Sunday, December 4, 2011

Infallible Authority

At one time this blog included a link to what I have long considered an essential resource for those interested in evidence of the prophesied falling away of the latter-day Saints, J.J. Dewey's "Infallible Authority."

Sadly, some time ago that link proved to be a dead end. Diligent searches uncovered a chapter or two scattered here and there on the internet, but I have been unable to find all the chapters together in one location.  This was lamentable, because if I had my wish, "Infallible Authority" would be read and pondered by every thinking latter-day Saint.

My friend Spektator, proprietor of the insightful website Just and True, did what I should have done myself. He contacted the author and was sent a .pdf file of the entire document which he in turn forwarded to me just this morning. I still wished to see the entire document online in one place, and it eventually dawned on me that I have the capability to see to that.  So I have asked permission from the author to post it here at Pure Mormonism, which I will do one chapter at a time over the next two weeks, and then compile the links together in a box so the entire work can always be accessible here.

After that I'll return with a post of my own authorship, but in the meantime I hope you'll take the time to read Dewey's remarkable analysis. You are sure to find it food for thought as each chapter just gets better than the last. So here is chapter one:

J. J. Dewey

Chapter One: Examining Infallibility

If a 14th Article of Faith were ever written for the Mormon Church, it might well read, “We believe in the infallibility of the president of the Church so long as he is living. However, after he is dead, his statements are subject to error. The longer he has been dead, the more cautiously one should view his words.”

When I was a boy, I often heard the doctrine of the infallibility of the Pope criticized as being ridiculous; but as the years passed, I heard less and less criticism of infallibility and more praise for the brethren, especially our president. Now the LDS have virtually reached the same state of crystallization as the Catholic Church in this matter to the extent that they accept the words of their president pertaining to doctrine (even though they may be given in his own name) with the same weight that the Catholics accept the words of the Pope.

Contrary to popular belief, the Catholics do not look upon the Pope as a infallible in his own right. They realize that he is human as you or I. They merely accept him as being infallible when personally representing the Son of God and speaking on doctrine and church affairs. His words do not have to be claimed as revelation or even inspiration; he merely has to speak and he is to be trusted and believed without question.

Is this not the way the Mormon people are encouraged to feel about their president? Then why not call a spade a spade and openly call it the doctrine of the “Infallibility of the Prophet”?
How did such a doctrine of infallibility get started in a church which, for the first sixty years, did not even call itself a sect, and whose leaders cringed at being called a sectarian?

Unfortunately, it was introduced by one of the sweetest, most gentle, and sincere of persons to ever attain a position in the Church - namely Wilford Woodruff. In defending the Manifesto of 1890, he said, “The Lord will never permit me nor any other man who stands as president of this church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty.” (Wilford Woodruff, Oct 6, 1890 Conference)

From the above statement, the Church concurs that if the prophet were to do anything to lead the Church astray, his life would be taken before he could do any damage; thus it is impossible for the Church to be out of order.

I heard a fairly renown Mormon speaker sum up the current belief when he said, “The Lord has given us a yardstick whereby we cannot fail. The prophet. We may rest assured that he will always lead us right, for the Lord has promised us that he will never lead us astray. In all other dispensations there was apostasy, but this one is different. This is the dispensation of the fullness of times, and this time the church cannot fall.”

Could such a doctrine be correct? Think for a moment - if it is not, if it is possible for the church to fail today as the Lord has said (we’ll point out references later), then could you think of a doctrine that would cause any greater rejoicing in hell?

I think not, for then if Satan could get a foothold on the president, he could then lead the whole church. Such doctrine reminds me of Nephi’s words: “And others he will pacify, and lead them away in to carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion, yea, Zion prospereth, all is well - and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to bell ... . Wo unto him that is at ease in Zion! Wo be unto him that crieth All is well! ... Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man (a President for instance?), or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost. Wo be unto the Gentiles, saith the Lord of Hosts! (Remember the Gentiles are those who first receive the Book of Mormon - In other words, the LDS people) For not withstanding I shall lengthen out mine arm unto them from day to day, they will deny me.” (II Nephi 28:21, 24-25; 31-32)

Let us walk on to forbidden territory for a moment and actually question the words of a prophet. Was Wilford Woodruff right in what he said? If he was right, then do we understand him correctly? In examining his words, we first see that they are spoken in his name and not the Lord’s. He starts out, “I say...” He does not claim that his words are inspired; thus they cannot carry an equal weight with any previous revelation. Therefore, if we were to find a previous revelation which conflicted with the above statement, then that would take ascendancy.

