My Least Favorite Prooftext

April 13, 2004 | 38 comments
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Here it is:

What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same. (Doctrine & Covenants 1:38)

What I dislike about the way we read this verse is that we take not just the verse out of the context of the chapter, but the final dependent clause out of the context of the sentence. The only part of this verse one hears is “whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” This clause is then used to defend a concept of prophetic inerrancy, and a fundamentalist reading of not just scriptures, but general conference addresses, Ensign articles, and off-the-cuff remarks by general authorities.

Although the syntax is slightly ambiguous, the context of the sentence, and of the rest of Section 1, especially the verse immediately preceeding this one, make it seem pretty clear that what’s meant here is that the words of the Lord will come to fruition, whether those words were spoken by the Lord himself or by his servants. The idea that it’s exactly the same when a prophet (or really *any* servant of the Lord; it’s not clearly defined here) speaks as when the Lord speaks is pretty nearly idolatrous, and I find it frankly shocking that such a reading has become so commonly accepted in the church.

38 Responses to My Least Favorite Prooftext

  1. Thom on April 13, 2004 at 11:26 am

    I dunno. . . To me it seems that part of the prophets calling is to serve as the Lord’s mouthpiece here on earth. I think the words of the Lord really do have the same meaning, impact, and eternal import when they are delivered by the mouth of His servants rather than directly from His lips to my ears.

    I don’t think this is the text that provides a sense of inerrancy. I think that comes more from the scripture that says the Lord would remove the prophet from his place before He would allow him to lead the church down the road of false doctrine.

    Frankly, what I find more shocking is how comfortable some bright, well educated, and affluent members of the church seem to be with trying to pick at the perceived weaknesses of the leaders of the church, in an effort to illustrate when they are speaking for the Lord and when they are merely sinners like the rest of us. I think it is incumbent on each of us to give the benefit of the doubt to the Prophet and the general authorities whenever possible. Are they fallible? Sure. Will we be judged by our attitudes toward them and what they do and say? I think so, yeah.

  2. Kristine on April 13, 2004 at 11:30 am

    Thom, I’m not disputing that “the words of the Lord really do have the same meaning, impact, and eternal import when they are delivered by the mouth of His servants rather than directly from His lips to my ears.” What bothers me is when people turn that backwards and upside down to say that every word a servant of the Lord says is what the Lord himself would say. I think that is dangerously false.

  3. Thom on April 13, 2004 at 11:41 am

    Kristine – Your point is a good one. We should not go overboard in attributing all the words and opinions of general authorities to the Lord Himself. I am saying that we should not go overboard in the opposite direction either. We may have a truly difficult time judging in the short term whether or not a leader in the church is speaking under the inspiration of the spirit, or whether according to church policy, or whether they are simply speaking from well informed personal opinion or simple unfounded bias. Therefore, because of their calling as a servant of the Lord, I think we are obligated in some sense to give them the benefit of the doubt and treat their words with respect at the very least. I think to do otherwise puts us in danger of speaking ill of the Lord’s anointed.

  4. Kristine on April 13, 2004 at 12:02 pm

    Agreed.

  5. Steve Evans on April 13, 2004 at 12:08 pm

    Well, I’m sure glad we got that settled! Should we close this thread to comments?

  6. Grasshopper on April 13, 2004 at 12:40 pm

    Kristine, I think your side note “(or really *any* servant of the Lord)” is key. We are all called to be the Lord’s servants and to speak with his voice. The earlier verses in this section provide more context for this interpretation (emphasis mine; note particularly verses 18-20):

    17 Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments;
    18 And also gave commandments *to others*, that they should proclaim these things unto the world; and all this that it might be fulfilled, which was written by the prophets—
    19 The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, *that man should not counsel his fellow man*, neither trust in the arm of flesh—
    20 But that *every man* might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world;

    23 That the fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the *weak and the simple* unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers.
    24 Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto *my servants* in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.
    25 And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known;
    26 And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed;
    27 And inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent;
    28 And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time.

    30 And also *those to whom these commandments were given*, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, *and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness*, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually—

    I think interpreting “my servants” in verse 38 to mean only “the prophets, seers, and revelators” is a misreading and does not take into account the context of the whole section. When we read this scripture with the understanding that *we are* the servants spoken of, I think we have less of a tendency toward an inerrantist interpretation.

