Gotta say, the clercs have it coming.
Here in the early years of the twenty-first century, the American elite is a walking disaster and is in every way less capable than its predecessors. It is less in touch with American history and culture, less personally honest, less productive, less forward looking, less effective at and less committed to child rearing, less freedom loving, less sacrificially patriotic and less entrepreneurial than predecessor generations. Its sense of entitlement and snobbery is greater than at any time since the American Revolution; its addiction to privilege is greater than during the Gilded Age and its ability to raise its young to be productive and courageous leaders of society has largely collapsed.
I recently read a guy on another forum complain that none of the General Authorities were trained philosophers. In other news, I recently read a guy on another forum who was full-on gibbering-at-the-moon mad, stark raving crazy, a bug-eyed bedlamite.
You see, Meade is right with only a few exceptions. One of those exceptions is the leadership of the Church. The reason, I suggest, is the principle of lay leadership chosen on the basis of revelation. No credentials, no degrees, no self-important professional clique loyalty, no so-called “merit” drags us down. Three cheers for the inspired principle of lay leadership!
Or, rather, one cheer.
Democracy is the worst system, says Winston Churchill, except for all the rest. The Book of Mormon says something similar: a good king is a better ruler than the people ruling themsleves, but the people are a better ruler than a bad king, who tends to drag the kingdom down with him. Since kingships always go bad in time, the mediocre solution of popular self-rule is the best solution.
Lay leadership is like the people ruling themselves. I would even argue that it *is* the people ruling themselves. Myopia makes us think that our modern system of liberal democracy with frequent voting and elected leaders is the only form of democracy. But when the people ruled in the Book of Mormon, elections didn’t come into it much. The judges who replaced the kings usually ruled for life and were somewhat hereditary. The difference between the democratic judgeships and the undemocratic monarchy was the the judges weren’t special. They weren’t kings. Their job was to administer the law in the name of the people. So the difference between democracy and kingship is that democracy is the system where no one is considered to be apart from the people and entitled to rule by virtue of that apartness. Representative democracy is just one way of putting democracy into practice. Consider juries, for example. Juries are decisions made by a body of 12 unelected people. Normally, we’d call that oligarchical and undemocratic. Juries aren’t, though, because they are randomly chosen from among the people. Juries aren’t elected but they do embody the principle that the people rule. Similarly, in ancient times democracies often made decisions or selected leaders by drawing lots. The Church is democratic, because our leaders aren’t selected on the basis of wealth or heredity or credentials or merit or even superior spiritual power or charisma. God selects them, and to us his criteria aren’t meaningfully different from randomness. In a real sense, the bishop is just one of us, and so is the prophet.
But whether Church leadership is democratic isn’t the point. The point is that lay leadership, like democracy, is a flawed system which only looks good in comparison to the alternatives. The deranged guy was probably right that General Authorities often make huge philosophical bloomers over the pulpit. I could give a rip, but he’s probably right. We should not kid ourselves that our system of lay leadership isn’t full of big, gaping holes.
Take my hometown, for example. My stake president isn’t deeply trained or all that experienced in counseling, management, public speaking, administration, theology, pastoral care, church history, or anything else. He is, with all due respect, a goofy screenwriter. My bishop is a crusty mechanical engineer. My Young Men’s President is, well, me. No HR departments are salivating over our line-up. What we’ve got going for us is the firehose of direction from the Spirit, but then interpretation and, worse yet, implementation of that direction is left to us. The results aren’t bad. They aren’t that grand either. We’re doing . . . OK. Lay leadership is a lousy system, better only than all the rest.
I love the Church. I believe its the one-and-only. My heart can’t be persuaded that its not as fair as the sun, as clear as the moon, as terrible as an army with banners. But I also can’t quite shake my suspicion that maybe the Church is just a bunch of Mormons.
I read scriptures like this—
And by the weak things of the earth the Lord shall thresh the nations by the power of his Spirit.
— or like this—
The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh
and I realize I’d always inserted an extra clause where God takes the weak things and makes ’em strong and only then do they thrash the mighty. But that’s not what the scripture says. It says the weak, while still weak I suppose, are going to take on the great and win.
So one cheer for lay leadership. It isn’t a great system. Its probably not even a good system. Its a weak system. Its only advantage is that its going to win, we’re going to win, we’re going the distance with the devil and we’re going to overcome, not because of our weakness but not despite it either.
The sublime plan of our God is not to take the obscure and weak and make us potent, erupting from nowhere like a second Islam. His plan is to have an army of cripples–a three-man army, because most of us were too tired to show up, and some of us were too offended, and some were too scared–and the army is me, you, and that other guy; you have a bad back and bum leg and aren’t too bright; I’m clumsy and smarmy and cut corners; that other guy is a bigot and isn’t even sure he wants to be here. And the three of us topple the world.