Is there such a revelation? Yes, there are several. For instance, in speaking of the prophet of the Church, the Lord said, “And all they who receive the oracles of God, let them beware how they hold them lest they are accounted as a light thing, and they are brought under condemnation thereby, and stumble and fall when the storms descend, and the winds blow, and the rains descend and beat upon their house.” (D&C 90:5)

If it is impossible for the prophet to lead the Church astray, then why did the Lord say this?

How could a prophet possibly stumble and fall? Why did Joseph Smith warn: “When the head is sick, the whole body is faint?” (Doc. Hist. of the Church, Vol. 2, pg. 146) Why did he also say, “Were he (Sidney Rigdon) to preside, he would lead the Church to destruction in less than five years”? (DHC 6:592) Why did Joseph also warn that, “If the people departed from the Lord, they must fall - that they were depending on the prophet, hence were darkened in their minds.” (DHC 5:19) Also, “If one member becomes corrupt, and you know it, you must immediately put it away, or it will either injure or destroy the whole body” (the Church). (DHC 4:605)

Do not the scriptures tell us clearly that “God is the same yesterday, today and forever,” and “with him there is no variables.” (See I Nephi 10:18, 11 Nephi 2:4; Heb 3:8; and James 1:17. ) Therefore, the pattern that God followed yesterday will be repeated in principle today and tomorrow.

Did you realize that only eight pages of the entire New Testament was written by the president of the church? This, of course, was Peter. Paul, who wrote more than anyone else, according to many scholars, was not even a member of the quorum of the twelve, but had a special calling directly by Christ to be “the apostle of the gentiles.” (Rom. 11:13) He was an apostle “neither by man, but by Jesus Christ.” (Gal. 1:1)

To affirm that the scholars are correct, we find that the Lord told Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer that “you are called with that same calling with which he [Paul] was called.” (D&C 18:9)
Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer were never members of the quorum of twelve, yet they were called apostles in early LDS history. Thus, if they had been worthy, they could have written scriptures as good and as authorized as Paul.

Did not Brigham Young say, “Is this (the spirit of prophesy) the privilege of every person? It is.” (Journal of Discourses 3:89) Joseph Smith said, “No man is a minister of Jesus Christ without being a prophet,” (DHC 3: 389) Unto the Lord’s servants, he said, “And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture... .” (D&C 68:4)

The Lord was not referring to the president of the Church here or even all the general authorities exclusively, but He was speaking to all his servants. Is it not clear that the Lord can write scripture through whomever He pleases? Is He not a higher authority than the president of the Church? Did He not write scripture through non-general authorities in the past? Even two of the gospels, Mark and Luke, were written by individuals who were mere junior companions in the mission field and held no known position, yet they wrote scriptures binding on the entire Church today. What chance for acceptance would scripture written through a junior LDS missionary companion have today? Verily none, except among those who would be expelled from the Church.

Almost all the Old Testament was written by those who were not general authorities. Even Moses had no position among the Elders when he was called, neither did Enoch who was “but a lad”. . David was anointed in secret to preserve his life after Saul led the Kingdom astray.

Interestingly, LDS general authorities often quote Amos to substantiate that the Lord will deal through “recognized” prophets: “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants, the prophets.” (Amos 3:7)

Ironically, Amos was far from being a general authority. He said, “I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet’s son, but I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit. And the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me: go prophesy unto my people Israel.” (Amos 7:14-15)
Verily, Amos had no position in the church, but prophesied to the whole church. Could it happen again? Why not?

Lastly, Jesus, the carpenter’s son, was no general authority, but acknowledged, “The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses seat; all therefore whatsoever they bid you, that observe and do; but do not after their works; for they say and do not.” (Matt. 23:2-3)

However, these same leaders later commanded Peter and the disciples not to teach their doctrine and Peter replied, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29)

Jesus had great struggles with these general authorities and they finally put him to death. Seeing this He said, “The kingdom of God shall be taken from you.” (Matt. 21:43) Interestingly, Jesus recognized that they yet had the keys to the kingdom because He said the kingdom “shall” be taken.

Likewise, for those who feel “all is well” in Zion we have the following warnings indicating the Church is indeed vulnerable:

Joseph Smith wrote: “Now brother Orson, if this church which is essaying to be the Church of Christ will not help us, when they can do it without sacrifice, with those blessings which God has bestowed upon them. I prophesy-I speak the truth, I lie not - God shall take away their talent and give it to those who have no talent, and shall prevent them from ever obtaining a place of refuge ... .” (DHC 2:48)

Do the LDS have a place of refuge from future calamities? Verily no. Is their talent then taken away? I pause for reply.

