When is a Mormon prophet speaking as a prophet?

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truthWhat does it mean to “follow the prophet” in Mormonism?

Does that mean that if I disagree with the prophet, I’m not allowed to speak or write about it, as some readers have suggested to me in the past?

Last week after my post on Elder Ballard’s remarks, a fellow on Twitter took me to task for not lining up behind the prophet.

 

He immediately corrected his word choice:

https://twitter.com/clarkherlin/status/510478762514079745

I thought for a few moments about how to respond, and came up with this:

https://twitter.com/clarkherlin/status/510484667855011841

https://twitter.com/clarkherlin/status/510484911586033664

At this point my jaw was hanging open. WTH?

https://twitter.com/clarkherlin/status/510488953187991552

https://twitter.com/clarkherlin/status/510489394982453248

And that was the end of the conversation, apparently.

Only it isn’t the end, because even the significantly qualified, scaled-back version that this reader offered in the end requires us to accept on faith that every word that comes from the mouth of an apostle or prophet in a church setting is perfect and immutable truth.

Hmmm. As a Mormon who believes in being open to continuing revelation, I’m grateful that we have apostles and prophets. I sustain them in their callings.

That does not mean, however, that they cannot be wrong. They are culturally conditioned human beings, just as I am; they are influenced by their time and place in history, just as we all are.

Prophets are inspired at times to give great counsel, but they are not infallible, as this reader seems to imagine. D&C 68 says that what they speak when moved by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture . . . and not what they speak at other times.

So, how do we know they are speaking because they are moved by the Holy Ghost, and not simply because they are expressing their cultural views, or trying and failing to tell a joke (as Elder Ballard seems to have been)?

Maybe we know because we have a moment of testimony ourselves, a stirring in our own heart that communicates the holiness of what has been said.

But what happens when we don’t have such a personal testimony?

That’s when we lean on the received tradition through scripture and the words of other leaders. Terryl and Fiona Givens have a new book, The Crucible of Doubt (which we’ll be reading in a five-week book club on this blog throughout October, so get your copies now). In it they quote Elder Todd Christofferson, who said:

The Church will know by the testimony of the Holy Ghost in the body of the members, whether the brethren in voicing their views are “moved upon by the Holy Ghost”: and in due time that knowledge will be made manifest.

So the Twitter takeaway about what is and is not scripture out of the mouth of an apostle is that there is no Twitter takeaway about what is and is not scripture out of the mouth of an apostle. “In due time” does not suggest a one-size-fits-all default position or immediate knowledge that an apostle is right or wrong.

Instead let’s prepare to spend years discussing it and doing the hard work of praying about it, whether the issue is same-sex marriage or women in the Church.

 

  • Brian

    When is a Mormon prophet speaking as a prophet?

    Only when, 150 years after the fact, his words haven’t been proven so socially unacceptable or scientifically wrong that those who are then “prophets” must dismiss them as those of someone speaking as a man.

  • HarryStamper

    In the past, I’m one of those who suggested you shouldn’t publicly (blog) disagreements with conference talks. The church clearly endorses conference talks as scripture.

  • Kristine

    HarryStamper, it is true that many members of the church (including some General Authorities) think conference talks are scripture, I think you would be hard-pressed to find evidence the “the church clearly endorses” this view.

  • Kristine

    oops. _while_ it is true that…

  • TomW

    It bears noting, Jana, that the church’s position on same-sex marriage wasn’t a one-off apostolic fling in the realm of social policy. The message has been quite consistent, and reinforced by the Family Proclamation and recent First Presidency letters on the matter. There is no doctrinal ambiguity about it.

  • B Kuhn

    Which version of the talk? The one we hear over the pulpit, or the one that gets published in the Ensign? I’m thinking specifically about two examples: President Packer’s talk in October 2010 and Elder Poelman’s talk in October 1984.

  • TomW

    Harry, I’ve heard the remark about conference talks being treated like scripture throughout my life, but there IS a caveat here. To truly become enshrined as canon (i.e. scripture) there is an established process which includes formal ratification, as happened in somewhat recent history with Official Declaration-2 and Sections 137 & 138 of the Doctrine & Covenants (which were initially added as canon to the Pearl of Great Price before abruptly being added to D&C instead).

    Nonetheless, as is often lamented by some critics of the church, modern conference talks do go through a fair amount of advance correlation and review to make sure that what is spoken is deemed acceptable. Gone are the days of off-the-cuff semonizing which some of the church’s former General Authorities were renowned for.

    What I think people often fail to grasp is that our modern prophets and apostles hold the self-same authority to teach the world as did Peter, James, and John. Just because their names may be Boyd, Dallin, or Russell doesn’t mean that their words deserve lesser consideration on the part of faithful Latter-day Saints. To the contrary, their words as delivered in General Conference deserve to be taken with serious gravity. And if their words trouble us, we can rely upon our established testimonies so that we do not have to crumble to the ground and start all over to decide if the church is still true or not everytime something is said which doesn’t harmonize with our personal preferences. We can give them the benefit of the doubt, acting on faith and demonstrating obedience, even if we haven’t personally sorted it all out and received an individual manifestation from the Holy Ghost. In fact, it is probably at those times of uncertainty and personal struggling where acting on faith matters the most. We will be blessed for hearkening to the words of the living prophets and apostles perhaps especially when doing so requires a true trial by faith. After all, it’s easy to sustain them at times when they are preaching to our personal choir. It’s another thing to sustain them when we’re not as fond of the musical arrangement.

  • TomW

    Actually, B Kuhn, if you look at President Packer’s talk, the substance really remained unchanged. The only seeming difference was modifying the tone somewhat, possibly to minimize the outcry from those generally bent on harping on him. He’s been a lightning rod for many church critics for years.

  • Susiebjoe

    Please NEVER stop speaking Jana!! As a sixty year old fifth generation, faithful member I am so very tired of the rhetorical, untruthful analysis of this gospel I love and inherited . I want to scream at my fellow saints,” study, learn, READ the actual history of the church” . Jana I love your books, blog and wisdom. I have peace and hope and faith because you and your generation speak for the down trodden. The followers of Christ should be ashamed of the unrighteous, judgmental crap they spew from their mouths. Please please, keep the conversation going, Know that because of you my family members and loved ones now have conversations with me about the gospel. you are a Rock Star!!!!

  • HarryStamper

    Wow…”even general authorities” think general conference is scripture…..Every general authority would answer…..yes…..since about 1963 talks are submitted for review for doctrine clarity and edited for time constraint……..part of this is for the accuracy and foreign translation. I’ve heard it taught in leadership meetings many times by general authorities. A good scripture is …..D&C 1:14
    14 And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people;

  • HarryStamper

    The church publishes the “official” transcript of conference which is not the Ensign version.

  • HarryStamper

    good stuff…..for example Joseph F. Smith’s vision of the redemption of the dead, occurred 1918…he read it in conference……everyone accepted it as scripture….yet it wasn’t submitted for official canonization in Doctrine and Covenants section 138 until when…..the late 1970’s…..

  • HarryStamper

    To take this a little farther, nothing is more important than their words, especially those spoken by the Apostles. The foundation of the church is not the Book of Mormon, D&C or Bible…it’s prophets and apostles…….the ordained representatives of the Savior. How else to know what to do or follow unless we listening to all their talks ….especially general conference. Their explanations or clarifications carry the greatest of all weight.

  • Kevin JK

    I recently had a conversation with a Net acquaintance with discussed this same issue with someone in his ward. Below is part of what he sent to me and the other individual –

    “To begin with, I assert the following points–
    1. The only official source of doctrine is the Standard Works.
    2. The prophets have made mistakes regarding doctrine, policy, etc… and therefore..
    3. The prophets have stated that their teachings must be supported by scripture or they are either false or must be considered their personal opinion.
    4. Assertions that we must follow the prophets no matter what they say is contrary to what Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and others have stated. It is dangerous and contrary to the Gospel to assert such. This includes President Benson’s 14 Points talk.

    The Prophets have consistently stated that the scriptures are the only source of official doctrine and are therefore superior to their own words. Please consider the following quotes –

    “As to the printed discourses of even leading brethren, the same principle holds. They do not constitute the court of ultimate appeal on doctrine. They may be very useful in the way of elucidation and are very generally good and sound in doctrine, but they are not the ultimate sources of the doctrines of the Church, and are not binding upon the Church. The rule in that respect is–What God has spoken, and what has been accepted by the Church as the word of God, by that, and that only, are we bound in doctrine. “ (B. H. Roberts).

