Perhaps the most commonly-discussed topic in the LDS online world is the question of how and when to follow advice given by church leaders. Should we always obey everything the church president says? Or everything that is said over the pulpit in General Conference? Or everything that fits with our personal understanding of the Spirit? Or is it best to simply be wildly inconsistent in this regard? This topic is so popular that I have previously given in to the temptation to discuss it.
In this post, I’m going to employ a kind of epistemological jujitsu and offer a quote from a speech by a past president of the church on the topic of following church leaders. Brigham Young, in a Feb. 20, 1853, sermon at the Salt Lake Tabernacle (reported in the Journal of Discourses, vol.1, pgs. 312-13), offered some extended reflections on the spiritual consequences of relying heavily on guidance from church leaders. His remarks would probably fall somewhat outside of the Sunday School mainstream today.
So, I’ll turn the time over to Brother Brigham (italics added by RoastedTomatoes).
Salvation is an individual operation. I am the only person that can possibly save myself. When salvation is sent to me, I can reject or receive it. In receiving it, I yield implicit obedience and submission to its great Author throughout my life, and to those whom He shall appoint to instruct me; in rejecting it, I follow the dictates of my own will in preference to the will of my Creator. There are those among this people who are influenced, controlled, and biased in their thoughts, actions, and feelings by some other individual or family, on whom they place their dependence for spiritual and temporal instruction, and for salvation in the end. These persons do not depend upon themselves for salvation, but upon another of their poor, weak, fellow mortals. "I do not depend upon any inherent goodness of my own," say they, "to introduce me into the kingdom of glory, but I depend upon you, brother Joseph, upon you, brother Brigham, upon you, brother Heber, or upon you, brother James; I believe your judgment is superior to mine, and consequently I let you judge for me; your spirit is better than mine, therefore you can do good for me; I will submit myself wholly to you, and place in you all my confidence for life and salvation; where you go I will go, and where you tarry there I will stay; expecting that you will introduce me through the gates into the heavenly Jerusalem."
I wish to notice this. We read in the Bible, that there is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moons and another glory of the stars. In the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, these glories are called telestial, terrestrial, and celestial, which is the highest. These are worlds, different departments, or mansions, in our Father’s house. Now those men, or those women, who know no more about the power of God, and the influences of the Holy Spirit, than to be led entirely by another person, suspending their own understanding, and pinning their faith upon another’s sleeve, will never be capable of entering into the, celestial glory, to be crowned as they anticipate; they will never be capable of becoming Gods. They cannot rule themselves, to say nothing of ruling others, but they must be dictated to in every trifle, like a child. They cannot control themselves in the least, but James, Peter, or somebody else must control them, They never can become Gods, nor be crowned as rulers with glory, immortality, and eternal lives. They never can hold sceptres of glory, majesty, and power in the celestial kingdom. Who will? Those who are valiant and inspired with the true independence of heaven, who will go forth boldly in the service of their God, leaving others to do as they please, determined to do right, though all mankind besides should take the opposite course. Will this apply to any of you? Your own hearts can answer. Do you know what is right and just, as well as I do? In some things you do, and in some things you may not. know as well; but I will explain what I mean, in the following words—I will do all the good I can, and all I know how to do, and I will shun every evil that I know to be an evil. You can all do that much. I will. apply my heart to wisdom, and ask the Lord to impart it to me; and if I know but little, I will improve upon it, that to-morrow. I may have more, and thus grow from day to day, in the knowledge of the truth, as Jesus Christ grew in stature and knowledge from a babe to manhood; and if I am not now capable of judging for myself, perhaps I shall be in another year. We are organized to progress in the scale of intelligence, and the least Saint by adhering strictly to the order of God, may attain to a full and complete salvation through the grace of God, by his own faithfulness.
What think ye? Is this one of those Brigham Young quotes that we toss on the garbage heap, or is it useful? (If we do toss it on the garbage heap, what does that mean for the question of following the church president?)