LEST THERE BE OFFENSE
The sin of taking offense at leaders at any level, from local leaders to the Savior, is a peril we are warned about in the scriptures. This lesson explores why people are offended at leaders and how each person should react when he or she finds that he has taken offense at one of the brothers or sisters the Lord has called to lead us.
II. DIRECT PERSPECTIVES
A.The gospel directly discusses taking offense.
"The devil has ... Power over us only as we permit him. The moment we revolt at anything that comes from God, the devil takes power"
Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 181.
Speaking of offense, the Savior said "woe unto the world because of offenses! For it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense commeth!"
St. Matthew 18:7
The ability to be offended is so great that Christ was moved upon to state: "and blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me."
St. Matthew 11:6
B.Taking offense is natural and has many reasons.
There are four natural reasons people take offense at leaders:
1.The leader is guilty of gross sins that directly harm the offended person.
Scriptural examples: Eli's sons (gross corruption and extortion), Alma the Elder's problems with Alma the Younger (his son actively sought to destroy the church), King David (Uriah the Hittite was actively harmed).
2.The leader takes action, either by mistakes or otherwise that harms the person -- sometimes in unavoidable ways.
Scriptural example: Jacob 2:9. Jacob had no choice, yet his actions hurt some people who were blameless.
3.The leader is not perfect.
James 2:10. Note that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. It is impossible for leaders not to be imperfect.
No matter how hard the leader tries or how good they are, because they are mortal and human, they will make mistakes and will have imperfections.
This is why the Lord has little patience with those who excuse taking offense with the justification that their criticism is correct. So? Anyone who has read the Book of Mormon should remember Ether 12:23-24, 26.
God's grace is sufficient to save us only if we rely upon God and seek Him in spite of the weaknesses of our leaders.
Indeed, reading Ether 12: 27-28 it becomes obvious that our leaders are not perfect to allow God's grace to better act upon and save both our leaders and ourselves.
4.The person offended is guilty of sin. E.g. Alma 35:15, Romans 9:33, etc. By far the most common source of offense is the sin of the person offended. Read Ether 12 again.
C. Regardless of the reason, taking offense is never justified.
1. Selected scripture references: D&C 42:88; 3 Nephi 14:1-5.
2. God's suggestion to us:
"When temptations [such as the temptation to take offense] come to you, be humble and faithful, and determined that you will overcome, and you will receive a deliverance and continue faithful, having the promise of receiving blessings"
Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 82
III. PRACTICAL PROBLEMS
There are two types of practical problems that seem to take the matter of offense out of the realm of responding by repentance, patience and love. Those two situations are first, where the leader is directly engaged in harming an individual and second, where the leader is apostacising from the Gospel of Christ.
A.The first situation, where one is harmed by a leader -- cheated, betrayed, slandered or otherwise actually harmed, has been addressed by the General Authorities.
If the leader's act is actionable at law, according to Apostle Dallin Oaks (see his book, The Lord's Way), it is now appropriate to file criminal charges or to bring a civil law suit. The bringing of a claim will draw the attention of church leaders and will result in the protection of others from similar injury or harm.
This is especially true and appropriate in cases where a leader engages in pedophilia or other heinous acts harming a child or a family. Such sins thrive in silence.
In addition to the remedies in this world, God has promised that He will hear our pleas. His judgment is always final and from His decisions there is no appeal. Always remember that the book of life is not balanced until the day of judgment, but at that day, all will be made whole, for both good and evil, as the Lord has promised. Enduring to the end means enduring to that day.
It is important to remember that repenting, seeking God in earnest prayer, counseling with the Lord in humility, and leaving the matter with God, all guarantee that we will not misstep.
B.The second problem that members should deal with is when a leader appears to be an apostate.
Everyone who has read the Old Testament probably remembers what happened to the various apostates who Moses had to deal with. The images are vivid and direct. In most cases the followers were destroyed along with the leaders.
Brigham Young affirmed that this principle -- that the apostacy of a leader does not justify the blind apostacy of the follower -- applies to us today when he counseled the members to seek confirmation from the Spirit. President Kimball repeated that counsel in strong terms.
A member facing a leader who is engaged in what the member thinks is serious apostacy should contact those who are in charge of that leader, both in this world (i.e. write the brethren in Salt Lake) and in the next (i.e. pray to God about the problem).
If the member is correct, then the contact will allow for the leader to be corrected and hopefully brought to repentance. In addition, others will be protected from harm or false doctrine.
If the leader is not in the grip of serious false doctrine, the report will generally result in no change which should help the member in clarifying whether or not something is wrong.
In any event, sincere, righteous and humble prayer is very efficacious. Not only is God not mocked, but He will constrain those who have accepted the duty to act in His name if we exercise sufficient faith. The list in Hebrews 11:33-35 is by no means the limit of the power of God, just as Hebrews 11:36-40 does not limit the trials we might face. See 1 Peter 4:12-19.
1 Peter 1:7 states "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ." If the sins of our leaders provide a trial for us, let us overcome that trial also.
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