    IOW, we are only bound in doctrine by the Standard Works, not conference talks.

    “The ‘lay’ members of the Church are under obligation to accept the teachings of the authorities, unless they can discover in them some conflict with the revelations and commandments the Lord has given. There are times when the leading brethren have expressed their own opinions on various subjects.”
    (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 5 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1957-1966], 2: 112.)

    IOW, JFS felt that his words must conform to the scriptures to be accepted.
    “STANDARD WORKS JUDGE TEACHINGS OF ALL MEN. It makes no difference what is written or what anyone has said, if what has been said is in conflict with what the Lord has revealed, we can set it aside. My words, and the teaching of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear. We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man’s doctrine.
    You cannot accept the books written by the authorities of the Church as standards in doctrine, only in so far as they accord with the revealed word in the standard works.
    If Joseph Fielding Smith writes something which is out of harmony with the revelations, then every member of the Church is duty bound to reject it.”
    (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-1956], 3: 203.)

    “It is most appropriate here to quote President Joseph Fielding Smith in his classic statement: “If I ever say anything contrary to the scriptures, the scriptures prevail.”
    (Mark E. Petersen, Adam: Who Is He? [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1976], 15.), (Church News, August 23, 1975)

    “With respect to the people feeling that whatever the brethren say is gospel, this tends to undermine the proposition of freedom of speech and thought. As members of the Church we are bound to sustain and support the brethren in the positions they occupy so long as their conduct entitles them to that. But we also have only to defend those doctrines of the Church contained in the four standard works: the Bible, The BoM, the D&C, and the PoGP. Anything beyond that by anyone is his or her own opinions and not scripture.”
    (Hugh B. Brown, The Abundant Life [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965])
    IOW, we only have to defend the scriptures, not the unsustained opinions of the Brethren.

    “I am afraid, however, that this is not as generally accepted or followed to-day as it ought to be. Some of the brethren have been willing to submit to the inference that what they have said was pronounced under the influence of the inspiration of the Lord and that it therefore is the will of the Lord. I do not doubt that the brethren have often spoken under inspiration and given new emphasis– perhaps even a new explanation or interpretation–of Church doctrine, but that does not become binding upon the Church unless and until it is submitted to the scrutiny of the rest of the brethren and later to the vote of the people.”
    (Hugh B. Brown, The Abundant Life [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965])
    IOW, the words of the Brethren, unlike the scriptures, are not binding upon the Church until they are accepted by the Church via Common Consent.
    “If anyone, regardless of his position in the Church, were to advance a doctrine that is not substantiated by the standard Church works, meaning the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price, you may know that his statement is merely his private opinion. The only one authorized to bring forth any new doctrine is the President of the Church, who, when he does, will declare it as a revelation from God, and it will be so accepted by the Council of the Twelve and sustained by the body of the Church. And if any man speak a doctrine which contradicts what is in the standard Church works, you may know by that same token that it is false and you are not bound to accept it as truth.”
    (Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 544.)

    IOW, any teachings by ANYONE that contradict the scriptures are definitionally false doctrine and if they address things not found in the scriptures, they are merely their private opinion and are therefore in no way binding upon the Church.

    This sentiment is echoed here by FAIRMORMON, the premier LDS organization / website dealing with LDS apologetics.

    President Charles W. Penrose of the First Presidency, once wrote: “We do not believe in the infallibility of man. When God reveals anything it is truth, and truth is infallible. No President has claimed infallibility.”
    (Editor’s Table, [Improvement Era, September 1912]: 1045.)

    “With all their inspiration and greatness, prophets are yet mortal men with imperfections common to mankind in general. They have their opinions and prejudices and are left to work out their own problems without inspiration in many instances.”
    (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966], 608)

    The bottom line is that the prophets and not infallible and to state, hint or imply otherwise is wrong.

    The scriptures, on the other hand, are definitionally infallible –
    “The scriptures are the standard by which to measure truth. All that we teach in this church ought to be couched in the scriptures. We ought to choose our texts from the scriptures, and wherever you have an illustration in the scriptures or a revelation in the Book of Mormon, use it, and do not draw from other sources where you can find it here in these books. We call these the standard Church works because they are standard. If you want to measure truth, measure it by the four standard Church works. If it is not in the standard works, you may well assume that it is speculation. It is man’s own personal opinion, to put it another way; and if it contradicts what is in the scriptures, you may know by that same token that it is not true. This is the standard by which you measure all truth. But if you do not know the standards, you have no adequate measure of truth.
    Measure doctrinal truth by the scriptures. We have the standard Church works. Why do we call them standard? If there is any teacher who teaches a doctrine that can’t be substantiated from the standard Church works – and I make one qualification, and that is unless that one be the President of the Church, who alone has the right to declare new doctrine – then you may know by that same token that such a teacher is but expressing his own opinion. If, on the other hand, you have someone teaching a doctrine that cannot be substantiated by the scriptures, and more than that, if it contradicts what the standard Church works, you may know that that person is teaching false doctrine, no matter what his position in this church may be. The President of the Church alone may declare the mind and will of God to His people. No officer nor any other church in the world has this high and lofty prerogative. When the President proclaims any such new doctrine, he will declare it to be a revelation from the Lord.
    The standard works are the only accurate guide. In this day men, women, and young boys and girls have been laying their own foundation. They have been charting their own course and claiming that they have the right to say what is right and what is wrong. Abraham Lincoln said: “God’s greatest gift to mankind is the Bible.” And we add to that the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price and the Doctrine and Covenants. Except for the standard Church works, there is no accurate guide as to what is right and what is wrong on the earth.” (Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 149.)

    IOW, as stated, “The standard works are the only accurate guide…. Except for the standard Church works, there is no accurate guide as to what is right and what is wrong on the earth.”

  • Lee Poulsen

    Kevin JK’s quotes were indispensable. Thanks.

    I have one peeve related to what some have said here, that comes up over and over again: Many modern Mormons seem to have completely conflated the meaning of “heed” and “hearken” to be synonymous, or nearly so, with “follow” or “obey”. They have never, and do not now, mean “obey” or anything like it.

    “Heed” means “pay attention to”, “take notice of”, “give careful attention or consideration to”.
    Synonyms include: listen to, mind, note, observe, regard, watch, mark; care consideration, caution, vigilance, watchfulness.
    It’s a very old word and has had this same meaning since before even Old English.

    “Hearken” means “listen”, “to give respectful attention”, “to give heed to”, “hear”.
    This is also a very old word that meant “hear”.

    I think both of these words are perfect to describe what we should do with the words to us from our general authorities.

    But neither of these means “obey”. A lot of Mormons seem to think they do, and use them as if they do. But they don’t.

    <>

  • Fred M

    Awesome. This all sounds right to me, although it probably conflicts with what a lot of members feel (and often teach).

    Of course, it’s possible that all of these quotes are merely opinions. In which case they could be wrong. But, of course, if they’re wrong, and everything our leaders say is gospel, then they must be right! My head hurts.

  • So I see a couple things going on here…

    First, there is a quote from a deceased President of the Church which states that, in effect, prophets are only speaking prophetically and their words being taken as scripture when something is specifically received as revelation, that revelation is brought before the body of the church, and is accepted. How does that fit in with the passage in the Gospel Principles manual which says that all words of the General Authorities are scripture? That’s an interesting thought.

    Second, someone above mentioned the words of Peter, James, and John being accepted as scripture. That catch with that is…not all the writings of Peter, James, and John are accepted as scriptural. There are stacks and stacks of writings, Gospels, Epistles, Apocalypses, and others, attributed to the Apostles that are not accepted as scripture. A couple that readily come to mind is Paul’s 3rd Epistle to the Corinthians and the Gospel of Peter. There are a number of others. Obviously there are serious questions of authorship, I know that, but the church fathers likely did not know that. Not that there aren’t serious questions about the authorship of some of Paul’s epistles that are currently in the canon. My point being…what makes one writing canonical but not another? Why are the 1st and 2nd Letters to the Corinthians included but not the 3rd? Are all writings of the apostles really scriptural and/or canonical?

  • Wayne Dequer

    There is a tender moment recorded in Matthew 26 when Jesus says to His Apostles: “One of you shall betray me.” They did Not all say: “Is it Judas?”, but they each sorrowfully said: “Is it I?” To me this passage reveals the true humility of the Apostles, who recognizing their own imperfections, humbly voiced their personal concerns that they might betray their beloved Lord in some manner.

