Several examples of not "following the prophet" were given. He pointed to those who rejected Noah's ministry and the plight of those who dissed Moses. Then he highlighted the consequences to Saul for his defiance of Samuel's instructions. The stake president made a convincing case, no doubt...to some.
But Uriah the Hittite he did not mention. Uriah was a follower of David. And David was a prophet in his own right. He was also the king. Literally the Lord's anointed. David believed and received the Lord, uttered scriptures recorded in our Bible, and prophesied of Christ. (Jesus even quoted him!) David did many mighty works, was greatly rewarded, beloved of the people, and honored by God for his devotion. He was called "a man after [God's] own heart". David likewise honored and revered Nathan, another prophet. But David disobeyed God's commandments. He slept with Uriah's wife, then had Uriah killed when his wife became pregnant with David's child. David thus fell from grace and lost his exaltation. He was vexed all his days because of his sins, his many wives and his wicked offspring. David wasn't mentioned by the stake president, except as one to replace "disobedient" Saul. David's son, Solomon, likewise fell into idolatry, leading Israel astray, even as he established a glorious temple to Jehovah and surrounded himself with all the trappings of holiness, power and authority from God.
Moral of the story? Do not trust in the arm of flesh. Men cannot be trusted.
The Book of Mormon, in its very first chapter, indicates that the Lord raised up prophets outside the established hierarchy of the ecclesiastical structure and bloodlines recognized by the religious community of Lehi's day. That's because those who know God and come unto Him come unto Him not by right nor by rite, but by revelation! The Book of Mormon is a history of those who did not reject the testimonies of those "outcast" prophets, but rather received them and were thus "outcast" themselves (or worse). But unto Christ they came nonetheless!
Our scriptures record that the glory of the Lord departs from those who turn from or who do not seek after, call upon or inquire of Him. (See Moses 1:15-20 and Zephaniah 1:4-6.) Our scriptures also never mention "follow the prophet". (Look it up!) Unfortunately, even in the Promised Land, many chose to "follow the prophet" anyway, even David and Solomon (or Joseph and Brigham), leading to great sin.
The first book of Kings, chapter 13 tells the tale of one who "followed a prophet" rather than the Lord. A man of God, of Judah, faithfully spoke the word of the Lord unto the wicked king Jeroboam, showing forth both signs and wonders as a testimony of that prophet's divine commission. But then another "old prophet" sought out the man of God and invited him to eat and drink with him. When the man of God refused, saying he had been forbidden by God from doing so, the old prophet lied!
18 He said unto him, 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. But he lied unto him.This story reminds us of fasting, famished Alma and Amulek coming to his rescue, does it not? Surely an "old prophet" could not... would not...lie, would he? But he did! We all know what happened next:
19 So he went back with him, and did eat bread in his house, and drank water.
20 ¶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:The man of God was, indeed, speedily destroyed in the flesh for disobeying God and hearkening, rather, unto men, even to that "old prophet". The stake president didn't mention these examples of "following the prophet". I wonder why.
21 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,
22 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.
This is what you may expect to receive when you put your trust in the arm of flesh: you can expect to be lied to and deceived, receiving a prophet's reward. (See D&C 76:99-101.) But the Lord God cannot lie. He alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. (See John 14:6.) We are commanded to follow God -- and we are encouraged to follow the counsel of holy men as they speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost. Since the Holy Ghost vouchsafes the inspired words men utter, they become God's words. But only in this special case! Anything less -- and anything else -- is sin.
The Lord is no respector of persons. Ironically, the stake president quoted this verse to "prove" his point: that we ought to follow men rather than God...or rather, that we ought to follow men as if they were God:
17 Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments;These words completely unravel the stake president's case! (Not that anyone was listening, apparently.)
18 And also gave commandments to others, that they should proclaim these things unto the world; and all this that it might be fulfilled, which was written by the prophets—
19 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—
20 But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world;
In today's ward conference, the words of the prophets and apostles of old were presented as "evidence" that we ought to follow other men even now. Those men who served as apostles and prophets anciently were identified as the ones upon whom the Lord's Church was then built. It was implied that similar men now comprise the foundation of the modern LDS Church today. Several scriptures were cited. (Among them Ephesians 4:11-15 and Ephesians 2:19-20.) Thus we were admonished to "follow" them...the Brethren...or else. The stake president, in effect, said "follow me", "follow us", "follow them", "we have the authority", etc., etc., implying that by doing so, we would be "following the Lord".