“If you [the twelve] will not warn them [the nations] others Will and you will loose your crowns.” (DHC 2:197) Beware of pride lest ye become as the Nephites of old.” (D&C 38:39) If that doesn’t mean there is a possibility of the Church going astray, then what does? The Nephites of old fell into great spiritual darkness. How much clearer can the written word be?

Also, “Inasmuch as ye do it not [keep the word of the Lord], it shall be taken away, even that which ye have received,” (D&C 43:10)

“Be faithful in keeping my commandments lest judgments come upon you and your faith fail you, and your enemies triumph over you.” (D&C 136:42)

Joseph Smith said, “I will now ask this assembly and all the Saints if you will now build this house and receive the ordinances and blessings which God has in store for you; or will you not build unto the Lord this house, and let him pass by and bestow these blessings upon another people?” (DHC 5:427)

Many times the Lord clearly indicates that the Church is not immune to being cut off: “And if you do not these things at the end of the appointment ye shall be rejected as a church with your dead, saith the Lord your God.” (D&C 124:32)

“Wherefore let the church repent of her sins, and I the Lord will own them, otherwise they shall be cut off.” (D&C 63:63)

What would happen if the Church were cut off? Do you suppose you would hear our president announce the next day, “Well, brothers and sisters, I’ve got some had news - We’ve been cut off.” Far from it. Instead the Lord merely cuts them off from true revelation and they are left to struggle by themselves to lean on the arm of flesh. From that point on every favorable emotion is interpreted as the Holy Spirit.

On the other hand, many sincere people pray about the first vision, the truths of the Book of Mormon and the validity church doctrines and they do receive a witness from the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, after
receiving this answer, they automatically assume that everything else is in order.

An amazingly small number have ever asked God if He is pleased with His leaders today and if the Church is in order as it should be. Why? Because after they receive a witness they are deceived into thinking that it is a mark of unfaithfulness to doubt the leaders today. But is it? NO: It is only a sin to doubt the Holy Spirit.

Why did Joseph Smith say, “You will live to see men arise in power in the Church who will seek to put down your friends and the friends of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Many will be hoisted because of their money and worldly learning which they seem to be in possession of; and many who are the true followers of our Lord and Savior will be cast down because of their poverty.” (Mosiah Hancock Journal, pg. 28)

Why did Brigham Young say, “Brethren, this church will be led on to the very brink of hell by the leaders of this people.” (Attested to by Joshua Jones, 1861, Provo Bowery)

Why did John Taylor say, “The church will go into bondage both temporally and spiritually and in that day the One Mighty and Strong spoken of in the 85th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants would come.” (A LEAF IN REVIEW Page 235.)

Again why did the Lord say, “Beware of pride lest ye become as the Nephites of old.” (D&C 38:39)
After all these witnesses, can you not consider, my friends, the possibility that the Church needs to be set in order as prophesied in D&C 85 and later by Brigham Young and John Taylor? Those who did not consider that Jesus was the Christ never obtained the witness. Even so, the LDS who believe that revelation can only come through the head of the church are in danger of missing out on the words of many different prophets.

All true prophets have admitted the possibility of error, especially when depending on their human ability. For instance, Nephi said, “And now, if I do err, even did THEY ERR OF OLD; not that I would excuse myself because of other men, but because of the weakness which is in me, according to the flesh, I would excuse myself.” (I Nephi 19: 6)

Even the possibility of error in the Doctrine and Covenants is admitted by the Lord: “These commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding. And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known.” (D&C 1:24-25)

When Helaman (a prophet) was given the records and authority from his father, he was warned, “If ye transgress the commandments of God, behold, these things which are sacred shall be taken from you by the power of God, and ye shall be delivered up unto Satan, that he may sift you as chaff before the wind.” (Alma 37:15)

One time the prophet Peter made the mistake of refusing to eat with the Gentiles for fear of offending Jewish members and Paul “withstood him to his face because he was to be blamed.” (Gal. 2:8-14) Paul did this because he saw that Peter was leading the Church astray and such a bad example had to be brought to light.

Now we ask the question: If there was a danger that Peter, Helaman, Joseph Smith and others could fail, then how are we justified in believing that current “living prophets” have some mysterious immunity? Who says we are to trust in the arm of flesh?