    Members of the Church need to humbly liken the scriptures and the words of our leaders, locally and general, unto ourselves. Does that mean our leaders or even the scriptures are infallible and/or inerrant? No, but we should take them seriously and seek spiritual insight as to how what is taught apply to us, rather than rejecting them because we are offended or find a mistake. We will inevitably find mistakes, errors and offenses. However, we are to wait upon the Lord and seek personal inspiration and revelation through the Holy Spirit even when it is inconvenient or even offensive.

    I joined the Church while in college in 1966. In the late 1960’s and into the 70’s, I didn’t like the extreme politics of Ezra Taft Benson. I found them to be offensive and embarrassing. For some time I only listened to him to find fault and I almost always found something to criticize. Fortunately, I largely got over it before he was called by the Lord to be President of the Church in 1985. It has been vital in my life to hear and heed his sermons on pride in April of 1986 and 1989 (See https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1986/04/cleansing-the-inner-vessel?lang=eng and https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1989/04/beware-of-pride?lang=eng ). I suggest the following steps in our efforts to be True Disciples of Jesus Christ:
    1. If a talk of a general authority we hear or read offends or irritates us, set it aside and come back to it. In the 2nd reading identify exactly what disturbs us and why. Humbly ask the Lord in prayer, to reveal in His good time, how that disturbing part applies to us. Read the talk yet again, and consider the rest of it separately asking the Lord in prayer for spiritual understanding on lessons we should learn.(See 2 Nephi 27 especially verse 32)
    2. Ask the Lord to help us to be less quick to take offense. Study the topical guide about the atonement (it applies to all of Heavenly Father’s children and Not just us), forgiveness, offense, humility, pride, etc.
    3. When we come across what seem like significant errors ask the Lord in prayer what we should do about it. Sometimes the answer will be that we are to do nothing, but if the Holy Ghost prompts us to act do so with boldness and the pure love of Jesus Christ (See D&C 121:34-46). There are indeed times when we are to take action in word and deed. However, it is our blessing and responsibility to become familiar with the whisperings of the Spirit so we can discern His voice from the cacophony of the cares of the world and imaginations of our own mind and emotions.

  • ron

    I bear my testimony of the savior jesus christ and the apostles he has called to that holy calling. I sustain the prophet and the apostles of the church of jesus christ of latter day saints as true prophets.

    Having said that I follow them because my savior is instructing me through the council given by them. I find peace in obedience and desire that all you will have the peace I feel when I follow them.

  • Otto

    Unless they are submitting the talks to Jesus for editing, I don’t see how the process is meaningful at all in terms of establishing the talks as “scripture.” How would the circular process of having GAs edit their own talks for doctrinal clarity answer the question of whether their words are automatically scripture?

  • Otto

    It also bears noting that the over-the-pulpit position on blacks and the priesthood was very consistent until 1978. Just saying.

  • Fran

    God’s prophets ended with the prophets named in God’s Word, the Bible. There are no modern-day prophets, since the Bible contains information we all need to know about today.

    The Bible is complete with prophecies that are being fulfilled worldwide in our days (Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21), proving that WE are living in the last days of a wicked era and not the last days of mankind or the earth, our forever home !!! (Psalm 37:10,11,29; 115:16).

    God’s kingdom or heavenly government, which was the main focus of Jesus’ preaching and teachings while on earth (Matthew 4:17), will soon put an end to ALL of man’s governments (Daniel 2:44), put an end to all wicked ones on our home (Psalm 37:10, 11), rule over meek mankind with love, righteousness and justice (imagine that!! Isaiah 11:1-9), and put an end to ALL disease, old age (imagine being young again !!) and that infamous enemy, death!

    Meek mankind will soon live forever on a paradise earth to enjoy the “real life” we have never had before, which was God’s purpose or plan for the entire human family to begin with, and enjoy complete brotherhood of man in all nations and of every culture and race !! 😀 😀

  • Another Brian

    When is the prophet speaking as a prophet?

    The answer, of course, is simple. It’s whenever the prophet’s words don’t conflict with Jana’s political viewpoints.

  • HarryStamper

    It’s not often someone says so much in so few words…..well done.

  • HarryStamper

    Hey Otto…good question…and accurate. Jesus assigned the task to the presiding priesthood authority, 15 men, 3 who make up the First Presidency and 12 who make up the Quorum of 12 Apostles. They represent Jesus on earth. We hold these men in the same esteem as Peter, James and John of the New Testament. In addition, after each talk is given, a member of the First Presidency steps up and thanks who has just spoken….if needed the member of the 1st presidency could correct the speaker’s words. Also, when the official edition of conference is printed and distributed, corrections or clarifications could be made.

  • HarryStamper

    We have something in the Church called the Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood. It’s found in Section 84 of the Doctrine and Covenants….you will note that verse 36 calls for receiving the Lord’s servants as synonymous with receiving the Lord Himself. Following the brethren is fundamental to the Church, fundamental to the priesthood and fundamental for salvation.
    D&C 84:35-39
    35 And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord;
    36 For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me;
    37 And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father;
    38 And he that receiveth my Father receiveth my Father’s kingdom; therefore all that my Father hath shall be given unto him.
    39 And this is according to the oath and covenant which belongeth to the priesthood.

  • “That does not mean, however, that they cannot be wrong.”
    The Mormon standard for being a prophet is different than the Biblical standard for being a prophet. The Bible says that if what a prophet predicts doesn’t come true then God didn’t send him and to not be afraid of him. The Mormon standard says that a prophet can be wrong, but don’t question him.

    You understand that God gave us the standard concerning prophets to protect us?

    http://downtownministries.blogspot.com/2013/07/false-prophets-and-their-motivation.html

  • Kevin JK

    Harry,

    You are making an assumption that the prophets and apostles never make mistakes. They themselves have contradicted that idea. Read the quotes that I posted above. It’s easy to show where they’ve been wrong and where they’ve misinterpreted scripture. The prophets are not ventriloquist dummies whose mouths only open when the Lord pulls the strings. They are human and subject to error like all of us. Joseph Smith condemned the idea of following our leaders when they are wrong.

    You position is indefensible.

  • Ciderman

    Follow the prophet simply stated but difficult to live for some and maybe for a lot more than we think. Take self-reliance (food storage, gardens, savings, debt free) as examples that have been preached regularly by prophets and apostles, from ones who have the power to control the elements, are you able to sustain your family for 1 year, 6 months, 3 months, or even 1 month? How many have followed this council. I think church people like to pick and choose prophetic advice to fit their comfort zone, life style, social circles etc..

    President Kimball said, “This is serious business—living the commandments of the Lord, and sometimes taking it upon ourselves to ignore them.” (https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1975/04/why-call-me-lord-lord-and-do-not-the-things-which-i-say?lang=eng)

  • srm

    all my love…grama

    🙂

  • trytoseeitmyway

    Dave, Dave, Dave. I’ve never known anyone else who made it a habit to be publicly wrong every single day, day after day.

    Case in point, you statements about “the Biblical standard” and what “the Bible says” here are wrong. One way to know they’re wrong is that you don’t mention the Biblical standard that we read in 1 John 4;1-3. Why didn’t you mention that one, Dave? Oh, I know, it’s because it doesn’t fit in your daily intention to criticize and condemn believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, that’s why. But you should realize that anyone who preaches another gospel is subject to a curse. Gal. 1:8.

    Now I know that you were attempting to paraphrase Deut. 18. But your paraphrase isn’t accurate and overlooks that those words – while perfectly valid and instructive for us today (2 Tim. 3:16) – are also specific to time and place. Deut. 18 concerns ecclesiastical fidelity and particularly the protection of the Israelites when they reach the land given to them (Deut. 18:9). The Lord tells them that He will raise up a Prophet and commands them to hearken to him (v. 19). You yourself don’t regard that principle as applicable today, since you recognize no living prophet, which is itself an un-Biblical concept. See Eph. 4:11-14. You should not try to use the Bible as a sword against believers while you disregard its teachings and doctrines. I don’t expect that concept to really sink in with you, since you could not conduct yourself as you do day after day if you really believed in the Bible rather than your cartoon version of it, but I’ll just mention that anyway. Getting back to Deut. 18, we see that the Lord is warning the people against idol worship and witchcraft (vv. 9-12). In verse 18, the Lord says that the Prophet will speak words the Lord gives to him, and requires obedience to “my words which he shall speak in my name.” This distinguishes prophetic utterances from those of the individual himself; there is no assurance in this passage that everything said by the prophet – even when ordering lunch or remarking on the weather for example – is directly inspired. This distinction is explored in verses 20-22. First, verse 20 distinguishes between “the” Prophet (with a capital “P”) (well, it’s capitalized in the KJV of verses 15 and 18 but I have no idea what it would look like in the original Hebrew; the point is that those verses refer to the office of the Prophet of the Lord in the Jewish religious society of the time) … verse 20 distinguishes between The Prophet and those who are NOT speaking with the Lord’s authority or are even speaking “in the name of other gods.” They are under condemnation (v. 20). But verse 22 then refers also to imperfect or fallible prophets, which is really all of them. Verse 22 distinguishes between sayings of prophets spoken “presumptuously,” i.e., without inspiration, versus those things that represent “the word which the Lord hath . . . spoken” (v.19). Verse 22 says that to that extent the prophets words do not require respect.