How did this happen? When did the Lord cease to do His own work and give His power unto men? (See 2 Nephi 28:5.) Was not the failure of Nephi's brothers to inquire of the Lord for themselves not imputed to them for sin?
Then why are we not encouraged to follow the Lord directly? Is He not able to speak to us on His own behalf? One imagines economies of scale and efficiencies of hierarchal management, I grant that. But the scriptural record speaks of a personal God:
20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)
7 ¶Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:Beautiful, truthful words like these are spoken only by men when they are filled with the Holy Ghost. These men have a personal knowledge of God. Their "authority" comes from that knowledge of Him, directly. Every apostle and prophet (until the modern era) knew God personally and bore witness of Him. The words of scripture cited above are not the words of scribes and pharisees, who quote the words of others, speaking of those witnesses, then appealing to that "authority" as their own, saying that it has been "passed down" to them, thereby demanding that they be "hearkened" unto and "obeyed". Rather, the power of godliness and the authority of God manifest in every age is renewed unto those who receive it! God makes Himself known unto those who would be His servants; otherwise, they are not. (Unless we serve Him unwittingly!) It is not enough to be called, consecrated and ordained by man! One must also receive one's errand from the Lord. Ought we to "hearken" to a Peter or a Paul, a Nephi or a Moroni, who knew (and know) the Lord for themselves? Yes, we should. Because they know Him!
8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)
But that does not let us off the hook. We must come to know Him, too, for ourselves...or we cannot be saved.
Who are these men today who come in the name of the Lord? Do they lay claim to that knowledge which surpasses the whisperings and witness known to all of us who have received the Holy Ghost? Do they bear witness of a personal knowledge of God and Christ that equals that of the ancients? Do they witness of Jesus and His resurrection bodily? Or do they, rather, champion the institution that bears His name and laud its many programs, accomplishments, and people, in effect, setting up false idols?
A collective body richly funded may accomplish great things under the direction of focused leadership. Great pyramids have been erected and mighty wars have been fought. Men have even stepped on the moon! Anciently, the Lord overthrew a people who labored to build a tower to get to heaven perhaps because the inertia of a misguided organization can overcome, even obliterate, the subtle promptings and directions of the Spirit of God. Men can get "caught up" in themselves and worship the work of their own hands. Unless they are united in the Lord above all, their unity becomes a stumbling block to them.
Nephi, in fact, said the Lord God would raise up a "prophet" whom the people should "hear in all things". But he identified this "prophet" would be the Holy One of Israel Himself!
21 And now I, Nephi, declare unto you, that this prophet of whom Moses spake was the Holy One of Israel; wherefore, he shall execute judgment in righteousness.LDS leaders now weave a clever message of trusting in the arm of flesh, self-righteousness, self-reliance, self-sufficiency, food storage, receiving the ordinances of the priesthood, gaining education, getting out of debt, loving God and family, etc., while demanding that they be followed...or else.
I would not be opposed to following such men who claim to be "prophets, seers and revelators"...if they actually prophesied, saw or revealed. (Perhaps this is why the Lord has withheld such gifts from them. We are not yet converted enough to the Lord to not be dissuaded or distracted from "worshiping" and "following" others who might manifest His power.) But the current crop apparently don't prophesy, see or reveal (any more than I do!). They spout common sense -- and even nonsense -- and call it "prophecy". They take a stand...and then waffle on the stand, declaring that what was most sacred and sacrosanct, even "essential" to our very faith and salvation, was not "doctrinal" after all! At other times they attribute to "folklore" (and not to God, prophets or ancient scripture, as they previously declared) institutionalized discrimination against a whole race (because it's no longer "politically correct" to hold those views). Prophets indeed! We follow them at our peril. Or we don't follow them at our peril.
Which is it?
Why do these people who claim to act by God's authority get a "pass" just because their fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers received an ordination to a priesthood office, so called, by which their words may never be called into question now? And, if they are, why is the one questioning -- not the one being questioned -- automatically found wanting?
I watched this morning (as a silent by-sitter) as, apparently, 100% of those LDS members in attendance raised their hands to "sustain" the names of every stake and local leader read aloud. "You are all leaders!" it was said, in effect. "Some of you, like me, are now called 'president' while others of you are now called 'first assistant', 'counselor' or 'secretary'. Follow and sustain me and someday you, too, may become presidents of men!"
Somehow I think they got that commandment confused.