Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The false "Generals" statement

The March 8, 2008, issue of the LDS Church News contains a short article titled "First Presidency releases statement."  It says:

A statement has been circulated that asserts in part that the youth of the Church today "were generals in the war in heaven ... and (someone will) ask you,  ' Which of the prophet's time did you live in? '  and when you say,  ' Gordon B. Hinckley '  a hush will fall,... and all in attendance will bow at your presence."

A notice from the Office of the First Presidency reads:

"This is a false statement.  It is not Church doctrine.  At various times, this statement has been attributed erroneously to President Thomas S. Monson, President Henry B. Eyring, President Boyd K. Packer, and others.  None of these Brethren made this statement."

The notice about the statement, which was sent to General Authorities, Area Seventies, stake, mission, district and temple presidents, and bishops and branch presidents, instructed that priesthood leaders "should see that it is not used in Church talks, classes, bulletins or newsletters."  Also, the notice instructed them to "correct anyone who attempts to perpetuate its use."

Eric Nielson, over at The Waters of Mormon, points out that the First Presidency did not say why the "Generals" statement is false, only that it is.  Eric then gives his personal opinion as to why the "Generals" statement is false.  I like Eric's article.  It reminded me about something that happened eleven years ago, when our fifth son left to serve a full time mission in Brazil.

While he was in the MTC, he was handed a copy of the "Generals" statement.  He sent it home asking me to find a published reference for it.  What follows is my reply to him which contains my own opinion about the "Generals" statement being false doctrine.

July 27, 1997

Dear Ben,

I'm sorry that I haven't written to you sooner about the quote.  I've been thinking about it quite a bit, however, and I want to share with you some of my thoughts.

When I first read the quote, I was uncomfortable with it. There are several things about it that don't seem quite right. Let me talk to you about some of them.

The Saints in All Ages Worship God and Him Only

Children of our Heavenly Father have been commanded to worship Him and no one else.  Read Doctrine and Covenants 20:17-19 and give particular attention to verse 19 which reads:  "And gave unto them commandments that they should love and serve him, the only living and true God, and that he should be the only being whom they should worship."  Italics added.)

The scriptures teach that the angels of heaven decline worship.  For example, when the Apostle John was on the Isle of Patmos, God sent a mighty angel to him.  After this heavenly messenger had informed John of many future events, the Apostle fell at his feet to worship him but was forbidden.  The angel said:  "See thou do it not; for I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book:  Worship God."  (Rev. 19:10; Italics added.)  A similar warning is found in Rev. 22:8-9.  Angels of God refuse divine honors.

President Gordon B. Hinckley, while serving as a counselor to President Spencer W. Kimball, spoke in General Priesthood Meeting of "the great and magnificent brotherhood" of the priesthood:

"Now I would like to talk with you about some of the particular words of this statement given by John the Baptist when he restored this priesthood.  I think you should be aware, if you are not already aware, of the powers you have in the priesthood you hold.

"First, I should like to call your attention to the words 'my fellow servants.'  Have you ever realized that in the holding and exercise of this priesthood you are a fellow servant with John the Baptist, the very man who, while he was alive, baptized Jesus, the Savior of the world and the Son of God, in the waters of the River Jordan?  It is interesting to me that John spoke to Joseph and Oliver, when they were both young men and when they were not highly regarded by people of the world, as his fellow servants.  He did not speak down to them as a king might speak to one of his subjects.  He did not speak down to them as a judge might speak to an individual on trial before him.  He did not speak down to them as a university president or a high school principal might speak to his students.  Rather, he who was a resurrected being addressed these young men as his fellow servants.  To me there is something wonderful in this.  It speaks of the true spirit of the great and magnificent brotherhood of which we are all a part, the priesthood of God.  We are all servants together, regardless of our position in the Church or in the world, regardless of wealth or lack of it, regardless of the color of our skin—we are all servants together, brothers one to another and sons of God as a part of this great body of sacred priesthood.

"That should mean something to each of us.  It does not demean us or put us down in any way.  It elevates all of us as fellow servants of the Lord in the responsibility of carrying on the work of the ministry in his Church.  You and I, including all the Brethren seated on the stand in this Tabernacle, and each of you out across the Church in many places, are all fellow servants of the Lord; we hold the Holy Priesthood and have the right to exercise it in the work of which we are a part.  I hope you will never forget this, particularly you young men."  ("The Priesthood Of Aaron," Ensign, Nov. 1982, pp. 44-45.)