    Verse 22 creates a kind of litmus test for the people, although it is a test that requires a backward look and so can’t be applied on the spot. It doesn’t mean that any mistake by a prophet called of God means that he really wasn’t called of God; it just means that it was a mistake. Jonah was a prophet, except he went off the rails just as he was called to his mission. David authored considerable scripture, and yet he transgressed grievously with Bathsheba and at other times. I don’t think that Heavenly Father really commanded the atrocities and war crimes recorded in the Old Testament at the instructions of prophets, even though I think you imagine a much more bloodthirsty Lord than Mormons do. Verse 22 merely encourages the people to distinguish between presumptuous remarks, on the prophet’s own human authority, versus those things that God commands the prophet to speak. Jana’s column today makes somewhat of the same point as Deut. 18:22. As stated in the Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible regarding Deut. 18, “Here is a caution against false prophets. It highly concerns us to have a right touchstone wherewith to try the word we hear, that we may know what that word is which the Lord has not spoken. Whatever is against the plain sense of the written word, or which gives countenance or encouragement to sin, we may be sure is not that which the Lord has spoken.”

    This is why it is helpful to look into the New Testament (imagine that!) for further light and knowledge on this issue. You didn’t want to do so because it would not advance your purpose to criticize and condemn, but some of us actually care about the teachings of scripture. Anyway, 1 John 4 provides a more useful guide: it says that we should “try the spirits whether they are of God,” because there are many false prophets. By the way, this passage clearly does not deny the existence of true prophets, even though you do in your theology, which is contrary to the Bible. Verse 2 says clearly that “[e]very spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God.” Wow. Isn’t that something? Why, if you believe that you have to imagine that Catholics and Mormons are “of God,” not just your little denomination whatever it is.

    Eph. 4 speaks of the need for unity of faith, practice and doctrine, and says that God calls prophets and apostles among other priesthood offices in order to bring those things to pass. Again, there is no assurance that any of these individuals will be perfect – we know that they are human beings and won’t be perfect. But it does mean that they will be called, and used by God, for that purpose.

  • Kristine Stringham

    Jana, in your twitter exchange you said, “Sustaining someone, whether it’s your spouse or your prophet, does not mean you can never disagree.”

    Would it be sustaining your spouse to publicly blog about him and to state that he is “wrong” both in his words that reflect his core beliefs as well as more idiosyncratic things he says? Especially if many of the following comments then contributed to the conclusion that he was off base?

    As we each personally determine what it means to follow the prophet, I think we should be careful not to make the word “sustain” mean something different than one who strengthens and bears up another.

  • Lee Poulsen

    I think Kristine asks a very good question, especially about blogging about a disagreement with one’s spouse, yet still consider that you are sustaining that spouse (in a positive manner as Kristine emphasized). However, there is one crucial difference: You can always, and it is probably a more fruitful route to, go to your spouse and discuss the differences in private person-to-person. That is simply not possible in our present day with apostles and prophets. There are a select few people who most likely have this opportunity. But for the vast majority of members, that route is basically closed off–and that is the stated official guideline as well. We’ve been asked not to even write letters to GAs, let alone have a chance to speak with them in person.

    We know that in earlier times in Church history, one-on-one conversations with the prophet or apostles over differences occurred all the time. We also have examples of this via back-and-forth correspondence occurring as recently as the 1940s or ’50s.

    But there are no analogous options for Kristine’s analogy available today. What we have instead is our leaders teaching certain guidelines according to their understanding combined with some inspiration from time to time. Then when enough of a public reaction occurs (via blogs or organized activities or whatever), we sometimes get a statement from Public Affairs, or a talk in General Conference, or a letter from the First Presidency or the Quorum of the Twelve. Then more reaction from blogs, etc. Then sometime an anonymous poll asking question about the issue is sent out by the Church to a selected sampling of members. And on the “conversation” goes. But it is never going to be like a husband and wife working out their differences together in private.

    That’s the problem.

  • Michael Huffaker

    I’m not sure if this has already been mentioned above, but President Uchtdorf’s recent general conference talk: “Come Join With Us”, states the following:
    “And, to be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine.

    I suppose the Church would be perfect only if it were run by perfect beings. God is perfect, and His doctrine is pure. But He works through us—His imperfect children—and imperfect people make mistakes.

    In the title page of the Book of Mormon we read, “And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.”6

    This is the way it has always been and will be until the perfect day when Christ Himself reigns personally upon the earth.”

    I think this clearly discounts the infallibility argument, and is a breath of fresh air, actually strengthening my testimony of the brethren rather than weakening it.

  • trytoseeitmyway

    Yes, there are analogous options. You can discuss the concerns with local priesthood leaders. You say, well, they don’t have the power to change anything. But they DO have the power to address concerns within established doctrine. And general authorities visit wards and stakes all the time and most of them make themselves available for discussion. And I don’t think that anyone objects to respectful commentary and explorations of the potential for the evolution of doctrine. It is really the effort to lobby – or, worse, to shame – leaders through public discourse that is offensive and ought to be avoided.

  • Kristine Stringham

    There are differences between our personal relationships and those with church leaders, but that doesn’t change the definition of the word “sustain”.

  • Pianomike

    Clearing Out the Notebook:

    Tom – You write:

    “it’s easy to sustain them at times when they are preaching to our personal choir. It’s another thing to sustain them when we’re not as fond of the musical arrangement.”

    Swish! Nothing but net!

    Wayne – You write:

    “If a talk of a general authority we hear or read offends or irritates us, set it aside and come back to it. In the 2nd reading identify exactly what disturbs us and why. Humbly ask the Lord in prayer, to reveal in His good time, how that disturbing part applies to us. Read the talk yet again, and consider the rest of it separately asking the Lord in prayer for spiritual understanding on lessons we should learn.”

    Well said.

    Fran – You write:

    “God’s prophets ended with the prophets named in God’s Word, the Bible. There are no modern-day prophets.”

    “A” for effort. Thanks for playing.:)

    “the Bible contains information we all need to know about today.”

    True as written. But it seems to me that what you were striving for is “the Bible contains all the information we need to know about today.” This statement is patently false.

    “The Bible is complete with prophecies that are being fulfilled worldwide in our days.”

    Those are separate statements. Does the Bible contain prophesies which are being fulfilled today? Yes. Is the Bible complete? No….or else it would have said so.

    Tryto – You write:

    “Dave, Dave, Dave. I’ve never known anyone else who made it a habit to be publicly wrong every single day, day after day.”

    You’re a lucky person, Tryto. Tell me….how have you managed to live your entire life without ever encountering a Democrat? Please share your secret!

    Kristine – You write:

    “Would it be sustaining your spouse to publicly blog about him and to state that he is “wrong” both in his words that reflect his core beliefs as well as more idiosyncratic things he says?”

    Yo, Kris! Please do not give my wife any ideas!!!!!!!!

    “As we each personally determine what it means to follow the prophet, I think we should be careful not to make the word “sustain” mean something different than one who strengthens and bears up another.”

    Swish! Nothing but net!

  • srm

    “How does that fit in with the passage in the Gospel Principles manual which says that all words of the General Authorities are scripture?”

    what does it say that…page number please.

  • Pianomike

    Lee – You write:

    “We’ve been asked not to even write letters to GAs, let alone have a chance to speak with them in person.”

    On very rare occasion (read: twice in my lifetime) I have asked a General Authority, after a session of Stake Conference, if I might pose a question when he had a moment. In both instances, said GA handed me his card and asked me to email him. In both instances, I received a response within a month.

