What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
photo credit: *Tiny
A recent post spurred a discussion on prophetic silence with regard to politics. It is obvious that Church leaders in previous decades (and centuries, for that matter) were far more outspoken in a variety of political matters, not just those dealing with morality.
This issue is one I have repeatedly considered in previous months, as I myself have often wondered why the change has come about. Through prayerful study, words of men wiser than I, and much time to ponder, I have come up with a few possibilities. Far from being comprehensive or hitting on the head “the” reason, they are potential reasons that should be considered before assuming that “all is well” in the political/secret combination area as many seem to do.
1. The Church is a worldwide organization now. Speaking specifically about American government would alienate foreign members and be inapplicable to their situation.
We learn in the Doctrine and Covenants that the Constitution contains principles for all mankind:
And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me. (D&C 98:5)
While these principles of liberty and freedom are for all people, there exist many organizations, policies, and ideas that are confined to our country’s government itself that are destroying the Constitution and the principles it was founded upon. Speaking out in a formal church setting against these things would not have application to members of other governments. Being a world body, the Church must focus on principles, teachings, and programs that can be shared by all of God’s children throughout the world.
The secret combinations of our day have their tentacles wrapped around every government, yet in varying degrees and through different organizations. Speaking out against the America-based Council on Foreign Relations wouldn’t do much for a Church member in India, while speaking out against the UK-based Royal Institute of International Affairs would fall on deaf American ears.
2. With the continually increasing number of converts, the Church must focus on the milk of the gospel.
In the early days of the Church the leaders found themselves speaking to members who firmly believed and understood the gospel, people who were raised with the Bible and understood scripture, gospel principles, and eternal truth. Having the milk of the gospel, leaders could focus more on the meat. Speaking of the condemnation that comes when giving somebody gospel truths and pearls of wisdom they are not prepared for, the Lord has said:
For they cannot bear meat now, but milk they must receive; wherefore, they must not know these things, lest they perish. (D&C 19:22)
In our day when there are so many new converts each year who are provided the opportunity to be taught by Church leaders (who are, at the same time, speaking to every other member in every other part of the world, all of whom have varying degrees of gospel understanding), one can understand why the milk of the gospel is what is primarily taught in General Conference and other worldwide conferences. Talks are based upon fundamental gospel principles that all (of varying degrees of gospel understanding) might be edified.
Consequently, it is up to the individual member of the Church, through personal scripture study, heartfelt prayer, and temple attendance, to seek after meat and the mysteries of the kingdom.
3. We’ve been warned already and the vast majority of members refused to listen. Why would the Lord continue the call to action?
Many members believe that the discourses of Presidents Benson, McKay, and Clark (among others) were only applicable during their times, as they found the nation in war and conflict with Communist (capital C) nations. Their mentions of secret combinations, wicked men lusting for power through government, and Satan-led organizations seeking to undermine liberty, these people then assume, no longer are relevant either.
Could it be that the Saints didn’t listen, and when the time for warning was over, the Lord changed gears for us to speak according to our understanding? What percentage of Church members comply with any counsel given by our sustained and inspired leaders? How many have a year’s supply? How many are actively working to get out of debt? How many read the Book of Mormon last fall? How many girls wear one pair of earrings? A simple survey might show that on average, about 10-15% (a conservative guess, in my opinion) of members do what they are asked.
How many members, then, complied with counsel given regarding secret combinations, corrupt government, communist (lowercase c) political maneuverings, socialist policies, etc.? How many had ears to hear? How many sought their own counsels and disagreed with these men, called of God, claiming that such statements were their uninspired opinions?
The scriptures show that once a warning voice is given and rejected, (perhaps after a few merciful, additional tries) the voice is withdrawn. Through sin and rejection of gospel teachings, the Spirit is withdrawn. Those who would be our teachers find that they are not permitted to do so .
Why would it be any different in our own day? Might our Prophet’s journals reveal their desire to preach on “meaty” subjects, only to be told that the day of warning for that issue is past, due to condemnation?
Certainly our leaders are making a concerted effort and strengthening our spirituality for the events that lie ahead. We are counseled to receive education, to get out of debt, and save for a rainy day. Perhaps our leaders no longer speak of socialist-communist threats to our national sovereignty, liberty, and freedom, because either through “deaf ears” the Saints have shown their unwillingness to obey and act, or the day is too late to repair the irreparable damage our nation has suffered. Joseph Fielding Smith remarked on this:
Now I tell you it is time the people of the United States were waking up with the understanding that if they don’t save the Constitution from the dangers that threaten it, we will have a change of government. (via Quoty)
Perhaps the damage has been done, and since we are beyond the point of prevention, we are being spiritually prepared for the consequences that surely will soon follow from such apathy and disobedience.