Brigham Young warned us not to “pin our faith on another’s sleeve.” He also said, “Suppose that the leaders of this people had forsaken the Lord and should introduce, through selfishness, that which would militate against the kingdom of God on the earth, that which would in the issue actually destroy this people, how are you going to detect the wrong and know it from the right? You cannot do it unless you have the spirit of the Lord.

“Some may say, Brethren, you who lead the church, we have all confidence in you, we are not in the least afraid but what everything will go right under your superintendence; all the business matters will be transacted right; and if Brother Brigham is satisfied with it, I am. I do not wish any Latter-Day Saint in this world, nor in heaven, to be satisfied with anything I do, unless the spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit of revelation, makes them satisfied. I wish them to know for themselves and understand for themselves, for this would strengthen the faith that is in them. Suppose that the people were heedless, that they manifested no concern with regard to the things of the kingdom of God, but threw the whole burden upon the leaders of the people, saying, ‘If the brethren who take charge of matters are satisfied we are,’ this is not pleasing in the sight of the Lord.” (J. D. 3:44- 45)

Isn’t it strange that in Brigham Young’s day it was not pleasing to put our blind trust in the Lord’s servants, but today it is? That is - it looks as if it is. Today, those who say words forbidden by Brigham Young are looked upon as the faithful and the pillars in the Church and are rewarded with praise and positions. What are those condemned words? Let me repeat: “You who lead the Church, we have all confidence in you, we are not the least afraid but what everything will go right…”

On the other hand, those who say, “Wait, I’ve prayed about this and I think it is not right” are looked upon as rebellious and not taking counsel as they should. The watchers for iniquity are lurking, waiting for them to make a mistake so they can be cut off, for the light shineth in the darkness and the darkness comprehendeth it not.

Brigham Young said that those who enter the Celestial Kingdom are “those who are valiant and inspired with the true independence of heaven, who will go forth boldly in the service of their God, leaving others to do as they please, determined to do right, though all mankind besides (including the prophet) should take the opposite course.” (J. of D. 1:312)

But what happens when such a person really tries to exercise the true “independence of heaven” among his brethren? Suspicion arises and iniquity is watched for and he is classified as one to be watched and not trusted with any position of influence. While it is true that rebellion should be punished, independence should be rewarded. If it is not rewarded, then the Body of Christ (the church) will have poor circulation and be of little use in the heat of the day.

In the days of Joseph Smith there was much more independence of thought than there is today. Joseph often publicly challenged anyone who disagreed with his doctrines to try and prove their case. He would justify all that he brought forth with logic and the scriptures. Such thinking drew intelligent and great men about him. Public debates on religion were encouraged.

Today any debates on the scriptures are viewed as “contention.” But in the early days people were encouraged to be as great as the prophet himself or greater. They were encouraged to prophesy, have dreams, see visions and seek the face of God, but even with all this independence of mind, Joseph said that “they were depending on the prophet, hence were darkened in their minds.”

If members were darkened in their minds in those days, where can their light be found today? Indeed, the LDS depend on the prophet more today than ever before in history. How can you ever become a God and rule others if you have to be ruled over in every trifle? One has to learn the independence of heaven and go forth as Jesus did and do what you know to be right. Remember - all the general authorities “frowned” on Christ and excommunicated anyone who followed Him.
Copyright J.J. Dewey, used with permission.

To continue to chapter two, click here

[A note from Rock about leaving comments: Many readers have posted as "Anonymous" even though they don't wish to, only because they see no other option. If you don't have a Google, Wordpress, or other username among those listed, you can enter a username in the dropdown box that reads "Name/URL."  Put your name in the "Name" box, ignore the request for a URL, and you should be good to go.
I have a pretty firm policy of never censoring or deleting comments.  If your comment does not immediately appear, it probably means it is being held in the spam filter, which seems to lock in arbitrarily on some posts for reasons unknown.  If you have submitted a comment and it doesn't immediately show up, give me a nudge at and I'll knock it loose. -Rock]


Cap'n Moroni said...

I am really glad to see this series, Rock. I have been looking for this myself.

Dustin said...

Is there a way to share the .pdf?

John Penn said...

I find it ironic that when Wilford Woodruff proclaimed that the Lord would nnever lead his church astray, that he, at the same time, was doing just that. Whether or not "astray" has a uniform and negative meaning, WW proclaimed a discontinuing of officially sanctioned Plural Marriages and yet, they did continue among the church populations in Canda and Mexico and in the highest quorums of the church. Thus, the "neccessity" for a second manifesto in 1904. Oh well...