    I think that, if they feel that their time and schedules are respected, they are as approachable as they possibly can be.

    Tryto – You write:

    “It is really the effort to lobby – or, worse, to shame – leaders through public discourse that is offensive and ought to be avoided.”

    Swish! Nothing but net!

    Huff – You write:

    “I think this clearly discounts the infallibility argument, and is a breath of fresh air, actually strengthening my testimony of the brethren rather than weakening it.”

    Concur.

  • Dan in AZ

    That’s the best advice I’ve read in these comments! Thank you!

  • trytoseeitmyway

    Funny political comment, Mike. I’m not going to endorse it because, well, some of my best friends are Democrats. But even if I took your tongue-in-cheek observation literally – which I’m sure you don’t intend – I would still find downtown dave aka David Tiffany of Arkansas to be a bit of a special case. He’s a bit – just a bit mind you – admirable just because of his sheer bloodymindedness (as the Brits say). The fellow arises every day – and I do mean every day, rain or shine, healthy or sick – and he says to himself, where can I go on the Internet today to say unkind, untrue and exaggerated things about the Mormons? He’ll look at the Real Clear Religion site and hunt up whatever article he can find there about Mormons, but I don’t think he limits himself. Then it doesn’t matter one little bit what the article says or is about, but he will look for one line or two lines on which to hang one of his goofy little simplifications and misrepresentations. You know, things like Mormons don’t believe in Jesus, Mormons think Jesus and Satan are brothers, Mormons preach another gospel, Mormons this and Mormons that. Most of the time, he KNOWS that he’s lying or that he’s exaggerating or that he’s taking some cartoon version of something that somebody said once and repackaging it as though it were a current and authoritative statement of LDS belief. But he just doesn’t care. Because what he wants to do is to hurt. What he wants to do is to smear. What he wants to do is to bear false witness. You would think that a self-professed Christian would be a little hesitant to do that, but I think his animus toward our faith deprives him of humility and a sense of fairness or brotherhood, let alone charity.

    I bet that’s more of a response than you expected out of your little bit of humor. Sorry about that. But I used to be a fundamentalist Protestant (Baptist, in that vein) but even then I had more respect for other faiths and other disciples of Christ than Dave ever shows even on his best day. It really does offend me to see how some of my former co-religionists respond to those with whom they disagree theologically. Many of the same people who are pleased to call Mormonism a “cult,” for example, will say the same thing about the Catholic church – just not as loudly or as often.

  • Do the words of the prophets and apostles have to be scripture in order for us to obey them? Or, is it possible for us to accept what they say as wise council and we follow them because it makes sense? For example, there is not scripture I can think of that commands us to have emergency preparedness through food, clothing, fuel, and financial storage. And yet, it sure is wise!

    Are we not straining at gnats by determining that we only have to follow what our leaders say if and when we can determine it is scripture? Frankly, Elder Ballard’s council that the sisters in ward council should correct the brethren quickly and then move on would be good for all of us. Perhaps not the correcting part, but keeping our comments short and poignant, and then move on, sustaining our leaders when they take a final decision. The is much to be said for unanimity.

  • Fred M

    More like “whenever the prophet’s words don’t conflict with what any of us feels to be right.” It’s not just Jana! We are all guilty. Thus we are able to now say that things prophets said in the past (condemning interracial marriage, teaching that black skin was a curse) that at the time felt right but no longer do were just the prophets speaking as men. I guarantee you that there are plenty of teachings from the prophets (even the scriptures) that you guys find ways to explain away. We all do it.

  • Another Brian

    Is the prophet right 100% of the time? No.

    How often should we follow the prophet? 100% of the time.

    This can be proven mathematically, based one one critical assumption:
    The prophet knows better what is right vs wrong than you or I. If this assumption is not true, then you’d have a hard time convincing me or anyone that he is a prophet at all.

    Let’s assume, for the sake of illustration, that the prophet is right 95% of the time and I am right 85% of the time (These percentages are not meant to be accurate, just illustrative, and do not refer to how well the individual lives up to their ideals, but rather how closely their ideology matches God’s perfect ideology).

    If I’m right 85% of the time and the prophet is right 95% of the time, then we will disagree between 10% and 20% of the time.

    If it’s 10%, it’s because where the prophet is wrong, so am I, and where we disagree, the prophet is right 100% of the time.

    If we disagree 20% of the time, there’s no overlap where both of us are wrong, and among the things we disagree about, I would be right 25% of the things and the prophet would be right for the other 75%.

    Since we disagree on the issues, it wouldn’t be possible to determine in the 20% which one is right, so I’m left to either choose my own ideology and be right 85% overall, or go with the prophet and be right 95% of the time, or guess where the prophet is right among our disagreements, and I’ll probably end up being right 92.5% of the time. Pretending I knew exactly where the prophet was wrong and I was right would be irrational because I’m unable to distinguish where I’m wrong in the first place.

    In other words- if you believe there’s a prophet, then follow the prophet, and you’ll be better off.

  • Fred M

    The beauty is that none of this math really matters. Because if you believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ, there is always a way to determine what’s right. It’s not about percentages or guesswork. It’s not even (believe it or not) as simple as following the prophet 100% of the time. That’s a spiritually lazy way to go through life. It’s about getting down on your knees, asking God, and receiving the confirmation of the Holy Spirit that what has been taught is true. If you always humbly seek that you will be right 100% of the time. So just make sure to pray and get a spiritual confirmation of everything your leaders teach (like we’ve been asked to do!). And then you’ll be fine.

  • Robin

    Amen. Especially on number 3. I am an LGBT ally and have that let that very thought guide me to act “with boldness and the pure love of Jesus Christ” in supporting, sustaining, and loving our LGBT brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. I have felt the spirit during the times I engage in these efforts stronger than I have at any other times of my life. I’m assuming that many here believe that personal revelation does not trump an apostle’s word…but, many have heard from those very authorities that is not the case.

  • MonkeyKing

    Your mathematical assumption is absurd as it asserts that you and I are less correct than a profit. You are making the common mistake of equivocating church calling with righteousness and/or inspiration. There is nothing in the scripture or teachings that proposes that you, I or anyone else has any less right to the truth than a profit, nor that the profits are any more correct than any particular individual. They are called to their positions for the whatever reason the lord chooses to do so, which is not necessarily because they are less fallible than others.

    I assert that the scriptures teach that all can and ought to be profits themselves. Everyone has the right to receive revelation as to the truthfulness of all things. The calling and sustaining of apostle/profit etc. is about us giving our common consent to their being designated as those in authority to state the will of the lord within the scope of their calling. So the issue is not who knows the truth but who has been given authority by common consent to make decisions within the scope of their calling.

    Why do you think the Lord has set up the church that we periodically are allowed to signify if we are in favor or oppose individual within their callings? Did the Lord set it up as a pro-forma act? If the Lord did not want any objections why does he ask for them? If the Lord has established a system whereby I, or any other member of he church, can publicly indicate an objection to any church leader how is it then considered wrong to respectfully state our objections?

    This is not to say that someone who has been given the truth has authority to preach it as if it were from the lord (even if it is) unless that person has been called and given common consent to do so.

    Christ is the Shepard. Are we not told to be like him?
    Being the Shepard is not to being the sheep.

    freedom of choice, Is what you got
    Freedom from choice, Is what you want

  • Kevin JK

    Mathematically you are correct, but you forgot that we have 2 other sources of truth – the Holy ghost and scripture. I have a several quotes from the brethren about NOT following the prophet when the prophet violates scripture. Joseph Smith also said that it was slavery in the extreme for the brethren to demand that we follow them when they are wrong just because they are our leaders.

    We should give our leaders the benefit of the doubt when they teach us things that can’t be confirmed or denied in scripture, but we are still to recognize them as opinion rather than official doctrine. unless something is sustained by the membership via common consent, it’s just opinion. That includes first presidency statements, the Proclamation, etc…

  • srm

    Where not what

  • Pianomike

    Kelly – You write:

    “Are we not straining at gnats by determining that we only have to follow what our leaders say if and when we can determine it is scripture?”

    Yes. It’s a favorite sport among the Pharisee wing of our membership.:)

    A-Bri – You write:

    “In other words- if you believe there’s a prophet, then follow the prophet, and you’ll be better off.”

    Concur. The Primary kids learn “Follow The Prophet – He Knows The Way”…NOT “Follow The Prophet – He Knows The Way – except where it doesn’t immediately make sense and then we should presume we can go our own way if we disagree.”

