Thursday, October 2, 2014

By What Authority?

I don't know if I was supposed to hear this conversation. I overheard it because the two men to my right were discussing religious hierarchy and though I had a book in my face a part of me is so interested in religion that I could help...overhearing.  As they are both friendly to me on a regular basis I probably would have easily been included in the chat but I felt it best to keep my mouth shut, especially as my answer might have proven a bit too provoking.

The problem was that the pastor of one man's church was apparently gathering for himself and abusing position and power in the congregation.  This friend and good man was naturally feeling frustrated with the situation and dissatisfied with his pastor's behavior.  My temptation was to kindly, gently, take his discourse very seriously and quietly ask him how this pastor had the authority to hold his position as head of this flock.  Who gave him that right?  It seems a little thing but I feared heads might roll if I quietly brought that point to light.  I didn't then, but as it seems an important idea I felt it worthy of a post.

My own religion is so different that we do not run into this question at all.  Our answer is very straightforward.  In other faiths, however, I honestly do not know the answer to that question, neither do I yet understand how others do.  If you can enlighten me, I would be only too happy to receive instruction. 

Not to engage in religious mutiny but any historian knows that the authority given to the apostles fell into oblivion when they were martyred and could not appoint successors.  At this point the world fell into what we now call the Dark Ages.  Coincidence?  I don't believe in coincidences.  We might argue that the authority fell to a Roman Pope, but then we also have historical anecdotes of popes murdering popes and thus where did the authority go?  If authority to act as pastor somehow extended to Protestantism at all, which I don't see, which sect holds it?  If it didn't, then what right and divine authority does this pastor have to stand at his pulpit and abuse that position?  I have the perspective of an outsider but it seems to me that the right he has only exists by the homage his parishioners give him.  And if they dislike his behavior, what compels them to keep him in his station?  He has no more divine authority to stand at the head than they do.  Is it not so?  I understand that people study religion at college and attain a degree, but we must recognize that it is a man made, world given document.  Still, we see no authority from God.  We all have the right to preach as we see fit, it is true, and I applaud the honest application of that principle, but when a pastor abuses his position, are we necessarily bound to uphold him?

As I know this must raise questions about the authority of my own religion I will answer, briefly, that as the story goes in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Joseph Smith met with numerous angels and glorified beings, among whom were John the Baptist and others who conferred upon him the various priesthoods discussed in the Bible.  Joseph called and appointed twelve apostles and conferred upon them the same power and priesthood.  Thus the chain of command and priesthood line were not broken.  They were given from a prophet to a prophet and when Joseph died, those he had called were set up in a divinely appointed hierarchy.  The next in line became prophet and another apostle was called to fill the vacancy as it was in the New Testament.  The hierarchy of the priesthood filters down to the congregational level, and all branches and levels report back, up the line, until it gets to the apostles and prophet.  All money is carefully watched, distributed and accounted for.  The Church is audited once a year and the auditor reports back to the worldwide populace. 

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