Big Jay said...

I think a subtext of the whole 'the prophet will never lead the church astray, God will take him from the earth first' is "Like God took John Taylor." .... John Taylor was going to go down with the ship.

calimom said...

I'm thrilled you are sharing JJ's work with your audience! I have personally gained so much from reading it! I have a saved link to Infallible Authority: It can be found on the website You go to the Older Archives section and scroll down to #s 2140, 2142, 2145, 2150, 2157, etc. All the chapters are there but spread out a bit - just in case any one can't wait for the rest of the chapters to be posted! I'm looking forward to read your commentary and any comments you will get from your other readers!

(These Older Archives are worth looking at! I like to search them by subject by typing " atonment" replacing atonment with whatever subject it is you want to search. I don't always agree with what I find, but its always interesting reading! My favorite series next to Infallible Authority are Eternal lives found at and Gods of the Bible (In Older Archives, starting with #1267.)

Off Topic :) Rock, I've been meaning to ask how your daughter and son in law are doing - your kids you wrote about this time last year. Their story truly touched my heart and I've been hoping to hear they have been blessed with some peace and joy since then.

Jon said...

So what of the scripture that says that revelation for the church only comes from the president of the church and no one else? I would find it and linked to it but am too tired to do so right now. It's in D&C somewhere.

Chris Brewer said...

“Some may say, Brethren, you who lead the church, we have all confidence in you, we are not in the least afraid but what everything will go right under your superintendence; all the business matters will be transacted right; and if Brother Brigham is satisfied with it, I am. I do not wish any Latter-Day Saint in this world, nor in heaven, to be satisfied with anything I do, unless the spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit of revelation, makes them satisfied. I wish them to know for themselves and understand for themselves, for this would strengthen the faith that is in them. Suppose that the people were heedless, that they manifested no concern with regard to the things of the kingdom of God, but threw the whole burden upon the leaders of the people, saying, ‘If the brethren who take charge of matters are satisfied we are,’ this is not pleasing in the sight of the Lord.” (J. D. 3:44- 45)

Wow....This is seriously the FIRST time I have read ANYTHING from Brigham that game me those deep chills. I have really disliked the man but it is interesting, if the LDS church WAS divinely established, this might be one of the most profound, prophetic things he ever said.

If I were to say that those impacting moments where something seems to ring true with a divine spark are, in fact manifestations of the Holy Spirit then It is something I have felt every time someone is willing to drop their impulses to protect and lie for their version of truth and trust that God can somehow provide truth and clarity without their intervention and manipulation. I know that was a poorly worded sentence.

I think I am just trying to say that it takes a kind of genuine faith to really withhold judgment and love people (even the non-conformists) the way Christ demonstrated; To love the people that define themselves as your enemies, or idealistic opponents. I think an honest spiritual journey could lead people through many different avenues (consider how Paul's passion was just misdirected before his vision). I think this is the essence to why the Pharisaical approach is wrong. God seems to be interested in the heart and labels and titles of position and authority seem to be less significant.

The kind of trust that points people to a deeper personal relationship with God seems so much more inspired than, say a McConkie-type person who just loves their answers so much they think they should be binding on everyone. Real faith includes a release of control, a surrender to God's will. A realization that he doesn't need you to make truth any more appealing than it really is.

There are many good things to think about here. I can't wait to read the rest Rock!

Anonymous said...

If I understand it correctly, Dewey's description of papal infallibility is very inaccurate, yet a more careful look at the Catholic point of view reinforces his point in an interesting way.

With the disclaimer that I am not an expert, here is a summary of my understanding. The protestant position is that the Bible is the sole infallible source of doctrine. In Catholic and Orthodox Christianity, sacred Church tradition and the bishops collectively are also infallible authorities, coequal with scripture. Although errors in doctrine do occur (obviously), the Holy Spirit is supposed to ensure that the church as a whole does not go astray in the long run. This authority belongs to the church or episcopacy as a whole and is not vested in any one man.

Catholics take this one step farther with papal infallibility, which states that it is possible for the pope acting alone to infallibly declare doctrine. However, Dewey is completely incorrect in saying that papal infallibility dictates that he merely has to speak and he is to be trusted and believed without question. This may in fact be how some Catholics think, but as Wikipedia says, "the Catholic Church does not teach that the Pope is infallible in everything he says; official invocation of papal infallibility is extremely rare."

