Sunday, October 3, 2010

Preaching False Doctrine From The General Conference Pulpit

Elder Claudio R.M. Costa began his Saturday conference talk with the words "I am a convert to the church," so maybe we ought to cut him some slack.  It's quite possible that he just wasn't aware that the words he was quoting from the pulpit had already been rejected by the living prophet thirty years ago, just days after they were first spoken.

Then again, he's not the only faithful Mormon who didn't get the memo.  You can be a life-long member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and still cling to a point of view that has been repeatedly discredited by the living prophets going all the way back to Joseph Smith.

Elder Costa centered his conference talk around a controversial speech given by Ezra Taft Benson at BYU in 1980.  Elder Benson seemed to be making up new doctrine willy-nilly during that visit to Provo.  Some who have read it since then and agreed with him have declared that when Elder Benson spoke those words, he was "speaking as a prophet."  But one reason the talk was controversial was that Elder Benson was not the prophet at the time he gave that speech; Spencer W. Kimball was.  And President Kimball was very much bothered by the message Elder Benson had delivered that day to the BYU student body.

The title Elder Benson gave his talk was Fourteen Fundamentals In Following The Prophet, and the totality of his argument was that anything the president of the church said at any time on any subject should be taken as the will of the Lord and the mind of the Lord, and that obedience to the prophet at all times without question was essential to our salvation.

According to Spencer W. Kimball's son Edward, President Kimball was upset over the talk because he wanted "to protect the church against being misunderstood as ...espousing an unthinking 'follow the leader' mentality."  As the one actually holding the priesthood keys of Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, President Kimball was well aware that those gifts were manifest only under specific conditions, and he was sensitive to the reality that many in the church were already too willing to stamp every utterance of a General Authority with the gravitas of a vatical decree. 

The President of the church was concerned enough to insist Benson apologize for the speech to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, but according to LDS historian Michael Quinn, some in that quorum were dissatisfied with his response.  Kimball then required Elder Benson to explain himself to a combined meeting of all general authorities the following week.  This was a big deal to Benson and his family, who feared the possibility of a formal rebuke.  Happily, "the meeting went well for Benson, who 'explained that he meant only to reaffirm the divine nature of the prophetic call.'"

Well Then, How About A Retraction?

The leadership may have been mollified by Elder Benson's stated motivation for giving the talk, but the substance of it remained out there with its falsehoods left uncorrected.  Faithful latter-day Saints were buying the transcript in the BYU Bookstore, listening to the cassette recording, and discussing it as though it were gospel.  The rank and file membership of the church have never been told that anyone in the Church hierarchy at the time considered anything in that talk undoctrinal or problematic.

And so here we are today, thirty years later.  With the  participants in the original controversy long dead and gone, a known heresy ends up as the centerpiece of the Saturday Morning Session of Conference and suddenly attains respectability.

It's instructive that when Elder Benson succeeded Spencer Kimball as president of the church, he did not revisit this issue nor insist on any type of blind obedience to his own authority.  Perhaps now that he held the keys he could tell the difference between divine revelation and personal opinion.  Throughout his years of service in the church, I have found Benson's speeches and writings among the most instructive, and certainly among my personal favorites.  When speaking or writing on the subject of America's founding and destiny, he is second to none, particularly in relation to Book of Mormon warnings and prophecy.  His appreciation for our constitution and the necessity of guarding it against encroachment is perhaps his greatest legacy.  His exegesis of Book of Mormon prophecy regarding the falling away of the Latter-day Saints infuses much of my writing here.  I am a fan.

As a former member of President Dwight Eisenhower's cabinet, Benson knew first hand about the inroads being made by groups that the Book of Mormon referred to as "Secret Combinations" -cabals of men who throughout history have combined themselves together in secret with the aim of usurping the freedom and independence of others.

Eisenhower and Benson were united in their condemnation of what Eisenhower called the Military-Industrial Complex then being promoted by seemingly innocuous organizations like the Rand Corporation, whose members secretly advocated wholesale slaughter of Americans and foreigners alike in order to feed state power.  President Benson's warnings of such secret combinations have proven prophetic, as today these groups don't even seem to care that they're not so secret anymore.  They often now boast openly of their intentions, as shown in the new documentary film Invisible Empire.

But nothing resembling his usual foresight was present in the talk Ezra Taft Benson gave at BYU in 1980.  Where he normally backed up his statements with scriptural citations, in this case Benson simply made blanket declarations as though the mere act of stating them would imbue them with divine authority. Many of the "keys" he insisted as vital, actually contradicted both scripture and the long-held teachings of the living prophets.  It was a rare performance, undoctrinal and uncharacteristic of an otherwise brilliant mind.  He was out of line with this one, and the Prophet was right to call him on it.

In the end, however, President Kimball's fears were realized.  The substance of Benson's talk, along with news of the reproof Benson received for delivering it, was picked up by Newsweek magazine and provided ammunition for the church's enemies who used it as further evidence that Mormonism is a cult whose central authority demands blind obedience from its followers.  In addition, those who like to claim that Mormons are not Christian had a field day pointing out how Benson taught that salvation hangs on how diligently one adheres to the words of the Mormon prophet, rather than upon the redeeming power of Christ.  He really handed this one to the enemy.

 Why Again?  Why Now?

It is worth wondering why such a discredited sermon as this was repeated yesterday from the pulpit at General Conference.  It's one thing for someone to deliver such words to an audience of university students and faculty, but when presented at the official conference of the Church, those words are seen as doctrine in the minds of the majority.  Unlike a hundred years ago, conference talks today are vetted and approved for dissemination well ahead of time, so it's difficult to believe that this false doctrine simply slipped through unnoticed.  The authorities have been very careful about combing through the talks in advance, particularly those given by untried lower-level speakers ever since that conference session in 1984 when way too much truth slipped out and had to be frantically bottled back up.

Is it possble that the institutional Church actually wants to steer its members into accepting "doctrine" that was once openly condemned?  Is it a move calculated to maintain control over a membership which is more and more beginning to question the propriety of the Church's institutional over-reach?

As discussed here previously, David O. McKay fought a losing battle against a segment of the governing body of the Church who felt it was their province to declare the doctrine, and the province of the members to echo what they say or to remain silent. (McKay's biographers document his discovery in the early 1960's that the negro ban on the priesthood had never been based on any revelation whatsoever, but was merely clung to by long-standing tradition.  He wanted to reverse the ban way back then, but was stymied in his efforts because he was opposed by several of the Twelve and could not get a sufficient number of votes from the Quorum to go along with him.)

The programs and policies of the church in the twenty-first century differ markedly from that of the mid twentieth, and the twentieth century church was already showing a radical departure from the way the church operated in 1830 and 1840.  Still, this mania for blind obedience to Church authority keeps surfacing, only to be officially slapped down again and again by those who actually hold the keys of prophecy.  But recently this falsehood seems to be taking a firmer hold, and I no longer see those in high office scrambling to make the corrections.  In spite of what some of lesser office have declared from time to time, Joseph Smith held that a person who advocated such unquestioning obedience "should not claim a rank among intelligent beings."

The Blindly Obedient Leading The Blind

What shall we then make of the sometimes subtle change in direction of the corporate church?  When I speak of the corporate church, I mean the arbitrary rules of the monolithic, bureaucratic institution as opposed to the traditional teachings received via scriptures and divine revelation from latter-day Prophets in the church.  A brilliant writer by the name of Tom maintains a site he calls Truth Hurts, where he seems to have a pretty good handle on this decline of true doctrine and its replacement with an unsupported counterfeit.  He quotes the prophet Joseph F. Smith over a hundred years ago:
“Not a man in this Church, since the Prophet Joseph Smith down to the present day, has ever asked any man to do as he was told blindly. No Prophet of God, no Apostle, no President of a Stake, no Bishop, who has had the spirit of his office and calling resting upon him, has ever asked a soul to do anything that they might not know was right and the proper thing to do. We do not ask you to do anything that you may not know it is your duty to do, or that you may not know will be a blessing for you to do.” (Joseph F. Smith, Collected Discourses, ed. Brian H. Stuy, Vol. 3 (Burbank, B.H.S. Publishing 1987-1992).
Those are the words of a true prophet.  But a half century later, an insidious new doctrine was making inroads.  Contrast President Smith's words with the lesson Elder Benson wished his listeners to adopt.  He is quoting here from Marion G. Romney:
I remember years ago when I was a Bishop I had President [Heber J.] Grant talk to our ward. After the meeting I drove him home....Standing by me, he put his arm over my shoulder and said: "My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it." Then with a twinkle in his eye, he said, "But you don't need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray."
I don't know if you caught that.  According to Romney's counsel, which Ezra Taft Benson once endorsed, if you do something wrong the Lord will bless you for it as long as you have the excuse that someone else told you to do it.

