Following who exactly?

October 17, 2007

by John C.

It seems to me that the reason we are asked to follow our leaders has less to do with our leaders and more to do with us and our faith. Our leaders are meant to be stand-ins for Christ and, as such, they forever fail to live up to their potential. Some come closer and that is good, but they are nonetheless proxies and substitutes. So why are we meant to listen to and follow them.

The first response is simply that they are given keys to revelation for those whom they serve. This is an important point. Bishops, Stake Presidents, Area Presidents, and so forth are meant to stand as judges in Israel and to provide direction and admonitions to their flock. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are better than the rest of us, as President Packer’s recent Conference talk seems meant to indicate; it just means that they have a different calling. And that is the thing, their calling is to regulate the church; they are God’s Bureaucrats. As such, we should pay attention to the guidelines, commands, and revelations they receive and share, especially as regards our relationship with the church. However, in our day to day conduct, we still require a more intimate and immediate connection with God. Those men, whom I love and admire, are intermediaries. We can and should approach the source as or more often as we do them.

Which leads to the second response, that we follow them because we believe that following them is what God has asked us to do. We don’t do it because they are better than us. We do it as a sign of our faith in Christ. I have a former Stake President whom I suspect, without any proof whatsoever, of having likely engaged in quasi-legal to illegal acts in the course of his lifetime. This is based on the little I know of his life and the way in which I approach class politics in our society (also, I am an economic bigot). That said, when I attended stake meetings in which he spoke and presided, I felt the Spirit. I felt inspired. I felt like it was God’s will that he be in charge. While it remains amazing to me that God finds people that I find detestable to be worthy of leadership callings in the church, it is nonetheless the case. In every case, I have found something admirable and inspiring in these awful, awful people who led me. I am playing up my antagonism for the crowd here, but the point is that God calls people to do his work. Just people. As such, they may not be all that we would like them to be. But they are God’s and that is something.

There is a quote from 2 Nephi 9 that I find very moving on this front:

for it behooveth the great Creator that he suffereth himself to become subject unto man in the flesh, and die for all men, that all men might become subject unto him. (2 Nephi 9:5b)

Christ, who was better suited to rule than anyone else ever, subjected himself to fleshly men, who killed him to maintain their power, their prestige, and their material wealth. Mere humanity killed their God and Creator and they did so for petty, selfish reasons and Christ allowed it to happen. He chose his death at our hands. When we spend our time fretting over the moral and intellectual inferiors who hold some power over our lives, do we ever stop to think of Christ who subjected himself to the worst abuses of power by those who held no actual authority over him?

Not that, of course, we should allow ourselves to be oppressed in all cases, of course. There are times when it is better to object or to get out. But those are not the only appropriate responses. Sometimes God asks us to suffer. With church leadership we often find that we need to trust Him and His timetable for change and hope that our desires align with His. After all, He is the one we are meant to be following.


  1. Wow. Just wow. Awesome post.

  2. I really like this, John. Thanks.

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