Skip to main content

The authority I give to prophets

Now that may seem like a strange title of an essay. What authority could I possibly give to a prophet? We believe and teach in our church that prophets get their authority from God. In fact, the whole concept of authority to speak in the name of the Lord is a big deal in the LDS Church. I mean, if our claim to authority is bogus, as some say it is, then the Mormon Church is a fraud.

I have written previously about our claim of authority to act in the name of God. We teach that Joseph Smith received multiple visits in his day from resurrected beings who ordained him and gave him priesthood authority. That’s an amazing claim in itself that has been contested since the day he made it but that’s not the type of authority I would like to address in this short essay.

We all have the type of authority I would like to discuss. It is not gender specific. Both men and women and even children possess this authority. We are born with it and we will take it with us into the next life. It is a great gift and one that I cherish dearly. I have used it for both good and bad throughout my life. So why would I agree to give it willingly to someone I have never met?

My authority is my agency

The more I learn about this church, the more and more impressed I have become with this gift of authority that is mine. If there is anything that I know more than anything else, it is that I can choose to believe whatever I want. Nobody can take that away from me. I don’t think anybody can form an argument that could convince me that I do not possess this ability. It is a part of me.

This authority to choose my own beliefs is something about which I feel very passionate. When I was younger I would do all kinds of stupid things in an effort to assert my authority and prove to others, mostly my parents, that this power was mine and mine alone. It is an amazing power. It can bring me great happiness or it can bring me great sorrow and it is all based on my beliefs.

In other words, I can choose to believe what I want to believe about what brings me happiness. I do not need some philosophical explanation to define happiness. I know when I feel happy and I think I am getting pretty good after all these years of identifying which beliefs and actions are the cause and effect of my happiness. My power of choice is the authority I have over myself.

Giving my authority to another

Whenever I choose to believe something that someone else tells me, I give away a part of my authority or control over myself. That’s especially true if I can’t prove what they have told me. That may seem like a crazy thing to do. I guess it all has to do with the reliability of the source. We all do it. There are things we believe that we haven’t been able to prove and never will.

For example, in relation to my membership in the LDS Church, I believe things about our history for which I will never be able to obtain or provide empirical evidence. I was not there when Joseph received the visit from the Father and the Son, nor was I there when he received the visit from the angel Moroni. There were no witnesses to these events. Yet, I choose to believe them.

I have given away a part of me – my intrinsic authority or agency – when I accept what I have been taught about these historical events while growing up. I believed what I was told because I trusted the source – my parents, my Primary teacher, my Sunday school teacher, my priesthood advisor, my Seminary and Institute teachers and just about anyone who taught me the gospel.

The transfer of that authority

When I became an adult, I had to decide if I still intended to give my authority to others who represented the source of that knowledge. In particular, I had to decide if I would transfer that authority from teachers and parents, many of whom were now dead, to leaders of this church. I felt comfortable about that transfer of authority and have now placed it in apostles and prophets.

Most of the men who were the leaders of this church when I became an adult are now dead. So of course, that authority simply slid down the line with each new prophet until today, I place my trust in President Thomas S. Monson and in the other fourteen men who lead this church. I am no different from millions of others who have had to go through this same logical process.

Last night I sat in my stake center with hundreds of my fellow brethren of the church and watched the broadcast of the priesthood session of General Conference. I listened very closely as each of these priesthood leaders spoke and weighed very carefully in my mind if what I was hearing was inspired of God and worthy of acceptance. As always, I was not disappointed. I was impressed.

The current repository of my trust

Of course, all men are fallible and so are prophets. Individually, some of the early apostles left the church and some even fought against it, denying many things that they had previously taught as facts, or truth, to be falsehoods and lies. Hmmm…that presents a bit of a dilemma. Now who do I believe – those who remained or those who left and claimed the original leaders were liars?

Fortunately, that hasn’t happened in my day so I haven’t had to make this choice among living apostles and prophets. But what if it did – what would I do then? One of the teachings of our church is that the authority for doctrine is comprised in two quorums – the quorum of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. I don’t have to rely on just one leader.

In my lifetime, I have witnessed a prophet of the church fail in mental health until he was simply incapacitated and could not act as the living mouthpiece or oracle of the Lord. That’s OK. I have written about this previously and explained there why I had no problem with this. I am convinced that this church can survive even when the prophet has Alzheimer’s. That’s amazing!

The ultimate placement of my faith

A prophet wouldn’t be a prophet to me unless he leads me to Christ. I look to these men to teach me about the Savior and how I can draw closer to Him. We have a saying in our church that we repeat often - follow the Brethren. We teach our children to sing the song – follow the Prophet. We do this because we have a tradition of confidence that these men will lead us unto Christ.

So ultimately, I give my authority and my agency to the Savior Jesus Christ as these men teach me to do. I like that. Of course, I haven’t seen the Savior or been personally visited or taught by Him. Although I believe it is possible if it were necessary, I don’t believe that I need to have to receive such a visit to exercise faith in Him. In fact, it wouldn’t be faith if I had such a visit.