That, brothers and sisters, is heresy.  It is not supported anywhere in the standard works, or in any modern revelation from any prophet in these latter days.  It simply does not exist in any teachings of the Restoration.  Yet I'm sure you know faithful members of the church who teach and believe that abomination.  Perhaps you believe it yourself, in which case here's my question for you:  Why in the world do you think you have been given the gift of the Holy Ghost if you don't think you're ever expected to use it?

I have been told by some visitors to this site that they find my occasional lack of deference to authority more than a little disturbing.  I've been told I make them feel uncomfortable.  Well, if you can think of another word besides heresy to describe a religious teaching that flies in the face of all scripture and common sense, I'll use that one instead.  In the meantime, you should feel uncomfortable if you favor the belief in unsupported decrees over the revealed word of God.

Writing over at Truth Hurts, Tom included the above Romney quote in a piece questioning the use of indoctrination present in the Primary song "Follow the Prophet, He Knows the Way."

"It really is shocking," Tom writes, "when you look at it this way.  Perhaps it’s true that the culture is so screwed up that they’d benefit from a prophet coming amongst us to tell us to repent, or await the certain destruction that’s coming.  Perhaps it’s true we need an outside voice.  That’s fine.  But how about we draw the line somewhere?  Perhaps we could draw that line at – oh, I don’t know – Follow the Savior, He Knows the Way."

One year ago this month I wrote a piece that I think is a pretty decent analysis of this so-called "doctrine" of Following the Prophet.  I believe it is a complete enough discussion of the subject that a reasonable person should be able to come to a conclusion about whether the doctrine is real or a counterfeit.

Since I wrote that piece, this blog has attracted more than twenty-five thousand new visitors.  If you happen to be among those new readers and you missed it the first time out, I invite you to look it over and decide for yourself whether or not "Follow the Prophet" is a bona fide doctrine of the Restoration.  If you disagree with my conclusions, I welcome your response, but I do ask that you cite your authorities.  I won't accept mere speculation.  No matter how much you have been taught something is true, or how much you want it to be true, you're going to have to show me that it is true.  Wishing that the "Leaders" in Salt Lake will take charge over us so we don't have to do our own thinking is how we members of the body of Christ let the Church slip from our control in the first place.

Here's that link: 

UPDATE October 6, 2012: I just came upon this excellent 5 part analysis of President Benson's talk on the Fourteen Fundamentals at the blog, "In Mount Zion" available by clicking here.


Ron Madson said...

Thank you. Very well done. This needs to be shared in every ward IMO. I couldn't agree more.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post. I also found the talks a little cringeworthy. I was hoping for a little more glasnost. Dallin Oaks' talk on Sunday also chapped my hide a little. The idea that God's direct voice to man (the spirit) is subordinate to anything as far as spiritual judgement is concerned is disconcerting.

Theoretically, the Spirit tells us the church leaders are prophets. How then can the church leaders say not to listen to the spirit? Does that mean the spirit didn't know what it was talking about when it told us they were prophets? Fairly problematic in my opinion.

Anyway, I had hoped to see a little more inclusiveness and a little less "if you dont' agree you are going straight to hell". Oh well, wish in one hand and poop in the other and see which one fills up first.

Regards, and thanks for the many quality posts,

Brian D

TuNeCedeMalis said...

Thanks a lot Rock. Great post. I can't wait to read the comments it generates.

As I read the post I kept saying in my heart...

"Wake up everyone, wake up good members of he church, open your eyes and see what your complacency and prophet worship are turning this church into. Stop being afraid of making waves, teach the truth.

Stop attacking others for thinking different than you and take a moment to actually hear what they are saying."

While I think the church is simply too far gone at this point to really become what the Savior wants it to become, absent a direct setting in order by him, we are not to far done to right some serious wrongs and at least assist in bringing the true spirit back into the lives of many saints.

It's not too late. Wake up.


Anonymous said...

I am also a fan of Brother Ezra, Rock.

He is one of the most inspired of the most recent "Presidents of the Church"

The irony of all of this is that he also tried to warn us that false doctrines are taught from the pulpits in the church.

Here is what he said-

"Not only are there apostates within our midst, but there are also apostate doctrines that are sometimes taught in our classes and from our pulpits and that appear in our publications. And these apostate precepts of men cause our people to stumble.

As the Book of Mormon, speaking of our day, states: ". . . they have all gone astray save it a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men."

So at least we should give Benson credit for warning us that false doctrines are taught from our pulpits that cause us to stumble.

Indeed we are taught by the precepts of men that cause us to stumble...

Calimom said...

I'm so grateful to have my favorite bloggers to turn to after this conference! I knew you would have something to say that would make me feel better - not because what you say puts me at east - but because I knew you would have noticed what I did. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one who is bothered by such things - the only one who even sees them out here in the real world. Of coarse I'm not, but when almost every one I know personally was SO enamored with the counsel they received these last few days, I start feeling a little overwhelmed. Conference was literally heartbreaking for me - especially after 2 speakers quoted the follow the prophet heresy. And then, it seemed that nearly every other speaker mentioned the idea of this blind obedience in some subtle/not-so-subtle way.

dan said...

Holy Smokes Rock, well done. As I said to some other guys...

I am still in hangover mode trying to get over everything I just digested in conference, and Troy sends me here to find that you're hard at work. Well done.

It should be pointed out, and I am just about to blog on, that this talk was covered not once in conference. but TWICE. Dogmatism rears its head.

Anthony E. Larson said...

Another well written, well thought out piece, Rock. I'm a fan.

By the way, when do you intend to sign up for one of my classes? I thought I saw your name on one registration, but you failed to show up for the class. You're one of those who I would very much like to cast an analytical eye on my work. Check out the upcoming classes.

Dave P. said...

Connor Boyack and I had some pretty interesting exchanges/discussions over Twitter during the session and this post pretty much covered everything I wanted to say, but it's a bit difficult to do so in snippets of 140 characters.

What's even worse is the fact that the "14 Fundamentals..." was referenced in a second talk later that day and I know to feel disturbed in general when a speaker makes several more mentions of "the prophet" than the Savior and/or the gospel.

Overall this conference did have some good speakers, namely Elder Holland and President Uchdorf in the Saturday morning session, but things went downhill from there and I felt the Sunday afternoon session was entirely unnecessary due to its complete lack of uplifting messages. All I got out of it was a fire and brimstone feeling for being a gamer and having encountered porn in my life. Not only that, but apparently the way to raise children is to lock them in a cage.

Anonymous said...

The sad truth is that most people need to be led. We're build that way until we change. I have not seen ANY Prophets past or present who have actually led people astray or caused any harm to those who follow. If people lose faith in following the Prophet - where is he going anyway? - then things can fall apart. It seems essential for any organization, earthly or heavenly to have people follow the rules and follow the leaders. That may not be a bad idea to keep things in order and in perspective.
The whole concept of "following" the Prophet is wrong. You "follow" Jesus and you "heed" the Prophet. Two separate things. Jesus said: "Come, Follow ME!" He Didn't say, "Come, Follow Him!"
OTOH, we shouldn't be so proud that we can't heed a man who only has our best interest in mind.I am sure that it's not easy to wake up in the morning with a title of "prophet" in front of your name, especially at their age. Seriously, what could an 82-year old man possibly want from people but the best blessing upon them?

Anonymous said...

Elder Benson probably knew that Joseph preached against polygamy his whole life & denied ever living it. Thus, how could he say that a Prophet would never lead the Church astray when he probably knew that Joseph taught all the members to abhor polygamy & never accept it & that he never lived it & they shouldn't believe the rumors going around that he did.

Wouldn't that be considered leading the members astray? Especially if the Lord was trying to get the members prepared to soon accept polygamy? Many members absolutely refused to believe Brigham Young's teachings about polygamy because of Joseph's firm testimony & teachings against it.

So, if Joseph really lived it, didn't he lead the Church astray & make it very hard to eventually follow what Brigham said was right, when he presented polygamy later? Is it ok for a Prophet to lie about something to the membership his whole life, especially something as huge as polygamy & it not be leading them astray?

That's if he did live it, which it appears he might never have, for Joseph denied it & who do we believe? A Prophet's own testimony or someone who said he said & did something?

Anonymous said...

@Anonyouse 10:38, He doesn't wake up with the title of Prophet in front of his name, his calling is to be President of the church. We need to stop thinking that just because he is the leader of the church that he is a Prophet. A Prophet has seen the Savior and has had experiences with Him. I have not heard Monson say that he has seen the Savior, nontheless, Anyman who is a good man can want the best for those who look to him. His call is to communicate with the Savior, and try to have his calling and election made sure, just like all of us. He is President of the church, only to lead the church, it is for us to decide whether he is inspired of God or not.

Tom said...

Thanks for posting this. I wish I could say thanks for the "brilliant" part, but will have to graciously decline. Just the musings of some random fellow on a journey like everyone else.

I didn't get a chance to listen to much of conference (thankfully?). I only listened to brief parts of the Sat. morning and Sun. afternoon sessions. Every part I did listen to discussed with the 14 Fundamentals, or "you can either follow the arm of flesh, or follow the prophet," or Oaks talk on subordinating our personal lines of communication with the Father to that of the hierarchical priesthood line.

