Sadly, some time ago that link proved to be a dead end. Diligent searches uncovered a chapter or two scattered here and there on the internet, but I have been unable to find all the chapters together in one location. This was lamentable, because if I had my wish, "Infallible Authority" would be read and pondered by every thinking latter-day Saint.
My friend Spektator, proprietor of the insightful website Just and True, did what I should have done myself. He contacted the author and was sent a .pdf file of the entire document which he in turn forwarded to me just this morning. I still wished to see the entire document online in one place, and it eventually dawned on me that I have the capability to see to that. So I have asked permission from the author to post it here at Pure Mormonism, which I will do one chapter at a time over the next two weeks, and then compile the links together in a box so the entire work can always be accessible here.
After that I'll return with a post of my own authorship, but in the meantime I hope you'll take the time to read Dewey's remarkable analysis. You are sure to find it food for thought as each chapter just gets better than the last. So here is chapter one:
J. J. Dewey
Chapter One: Examining Infallibility
If a 14th Article of Faith were ever written for the Mormon Church, it might well read, “We believe in the infallibility of the president of the Church so long as he is living. However, after he is dead, his statements are subject to error. The longer he has been dead, the more cautiously one should view his words.”
When I was a boy, I often heard the doctrine of the infallibility of the Pope criticized as being ridiculous; but as the years passed, I heard less and less criticism of infallibility and more praise for the brethren, especially our president. Now the LDS have virtually reached the same state of crystallization as the Catholic Church in this matter to the extent that they accept the words of their president pertaining to doctrine (even though they may be given in his own name) with the same weight that the Catholics accept the words of the Pope.
Contrary to popular belief, the Catholics do not look upon the Pope as a infallible in his own right. They realize that he is human as you or I. They merely accept him as being infallible when personally representing the Son of God and speaking on doctrine and church affairs. His words do not have to be claimed as revelation or even inspiration; he merely has to speak and he is to be trusted and believed without question.
Is this not the way the Mormon people are encouraged to feel about their president? Then why not call a spade a spade and openly call it the doctrine of the “Infallibility of the Prophet”?
How did such a doctrine of infallibility get started in a church which, for the first sixty years, did not even call itself a sect, and whose leaders cringed at being called a sectarian?
Unfortunately, it was introduced by one of the sweetest, most gentle, and sincere of persons to ever attain a position in the Church - namely Wilford Woodruff. In defending the Manifesto of 1890, he said, “The Lord will never permit me nor any other man who stands as president of this church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty.” (Wilford Woodruff, Oct 6, 1890 Conference)
From the above statement, the Church concurs that if the prophet were to do anything to lead the Church astray, his life would be taken before he could do any damage; thus it is impossible for the Church to be out of order.
I heard a fairly renown Mormon speaker sum up the current belief when he said, “The Lord has given us a yardstick whereby we cannot fail. The prophet. We may rest assured that he will always lead us right, for the Lord has promised us that he will never lead us astray. In all other dispensations there was apostasy, but this one is different. This is the dispensation of the fullness of times, and this time the church cannot fall.”
Could such a doctrine be correct? Think for a moment - if it is not, if it is possible for the church to fail today as the Lord has said (we’ll point out references later), then could you think of a doctrine that would cause any greater rejoicing in hell?
I think not, for then if Satan could get a foothold on the president, he could then lead the whole church. Such doctrine reminds me of Nephi’s words: “And others he will pacify, and lead them away in to carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion, yea, Zion prospereth, all is well - and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to bell ... . Wo unto him that is at ease in Zion! Wo be unto him that crieth All is well! ... Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man (a President for instance?), or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost. Wo be unto the Gentiles, saith the Lord of Hosts! (Remember the Gentiles are those who first receive the Book of Mormon - In other words, the LDS people) For not withstanding I shall lengthen out mine arm unto them from day to day, they will deny me.” (II Nephi 28:21, 24-25; 31-32)
Let us walk on to forbidden territory for a moment and actually question the words of a prophet. Was Wilford Woodruff right in what he said? If he was right, then do we understand him correctly? In examining his words, we first see that they are spoken in his name and not the Lord’s. He starts out, “I say...” He does not claim that his words are inspired; thus they cannot carry an equal weight with any previous revelation. Therefore, if we were to find a previous revelation which conflicted with the above statement, then that would take ascendancy.
