It is with sadness I note the passing of Elder George P. Lee, former member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was called at age 32, and served in that quorum until he was excommunicated in 1989.
The story of George P. Lee is a cautionary tale. He earned his PhD, and was a leader among not only his native American Indian people, but much revered among the overall general population of the Church. I loved his passion and his deep convictions, evident whenever he spoke and prayed publicly. I'll bet the Lord loves him even more than I do.
He was an educated, refined and deeply spiritual man. But he was a fallen, mortal man like each of us.
He was the first General Authority to be excommunicated since Richard Lyman in 1943.
Sin is universal. None is immune from its effects. We may exercise our moral agency any way we choose, but what we can never choose are the consequences of those choices.
George P. Lee's enthusiasm and his bedrock testimony are perhaps what became his greatest weaknesses. He, like so many others before him, thought he knew more than the file leaders he was called to sustain. Anytime ANYONE gets out in front of the caravan and presumes to lead the way when he has not been called by the constituted authority of the priesthood and then sustained by the voice of the people is out of the way, and will suffer the consequences of his choices.
No one receives revelation for the whole Church but the duly appointed and sustained President of the Church, who holds all the priesthood keys delegated to him by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
In George P. Lee's case we see painfully the consequences of his choices.
The good news of the gospel message still applies, however, and he will no doubt repent (if he hadn't already while in this life), and still have ample opportunity to demonstrate his faithfulness during his period in the spirit world prior to his resurrection.
The effects of the fall, the power of the atonement to overcome poor mortal choices, and the hope of eventual exaltation is extended to all both here and hereafter subject to the conditions specified by the Savior, namely faith in the Lord Jesus Christ unto repentance, honoring the covenant of baptism by laying aside the old man of sin in the watery grave, and walking in the newness of life offered by the Holy Ghost when we receive his guidance in our lives, either here or hereafter.
I do not for one minute believe George P. Lee is forever consigned to an eternity of misery and hopelessness because he made some rather obvious and poor choices during mortality. There is always room for hope for all fallen sinners.
As I have said before, the highest degree of the celestial kingdom is made up of nothing if not repentant sinners. I know of no other kind of candidates for the highest degree.
Repentance is real, even if it takes a thousand years in the spirit world.
That's true for George P. Lee, King David, Richard Lyman and a host of others who could be named. Call it a fanciful flight of ridiculous proportions if you choose, but I can't help wondering if he's already had a little chat with President Spencer W. Kimball, who might be teaching a prospective elders' priesthood quorum somewhere in the spirit world for folks like George P. Lee and Ted Kennedy.
A myriad of scriptures may safely guide our thinking and our faith in this regard. I cite only two:
"I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men." (D&C 64:10).
"For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts." (D&C 137:9).