    I think we should similarly interpret “speaking ill of the Lord’s anointed, especially when we consider that all those who have received their endowment have been anointed. *We are* the Lord’s anointed and should not abdicate that role to others.

    (This doesn’t mean that the prophets, seers, and revelators have no unique role to play, just that these particular issues should not apply solely to them.)

  7. Frank McIntyre on April 13, 2004 at 12:54 pm

    Kristine, I’m glad you brought this up, because Doctrine and Covnenants 1 is such a great section. It is too bad if that verse gets misused by some to mean inerrancy when it doesn’t. But on the broader theme of the Section, look at these scriptural gems on the relationship between the leaders, the Church etc:

    On heeding the words of the prophets and apostles—with no qualifiers!

    14 And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people;

    On creating one’s own god (as opposed to abiding the ordinances and covenants God has established through his servants):

    16 They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world…

    This obedience is to the end of gaining individual testimony and personal revelation:

    19 …that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh—
    20 But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world;

    Next an explicit rejection of inerrancy, showing God is perfectly well aware that he is using imperfect men and asking us to follow them:

    24 Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.
    25 And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known;
    26 And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed;
    27 And inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent;
    28 And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time.

    Lastly, this one is just gorgeous— you get both “the only true and living Church” and “speaking unto the church collectively and not individually,” so that one verse both affirms the correctness and uniqueness of the Church as an institution, and recognizes that we are individually imperfect.

    30 And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually—

  8. Gary Lee on April 13, 2004 at 1:26 pm

    “what’s meant here is that the words of the Lord will come to fruition, whether those words were spoken by the Lord himself or by his servants”

    I think I agree with you, but might this have another meaning entirely? Might this verse mean that God’s word will not pass away but will be fulfilled, and whether it is fulfilled by his voice or by the voice his servants, it is the same? This interpretation would suggest that his servants are called upon to fulfill his word, and that whether he acts himself, or through his servants, it is the same. Until now, I have never even considered this possibility, so maybe it makes no sense at all.

    In any event, I agree that it cannot be used to support infallibility. I also agree that we must treat the words of his servants with respect, but the statement that we must give them the benefit of the doubt raises its own set of questions. What exactly does this mean? Just how much doubt do they get the benefit of?

  9. Lyle on April 13, 2004 at 2:09 pm

    I’m sure fallibility has been discussed in a previous T&S thread; but for the unlearned like me…I’m too worrried with living life & following Pres. Hinckley’s counsel & the rest of the Apostles to worry much about GAs…or further down the line.

    So: Kristine, how have the Prophets & Apostles used that part of the D&C in their talks? Is that your source for saying that D&C doesn’t support an infallibility doctrine?

  10. Dave on April 13, 2004 at 2:28 pm

    I think Kristine has a point about the rather convoluted language of the verse. Here’s a “plain language rewrite” of what I think the text of D&C 1:38 is trying to say:

    I, the Lord, will make no excuses for what I have spoken. All my words, whether spoken by my own voice or through the voice of my servants, shall be fulfilled.

    This leaves open the question of when the voice of the servants qualifies as the Lord’s words and when it does not. The creative (and convenient) misreading of D&C 1:38 often alluded to in Mormon discourse suggests that the voice of the servants is equivalent to the voice of the Lord in most or all cases. Other scriptures may support that idea, but I don’t think D&C 1:38, read carefully, is intended to go that far.

  11. Bob Caswell on April 13, 2004 at 2:59 pm

    Oh, the ambiguity of this life! Do you think if the brethren actually stuck to the “thus saith the Lord” rule (meaning, they let us know specifically who is talking when) that our life would be easier or harder?

    I, for one, think it would be harder.

  12. Lyle on April 13, 2004 at 3:00 pm

    Dave: I think Kristine has a very excellent point also. I’m just trying to figure out how to get there…as that isn’t the understanding I “received”/understood from conference talks by the 15.

  13. Kristine on April 13, 2004 at 3:06 pm

    Um, Lyle, just read. I don’t have a “source;” I’m relying exclusively on my knowledge of English grammar and syntax.

  14. Lyle on April 13, 2004 at 3:10 pm

    Um, Kristine, I did. :) That’s why I asked you a question in my first post above, to understand how grammar & syntax mixes with inspired usage of this scripture by living prophets.

