Monday, June 15, 2009

The LDS Church A Gerontocracy

Several years ago a news reporter by the name of Mike Wallace conducted an interview with President Gordon B. Hinckley which was then aired on the news program called “60 Minutes”. In the interview he suggested that some people might say that the LDS Church is a “gerontocracy, this is a church run by old men.” To that query President Hinckley replied, “"Isn't it wonderful? To have a man of maturity at the head, a man of judgment, who isn't blown about by every wind of doctrine?"

I was reminded of President Hinckley’s statement while recently studying in the Old Testament book of 1 Kings.

Solomon, the son of David, had just recently died and the Kingdom was at a very volatile point politically. The folly of King Solomon, in his quest for riches and power, had created an undue burden on the people who were subject to him by way of heavy taxation even to the point of slavery.

Upon Solomons death the kingdom became divided in their opinions as to who should rule, and the nation of Israel, as a whole, were tenuously at the brink of civil unrest. The northern portion of the kingdom, consisting of ten of the tribes of Israel, who had suffered the most by the bondage of debt created by Solomon, were in favor of a new ruler, not from the house of David, by the name of Jeroboam. The southern portion of the kingdom, consisting of the tribe of Judah and part of Benjamin, were still in favor of honoring the lineage of David by supporting his son Rehoboam’s position to rule in his stead.

Amid this political conflict an opportunity arose in which the northern tribes, led by Jeroboam, presented Rehoboam with some conditions which, if he chose to initiate, could align the two kingdoms once again and he could become the supported ruler of all. The fate of the nation was in Rehoboams hands.

1 Kings 12:3 ... And Jeroboam and all the congregation of Israel came, and spake unto Rehoboam, saying,

4 Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee.

Rehoboam countered the request made by the people with a command to go away for three days while he considered the proposition. The people departed and left Rehoboam to contemplate what he would do. Rehoboam then decided to consult with his advisors, two groups of men who could give him counsel.

1 Kings 12:6 And king Rehoboam consulted with the old men, that stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, and said, How do ye advise that I may answer this people?

7 And they spake unto him, saying, If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever.

8 But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him:

9 And he said unto them, What counsel give ye that we may answer this people, who have spoken to me, saying, Make the yoke which thy father did put upon us lighter?

10 And the young men that were grown up with him spake unto him, saying, Thus shalt thou speak unto this people that spake unto thee, saying, Thy father made our yoke heavy, but make thou it lighter unto us; thus shalt thou say unto them, My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s loins.

11 And now whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.

Two differing opinions from two different groups of men were given to be considered. What do you think he did?

1 Kings 12:13 And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the old men’s counsel that they gave him;

14 And spake to them after the counsel of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke: my father also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.

The Lord, who knows the heart of each of us, knew that would be the choice of Rehoboam, and had even sent the prophet Ahijah to Jeroboam before the demands were made and instructed him that he should reign in the northern kingdom, which became known as Israel. In fulfillment of that prophecy the people of the northern kingdom responded to Rehoboams declaration “What portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house, David.”

And so the Kingdom became divided, Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day.”

President Faust, in recalling the interviewer’s question about a “church run by old men” quipped, “So if any of you think the present leadership is too old to lead the Church, President Hinckley may need to give you some further counsel about the wisdom that comes with age!” He was a spry 85 year old man himself at the time.

President Faust then testified about the leadership of the Church, “I believe that never before in the history of the Church has there been more unity than exists among my Brethren of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, and the other General Authorities of the Church, who have been called and chosen and who are now guiding the Church. I believe there is ample evidence of this. The present leadership of God’s earthly kingdom has enjoyed the Savior’s guiding inspiration longer than any other group. We are the oldest group ever to lead the Church.

My association with some of these men for almost half a century qualifies me, I think, to state with confidence that my Brethren, without exception, are good, honorable, and trustworthy men. I know their hearts. They are the servants of the Lord. Their only desire is to labor in their great callings and build up the kingdom of God on earth. Our Brethren who are serving in this day and time are proven, tried, and true. Some are not as physically strong as they used to be, but their hearts are so pure, their experience so great, their minds so sharp, and their spiritual wisdom so deep that it is a comfort just to be in their presence.”

For myself, I take great comfort in knowing we can be labeled as a church run by a gerontocracy. The wisdom in that combined group of men is priceless. After all, they receive their direction from one older than us all.


Tim Malone said...

Thanks so much for sharing this insight. As I get older I have come to appreciate more and more the great commitment and dedication of apostles and prophets who give so much of their time and talents in the service of the Lord in the later years of their lives.

Rehoboam should have listened to the old men. There is something to be said for the counsel of the years. Experience is what you get when you learn from your mistakes. It is smart to listen to those who have experience. I think that's one of the things that President Hinckley meant when he included Be Smart on his list.

And thank you so much for including the link to the video of President Hinckley in England. I had not seen it and it brought a tear to my eye and a lump to my throat as I listened once again to a prophet of God express his love for the people he served.

In The Doghouse said...

It is amazing the consecrated lives that the apostles lead. The blessings of that obedience naturally bring that of wisdom and knowledge, or added light. To me, following the counsel of our prophets is as essential to our spiritual bodies as breathing air is to our physical bodies. I am grateful for their example of continued dedication and commitment to the Lord.

BTW my reaction to the video was the same.