Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Scriptures... A few thoughts

Sorry everyone... it's been a while.  But I'm back from break, and things should get back to normal now.

For Christmas I recieved a copy of the "Selected Writings of Daniel H. Ludlow," from Desert Book's Gospel Scholars Series. So far it's been a pretty good read, and I've enjoyed it.  I thought today I'd just share some thoughts on some things I read yesterday, about the scriptures.

First, a quote from Elder Packer: "If [you] are acquainted with the revelations, there is no question -- personal or social or political or occupational -- that need go unanswered.  Therein is contained the fulness of the everlasting gospel.  Therin we find principles of truth that will resolve every confusion and every problem and every dilemma that will face the human family or any individual in it."

Wow!  That's a gigantic claim about the contents of the scriptures.  I'm not entirely sure how to take it though.  Is he saying that in the scriptures we will find the answers to every question we might ever face?  Do they contain information about particle physics etc?  Or is he saying that in them we find the means to obtain such information, such seeking learning by study and faith, and out of the best books?  If this is the intent, I think the statement is a bit of hyperbole.
A quote from Pres. Lee:  "I say say that we need to teach our people to find their answers in the scriptures.  If only each of us would be wise enough to say that we aren't able to answer any question unless we can find a doctrinal answer in the scriptures! And if we hear someone teaching something that is contrary to what is in the scriptures, each of us may know whether the things spoken are false--it is as simple as that.  But the unfortunalte thing is that so many of us are not reading the scriptures. We do not know what is in them, and therefore we speculate about the things that we ought to have found in the scriptures themselves.  I think that therein is one of our biggest dangers of today."

Now, I really liked this quote.  I think that if we, as a church, did a much better job in learning what is actually written in scripture, we'd be much less liable to buy into a lot of speculation that gets thrown around in the church, and accept it as doctrine.  But, I am curious as to how this fits in with a quote from the next page in the book from Brigham Young:

Wilford Woodruff tells a story of when there was some discussion in a meeting in the early church as to the place of the written scripture vs. the living oracles, and whether the prophet and church leaders should be limited by what's in the scriptures.  Brigham youn stood up and said, "There is the written word of God to us, concering the work of God.... And now, when compared with the living oracles those books are nothing to me; those books do not convey the word of God direct to us now, as do the words of a Prophet or man bearing the Holy Priesthood in our day and generation.  I would rather have the living oracles than all the writing in the books."  Then Joseph got up and said, "Brother Brigham has told you the word of the Lord, and he has told you the truth."

So I guess my question is, how does the quote from Pres. Lee relate to that of Brigham Young, especially as it relates to the general authorities, or even "a man bearing the Holy Priesthood." Does the word of an Apostle supercede canonized scripture?  Does it do so only if it's a statement from the First Presidency and Quorum of the the Twelve? From either?  

For example:  I don't suppose I can think of an Apostle who enjoyed speculating, and preaching it as definitive truth, more so than Elder McConkie. So what of it?  Should he have followed the council of Pres. Lee, limiting himself rather than proclaiming that there was no death before the fall, or that any who imagine that God might progress in actually learning new things must be as smart as a bit of primordial goo? Or should we as a church accept his word, as a living oracle (well, living at the time), even though there's no definitive doctrinal answer in the scriptures? (I'm not just talking about these two issues... there's tons of them, so I'm not looking here for a discusssion of the progression of God)

And I guess a final dimension the this problem would be one in which the prophets disagree.  Evolution, for example.  We have different Apostles with very conflicting views on the subject.  Why don't they stick to the council of Pres. Lee and leave the thing unanswered?  Should they?  Ultimately, that is what the First Presidency did, telling the general authorities to leave the subject alone, leaving geology, biology, etc to the scientists of their respective fields, and the church to the subject of saving souls.

(I've got to get to class now, but I'll try and get some references in here for all who might like them in the very near future.)

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