Born & raised in the Mormon Church, I was taught that Joseph Smith has done more for the salvation of mankind, except for Jesus Christ. Joseph was highly respected and revered. Sixty-two years of my life transpired before I heard the proverbial “rest of the story.”
Over the past 2 years, I have studied, pondered, discussed & prayed……a ton. Joseph Smith had big problems. The narrative taught in the church has huge holes. At this point, I DO NOT dismiss the historical and doctrinal issues. However, the topic of this blog posting is not the challenges. Rather, the subject is just one quote from Joseph. One that I love. I wish it were taught in the LDS Church, the very church that he founded.
My Favorite Scripture
We are taught that words from the prophets that are spoken under the direction of the Holy Spirit are scripture. To me, the following paragraph is so gorgeous that I’m taking it as inspired by the Spirit. That makes it scripture.
“We have heard men who hold the priesthood remark that they would do anything they were told to do by those who preside over them — even if they knew it was wrong. But such obedience as this is worse than folly to us. It is slavery in the extreme. The man who would thus willingly degrade himself should not claim a rank among intelligent beings until he turns from his folly. A man of God would despise this idea. Others, in the extreme exercise of their almighty authority have taught that such obedience was necessary, and that no matter what the Saints were told to do by their presidents, they should do it without any questions. When Elders of Israel will so far indulge in these extreme notions of obedience as to teach them to the people, it is generally because they have it in their hearts to do wrong themselves.” — Joseph Smith, Jr. in the Millennial Star, volume 14, number 38, pages 593-595.*
Why Do I Like This So Much?
Let me count the ways.
- LDS culture–follow the prophets, even when they are wrong. JS–that is “slavery in the extreme.”
- If we follow leaders even when they are wrong–JS: We “should not claim a rank among intelligent beings.”
- When LDS leaders say follow “no matter what” and “without any questions” they (the leaders) generally “have it in their hearts to do wrong themselves.”
Wow! Just Wow! Joseph Smith, you are my hero!!! Can we print those words in the sacrament meeting program? Every week? Can we discuss this prophetic pronouncement out in the open in priesthood meeting?
It appears that Joseph was warning of and condemning the very culture that seems to be prevalent, today. No wishy-washy words. Spoken with perfect clarity. I embrace them. So special are these words that I’ve decided to go even further. To obey when I know it’s wrong or to obey without question….I now classify as an unholy practice…for me. I won’t “willingly degrade” myself. My desire is to claim a “rank among intelligent beings.”
Of course, this is only my interpretation. I recognize that many of my friends and family believe in following without question, even if it’s wrong. That’s OK. It’s a path that I followed for 62 years. It’s a fine approach and consistent with our culture. I hope my friends and family will be equally non-judgmental of my approach.
Even with all your problems, thank you, Joseph. You are my hero.
* There are questions about the authorship of the quote. Some have attributed it to Joseph Smith. Some, say it was likely composed by someone else. All questions aside, there are 2 things that I “know.” 1) It was printed in a church publication, sanctioned by church authorities. 2) This quote has huge appeal to me. So, I’ve embraced an official view straight from an official church journal. I’m glad to err on the side of Joseph Smith and refer to him as my hero.
This is somewhat of a pattern for me. For example, there are some who say Jesus didn’t really exist. That the gospels were written decades after Christ’s death. That they don’t contain first hand accounts. Contradictions and other problems are easy to identify. To me, if He is real or not doesn’t much matter. I love the teachings and example that are attributed to Jesus. So, I’ve embraced His gospel. I’m glad to err on the side of Christ and refer to him as my Savior.