  15. Thom on April 13, 2004 at 4:06 pm

    Gary Lee,

    I said (more or less) that I think we owe general authorities the benefit of the doubt when we have difficulty judging the exact difference between a divinely inspired pronouncement and an off-hand remark or opinion.

    By that, I mean to say that if we are unclear on the origin of a statement, we should at the very least treat that statement with respect and mentally allow for the fact that it may, indeed be inspired. We should then deal with it, or not deal with it accordingly.

    On the other hand, there should reasonably be an exception to this idea if a statement is obviously (and by this I mean really obviously) wrong or evil. For example, if a church leader announced from the pulpit in general conference that the law of gravity was false (obviously scientifically wrong), or that we should freely engage in sexual intercourse with our children (obviously evil) no benefit of the doubt would be required.

    I have no doubt that this last statement about the obviousness of falsity or evilness may potentially generate lots of excited questions about “how do we know? Maybe the Lord really would pull a stunt like that to test our faith!” and counter-examples of Abraham being commanded to sacrifice Isaac and all, but I think those sorts of challenges and tests are really reserved for those who are already prophets with the attendant spiritual savvy to be able to tell the difference between satanic inspiration divine commandment. I think it is safe to say that most of us agree that the Lord will never command us to do something like molest kids.

    On the other hand, if a prophet or apostle states that homosexuality is not a genetically inherited trait, but rather is aquired through promescuity or the like, I think respect for the office requires us to treat the statement with respect (ie not ridicule it or openly challenge the authority of the speaker), and mentally allow for the possibility that the statement is true. Sure, maybe it is just his opinion, but maybe it isn’t. Its difficult for us to judge, hence giving one in priesthood authority the benefit of the doubt.

  16. Frank McIntyre on April 13, 2004 at 5:07 pm

    What this thread lacks is a discussion of gambling:

    Suppose I toss a coin and try to guess whether it will be heads or tails. I get a dollar if I’m right and lose a dollar if I’m wrong. I have a fifty-fifty chance, so I guess whatever I want, because I have no reason to guess one over the other.

    Now my buddy comes along to give me advice and I know for a fact that he gets the coin flip wrong 10% of the time. This means that he is “fallible” in the sense that he gets stuff wrong all the time. It also means he is right 90% of the time. What should I do? Should I take his advice 90% of the time? Nope. I should take it 100% of the time, because I will make the most money that way. Even if he’s fallible, he’s not nearly as fallible as my common sense, which only gets it right half the time.

    How does this apply to prophets? The prophet says something you disagree with (if you agree there is no issue, is there?). You have to decide whether you are more likely to be right or the prophet is. The “benefit of the doubt” argument could be construed as, whatever their mistakes, you’ll do better following your leader than following yourself, because when you disagree, you may be right some of the time, but they are right more of the time. Go with the odds and you increase your chance of exaltation.

    One could juice up the example in all sorts of ways, but I think it gets the idea across.

    By the way, I think the larger stumbling block to salvation for me and many others is not intellectual dissent, but that I lack the discipline, love, or faith to do what I intellectually assent to being the correct course. This ties in to the “religion is what we do, not what we think” trope being batted around the blog.

  17. Lyle on April 13, 2004 at 6:10 pm

    Thom & Frank: I commend Nate’s law review piece on Pascal’s wager to you if you want to see the “better safe than sorry” “gambling” :) theory applied to practical legal issues. There is a link to Mormon papers somewhere here at T&S.

  18. Dave on April 13, 2004 at 6:36 pm

    Frank,

    That’s a clever argument. It is a good argument for deciding whether to accept a weather forecast, but this is more complex and personal. I don’t think it can be applied directly to the evaluation and acceptance of ecclesiastical advice or guidance.

    The “I’ll follow all advice” approach, even if justified by a 90% probability, is an abdication of responsibility to make your own choices. I don’t think the “follow all advice” rule covers you if you knowingly make wrong, incorrect, or immoral choices. God gave us a brain and a heart, and we are supposed to use them. Choosing to follow guidance is not necessarily faulty, of course. But that’s different than blind obedience or simply following all advice.

