Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Powers that Be

1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power in the church but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. (Romans 13:1-2, JST included)
It is likely that this scripture without the JST was often used to support the theory of the divine right of kings.  With the addition of the JST, it is clear that a government or ruler can’t argue legitimacy solely from possession of power.

In the church, however, with calling by revelation and priesthood authority, power comes from God, and you can’t resist without causing real damage to your soul. 

One phrase might be puzzling here.  “Whosoever resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God.”  Is Paul taking about ordinances in the sense of baptism and confirmation?  I don’t think so.  I think he is using the word ordinances in the sense of laws.  So it would make more sense if it read “Whosoever resisteth the power, resisteth the law of God.”

I think these verses couldn’t be plainer about the consequences of rebellion in the church.  I’m also very grateful for Joseph Smith’s revelation in D&C 121 about how priesthood holders must avoid unrighteous dominion and maintain their influence through persuasion, long-suffering, kindness, gentleness, etc.  That principle perfectly meshes with this one, as one gives the responsibility of members to be subject and the other gives the responsibility of leaders to not tyrannize.

I had a sad experience with resisting a priesthood file leader.  It sent me into a spiritual tailspin.  Finally submitting to counsel helped me realize where my error was.  (Notice the order there.  I first had to submit to counsel.  While obeying I realized where my error was.  Submitting was an act of faith that the Lord rewarded with enlightenment.)

I am forever grateful to the powers that be that uphold the commandments.