We need to be ever so careful about becoming strongmen and following strongmen. It can begin oh-so-innocuously. I realized this recently.
A community I know has split. As far as I know, it was a peaceful split (they met on Sundays and I work that day, so know very little about it). There was disagreement on the manner of administering the sacrament and on baptism. (This is not a post on splitting communities, though.)
One of the men understood the scriptures to mean that one must receive God's own voice before one has authority to baptize. A couple other men were willing to baptize those who desired it and were warned by the first man that they did not have authority without that voice. The other men baptized, anyway, following the pattern of Alma Senior (crying unto the Lord, then immediately began to baptize). The first man did not consider those baptisms to be valid.
I was not in the group baptism(s) but I was baptized by one of these (Alma-oriented) men later. I felt clean afterward and I noticed that the scriptures opened up to me. I began to understand them like never before. I would read and wonder why I hadn't seen that before; it was so obvious. That is still happening to me. Consequently, I believe my baptism to be valid.
The first man finally got the voice of the Lord giving him authority to baptize and was told to baptize beginning in the spring. He offered his services, including to those who felt their previous baptism was invalid (I was one who got that email. I didn't understand it completely until it was explained to me by a couple of friends).
Now, I don't judge or condemn either side. One desires an audible voice and believes that is the way to go. The others did not. One is now offering his services. The others offered their services last fall. That's okay.
What I saw, though, is this: we, perhaps, think of a strongman as easy to discern. We may think we know if we are becoming one. But, maybe it isn't so easy to figure out. Saying, "I think it should be done this way," was fine - but saying, "You are doing it wrong. Your baptisms are not valid," was not.
In the LDS Church, there is a concept of "stewardships". That is to say, you have the right to receive revelation for whoever you are a steward over, but no one else. A parent, a bishop, a Relief Society president, and on up to the general authorities and president of the church. We are supposed to not receive revelation for anyone outside our stewardship.
I bring that up because, in this movement created by the Lord, there is no such thing as that type of stewardship - i.e. no one has the right to tell another that their revelation is wrong, their way of performing ordinances is wrong, their manner of living and being in their communities is wrong (though they should be perfectly free to disagree, to say, "I don't think that is the right way." The difference is that one is spoken by way of opinion and the other is spoken by way of commandment). The only one who could do that would be one to whom the Lord, personally, has given the commandment and obligation of teaching everyone what the Lord desires. (Now, that man exists, but his current job is to step back and let us figure it all out.)
The purpose of these communities, the purpose of this last (new?) chance by the Lord is so that no one may say, "Hear ye the voice of the Lord," but that they may all hear the voice of the Lord, themselves. We are each to connect to heaven. We are each to see, hear, and touch the Lord ourselves, relying on no man (or woman) to take us to Him.
It was a small thing. I'm sure that those who may be following the first man (I don't know if anyone is actually "following" him or if they simply agree with his opinions) don't think of him as a strongman. I know the man and he is the kindest, biggest-hearted man I know. I am positive he is not trying to be a strongman, but is simply trying to do what he feels is right.
The reason I'm writing this post is to open our eyes to ourselves. Are we doing anything that is pointing in the direction of being a strongman? Am I? Is someone around us doing that? If we follow their position and agree with it, is it because we genuinely agree that that position is correct, or are we thinking that they might have a better connection to heaven or know more than we do?
It so so easy to fall into the trap of becoming a strongman or being led by one. We can't even see it when it begins, most likely.
You see, I used to think that "the strongman model" would be a man who wanted followers. He wanted people to think he was hot stuff, that he had a special connection to heaven. This man, this friend of mine, opened my eyes to the idea that we are all in danger of being one, no matter how loving and honest and sincere we may be.
It is such a treacherous road we have chosen to follow. Dangers loom on every side. And they may very well be disguised as, "I'm trying to help you," "You've gone off the path and you need to do what I want you to do or else you are in need of repentance." And that is not to mention the dangers of, "We are doing great!" "We are having much success!" "Let's go forward and create Zion because we know how to do it, now," without God actually appearing and telling you to do so. (And if He did appear, was it really Him?)