    Infallibility is a weighty claim. Without a doctrine of the fall and a sense of pervasive human fallibility, I think Mormons are in general too willing to defer to shady claims of infallibility. I don’t agree that we should pretend someone is infallible when we know they are really only 90% reliable. False claims of infallibility are themselves quite problematic, even if you’re making the claim on behalf of someone else. Even true claims of infallibility are inconsistent with the kind of humility one might expect from such people.

    We forget how pervasive prophecy was in Israel. Prophets were a dime a dozen. The problem wasn’t finding would-be prophets, it was identifying and rejecting false prophets. IMHO, the numbers today, even on a good day, are more like 10% divine inspiration and 90% fallible human wisdom (not incorrect, just fallible). So it’s important to be able to tell the difference–how else to focus on the important (i.e., truly inspired) stuff?

  19. Tom on April 13, 2004 at 6:53 pm

    There’s a joke that I hope at least one of you hasn’t heard…
    In Catholicism, the Pope is infallible, and no one believes it.
    In Mormonism, the prophet is fallible…and no one believes it.

  20. Frank McIntyre on April 13, 2004 at 6:57 pm

    1. All choices you make are “your” choices. Thus there can be no abdication of responsibility. Christ did all that His Father commanded, yet he chose to do so at every step.

    2. You are correct that people shouldn’t think prophets are infallible. The gambling example shows that infallibility is not required to justify a very strict policy of obedience.

    3. This issue is obviously more important than weather guidance, but my argument is _stronger_ when the stakes are higher, not weaker, because there is more to lose than getting wet.

    4. Perhaps you are concerned with “blind obedience.” I am not sure what this means but I know it worries some people. The obedience is based on a belief that some one knows more than you. Thus one lacks information and wishes to benefit from another’s experience. This is what the scriptures are for. This is what the prophet is for. It can be taken too far, but offhand, I’d say the scriptures spend a lot of time encouraging us to listen to the true prophets but almost no time worrying about “excessive” obedience to true prophets. That is a clue worth considering.

    5. False prophets are a problem. But incorrect statements by true prophets are not nearly as much of a problem, from the attention they get in the scriptures.

    6. You wish to “focus” on the inspired stuff. That is a great idea. We have prayer and scriptures and the statements of past prophets to help us focus. But look, there are times when you will disagree with what the prophet says. At that point you must decide who is more likely to be correct. My claim is that resolving that conundrum in favor of the prophet is a wise policy, unless you have really strong evidence as to why he’s wrong and you are right. I find that such evidence is rare.

  21. ed on April 13, 2004 at 7:43 pm

    Frank’s example works well if you have no information at all. In that case you should follow the prophet whether his information is 100%, 90%, or even just 51% accurate.

    The hard cases come when you do believe you DO have some information. Then the question of whether it’s 100% or just 90% becomes important.

    In most of the cases that get discussed around here, someone disagrees with a church leader because they feel they have an informed, perhaps even an inspired, opinion of their own.

  22. ed on April 13, 2004 at 8:00 pm

    For a concrete example of what I’m talking about, see
    http://www.affirmation.org/learning/letter_to_boyd_packer.asp
    (This letter discusses a father’s response to learning their son is gay.)

    I’m not taking a side on this particular matter, and I’m certainly not trying to start another homosexuality discussion. I’m just pointing out that in difficult cases like this, the advice “follow the prophet, he’s right 90% of the time” is unlikely to be very persuasive.

  23. Frank McIntyre on April 13, 2004 at 8:08 pm

    Ed: That’s right. So we should disobey when we think, given the available information, that we are more likely to be right than the prophet. This is what I tried to get at in point 6 above.

    I read the scriptures and I just don’t see the virtue of disagreeing with the prophet coming up as a major theme. I don’t see it introduced by the Lord’s servants in conference. From this I infer that the problem is _typically_ we’re wrong and the prophet is right, not the other way around.

  24. ed on April 13, 2004 at 8:28 pm

    Frank: You’re right, I should have read point 6 more carefully. You’re also right about the scriptures, in general (but check out Galations chapter 2).

  25. Dave on April 13, 2004 at 8:49 pm

    Gentlemen, I think the “heavy traffic” has moved on, leaving us chatting at the bottom of the thread. But that’s okay, maybe we ended up at something like a similar position.

    I’m leery of structuring moral decisions as rational choice problems. So I like Ed’s example–when it’s really a moral issue, one’s moral intuition or convictions guide one’s choice.