So, if I were new to the church or anyone else, I'd be left to believe that that was the main counsel they wanted me to hear. After all, it was said in essentially every discourse. Even my mother (a true blue if ever there were one) noted how they were striking that chord a LOT more than usual.

Its easily (IMO) the worst possible talk one could give over the pulpit. I actually didn't hear it from Costa, but the other fellow who likewise felt compelled to read it word-for-word on my way out the door.

What's sad about it, is for all the good Benson did in so many areas, this single talk is responsible for more oppression on those who choose to think differently than any talk I know.

Uncomfortable with the route the church is taking? Follow the prophet.

Have questions on where to look for salvation? Follow the prophet.

Question a cultural doctrine, like the way the sacrament is presented? Follow the prophet.

Want to know more about a particular mystery? Follow the prophet.

Want to know whether to get a can of veggies, or the fresh ones at the farmers' market? Follow the prophet.

Need advice for a particular TV show? Follow the prophet.

Thinking of drinking green tea, or beer? Follow the prophet.

I've heard most of all of the above, each in combination with this talk and how pride was the only reason why I was having issues with any of the above. It's my experience that it's merely been a tool to oppress someone who wants to know more or see more.

Anyway, thanks for the timely article. Hopefully some people mosy on over here from and read it.

P.S. My wife is one who thoroughly believes the "if you do it, and it's wrong, the Lord will still bless you" doctrine. :)

Dave P. said...

Another sad realization is the sheer number of talks about agency were in a high-enough number to consider agency as the theme of the entire conference were all completely contradicted and nullified by all of the "follow the prophet" mantra everywhere else.

Emily A. said...

Excellent post once again. Thank you for your thoughts.

Frederick said...


Thanks for pointing that out about how Benson's talk was received by President Kimball. Like many things in church history, I had no idea. I too felt uncomfortable by that talk, and looked up the source immediately. I am a huge fan of President Benson so I thought, hmmm maybe I'm missing something. Anyway, I did think there were some great talks and I got some great personal revelation during conference. We watched at home on the computer. In between Sunday sessions I watched the biography on David O McKay. It brought me to tears several times and I highly recommend watching it. All in all, this was a spiritual weekend, but that talk more than any other made me say, hmmmm.... And I found it interesting to hear it repeated again a second time. As always, I love your blog.

Take care

Porter said...

Rock, loved this post, but I need your advice. I am the gospel doctrine teacher and have taught lessons on modern revelation several times. I frequently comment on how lucky we are to have living prophets, but why haven't we added to the D&C since 1978? There sure are a lot of things that are happening now that I would love to see some new scripture on.

Predictably I am admonished by class members (who are by now used to my provocative questions) that the latest version of the Ensign (particularly the conference edition) IS MODERN DAY REVELATION and that it should be sitting next to my scriptures as they are really one and the same. Right.

I don't agree, but in the context of a Sunday School class it is exceedingly difficult to challenge this common assumption that the current conference talks are the equivalent of scripture. In fact, I think speakers at conference have specifically said this, haven't they?

I like my calling and don't particularly want to be released, which I am sure would happen if I told them what I really think, which is that I'm not sure were getting any these days.

So how should I handle this issue in class?

Tom said...

I've liked this in terms of GC being "scriptural" or "revelation", partly because it comes from something members generally trust, and that's half the battle:

As Harold B. Lee said, “It is not to be thought that every word spoken by the General Authorities is inspired, or that they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost in everything they write.”16 To claim that anything taught in general conference is “official” doctrine, notes J. F. McConkie, “makes the place where something is said rather than what is said the standard of truth. Nor is something doctrine simply because it was said by someone who holds a particular office or position. Truth is not an office or a position to which one is ordained.”17

This is also pretty good:

“Christ’s message is his authority. His words are what distinguish His true ministers from false ones He never sent. Anyone teaching His truth should be recognized as His messenger. He taught this to Moroni. Those who will receive Christ in any generation do so because they hear and recognize His words (see Ether 4:12). Anyone who will not believe in His words, no matter who He sends to speak them, will not believe in Christ or His Father. Those who trust only institutional sources of truth, whether they are Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, or Latter-day Saint, believe in an institution, and do not believe in Christ. The ability to individually recognize His words distinguishes those who are saved from those who are lost.”

Jen Fenstermaker said...

I would like to add some food for thought, not just my opinion on the matter, although we are talking about not blindly following others, and therefore I chose not to blindly follow everything said in this paper, “Preaching False Doctrine From The General Conference Pulpit”. I do not entirely disagree with it however.

Let me begin by saying that I think many forward thinkers, including Mr. Waterman, have great minds and the ability to think outside the box and find deeper incite then others and that is why they are placed here on the earth. The Lord, as we are taught, understands us as a society and I am sure knows that we need a variety of people to bless our lives with understanding and to edify us. Having said that, perhaps one of the reasons some of his words are “a little disturbing” or make some “feel uncomfortable” is because they are not necessarily written with the sole purpose of edification. The best approach to bringing into light truths that others need to hear is with love and conviction. Simply said, we cannot always get our point across by speaking kindly, but it sure doesn’t hurt to try.

Jen Fenstermaker said...

...So, I will take the approach of: “Follow the Prophet He Knows the Way” that line is doctrine. The line does not say follow the prophet blindly, or do everything the prophet says, even if it’s wrong. The most important part of the quote by Heber J. Grant is: "But you don't need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray."

It is helpful to go back to the basics, the scriptures, the actual doctrine. As stated in D&C 21:4-7, we are to “give heed unto all his words and commandments”. Remembering that our Lord God gives our prophets, seers, and revelators to wisdom and words to say, and our prophet, specifically the keys with which to maintain the doctrine.

4 Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give aheed unto all his words and bcommandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all choliness before me;
5 For his aword ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.
6 For by doing these things the agates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of bdarkness from before you, and cause the heavens to cshake for your dgood, and his name’s eglory.
7 For thus saith the Lord God: Him have I inspired to move the cause of aZion in mighty power for good, and his diligence I know, and his prayers I have heard.

It is not simply because I dislike anyone questioning the words of “those in authority”. However, I know that they are in their specific callings for specific reasons. Our prophet will not lead us astray and so we do not need to worry about that. I did and still do sustain Elder Claudio R.M. Costa and the prophet, President Thomas S. Monson. I believe, as the scriptures say that the prophet speaks as if from the mouth of our Heavenly Father.

In closing, I wanted to point out a few lines from the First Presidency Preface to the Hymns. From the final section: Music in Our Personal Lives, which reads: In addition to blessing us as Church and family members, the hymns can greatly benefit us as individuals. Hymns can lift our spirits, give us courage, and move us to righteous action. They can fill our souls with heavenly thoughts and bring us a spirit of peace

Our prophet and all of the general authorities are called of God and I sustain them, not blindly, but with Faith, knowing that God would not permit them to do anything that would lead us astray or down a path of destruction. We need to remember that our Heavenly Father, and our General Authorities want us to have courage to act righteously.

If there are a majority of members out there blindly following, I have not seen any studies on this. Furthermore, I have not seen nor heard any doctrine that backs this up. I have come into contact with a great many Latter-Day Saints who are eager to find the truths for themselves, and in their search look diligently to modern revelation - the most current doctrine we can get- from our prophet, the apostles, and even the general authorities.

Instead of looking at the glass half empty and finding fault in few words, let us focus on the multitude of doctrine taught that does uplift us and give us strength to continue enduring to the end. There is enough bad out there to judge, and plenty of good to be done in life-threatening and critical areas of existence. To pick apart a general authority in my opinion is to be in opposition of him and is not in keeping with sustaining him. Let the Lord judge and if He feels something is critical and needs to be reproved then He will make it known, perhaps the Prophet himself will even disagree with the words he spoke. However, just as in Church history when President Kimball was trying not to publically announce anything contrary to President Benson’s words so as not to bring more focus on something that was not critical, so now in modern times we should be relying on the Lord, that he knows best and He WILL give us the correct doctrine we need.

Dave P. said...

Imagine being part of an enormous group of people who are about to undertake an expedition through a dark and dangerous wilderness where there is only one guide who fully knows the correct path to the other side. The guide calls out the way by having everyone follow him, but his voice doesn't always reach out to the entire group as many of them won't listen to him directly.

Because of this the guide chooses several people from the group to repeat the message and directions to those who don't hear/listen to the guide directly. These assistants fall back behind the guide to point those who are going astray back to following the guide himself. The assistants may offer their own advice on how to get around or overcome a particular obstacle, but their main purpose is to point people back towards the guide so they can all traverse the path together, especially since the assistants do not fully know how to traverse the path themselves, they have to learn it along the way like the rest of the group.

However, there is most certainly the risk that part of the group or one of the assistants will feel that that particular assistant knows the path better than the guide and will thus blindly follow behind him, not knowing whether he's taking them back down the same path as the guide or down a different one entirely. The guide will of course call on the wayward assistant to correct his course, but that doesn't mean he will choose to do so.

