Feast upon the Word Blog

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RS/MP Lesson 6: “Sustaining Those Whom the Lord Sustains” (George Albert Smith Manual)

Posted by kirkcaudle on March 12, 2012

I think many of us underestimate how radical of an idea sustaining our leaders really is, and also the importance of sustaining our leaders. When we sustain people in our wards and stakes we give these people access to teaching our children, our financial records, sinful desires, marriage issues, and a host of other personal information. Sometimes we know these people and sometimes we do not. With one raise of the right hand we willingly give our support to these people endeavoring for our sake. It takes great faith to truly sustain someone despite that individual’s own sinful nature and personal failings. This act of faith brings great blessings for all parties involved. George Albert Smith related, “I will need the help of every man and every woman and every child, not for my blessing, but for your blessing, and for the blessing of the children of men wherever they may be. This not my responsibility, that is our responsibility” (57).

Question #3 on page 55 councils:

Study the section that beings on page 59 and read Doctrine and Covenants 21:4-7. What specific counsel has the Lord given through the current President of the Church? through your stake or district president? through your bishop or branch president? What blessing have you received as you have followed this counsel?

I cannot help you answer what your local leaders have done for you and your ward/stake. I will leave that up to your own pondering. Because of this, I will simply deal with the D&C 21:4-7 which reads:

(4)Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in hall holiness before me; (5)For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith. (6)For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory. (7)For thus saith the Lord God; Him have I inspired to move the cause of Zion in mighty power for good, and his diligence I know, and his prayers I have heard.

Verse 4:

Giving heed unto the words of the prophets and our local leaders is what we today call sustaining our leaders. Interestingly, according to this verse, sustaining our leaders is equal to “walking in all holiness before [God].” Perhaps this is because when we fail to sustain our leaders we began criticizing them. President Smith calls these leaders, “the representatives of our Heavenly Father, not only to this people, but they represent him to all the people of the earth” (63). He further warns, “do not be found in the companionship of those who would belittle them or weaken their influence among the children of men” (63). It is impossible to say that we are following the commandments of God, or walking in holiness before Him, if we fail to sustain our leaders by dishonoring and criticizing our leaders.

Verse 5:

Sometimes when we hear our leaders talk it seems very harsh. Much like God, leaders do not always say what we want them to say. This is why we must learn to take direction and council with “patience and faith.” I personally do not always agree with the decisions made by my Bishop and by my Stake President. However, I try to have patience with their human failings. I am patience because I know that they have my best interest in mind. I have faith in the mantel that these men hold. I have faith that these men are called of God. At the same time, I attempt to exercise patience and faith in God so that I can exercise this patience and faith in my local leaders more perfectly.

Verse 6:

These verse show the power that comes from sustaining our leaders. President Smith said, “if you follow the leadership of the Lord, and those whom the Lord sustains, you will not fall away into darkness, lose the light, transgress the laws of God, and forfeit your privileges that he is so anxious that all of us should enjoy” (60). Or as verse 6 puts it, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.” I view the Gates of Hell as any action (temptation) that is a potential entryway  to sin. The action/temptation is the pathway, the entryway is the gate, and the final destination to all of this is sin. Sin is hell. Satan stands guard at the gate of his kingdom and he is always willing to let us in for an extended stay if we are willing.

According to this verse, our leaders guide us away from the gates of hell for two reasons. First, “for your good.” Second, “for [God’s] name’s glory.” Notice that the focus is only on the individual and on God. The focus is never on the leader. Sustaining our leaders provides us with strength to resist evil while properly glorifying God in the process.

Verse 7: 

In context, this section is speaking about Joseph Smith. However, all leaders in the Church today, both local and international, have the same goal as Joseph, “to move the cause of Zion.” We are all in this together, us and our leaders. Together we must move the cause of Zion. God inspires leaders today, as he did of old, to move forth this cause. Sustaining our leaders is one of the many ways that we can share in this cause. A Prophet, a Stake President, and/or a Bishop can only move the cause of Zion as far as the people that they presided over are willing to be led. President Smith said, “We . . . must be like Aaron and Hur of ancient times; we must uphold his hands, that through him the Lord will let the blessings of heaven descend on us and this people” (62).  Instead of looking at the failings of our leaders perhaps we are better off at looking at how we fail to live according to their council and direction. The cause of Zion fails without proper sustaining of leaders.

I am not arguing that sustaining leaders is easy. In fact, I believe that is it often times the exact opposite. Nevertheless, sustaining our leaders is essential to our personal spirituality and status before God. We would all do well to think about what we are really promising to do when we raise our right hand in support of our leaders.

3 Responses to “RS/MP Lesson 6: “Sustaining Those Whom the Lord Sustains” (George Albert Smith Manual)”

  1. Kevin Christensen said

    Several years ago, for a Relief Society Lesson on “Sustaining the Brethren” my wife looked up “sustain” in the dictionary. If you consider all of the meanings, it turns out to be a super word. “To uphold, to support, to endure, to permit, to suffer” (as in “he sustained a broken leg”). Shauna points out that every meaning requires strength in the one doing the sustaining.

    Kevin Christensen
    Pittsburgh, PA

  2. kirkcaudle said

    I like that a lot Kevin, thanks. One could easily do an entire lesson focusing on what each of those five terms (uphold, support, etc.) entails.

  3. prometheus said

    I think that an important part of sustaining that often gets ignored is offering constructive feedback. The never-criticize rhetoric that abounds leads to leaders living in echo chambers surrounded by yes men.

    This is not just at a local level, but churchwide. There is no real mechanism for providing feedback and the thought that it might be needed is viewed as apostate.

    I can recall a couple of times when leaders made decisions that I should have questioned – not in the expectation of changing their minds, necessarily, but for the purpose of providing that feedback and making them aware of things they may not have known.

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