Jeremiah 23:1 states, “Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture, saith the Lord.”
These pastors are everywhere! You won’t know them by their appearance. You won’t even know them by the way they speak, by what they say, or by how much they sacrifice for the good of mankind. A person may sacrifice his time, talents and his very life for the cause of good, but be not deceived—this doesn’t constitute anything other than that good which he has sacrificed for. Men have tendencies to extrapolate one’s doings into the hyperspace of assumption. Let me give you an example from acts 27:
Paul, having been falsely accused and imprisoned, was transported by ship to Rome under military escort. Heavy storms blew the ship off course and caused it to break up near the island of Malta. Once safely on shore, the islanders showed the former crew unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed them all because it was raining and cold. Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand.
When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, “This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.” But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.
Such is the tendency of man—extrapolating their judgement too far pertaining to a man’s gifts—for evil, or for good.
A plain example of this in our day is contained in America’s political arena. Just watch CSPAN for a few minutes. Most politicians speak really well. They also look good. That combination, along with a talent for charisma is what convinces people to lend these men and women their vote.
But these qualities mean nothing. What they even say means nothing. What are their fruits? In the political world, the best evidence as to the heart of every politician is their voting record. But even then, to know if a politician has voted to affirm freedom, or violate freedom, a person needs to know the principles of freedom as enshrined in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the original intent of our Founding Fathers.
To liken that to religion, a person needs to be acquainted with the strict points of the doctrine of Christ—since these are His principles. Such are contained in the word of God, and in no other way. Violations to these strict points in their fullness are offenses to God.
I believe Joseph Smith-believing people in today’s world do not know the true points of the doctrine of Christ, and a vast many instead put their “weight of opinion” on hearsay, dreams, the “baptism of fire” and on doctrinally “straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel” (Matthew 13:24).
One’s spiritual talents must, alternately, be in the power to observe a servant’s fruits—strictness in following His doctrine, AND the priority of this doctrine as to NOT neglect the weightier matters. (Matthew 23:23, Luke 11:42, D&C 117:8)
A politician can look good, dress good, speak exceedingly well, and charm the people into cheers and applause, and yet still be—in actuality—filled with dead men’s bones. (Matthew 23:27)
If anyone, man or woman, is speaking to me, I want to say from the get-go: your dreams don’t impress me, your life experiences doesn’t impress me, the fact that you claim that you have seen angels doesn’t impress me (2 corinthians 11:14), your supposed “baptism of fire” doesn’t impress me, and your fantastic stories of performing great works in the name of Christ doesn’t impress me. Why? Because I know the strict points of the doctrine of Christ, and I put my trust in God’s word only.
Consider a further example of the deceit good people fall into:
For many years now there has been talk of “Echa Tah Echa Nah, The Mighty and Wise One” with his holy city somewhere in the jungle on the Yucatan/Guatemala border. Books have been written on this man (search Amazon), and legends have spread far and wide. Many believe that he is the One Mighty and Strong spoken of in D&C 85. But if this man exists no one knows his doctrine, no one knows this man’s heart, no one knows how much of the scriptures he has read or understands, no one has related anything in which he has taught beyond the basics. Any yet people believe that he is the Lord’s great last days servant strictly on the basis of this man’s presentation and that fact that he is a Native American (of the tribe of Joseph), his city is hidden (i.e. mysterious & secluded), he wears white robes, etc.
Others, however, are even further separated from God by believing in pastors’ false doctrines, and are thus another group of sheep who are “destroyed and scattered.” Many people believe in Denver Snuffer and others like him. Why? Because he also comes with pomp and fanfare. Pomp and fanfare doesn’t necessarily dismiss a man from being a servant of God, but Denver’s doctrine DOES. And yet, like American voters, people don’t know enough of the doctrine of Christ to know that he is in err—just as much in err as the mainstream LDS Church.
The entire chapter of Jeremiah 23 is dedicated to this deceit that the masses of “Joseph Smith is a prophet” believers are caught up in—hook, line, and sinker.
The following “categories of deceit” are taken from this chapter, and include:
- “The Lord has visited me” (these prophets proclaim)
- Yet “[they are] adulters” (a remark pertaining to their hypocrisy; do you really know what these people do in private?)