Thus we can not "follow the prophet" as our obligation is to follow the Savior, for He knows the way. If the prophet is called to speak for the Lord (and thus makes it known that he's received a commandment to speak for the Lord) then we can "heed the prophet" because that is what's going to point us back along the path to the Savior as the man who is called as prophet walks alongside or even behind us.

One of Rock's posts from last year gives the warning that if you treat a group of people like they're the elite, then they're going to start believing that they are. And, quite frankly, there is more than one member of the current Quorom of the Twelve that I would be afraid to see become president of the church.

Anonymous said...

It's important to realize that the promise 'that the Lord will not let the Prophet lead the Church astray' is only true for "The Prophet, the president of the Church.

It is also 'only true' IF we ourselves have the Spirit to correctly interpret the words of The Prophet.

Most members seem to easily misinterpret the words of the Prophet & thus are lead astray to do evil by what they 'think' he said.

We must remember too that Apostles can, as many have in the past, lead the Church astray & preach false doctrines & go into apostacy themselves.

We are always accountable for our behavior no matter what a Prophet or Apostle may say. There is no such thing as blind obedience. It isn't possible.

Only those with the Spirit will interpret The Prophet or Apostles correctly & know if what they say is right or not, all others without the Spirit will easily & always be lead astray.

Anonymous said...

I like your analogy Dave P. It just makes me think even more about how, if we are somehow close enough to the guide or somehow manage to hear his voice, and the aqssistants are telling us something different, we need to follow the guide. Wow, run on sentence.

I've tried to explain this concept to people who believe the prophet trumps dead prophets and the scriptures. While modern prophet are more relevent than dead ones or scriptures they cannot and do not trump the word of God. If a modern prophet teaches contrary to the word of God then we are not to listen to them.

I agree with Jen Fenstermaker about not follow blogs blindly. It is kind of funny to think about. But a hard one for me is to not absorb everything a author of a blog says. Rather I should collect information and then present what I have learned to the Lord. The Lord will then confirm to me what I need to know. I try to always tell people I talk to that they shouldn't be listening to me for answers. They should go to the Lord. I am just a man and thus the arm of flesh. I don't have the answers but I do have questions.

As far as prophets never leading us astray I cannot believe that. It is found only one place in the scriptures(OD1). Yet there are dozens of other references which say that the Lord allows prophets to lead us astray to test weither we are following the Word of God or the word of the prophets.

Dave P. said...

Of course that makes me wonder if OD1 was voted i as scripture by the church rather than just the membership accepting the declaration itself, leading it to be tacked on at the end of the book of scripture, but that may just be me overthinking.

Do you have exact verses for those references handy? I'd love to be able to have a list ready at any time.

Anonymous said...

"Our prophet and all of the general authorities are called of God and I sustain them, not blindly, but with Faith, knowing that God would not permit them to do anything that would lead us astray or down a path of destruction."

"Knowing" that they will never lead you astray is called "blindly".

Anonymous said...

1 Kings 22:21-23
Deuteronomy 13:1-4
Jeremiah 5:13
Jeremiah 5:31
Jeremiah 6:13
D&C 101:43-62?

There's a good post about this over on There are many more references on his blog.

Dave P. said...

Thanks. That set from Deuteronomy definitely says it the most plainly.

Anonymous said...

Here's the link to weepingforzion's post. hopefully that works. If not search for, "can a 'prophet' deceive."

Yes, I like the Deuteronomy one. Ezekiel 14 is a good one too. I usually throw in the quote from Joseph Smith about how those who follow the prophet instead of standing fro themselves are darkened in their minds. And then somtime the one about how to tell and evil spirit, that they contradict previous revelations.

Using that in combination with 1 Kings 22:21-23 we could say that we can tell what kind of spirit is behind a revelation from a prophet. If it contradicts previous revelation then it is a false spirit.

Chris said...

It's funny how those of us who critically think about what a "prophet" says, comparing it to the scriptures and taking it to the Lord in prayer, rejecting what does not pass that test, are told by others how faithless we are. As if true faith were, in fact, being able to not have any doubt about a man's word. It's ridiculous. People get very agitated when I say to them that what someone said in conference does not measure up to the standard works or the Holy Spirit. Conference is mostly advice, stories, clever rhetoric and potentially good instruction, but rarely, especially nowadays, prophecy, revelation, or vision. Why do we even read in the scriptures that we should ponder if everything some president of the Church says is infallibly true?

"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." -Galileo Galilei

Jonas said...

I have been pondering this post for several days and something came to me that I get to share with you. Following the living prophet might not be as limiting as you think.
Doesn’t the concept of following a living prophet typify a dynamic organization? The problem with most of Christianity as I see it is that it died with its savoir. It has been static, stagnant and dead ever since. They see only what the Bible speaks. There is no other word, no other truth (which means new revelation cannot exist) no other possibility. However the LDS church in fact teaches quite differently.

To follow the living prophet then speaks to me of a dynamic, forward moving church who in fact believe in current revelation, (I didn’t say there is any current revelation coming out of SLC, just that it is at least recognized as a possibility), more scripture, more of “The Word” to come forth.

One of my favorite authors is Gregg Brayden. He is a scientist and writes and speaks much of the original biblical scriptures and how they were convoluted by the Counsel of Nicea during the time of Constantine. Much is left out, parts were changed and things added as suited the counsel. All this to use religion to condemn man and hold him in fear of God. According to Brayden, the visions the prophets saw, especially concerning the last days, are incomplete because the prophets saw that his time could one of beauty and magnificence.

The apostle John writes of all the mass destruction of our time. He is also the only one whose vision shows the flip side of that scenario. He says, “And then I saw a new Earth . . .” and he describes a most glorious place, filled with love and beauty. To my knowledge and upbringing, this has always been interpreted to mean that after the mass destruction there will be a renewing of the planet. Maybe, but I also see another possibility here.

When I dream I have what I call “scene flashes” where the dream jumps from one scene to another, often unrelated scene. With that in mind, then we can read John’s words two ways: one is stated above, while the other could simply mean that he had two visions; one of mass destruction and one of beauty and wonder.

I know that we, the people of Earth, are still writing the end of the story. Even God doesn’t know for sure what we will do or how this will end. That would make sense of a dynamic God. If it is already written and cannot be altered, then what is the point of all this? But if WE are the ones in control, then the story has no end until it’s over. It is up to us as a society to determine where we will end up. It is our choices day by day that bring destruction or peace.

This doesn’t mean it has to be one way or another. I also believe that there will be destruction - - - okay stop. There already IS destruction going on in the form of natural disasters, but by our choices as a society we can lessen the disasters, and have more of the beauty. The amount of destruction or beauty is truly up to us.

That makes God dynamic. If He/She has “A” church, it would also be dynamic and living prophets should be a part of that. If we only have part of the teachings of the prophets of old, then doesn’t it make sense to at least listen to the LIVING prophet who just might fill in the blanks that the Counsel of Nicea left out?

I am not suggesting “following the prophet” blindly, but that has been well covered in this blog. I’m saying that the teaching of listening to a living prophet can be a sound.

Rock old buddy, I sound like I’m going back to church. Ha! Ha! Not much chance of that because overall I see all churches as stagnant and ignorant. At the same time each serves a grand purpose, not to be trifled with. But if there were a single correct church, which there isn’t, then it would certainly have to include living prophets. And those living prophets would do really grand things like . . . prophesy!

To higher truth!

Truthseeker said...


I couldn't have written a better post here, my friend. I truly believe that there are 2 scenarios in Revelations, as you do. Those who have eyes to see and ears to hear will read between the lines and see what we both have.It doesn't have to end with us all burning to death.

I came to this conclusion some time ago. We really do have a choice! We have "stagnant" Christian churches that believe the Bible's every word to be literal. This world will be blasted to Heck and THEN...we will either go to Heaven or Hell.

I can not believe in this end anymore. After all of my prayer and study over the years, including the knowledge of what happened at Nicea, I do believe if we wake up, we can save ourselves from this devastation. Unfortunately there are too many religions that are literally doing their best to bring about the darker ending. They believe that they will be saved. Whether through the rapture or some other belief of men. When have good Christians EVER been spared pain and tortuous deaths, since Christ died upon the cross?!

Thank you for your very intelligent words. They really made my day.

Dave P. said...


Your, "Unfortunately there are too many religions that are literally doing their best to bring about the darker ending," statement has reminded me of a few things.

I'll never forget something my brother wrote to me while I was in the MTC and that was, "Truth can be found in the strangest places," and I've seen plenty even in games I've played through (and this isn't the first time I've used such an example on this blog).