4. The end is drawing near, and perhaps the best course of action for the Church might be to remain silent (“politically neutral”) so as to not incur the wrath of evil organizations and governments who would impede the progress of missionary work and church operations.
Much like the Lord’s counsel to make friends with mammon, there seem to be times when the focus shifts from rebuking those who work in darkness to uplifting and strengthening the followers of Christ. Recent statements of political neutrality (often read in American sacrament meetings around election time) show the Church’s recent trend towards playing nice with those in political power. What are some of the possible reasons for this? I can’t begin to imagine the dire need for political neutrality when dealing with governments across the world, each with varying types of government and policies towards religious freedom and tolerance. Taking a stand against the powers of darkness on an issue of lesser importance to the Church’s global progress would invariably influence the missionary operations throughout the world.
5. Silence does not necessarily indicate that “all is well” in the areas of government, secret combinations, and tyrannical treachery by those in charge of our government.
Many understandably interpret the silence on political issues by our leaders to mean that there is nothing that we as citizens need to worry about. The claim held by these individuals is that “if there were something to worry about, the Prophet would tell us.”
I find it interesting that this line of thought is as common as it is. Surely we aren’t expecting to be told everything we need to know and do, are we?
We who hold the priesthood must beware concerning ourselves, that we do not fall into the traps he lays to rob us of our freedom. We must be careful that we are not led to accept or support in any way any organization, cause or measure which, in its remotest effect, would jeopardize free agency, whether it be in politics, government, religion, employment, education, or any other field. It is not enough for us to be sincere in what we support. We must be right!” (Ezra Taft Benson, “Be Not Deceived”)
What else might they tell us, would the Spirit let them? Who are we to assume that there aren’t more precious truths and laws to be sought after and implemented that cannot be told publicly and to the Church body as a whole?
President Hinckley similarly referenced the burden that is our leaders’ in watching their words:
Our critics at home and abroad are watching us. In an effort to find fault, they listen to every word we say, hoping to entrap us. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Our Testimony to the World,” Ensign, May 1997, 83)
President Benson once discussed the apathetic sloth of certain members who waited to be told what to do by God and his prophet:
And now as to the last neutralizer that the devil uses most effectively—it is simply this: “Don’t do anything in the fight for freedom until the Church sets up its own specific program to save the Constitution.” This brings us right back to the scripture I opened with today—to those slothful servants who will not do anything until they are “compelled in all things” [D&C 58:26]. Maybe the Lord will never set up a specific church program for the purpose of saving the Constitution. Perhaps if he set one up at this time it might split the Church asunder, and perhaps he does not want that to happen yet for not all the wheat and tares are fully ripe….
Brethren, if we had done our homework and were faithful, we could step forward at this time and help save this country. The fact that most of us are unprepared to do it is an indictment we will have to bear. The longer we wait, the heavier the chains, the deeper the blood, the more the persecution, and the less we can carry out our God-given mandate and worldwide mission. The war in heaven is raging on the earth today. Are you being neutralized in the battle? (Ezra Taft Benson, “Not Commanded In All Things”, 1965)
Silence does not imply that there is nothing to be said.
6. We have already been told what to do. It is now up to us to act.
This is not not a difficult possibility to fathom. How long have we been warned? How long have we received counsel to act? And how many have obeyed? Who has heeded the warning call?
Once issuing a commandment (often with merciful repetitions), God waits to see if we will obey. We have been counseled to bring about much righteousness of our own free will. As Kelly commented, it is up to the individuals that comprise the church to act upon what has previously been given. Not doing so certainly results in condemnation and tyranny.
President Ezra Taft Benson once said:
For years we have been counseled to have on hand a year’s supply of food. Yet there are some today who will not start storing until the Church comes out with a detailed monthly home storage program. Now suppose that never happens. We still cannot say we have not been told.
Should the Lord decide at this time to cleanse the Church—and the need for that cleansing seems to be increasing—a famine in this land of one year’s duration could wipe out a large percentage of slothful members, including some ward and stake officers. Yet we cannot say we have not been warned. (via Quoty)
Counsel has been given—counsel that has not been superseded nor rescinded by successive prophets. It is our duty, then, to follow what counsel stands and act accordingly.
In his October 2006 conference talk titled “Rise Up, O Men of God”, President Hinckley cited the hymn by the same name but shared a different third verse that does not exist in our hymn books. The text of that verse is as follows:
Rise up, O men of God!
The church for you doth wait,
Her strength unequal to her task;
Rise up, and make her great!
