"The Pope is infallible when he speaks ex cathedra."
"Trust the Prophet--the Lord won't allow him to go astray."
"If we can't trust one another, who can we trust?"
All of the above statements have been by members of various religions or factions. All of them represent the same degree of confidence in the leaders of each particular philosophy. And, they each represent the same philosophy of putting trust in man or in the arm of flesh.
The first, of course, represents the traditional belief of Catholicism regarding the continuing authority of the Pope. The second has been uttered by members of both the LDS (Mormon) and RLDS churches regarding their respective President/Prophets. The third has been spoken in many contexts, most recently heard by this author by respected priesthood men in the Restoration Branch movement.
This article is written especially to those in all factions of the Restoration Movement who continue to hold this dangerous notion, in hope that we may dispel the darkness among us and cease falling prey to the false leaders among us who have been successfully deceiving the sheep. For an excellent article relating to the LDS trusting in the arm of flesh, see Essay -Doctrine on Infallibility (see also LDS quotes on infallibility).
All scriptures quoted are from the Inspired Version of the Bible (King James verse in parentheses where different), the RLDS 1908 Book of Mormon (LDS reference in parentheses), and RLDS Doctrine and Covenants (LDS reference in parentheses). Emphasis is added.
Throughout the scriptures, trust in God is commanded and trust in man is condemned. There is not one place in scripture where we are commanded to put our faith or trust in man, whether it be leaders, each other, or even ourselves. Several references are included in this article to demonstrate this fact, and many more scriptures could be given.
Notwithstanding this, many of us continue to give undue respect to those who appear to be respectable leaders or dynamic preachers. We continue to say, for instance, "Brother so-and-so said it, and he's a good man, therefore I should believe it". This attitude fails to recognize that we are all sinners. Romans 3:10,23 says,
As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one;...For all have sinned [past tense], and come short [present tense] of the glory of God.
From the beginning of the Restoration Movement, the word of the Lord has condemned the belief in trusting in the arm of flesh. The revelation of November 1, 1831, which was included as the preface to the Doctrine and Covenants, stated the purpose of this movement is,
"that man should not trust in his fellow man, neither in the arm of flesh, but that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord."
Indeed, our very existence (as well as that of all Protestant churches) depends on the belief that man, up to and including the leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ, can are fallible and may go into Apostasy. If the doctrine were true that the "leaders of the church can't go wrong", then the Catholic church is still the true church, and all the rest of the churches are illegitimate children who have no right to claim representation of Jesus Christ.
Certainly we as members of the RLDS Church shouldn't have such false notions that the leaders won't go astray. In the 1840's the church suffered much at the hands of well-respected priesthood members who led the church into the darkness of apostate doctrines. Many in Nauvoo followed Brigham Young and others to Utah and forsook the true principles of the doctrine of Christ. Many of these were faithful members, who had been converted to the church on sound Biblical truth and experiences with the Holy Spirit. Yet, they were deceived when they put trust in the "arm of flesh" rather than in God and His word.
A scripture is often quoted by RLDS which is prophetic of the apostasy of Brigham Young.
Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm; and the man whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, IN A SALT LAND and not inhabited.
Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.... The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? -- Jere 17:5-10
The Book of Mormon contains similar denunciations against putting trust in the arm of flesh.
O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee for ever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm. -- 2Ne 3:61-63 (4:34)
Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost. -- 2Ne 12:39 (28:31)
Several other scriptures are quoted below to illustrate that this teaching is consistent throughout the scriptures, that we should trust in God and not man.
It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes. -- Psa 118:8-9
There is none upright among men....The best of them is as a brier; the most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge....Trust ye not in a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide; keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom. For the son dishonoreth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man's enemies are the men of his own house. Therefore I will look unto the Lord. -- Micah 7:2-7
And thus doth the Lord work with his power in all cases among the children of men, extending the arm of mercy towards them that put their trust in him. -- Mos 13:27 (29:20)
And thus we can behold how false, and also the unsteadiness of the hearts of the children of men; yea, we can see that the Lord in his great infinite goodness, doth bless and prosper those who put their trust in him;
O how foolish, and how vain, and how evil, and devilish, and how quick to do iniquity, and how slow to do good, are the children of men; -- Hel 4:48,53 (12:1,4)
And now, verily, verily I say unto thee, Put thy trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good; yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit. -- Cov 10:6 (11:12)
We know, also, that sanctification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, is just and true, to all those who love and serve God with all their mights, minds, and strength; but there is a possibility that man may fall from grace and depart from the living God.
Therefore let the church take heed and pray always, lest they fall into temptations; yea, and even let those who are sanctified, take heed also. -- Cov 17:6c-e (20:31-34)
The next few scriptures illustrate that we can't even trust ourselves, not to mention trusting in anyone else.
He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool; but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered. -- Prov 28:26
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes; fear the Lord, and depart from evil. -- Prov 3:5-7
The Apostle Paul was certainly a great spiritual leader. If anyone was worthy of being respected above others, or worthy of the trust of men, it would have been him. Yet, read what the Apostle had to say about his own preaching.
And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power; That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. -- 1Cor 2:3-5
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