    I wonder if there is even a single piece of scripture showing that God has ever dinged anybody for following the Prophet. Even if he IS wrong…and I don’t think it’s even likely that a prophet is wrong even 5% as much as some would like to think…you still get points for being obedient.

    Monkey – Either your spell check is on crack, or you are wayyyyyy too profit driven!;)

    You write:

    “They are called to their positions for the whatever reason the lord chooses to do so, which is not necessarily because they are less fallible than others.”

    Concur. A couple of examples:

    1. Years ago, when I was newly married and moved into my wife’s tiny branch in Germany, I knew that I would wind up with some kind of Priesthood calling which would take advantage of my lifetime in the Church, and my experience having lived in the Church in the States. Like many a good Latter-day Saint, I got on board the Speculation Wagon, and had long, wonderful discussions with my wife about where I might wind up…counselor in the Branch Presidency…Branch Mission Leader…Youth Sunday School teacher….I was down for pretty much ANYTHING…as long as I didn’t get called to be Elders Quorum President…a job I wanted NOTHING to do with. So you know where this is going, right? 3 weeks later, a member of the Stake Presidency called me to be Elders Quorum President. I drove home and asked my wife why God hated me so much! Fast forward 2 years…I was called as Stake Mission President..and…every single thing that made me a successful administrator in that position, I learned as Elders Quorum President. Go figure. The Lord drives the bus, and does so to perfection.

    2. About 5 years ago, the Bishop in the ward we used to live in called 2 17-year old girls as Ward Co-Choristers. Each would lead the singing in Sacrament Meeting for a month, rotating back and forth. Were they the most qualified? Absolutely not. But over those 5 years, how many young women went into adulthood with that talent and experience? The Lord drives the bus very well.

    In both of those cases, the calling was less about the ward than about the person receiving the calling. I would suspect that this principle goes all the way up to the top.

    Finally…now in my 3rd week in our new ward, I am constantly bombarded with members coming up to me and, almost conspiratorially, whispering “I can’t wait til you get called as our Ward Organist!” Beyond the fact that I think this does the sister currently in that calling a disservice, once again, the Lord will decide if he wants a pro at the keys “for the sake of the ward”, or someone else “for the sake of that person.” EITHER choice is but a small gear in the Swiss Watch that is the Ward. But the Lord is the ultimate watchmaker.

  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    When a General Authority tells a funny story, or talks about the principles of aviation, I don’t think it is some kind of standard for which we are accountable. The messages about what we as members of the Church are expected to do and say are pretty explicit. We don’t need to go through some rabbinical process to parse out all the potential meanings of the words in each sentence of a General Conference talk. So I would not get too perturbed by my own understanding of any random sentence in an Apostle or Seventy’s sermon. The meaning of the whole sermon needs to be worked out, as a unit. Often the message that is actionable for us in the audience is quite simple. We should not treat these sermons as if they were government regulations, in which each individual word choice has potential for changing the meaning, and which can be enforced against us at the whim of some bureaucrat.

    The words that are inspired tend to announce themselves as particular admonishment abnd solemnity. Applying normal rules of reading texts, did the speaker intend for this to be understood as the product of inspiration and obligatory for us? Do the Brethren themselves think the words have a particular meaning that reuires action from the Church and its membership? Or is it just a remark in a sermon, with no institutional follow-through?

    The words that are inspired will by definition be similar to the words that are inspired in the sermons of other Apostles and Seventies. A declaration that is not consistent with the sermons of their peers are more likely to be idiosyncratic and personal.

    Words that are inspired should be consistent with the canonical scriptures. If there is a clear conflict, then we have a reason to question the inspiration behind the sermon.

    In evaluating the inspiration behind a sermon, we should remember that even the canonical scriptures are ambiguous and require careful consideration of what they mean in the context of all of the scriptures. We should not put too much meaning into a word, sentence, paragraph or even chapter if the interpretation is inconsistent with the general message of the scriptures.

  • Pianomike

    >When a General Authority tells a funny story, or talks about the principles of aviation, I don’t think it is some kind of standard for which we are accountable.

    Just remember to pronounce it AH-vi-a-tion, or you may be on the road to apostasy.:)

    >We don’t need to go through some rabbinical process to parse out all the potential meanings of the words in each sentence of a General Conference talk.

    Swish! Nothing but net!

    >We should not treat these sermons as if they were government regulations, in which each individual word choice has potential for changing the meaning, and which can be enforced against us at the whim of some bureaucrat.

    And again.

  • kevin JK

    You stated – “I wonder if there is even a single piece of scripture showing that God has ever dinged anybody for following the Prophet.”

    KJK – I know of none off the top of my head, but the prophets have stated that following the prophet when we know that the prophet is wrong…is in itself wrong.

    When we get to the Pearly Gates, we will NOT, if we knowingly did wrong in following a leader, be able to justify our actions with the Nuremberg Defense – (in my best German accent) “i vhas tjust vollowink ohrdehrs…I vhas tjust vollowink ohrdehrs…”

  • So I can’t find a paper manual at my house, but it’s in Chapter 10 of the Gospel Principals Manual “Scriptures.” On my app version, it’s under the first heading “The Scriptures are Available to us Today” and the sentence I am thinking about is at the bottom of the second paragraph. It reads “The inspired words of our living prophets are also accepted as scripture.” Now…what does that mean? I suspect we could have a rather lengthy conversation about potential meanings of various words in that sentence.

  • Wow…I didn’t even read this response. I really hope you had this saved somewhere and just pasted it here. Mr. Downtown Dave is what internet types call a “troll.” You just wasted a lot of your time feeding the troll, methinks.

  • Kevin JK

    We know that this isn’t true otherwise we’d have every talk by the prophet added to the D&C. Scripture is only added via Common Consent. D&C 138 & 138 were revelations for crying out load and those STILL needed to be sustained via Common Consent to be added to the D&C. Are they saying that a Conference talk is more authoritative than a revelation?

  • Like I said…we could have some long discussions about the words and meanings.

  • HarryStamper

    I’ll support John Moore. You confuse canonized scripture with living scripture. I’ll follow living scripture any day. Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and most everyone else are dead prophets. Joseph Smith today would clearly tells the saints to follow and stay close to President Monson and the living apostles.

    The The Church of Jesus Christ is a top down organization founded on ordained apostles. The church is not founded on books…including the Doctrine and Covenants. The authority of all priesthood action and decisions lies within 15 men who hold the keys. When Moses died (translated), the House of Israel followed Joshua, the living prophet of the day. The church conducts general conference twice a year under direct revelation from the Lord. A lot of things could be debated within the church, but debate whether conference is the word of the Lord…??? To most members…does the sun shine…..??

  • Lee Poulsen

    Wow. I have never in all my decades of growing up in the Church and being an active member ever heard what HarryStamper said as the doctrine of the Church. It sound more like the Catholics claim that the Pope is infallible. Did no one pay attention to all the many quotes from various leaders since Joseph Smith saying the exact opposite of this? Nowhere but nowhere does it state that general conference is conducted under direct revelation from the Lord. We’ve been told over and over again that the prophet’s words are the words of the Lord only when he is speaking prophetic words. There are times when the prophet and the other leaders are speaking revelation direct from the Lord. But there are many many times when they are just giving counsel and wisdom that they’ve gleaned over many years of service to the Lord. I’m sorry but living scripture is definitely not every word that the General Authorities utter. It’s as if I go to a different Church than the one HarryStamper goes to.

  • Kevin JK

    I’m sorry, but your two different categories of scripture doesn’t make sense. The quotes below show that the words of the Brethren are in no way equal to the scriptures. The scriptures supersede the teachings of the Brethren. Their teachings may indeed be from the Lord, but are not OFFICIALLY recognized as such until sustained via Common Consent. Revelations like 137 and 138 were not OFFICIALLY binding upon the Church (an official teaching) until sustained by Common Consent. Their is a term we use for “living scripture” – Counsel. Counsel can change easily. Scripture doesn’t change without a big to-do. The only ones done in the past 100 years were the additions of 137 and 138 in 1975 (originally added to the PoGP, btw) and the Priesthood revelation.

