Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Spiritual Gifts Are Among Us Still

I know a man from whom I heard the following firsthand - at the time it occurred:

When he was called as Bishop, he was overwhelmed by the idea of that calling - especially since he had not been attending his own ward regularly for some time and didn't know lots of the members very well. One night, before he was sustained and before he attended any type of administrative meetings, he had a vision/dream in which a former leader of the ward came to him and told him lots of things that would help in his calling - especially about specific individuals.

I was in attendance when this man was presented to the ward and sustained. One of his counselors spoke briefly (a man who had been in ward leadership positions for a few years) and mentioned that he knew the new Bishop was inspired because in their first meeting together the new Bishop had shared his experience with him (including some of the information he had been told in his vision). The counselor said that he was astonished at how insightful and accurate the information was - including things that he recognized as true but had never stopped and considered or realized until that moment.

Spiritual gifts are among us still, but we talk about them FAR less openly than in the past.


ji said...

I do believe in spiritual happenings. But in your story, I wish the bishop had not told his counselor, and I wish the counselor had not told the ward.

Papa D said...

ji, I understand your view, but no details was shared that shouldn't have been shared in each situation (by the Bishop or by the counselor). I probably should have made that clearer in the post.

Bonnie Atkinson said...

ji and Ray,

I have been thinking a lot about this issue for many months. It is a fine line we walk talking about spiritual gifts publicly. On the one hand, they are not meant to be shared with the uninitiated and unprepared, and their discussion is often a clue to the priestcraft intentions of the speaker. On the other, if they are true they are great boons to the faithful and provide needed insights and encouragement. I love having Lorenzo Snow's and Joseph F. Smith's and Wilford Woodruff's and Brigham Young's visions and dreams to read. Surely there is a way to more widely share spiritual experiences in meaningful ways.

ji said...

A man who is a bishop (or any other calling) is supposed to lead by compassion, by love unfeigned, and so forth -- he is not supposed to lead by virtue of his priesthood or priesthood office or any other divine imprimatur. He doesn't command; rather, he calls and invites.

But if he has had a revelation that tells him the specifics of my life, and if he tells me he has had that revelation from God and that he now wants me to do something, then he is using his revelation to command me to act -- this is very different than keeping his revelation private and inviting me to act in a spirit of compassion and love.

A bishop's authority to serve comes from his call from above and his sustaining from his neighbors. It doesn't come revelation.

The bishop in your story may not have shared particulars of his revelation, but he shared that he had had it at the very beginning of his ministry, and those with whom he shared it further announced it to others. That alters the relationship from one neighbor in the ward having a responsibility to tend to the others in the neighborhood to one who has been given divine gnosis and with whom no one can possibly have a difference of opinion (I might differ with a man's opinion, but how can I differ with God?). I would have wished the bishop had kept it private as he started his ministry -- accept it as a gift, yes, and proceed to do his work with this gift kept in private -- and if he felt compelled to tell his counselor, then for his counselor to have kept it private.

Does a man get a woman to be his wife by telling her that God has revealed to him that she is to be his wife? No. If he gets the revelation, he works all the harder to court and woo her, but he gets her by compassion and love unfeigned rather than by virtue of his revelation that she must obey.

I agree that he (bishop or suitor) may get the revelation and accept it as a spiritual gift and rely on it as he decides how to act and approach others. I just wish in both cases that the spiritual gift be kept in the background.

I'm trying not to fault or condemn -- I just wish it had been kept in the background.

Papa D said...

Again, ji, I understand and respect your view about this. I really do.

However, I was there - and I have no problem whatsoever with the way it happened. Sometimes, the command is, "Go and tell no man," or, "Keep these things, and ponder them in your heart." Sometimes, the command is, "Share your experience."

I haven't heard a single member criticize Joseph Smith for sharing the details of his spiritual experiences, nor have I heard anyone criticize the writers of scripture for sharing what they shared. In the context of the overall situation that led to the experience I described (details I didn't share, intentionally, in order to avoid doing exactly what you mention), sharing it was appropriate, imo.

Chris brewer said...

I have recently been reading David O. McKay and the rise of modern Mormonism. I read about an experience David O. Related at a missionary conference where Stirling Mcmerrin, the president announced the presence of angels in the audience and prophecied that David, only a missionary at this time. Would serve on the highest councils of the church. It made me think how foreign this type of experience is today. Something has clearly changed in our church and I suspect we are being defensive about it when we claim it has all just become too sacred to relate. I am 32 years old have just heard my first sign that the heavens might actually be open to the Mormons. Sorry for weird grammar ( typing on phone )