The premise of the story is that it takes place on a planet where the main motif is sound and music, with seven different fonons/frequencies divide the various familiar elements. This planet's entire history and future is recorded on what's called "The Score." The Score eventually predicts the complete annihilation of all life on the planet and one of the most vile characters in the game is one who is doing anything to make that become a reality while, of course, the heroes fight to avert that from happening. When confronting that villain, the main character delivers a powerful line by saying, "A prophecy isn't a prophecy if you have to MAKE it happen!" Even at the end of the game, the entity who is basically God in the story tells the main character that he performed admirably in saving the world rather than destroying it, despite what was written in The Score.

One other series I played recently talked about how humanity has reduced itself to the point where it wishes for death and thus ends up summoning the embodiment of Death to do just that. While the hero ends up becoming the messianic figure in that title, the follow-up story shows his friends defeating the living embodiment of humanity's desire for death while the hero stands between it and Death's embodiment itself. It's quite powerful.

Jonas said...

“Words and concepts are rigid and motionless, but reality is a steadily flowing stream. It is impossible to contain a living reality in a rigid framework.”
From: The diamond That Cuts Through illusion by Thich Nhat Hanh as quoted in If The Buddha Got Stuck by Charlotte Kasl.

“Thus, to be alive is to drop whatever creates a rigid framework, and accept the ever-changing flow of life.” From: If The Buddha Got Stuck by Charlotte Kasl.

And THAT my friends is why I can no longer be bound by the rigidity of a any church or religion. I AM the living reality. When a person begins to awaken to their own living reality, they can no longer be contained within a dogmatic organization which chokes the life out of the would-be seeker of light and knowledge.

To further enlightenment!

Frank Staheli said...

Rock: Regarding your question: "Is it possble that the institutional Church actually wants to steer its members into accepting "doctrine" that was once openly condemned? Is it a move calculated to maintain control over a membership which is more and more beginning to question the propriety of the Church's institutional over-reach?"

I think the answer is no.

But it is interesting the impression Benson's 14 Fundamentals talk gave people both inside and outside the Church.

Enemies of the Church have used this to retroactively condemn the Church for opinions that Brigham Young had about Blacks. But it's critical to remember that (a) prophets don't always (not even very often) speak as prophets, and (b) the same spirit that prophets speak by enable us to understand whether what they said was true--and thus prophecy.

Frank Staheli said...

Rock: I just got to the end of the article. You wrote "Wishing that the 'Leaders' in Salt Lake will take charge over us so we don't have to do our own thinking is how we members of the body of Christ let the Church slip from our control in the first place."

And I smiled...

I'll rewrite your sentence just a bit to make a new sentence that is equally correct:

"Wishing that the 'Leaders' [from high atop the EIB Building in Midtown Manhattan] will take charge over us so we don't have to do our own thinking is how we members of the body of Christ let the Church slip from our control in the first place."

Cheers! ;-)

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Equally true, Frank!

Lynn said...

I find this all very disturbing to the point I'm not sure I can stay in the Church. I've been inactive about four months, due to various reasons. While I'm out, I'm studying other things, like this eye-opening blog, and seeing that the Church has feet of clay! It seems like the leaders are on a power-trip, setting themselves up on Rameumptoms, looking down on us poor deluded little saints, even boasting that their words are more important than revelation, or a personal relationship with Christ! We are oppressed with rules and regulations that, to me, don't make much sense anymore, if they ever did. And, I find that the scriptures are property of the Corporation of the President of the Church, and that even my temple recommend is a Contract with a Corporation and the property of the Church. At this point, if I went back to church, I would probably be soon excommunicated anyway. So, I don't know if I will go back or not. I'm not so sure what to believe anymore. It just doesn't look like Jesus has much to do with it, or even like what Joseph Smith meant it to be.

Anonymous said...

Rock, you said: "Joseph Smith held that a person who advocated such unquestioning obedience 'should not claim a rank among intelligent beings.'" And then you provide a link to the article in the Millennial Star.

I have seen other websites quote this before, and attribute the statement to Joseph Smith.

The only problem is that there is no evidence that Joseph Smith wrote that article. It was published in 1852. The article bears no signature, so we are left to assume that it was written by the editor of the Star, who at that time was Samuel W. Richards.

Anonymous said...

Brigham Young said that if we do something wrong that our leaders told us to do, and we do it with an eye single to the glory of god (or, in other words, with good intentions), we won't be condemned for it.

This is much different, however, than saying we will be blessed for knowingly doing something wrong.

Brigham Young took the approach that we should get a testimony from heaven that the Prophet is indeed what he claims to be, but that once we get that testimony, we shouldn't question his words (never, of course, forcefully denying our privilege of doing so, but just saying that we shouldn't). Our duty was to find out if the Prophet was really a prophet.

As strong as President Young's words were in relation to not questioning the Prophet's counsel or teachings, he never thought it should be enforced with any form of punishment whatsoever. Orson Pratt not only questioned him, but openly opposed his teachings, and other members of the Twelve wanted him dropped, and yet because of Brigham Young's mercy and tolerence of dissent, Orson Pratt remained.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Thanks for catching that error, Anonymous. I don't know how I didn't notice that was written in 1852. I've just always seen that sourced to Joseph, and I didn't think to look at the date. I'll have to dig deeper and find the author. Perhaps Orson Pratt? I think he edited the Millenial Star for a season, or it could have still been W.W. Phelps.

Anyway, too bad. There goes one of my favorite Joseph Smith "quotes".

Anonymous said...

S. W. Richards (Samuel W. Richards, brother of Apostle Franklin D. Richards) was the editor of that particular no. of the Star (see the last page of the issue). I'm pretty sure it was him that wrote the article. For all the 19th century Church periodicals (except the Evening and Morning Star, in which case not only W. W. Phelps, but also Sidney Rigdon and Oliver Cowdery wrote many of the articles without their signature), usually the editor is the author of any unnamed articles. I'm pretty familiar with some other things Richards has written, and it does sound like him. His personality shows through.

Anonymous said...

Did my comment about the church punishing people to protect the good name of the Church get deleted?

Dave P. said...

Rock isn't one to delete comments so I'd guess either your comment on that didn't get through or there's a chance you posted it in a different thread?

Anyway, the church out-and-out states that one of the reasons it ex-communicates people is to protect its good name, yet this is hypocritical since I've read reports on a regular member reporting grievous sins of one in a leadership position and nothing was done. Covering up sex scandals isn't just a Catholic problem.

Not only that, but living in Utah has shown me that there are state laws that are completely biased in the church's favor. Of course people will say that the laws are "designed to protect" the church, but that makes me wonder how often the church counter-sues someone who tries to sue it for a wrongdoing because those laws simply allow it to.

And anyone today who claims that the church has become "too big to fail" is living under quite the delusion.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Dave is right, Anonymous, I make it a point not to delete comments. I only deleted one, with good cause.

Anyway, I did find the comment you're referring to, since it did land in my email box even though it didn't show up here. That's happened before, and who knows why.

I'm posting it below.

P.S. I see that I overlooked your mention of Samuel Smith as the likely author of the JS quote. I must have been so addlepated over the discovery that I had let such an egregious error slip through that I didn't even get to the end of your piece.

Anonymous said...

Back in the day, the Church tolerated some level of dissent, or a difference of belief in doctrine, even if you didn't keep your differences to yourself.

Today, a few are disciplined for privately believing something "false," while every person who publicly opposes orthodoxy or preaches "false" doctrine is disciplined.

I got a hold of a copy of a handout that was distributed at a General Authority Training meeting. Mention was made in there that people are disciplined to protect the reputation or "good name" of the Church, and it sounds like may be done even if the person's actions wouldn't otherwise merit discipline.

I know Joseph Smith told William Clayton that if people found out Clayon was practicing plural marriage, Joseph would be forced to publicly excommunicate him, but that he would then secretly rebaptize him and he would be just as good as before.

The Church doesn't even do that anymore. You're disciplined, even if not in the wrong, and you're never secretly told "We know you aren't wrong, but we had to protect the name of the Church." You're just disciplined, and then left confused.

This is probably because those doing the disciplining don't know your rights.

I know of cases where people appealed their unjust discipline to certain apostles, and the apostles reversed the whole process. We still have good brethren in the Church, including at the top, who have a true understanding of justice, mercy, and fairness.

Goldarn said...

It's intriguing to me that Joseph Smith once claimed there were three kinds of revelations: "Some revelations are of God, some revelations are of man, and some revelations are of the devil."

Which, in these modern "follow the prophet" days, allows this to happen:
(1) Prophet gets a revelation. Sadly, it's one from the Devil.
(2) He announces the revelation.
(3) I follow the revelation.
(4) I am blessed for doing for the Devil wants me to.

Dave P. said...

Don't forget the claim by, if I remember correctly, Heber J. Grant to a young David O McKay who said that if the "prophet" tells you to do something and you do it, even if it's contrary to the will of God, you'll be blessed. But that's all right, because the "prophet" will never ask you to do something like that and will never lead you astray.

From what I've learned recently, that statement is a load of bull because every "prophet" since Joseph Smith (who was the only real one) has not only led the church astray, it has led the church to hell! Because the "follow the prophet" mantra ensnares people into surrendering their free agency and relying on others to save them. A certain being named Lucifer was cast out of heaven for proposing the same thing.

