Sunday, November 14, 2010

Lesson from an Old Prophet*

(*with an assist from the JST)

In the Old Testament (I Kings 13) we have a somewhat disturbing story of a man of God who under strict instructions delivers a dire warning to Jeroboam, king of Israel. After a furious, then humbling and miraculous encounter, the king mellows and invites the man of God home (to the palace?) for refreshment and a reward.

The man of God replies:
If thou wilt give me half thine house, I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread nor drink water in this place: For so was it charged me by the word of the LORD, saying, Eat no bread, nor drink water, nor turn again by the same way that thou camest. So he went another way, and returned not by the way that he came to Beth-el (1 Kings 13:8-10).
Shortly thereafter, upon hearing the dramatic events related by his sons, “an old prophet in Beth-el” rides off after the man of God and extends another invitation to return to Beth-el and eat bread. The man of God again refuses, repeating the strict instructions of his errand. Whereupon the old prophet says (as corrected in the Joseph Smith Translation):
I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the LORD, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water, [that I may prove him; and he lied not] unto him. So he went back with him, and did eat bread in his house, and drank water. And it came to pass, as they sat at the table, that the word of the LORD came unto the prophet that brought him back: And he cried unto the man of God that came from Judah, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the LORD, and hast not kept the commandment which the LORD thy God commanded thee, But camest back, and hast eaten bread and drunk water in the place, of the which the LORD did say to thee, Eat no bread, and drink no water; thy carcase shall not come unto the sepulchre of thy fathers (JST: 1 Kings 13:18-22, JST correction in bold).
What is the lesson? What is the warning? Here, an old prophet counsels a younger one to disregard a personal directive from God and follow his [the older prophet’s] contrary counsel. Joseph Smith tells us that the contrary counsel was to prove the man of God. If we read the rest of the story, we see how dire the consequences were.

So what is the lesson? Perhaps it is this: that personal directives from God—including personal directives of the Holy Spirit— are NEVER to be over-ridden—not by a spouse, not by a good friend, not by a bishop, not by a stake president, not even by an apostle or prophet.

And might not a corollary of this be: that we never act upon anyone’s word (or inspiration), no matter who they are or what position they hold, unless we have our own personal confirming witness?

Have we not been warned about trusting in the arm of flesh? And been advised that the wise are those who “have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived” (D&C 45:57)?

Consider these:
Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide: keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom. For the son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law; a man's enemies are the men of his own house. Therefore I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me (Old Testament Micah 7:5-7).

O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm (Book of Mormon 2 Nephi 4:34).

The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh—But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world (Doctrine and Covenants Section 1:19-20);
Again, a quote from George Q. Cannon[1]:
It is indeed our right and privilege to have the companionship of the Holy Spirit of the Lord, and we need it.

Even children may have it if they will, and need not be left to walk alone on earth. Every woman should win and keep it for herself, and never try to walk by another's light. If she puts her whole trust in another, even if he be her husband and a good man, he will surely some time fail her. Let her learn to stand alone so far as human aid is concerned, depending only on God and the Holy Ghost.

Do not, brethren [and sisters], 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 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 Spirit 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.

If any present have it not, let me advise you to begin seeking for it this very night. Pray, fast, study, and open the doors of your hearts that wisdom may enter; and you shall know when you have received the Holy Ghost by a great increase of faith, courage, strength, understanding, and all good gifts. This is indeed a precious gift, the source and fountain of all other gifts. Ask for it, therefore, until you receive it, because we should have it.[2]
In short, even this blogger’s thoughts and questions should not be blindly accepted or rejected. I raise these matters because it seems in these latter-days that we too often neglect (maybe are even counseled at times to disregard) the Holy Spirit as our guide in favor of the easier path of trusting and following leaders and pundits without sufficient thought, assessment, and confirmation.

[2] “Need for Personal Testimonies” discourse delivered by President George Q. Cannon, in Manti, Sanpete County, on the Evening of Feb. 15, 1891. Reported by L. L. Dalton. (Collected Discourses, 1886-1898, Vol. 2; Brian H. Stuy, ed.; see also Millennial Star, 53:674.