Monday, October 12, 2009

“Beware of False Prophets and False Teachers”

I was looking through old conference talks on lds.org today and I ran across this one from Elder Ballard from October 1999. It certainly woke ME up.
Brothers and sisters, the exact time of the Second Coming is known only to the Father (see Matt. 24:36). There are, however, signs that scriptural prophecy relating to that tumultuous day is being fulfilled. Jesus cautioned several times that prior to His Second Coming, "many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many" (Matt. 24:11). As Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, it is our duty to be watchmen on the tower, warning Church members to beware of false prophets and false teachers who lie in wait to ensnare and destroy faith and testimony. Today we warn you that there are false prophets and false teachers arising; and if we are not careful, even those who are among the faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will fall victim to their deception.

President Joseph F. Smith gave wise and clear counsel that applies to us today:

"We can accept nothing as authoritative but that which comes directly through the appointed channel, the constituted organizations of the Priesthood, which is the channel that God has appointed through which to make known His mind and will to the world. . . . And the moment that individuals look to any other source, that moment they throw themselves open to the seductive influences of Satan, and render themselves liable to become servants of the devil; they lose sight of the true order through which the blessings of the Priesthood are to be enjoyed; they step outside of the pale of the kingdom of God, and are on dangerous ground. Whenever you see a man rise up claiming to have received direct revelation from the Lord to the Church, independent of the order and channel of the Priesthood, you may set him down as an imposter" (Gospel Doctrine, 41–42).
Lovely reminder, wouldn’t you say? No matter the uplift or encouragement I receive through blogs, if I look to that instead of to priesthood channels for direction, I make myself vulnerable to Satan.

I realize this post could probably be accused of being hypocritical for focusing on a 10-year-old talk when we’ve just had general conference. I can only say this topic felt important to me, so I wanted to share my thoughts about it and point out how it is applicable today.

And what is this idea about “losing sight of the true order through which the blessings of the Priesthood are to be enjoyed”? To me this doesn’t just mean blessings that come from priesthood ordinances. To me it also means that certain blessings come from obeying our priesthood leaders that can be obtained in no other way. It also seems to suggest that we can trust that if true direction comes, it WILL come through that channel.

As for that bit about people rising up claiming direct revelation for the church independent of the order of the priesthood, it seems to me that that is particularly liable to happen in the Blogosphere with all our independent voices posting and discussing and commenting and critiquing and evaluating. For my part, it’s far too easy for me to become convinced that my writing is of utmost importance for everyone to read.
When we think of false prophets and false teachers, we tend to think of those who espouse an obviously false doctrine or presume to have authority to teach the true gospel of Christ according to their own interpretation. We often assume that such individuals are associated with small radical groups on the fringes of society. However, I reiterate: there are false prophets and false teachers who have or at least claim to have membership in the Church. There are those who, without authority, claim Church endorsement to their products and practices. Beware of such.…

President Spencer W. Kimball reminded us that the prophets "constantly cry out against that which is intolerable in the sight of the Lord; against pollution of mind, body, and our surroundings; against vulgarity, stealing, lying, pride, and blasphemy; against fornication, adultery, homosexuality, and all other abuses of the sacred power to create; against murder and all that is like unto it; against all manner of desecration."….

Therefore, let us beware of false prophets and false teachers, both men and women, who are self-appointed declarers of the doctrines of the Church and who seek to spread their false gospel and attract followers by sponsoring symposia, books, and journals whose contents challenge fundamental doctrines of the Church. Beware of those who speak and publish in opposition to God's true prophets and who actively proselyte others with reckless disregard for the eternal well-being of those whom they seduce. Like Nehor and Korihor in the Book of Mormon, they rely on sophistry to deceive and entice others to their views. They "set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion" (2 Ne. 26:29).
This made me think really hard, because I admit I’ve often wondered if there was a way to “monetize” this blog. It also made me think about whether I’m posting things just to try to get favorable comments. Do I employ sophistry (the use of fallacious arguments with the intent to deceive)? Am I seeking the welfare of Zion or am I just trying to make myself look smart?
Of such President Joseph F. Smith warned when he spoke of the "proud and self-vaunting ones, who read by the lamps of their own conceit; who interpret by rules of their own contriving; who have become a law unto themselves, and so pose as the sole judges of their own doings" (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. (1939), 381).
Just reading that paragraph punctured all kinds of ego bubbles for me.

Self-vaunting = self-praising and boasting
Reading by the lamps of one’s own conceit = reading to learn of your own greatness, rather than to learn where you need to repent
Interpreting by rules of one’s own contriving = deliberate use of artifice to create rules of interpretation. (I suppose this refers to “wresting the scriptures” to try to justify what we know is wrong but is so convenient that we want to do it anyway)
Becoming a law unto ourselves - happens when we are not willing to abide the law of the celestial kingdom, but instead want to make our own rules and therefore think that no one else is qualified to judge us because we think we are a special case.
Now let me give you a few examples….

