My Seminary class just completed 1 Samuel, which tells the story of Saul’s reign over Israel. As you know, the people of Israel demanded a king to replace the corrupt judges. (1 Samuel 8:19-20) Samuel was inspired to choose Saul. On the day before they met for the first time, the Lord told Samuel, “To morrow about this time I will send thee a man out of the land of Benjamin, and thou shalt anoint him to be captain over my people Israel.” (1 Samuel 9:16) Samuel does, in fact, annoint Saul, and the people accept him as their king. (1 Samuel 10)
Saul’s reign is a story of steady decline, which accelerates after David slays Goliath. (1 Samuel 17) Much of the remainder of 1 Samuel is a tragic series of thrusts and parries between Saul and David. Saul, who is probably mentally ill, seeks to kill David, but David twice refuses to retaliate against Saul, stating on one of those occasions, “I will not put forth mine hand against my lord; for he is the LORD’s anointed.” (1 Samuel 24:10)
What lesson are we to draw from this story? According to the Seminary teacher’s manual it is: “We should honor those who are called to lead us, despite their human imperfections.” In addition, the teacher’s manual includes the following statement from Marion G. Romney:
Some members assume that one can be in full harmony with the spirit of the gospel, enjoy full fellowship in the Church, and at the same time be out of harmony with the leaders of the Church and the counsel and direction they give. Such a position is wholly inconsistent, because the guidance of this Church comes not alone from the written word but also from continuous revelation, and the Lord gives that revelation to the Church through his chosen prophet. It follows, therefore, that those who profess to accept the gospel and at the same time criticize and refuse to follow the counsel of the prophet are assuming an indefensible position. Such a spirit leads to apostacy.”
The teachers are warned, however, not to encourage blind obedience. The following passage is from Harold B. Lee:
It is not alone sufficient for us as Latter-day Saints to follow our leaders and to accept their counsel, but we have the greater obligation to gain for ourselves the unshakeable testimony of the divine appointment of these men and the witness that what they have told us is the will of our Heavenly Father.
The story of Saul and David does not jibe neatly with the quotations by Elder Romney and Elder Lee. Elder Romney warns us not to oppose “continuous revelation,” while Elder Lee encourages us to build an “unshakeable testimony.” The implicit message in both remarks is that Church leaders are inspired; therefore, we should bring our lives into harmony with their teaching. Saul may have been the anointed king, but I dare say that his attempts to take the life of David were not inspired.
Thus, my Seminary Thought Question: In light of the story of Saul and David, how should members deal with situations in which they feel that Church leaders are not inspired?