"Extremely rare" appears to mean something on the order of once or twice per century. The formal recognition of papal infallibility is newer than Mormonism, dating back to 1870; on that occasion it was immediately applied retroactively to Pius IX's definition of the immaculate conception of Mary in 1854. Since then, it has been used only once, in 1950, to define the assumption of Mary. A combination of rather unusual conditions have to be met for a papal teaching to be deemed infallible. Although the pope is in a position to see that they are all met, it requires a lot more than, as Dewey claims, merely speaking.

Let's compare with Mormonism. Catholics say they believe in infallibility, but have a fairly clear division between the vast majority of what the pope says and a tiny minority of infallible declarations. A pope has to go out of his way to invoke infallibility. If he does, he is theoretically taking the Church's authority, and indirectly that of the Holy Spirit, into his own hands and committing it forever. Recent popes since 1870 have been extremely cautious, to say the least, about doing this.

Mormons say they do not believe in infallibility. However, the prevailing attitude seems to be rather the reverse of the Catholic one, in that any time the authorities speak it is presumed that they are speaking for the Lord, infallible (or at least correct) until proven wrong. Mormon authorities have specifically rejected special conditions, like saying "thus saith the Lord", as a guide to evaluating the status of their words as revelations. Finally, history provides many examples along the lines of the Adam-God doctrine that demonstrate that no prophet's teaching can be taken as binding over the long term, or that Mormon authorities are anywhere near as cautious as a pope contemplating use of infallibility.

I do not care for the Catholic system at all, but it does provide a striking contrast and makes me think that Mormons have a rather poor combination of ingredients at work.

Jon said...

Found them. So what about D&C 28 & 43? They are contradictory to what has been said here. Although I agree with many of the sentiments, it just seems like everything else when it comes to the gospel and people trying to sort it out, contradictory.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

If I recall correctly, Section 28 was a revelation given in response to Hiram Page, who had been using a seer stone and claiming revelation as to how the church should be run, How the priesthood should operate, what direction the members should go in the building up of Zion, etc. So the the Lord clarified that only Joseph Smith was to receive those types of revelations. His house is a house of order, and He doesn't dole out contradictory instructions to several people at once.

What He does is reveal his will for the Church to his prophet, and it is then the duty of the church (the members) to seek validation from the spirit that whatever revelations the prophet makes claim to did indeed emanate from God.

Likewise, section 43 was a response to a growing number of members claiming revelations commanding others to do certain things. This is not how personal revelation works.

Whatever God chooses to reveal to me is for my own benefit and instruction; he does not authorize me to command others. I do not have authority to command a woman to marry me or a neighbor to invest with me, or to start my own church and tell others God commands them to follow me. Any revelation commanding others would be an immediate clue to me that I was receiving false revelations.

Sadly, as Dewey demonstrates (and I think there will be more on this once I get the other chapters up), many members have come to accept the absence of personal revelation as normal, although in the time of Joseph Smith, it was everywhere, and greatly encouraged. When one carefully reads the sections you cite above, you'll see it proscribes wholesale revelations and commandments over others, not personal revelations, visions, healings, and other once common gifts of the spirit.

AV said...

The philosophy that 'Prophets can't lead the church astray', has not been taught from the pulpit in over 100 years by any Pres. of the Church. Some Apostles & G.A.'s have taught it but their opinions even in Gen. Conf. just have the same weight as any of the rest of us.

And even if Wilford Woodruff or a Pres. today preaches it, true doctrine can never contradict what the scriptures in Joseph day taught, or we can know for use it's false doctrine.

This doctrine does appear to contradict former revelation & scriptures & thus proves itself completely false.

Thus it appears that most of the Prophets & Apostles since W.W. don't really believe that a Prophet can't lead the Church astray, even if most members like the sound of it because it relieves them of the heavy personal responsibility to be accountable & worthy of their own personal revelation & salvation.

It's always much easier if we can just play 'follow the leader' & not have to think for ourselves & receive vital personal revelation for every essential doctrine for salvation.

Most church leaders today must know that mere church history 'proves' that Presidents of the Church (like BY with his Adam God & Blood Atonement doctrines, etc. etc.) can & have lead much if not most of the Church astray on many different doctrines & teachings.

Thus, they would know they couldn't claim a Prophet is infallible & can't lead the Church astray.

Most importantly, if polygamy was & is the whoredom & abomination that Joseph Smith & ancient Prophets constantly taught the Church that it was, then this 'infallibility' doctrine coming from Wilford Woodruff & all other doctrines from him & BY & others since him, are all irrelevant, for they were clearly lead astray themselves & weren't even true Prophets.

