“Today's heroes become tomorrows villains - just as today's fools become tomorrow's venerated examples. How we sort it out in our brief moment here is not necessarily how either the Lord or those in the future will do so.” DCS Let’s look at a few examples that illustrate this point:
#1 Christ was a God living among men, so why didn’t the Jews perceive it? Would I have recognized Christ as being legitimate? Would you?
Would we have judged Christ as an imposter? He came without credentials. He did not have church position or rank. The chief priests, the scribes, and the elders questioned, “Who gave thee this authority to do these things?” Mark 11:27-33 They didn’t give Christ authority, so why was He acting like he had authority? Didn’t they know they were talking to God?
Would we have thought Annas and Caiaphas were credible and authoritative? After all, they were the high priests and sat in Moses' seat Matt. 23:2. They were recognized and respected as leaders of the church. They were in charge.
Can leaders always be trusted? Why didn’t Christ displace them? Do you think God would let an unstable man be in charge? Wouldn’t God remove the president of the church in Jerusalem if he started leading people astray?
These leaders had a great public image and were given the chief seats in the synagogues. They were venerated and revered as great Rabbis Matt. 23:5-7 . But, behind closed doors, they weren’t very nice guys. Matt. 26:3-4
#2 Lehi was called to prophesy to the Jews at Jerusalem before they were destroyed and carried away captive into Babylon 1 Nephi 1:18-20. Instead of being grateful for the warning, the Jews tried to kill him. He had to flee for his life 1 Nephi 2:1-2.
On the other hand, Laban had rank and position. 1 Nephi 3:31 It looks like he might have even been one of the church leaders. He, at least, had a close connection with the elders and brethren of the church 1 Nephi 4:22, 24, 26-27. But wait, Laban was a robber and murderer 1 Nephi 3:25-26.
#3 Abinadi had no rank or status. He came in disguise to prophesy and call the people to repentance Mosiah 12:1. King Noah and his priests questioned Abinadi’s right to judge them Mosiah 11:27. They pretended to teach the people, and to understand the spirit of prophesying Mosiah 12:25, but instead they caused the people to commit great wickedness Mosiah 29:17-18. The priests sat in chief seats telling the people what they wanted to hear. They flattered the people with lying and vain words Mosiah 11:7, 11. They might have even conducted an opinion poll to find out what the people wanted to hear.
These false religious leaders killed a true prophet of God Mosiah 17:1. One man accepted and acted upon the message sent from God Mosiah 26:15-16, and he did so at the peril of his own life Mosiah 17:2-3.
Not all leaders are wolves. There are many great examples of true and valiant leaders: Moses, King Benjamin, Nephi, Captain Moroni, etc. But we can’t rely on leaders just because of their title, rank, or status.
Having first-hand experience with God is foundational to coming to a knowledge of the truth D&C 93:24, D&C 6:11. What does His voice sound like? What is He saying to me? Can I discern between His voice and all other voices?
Some people are so worried about being deceived they will only rely upon bona fide, credible men to tell them what to think and believe. But who’s to say those men can be trusted? What if it’s an influential wolf in sheep’s clothing? Can you tell the difference between a false message and a true message? If you don’t know the difference, who is going to tell you?
Fundamental to verifying Christian belief is the ability to distinguish between a true message and a false one. If you wonder what this means, just ask a Mormon convert! How does anybody explain to anybody how they know what they know.
The reason this concept isn't generally taught is because the speaker assumes his message is accurate and true.
Likewise, when someone does not know if they are hearing a true message or one delivered by a "wolf in sheep's clothing", the question needs to be asked, "How do I ever know?" It cannot be because of the religious traditions of our fathers Mosiah 1:5, or because this person or institution has delivered a true message before. It requires one's antennae to always be 'detecting' because "...they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men." 2 Nephi 28:14
The only one who can be unconditionally trusted is Christ.
The test is the same in all generations Mormon 9:9. God often sends messengers without credentials. The recipient usually has to decide between popular opinion and God’s message. We look back and see these true messengers as authentic, but most of the time, they weren’t viewed in that light by their contemporaries.
Christ knew there would be false prophets, and we would be faced with this dilemma. He gave a test by which we can evaluate all messengers and messages:
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Matt. 7:15-20
So what are the fruits of true messengers? Where do these messengers come from? Who sent them? Where can I find them? How can I identify them? How do I know they are telling the truth?To be continued . . .
Wolves in Sheep Attire, Part 2