16 June 2015

'Even the Elect...'

Nehor preached "that which he termed to be the word of God." The obvious answer is, God terms His own word, not man. So it should have been easy for the people not to be deceived, right?

No. He probably used the same words and phrases that Alma and true prophets were using — "Thus saith the Lord..." And such a statement, when coupled with perks like "Thou needest never repent; Thou hast no need to earn thy own bread," etc., can be quite attractive.

As I thought about this the scripture came to mind that says that in the last days convincing false prophets and false Christs will attempt to deceive even the elect — the Lord's covenant people, who should know better. The scripture has historical precedent. 

How can we avoid being deceived? Another simple answer: Follow the prophet. But that leads to another point — how can we be sure of and testify that our living prophets are true mouthpieces of the Lord, authorized by Him?

As I thought about it, some different criteria came to mind:
  • The truth is bigger than the man: The antichrists in the Book of Mormon may have said "thus saith the Lord," but when brought to the breaking point, they couldn't defend what they were saying. Their messages couldn't hold up. Sherem and Korihor, both struck down for what they were preaching, acknowledged that their god was false. They admitted to being deceived and ultimately confessed the Christ. Nehor didn't die defending his message; before he died he had to admit that he, too, had lied. Joseph Smith, on the other hand, died in defense of the message God had given him. The truth was bigger than he was; he answered to a higher Authority than himself.
  • False prophets and antichrists won't stand: The Lord has stated He will not allow His prophets to deceive the people. Scriptural accounts assert that He means what he says (namely Judas, Sherem, Nehor, Korihor). In terms of fallen prophets, specifically, they will be dealt with by the Lord. But again (and the Saints in Kirtland had to learn this lesson) they must be dealt with by the Lord, not by men who have termed that they are fallen. The Lord backed Joseph Smith, even when Saints cried for someone different, more profitable.
Now this is all fine and good, but how do we avoid following someone down the wrong path until things implode?

Some things that come to mind from the scriptures include these:
  • Fruits: Judge the messenger and the message by their fruits. The antichrists' "beliefs" resulted in their own aggrandizement and in an irresponsible, idolatrous and self-centered belief group. If the fruit of the message benefits the messenger this way, especially at the expense of others, it is suspect.
  • Carnal Mind: Korihor pegged it when he said he had been deceived because the false message was pleasing unto his carnal mind. We are in the same danger today, especially with all the lewdness and distractions available to us. If we're not trying to keep our minds clean, we are easier to deceive. If we don't pursue a pure heart, we're prone to following messengers who justify and feed our propensity for sludge.
  • The Source: The Lord Himself is the source of His word, and He alone "terms" it. But how can we know whom He has authorized to be His mouthpiece? It's simple: Go to the Source. To me, this means two things: 
    • If a prophet is a true prophet, he will send his believers to the Source of his message for a testimony of the truth. He will not take credit for the message; nor will he tell believers to rely on his word alone. He will invite them to ask of God and learn if he speaks the truth. 
    • If we question a message from a prophet (whether true or false prophet) and pray and desire to know, He will manifest to us who His real servants are and who they are not. He is able to do His own work, after all. And we are His children; He loves us. He wants to protect us. He answers through the Holy Ghost.
  • Trust the Spirit: It will never lie, and it constantly testifies of "the Word" and the prophets. It is the sealer of truth. Here, again, it is vital that we be living worthy of its company. We also need to learn to recognize the Holy Ghost and to discern between it and cleverly disguised false spirits (something Korihor learned too late). Elder Richard G. Scott stated that a helpful way to do this is to study the scriptures, the established word of God. This helps us become acquainted with the Lord's voice.
What can I add to this list? What has helped you recognize deception and/or protect yourself from it? How have you gained a testimony of the living prophets?

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