Joseph Smith taught: The doctors (I mean doctors of law, no physic) say, “If you preach anything not according to the Bible, we will cry treason.” How can we escape the damnation of hell, except God be with us and reveal to us?
Sadly, I’m afraid that as a means to keep people in line on matters of doctrine many of our otherwise faithful members have taken to an attitude that is all to similar to what Joseph Smith complained of in this quotation.
How many of our good members have a mental checklist of “official doctrine”. The notion of official doctrine appears nowhere in the scripture. In fact, the scriptural definition of official doctrine, if there is such a thing, is quite plainly found in D&C 68.
D&C 68:4 And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.
Assuming we are willing to believe that “the mind of the Lord, the word of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation” is a satisfactory definition of what constitutes official doctrine, then that really ought to be enough to satisfy even the most austere among us on such matters. Our official doctrine is what the Holy Ghost teaches and testifies of. What we can say we KNOW to be true, is that which we learn by the Holy Ghost.
If by the Holy Ghost we say we KNOW the church is true in spite of all the fiery darts the devil and hell have to throw up in opposition, can’t we admit that the principle of truth by revelation far exceeds the principle of truth by anything else in its place. The Holy Ghost defines our truth.
Joseph Smith was plain about the principle of truth and light. He said: I … know more than all the world put together. The Holy Ghost does, anyhow, and He is within me, and comprehends more than all the world: and I will associate myself with Him.
Nevertheless, we have those who think eternal truth is meant to be discovered by checking against a catalog of quotations. If it isn’t a quotation, it simply isn’t true.
Now don’t get me wrong. A dedicated study of the scriptures, and a gathering of favorite passages is necessary and right. The Lord said to treasure up the words of eternal life.
What is at issue is not whether a thorough study is necessary and right. What is at issue is whether we teach by the Holy Ghost and simply accept what we feel impressed to teach, or can plainly discern by the spirit, or whether we shoot down statements that we can clearly taste the truth of, but which we can’t think of a quote to justify. That is the issue.
Sure, we throw out anything that contradicts truth which we already know. And to do so, we should make a thorough study of the truth that we already have revealed to us. That is basic, common sense.
Yes, we stand by the prophet and the twelve. Yes, we stand by the modern prophets and the prophets of old and by the scriptures. If we are not gathering men to the prophets and the twelve in these days, then there is no place to gather them to, for that is where God rules his people from.
But the issue is whether we are learning by the spirit of the Lord, whether we are seeking diligently in light of Christ, whether we have discovered and taste the principles of eternal life, or whether, instead, we have abandoned the life blood of the gospel, the light which comes directly from the Son of God and the Holy Ghost in favor of bureaucratic principles that we believe will be more safe. We must not prefer that which has no life to that which is living and true.
We must not be hesitant about teaching and learning by the power of the Holy Ghost. We must prefer revelation as our light. Once we reject that, we have turned off the lights and are blind.
Above all, we must not transform the gospel and what we consider right gospel living and teaching so that Joseph Smith would have to say of us: “The members say ‘If you preach anything not according to our list of quotations we will cry treason'”.
And then leave prophet Joseph asking us “How can we escape the damnation of hell, except God be with us and reveal to us?”