In the Book of First Samuel, the High Priest Eli is given a bad name. He is called the wicked High Priest Eli. Why was Eli identified as wicked? What wicked thing did he do?
“Now the sons of Eli were of Belial, they knew not the Lord.” 1 Samuel 2:12
Beliel is a term used for the word wicked. Eli is known as wicked High Priest Eli because of his wicked sons. Doesn’t that sound unfair? He is found wicked because of the agency of his sons. But, why punish Eli?
First, Eli was the High Priest. He had knowledge. If a person has received tokens and signs which communicate knowledge, especially keys of knowledge, that person is required to cry repentance without ceasing. If the person doesn’t cry repentance, then the blood and sins of his generation is upon his hands. This is because the word of God is a double-edged sword. If you don’t speak it, it cuts you. If you speak it, it typically cuts the other person. But, it must be spoken.
Eli, as High Priest, was required to speak the word of God to his sons. These were the sins his sons were committing as they were acting as priests in the tabernacle.
1. When a sacrifice was made in the tabernacle, the priest had the ability to take the lessor meat from the sacrifice, so the priest could be supported. However, Eli’s sons were taking the fat of the sacrifice before the sacrifice was made.
2. Eli’s sons slept with women who were visiting the tabernacle.
A man (say an Abinadi) was sent by God and warned Eli about his sons.
“And there came a man of God unto Eli, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord, Did I plainly appear unto the house of thy father, when they were in Egypt in Pharaoh’s house?
And did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to offer upon mine alter, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? And did I give unto the house of thy father all the offerings made by fire of the children of Israel?
Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my habitation; and honourest thy sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all offerings of Israel my people? (emphasis added)
Wherefore the Lord God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me forever; but now the Lord saith, Be it far from me, for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.” 1 Samuel 2: 27-30
Isn’t it interesting that even above promiscuity with the women visiting the tabernacle, the Lord was more concerned about the priests making themselves higher than everyone else and taking the fat of the offering for themselves?
These are issues we should consider for our time. Should priests be made higher than everyone else? Should they be revered? Should they be supported in their priesthood office economically or socially?
In Joseph Smith’s day, you cannot find Joseph saying, “Follow the Prophet, he won’t lead you astray.” You find the Joseph Smith saying the opposite.
“Said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall-that they were depending on the prophet hence were darkened in their minds from neglect of themselves.” – Words of Joseph Smith, May 26, 1842, pg 120.
Joseph Smith sought for his people to all become prophets, just like Moses did for his people.
“And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!” Numbers 11:29
Today, we are barraged by conference talks, Sunday school lessons, and primary hymns telling us the only way we can be safe is from following a leader of a church. We are bombarded with messages that we aren’t worthy of revelation, for there are correct channels by which these things happen. Lehi, who was from the tribe of Manasseh, would have had a hard time with this counsel. We are told we can’t be led astray and that a church is guaranteed success, denying scripture (3 Nephi 16:10) and agency (2 Nephi 2:27). We are supposed to take what the leader and authority above us is telling us, without question, because that is faith and obedience. (Faith in whom and obedience to what? According to the Lectures on Faith what is faith in and how do you acquire it?)
It is taught that those who hold the highest of priesthood offices should be revered including: standing when they enter the room, reframing from criticism even when the criticism is true, praised with hymns centered on them and supported financially. This doesn’t make a ton of sense when the greatest of us all didn’t have a place to lay his head. Jesus Christ did not demand submission. He, the King of Kings, was a servant first.
The LDS Church currently has a three-year supply of money in reserves. Last year, the estimate was that they brought in $15 billion dollars in donations. That means they have approximately $45 billion dollars in reserves. This includes a $3 billion-dollar mall in downtown Salt Lake City. The largest land ownership in Florida. High rise apartment buildings in downtown Philadelphia. They own TV stations, newspapers, radio stations, malls, hunting reserves, theme parks, and banks. They subsidize middle class and upper middle class education by $900M annually. They pay generous living allowances to those who hold priesthood offices like 70s, apostles, and the First Presidency (estimates are fully loaded $200k each). This includes free new cars, free tuition for their kids, book deals with the Church owned book store, first class travel arrangements and more. However, last year they only gave approximately $50M - $60M to the poor.
It seems the priorities of the LDS Church are first to reinforce their position as leaders that need to be followed, and second expanding out the influence of the church. A distance last place is the priority of supporting the poor. Like the sons of Eli, actions speak louder than words. Is the current LDS leadership guaranteed success without thought of actions and agency? Could the Lord decide that it is time for a change?