Sunday, November 20, 2016

Cursed Is He That Putteth His Trust In Man

Joseph Smith taught that in order to exercise faith in God unto salvation, it was necessary to have a correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes. (Lectures on Faith 3:2,4) In other words, we have to understand what kind of a being God is before we can exercise faith in Him. So, If the adversary can convince us of something God is not, our faith will be ineffective.

Here follow three examples that illustrate this principle: one from the scriptures, one from the past, and one from the present.

Example 1: What Shall We Do?

When Alma and his fellow missionaries went to preach to the Zoramites, they found them practicing a religion they had never seen before. In their synagogue or church building, they would gather on the same day each week and go up on a stand one by one and offer up the same prayer unto God. Then, they would go home and never speak of God again until the following week.

Mormon records this about Alma's missionary efforts there:
2 And it came to pass that after much labor among them, they began to have success among the poor class of people; for behold, they were cast out of the synagogues because of the coarseness of their apparel—
3 Therefore they were not permitted to enter into their synagogues to worship God, being esteemed as filthiness; therefore they were poor; yea, they were esteemed by their brethren as dross; therefore they were poor as to things of the world; and also they were poor in heart.
(Alma 32:2-3)
So, these poor Zoramites were unable to worship God like everyone else, because of their poor appearance. Consider the questions they asked of Alma:
5 And they came unto Alma; and the one who was the foremost among them said unto him: Behold, what shall these my brethren do, for they are despised of all men because of their poverty, yea, and more especially by our priests; for they have cast us out of our synagogues which we have labored abundantly to build with our own hands; and they have cast us out because of our exceeding poverty; and we have no place to worship our God; and behold, what shall we do? (Alma 32:5)
They were also believers in the Zoramite religion. They believed that in order to worship God, you had to go into a synagogue and offer up the prescribed prayer every week. But, they weren’t allowed to do so because of their apparel. So, what could they do?

Alma responded:
9 Behold thy brother hath said, What shall we do?—for we are cast out of our synagogues, that we cannot worship our God.
10 Behold I say unto you, do ye suppose that ye cannot worship God save it be in your synagogues only?
11 And moreover, I would ask, do ye suppose that ye must not worship God only once in a week?
(Alma 32:9-11)
These Zoramites had trusted what they were taught by the priests of this false religion. By trusting in their supposed authority, they were fooled into believing that God required them to worship only in a synagogue. Thus, they were led astray and were unable to exercise faith unto salvation. Perhaps this is why Alma then taught to them about faith by comparing it to a seed in Alma 32. Once Alma was done speaking, Amulek stood up (in Alma 34) and explained that the focus of their faith should be in Christ.

What was the falsehood that the poor Zoramites believed?

Who taught them this falsehood?

Example 2: Galileo’s Heresy

The world of Europe in the early 1600s was very different than our world today. The Catholic church was supreme, not only in religious matters, but in secular matters as well. For example, the Church held as it’s official position that the earth was literally the center of the universe. This was based, in part, upon a misinterpretation of certain Bible verses. All faithful Catholics believed the Pope to be the rightful successor of Saint Peter, and therefore, he holds “the keys of Heaven and the powers of "binding and loosing", naming him as the "rock" upon which the church would be built.” (from Wikipedia) Thus, if the Pope said the earth was the center of the universe, it must be true.

Then along came Galileo who began looking through a telescope and publishing evidence that the earth actually revolves around the sun. This directly contradicted the official position of the Pope and the Holy Catholic Church, therefore he was accused of heresy by the Inquisition, his publications were banned, and he was ordered to refrain from holding, teaching or defending his ideas. However, he continued to assert what he had discovered. He knew he was right, and it was being verified by other astronomers as well. Eventually, the Roman Inquisition tried Galileo in 1633 and found him "vehemently suspect of heresy", sentencing him to indefinite imprisonment. Galileo was kept under house arrest until his death in 1642.

Yet, today everyone knows that Galileo was right. Why was the Catholic Church unable to see it? What blinded them to the truth?

Example 3: Priesthood Keys

I recently heard the story of a family that lives in a polygamous community. They belong to a small break-off sect of the LDS church with only about 10,000 members. It broke off from the main body of the LDS Church in the days of John Taylor. It is taught in their sect that John Taylor received a revelation that plural marriage should not cease and that he gave the keys for sealing plural marriages to a man named John W. Wooley, among others.

The members of this family, who were raised in this community, were taught that the president of their church holds the priesthood keys for sealing plural marriages. Desiring to please God, they strove to follow the principles of their religion as it was taught to them, and to trust the men that were placed over them, believing them to be men of God.

At some point, however, the parents of this family discovered that the president of the church had been sexually molesting members of their community for many years. Their faith was shaken upon discovering this, to the point that they began asking questions and reading their scriptures more carefully. They soon discovered that what they practiced in their religion did not match very closely the principles taught in the Bible and Book of Mormon. They are now confused and unsure of what to do next.

What mistake did this family make?

Nephi taught “Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost.” (2 Nephi 28:31)

Consider that statement for a minute. Have you ever been cursed before? Nephi is saying that if you put your trust in man, then you are cursed. Given the three examples stated above, I can see why. Whoever trusts in man will never have the required faith (because their faith will be in things that are false) to be saved.

Alma the Elder, after establishing a church among the people of King Noah, taught them: “trust no one to be your teacher nor your minister, except he be a man of God, walking in his ways and keeping his commandments.” (Mosiah 23:14)

How are we to know if someone is a man of God, walking in his ways, and keeping his commandments? Can we know that by virtue of the office they hold or the keys they possess? Unless you know them personally, it would be nearly impossible to correctly judge the matter.

However, even if you think you've found someone who is a man of God to teach you, it may still not help you. Even Joseph Smith warned the Saints about depending upon him too much, saying: “the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men...--that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls--applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints--said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall--that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves.” (TPJS p. 237)
What are the duties devolving upon us, so that our minds will not be darkened? What should we be doing so that we will not be led astray like so many others?

Instead of putting trust in men, even those who claim keys, authority, and power from God, we should be discerning and only put our trust in God Himself. There is none else that can save us. There is none else that is guaranteed to not lead us astray, despite what they may say. Search the scriptures and seek for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in all things. Then, God will lead you in the right way. As the Proverbs state:
5 ¶Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
(Proverbs 3:5-6)
Jesus taught, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6). Furthermore, Nephi explained that the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, is the keeper of the gate to salvation, and he employs no servant there, and there is no other way to be saved than by the gate. (2 Nephi 9:41)

Therefore, there is no man on earth who holds the keys of salvation. There is no mediator between us and Christ. We must each come unto Christ, individually, to be saved. Put your trust in Him and Him alone.