That’s why I am so grateful for the gift of the Holy Ghost. I think I would be lost without this special gift that teaches me truth and leads me to God. Now this is something with which I have personal experience and personal knowledge. It is not empirical and never will be. That’s OK. It is very real to me and makes perfect sense. I know things in my heart that I can never prove.

Summary and conclusion

We all have a kind of personal power and authority that can only be used by giving it away to someone else. We call it agency. In particular, we have the right, power and ability to choose to believe what we want. It is very important that we find trustworthy sources to whom we can look to teach us about God and Christ. God must be revealed to someone or remain unknown.

Since I haven’t seen God, I must rely on those who claim to have seen Him to teach me about Him. Of course, it is critical to my salvation to be certain that my sources are authorized to speak on behalf of God. We call these men prophets and I have been listening to them all weekend. God knows that this is a leap of faith to trust a prophet so he has given us a way to be certain.

There is one wonderful piece of empirical evidence that God gave the prophet who brought forth the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That evidence is the Book of Mormon. To me, the whole process and procedure of knowing for myself is so logical. I am confident that I have given my authority to a trustworthy source and am grateful for the power this knowledge brings.

Comments

S.Faux said…
Tim,

You are a "thinking" Mormon. When we submit to other's authority, we must do so willingly and with a strong sense of responsibility for the decision we have made. It is the difference between true obedience and blind obedience.

Thanks for some great thoughts.
Stephen said…
Interesting perspective.

I really enjoyed the priesthood session as well, so we share that.

I'm thinking of watching more of conference at church rather than at home on TV.
Papa D said…
This was a wonderfully thoughtful post, Tim. I wish all discussions of authority and the Priesthood were this deeply considered.

Popular Posts

Facebook Discussion Group for Latter-day Commentary

At the request of my bishop, I have created a new space for those who wish to discuss posts from this blog on a closed Facebook group rather than in the comments below. You can find it at this link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/latterdaycommentary/ I hesitated a long time before creating this group. I feel strongly such a move should not have been necessary. If you are LDS and are even halfway awake you should be interested in learning more about the mysteries of the kingdom and discussing them. But apparently the "tone" of my posts has upset too many people. Best Vacation I've Ever Enjoyed I just returned from two Denver Snuffer lectures in Las Vegas and St. George, then spent three days at the Salt Lake 2014 Sunstone Symposium. This was absolutely the best vacation I have ever enjoyed. I can't remember the last time I was able to take two weeks off without having to put out some sort of IT fire at work every night from the hotel via Remote Desktop. Some people l

Do This in Remembrance of Me

  On that fateful Passover night in the Meridian of Time before Gethsemane , the Savior instituted the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. The Sacrament was a change from the way His disciples were used to observing the Passover. Therefore, the Messiah gave them a commandment to do the things which they had seen him do, that is, break bread and partake of wine “unto the end.” In the Book of Mormon, the Lord gave  another commandment to his disciples, “that ye shall not suffer any one knowingly to partake of my flesh and blood unworthily … if ye know that a man is unworthy … ye shall forbid him.” Thus, in our modern Church Handbook of Instructions, we find the same injunction. You also find there the restriction of the sacrament as a punishment. I would like to investigate the idea of restricting a man from partaking of the sacrament as an appropriate inducement to change his way of thinking. Frankly, I disagree with this idea, and have taken many opportunities to counsel bishops with whom

Cry Mightily Unto the Lord

The Brother of Jared took sixteen small stones to the mountain . We know they were small because he carried them in his hands. They were certainly smaller than an egg. Perhaps he had eight in each hand. When he came down from the mountain he had eighteen stones. The Lord gave him two more to be used by future prophets to read and translate the words the Brother of Jared would write of the Savior. After the Brother of Jared cried unto the Lord in a prayer of great faith and sound reasoning, the Lord touched the stones one by one with his finger. The record does not say the Brother of Jared placed the stones on a rock in front of him as we see depicted in the painting by Arnold Friberg. I like to think he held them in his hand as he cried unto the Lord in mighty prayer saying, “Lord, see these stones…” Assuming he held the stones in his hands, I wonder what that would have felt like as the Lord stretched forth his hand and touched them one by one. The Brother of Jared would have felt the

What to Expect When You’re Excommunicated

If you’re drawn to this blog post by the title, I ask you to look past that to the subtitle. It is “The Believing Mormon’s Guide to the Coming Purge.” Although this will be a review of Rock’s book , I hope it will also provide background and detail on why long-time members of the LDS Church would be willing to lay it all on the line in defending an idea that many find shocking. The idea is this: The LDS Church is in a state of apostasy and has been since before the death of Joseph Smith. The first time I posted about Denver Snuffer , I invited dialog on his teachings. I certainly did receive it – from both sides. One comment in particular stuck with me. I have been pondering it for years, wondering if it represented an accurate summary of Denver’s message. This is the comment: “Snuffer’s position can be summed up as follows: I was personally visited by Christ who made my calling and election sure, told me I was part of the true church within the dead church, that he would soon call oth

