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Doctrine and Covenants 58-59. Once again, there are a lot of seemingly random things going on in these sections. One common theme that I discovered was that the Lord decided to chastise various church leaders in these particular revelations.
Chastisement is never pleasant, especially when it’s public and written down and everyone gets to read it forever. However, the funny thing about that unpleasant feeling is that it comes from a place of pride. That nagging feeling you get when others hear about your shortcomings originate from a source of pride. When we can get over that original defensiveness, we come to appreciate the chastisement. We appreciate the Lord opening our eyes to a clearer reality of ourselves.
Now. The other funny thing about these chastisements being written down for everyone to read is the fact that when Christ puts something in the scriptures, it’s usually because there are plenty of us who need to hear it.
So as we talk about some of these shortcomings (one in particular), I want you to ask yourself how it applies to you. I don’t want you to ask whether it applies to you. I want you to try and find examples in your own life of how you could improve. I want you to push away the embarrassment and justification and defensiveness that comes from pride, and I want you to observe yourself and see what needs to change in your heart.
And remember: I don’t want you to only consider personal examples with your bishops and stake presidents and prophets. Our priesthood leaders include women! Women do not hold priesthood keys, but women do have priesthood authority when they are given callings in the church. So, in your assessment of yourself, I want you to make sure you are also considering the condition of your heart towards any female leaders you might have as well.
Blindness of Heart
I’m going to be focusing primarily on the chastisement directed towards Edward Partridge. Before I continue on too far, I want to vouch for who this man was. He suffered a lot for the gospel. There are many faith-promoting stories surrounding Edward Partridge, and though I choose to elaborate on this chastisement at this time, I do not think that these temporary weaknesses defined the man. I choose to elaborate and expound and speculate, not so that we can try and pick apart Edward Partridge but so that we can pick apart our own hearts and see if there is something within us that needs to change.
Doctrine and Covenants 58:14-15
14 Yea, for this cause I have sent you hither, and have selected my servant Edward Partridge, and have appointed unto him his mission in this land.
15 But if he repent not of his sins, which are unbelief and blindness of heart, let him take heed lest he fall.
At the time this revelation was given, Edward Partridge wasn’t a bishop of a ward in the traditional sense; he was more like the first general bishop of the church. Here is a statement from the institute manual regarding what was going on with Edward Partridge at the time.
“During the administration of Joseph F. Smith, the First Presidency of the Church issued a statement to clarify the role played by Edward Partridge. The following is an excerpt from that statement: “On occasion of the Prophet’s first visit to Independence, Missouri—Edward Partridge accompanied him—in the meetings and conferences held upon the land of Zion, Bishop Partridge several times strenuously opposed the measures of the Prophet, and was sharply reproved by the latter for his unbelief and hardness of heart.”
Edward Partridge was strenuously opposing the measures of the prophet.
So what was the real issue here? Well the Lord called it out: a blind heart. What do you think of when you hear the phrase “blind heart”? Blind refers to the inability to see. When we talk about “heart” in the scriptures, we are often talking of feeling. His feelings in regards towards the prophet were blind. And it is this blindness of heart that manifests itself in the strenuous opposition to the prophet.
This strenuous opposition tells me two things about how Edward Partridge might have been feeling at the time he was chastised. One: he was turning a blind eye towards good intentions. Two: he forgot his purpose as bishop, friend, and brother. Let’s talk about each of these and see how we might relate to Edward Partridge.
A Blind Eye Towards Good Intentions
As I mentioned previously, I believe in the imperfection of our priesthood leaders and so, what should it look like when we disagree with them? There are obviously examples of priesthood leaders who are truly committing evil crimes and sins. By all means, in those cases, strenuously oppose them.
However. In most cases, the reality of the situation is simple human frailty. When mistakes are made, when less than best roads are taken, when our priesthood leaders don’t have the wisdom of King Solomon, how do we react?
Hopefully, we react in the same way that we hope the Lord would react to us. Right? With what measure ye judge, ye shall be judged. Look at your own life. Look at the past mistakes you’ve made that have kept you up at night. I think a grand majority of us aren’t trying to hurt people. And if we made mistakes that purposefully hurt people, then hopefully we recognize now that we need to repent and quickly.
Once again, think of a couple of mistakes you’ve made that dramatically affected others. When you stand before the Lord, how would you like Him to consider you? Think in specifics. In my mind, I want the Lord to be merciful. I want Him to see that I was young and naive. I want Him to see that I hadn’t figured things out yet, but those mistakes taught me about how ridiculous I was. I want Him to look at me and say, “It’s okay. You were trying.”
With what measure ye judge, ye shall be judged. Where is your heart? Does it turn a blind eye towards good intentions? And honestly, as I’m ranting about this, I realize that this goes far beyond just priesthood leaders. Are we turning a blind eye toward anyone’s good intentions? Are we assuming the worst of our friends, leaders, and even enemies? Have your feelings towards another person clouded your judgement regarding their choices?
The strenuous opposition tells me that the feelings ran deeper than the measures being taken by Joseph. For some reason or another, Edward felt something towards Joseph that blinded him and blurred his vision surrounding Joseph. Imagine how detrimental and poisonous these feelings could be in our own lives.
Forgetting Our Purpose
The second thing that “strenuous opposition” tells me is that Edward seems to have forgotten the point of counseling together. He forgot his purpose. It was no longer about doing what was best for the people. It was either about being right or, in the very least, proving Joseph wrong.
Now, I created an entire video on the fact that prophets make mistakes. I have a testimony of the fact that prophets and priesthood leaders make mistakes, and I’ve come to be grateful for their imperfections for many reasons. I will always encourage people to seek their own revelation regarding actions or declarations given by a prophet. I don’t think the Lord has a problem with us doing this; in fact, I know He doesn’t. He encourages us to question and learn for ourselves.
Edward Partridge was not chastised for disagreeing with the prophet, and I think this is really important. We can disagree with our priesthood leaders. We can counsel with them, but where should our hearts be? Edward Partridge was chastised for the blindness of hearts, so what should our hearts look like when there is disagreement?
Our hearts should be focused on our purpose. We’re not out to be right. No one gets to be right but the Lord. We are all merely working together to collect information, discuss, and seek the will of the Lord for the sake of the people. When we allow personal feelings towards priesthood leaders get in the way of taking care of people, we are the problem. The Lord can make up for all kinds of mistakes, but He cannot force our hearts to be pure and He cannot bless us with as much revelation for others if our hearts aren’t pure.
Lest he fall
The Lord warns Edward Partridge that he may fall if he doesn’t get his act together. I want to emphasize the fact that Edward Partridge wasn’t in danger of falling because he disagreed with Joseph. We put ourselves in danger of falling when our hearts block out the Spirit because we 1) Assume the weaknesses of others are evil rather than frailty and 2) Forget the fact that revelation to direct the church has nothing to do with us or other leaders; it’s about receiving what the Lord wants for His people.
The Lord can fix any mistakes we might make as leaders, but He cannot fix our own stubborn hearts. He gave us the power to do it ourselves, and He will not take that away from us.