The worshipping of idols seems to be assumed as something of the ancient past, as our modern saints don’t seem to suffer from idol worshipping. A closer look at the definition, however, reveals something quite different. The brethren have been pushing the value of keeping the sabbath day holy as a remedy for our decaying membership problems. But, I fear that we are deflecting the real problem, Idol Worship.
Idol Worship: Recently, the church has been focused on counseling the saints to keep the sabbath day holy, as a defense against the adversary, in these perilous times. They have promised that as they begin to do so, the decay of our membership will reverse, and we will enjoy the blessings of the Lord more fully, as miracles will once again be plentiful. This is an accusation from the top, looking down at the saints as the problem. This is called a “bottom-up” problem. If they can fix the bottom, than the top will distribute their approved blessings. To the top, the saints are the problem. But, to me, the fish stinks from the head!
A larger problem seems to loom even heavier, and it starts at the top, Idol Worship. Consider these two words, “idol” and “worship,” for what it means, instead of what your traditions tell you it is, and you might be able to see clearer a condition that our saints suffer from, far worse than NOT keeping the sabbath day holy. And this condition points to a top-down problem, rather than a bottom-up problem.
An idol is defined as an image or other material object “or a person” representing a deity to which religious worship is addressed; or “any person” or thing regarded with admiration, adoration, or devotion. Idolatry may be summarized as the worship of such images, idols, or people. And worship is to showa
As much as our traditions want us to resist the fact that those claiming the necessity for all active saints to “Follow the Prophet” are treading the path of Idol Worshipping, the facts are quite evident that this is a form of idol worship. Reverencing the prophet, blindly obeying your leaders, do-as-I’m-doing-follow-follow-me, are all forms of idol worship. This is not what the Lord meant by a house of order. But, rather than take my word for it, consider what the early church leaders prior to 1921 were concerned about.
Side Note: In 1921 the leadership removed a significant chunk of scripture, the Lectures on Faith, claiming that Joseph Smith didn’t get the godhead right. It has not been placed back into our canon, but the church continues to sell it, quote it, and use it to support their arguments.
The Concern at the Restoration: In the early days of the church, while very little was revealed compared to what Joseph intended to reveal, many tried leading people away from the doctrines of the restoration. This was a time where members took the decision to be a member of the Church of Christ seriously (the name of the church, originally). They studied the doctrine intensely. They questioned the leaders, and considered what others said as well. But the leader’s frustration grew as people got complacent and began following officers (men). Consider the words of Brigham Young:
“What a pity it would be if we were led by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not.”
(Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 135)
This clearly places at odds what we are being told, that members of the first presidency and the quorum of the twelve can never lead us astray, or God would remove him from his place. We have become so confident in our leaders that we don’t inquire for ourselves of God, and we settle down in a state of blind self-security, claiming ours to be a “true prophet.” Brigham Young had good reason to be concerned. George Q Cannon felt the need to warn us as well saying:
Do not, brethren, put your trust in man though he be a bishop; an apostle, or a president. If you do, they will fail you at some time or place, they will do wrong or seem to, and your support be gone, but if we lean on God, He never will fail us. When men and women depend on God alone, and trust in Him alone, their faith will not be shaken if the highest in the Church should step aside. They could still see that He is just and true, that truth is lovely in His sight, and the pure in heart are dear to Him. Perhaps it is His [meaning God’s] own design that faults and weaknesses should appear in high places in order that His saints may learn to trust in Him and not in any man or men! Therefore, my brethren and sisters, seek after the Holy Ghost and his unfailing testimony of God and His work upon the earth. Rest not until you know for yourselves that God has set His Hand to redeem Israel, and prepare a people for His coming.
(Pres. George Q. Cannon, Deseret Weekly, March 7, 1891. pg. 322, No. 11 vol. XLII, a discourse given in Manti, Sanpete County, Utah on the evening of February 15, 1891).
Clearly George Q. Cannon would be in conflict with our current presidency regarding this point. We teach that we ought to stay on the Old Ship Zion, and to not rock the boat, when Cannon taught to question men, and seek God. In Joseph’s time, the saints all sought to make their calling and election sure. Today, no one knows what that is, let alone how to acquire it. How did the gospel change so drastically from the restoration?
There’s an Answer for That: We have an answer (really an excuse) for why the changes are acceptable. We add to the dreadful quote that “a prophet cannot lead us astray,” to justify an older prophets mistakes and make things exponentially worse, …we say that “a living prophet is more important than a dead prophet!” You see, we have an answer for everything, …to make us right!
Our leaders admit to being imperfect and fallible, in Elder Ballard’s recent talk called “Christ at the Helm.” They add to that admission that we ought not question them, because Christ’s grace will make up for their mistakes. When did Christ’s grace make wrong doctrine right? Never, no not ever! But, in the state of ignorance of our saints, we have suffered exactly what the early leaders feared we would suffer. Our idol worship has generated complacency in us. Revelation is their responsibility, not our own. Knowing the gospel is left to the leadership, not for the lay saint. All the saint must do is recruit more saints, and grow the church to fill the earth.
Honestly, which is the worse condition, someone who doesn’t follow the specifics of keeping the sabbath day holy in ignorance, or depending upon idols that supposed to know it all, and trusting in their packaged salvation? I think that the idol worshipping has caused the weak sabbath worship. This is a top-down problem, and our leaders ought to be looking in the mirror for accountability, rather than deflecting the blame to ignorant saints. The ignorance is caused by idol worship!
Conclusion: Yesterday, Sunday School lesson was on “The Old Ship Zion” from Elder Ballard’s most recent conference talk, “Christ is at the Helm.” I quietly sat listening to the comments of ignorant Idol Worshipping, coming from my fellow ward members. Just before class ended, I felt impressed to speak up. The stake president was in attendance. I spoke of a conversation with my bishop, where I told him that,
“I follow no man, not the prophet, not the stake president, and not you the bishop. I follow Christ, and Christ alone. But, because I follow Christ, I listen to the prophets, I listen to the stake president, and you bishop.”
“My mom hates when I talk like this. But I tell my mom that I noticed that those who claim to follow men like the prophet find it hard to study the scriptures, listen to conference, and participate in Sunday School. But those who follow Christ study the scriptures diligently, pay close attention in conference, and come prepared to participate in Sunday School.”
“In D&C 1:16 the saints had already strayed from the ordinances and were condemned for following after the image of their own god, which is in the likeness of the world, which is an idol. None of us can find our salvation for being “besty’s” with the prophet. Knowing men does not offer salvation. Only knowing Christ can produce life eternal. So for me, I will follow no man, but Christ.”
The class was silent, the teacher politely stated that he will “follow the prophet,” and multiple heads nodded in agreement with him. He was about to conclude class by playing a song from the radio. However, one man raised his hand and asked for a moment to share his feelings about what I said. He stated that he realized that what I said comes off harsh at first, but because he knew that part of me, from multiple conversations in the past, he testified that I was not saying that the prophet was not a prophet. He could see that I loved Christ, and would follow the instructions of any man who would correctly point me into the direction of Christ. And he bore witness that because of our friendship, he has come to know of my love for the savior, and for all men, and he wants the same. He now seeks to know the scriptures and feast upon them more now than ever before.
This man was an unexpected, and welcomed, second witness. When I first came to the ward he and I went head to head on things, so it was a surprise to me for him to stand and speak up for a person he has only known for less than a year. He sought to know and understand me on many occasion. He put his good name on the line, in my defense, because the spirit instructed him to do so. While I am grateful to this man, I know that the source of my support is Christ.