Is there such a revelation? Yes, there are several. For instance, in speaking of the prophet of the Church, the Lord said, “And all they who receive the oracles of God, let them beware how they hold them lest they are accounted as a light thing, and they are brought under condemnation thereby, and stumble and fall when the storms descend, and the winds blow, and the rains descend and beat upon their house.” (D&C 90:5)
If it is impossible for the prophet to lead the Church astray, then why did the Lord say this?
How could a prophet possibly stumble and fall? Why did Joseph Smith warn: “When the head is sick, the whole body is faint?” (Doc. Hist. of the Church, Vol. 2, pg. 146) Why did he also say, “Were he (Sidney Rigdon) to preside, he would lead the Church to destruction in less than five years”? (DHC 6:592) Why did Joseph also warn that, “If the people departed from the Lord, they must fall - that they were depending on the prophet, hence were darkened in their minds.” (DHC 5:19) Also, “If one member becomes corrupt, and you know it, you must immediately put it away, or it will either injure or destroy the whole body” (the Church). (DHC 4:605)
Do not the scriptures tell us clearly that “God is the same yesterday, today and forever,” and “with him there is no variables.” (See I Nephi 10:18, 11 Nephi 2:4; Heb 3:8; and James 1:17. ) Therefore, the pattern that God followed yesterday will be repeated in principle today and tomorrow.
Did you realize that only eight pages of the entire New Testament was written by the president of the church? This, of course, was Peter. Paul, who wrote more than anyone else, according to many scholars, was not even a member of the quorum of the twelve, but had a special calling directly by Christ to be “the apostle of the gentiles.” (Rom. 11:13) He was an apostle “neither by man, but by Jesus Christ.” (Gal. 1:1)
To affirm that the scholars are correct, we find that the Lord told Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer that “you are called with that same calling with which he [Paul] was called.” (D&C 18:9)
Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer were never members of the quorum of twelve, yet they were called apostles in early LDS history. Thus, if they had been worthy, they could have written scriptures as good and as authorized as Paul.
Did not Brigham Young say, “Is this (the spirit of prophesy) the privilege of every person? It is.” (Journal of Discourses 3:89) Joseph Smith said, “No man is a minister of Jesus Christ without being a prophet,” (DHC 3: 389) Unto the Lord’s servants, he said, “And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture... .” (D&C 68:4)
The Lord was not referring to the president of the Church here or even all the general authorities exclusively, but He was speaking to all his servants. Is it not clear that the Lord can write scripture through whomever He pleases? Is He not a higher authority than the president of the Church? Did He not write scripture through non-general authorities in the past? Even two of the gospels, Mark and Luke, were written by individuals who were mere junior companions in the mission field and held no known position, yet they wrote scriptures binding on the entire Church today. What chance for acceptance would scripture written through a junior LDS missionary companion have today? Verily none, except among those who would be expelled from the Church.
Almost all the Old Testament was written by those who were not general authorities. Even Moses had no position among the Elders when he was called, neither did Enoch who was “but a lad”. . David was anointed in secret to preserve his life after Saul led the Kingdom astray.
Interestingly, LDS general authorities often quote Amos to substantiate that the Lord will deal through “recognized” prophets: “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants, the prophets.” (Amos 3:7)
Ironically, Amos was far from being a general authority. He said, “I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son, but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit. And the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me: go prophesy unto my people Israel.” (Amos 7:14-15)
Verily, Amos had no position in the church, but prophesied to the whole church. Could it happen again? Why not?
Lastly, Jesus, the carpenter’s son, was no general authority, but acknowledged, “The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses seat; all therefore whatsoever they bid you, that observe and do; but do not after their works; for they say and do not.” (Matt. 23:2-3)
However, these same leaders later commanded Peter and the disciples not to teach their doctrine and Peter replied, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)
Jesus had great struggles with these general authorities and they finally put him to death. Seeing this He said, “The kingdom of God shall be taken from you.” (Matt. 21:43) Interestingly, Jesus recognized that they yet had the keys to the kingdom because He said the kingdom “shall” be taken.
