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Kirby: Why can’t old prophets’ minds, bodies slip a bit? Hell, they’re only human

First Published      Last Updated Jun 11 2017 05:51 am

Although I'm Mormon, it doesn't trouble me that President Thomas S. Monson, the prophet of the LDS Church, is too frail to go to the office. Hell, he's 89. Doesn't bother me even if an aging religious leader's physical limitations come with some diminished mental sharpness.

Some people see this as a reason not to trust anything that comes out of an old (or any) prophet's mouth. Others try to find a think-around as to how the prophet might still be communicating with the Lord on our behalf despite being addled.

I'm somewhere in the middle. Losing our lids is what happens to a lot of people as we age. It's already happening to me.




I might be evil for thinking so, but I don't see why prophets, seers and revelators would be any different from the rest of us when it comes to mental acuity.

More likely it's that I've never believed that anyone — including the aforementioned — is always right simply because of ecclesiastical positioning. My job is to hear these folks out and then decide for myself.

So, if some future 117-year-old Mormon prophet announced that henceforth all redheads would be denied the priesthood, my first (and probably permanent) thought would be that his Jell-O had finally slid off his plate. Sound far-fetched? Then you haven't been reading your Scripture.

OK, admittedly I haven't been reading mine lately. But I have read it and lots of it made me deeply suspicious.

The loss of mental capabilities would certainly explain the behavior of some of the Old Testament prophets. A few were reportedly so old that they celebrated birthdays by centuries rather than annually.

A troubling Old Testament prophet for me is Isaiah, who preached for three years in his underwear (or stark naked, depending on how you read the Bible) because God wanted him to be an example of what was to befall the Jews via the Assyrians.

Small wonder it actually happened. I mean who would believe some guy wandering around in his boxers? Would you? Maybe if he'd tried reason instead more people would have listened, and the Assyrians would have stayed home.

I would have been equally hesitant to believe Hosea, who insists he was commanded to marry a whore named Gomer.

Again, God supposedly ordered up this object lesson, saying, "Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the Lord."

So Hosea did. Despite his faithfulness, the marriage didn't work out. After bearing three children, Gomer ran off with Andy or some other guy whose name is lost to time.

Then there's Ezekiel, who tells everyone that God commanded him to cook his food over human excrement as an example of the trouble the Jews faced.

Fortunately, Ezekiel managed to talk God into letting him use animal feces instead. God was either in a negotiating mood or Ezekiel decided he'd personally gone a little too far in his claims.

Ezekiel writes like he was on mescaline half the time, seeing all sorts of creatures and crossbred human machinery in visions. He once ate a book. No, I don't know why, and I can't be bothered to find out. Look it up yourself.

The point is that you can imagine how this stuff would be received today if it came from the pulpit during General Conference. Would you believe it? Me, not so much.

Church leaders — all of them, and in any faith — need to be seen as human first and their callings second. If nothing else, it forces us to use the brains we've been given once it becomes clear that age has caught up with theirs.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.

 

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