    “STANDARD WORKS JUDGE TEACHINGS OF ALL MEN. It makes no difference what is written or what anyone has said, if what has been said is in conflict with what the Lord has revealed, we can set it aside. My words, and the teaching of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear. We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man’s doctrine.
    You cannot accept the books written by the authorities of the Church as standards in doctrine, only in so far as they accord with the revealed word in the standard works.
    If Joseph Fielding Smith writes something which is out of harmony with the revelations, then every member of the Church is duty bound to reject it.”
    (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3 vols., edited by Bruce R. McConkie [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954-1956], 3: 203.)

    Harold B. Lee said –
    “If anyone, regardless of his position in the Church (emphasis added), were to advance a doctrine that is not substantiated by the standard Church works, meaning the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price, you may know that his statement is merely his private opinion. The only one authorized to bring forth any new doctrine is the President of the Church, who, when he does, will declare it as revelation from God, and it will be so accepted by the Council of the Twelve and sustained by the body of the Church. And if any man speak a doctrine which contradicts what is in the standard Church works, you may know by that same token that it is false and you are not bound to accept it as truth.”
    (Harold B. Lee, The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, edited by Clyde J. Williams [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996], 544.)

    “I am afraid, however, that this is not as generally accepted or followed to-day as it ought to be. Some of the brethren have been willing to submit to the inference that what they have said was pronounced under the influence of the inspiration of the Lord and that it therefore is the will of the Lord. I do not doubt that the brethren have often spoken under inspiration and given new emphasis– perhaps even a new explanation or interpretation–of Church doctrine, but that does not become binding upon the Church unless and until it is submitted to the scrutiny of the rest of the brethren and later to the vote of the people.”
    (Hugh B. Brown, The Abundant Life [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965])

    “With respect to the people feeling that whatever the brethren say is gospel, this tends to undermine the proposition of freedom of speech and thought. As members of the Church we are bound to sustain and support the brethren in the positions they occupy so long as their conduct entitles them to that. But we also have only to defend those doctrines of the Church contained in the four standard works: the Bible, The BoM, the D&C, and the PoGP. Anything beyond that by anyone is his or her own opinions and not scripture.”
    (Hugh B. Brown, The Abundant Life [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965])

  • HarryStamper

    1. Yes…Kevin….I agree the standard works are the standard…that’s their name.
    2. Common consent….I agree with your emphasis on that. I may point out, by common consent we sustain these brethern as prophets, seers and revelators.
    3. I’m only making a point regarding general conference as scripture, I’m not referring to books or fireside talks etc…..I made this point in relation to Jana’s topic..”What is scripture…” For example, if you don’t accept conference as scripture ( voice, mind, will of the Lord) then the many recent talks emphasizing the importance of traditional marriage are not binding. Something she has publicly said she thinks is wrong.
    4. Irony…..the standard works are the only books as scripture……the irony you quote in your lenghty response many citations from many books that are not the standard works…….therefore, by common consent I do not accept your citations. 🙂

  • Lee Poulsen

    So are you seriously saying that the opinions of all these prophets, seers, and revelators that only the standard works are scripture are wrong because those opinions haven’t been canonized? Or would you accept their statements if they gave any of them during a General Conference? And yet your opinion about which of their statements are scripture and which are false is right. That’s seriously messed up. Glad you’re not running the Church.

  • HarryStamper

    Lee…get a grip on life…I advocate strongly people should follow the brethern, salvation is in the brethren….and because of this your glad I’m not running the church. What could be more basic? Really…

  • Kevin JK

    When the Church sustains the prophet as the Lord’s mouthpiece, it means that we acknowledge that when the Lord ha something to say to the world, it will come through that prophet. it does NOT mean that everything that that man says is from the Lord. The way we designate that man’s word’s as coming from the Lord and accepting them as binding upon the whole Church is through Common Consent. His other words may be accepted as binding by an individual if that individual feels prompted to be so bound while others may not and such unsustained teachings are not official church doctrine. In regards to the current debate on SSM, we know that OFFICIAL doctrine denounces using one’s religious opinions to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others (1 Cor. 10:29 and D&C 134:4) and that we must render unto Caesar that which pertains to government. How the Church handles homosexuality within the Church is the domain of the Church, but how government handles it is up to government and not Church doctrine.

    Sure, I chuckled when I read your point #4, but if the words of moral men can’t be relied upon as official, we have to rely on the words of God and those are found in the Standard Works…the ONLY official source of Church Doctrine.

  • kevin JK

    General Conference talks aren’t scripture. If they were, we’d be adding to the D&C every 6 months. We are told to have daily scripture study, not daily conference talk study. Common Consent is required for the Church to officially accept a teaching as official. individuals may accept them as personally binding if the Spirit so moves them, but it is not binding in any way upon the membership. the prophets themselves that if they ever say anything contrary to the Standard Works, that we are to accept the Standard Works and reject the prophet’s words. IOW, the prophets accept that the Standard Works supersede their teachings, even when given in Conference.

  • TomW

    Kevin, you write: “In regards to the current debate on SSM, we know that OFFICIAL doctrine denounces using one’s religious opinions to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others (1 Cor. 10:29 and D&C 134:4) and that we must render unto Caesar that which pertains to government. How the Church handles homosexuality within the Church is the domain of the Church, but how government handles it is up to government and not Church doctrine.”

    While it is correct that “official doctrines” of the church are those which have been formally canonized according to the process of common consent, it bears noting that those canonized works proclaim “whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” (D&C 1:38)

    With regard to homosexual acts, the Old and New Testaments address them as sin. The Lords modern prophets and apostles have affirmed the biblical record on this matter. As the question extends to the modern creation of same-sex marriage, the First Presidency has further declared in unambiguous language that the legal creation of such unions should be opposed. D&C 134 in no way restricts the First Presidency from weighing in on any moral issue which may come before the electorate.

  • Lee Poulsen

    I’m sorry, but salvation is in Christ, not in any human. Even Christ himself said so.

  • Kevin JK

    Regarding D&C 1:38, you forgot to quote the part that says..”my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or the voice of my servants, it is the same.” IOW, it’s the LORD’s words that shall not pass away and whether we receive the word of the Lord directly from the Lord or through His servants, it doesn’t matter. We can’t reject prophets in hope of having personal visitations from God.

    Joseph Fielding Smith said, “There are times when the leading brethren have expressed their own opinions on various subjects.” This means that their words are opinion and NOT from the Lord. There is only way that the Church, as a whole, acknowledges that a statement will become binding upon the Church is via Common Consent. As stated, we may accept a teaching as binding upon us as individuals due to a prompting, but that does NOT make it OFFICIAL Church doctrine.

    D&C 134:4 talks about those who let their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others. In California, the gays DID have the right to marry and we LDS, and others “let [our] religious opinions prompt [us] to infringe upon the rights and liberties of [gays]” by supporting Prop. 8. Prop. 8 eliminated those rights and our support of Prop. 8 was a flagrant violation of D&C 134:4 and 1 Cor. 10:29. This experience shows that the prophets are fallible men and therefore their teachings are not definitionally correct. We know that they’ve misinterpreted scripture in other areas as well. Their fallible state shows how important it is to NOT take their word as official and that Common Consent is a wise and divinely inspired teaching.

  • HarryStamper

    Your last paragraph using gay marriage and common consent says a lot.

    Let’s use common consent about gay marriage in California. By common consent, California passed Prop 22 limiting marriage to men and woman. It was struck down by California Supreme Court saying it violated the State’s constitution. So the voter’s following the lead of the court drafted Prop 8 to amend the State’s constitution….by common consent the people of California a 2nd time passed Prop 8. At the time, about 30 states in the United States had common consent votes ALL defeating gay marriage. No vote put to public common consent…EVER consented to gay marriage.

    The Church’s support of Prop8 does nothing to violate people’s rights, the church supports morale issues and give’s direction as to which side of morale issues is correct. The people listened and voted correctly…..the voice of people as the Book of Mormon teaches (standard works by the way) chose the right way. But wicked judges over ruled it as the Book of Mormon warns against (standard works by the way).

  • TomW

    Kevin – The church’s position on homosexual sin and by extention same-sex marriage are perfectly in harmony with scripture. For those who believe the church is true in the first place, which understandably may not include you, the First Presidency is perfectly empowered to speak out on the social/political impact of the same-sex marriage movement, and to encourage church members to act on their beliefs if they feel so inspired to direct. D&C 134 does not abrogate the right and the responsibility of the First Presidency to guide us in these latter days.

  • Kevin JK

    Our government is a constitutional republic and not a democracy. Laws passed by legislatures or through voter initiatives often get thrown out by the courts for violating constitutionally protected rights. that is the purpose of the courts – to protect the rights of unpopular minorities from being trampled by the powerful majority. We LDS have been the unpopular minority in the past.