Likewise, for those who feel “all is well” in Zion we have the following warnings indicating the Church is indeed vulnerable:
Joseph Smith wrote: “Now brother Orson, if this church which is essaying to be the Church of Christ will not help us, when they can do it without sacrifice, with those blessings which God has bestowed upon them. I prophesy-I speak the truth, I lie not - God shall take away their talent and give it to those who have no talent, and shall prevent them from ever obtaining a place of refuge ... .” (DHC 2:48)
Do the LDS have a place of refuge from future calamities? Verily no. Is their talent then taken away? I pause for reply.
“If you [the twelve] will not warn them [the nations] others Will and you will loose your crowns.” (DHC 2:197) Beware of pride lest ye become as the Nephites of old.” (D&C 38:39) If that doesn’t mean there is a possibility of the Church going astray, then what does? The Nephites of old fell into great spiritual darkness. How much clearer can the written word be?
Also, “Inasmuch as ye do it not [keep the word of the Lord], it shall be taken away, even that which ye have received,” (D&C 43:10)
“Be faithful in keeping my commandments lest judgments come upon you and your faith fail you, and your enemies triumph over you.” (D&C 136:42)
Joseph Smith said, “I will now ask this assembly and all the Saints if you will now build this house and receive the ordinances and blessings which God has in store for you; or will you not build unto the Lord this house, and let him pass by and bestow these blessings upon another people?” (DHC 5:427)
Many times the Lord clearly indicates that the Church is not immune to being cut off: “And if you do not these things at the end of the appointment ye shall be rejected as a church with your dead, saith the Lord your God.” (D&C 124:32)
“Wherefore let the church repent of her sins, and I the Lord will own them, otherwise they shall be cut off.” (D&C 63:63)
What would happen if the Church were cut off? Do you suppose you would hear our president announce the next day, “Well, brothers and sisters, I’ve got some had news - We’ve been cut off.” Far from it. Instead the Lord merely cuts them off from true revelation and they are left to struggle by themselves to lean on the arm of flesh. From that point on every favorable emotion is interpreted as the Holy Spirit.
On the other hand, many sincere people pray about the first vision, the truths of the Book of Mormon and the validity church doctrines and they do receive a witness from the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, after
receiving this answer, they automatically assume that everything else is in order.
An amazingly small number have ever asked God if He is pleased with His leaders today and if the Church is in order as it should be. Why? Because after they receive a witness they are deceived into thinking that it is a mark of unfaithfulness to doubt the leaders today. But is it? NO: It is only a sin to doubt the Holy Spirit.
Why did Joseph Smith say, “You will live to see men arise in power in the Church who will seek to put down your friends and the friends of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Many will be hoisted because of their money and worldly learning which they seem to be in possession of; and many who are the true followers of our Lord and Savior will be cast down because of their poverty.” (Mosiah Hancock Journal, pg. 28)
Why did Brigham Young say, “Brethren, this church will be led on to the very brink of hell by the leaders of this people.” (Attested to by Joshua Jones, 1861, Provo Bowery)
Why did John Taylor say, “The church will go into bondage both temporally and spiritually and in that day the One Mighty and Strong spoken of in the 85th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants would come.” (A LEAF IN REVIEW Page 235.)
Again why did the Lord say, “Beware of pride lest ye become as the Nephites of old.” (D&C 38:39)
After all these witnesses, can you not consider, my friends, the possibility that the Church needs to be set in order as prophesied in D&C 85 and later by Brigham Young and John Taylor? Those who did not consider that Jesus was the Christ never obtained the witness. Even so, the LDS who believe that revelation can only come through the head of the church are in danger of missing out on the words of many different prophets.
All true prophets have admitted the possibility of error, especially when depending on their human ability. For instance, Nephi said, “And now, if I do err, even did THEY ERR OF OLD; not that I would excuse myself because of other men, but because of the weakness which is in me, according to the flesh, I would excuse myself.” (I Nephi 19: 6)
Even the possibility of error in the Doctrine and Covenants is admitted by the Lord: “These commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding. And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known.” (D&C 1:24-25)
When Helaman (a prophet) was given the records and authority from his father, he was warned, “If ye transgress the commandments of God, behold, these things which are sacred shall be taken from you by the power of God, and ye shall be delivered up unto Satan, that he may sift you as chaff before the wind.” (Alma 37:15)
One time the prophet Peter made the mistake of refusing to eat with the Gentiles for fear of offending Jewish members and Paul “withstood him to his face because he was to be blamed.” (Gal. 2:8-14) Paul did this because he saw that Peter was leading the Church astray and such a bad example had to be brought to light.