Concluding Testimony at my Disciplinary Council

I shared my testimony in our regular monthly testimony meeting this morning. I wanted to make sure the Bishop and a member of the Stake Presidency present - he’s also in our ward – heard me say I sustain the general authorities and local authorities of the church. Of course these words were in addition to sharing comments reflecting my love of my Heavenly Father and my Savior. Covering All the Bases Carol asked me afterward if I did that to offset whoever it was that complained about my blog a few months ago. I assured her I was sincere, but yes, I wanted the whole ward to know of my feelings for those who lead this church. I continue to sustain them with my prayers and with my money. Yes, I know my tithing is used to pay their salary. It also helps pay my sister’s salary. Follow the Bishop’s Counsel As far as I know, I’m not under any priesthood leader’s watch list for an impending disciplinary council, but a few of my friends and fellow bloggers have been surprised, so I’m being care

A Mormon Reviews The Afterlife of Billy Fingers

Storytelling in a Non-Fiction Book The Afterlife of Billy Fingers by Annie Kagan is a wonderful book. I give it five stars. One of the Amazon reviewers said she read the 191 page book in 90 minutes. It took me about three hours. I had to stop often to wipe away the tears. The book was an emotional and spiritual roller-coaster. Thank you, Annie for that superb and captivating storytelling in a non-fiction book. Messages From the Spirit World The book extends three challenges to its readers: First, is it fiction or fact? Annie didn’t have to expend a great deal of effort and energy to persuade me it really happened. I was convinced right away by the down-to-earth, day-to-day events of Annie’s life as she dealt with the loss of her older brother Billy to a tragic accident. I have no doubt Billy came to her to share his transition. Traditional Heaven and Hell Missing Second, you will need to re-examine what you know about the after-life, especially if you have accepted traditional heaven

Cut Off From Among My people

When one is excommunicated from the LDS Church, he is provided instructions by the Bishop or Stake President as to what he can and cannot do. Given that the church just severed the relationship with the individual excommunicated you would think the instructions provided are no longer applicable. It is assumed they are given with the intention of helping the individual make their way back to baptism again within a short period of time, even as little as one year. Instructions Provided When Excommunicated It has been my sad duty over the years to write and deliver the notice to appear, then to write the summary of the disciplinary council for the report sent to Salt Lake, and the instructions given to the individual who has been the subject of church discipline. Frankly, I have found it a difficult process. It requires that I listen intently and take copious notes so as to capture the essence of what transpired, what was considered, what was decided and finally, what instruction was

The True Order of Prayer

I’m not sure if I can write the things I feel in my heart right now. I am simply overwhelmed with emotion. I’ve asked the Lord’s permission to share this and He said yes. It’s a sacred experience to me. I hope the spirit bears witness. I’ll give you a little bit of background first, share what the Lord allows me and conclude tomorrow with what He asked me to write on a different subject. A Forty-Year Search On Sunday, I culminated a forty-year search for understanding of The True Order of Prayer. Yes, I was seventeen when I first learned about this, even before I was endowed. You see, my parents were both incredibly active in Temple service. Mother ’s life work was to do her family history. I have her patriarchal blessing where it’s stated it was her calling and election. She made it sure. My Mother’s Calling and Election Before she died, mother published multiple books of family history, genealogy and research on some 25,000 ancestors. She and my father personally did most of the ordi

A Dialogue About the Devil

I spent way too much time on this dialogue about the devil to not share it publically. I know. It's a terrible subject to contemplate. Why are we discussing these ideas when there are so many other areas of light that would be more worthy of our time and attention? You can skip this if you want. We all have to be selective about where we spend our time and energy. I open it up for public discussion, or more likely, for public correction. See if you can spot and correct any false doctrine here. Hello Brother Malone, I have no scriptural reference for my thoughts I share with you regarding Lucifer but wondered if in your studies and readings you have heard this scenario before. We are taught Lucifer was esteemed as per the Savior in the pre-existence before his apparent fall. Is it possible he did not fall and that like the Savior he chose to accept the calling of being Satan as Jesus accepted the calling of being Savior, that the great council was more about a communal and loving di

Keys of the Kingdom Revisited

Carol and I have had a running conversation since Sunday about the succession crisis at the death of Joseph. To me, it has become the crux of the matter when considering the legitimacy of the LDS Church as the Kingdom of God on the earth. We have both been taught all our lives that Brigham had the Keys of the Kingdom and therefore nothing was lost when Joseph was killed. Before I present anything may I remind everyone that this is the blog of a private member of the LDS Church and in no way represents the official viewpoints or doctrines of the LDS Church. For that, go to  lds.org where you can read the official narrative of how the succession between Joseph and Brigham took place. I won’t review it here. I assume you are familiar with the story. Second point: if my writing about this bothers you, please don’t read it. I am simply trying to understand our history more perfectly. If the history of our Church is not something that has anything to do with your faith or your willingness t