  Perhaps you have, and perhaps not.  If not – why not?  You might even begin to ask yourself, “Am I worthy?”  Your responsibility is great – of eternal import.  You cannot forget the exhortation that Oliver Cowdrey gave to the first quorum of the 12:

It is necessary that you receive a testimony from heaven for yourselves; so that you can bear testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon, and that you have seen the face of God.’  Then he continued: ‘That is more than the testimony of an angel … Never cease striving until you have seen God, face to face.

Indeed, the burden is great before the Lord, but it is made even heavier by the assumptions heaped upon you by the culture and traditions of the church.  You wonder about these manifestations that the culture assumes – you even develop righteous desires for the same.  What if they do not come?  What then?  As an apostle, you are supposed to be a special witness of Jesus Christ – with all that implies.  What if you never have that “special witness”?  While the mirror is relatively kind, there’s a dissonance that you can’t quite place or reconcile.  You’ve done well, but you, like everyone else, have fallen short.  After all, we are not Zion.  YOU are not Zion.

So, you teach and you testify, because that is what a prophet does.  You administer, because that is what an apostle in the LDS church does.  You learn.  You continue to study and seek, to knock and ask.  You strive to know Him – and to do His will.  You exercise the keys.  Seership, revelation – they largely elude you.  D&C 70:14 actually becomes a source of comfort, because it provides an explanation as to why these promised manifestations elude the leaders of the church.

Nevertheless, in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld. (D&C 70:14)

Perhaps you learn of great things, but those for whom you are responsible don’t want to know – they are far too comfortable in babylon.  Perhaps you personally dream of Zion, but they’re just not ready.  Your teachings and your testimonies become more and more hollow in comparison as the glory of the gospel opens up to you, but the people haven’t changed.  Your flock is still made up of sheep, looking to you for guidance and inspiration.  One day, you have an epiphany.  You are presiding over a telestial church – a dying church.  It will never, in its current form, achieve Zion.  You have to make a choice – step down and leave this imperfect organization, with its culture, its “policies and tenants and traditions” – or you stay and do your best with the hand you’ve been dealt.  You inquire of the Lord.  You are told to stay. You do so quietly, humbly.  Perhaps you look around in the upper floors of the temple and you wonder, “Do the others feel this way?”  You don’t dare testify of these feelings, not even to them.  Do they know?  Are they, also, just holding on – humbly, patiently bearing the mantle they’ve been given?  Perhaps, to some extent, you … “mourn out” your days, as did the people of Jacob (Jacob 6:26).

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In the aftermath of the “Boise Rescue”, many, including myself, have given in to the temptation to condemn, to ridicule, to criticize.  I was just as appalled at what was said as anyone else, and the errors and manipulation were astounding.  We, my friends, must nevertheless rise above this.  There will be no place in Zion for such sentiments.  Judgment without charity is, after all, poison to the soul.

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10 comments on “An Apostle’s Lament

  1. Hey Scott. Well-written, as always.

    I just can’t imagine today’s apostles feeling this way. As I read history (this is detailed well in Quinn’s “Mormon Heirarchy” books), it seems like what happened was that after the death of Joseph the brethren faced a difficult decision: Would they accept the possibility that they were condemned, or would they make a case that all was well in Zion? The handling of the Nauvoo temple shows that latter, and so it went.

    As for the generations of leaders since, it seems clear to me that it goes something like this:
    1) I believe the story, and I live how I’m supposed to.
    2) I get called into leadership roles, and act on my feelings-as-revelation. I see that people generally succeed under my advice.
    3) I get called as an apostle. By now I’ve been taught that my feelings-as-revelation that Jesus is real are more important than actually seeing Jesus. I’ve been taught and believe that the still small voice means the emotions I feel.
    4) Because I have been approved by men, I must be approved by God. Since I am an apostle, and I know apostles are approved by God, my mission is to make people like me. I have not seen God, and Jesus has never promised me that I am redeemed from the fall, so those things must mean something different than their literally reading from the scriptures. I promise people eternal life in the second anointing in the temple, and I have received that ordinance, so that must be the crowning event in life. My purpose as an apostle is to get men to obey me so that we can evaluate their worthiness of being selected by us to received the second anointing, so they too can receive eternal life.
    5) Because candidacy for eternal life is measured by loyalty to the brethren, anyone who opposes anything we say needs to be removed like a cancerous tumor, as they cannot have eternal life, nor can anyone who listens to them.

    The end. It has to be like this, because it is the only way it can be without us all being frauds. That is their reasoning.

    • Rob – first thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Again, as at the reunion, we are acting as bookends – I point out the warm and fuzzy, and you point out what is very likely, at least in some individual instances, the harsh reality. In both cases, of course, the truth is likely much more complicated and somewhere in the middle. I think it behooves us to be aware of the possibility that these men are indeed as cynical as you say, while giving each individual the benefit of the doubt because, after all, judgment without charity is poison to the soul.

  2. Scoot,

    Thanks for your charity and love. I feel it, and I saw it today when Jake Hilton rolled up in your old Ford. Thanks for being a real example of both. I am happy to know you!

    Val

  3. These charitable sentiments are natural and easy enough to feel… right up until they kick you out of the church for not treating them as if they were God Himself. How they treat you makes maintaining those sentiments that much harder to maintain.

  4. I agree with both your post and Rob’s comment. There are, of course, 15 of them at any given time and I’m sure their inner dialogues are complex. I don’t envy what they possibly go through in this life, or what they may go through as their eyes are opened in the next. In any case, I think Christ’s words are appropriate: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” And what follows also seems fitting: “And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.” Lord have mercy on all our souls.

  5. Funny on this one, MMMMM – this one really got my correlated friends up in arms. Truly – “The last remaining doctrine”…do not dis the brethren, or anything even close.

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