On Consulting the Body of Christ

Were I a Roman Catholic and prone to pondering the power of the magisterium and/or the worthiness of the doctrine of papal infalliblity, and were I of a liberal mind, I would lend every hermeneutic muscle I had to promoting this formulation in the Cathechism:

“Christ . . . fulfills this prophetic office, not only by the hierarchy . . . but also by the laity” (904). 

This would confirm my belief that Christ is revealed in the entirety of his Body, not just in the Head, and that with the Body united, the will of God is secure . . . infallible, perhaps.

I would therefore welcome any attempt to discern the will of God as revealed to the laity, not in order to accept it without question, but to listen to that billion-strong voice with humility and wonder.


  1. Preach!

  2. Or, as I’ve said in the past (vis a vis Mormonism): the highest quorum of the Church is the body of it in solemn assembly.

  3. The source of the truncated quotation in the Catechism is to the Lumen Gentium, article 35. It can be found at: http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html

    The reference seems to describes this “prophetic office” of Jesus Christ as missionary work. It is an exhortation to members to let their light shine and not to leave to the hierarchy the task of bringing others into the faith. This passage does not reference the participation of the laity in the governance of the Church in any way.

    Not that I don’t support grassroots efforts or leaders asking for lay member input on a variety of issues. It’s just that the quote above doesn’t argue that case.

  4. Thus “lend every hermeneutic muscle.” I would say that just as the apostolic charge to evangelise is not confined to the apostleship, so the charge to reveal the will of God is similarly not confined. Hermeneutics.

  5. Oh, that kind of hermeneutics. I thought you meant the “What does this text say?” kind, not “What can I make this text say?” Which we Mormons do all the time. As do the Catholics, Evangelicals. and Mainline Protestants, come to think of it. I apologize for the misunderstanding.

    Like I said, I support the idea of revelation coming to the body or Christ. When I saw the ellipses, I was curious what was cut out and just didn’t find any support in the original text for that interpretation.

  6. Wonderful, Ronan. Thanks.

  7. LeGrand Richards used to say in meetings of the FP and 12 when discussing decisions to be made about issues and possible programs and directives: “I want to know how the bishops think and will react. Everything in this church above bishop is just talk.” In at least a couple of bishoprics I have served in, we also considered how ward members thought about issues and programs and decisions and would react, recognizing that the gospel is lived where the rubber hits the road. I agree with the concept that revelation in the body of Christ will only move the body of Christ if every part (or almost every part) of it partakes in the revelation. I have related before how in December 1977 when we were discussing the then-practice of restricting priesthood/temple based on race/lineage, my mother told me that she had a strong feeling that a revelation and change was very imminent. I blew it off. I had given up all hope that change would happen in my lifetime, even though I had felt very strongly that the practice was inconsistent with the gospel from the time I was first shocked to learn of it as a child in the 1960s. My mother turned out to have been right. Was she pre-empting the revelatory process, insubordinate, or out of line in making that prediction? I don’t think so.

  8. John Mansfield says:

    For a small glimpse of how the LDS Church goes about consulting its members, here is an account of an encounter last Wednesday with the Correlation Department’s Research Information Division.