    Another problem with the rational choice framework as a practical exercise rather than a hypothetical one is coming up with defensible numbers. You might thing 90% inspiration, 10% human wisdom; I might think God really speaks only twice a century (say 1890, 1905, and 1978). The exercise would appear like a formal technique, but still be driven by our individual subjective views.

    Frank–nice to have an bona fide economist around. I knew there was a reason I liked your comments.

  26. Kristine on April 13, 2004 at 9:03 pm

    Frank, I was with you (sort of) until you said “I read the scriptures and I just don’t see the virtue of disagreeing with the prophet coming up as a major theme. I don’t see it introduced by the Lord’s servants in conference. ” Isn’t that a little circular? Why would we expect that prophets would extol the virtues of disagreeing with them?

    I think I do, in practice, apply something like your rational choice model in most instances. In my family, the maxim was always “obedience gives you the right to question.” One has to try out the prophet’s counsel and see if it works, or else one’s questioning may be motivated by a desire to rationalize one’s preference for disobeying, rather than an honest intellectual disagreement. (My dad’s an experimental physicist: of course he’d have that model for testing hypotheses :) )

  27. Kristine on April 13, 2004 at 9:08 pm

    Frank, I’m also with you in thinking Section 1 is gorgeous. One of my best scripture reading experiences ever was reading the Doctrine and Covenants quickly (i.e. over the course of 3 or 4 days). It is so interesting to see Joseph Smith’s prose develop as both his prophetic and poetic gifts come to full flower over time.

  28. John David Payne on April 13, 2004 at 9:18 pm

    I have a hard time with the “God only speaks twice a century” viewpoint. I think, as Frank has said in not so many words, that a central take-home lessons of the scriptures can be neatly summarized as: follow the prophet.

    And if three-quarters of the prophets never speak for God, then why in the world are we following them? Because they’re the guys who God would be speaking to if he had something to say? (Can you see God humming “If I needed someone…”?)

  29. John David Payne on April 13, 2004 at 9:31 pm

    Kristine, I agree with you on experimental obedience.

    Here’s a complicating anecdote, though. My first year out here in Boston I have a Turkish roommate, who is a really nice guy with whom I have several long gospel conversations. He invites me to come with him to a friend’s house to watch a movie. I accept and go. The movie is R-rated. It was a movie I had wanted to see, and I didn’t want to make a stink about something that these two other guys would find incomprehensible. Ratings are pretty arbitrary anyway, right? It looked like a good movie to me. Lots of folks think the no-R-rated-movies counsel is uninspired. Perhaps they are right. I watch the movie. I am sorry. Not just am I uncomfortable, but I receive a spiritual witness that it was the wrong choice.

    So, am I better off having experimented and found the brethren to be right? I don’t think so. I would have been happier to have just obeyed without experimenting, as I had done for several years before. And after all, I already had been told by God that these men were his servants and that I would be happier if I obeyed them. Having received that witness already, did I need to verify their counsels on a case-by-case basis? I can’t answer for anyone else, but I’m sorry I watched that movie.

  30. Kristine on April 13, 2004 at 10:04 pm

    John, maybe you just picked a bad R-rated movie…

  31. John David Payne on April 13, 2004 at 11:24 pm

    Yeah, that’s possible. But how much do I have to experiment with that counsel before I conclude that it’s inspired? Ten? A hundred? And after disobeying so often, would I be able to be as receptive to the spirit? This is the other problem with that method.

  32. Ethesis on April 13, 2004 at 11:41 pm

    quoting

    I think I agree with you, but might this have another meaning entirely? Might this verse mean that God’s word will not pass away but will be fulfilled, and whether it is fulfilled by his voice or by the voice his servants, it is the same?

    end quote

    I must admit, I always read the verse as referring to who fulfilled the words, not who spoke them.

    Interestingly enough, it is a real issue with some people. It isn’t just the old joke (there is a flood coming, and a guy waits on his roof while a car, bus, boat and helicopter pass him by, waiting for God to save him. When he drowns, he asks where was God and God asks him how he missed the car, bus, boat and helicopter he sent) but people who really act that way.

  33. Brent on April 13, 2004 at 11:49 pm

    John, I think the experimental obedience that we are to engage in is not experimental disobedience. To paraphrase President Kimball, it is always better to have never sinned even if full repentance is available. Thus, if we are to give place to experiment upon the word of the prophet, then we need to follow what they have said to prove the correctness of the teaching. Sure, confirmation can come the other way, but how much better it is to get such confirmation after following the counsel.