- “because of [their] oaths” (a remark pertaining to secret combinations)
- “their course is evil, and their force is not right” (pertains to the doctrines they teach)
- “Both the prophet and priest do wickedly”
- “Their wickedness I have found in my house”
- “Their ways are slippery ways in the darkness”
- Because of all this “they cause my people [who follow them] to err (how can a prophet or priest cause a person to err unless that person doesn’t know the true points of the doctrine of Christ?)
- They are foolish [in reality, despite their pomp]
- Their prophecy is “vanity”
- They “speak the visions of their own heart”
- They speak the words that the people want to hear; “they prophecy lies—the deceit of their own heart”
- They say, “I have dreamed, I have dreamed.”
Jeremiah then takes a break to tell us, “In the Latter Days Ye Shall Understand [all this] Plainly.” And then adds a most powerful statement that is the unequivocal solution to this deceit:
Is not my word even like a fire, saith the Lord? and like an hammer, that breaketh the stone?Verse 29
There are a thousand verses like that one, which testifies that only the scriptures can give understanding:
Let my cry come near before thee, O Lord: give me understanding according to thy word.Psalms 119:169
The fact is, the rod of Iron in Lehi’s dream (which is the word of the Lord) wasn’t visions, spiritual experiences, vanity, pomp, presentation, or false prophecy. It was the word of God—the scriptures.
The following explicit warning is given in the latter part of Jeremiah 23 against all who presume to speak in God’s name because of dreams, visions, spiritual experiences, vanity, pomp, presentation, or false prophecy. In it contains the phrase “the burden of the Lord,” which appears seven times in the final 8 verses.
And the prophet, or the priest, or the people that shall say, The burden of the Lord, I will even visit every such one, and his houseVerse 34
What is the burden of the Lord? The following is taken from The Berean online (bibletools.org), and explains very well what this term means:
It is a great honor to represent God in the preaching of the gospel, whether to the world or to the church. However, there is an important principle here, that is, if one is going to do it, he had better be appointed [authorized] to do it.
God is organized in what He does. Did He not create a human body that is organized? The human body is a type of His church, and in both, all direction comes from the Head. Does the hand take over and do the job of the eyes? Does the nose take over and do the job of the ear? No. The part only does the job that it is appointed by God to do.
And so it is in the church of God. God expects those whom He has appointed to perform a certain responsibility to do it. We bear that burden. How many times does the Old Testament contain the phrase “the burden of the Lord”? “The burden of the Lord” is the responsibility God gave to the prophets, and it is a burden in a number of ways. If a person is going to be preaching the gospel, he had better be appointed to do it and worthy to represent the One who appointed him—God the Father.
It is the purpose of God to obscure truth as to hide it from those who do not seek it diligently. (see 1 Nephi 10:17-19)
The scriptures plainly say:
And these signs shall follow him—he shall heal the sick, he shall cast out devils, and shall be delivered from those who would administer unto him deadly poison; And he shall be led in paths where the poisonous serpent cannot lay hold upon his heel, and he shall mount up in the imagination of his thoughts as upon eagles’ wings. And what if I will that he should raise the dead, let him not withhold his voice.D&C 124:98-100 (also see Mormon 9:24, Mark 16:17)
Do not these things follow true servants of God? Why then are so many deceived, and instead put their faith in dreams and experiences—true, or false (i.e. baptism of fire, angel visits, etc.)? Is repeating these experiences not hearsay? It is! And it does not stand up in the courts of the true and living God!
Also from Jeremiah, a few chapters later:
For thus saith the Lord of hosts the God of Israel, Let not your prophets, and your soothsayers that be among you, deceive you, neither give ear to your dreams, which you dream. For they prophesy you a lie in my Name: I have not sent them, saith the Lord.Jeremiah 29:8-9
Be very careful with your discernment, and what you allow yourself to believe, and which servant you allow yourself to believe in.
And wo be unto him that will not hearken unto the words of Jesus, and also to them whom he hath chosen and sent among them; for whoso receiveth not the words of Jesus and the words of those whom he hath sent receiveth not him; and therefore he will not receive them at the last day; And it would be better for them if they had not been born.3 Nephi 28:34-35