There is a difference between virtue and righteousness. Virtue is laudable, required and necessary, but righteousness has priority. Virtue surrenders to righteousness, not vice-versa. The point can be illustrated from scripture:
It is not virtuous to kill. Nephi was repulsed at the idea, but the Lord required it, and Nephi complied. The doctrinal reasons justifying the killing are set out in The Second Comforter, and there were sufficient reasons both under the Law of Moses and the Lord's standards of judgment to vindicate the Lord's decision to kill Laban. The killing was offensive to virtue, but it was righteous.
It is not virtuous to mockingly taunt others. Yet Elijah was pursuing a righteous course against the priests of Baal when he did just that: "And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked." (1 Kings 18: 27.) Mocking is both unvirtuous and uncouth, and in this context would qualify only as righteous.
It is not virtuous to rail against the religious leaders of any faith. Yet John the Baptist rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees as a generation of vipers: "Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (Luke 3: 7.) This term of derision, "generation of vipers" is graphic and in context it is both offensive and uncouth. Yet he was a righteous man, moreso than any other apart from Christ. (Luke 7: 28.)
It was not virtuous for Christ to rebuke His accusers: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! ... for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves. Woe unto you, ye blind guides, ... ye fools and blind..." (Matt. 23: 14-17.) The language of the Lord here is quite blunt, uncouth and in the context of that language, gutteral. It was righteous, but not an example of virtuous language.
It was worse still for Christ to call Herod "that fox." This is a term of derision comparable in our own language to calling someone a "son of a bitch." (Luke 13: 32.) Yet it was righteous, justified and appropriate.
It was blunt and threatening for Joseph to tell his guards in Liberty Jail: "SILENCE, ye fiends of the infernal pit. In the name of Jesus Christ I rebuke you, and command you to be still; I will not live another minute and hear such language. Cease such talk, or you or I die THIS INSTANT!" (Taken from The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, emphasis in original.) Calling another a "fiend of the infernal pit" is quite abrasive and offensive; it was intended to be so.
Those who prefer virtue to righteousness will handicap their ability to work for the Lord's ends. He will always require righteousness to be done. When someone prefers virtue and neglects righteousness, or condemns the righteous for their lack of virtue, their inappropriate standard serves only one purpose. It gets applied against the one proposing to use it. They get to be measured by the standard they apply. (Matt. 7: 22.)
I choose to look at Elijah, John the Baptist, Christ and Joseph Smith, as well as any other person moved to rebuke me or anyone else by the power of the Holy Ghost as fully justified and Christlike. I do not resist the challenge of a righteous rebuke. I welcome them. No one should feel they cannot "damn" me. I'll consider it important and will respond with my defense, or an apology if I think it is warranted.
It is important for you to know that I do not think Christ is a limp-wristed, lisping chap who dotes on us and has nothing but bouquets of flowers to dispense to us. I think He's about to return in judgment, dressed in red to burn the wicked. He has said that is who He is and I believe Him. I would like to have as many people take that seriously and consider repenting. We are mistaken in our belief that we are chosen. We are mistaken when we think we are too good to be in need of continual repentance. We are nothing before God. We are about to see His judgments. I know these ideas make me irritating.
As Hugh Nibley put it, "there is nothing so irritating as being awakened from a sound sleep." But my hope is to awaken some few. Therefore, it is worth offending a great number if the result benefit a few. That is the way things work here and I am quite realistic about it all.
It is also important to be clear about some things. First, the Strengthening the Members Committee is a real group, although its existence was denied for a while by the church. Second, they are not supposed to be pressuring local leaders to harass church members. When they do, it is considered a violation of the process because all church discipline is supposed to be 1) local, and 2) independent. When they interfere it is inappropriate. Third, I WANT them to know there are leaks, and they have spilled onto the Internet. They should do what they need to do to plug them. It should be noted that there have been several forum discussions related to me shut down and deleted since my earlier post. Fourth, I want everyone to know if there is a problem which has offended a distant and imperial committee, it is not because I believe too little in the Lord, but too much in Him and too little in men. Fifth, they are misbehaving in a cowardly, unmanly way by this stealth attack. It would be far better, if they want to be credible, for them to address it openly. Do as I have invited them to do. Show me where I'm wrong. Let me respond. Let some sunlight on the matter. It is shameful, even cowardly, to avoid and accuse from a shadow, only to later pretend they weren't involved. Pressuring local, reluctant leaders who know better from personal experience with their local members is manipulative.
I consider the words chosen by me to be measured, appropriate and inspired by the right reaction to a cowardly and shameful act by this subversive committee. They are wrong to behave this way. They have probably engaged in illegal activity by leaking onto the Internet what should be kept confidential. I have done them a service by alerting them to this misconduct. Surely, no matter how misguided their deliberations may be, they intend to preserve their legal protection to claim to have privileges under the law. That protection is forfeited when they act this way.
The content of this blog presumes you are already familiar with Denver Snuffer's books. Careful explanations given in the books lay the foundation for what is contained here. If you read this blog without having first read his books, then you assume responsibility for your own misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the writer's intent. Please do not presume to judge Mr. Snuffer's intentions if you have not first read his books.
Monday, May 7, 2012
Virtue and Righteousness
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