We Must Earn By Our Own Sacrifice
The Right To Be With The Saints of Former Days

President Ezra Taft Benson, while serving as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke in General Conference about how our relationship with the Saints of former days depends upon our willingness to sacrifice just as they did:

"The Lord said in September 1831,  ' Now it is called today until the coming of the Son of Man, and verily it is a day of sacrifice ... of my people'  (D&C 64:23; italics added).

"The Prophet Joseph Smith prepared this remarkable statement on the principle of sacrifice for the Lectures on Faith:

" ' Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation'  (Lectures on Faith, 6:7).

"As I have pondered this principle of the gospel, I contemplate a legacy of faith and sacrifice left by our forefathers.

"I see father Abraham offering his son Isaac in sacrifice.

"I see his great-grandson Joseph, though tempted severely in his youth, sacrificing the enticements of the world.

"I see father Lehi, who left everything to come to this land of promise.

"I see the founders of this republic, who pledged life, fortune, and sacred honor—some paying the pledge in full.

"I see a modern Joseph sacrificing character, reputation, honor, applause, his good name, his home, lands, family, and finally his own life for the truths sake.

"I see the early pioneers who left lands, possessions and community, to come to these mountain valleys.

"I see the Son of God, who made the infinite, eternal sacrifice that we might, through our worthiness, live again with our Eternal Father.

"Yes, as I contemplate the faith, devotion, and sacrifices of thousands—even tens of thousands—of faithful Saints who have preceded us, I am in complete accord with this statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith:

" ' It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those.. who have offered their all in sacrifice ... unless they, in like manner, offer unto him the same sacrifice'  (Lectures on Faith, 6:8; italics added)." ("This Is A Day Of Sacrifice," Ensign, May 1979, p. 32.)

Notice the emphasis that President Benson gave to the words "in like manner." And notice the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith, echoed by President Benson, that "it is in vain" for you and me to fancy to ourselves that we can be heirs with those who have offered their all in sacrifice unless we do offer to God the same degree of sacrifice.

You Are Choice Spirits

In 1977, speaking to your generation, President Ezra Taft Benson said:

"You are not just ordinary young men and young women.  You are choice spirits, many of you having been held back in reserve for almost 6,000 years to come forth in this day, at this time, when the temptations, responsibilities and opportunities are the very greatest."  ("A Message To The Rising Generation," Ensign, Nov. 1977, p. 30.)

If you are to remain worthy "when the temptations ... are the very greatest" you will need to carefully follow the prophets and your other adult priesthood leaders.  I like this story that President Benson told in the same talk just quoted:

"A young man, a few months out of college, got a job with an insurance company.  He was full of enthusiasm and vigor—determined to sell insurance to all he met, including the farmers.  He walked into a farmyard one lovely autumn morning and noticed an old farmer across the yard, somewhat stooped and bent, looking out over his field of grain.  The salesman briskly walked over to the farmer and said,  ' Look up good man, there's much to live for.'

"The elderly farmer straightened up the best he could and replied,  ' Young man, you see that beautiful field of wheat? '  The salesman acknowledged that indeed it was beautiful.  ' Do you notice that some of the heads are bent over? '

" ' Yes,' said the youth,  ' that's right, they are.'

"The old farmer said,  ' Those are the ones with the grain in them.' "  ("A Message To The Rising Generation," Ensign, Nov. 1977, p. 31.)

Ben, there are some things that come only with age, and one of these is wisdom.  Listen carefully to the Prophets and to your Mission President.  They may be somewhat bent over with age, but they are the ones with the grain in them.

The Great Joy of Living In This Day

The Prophet Joseph wrote an editorial in the Times and Seasons in May 1842 regarding the purpose of the Church in which he indicated the great joy of living in this day:

"The building up of Zion is a cause that has interested the people of God in every age;  it is a theme upon which prophets, priests, and kings have dwelt with peculiar delight; they have looked forward with joyful anticipation to the day in which we lived; and fired with heavenly and joyful anticipations, they have sung, and wrote and prophesied of this our day;—but they died without the sight...."  (Times and Seasons, vol. 3, p. 776, as quoted by Elder James A. Cullimore in Ensign, Jan. 1974, p. 121.)

Ben, God loves you just as He loves each and every one of His children, those who live in Brazil today as well as those who lived at the time Moses parted the Red Sea or who fought with Captain Moroni.  And God, who knows the end from the beginning, has sent you to earth at this time.  Be true.  Be obedient.  Be worthy of the blessings God wants you to receive but which can be received only through your faithfulness.



Blogger Eric Nielson said...

Nice letter RGary.

Thanks for the kind words and the link.

4/02/2008 06:41:00 AM  

<< Home