After reading Robert’s lesson notes for the RS/MP Lesson 17 (a fantastic post), I have lots of thoughts and questions about 2 Nephi 28.
I never thought to connect this to Isaiah 29. In part that is because I’m only distantly familiar with Isaiah and verses from Isaiah don’t readily pop into my mind. But the similarities are striking, and it changes the way I read 2 Ne 28.
I really want to rethink the Apostasy now. As Robert pointed out, Nephi tells us there are scriptures around during the apostasy. The difference is not whether or not there are scriptures, the difference is the Holy Ghost and direct communication with God. And likewise, we have the same problem as a potential for us: we have the word of God in more forms of scripture, but do we rely on our own precepts concerning them or are we seeking for greater understanding?
I was very struck by this idea: the precepts of men are not just fad-philosophies or scientific theories, they are precepts about the scriptures and about how to live a good, Christian life. And we as Latter-day Saints are far from being excluded from this group. When we approach the scriptures as simple, moralistic tid-bits with answers we already know from past lessons, then we are teetering on the edge of relying on our own understanding instead of God’s. Even if our understanding comes from the scriptures or church, if we are not still seeking in the spirit, does this constitute a reliance on ourselves and our own knowledge?
I find this idea so compelling because in our modern, correlated church, everyone has the same manuals, hears the same talks in conference, etc. It would be very hard for the whole church to suddenly start teaching false doctrines each Sunday in classes. Our Gospel Principles manual may not be scripture or perfect, but it does cause the whole church to have somewhat of the same idea and vocabulary on these topics. You’re just not going to have teachers start teaching infant baptism or something! And the church is big enough and the leadership established enough that the apostles aren’t going to start disappearing – when one dies, there are others to pick from.
In other words, if we talk about the Apostasy as people changing doctrines and the apostles disappearing, I don’t think we can see an apostasy happening again to us. We do have statements saying that in this dispensation, there will not be a complete falling away so perhaps it’s fitting that I can’t see an Apostasy like that happening today. But, can I pin that on a corporate-style standardization of lessons and other material? Are we safe because of planning and printing? That doesn’t seem quite fair to the early Christian saints!
Because of that, I have been curious of how to think of the Apostasy. I can’t just believe that we are “better” because of standardized material that causes us all to talk about doctrine the same. I can’t think of it that way, but that is my temptation. So, I like thinking about how else we can think about the Apostasy. I find it more fair to the Early Saints, but it also makes me see how we could have individual or smaller-scale apostasies in the church right now.
Anyway, more thinking to do…