If polygamy is a true principle, then Joseph Smith clearly lead many in the Church astray by preaching so strongly against it, that many if not most would not accept it when BY started preaching it & thus would not follow him.

Anyone who believes Prophets can't & haven't fallen & led the Church astray do not know church history, ancient or modern.

Anyone who believes Prophets are infallible does not have the Holy Spirit as their guide to warn them of this very real possibility.

It is up to each of us to be able to discern a true Prophet from a false one, or continually discern if a true one has fallen & is now leading us astray.

This is one of the grand tests of life. No one except Christ was perfect & completely trustworthy to follow without question.

Joseph warned us that most people always think a false prophet is a true one.

Jon said...

I think I'll be happy when I can figure the HG out. Even Joseph had problems with that.

Thanks for your response Rock, it does make sense looking at it that way.

Sanity said...

The true church is the humble followers of Jesus--they are bound to Jesus (i.e., light and love), and they are not bound to any man or system or organization. Thus, suggesting that a prophet or anyone else could lead the church of Jesus astray is self-contradictory. The church of Jesus will follow Jesus no matter what anyone, including a self-declared prophet, teaches or does. Thus, the doctrine that the prophet cannot lead the church (the true church, that is) astray is true. No one can lead the church astray. Though I doubt that is what WW or anyone who has ever repeated the statement about prophets not leading the church astray meant. Still, read with the proper lens, that statement is 100% correct. So, unwad your panties and just follow Jesus.

GayBob Spongebath said...

Sanity said, "Unwad your panties and just follow Jesus."

Isn't that one of the lost hymns of the church?

LJn said...

Not reading the comments yet. In fact, I haven't finished the post. I just wanted to say thank you for posting this document.

LDS Anarchist said...

Just wanted to say that I love the Saint Thomas picture.

Anonymous said...

if this is too much off topic, feel free to delete it. -- After I had exchanged numerous letters with the Office of the First Presidency, sharing what I had experienced through the Holy Spirit as it touched upon my own life (and not anyone else), I was informed that I did not have the right to bring up such questions for the Prophet to consider. As I counseled with two stake presidents and then decided to have my name removed from the records of the Church, the second stake president informed me that he had been instructed to let me know that because I had acted of my own volition to have my name removed, the Church considered my status to be lower than that of someone who had been excommunicated. -- He was polite (and seemed somewhat regretful of the message he had to deliver).
Now, I can only ask ... where is the love? (only partially tongue-in-cheek)

GayBob Spongebath said...

Anonymous, making you feel lower than a worm is how some in leadership positions show the love. How else will you know who is in charge of you?

I would not give a second thought to being off topic in your comment. Have you seen some of these threads? Going off topic is part of the magic here. Rock will not delete you for sharing. Hell, he has never deleted me for swearing.

Brett said...

AV commented: "The philosophy that 'Prophets can't lead the church astray', has not been taught from the pulpit in over 100 years by any Pres. of the Church. Some Apostles & G.A.'s have taught it but their opinions even in Gen. Conf. just have the same weight as any of the rest of us."

I agree but the vast majority of active Mormons that I know believe that anything said by the Brethren in Gen Con is to be taken as scripture. I've been "taught" that "principle" in various ward meetings, stake conference sessions, and even in early morning seminary teacher in-service meetings.

I wish that the general church populace would accept that General Authority statements carry the same weight as comments made by "any of the rest of us" but sadly, we aren't there yet.

AV said...


I agree it is sad but it was prophesied (2 Nephi 28, & many other places in the BoM) that everyone in the Church today, except a few, would become corrupted, evil, blind & deceived by the philosophies of men, like thinking that everything said in Gen. Conf. is true or scripture, or believing in evil things like polygamy (past present or future), divorce & remarriage (serial polygamy), socialism etc. etc.

Unfortunately, most all members believe that if most of the Church does something or current leaders allow something then it's ok, right or valid.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

The doctrine that the prophet can never lead the church astray was taught from the pulpit as recently as October conference of last year. AV is right that the president himself never toots his own horn, but he doesn't bother correcting underlings when they do it, either.

analisa said...

Can anyone show me where to find WW's full conference talk where he says the Lord will not allow the prophet to lead the church astray?

In the article, Dewey says the quote begins with "I say," but the quote in the OD 1 doesn't begin with "I say."

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Here is how the quote appears in The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, edited by G. Homer Durham:

"I say to Israel, the Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty."
Pg 212-213.