Susan said...

I grew up in the church, served a mission, married in the temple and had children that I taught to revere and honor the prophet. My first son's favorite primary song was "Follow the Prophet"... actually it's been a favorite of all my kids. When Prop 8 came up over 2 years ago, my first son, then a teenager, decided to leave the church because he figured that a prophet could not make such an unChristlike mistake. I'm afraid that he believed that prophets were the most perfect among us and could not make such a huge error. Although Prop 8 bothered me, I was satisfied to remember that the prophet would never lead me astray, even if his teachings or actions didn't make good sense to me.

Several months later, I taught a lesson in Relief Society called, "Beware the Bitter Fruits of Apostasy" .... Ch.27 in Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith. I was hunting for the quote in the lesson that I'd always remembered... that the prophet would never lead us astray. I didn't find the more forceful ones already commented on in the post and comments. The three listed at the end of the lesson seemed sort of disappointing/less forceful to me. Here is a quote straight from the lesson:


Orson Hyde, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, reported: “Joseph the Prophet … said, ‘Brethren, remember that the majority of this people will never go astray; and as long as you keep with the majority you are sure to enter the celestial kingdom.’ ”16

William G. Nelson reported: “I have heard the Prophet speak in public on many occasions. In one meeting I heard him say: ‘I will give you a key that will never rust,—if you will stay with the majority of the Twelve Apostles, and the records of the Church, you will never be led astray.’ The history of the Church has proven this to be true.”17

Ezra T. Clark remembered: “I heard the Prophet Joseph say that he would give the Saints a key whereby they would never be led away or deceived, and that was: The Lord would never suffer a majority of this people to be led away or deceived by imposters, nor would He allow the records of this Church to fall into the hands of the enemy.”18

Susan said...

So, I felt a little unsatisfied by those words. First of all, maybe following the majority or mainstream is a good idea in some cases, but Jesus said in Matt. 7:14 "Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."

I know I've heard that the gate is baptism... but what if it isn't or has more than one meaning. I can't believe the majority of LDS members will make it to the celestial kingdom. In fact, I thought I'd taught lessons before where prophets said the majority wouldn't make it.

At any rate, if the majority of the apostles won't lead us astray, doesn't that also mean that the minority of the apostles might lead us astray?

The Ezra Clark quote said the majority of the members wouldn't be led away or deceived by imposters... what if they are led away by some of our apostles? Who decides if our apostles are imposters?

And, what does it mean to be led astray? Does it mean that we will be lost and forlorn, terrified and unhappy? Or could it mean that we might adopt beliefs that are unloving, not true (or important), or unChristlike… because we are taught them?

If you happen to read the Bitter Fruits of Apostasy lesson, you probably won't be surprised by the quotes and language used to keep us in line, keep us from questioning our leaders, and to keep us terrified of apostasy. I believed it all my whole life. The lesson talks about the Spirit departing from apostates and how they live in darkness and evil. I cannot believe I swallowed it all just 2 years ago.

I can tell you that after 6 months of inactivity and probable permanent church disaffection, that I have felt the Spirit as strongly as ever or even more so. I am awakened to truly think for myself, but not without God's help. I never thought I would apostatize, as I have been conditioned to fear it very well.

I like the church in a lot of ways and would be delighted if you are right about everything, Rock. I will keep checking in on your blog and keep an open mind. Maybe I will stay away from church, but maybe I won't need to. If it is possible that mistakes are being made by imperfect leaders... then that could open a lot of leeway in going back.

Anonymous said...

These ALL tend to prove (at least support) One Point: the Distractions & Detours of Mormonism (subjects other than the basics of Christian practice-observance) have taken over.
What a SAD DAY for ppl who want to follow Christ...

whitehusky said...

Mindlessness leads to wickedness. I couldn't agree with you more when you say that the gift of the Holy Ghost is meant for us to use. Too often in the church you find people throwing off the influence of the Holy Spirit so they can embrace traditions that border on heresy. Where on earth the saying that Jesus is a spirit child came from I have no idea, but the fact is, he is the Lord God Almighty, not an angel. Any honest church member would admit it. I can't believe someone didn't put a stop to this blasphemy. The Holy Spirit testifies that Jesus Christ is the Great I AM [D&C 29:1]; the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the Father of Israel. [Mormon 9:11-12]

Where from all this can you get the heretical notion that Jesus Christ *became* God?

PositiveAffirmations said...

Interesting article but if it is to be taken seriously then all assertions of fact should have references, not just simple observations. In truth this article is no better or worse than the issues it deals with due to lack of documentation.

Dave P. said...

I barely paid attention to the most recent conference this weekend but I did pick up a few gems of blatant false doctrine while having it on in the background:

* The welfare program being a divinely inspired. Why the need to institute a program that does something the Lord had been commanding from the beginning? Good PR, of course. Seriously, all the talks about the welfare program seemed to glorify the church and not God.
* Sorry, President Uchdorf, but I can testify to you that the church is NOT "on course" other than being on the course to destruction because of the follies and abominations warned of Section 124 that the church has not repented of.
* No, President Monson, temple ordinances are NOT necessary for salvation. The Savior Himself said that repentance and baptism are all He asks of us and that anything more or less than that comes from evil.

I raised my hand in opposition against sustaining the first presidency and quorum of the twelve and abstained from voting for the remaining GAs. When I did that I felt a great burden lifted from my shoulders and that I'd crossed over the line in the sand drawn by the Lord at the start of this transition time between the 6th and 7th seals.

My final thoughts on this conference - Boring, uninspired, rehashed whitewash of "milk" doctrine that glorifies the church and not God despite Elder Holland's claims during his talk.

Anonymous said...

What a breath of fresh air. I have often wondered when someone is "called" to lead and is relegated to following a handbook of "do this" "do that". It seems to me righteousness is nothing more than blindly following whatever they tell you to do without question or debate by men who now have decided they are just as infallible and human as the rest of us. Where is the leadership or inspiration when all you're doing is "following orders". There was another group of people in history who claimed to be doing the same thing.

Dave P. said...

My dad thinks the handbook is the greatest thing since sliced bread but worries about the day when "The leadership might stop doing what the handbook says." I wonder if he's ever stopped to think if the handbook itself is even in harmony with the celestial principles of the gospel, because Jesus Christ fulfilled and did away with the letter of the law approach. But because people don't want to have to rely on themselves, they're always content with needing to be told what to do in every point of their lives.

whitehusky said...

There have been many times that I wanted to cringe and hide under the pew because what was being said over the pulpit was so bad. If I have to hear one more person get up and extol his or her family instead of praising the goodness of the Lord, I think I'm going to have to get up and go outside for a breath of fresh air.

doyle_megan said...

If you ask me, the worship of the family borders on self-idolatry in the church. Mother's Day in my ward was a huge affair while Easter was a piddling nothing. Maybe we should honor mothers on Mother's Day, but does the whole service have to be about us-us-us instead of about the Lord God Omnipotent, Jesus Christ?

whitehusky said...

Don't ever get up in fast and testimony meeting and say that the word of the Lord is true and everything else is false. Don't use evolution as an example of falsehood. And don't say Mormons are without excuse for not using the gift of the Holy Spirit and knowing the truth, which is that the word of the Lord is accurate and men are full of lies. You'll be given the cold shoulder. That's because so many Mormons are basking in the glory of opinion and speculation.

Unknown said...

There's opinion, and then there's opinion backed by hearsay. As a Mormon, you can hardly say anything at all without being told that you are going against the prophet, when you are not going against the prophet, but against perceived hearsay.

For example, I told a fellow Mormon that I'm convinced that the righteous who are prepared to meet the Lord are immediately received into celestial glory, and without any delay receive their full inheritance, including their celestial body. He asked me where I got that. I said I had been seeking an answer to this question from the Lord. His reaction? My fellow Mormon got in a huff and told me I was going against everything the prophet said.

What prophet? Where? If you read what the Book of Mormon says on resurrection, Alma hints that those who are prepared to meet God do not have to wait centuries for the resurrection of their body with their spirit. (Alma 40:4-5)

At any rate, at no time has a prophet indicated that our temple ordinances are of no value and no effect in the matter of resurrection. To the contrary. Those who are prepared are issued immediately into the presence of the Lord. Is the Lord going to withhold from them their promised reward? No. They are prepared for it. That is why Peter and Paul both wanted to go directly to heaven. It was not so that they could be spirits waiting for centuries to be resurrected, but it was so they could immediately inherit all that the Lord had promised them, including their perfected bodies.

But never mind that the scriptures actually support what I got directly from the Lord. Never mind that it agrees with what we learn in the temple ceremony. To the Mormon I spoke with, I had to be going against "the prophet" — without the need to say which one, where, when, or even how. Any prophet. Just so long as it made me wrong.

When I asked him which prophet, he could not produce a name.

