Friday, November 12, 2010

When Current Counsel Contradicts Former Counsel

I believe that members who ignore current counsel by holding tightly to former counsel actually perpetuate incorrect ideas and reject current leaders. For example, the Church used to teach its members to date only other members, but the official, current dating standards in For the Strength of Youth don't include it. I see teaching the former standard now as ignoring current counsel by holding onto past counsel.

In theory, it's no different to me than someone today ignoring recent statements by Pres. Hinckley and Elder Oaks about racism and continuing to embrace the justifications that were used by Brigham Young and Bruce R. McConkie (that Elder McConkie repudiated shortly after the ban was lifted and Pres. Hinckley condemned in no uncertain terms for us now). Again, if the Church changes it's counsel in some matter, valuing prophetic counsel includes letting go of former counsel - like the former prohibition on dating non-members.

I believe wholeheartedly that following prophetic counsel is important, but I also believe in the absolute necessity for individual inspiration and adaptation. The fact that I allow for individual exceptions based on a belief in direct intervention of the Holy Ghost doesn't diminish how I view prophetic counsel. In every case where I feel I have not been given direct and explicit counsel otherwise, I have tried to follow prophetic counsel with exactness, specifically because I value it so highly. Rather, it simply means that I believe following what I feel to be God's direct counsel to me as an individual is of utmost importance, even in those RARE circumstances when it conflicts with prophetic counsel to all. I see that principle taught in so many places throughout all of our canon that it appears to be crystal clear to me.

Abraham sacrificing Issac; Nephi killing Laban; Captain Moroni threatening to overthrow the government; Joseph Smith instituting polygamy; so many more - It's easy to discount these examples, since they are prophets acting out exceptions, but the fact remains that they were told by the Spirit to do things that went against the general counsel of their day - and their exceptions were MUCH more severe than anything I have felt inspired to do. In each case, they "ignored" the prophetic counsel that governed their day and acted as they felt compelled to do by a member of the Godhead. They valued that individual counsel so much that they acted against general counsel they also valued greatly.

This is bedrock Gospel to me, since I believe we will be judged individually on how well we learned to understand and do the will of God for us as individuals - NOT just by how well we marched in lock-step to general command in comparison to those around us. I view the highest manifestation of our commitment to the Gospel as being what we are willing to do to ascertain His will for us individually - to discover what work and mission he has for us personally and fulfilling it individually. In my opinion, "To obey (what God tells us personally to do no matter the cost or difficulty to understand) is better than to sacrifice (our agency by doing nothing more than what is given to everyone as general counsel)." Joseph Smith would not have been the Prophet of this Dispensation - and I would not be the unique son of God that I am - extended to each and every child of God - if he did not listen for and hear the word of God to him and us - if all of us ignored personal revelation, even when it contradicted general counsel, and lived essentially the exact same life.

Perhaps there are those who can fill the measure of their creation within the general counsel - who are called to follow the general counsel without exception. I am fine with that idea, and I don't think that makes them any less "worthy" than others who perhaps are prompted to do something that is an exception. I'm not saying such a person is "better" in any way than anyone else - not at all, in any way, shape or form. I'm really saying there is no "better than someone else" - as long as each is doing what she feels she is being commanded and counseled to do within the general framework of obedience to counsel and command.


Richard Alger said...

I agree with the spirit of what you have said. I believe it applies generally to any person living in any age. We are judged according to how we live with the light we are given and seek after.

In specific, I think that the counsel to date only members is not included in "For the Strength of Youth" is because of the varied situations throughout the world. In some places, perhaps, there really is not the option to date only members. I googled "should lds members date only other members" and I found this article, (“Q&A: Questions and Answers,” New Era, Jul 2001, 16). It was not given that long ago. Given, it is not a conference talk or more authoritative publication. I think it gives good general counsel.

For me, I grew up in the Phoenix, AZ area and still live here. To me, the best counsel in my situation is to date LDS members of the highest standard. That, to me is the best of good, better, best. There are enough LDS in my area that this is a possibility. We do marry who we date. I know that I would not be the man I am, if I had not married a woman who is 100% committed to the Lord and to me. It has a profound influence on me.

Might I think differently if grew up or now live where there are not the same opportunities for my family? Maybe. I think we do the best where our situation is. Perhaps it is that we postpone romantic dating until college age. Perhaps there is more opportunity where and when the young person goes to college, or when they have access to a car.

Keri Brooks said...

I completely agree. Much of human history consists of people clinging to the words of dead prophets while ignoring the words of living prophets. It's easy to see it in the Bible, but it still happens in our day, both in and out of the church. I think, more than anything else, the belief in continuing revelation (both personal and prophetic) is what sets us apart, and it pains me when people reject it.

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting point and not one I have noted in relation to dating.Maybe this will help me feel a little less sore that my darling daughter will be marrying a no Mo,delightful as he is. Where's my inner liberal when I need her?