Such profundity! Do we have ears to hear? Or are we waiting to be told something new when we’ve yet to act and what has already been said? Slothful servants do not merit additional revelation, as we learn in Alma:
And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell. (Alma 12:11)
President Benson agreed:
As important as are all other principles of the gospel, it was the freedom issue which determined whether you received a body. To have been on the wrong side of the freedom issue during the war in heaven meant eternal damnation. How then can Latter-day Saints expect to be on the wrong side in this life and escape the eternal consequences? The war in heaven is raging on earth today. The issues are the same: Shall men be compelled to do what others claim is for their best welfare or will they heed the counsel of the prophet and preserve their freedom? (Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, April 1965)
7. Those to have ears to hear still hear prophetic counsel and instruction.
Parables, double prophecy, and other teaching mechanisms laden with hidden meaning have often been used to convey truth. Why is this necessary? Jesus explained:
And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?
He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.
Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. (Matt. 13:10-13)
Do we have ears to hear? In a previous post I touched upon this subject and shared the following examples (of many others that exist) of a prophet teaching us truth. How many heard and understood the truths being conveyed?
The Book of Mormon narrative is a chronicle of nations long since gone. But in its descriptions of the problems of today’s society, it is as current as the morning newspaper and much more definitive, inspired, and inspiring concerning the solutions of those problems.
I know of no other writing which sets forth with such clarity the tragic consequences to societies that follow courses contrary to the commandments of God. Its pages trace the stories of two distinct civilizations that flourished on the Western Hemisphere. Each began as a small nation, its people walking in the fear of the Lord. But with prosperity came growing evils. The people succumbed to the wiles of ambitious and scheming leaders who oppressed them with burdensome taxes, who lulled them with hollow promises, who countenanced and even encouraged loose and lascivious living. These evil schemers led the people into terrible wars that resulted in the death of millions and the final and total extinction of two great civilizations in two different eras. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “A Testimony Vibrant and True”, August 2005)
Fast forward eight months, and President Hinckley confirms that “we are involved in terrible wars”. Brothers and sisters, I give you Book of Mormon prophesy in the making!
The major writers of the Book of Mormon did not intend it to be a history book at all. In fact, Jacob said that his brother Nephi commanded him that he “should not touch, save it were lightly, concerning the history of this people” (Jacob 1:2).
Each time we read the book we should probably ask ourselves: “Why did these writers choose these particular stories or events to include in the record? What value are they for us today?
Among the lessons we learn from the Book of Mormon are the cause and effect of war and under what conditions it is justified. It tells of evils and dangers of secret combinations, which are built up to get power and gain over the people. It tells of the reality of Satan and gives an indication of some of the methods he uses. It advises us on the proper use of wealth. It tells us of the plain and precious truths of the gospel and the reality and divinity of Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice for all mankind. It informs us of the gathering of the house of Israel in the last days. It tells us of the purpose and principles of missionary work. It warns us against pride, indifference, procrastination, the dangers of false traditions, hypocrisy, and unchastity. (L. Tom Perry, “Blessings Resulting from Reading the Book of Mormon”)
The Book of Mormon speaks of the Gadianton robbers, a vicious, oath-bound, and secret organization bent on evil and destruction. In their day they did all in their power, by whatever means available, to bring down the Church, to woo the people with sophistry, and to take control of the society. We see the same thing in the present situation. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Times in Which We Live”, October 2001)
I boldly testify that the words of our Prophets, both ancient and modern, speak the truth and will stand as a testimony against the nations. We will be held accountable for our actions and thoughts in relations to those words, for those who have gone before us are clamoring from the dust, warning us, inspiring us to fight for freedom against the proliferating powers of darkness in these last days. Satan is waging war against liberty, morality, and everything that is of God. In the April 2005 General Conference, Elder Rober C. Oaks said:
In this dispensation of the fullness of times, as we prepare for the final satanic battles in anticipation of the return of Christ to the earth….
We know from the signs of the times that the end is drawing near.
In a worldwide priesthood leadership training meeting, President Hinckley, noting the immoral conditions in the world, stated, “I do not know that things were worse in the times of Sodom and Gomorrah.”…
He went on to say, “They and their wicked inhabitants were annihilated. We see similar conditions today. They prevail all across the world….”
I do not know how much more our prophet has to say for us to consider ourselves warned…. (Robert C. Oaks, “Who’s on the Lord’s Side? Who?”)
We have been warned. The political silence we are experiencing is, in my mind, due most of all to the Saints’ sloth in heeding previous counsel and apathy in the fight for liberty and truth. Our current prophet has spoken about this fight for truth:
Never in the history of the world has there been a more profound need for leaders of principle to step forward. Never before, at least not in our generation, have the forces of evil been so blatant, so brazen, so aggressive as they are at the present time….
We are involved in an intense battle. It is a battle between right and wrong, between truth and error, between the design of the Almighty on the one hand and that of Lucifer on the other. For that reason we desperately need men and women who, in their individual spheres of influence, will stand for truth in a world of sophistry… We need moral men and women, people who stand on principle, to be involved in the political process. Otherwise, we abdicate power to those whose designs are almost entirely selfish.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, Standing For Something)
For those who have ears to hear, I testify that our current leaders are anything but silent.