    I’ve read the rulings in all of the prop. 22 and Prop 8 cases and it was embarrassing to read the legal defense of those of them. federal judges, both liberals and conservatives, have overturned SSM bans. it is more than clear that they violate the Constitution.

    The Church CLEARLY violated scripture in supporting Prop. 8. To violate scripture in this, gays had to have had the right/liberty to marry (which they did prior to 8’s passage and we LDS had to have used our religious opinion to prompt us to infringe upon the right. We clearly did this. There is no away around it. We violated the scriptures and ‘steadied the ark”.

    The Church is right, and within its right to condemn SSM. It should NEVER be allowed in the Church unless revelation permits it. keeping it out of the Church is a far cry from denying it to the public, especially when they had it and we did everything on our power to take it away…contrary to scripture.

  • Kevin JK

    See my response to Harry above.

  • HarryStamper

    Good job Kevin, your reply left me speechless…that’s pretty hard to do.

    Did we infringe the right of gambler’s when the church opposed State lottery’s?
    Did we infringe on the rights of abortionists when the church opposed abortion?
    Did we infringe upon the rights of drinkers and wine bibers when the church tried to maintain prohibition?
    Did we infringe upon the rights of atheists when the church supported prayer in school?
    Did we infringe upon the rights of southern slave owners when the church opposed slavery?

    You defend the homosexuals right to marry? a right you clearly say our own scriptures give them…….What about the right to maintain the christian sacrament of marriage between man and woman? Secular government invaded religious marriage and co-opted it through license and regulation. And now they allow homosexuals to re-define it. Stand up and defend what the Lord has asked you to defend.

  • TomW

    Kevin, the authority of governments is derived from the consent of the governed. The Constitution of the State of California provides for the state’s citizens to amend their own Constitution as a check and balance against the judiciary, executive, and legislative branches. The very people in whom the true power is vested got shafted by a renegade judiciary abetted by elected officials who refused to do their jobs and ensure that the duly expressed voice of the people was properly represented.

    You write that “the Church CLEARLY violated scripture in supporting Prop. 8. To violate scripture in this, gays had to have had the right/liberty to marry (which they did prior to 8’s passage and we LDS had to have used our religious opinion to prompt us to infringe upon the right.”

    The ‘right’ you claim was violated was one created out of whole cloth by a judge who disregarded the citizens’ original expression on the matter with Prop 22. The people had every right to employ their constitutional provision to overrule the judiciary, and they DID! But we live in a day where judges disregard the people, and many in politics do likewise. So it is. But to claim that the church violated scripture in this regard is purely asinine.

  • Kevin JK

    Yes, we DID infringe upon atheists because the atheists had a constitutional right to expect the state to abide by keeping church and state separate. We are commanded to not use our religious beliefs as justification to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others. the above violated that and our support of Prop. 8 violated that as well. the gays had the RIGHT to marry in CA prior to 8. We objectively steadied the ark.

    Churches should be allowed to define marriage in any way they wish. They should be able to exclude gays from marriage and even prohibit members from marrying non members in the Church. That is completely different than what should be allowed by secular law.

  • Kevin JK

    The people of CA spoke when their state constitution was established and specified that voter initiatives are subject to the state Constitution. The state constitution requires all people to be treated equally. prop. 22 did not treat people equally it was therefore thrown out. that’s when the rights of gays to marry in CA was acknowledged. To get around that ruling, Prop.8 supporters sought to amend the state constitution, but that was thrown out because prop. 8 was determined to violate FEDERAL laws regarding equal protection. read the ruling. It is amazing how weak the pro 8 side’s arguments were. this started the near unanimous string of federal rulings by both liberal and conservative justices that acknowledge that anti-SSM laws violated equal protection.

    You and Harry seems to believe that voters can pass any type of laws that they want without regard to state and federal constitutions. They can’t. the role of judges is to protect the constitution from encroachment by the popular majority against the weak/unpopular minority. Because of this, their rulings are often unpopular with the majority. The ruling allowing mixed race marriages were extremely unpopular in the South.

    The bottom line is that prop. 8 sought to take away an established right and we LDS (and other Christians) violated scripture by seeking to take away that right based on our subjective religious beliefs.

    Question – If Prop 22, instead of preventing gays from marrying instead sought to establish the rights of gays to marry under CA’s equal protection laws, would you still support the Church’s efforts behind Prop. 8 to overturn SSM? IOW, if SSM were established by the vote of the people instead of by a judges ruling, would that have made prop.8 wrong?

  • TomW

    Sorry, Kevin, but the rights of the citizens of the state of California to amend their Constitution are inviolate. There is no existing federal law which renders the state Constitution moot over this issue.

  • Lee Poulsen

    This is why we need to reintroduce Civics classes into all primary and secondary schools again. TomW’s statement is completely wrong (or he is being disingenuous). There is the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution (Article 6, Clause 2) that makes federal laws trump any conflicting state laws or constitutions. (TomW may be being disingenuous in stating that California citizens have the inviolate right to amend their constitution any way they like–which is true. However, any new amendments the people might make that conflict with federal law or the U.S. Constitution are null and void from the outset. Just as the handful of states that still have anti-miscegenation clauses in their state constitutions cannot enforce those clauses.)

    Also, in the U.S. no majority can vote away constitutional rights of a minority (which is one of the reasons I believe that God had the Restoration occur in the U.S.). If the citizens of California had voted to amend the state constitution to reintroduce slavery, too bad, the amendment would be stillborn in the U.S. no matter how great the majority who voted for it. A lot of people seem to forget this these days.

  • Danny S

    So how do you explain the church removing Boyd K Packers 1976 conference talk from lds.org and subsequent curriculum materials as he’d never spoken? Apparently “scripture” takes a back seat to lawsuits. And how do you explain Ronald Poehlman’s talk being re-recorded after he gave it in general conference? The church even added a cough track to dupe later listeners into believing it’s the original talk. Talk about duplicity. I don’t think a truly inspired church would have to stoop to such tactics. Furthermore do you maintain that racist comments given in conference talks in the 1800s were “scripture”? Hint: the church essay on blacks and the priesthood now disavows such prior statements. So apparently conference talks are scripture…until they aren’t. Bottom-line, as it currently stands there is no immutable doctrine beyond Jesus is our savior, the church is the restored gospel, and the Thomas s monson is a prophet. Everything else seems up for grabs. I would submit even the immutable are problematic. What’s the last thing a “modern” prophet translated or prophesied?

  • Kevin JK

    All state constitutions must conform to the federal one. This is why liberal and conservative judges across the country are killing state bans on SSM. A state can’t deny a federally protected right.

  • HarryStamper

    Elder Packer’s talk is found and published in the official conference report of the church, the Ensign or on-line sites are not official, the conference report is on file at many places. In addition, the church made the talk into a pamphlet and handed out thousand’s of times by priesthood leaders. Side note, I attended that priesthood meeting and was an eye witness, I remember and heard the talk live.

    Elder Poelman’s requested to edit and change his own talk and was not asked or forced to. His originally talk was approved by the brethern. It’s actually example of how serious they take these word’s with knowledge they are printed forever. The video change was necessary to match his edited version. The video version’s were a new thing for the church at the time. The church did not add a cough track, the tabernacle had many people in it during his redo of the talk…..it’s well known you can hear a pin drop in there.

    Conference talks since about 1963 are submitted approved and edited for clarity, accuracy and time, the church stands behind these, especially those spoken by apostles and the first presidency as the “voice of the Lord”…..

  • TomW

    Except, Kevin, there remains as of yet no federally protected right to same-sex marriage.

  • Kevin JK

    Agreed, but there is no right to straight marriage either in the Constitution. The Supreme Court has said that marriage is an unalienable right and part of the pursuit of happiness. What IS in the Constitution is the Equal Protection clause which requires all people to be treated equally under the law. SSM bans deny this right and that’s why they are dropping like flies, by judges both liberal and conservative.

    Idaho’s ban is before a panel of judges and they have given 2 reasons for their ban – #1 to promote a bond between children and their biological parents and to discourage fathers from abandoning their children. Since there is no logical way those things are promoted by banning SSM, Idaho’s ban will fall for clearly not meeting even “rational basis scrutiny”. Gays are entitled to “strict scrutiny” protections since they meet the 4 requirements. This is why SSM bans are being overturned. They forward no legitimate government purpose.

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