Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Human initiative in seeking revelation

I came across this quote today:

"LDS philosopher David Paulsen argues that, while God directs the ongoing restoration, He expects “concurrent human initiative— not only in seeking and receiving direct revelation from God, but also in seeking, recognizing, and appropriating ‘truths’ from others, wherever found.”

Its from an article from Dialogue about C.S. Lewis as a source for gospel truth for Latter-day Saints. In the church, I don't think many argue that he's not a good place to learn good Christian values and a positive example of Christianity. The author draws the parallel between C.S. Lewis's openness to embrace and accept truth wherever it could be found to the teachings of LDS prophets who make the same claim. Yet this quote from David Paulsen takes it to a place that perhaps many Mormons would be uncomfortable.

Most Mormons would agree that in order to receive revelations for one's self, one must take the initiative to seek it. If one takes "no thought save it were to ask (D&C 9:7), they are not very likely to receive the answer. One must diligently, prayerfully over time seek and come line upon line and precept upon precept to the answer that is to be revealed.

And yet, I have seen how some Mormons do not apply this same standard to revelations given directly to the church. I have heard a number times in different ways the thought expressed "If it was Heavenly Father's will, he would reveal it to his leaders and since that's not the way the church is run, then its obviously not His will." Its like these members of the church hold the church leaders to a different standard where they do not have the responsibility or need to take the initiative to receive the will of God for the church. In this line of reasoning, they simply wait for God to speak and tell them what we need to know.

I personally do not, and in all honesty, cannot believe that this is how revelation works in the church. I also do not believe that the leaders of the church have the time or energy to ask of the Lord on every question of doctrinal worth. At the same time, I don't understand the process by which leaders determine which issues are important to seek revelation regarding. Is it something that could be accomplished through a vote?

If we were to view LDS church leaders as representatives between us and God. is it like contacting your legislator and expressing your wishes for what it is you'd like to see accomplished or revealed? Does it then require a critical mass of constituents to effectively communicate what knowledge is being sought by the electorate?

Let's take for instance, the desire for many members of the church to receive church-wide revelation on the doctrine of Heavenly Mother. Would the leaders and, by extension, we be more likely to receive it if a great many members of the church petitioned the leaders to ask on our behalf to know more regarding the nature of a Divine Mother?

There is a pattern of this set forth in the Doctrine and Covenants where many revelations were received because a member of the church asked Joseph regarding a certain topic and as a blessing to the individual and to us generations later, we have the revelation recorded for our benefit and use. The most famous example, perhaps, is the origin of the Word of Wisdom where Emma Smith asked her husband regarding the appropriateness of men chewing tobacco and leaving their spittle to leak through the floorboards to the room below. One of my favorite anecdotes actually comes from David Whitmer who teased Emma about wanting men's filthy habits to cease but may be unwilling to give up the ladie's habits of drinking coffee and tea. Then the revelation addressed and restricted all three.

In the early church, it only took one member of the church. Now, in the modern church, how many members would it take? A couple of hundred? A couple of thousand?

And what would that effort to coordinate look like?


cc said...

It would look like WAVE! :)

I think this is an essential consideration, and that we need to start determining what questions we really need to be asking.

TopHat said...

I think we need to stop asking for permission for everything. Want to bless your kids? Do it. Pray to Heavenly Mother? Do it. I think the Church will eventually catch up.

I know in my life, the that I've gone to God for direction (marriage, whether or not to have kids, where to birth the babies) my answer has been the same: If you do X, everything will turn out ok. If you do Y, it'll turn out ok. Do what you want. I think the "govern yourself" aspect needs to be emphasized. We aren't on earth to be told exactly what to do. At least, that's not what I signed up for.

I do think that writing to the leaders is important because it lets them know our concerns. I know in my life, it's easy to just go about the motions and forget the other things. I think that other people have that same struggle- even (especially?) if they are Church leaders.

WAVE will be a good organization for sure. It takes the individual effort and grows it.