(September 12, 2015)
The Lord’s statement here that whether it is by His voice or the voice of His servants, it is the same is a statement that it often misunderstood. We so often take the statement to mean that the words of His servants are speaking the words that He would speak if He were present. But I think that goes beyond what the Lord is actually saying.
We are told to obey the words of His words, whether by His own voice or the voice of His servants. This doesn’t mean that each of His servants will precisely say what He would have them to say, but it does mean that we are obligated to obey them as if they had said precisely what He wanted them to say. Their words are not perfect, but their position is. We are a hierarchical Church.
I have, unfortunately, had some experience with this in my life. I have had a Priesthood leader who gave me extensive counsel in his role as my Priesthood leader. This counsel was clearly biased, based upon his personal feelings and prejudices along with his concern for another person. He interjected himself into a matter that, frankly, was outside of his stewardship and he did so in a way that was extremely painful and damaging to me.
I was left with a choice – do I follow him, or do I follow my own judgment. The answer was as simple as it was painful – I followed him as if his words were the words of the Lord. All of my concerns about his bias and the pain it would cause me came true. All of the unfair consequences that I expected to come from his exceeding of his stewardship came true. His bias has caused me lasting damage that may never be fully healed in mortality.
In the end, though, we follow unjust leaders and mistaken leaders and biased leaders because at the head of the Church is a perfect leader. When we follow those who hurt us (especially when they hurt us), we are instead doing our best to follow Him. We place our trust in Him that He will dry every tear when we do our very best to do what He would have us do – whether told to us by His perfect voice or the imperfect and fallible voice of His servants.