Monday, August 2, 2010

Pray Always, lest ye be Disfellowshipped?

And a commandment I give unto them—that he that observeth not his prayers before the Lord in the season thereof, let him be had in remembrance before the judge of my people” (D&C 68:33) (emphasis added).

The phrase “had in remembrance” is similarly used in D&C 68:30, where we are taught that the “idler shall be had in remembrance before the Lord,” or in other words, will be judged of the Lord. The "judge of my people" refers to the bishop or other duly appointed Judge in Israel. However, I'm not exactly sure what "the season" refers to, nor could I locate any commentary on it. Nonetheless, we are continually commanded to pray always, so "the season" appears to connote our regular course of prayer.

Consequently, according to this scripture, if we don’t continue to pray we can potentially be brought before our Ward Bishop or Branch President to answer for ourselves and explain why we haven’t kept up on our prayers. Notice that this is a direct "commandment" from the Lord, and the Lord follows this commandment up by declaring that "[t]hese sayings are true and faithful; wherefore, transgress them not, neither take therefrom" (D&C 68:34).

Joseph Fielding Smith briefly commented on D&C 68:33 in the October 1918 General Conference: “[W]e ought to be a praying people, and if there are in Zion those who do not observe their prayers in the season thereof, they are amenable to the law of the Church and may be brought before the judge, or in other words, the bishop, and he can try them for their fellowship, because the Lord himself has declared it in these words which I have read unto you” (Conference Report, October 1918, 57).

I wonder if any Bishop or Branch President has ever used this scripture in dealing with a member of their congregation. It seems like something that would likely have been brought up by the early Saints.

Does anyone know anything more about this scripture, or have any commentary that could shed some light on it?


Evgenii said...

If some kind of discipline ever did happen, I doubt it has been anytime recently. JFS was slightly draconian with his interpretation of the scriptures that has been largely abandoned by current leaders. This talk by him must have been overshadowed by his father's talk at the same conference (Section 138).

Russ said...

I am just glad we are not forced to pray by a daily call to prayer. Prayer remains a private matter thank goodness.

Jeremy said...

I agree, Russ.

To me, the question is who outs the prayer "trangressor" according to this scripture? Is it your spouse who goes to the Bishop and rats you out, or would this be more of an autonomous act?

Anonymous said...

It would not be your "wife that rats you out". Lol.

In section 20 it is clearly arranged that the Aaronic priesthood keep the members in remembrance of their duty to pray. Since all Melchizedek priesthood holders also still hold the Aaronic priesthood, they are included in this duty with the further injunction to keep the oath and covenant (live by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God). Home Teaching then would be the proper time to remind, encourage, and persuade members to pray vocally and in secret. If after several visits, the member has demonstrated an unwillingness to pray in any form, then it would be very evident that the evil spirit had hold on them (2 Nephi 32:8) and it would be the home teachers priesthood duty to report this to the Bishop of the ward, or in other words, have him in remembrance before the judge of Israel. The Bishop could then lovingly call that person for a visit and determine through his priesthood keys whether that individual was unworthy of fellowship (which would limit callings, prayers, talks, and ordinance participation). A call and invite to repent would of course be issued. If heeded, any disfellowship would be short lived. This strikes me as being incredibly orderly and fair, just and merciful. Also, absolutely necessary to protect the body of Christ/the church from harboring unknowingly wolves in sheep's clothing.