So I have sought an answer from the Lord and received one that agrees with what the Lord has already said, but a fellow Mormon insists this is heretical because of a "prophet" he can't even name.

You get a lot of that in the church.

Anonymous said...

This was a very interesting and informative post.

I wonder how long it was after Elder Benson gave this address at BYU, before he was reprimanded and required to apologize? I would expect that the reprimand would have happened within a few weeks, if not a few months at most....

If we conclude that he was reprimanded shortly after the original talk was given, then it makes the next bit of information that I'm about to share all the more surprising/disconcerting/illogical/etc.

Roughly 18 months after the original talk was given at BYU, the "Fourteen Fundamentals" talk was published as the "First Presidency Message" in the June 1981 issue of the Liahona, which as nearly everyone on this blog probably already knows, is an official publication of the church, and is "basically" the international version of the Ensign magazine....

You can find it here:

Considering that Elder Benson had been reprimanded by President Kimball and had been required to apologize to the entire First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve just a little more than a year before this time for delivering this address, it seems nearly unbelievable that the First Presidency approved this address to be used as their "First Presidency Message"...

Another side note on this- It has been somewhat common at times, for the "First Presidency Message" to be a reprint of an address given by a member of the First Presidency at some previous conference or other meeting, but in this case it is quite interesting that the First Presidency would choose to publish as their message, an address that was not written or given by a member of the First Presidency.

Also, there are some slight differences between the original "14 Fundamentals" talk that was given at BYU, and the one that was later published in the Liahona, but nearly all of the changes are simply "polishing" and are immaterial to the message and tone of the talk. The "Tenth" fundamental was reworded slightly for relatively obvious reasons, but that's about the only change that's even slightly significant.

I'm not really sure what to think of all of this......

One other side note - The First Presidency Message in the Ensign for the same month was a different topic, but that was common at that time. In the 1980's the First Presidency Message in the Ensign was almost never the same as the First Presidency Message in the Liahona of the same month. At some later time, the messages in both magazines were coordinated to be the same message for the same month, but that is not how things were done in the 1980's.


P.S. - There is an interesting story about how I discovered this particular First Presidency Message in the 1981 Liahona, but that is a story for another time.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

It is puzzling alright. Dave P. also brought this oddity to my attention.

I can only surmise that the editor of the Liahona felt the message was valid and went ahead and published it as The First Presidency Message. It isn't likely that anyone in the First Presidency actually has anything to do with selecting their messages each month. That's likely left to the magazine to select something spoken at conference and just going with it.

Recall that the rebuke Benson was given was private. No one else in the beehive that is the Church Office Building was notified that what he had delivered in conference was not doctrinal.

Even within the 12, the right hand often does not know what the left hand is doing. Like every corporate board, there's lots of political wrangling and subterfuge going on.

Anonymous said...


It seems that some of the monthly messages are written specifically for use as a "First Presidency" message, and have not been previously published in conference or anywhere else. I had always thought that those were actually written by a member of the 1st presidency (but maybe they are not). So, I was still holding onto the idea that when a 'recycled' message was used, a member of the 1st presidency atleast gave the message a cursory review and approval. However, I'm not at all surprised by the idea that they probably never even look at the message.

I guess that maybe it should be called the "Editor's Message" instead


Anonymous said...

I also have heard that the 1st Pres. does not review or approve what goes into the Church magazines, other than the Conference editions.

Anonymous said...

As far as a Prophet 'never being able to lead the Church astray', that is easily proved false if one will just do a little study in church history.

The Church admits that Joseph spent his whole life trying to convince the members that polygamy was a most vile evil & to never fall for it. While Brigham Young taught just the opposite.

Even if Joseph was lying, which I do not believe he was, one still must admit he lead the Church astray, for many, if not most, would not later follow Brigham Young nor live polygamy, because of Joseph's strong teachings against it.

So, either Joseph led the Church astray or Brigham did. Even the Church has to admit that & thus it is quite ridiculous to say the Prophet can never lead us astray, for it's admitted by the Church that at least one has.

All the Leaders of the Church surely understand this basic Ch. history truth, so I don't understand why they keep saying 'Prophets can't lead astray' nowadays that is so easily proven false, unless they believe that most all members will never look far enough in Church history to find the truth.

Which is true, most will not & will just blindly follow.

Not to mention the fact that there have been 'many other things' preached by past Presidents of the Church which more modern Presidents of the Church have called false or incorrect or had to set right again. Which is additional proof that Prophets can teach false doctrine & lead the Church to believe in errors.

Things like the Adam God theory, Blood Atonement theory, Polygamy, Slavery, Blacks receiving the Priesthood (Joseph allowed it BY didn't), women told they must submit to men & husbands & men don't have to submit to women & they being told women are subordinate to men in marriage & church (now we know they are totally equal Co-presidents & co-presiders). That men receive the power & authority of God & women don't. (We now know women do too, even in the pre-existence before even men). Etc. etc. etc.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and last but definitely not least, it is now being 'falsely' taught by Prophets at the pulpit, that divorce is ok & not adultery anymore.

Now everyone is taught, by leader's words & actions, that they dump & abandon their spouse & kids & problems & break sacred temple covenants for no reason at all & go off & find some fresh new romance & be sealed in the temple forever & it's not adultery anymore, like Christ & Prophets said it was up until just recently.

Who led or is leading us astray, Christ or todays Prophets?

Anonymous said...

The anecdotal piece about President Romney and Heber J Grant is a quite a bit less malicious than it was interpreted to be here, I think. 'Tongue-in-cheek' would probably be a little bit closer than 'heresy.'

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Perhaps so, Anonymous, but that story has been repeated again and again to support the principle of blind obedience to the president of the Church.

Anonymous said...

I guess if "again and again" means Carlos Asay used it once in a conference talk that same year and it hasn't been quoted in Conference since, then I agree. One thing that might make a good footnote to the article would be a mention of how often they teach in conference about praying about what gets taught there which makes being "blindly obedient" our choice not our charge. Strangely, all these guys still insist on teaching about Christ every chance they get. I thought after reading this that they were trying to take over his job.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

By "again and again," I mean the membership repeats the Heber Grant story as though it were doctrine among themselves all the time. The anectote it was in a home teaching message I remember, and it's made it into some of the manuals. It is a prominent part of our collective myth.

Anonymous said...

I do not believe that Joseph Smith ever really said to 'follow the majority of the Apostles' & you will not go astray. For Joseph probably knew & history has proved, that almost all of Joseph's early Apostles fell into Apostasy, most by living & promoting polygamy & other false doctrines.

It has been proven over & over that Prophets & Presidents of the Church can & have led the Church astray, many times.

It has always been the test of this life to see who can gain the Holy Spirit & discern true Prophets from false Prophets in this Church. To think that there couldn't be or hasn't been any false prophets arise in the Church is complete blindness & ignorance of Church history & doctrine.

Satan loves for us to follow leaders blindly, especially when they tell us to do things that are wrong. He does not want us to do our own thinking, studying & praying about something. He wants us to think all is well in Zion & we can be assured that all the thinking & praying has already been done for us.

Satan loves to teach such things as "the prophet can never lead us astray', 'the church is prospering', 'you can follow the majority of the Apostles or the mainstream of the Church & you'll be safe', 'you should follow the Prophet (or leaders) even if he (they) tells you to do something you believe is wrong', 'if your revelation is different than a Church leaders or what the Church is teaching than 'you' are receiving false revelation.'

To think we can do evil & get away with it, because even a Prophet told us to is to be completely deceived & prove we don't have the right Spirit, for the Holy Ghost will tell us that evil is always evil & wrong, no matter if the Prophet himself tells you to do it, & you will still be held accountable & receive the eternal consequences for it.

Now the leaders are telling us that if our revelation differs from theirs we must be receiving ours from Satan. That is the same thing abusive husbands tell their wives. That she should let him do the thinking for her & whatever he says is right & she should not follow her own judgement. For abusive men believe they can 'never be wrong'.

The leaders of the Church are also now teaching that divorce & abandonment of spouse & children is not adultery or even a sin anymore & they now support anyone doing it for any reason, as many times as they may want to abandon a spouse & look for a new one. Such abuse, abandonment & legalized spouse swapping are things that earlier leaders said were some of the worse of sins a person could commit in this life.

Leaders today are encouraging & rewarding the worst of evils & leading the Church to do such evil & everyone has fallen for it, except a rare few who have the Holy Spirit as their guide.

We must wake up quickly or we will be easily deceived today. For there are so many false doctrines being promoted & taught in the Church today, as always has been & it is so rare to find any member who is not deceived to support & do evil.

The latter day apostasy of the Church has occurred as was prophesied, & only a few can see what has & is happening.

As prophesied would happen, everyone today calls evil good & good evil, including the leaders of the Church.

As always, God expects & commands 'us' to discern & decide who is a true Prophet/Apostle or not in the Church. They must prove to us that they are a true prophet by their deeds & teachings of truth, before we ever have to prove our loyalty to their doctrines.

Gary Hunt said...