Now we ask the question: If there was a danger that Peter, Helaman, Joseph Smith and others could fail, then how are we justified in believing that current “living prophets” have some mysterious immunity? Who says we are to trust in the arm of flesh?
Brigham Young warned us not to “pin our faith on another’s sleeve.” He also said, “Suppose that the leaders of this people had forsaken the Lord and should introduce, through selfishness, that which would militate against the kingdom of God on the earth, that which would in the issue actually destroy this people, how are you going to detect the wrong and know it from the right? You cannot do it unless you have the spirit of the Lord.
“Some may say, Brethren, you who lead the church, we have all confidence in you, we are not in the least afraid but what everything will go right under your superintendence; all the business matters will be transacted right; and if Brother Brigham is satisfied with it, I am. I do not wish any Latter-Day Saint in this world, nor in heaven, to be satisfied with anything I do, unless the spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit of revelation, makes them satisfied. I wish them to know for themselves and understand for themselves, for this would strengthen the faith that is in them. Suppose that the people were heedless, that they manifested no concern with regard to the things of the kingdom of God, but threw the whole burden upon the leaders of the people, saying, ‘If the brethren who take charge of matters are satisfied we are,’ this is not pleasing in the sight of the Lord.” (J. D. 3:44- 45)
Isn’t it strange that in Brigham Young’s day it was not pleasing to put our blind trust in the Lord’s servants, but today it is? That is - it looks as if it is. Today, those who say words forbidden by Brigham Young are looked upon as the faithful and the pillars in the Church and are rewarded with praise and positions. What are those condemned words? Let me repeat: “You who lead the Church, we have all confidence in you, we are not the least afraid but what everything will go right…”
On the other hand, those who say, “Wait, I’ve prayed about this and I think it is not right” are looked upon as rebellious and not taking counsel as they should. The watchers for iniquity are lurking, waiting for them to make a mistake so they can be cut off, for the light shineth in the darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not.
Brigham Young said that those who enter the Celestial Kingdom are “those who are valiant and inspired with the true independence of heaven, who will go forth boldly in the service of their God, leaving others to do as they please, determined to do right, though all mankind besides (including the prophet) should take the opposite course.” (J. of D. 1:312)
But what happens when such a person really tries to exercise the true “independence of heaven” among his brethren? Suspicion arises and iniquity is watched for and he is classified as one to be watched and not trusted with any position of influence. While it is true that rebellion should be punished, independence should be rewarded. If it is not rewarded, then the Body of Christ (the church) will have poor circulation and be of little use in the heat of the day.
In the days of Joseph Smith there was much more independence of thought than there is today. Joseph often publicly challenged anyone who disagreed with his doctrines to try and prove their case. He would justify all that he brought forth with logic and the scriptures. Such thinking drew intelligent and great men about him. Public debates on religion were encouraged.
Today any debates on the scriptures are viewed as “contention.” But in the early days people were encouraged to be as great as the prophet himself or greater. They were encouraged to prophesy, have dreams, see visions and seek the face of God, but even with all this independence of mind, Joseph said that “they were depending on the prophet, hence were darkened in their minds.”
If members were darkened in their minds in those days, where can their light be found today? Indeed, the LDS depend on the prophet more today than ever before in history. How can you ever become a God and rule others if you have to be ruled over in every trifle? One has to learn the independence of heaven and go forth as Jesus did and do what you know to be right. Remember - all the general authorities “frowned” on Christ and excommunicated anyone who followed Him.
Copyright J.J. Dewey, used with permission.
To continue to chapter two, click here
[A note from Rock about leaving comments: Many readers have posted as "Anonymous" even though they don't wish to, only because they see no other option. If you don't have a Google, Wordpress, or other username among those listed, you can enter a username in the dropdown box that reads "Name/URL." Put your name in the "Name" box, ignore the request for a URL, and you should be good to go.
I have a pretty firm policy of never censoring or deleting comments. If your comment does not immediately appear, it probably means it is being held in the spam filter, which seems to lock in arbitrarily on some posts for reasons unknown. If you have submitted a comment and it doesn't immediately show up, give me a nudge at RockWaterman@gmail.com and I'll knock it loose. -Rock]