    By the way, it is nice to be back in the blogosphere or bloggernacle or whatever it is called. Although, I now have no hope of ever regaining my spot as the 2nd place commentator. Such is life . . .

  34. Frank McIntyre on April 14, 2004 at 12:03 am

    Dave: One only needs to defend numbers in a policy argument where
    you are trying to get someone to adopt your position. As a recipe
    for conversion, that’s a failure right? Conversion is when the
    Spirit tells you its true– thus giving each person a number that
    is based on their faith and understanding, etc.

    Ed: I’ll read Galatians 2.

    John’s point on “why are we following them?” is well taken.

    Kristine: The reasoning would be circular if I was talking to a
    nonbeliever and I didn’t elaborate. Since you do believe in
    following prophetic counsel, I’m sure you can fill in all the
    missing parts to make the argument pretty. If not, I nominate
    John to do it.

    John: Presumably when Kristine was talking about experiments she
    was not talking about the scientific method kind which set out to
    disprove the hypothesis (and in which your experience so clearly
    fits, you always were a sucker for foreigners), but rather the
    Alma 32, John 7:17 kind where one obeys and thus gains a
    testimony.

    Finally, I want to berate my toy model a little for failing to
    bring out a crucial point. When God gives someone keys and
    authority, I don’t believe that it is just so that that person can
    relay direct revelation to us. It is also a stewardship which has
    been entrusted to them and in which they have discretion to act as
    they see fit, as his fully authorized representative. What they
    seal on Earth shall be sealed in heaven. Helaman has a great
    example of this. So what the prophet says is what the Lord would
    have us do, because the Prophet is the authorized, key-holding,
    representative of him on the Earth, even if the Lord might have
    done it somewhat differently if He were here Himself.

    So if the prophet says to do something, for one to not do it one
    must believe 2 things, not just one:

    1. If God were here, this is not what He would have said and I’m
    guessing I know better what He would have said.

    2. The Prophet has so egregiously gone out of line that he has
    violated his stewardship to act in the name of the Lord. Thus God
    would have me disobey his appointed steward.

    I hope the difference is clear. I gave a blessing to my daughter
    yesterday. I certainly did not use the words that God would have
    used were He to have done it. But as a priesthood holder acting to
    bless someone within my stewardship, God will make good on my
    promises if there is sufficient faith and I am not way out of
    line. That is what I believe the sealing power given to Nephi to
    mean. That is what I believe it means to hold keys. I could be
    wrong and there some caveats needed to clean up the edges, but
    hopefully the point is clear.

  35. John David Payne on April 14, 2004 at 12:12 am

    Good point, Brent. Now that you mention it, I can think of several examples where we are invited to try obedience as a test. Can anyone think of an example where we are invited to disobey as a test?

  36. Frank McIntyre on April 14, 2004 at 12:17 am

    Sorry for the interruption, but let me clarify that when I said “that’s right” to Ed’s post, I was referring to his elaboration of the gambling model, not the link he provides in the following post.

    END OF CLARIFICATION

  37. Grasshopper on April 14, 2004 at 12:38 am

    “Can anyone think of an example where we are invited to disobey as a test?”

    The Lord’s challenge in Doctrine & Covenants 67 (“see if you can write a revelation”) might be considered along these lines.

  38. Kevin on April 14, 2004 at 2:46 am

    “Can anyone think of an example where we are invited to disobey as a test?”

    I’ve always thought, perhaps erroneously, that the story of the Fall was such an example.

    Which brings up another point. Sometimes Adam and Eve’s disobedience is justified by the claim that they were faced with conflicting commandments and had to disobey at least one of them. (In my opinion, the temple version does not bear this out.) What then, of the cases in which one leader contradicts another? What if we consider a policy to be in violation of scripture? Does it matter if leaders are living or dead? Is there an established hierarchy that dictates precedence?

    (On a tangent that should probably be ignored: The story of the Fall implies a paradoxically positive aspect of disobedience, even to God himself. Also, consider that we all sang for joy when we learned that we would come to earth and become entangled in sin. Is obedience our highest priority, or is it superceded by something else?)