I can just see it now. We get up to the judgement bar of God and think we are going to heaven. God tells us that we didn't make it because we committed sins we didn't repent of. We ask "what sins?" God gives us a list. We read through them and say, "these are things the prophet asked us to do! Our leaders told us that even if the prophet asked us to do something wrong that we should do it and we would be blessed." God may ask them if they had read the second article of faith which says... "We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not Adam's transgression."

We may go on to say... "you told us in your scriptures to give head to the words of the apostles and prophets and we obeyed them just like you told us to!" God may ask us if we looked up the definition of the word heed (which does not mean obey but to give consideration or attention to) or read other scriptures which tell us to prove all things and ask him if they are right.

I don't think that we will have a leg to stand on if we blindly follow another person, even if they tell us to do something right, I do not think we will be blessed for it. We are individually responsible for our thoughts, beliefs and actions.

You also talked about the mainstream. The historian Will Durant made the following observation:

“The history of civilization is a river on whose waters soldiers and politicians are fighting and shedding ballots and blood; but on the banks of the river, people are raising children, building homes, making scientific inventions, puzzling about the universe, writing music and literature.”

He wisely understood that the mainstream was where the destructive activities occur, and it is on the banks of the river that constructive, life giving activities take place.

One who wonders said...

I have just one scripture I would like to cite that I have NEVER seen cited in a church lesson. I believe it is important because it illustrates the consequences of obedience to the arm of flesh. Since I havent been able to find a sunday school class where I can openly discuss its lessons, I thought this would be a good forum to bring it up. When you read it, make sure you look at footnote 18b (JST) as it reveals that the second prophet in the story wasn't lying, however, the first prophet was still held accountable for going against what The Lord had personally revealed to him. 1 Kings 13:1-32

IMO This scripture clearly illustrates the consequences of following a prophet - even if he is a true one - if The Lord has personally given you other instructions. I would encourage you all to carefully consider this story and then ask yourself the question was the first prophet blessed for heeding the words of the second? Also why was this scripture included? Finally, why did Joseph Smith add inspired clarification to vs 18? I welcome any insights.

BK said...

Christ & Joseph Smith and many other prophets have warned us over and over that even if prophets (even them) taught or did anything 'contrary' to what the scriptures say or what Christ says, then we should not follow it or him or we could lose our salvation.

So following a prophet will not help or save us if that prophet is wrong, and we must be the judge of that.

And even 'true' prophets are often wrong about things and often get or teach false revelation or even totally fall from grace by evils like polygamy (adultery), so we are all responsible for our own salvation and must discern all truth and error for ourselves and discern true prophets from false ones and false doctrine from true doctrine.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

One Who Wonders,
I am familiar with that particular story in First Kings, and come to think of it, I have NEVER heard that lesson taught anywhere in church.

Secondly, although I was familiar with the story, I had not been aware of the JST addendum, which REALLY brings home the lesson that when a prophet tells you something, EVEN WHEN HE IS BEING TRUTHFUL, and it goes against what the Lord has instructed you personally, the Lord will hold us accountable for our disobedience.

There is no such teaching from God or scripture, as commonly believed in this church, that if we obey the prophet and he is wrong, God will bless us anyway for our obedience. That is blaspheme and heresy.

Thanks for pointing out the JST clarification in verse 18. It makes the lesson even more important.

UnderCover Brother said...

Hi Rock,

I hope you and Connie are doing better.

Sorry to raise this sorry episode after such a long time, but I reread the very first comment from Ron Madson. He said this needed 'to be shared in every ward'. Well, it looks like his wish has come true but not in the way he hoped for or imagined.
Any thoughts on the fact that Elder Benson's 'talk' is now the basis for one of the lessons in the new Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson manual - Chapter 11?

I must admit: I felt unwell after reading the lesson and I don't feel good about this going forward.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I did not know that, Undercover Brother. So now we've gotten to a point in this Church where a doctrine that has been officially condemned by one president of the Church (Kimball) has become canonized in the manuals of the Church!

Remarkable. Things have gotten completely out of hand. It's time for members everywhere to point out in class that President Kimball chastised Elder Benson for giving this talk at BYU, and denounced it to the Twelve, requiring Benson to apologize to the Twelve for his part in promoting this false doctrine.

UnderCover Brother said...

That’s just it, Rock. I did point it out. Just after Elder Costa’s talk was given in 2010 it become one of the 4th Sunday lessons chosen by the Stake President in our Stake. I was already aware of President Kimball’s thoughts on President Benson’s talk (and your blog) so I came prepared. At President Benson’s 4th fundamental (the prophet will never lead the Church astray) we were asked if anyone disagreed; I raised my hand as was immediately challenged. I informed the quorum of President Kimball’s response to the talk and especially point number 4. What I had not prepared for was the quorum’s response. Wow! Let’s just say the rest of the lesson consisted of me parrying some serious verbal blows from senior members of the ward about my lack of faith and being obedient to the prophets. The scriptures state: ‘…yea, they did fight like dragons…’, and the quorum did but they just could not see how problematic just point 4 was.
After the lesson the teacher pulled me aside. I told him how President Kimball found this talk problematic and we should too. His response? ‘Brother, you are shaking my testimony’. I left it at that.
This is why I felt unwell reading the lesson (thinking about my own past experience with this) and I do not feel good about this lesson going forward. It’s like necrotizing fasciitis. To all intents and purposes everything looks well from the outside (All is well. All is well). But ‘doctrines’ like this eats away at the body from the inside and we won’t know and thus won’t be able to respond until it is far too late.

naomi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
naomi said...

Thought you should know that the 14 funadmentals are back. They're all in here:

BK said...

Undercover Brother,

The blind are leading the blind in the Church, it has always been so. The sad thing is that most members want to be blind, only a few are willing to wake up and discern truth from error on their own. It's much easier to believe, even falsely, that a prophet can do that for them.

Those 14 fundamentals are very appealing to the natural man, thus are usually well received in most major religions with most people.

Thinking, studying, searching, proving, testing, questioning and discerning are very hard and time consuming. And risky, for we might not discern correctly and thus get off track because of our own ignorance.

It's much easier & sounds much better to us to believe that someone is infallible and we are safe as a babe in arms in following them. Except that's Satan's philosophy not God's. God's doctrines are a lot more risky then that unfortunately.

Satan & false prophets always teach people to follow them blindly.

Minerals Liberia said...

I believe it imperative to follow the savoir but in regard to the prophet; we should "heed" his advise and warning as his message should be from God. Our allegiance is to the savoir and God the Father....we can give "thanks" to the prophet for his genuine love and support, but he himself should also be follow the Savoir.

me said...

I agree with this post, but this statement is potentially misleading: "The rank and file membership of the church have never been told that anyone in the Church hierarchy at the time considered anything in that talk undoctrinal or problematic."

From Edward Kimball's book that you reference:
"Church spokesman Don LeVevre told the press the day after the speech that it is 'simply not true' that the Church President's 'word is law on all issues—including politics.' The uproar continued, however, and a week later President Kimball and his counselors issued still another statement to 'reaffirm that we ... exercise no constraint on the freedom of individuals to make their own choices in these matters.'" (p 160-161)

Obviously more could be done to limit the perpetual influence of the talk, but it should be noted that statements were issued.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

The problem with statements issued from the Church PR department is that they don't tend to filter down to the rank and file membership of the church. Most members never see those statements; especially not in the days before the internet.

Compounding the problem was that Kimball's words did not specifically get tied to Benson's talk. Heck, Church publication writers didn't even get the message, because today several points from Benson's talk are being taught in Church manuals again this year.

Of course the real evidence that no one got the message is that the entire speech was repeated in conference years later.

Matt Prater said...
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Nainoa said...

I hope this thread wakes up as lesson 11 in Bensons book is upon us. Sorry there are many threads but where is the evidence to say that Benson had to apologize on this? That is pretty damning stuff, but I feel bad because I've cited it and don't know where that comes from.

Shelama said...

All thinking Mormons know that their leaders cannot be trusted to distinguish their own foolishness, ignorance and bigotry from the god they claim to be speaking for. Regardless of the topic.

Brigham Young proved it on race, and on race and the priesthood. For another 100 years, a whole string of additional "prophets, seers & revelators" then justified, explained and expanded the nonsense.

Boyd K. Packer on "little factories" and his 2010 Conference talk the church had to edit and censor.

Spencer W. Kimball's unadulterated garbage in The Miracle of Forgiveness."

The current born-of-necessity thrust of "Follow the Prophet."

Wake up folks.... you don't have to rely on the fact that the Book of Mormon is self-falsifying on its face. This is all just business as usual.

Test the Prophets said...

And Joseph Smith was indeed a polygamist. Even marrying underage girls and women that were already married.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I wouldn't be too sure about that. Watch for an upcoming book to challenge those assumptions, due in about two weeks: Exonerating Emma, Joseph, and Hyrum, by Ronald Kerran. I've read an advance copy, and it will challenge all of your assumptions.