In most all Christian gentile nations, there has been a long tug of war between the secular and religious leaders, with kings on one side and popes on the other....competing for land, power, and wealth. Royal families and those connected to the religious power structure received many benefits not afforded to commoners. In our "modern" era, there are still kings and queens, but now we also have presidents and premieres, as well as other types of government leaders and officials. In addition, there are captains of industry and chief executives of multi-national corporations, with their own leadership hierarchies that include governing boards and administrative teams. And of course, we still have religious leaders who manage large church organizations and institutions filled with hierarchical leadership structures of their own.
It is often quite difficult to distinguish the powerful religious leaders of our day from our own secular government or business leaders, as well as from the gentile kings of old:
- The power to make decisions is held within a small, select group, which is not transparent. While at one point decisions were made via open meetings and common consent, those practices have gone by the wayside for the sake of efficiency or to consolidate power. If religious leaders are indeed the "mouthpiece of God", shouldn't those that believe in them simply blindly obey? Members are expected to accept as abiding law their leaders' decisions, including what they do or do not believe.
- All expenses are paid. Using the contributions of members, every temporal need is taken care of: they have the finest clothing, live in the finest housing, eat the finest foods, have the finest means of transportation, and have the finest healthcare. They are set financially for life.
- Dress and grooming mimics that of the rich and powerful...expensive and conservative dark suits, white shirts, ties, dark leather shoes, etc.
- Family members receive special treatment, job and educational opportunities, and positions in the hierarchy.
- They excise a heavy tax or financial burden upon their followers. They call this tithing and twist the scriptures to maximize contributions.
- They commission expansive building projects, which they name after themselves while yet still living.
- Leaders use fear and intimidation to control and manipulate people for the betterment of a select group. Followers dare not question or criticize their leaders for fear of being shunned, cast out, or cut off from financial, social, or other personal benefits of association with a church. Leaders cast off those who disagree, dissent, or cause trouble. Because the institution has become so large, the individual is disposable and is not as important as the larger system/church.
- Leaders have fancy and formal titles that those lower than they are required to use when addressing them.
- Leaders hold their positions for the rest of their lives. New leaders move up in position at the passing away of a higher-level leader. New leaders often overthrow the views and practices of former leaders and supplant them with their own.
- Leaders point to outward signs of their righteousness and God's favor, such as prosperity, buildings, temples, wealth, and numbers of members.
- Leaders rely on a complex set of written and unwritten rules and laws to manage people's behavior; yet, in many instances, the leaders themselves are not subject to those same rules, nor are their close associates.
- Because they believe that they cannot lead their followers astray, leaders do not believe that there is anything that they will ever do to go against the will of God; therefore, all their actions are justified.
- Leaders often sit upon large thrones in palatial settings, sometimes upholstered in velvet red.
Look at this example of righteous religious leaders:
"And when the priests left their labor to impart the word of God unto the people, the people also left their labors to hear the word of God. And when the priest had imparted unto them the word of God they all returned again diligently unto their labors; and the priest, not esteeming himself above his hearers, for the preacher was no better than the hearer, neither was the teacher any better than the learner; and thus they were all equal, and they did all labor, every man according to his strength." Alma 1:26
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him." John 13:16Many modern church leaders are anti-Christ because what they do leads to inequality:
"Yea, he saw great inequality among the people, some lifting themselves up with their pride, despising others, turning their backs upon the needy and the naked and those who were hungry, and those who were athirst, and those who were sick and afflicted." (Alma 4:12)
"And they began to be divided into classes; and they began to build up churches unto themselves to get gain, and began to deny the true church of Christ." 4 Nephi 1:26It is a great inequality that seems to be fully embraced and accepted as normal throughout much of the world. However, God is no "respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34), should we be? We should strive to be equal in all things:
"Nevertheless, in your temporal things you shall be equal, and this not grudgingly, otherwise the abundance of the manifestations of the Spirit shall be withheld." D&C 70:14
"For if ye are not equal in earthly things ye cannot be equal in obtaining heavenly things." D&C 78:6There is a great divide between the powerful religious leaders of our day and those that devotedly follow them...they are indeed like the gentile kings of old, a separate class or caste, which elevates itself above the rest. And look at what we end up doing as foretold by an inspired prophet named Samuel in the Book of Mormon (Helaman 13):
24 Yea, wo unto this people, because of this time which has arrived, that ye do cast out the prophets, and do mock them, and cast stones at them, and do slay them, and do all manner of iniquity unto them, even as they did of old time.
25 And now when ye talk, ye say: If our days had been in the days of our fathers of old, we would not have slain the prophets; we would not have stoned them, and cast them out.
26 Behold ye are worse than they; for as the Lord liveth, if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil.
27 But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth—and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet.
28 Yea, ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance; ye will give unto him of your gold, and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel; and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well, then ye will not find fault with him.
29 O ye wicked and ye perverse generation; ye hardened and ye stiffnecked people, how long will ye suppose that the Lord will suffer you? Yea, how long will ye suffer yourselves to be led by foolish and blind guides? Yea, how long will ye choose darkness rather than light?