False prophets and false teachers are those who declare that the Prophet Joseph Smith was a duplicitous deceiver; they challenge the First Vision as an authentic experience. They declare that the Book of Mormon and other canonical works are not ancient records of scripture. They also attempt to redefine the nature of the Godhead, and they deny that God has given and continues to give revelation today to His ordained and sustained prophets.

False prophets and false teachers are those who arrogantly attempt to fashion new interpretations of the scriptures to demonstrate that these sacred texts should not be read as God's words to His children but merely as the utterances of uninspired men, limited by their own prejudices and cultural biases. They argue, therefore, that the scriptures require new interpretation and that they are uniquely qualified to offer that interpretation.
This worries me, considering that many of my posts examine scripture stories. It seems to suggest that I need to make sure that the tone (or the spirit) of my writing is uplifting and encouraging, confirming and demonstrating how the scriptures were inspired and unlimited by the prejudices and cultural biases of the writers. It’s easy today to explain away the marvelous works of God. It’s harder to look deeper with an eye of faith until you see where the contradicting truths meet together in a holy unity. Everything that is good and holy comes from God, and there are definite differences between what is "politically correct" and what is "holy".
Perhaps most damningly, they deny Christ's Resurrection and Atonement, arguing that no God can save us. They reject the need for a Savior. In short, these detractors attempt to reinterpret the doctrines of the Church to fit their own preconceived views, and in the process deny Christ and His messianic role.

False prophets and false teachers are also those who attempt to change the God-given and scripturally based doctrines that protect the sanctity of marriage, the divine nature of the family, and the essential doctrine of personal morality. They advocate a redefinition of morality to justify fornication, adultery, and homosexual relationships. Some openly champion the legalization of so-called same-gender marriages. To justify their rejection of God's immutable laws that protect the family, these false prophets and false teachers even attack the inspired proclamation on the family issued to the world in 1995 by the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles.
I think one manifestation that we see today is rhetoric that talks about how people are driven away from the church because they feel so ashamed after their particular sin has been denounced. I really think that Satan tries to make people feel that they ARE their sin so that they feel they are personally being attacked. The twisted logic goes something like this. “God/the prophet/my priesthood leader doesn’t like this sin. I have troubles with this sin. Therefore, God/the prophet/my priesthood leader doesn’t like me.” Satan wants us to think that the connection between us and our sins and flaws is so strong as to be unbreakable so that he can get us to think of us and our sins and flaws as synonymous. This can lead to attempts to redefine morality when really what is needed is determined submission to the truth, and a priesthood-led journey of repentance toward sanctification through the Atonement of Christ.
Regardless of which particular false doctrines they teach, false prophets and false teachers are an inevitable part of the last days. "False prophets," according to the Prophet Joseph Smith, "always arise to oppose the true prophets" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 365).

However, in the Lord's Church there is no such thing as a "loyal opposition." One is either for the kingdom of God and stands in defense of God's prophets and apostles, or one stands opposed.…
Let us examine that term “loyal opposition”. Why does Elder Ballard believe that there is no such thing as loyal opposition in the Lord’s church? We might put ourselves in this camp when we profess to support the principles and the commandments and the prophets, but disagree with how policies are carried into effect. What we might not realize is that not only must the Lord’s commandments be put into effect, but they must be put into effect in the Lord’s way, which is higher than man’s way. And if the natural man thinks the things of God are foolish, revelatory policy decisions will probably be considered foolish as well.

What other types of behavior might make us label ourselves the “loyal opposition” (which is really just opposition)? One might be the tendency to try to soften the commandments of God to try to make them more palatable to the world. The truth is that unless society is righteous, the commandments will be unpopular. The truth is that the wicked world will always take the truth to be hard. It used to be that when we upheld the standards we were at least respected for it. Now, we have to uphold them even when we feel we are being made to look foolish and intolerant.
Let us remember that it is our duty to be faithful to the restored truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It takes faith--real faith, total and unreserved--to accept and strive to live prophetic counsel. Lucifer, the adversary of truth, does not want us to feel or exhibit that kind of faith. He encourages disobedience, planting defiance in the hearts of the unwary. If he is successful, they will turn away from the light into the darkness of the world.
This reminds me of the words of Christ that say false prophets can be known by their fruits. You can’t get grapes from thorns or figs from thistles.
Our safety, our peace, lies in working as hard as we can to live as the Father and Son would have us live, in fleeing from false prophets and false teachers, and in being anxiously engaged in good causes.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting how the focus is on doing what the brethren tell us instead of what the Holy Ghost confirms to us. I would pick the Holy Ghost on my worst day instead of the brethen on my best day.

Rich Alger said...

I loved your post. I converted the asx stream to an mp3 so I can listen to the talk again. I don't have anywhere to post the mp3 and lds.org does not provide this format for the 1999 Oct Conference.

Michaela Stephens said...

Anonymous, the Holy Ghost will confirm to us the truth of what the brethren say. The Holy Ghost inspires the brethren what to say to us.
My goal is to be in harmony with the Holy Ghost so that I can receive from both Holy Ghost and priesthood leaders and be unified with both.