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Monday, August 17, 2015

Proof Texting: D&C 42:11

Of all people, latter-day Saints ought to expect true messengers from unlikely places. After all, the Book of Mormon provides yet another witness that it is God's rule to call outsiders to call apostate hierarchies to repentance. Joseph Smith himself was an outsider. Jesus was as well.

Opponents state that God operates differently in our dispensation. They state that God has promised that in this dispensation, he will never ask anyone to preach the gospel unless they are sent from church leaders. They use D&C 42:11 as their proof text, which reads:

11 Again I say unto you, that it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church.

1. Ordained by someone who has authority. Someone who claims that Christ himself ordained him to preach would, if correct in this claim, clearly have been ordained by someone who has authority. Is it a strange things for God himself to ordain people? No. If you were to enumerate the individuals with the priesthood in scripture, you would find that the exception is to be ordained by men, not by God. In fact, Joseph said, "All the prophets had the Melchizedek Priesthood and were ordained by God himself" (TPJS, pp. 180-81).

2. Known to the church that he has authority. This requirement is ambiguous. Does the "he" refer to the individual in question, or to the "some one who has authority"? In the case of the latter, if the individual in question claims that Christ ordained him, there should be no question that the church should know that Christ has authority. In the former case, the situation of Christ himself should be illustrative. When Jesus came with authority, he said he was sent of the father and that the Spirit testified of his authority.

 13 The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true.
 14 Jesus answered and said unto them, Though I bear record of myself, yet my record is true: for I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go.
 15 Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man.
 16 And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me.
 17 It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true.
 18 I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me. (John 8)

The Jews didn't think that was sufficient. Perhaps they supposed that he was not bona fide because he did not come from the ruling counsels?

3. Been regularly ordained by the heads of the church. The same people who are likely to use D&C 42:11 as a proof text are also those who are most likely to say that Christ is the head of the LDS church. If the individual in question were ordained by Christ, would that not satisfy this requirement? As to the regularity of such an ordination, if regular is taken to mean normal, the entire standard works demonstrate that the normal form of ordination is under the hand of God, not man.

Yet, as is usually the case with proof texting, context provides stronger refutation than a direct assault of the verse in question. The entire passage reads thusly:

11 Again I say unto you, that it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church.
 12 And again, the elders, priests and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, in the which is the fulness of the gospel.
 13 And they shall observe the covenants and church articles to do them, and these shall be their teachings, as they shall be directed by the Spirit.
 14 And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith; and if ye receive not the Spirit ye shall not teach.
 15 And all this ye shall observe to do as I have commanded concerning your teaching, until the fulness of my scriptures is given.

To this we ask:
1. Do church officers teach the principles of the gospel in the Bible and Book of Mormon, or do they omit topics that are currently unpopular or misunderstood?
2. Do they use the covenants and church articles (refering to the Lectures on Faith and 1835 D&C) to govern the church, or have they replaced those covenants and articles?
3. Do they allow church meetings to be directed by the Spirit, or do they read pre-edited talks and enforce ritualistic meeting structures and schedules?
4. Do church officers withdraw from the invitation to speak when the Spirit does not tell them what to say? Or do they ghost write manuals and train church members to read what is written and stick to the manual during teaching opportunities.
5. What did the Lord mean when he said "until the fulness of my scriptures is given"? Is this passage even valid anymore?

Perhaps most significantly, does the church not send out tens of thousands of sister missionaries a year to preach the gospel without any ordination whatsoever? Should an organization who itself neglects to follow the instructions in the passage in upwards of 50% of its gospel teachers be permitted to cite these instructions as reasons why those outside of church leadership are not true messengers of the gospel?

In summary, anyone who quotes D&C 42:11 to suggest that a true messenger can only come in the form of a church officer does not understand the scriptures, and should be the last person you listen to for gospel advice.