I imagine the quote can be found in context in the Journal of Discourses, but I don't have the time to search it out at the moment. Durham's work is considered reliable.

What is the OD 1?

analisa said...


OD 1 = Official Declaration 1

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Oh, okay. I have the hardest time with internet abbreviations these days.

Just to clarify, though, that statement was not a part of Woodruff's Official Declaration, but was issued as a result of the outcry over it. In the years leading up to the Manifesto, beginning with Cannon and continuing through Woodruff, the presidents of the church had been continually reassuring the saints that the principle would never be abandoned. And then Woodruff, under pressure from the federal government which had seized Church property, including Temple Square, suddenly gave in. He had to explain his reversal somehow, so he declared he said that in spite of everything he had said previously, whatever he was saying now was God's doing, not his.

(Actually, President Woodruff was not even the actual author of the Manifesto. It was written by a committee headed by attorney Charles Penrose, with an assist by George Reynolds and John R. Winder, in order to make certain its carefully worded provisions would assuage the politicians back east while allowing the Saints some wiggle room.)

Wilford issued that statement about it not being possible for him to act contrary to God's will in conference, which was a way of saying, "look, don't worry about it, go back to sleep. It isn't possible for me to lead you astray."

Somehow over time, that little white lie Woodruff issued to extricate himself from an embarrassing contradiction, has come to be seen as the salient doctrine of the Church.

Jon said...

Here it is in the Millennial Star,+the+Lord+will+never+permit+me+or+any+other+man+who+stands+as+president+of+this+Church+to+lead+you+astray.%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=hUfKT4OxHMHg2gWphMzZCw&ved=0CDsQ6AEwAA#v=snippet&q=%22I%20say%20to%20Israel%2C%20the%20Lord%20will%20never%22&f=false

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Thanks, Jon. I should have thought to look there.

It figures that the quote on the official LDS website would leave out the words, "I say to Israel," which would make it obvious that Woodruff was delivering his personal opinion, and not the word of the Lord.

Jon said...

I don't remember what this post said exactly but one scripture that contradicts said quote:

For the people turneth not unto ahim that smiteth them, neither do they seek the Lord of Hosts.

"Therefore will the Lord cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and rush in one day. The ancient, he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail. For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed."

If we are supposed to liken the scriptures to ourselves then we would need to recognize that leaders can cause us "to err; and [be] destroyed." The only way for the quote by Woodruff to be true would be if he meant that the leader wouldn't lead the people astray but the people themselves by listening to said leader. But even then it wouldn't make sense since he said the Lord would remove him, but we know that isn't true by the scriptures, like King Noah, well, I guess he was eventually removed.

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Anonymous said...

So far I find all of Dewey's arguments quite compelling, but this statement really stood out to me:

"What would happen if the Church were cut off? Do you suppose you would hear our president announce the next day, “Well, brothers and sisters, I’ve got some bad news - We’ve been cut off.” Far from it. Instead the Lord merely cuts them off from true revelation and they are left to struggle by themselves to lean on the arm of flesh. From that point on every favorable emotion is interpreted as the Holy Spirit."

Anonymous said...

"How is the faithful city become an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers. Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water: Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them. Therefore saith the Lord, the Lord of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies: And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin: And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city. Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness."
(Isaiah 1:21-27)

If the rulers of God's people (the princes) are likened unto silver, then this scripture strongly suggests that the leadership of his church has fallen. God's solution to the problem? Remove these fallen princes (dross) and replace them with judges who judge righteously. In other words, the setting in order of the house of God starts from the top starting with the leadership and then having his righteous leaders set the lay members in order. If this chapter is applicable to our day, then it suggest that not just some of the leadership need to be removed, but ALL of them.

"Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: THE WHOLE HEAD IS SICK, and the whole heart faint."
(Isaiah 1:5)

If however there happen to be any Alma's among the leadership, they are (or will be) gathering righteous members outside of the orthodox body of the Church. If Alma is a type and a shadow of this kind of leader, then he wouldn't be the type to retain dual membership in the church of God and the church of the devil.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Most all of the righteous throughout the world are not LDS. They would never join a church that preaches against Christ like the LDS today do.

Any righteous member or leader of the Church will eventually awake to the apostate situation of the present LDS Church and would then not stay a part of it for long, for it is impossible to make the current LDS Church true again anymore than any other church in the world today could be made a true church.

I believe God will start anew with prophets not of the LDS Church.

Though I believe true prophets do walk the earth today, and I believe they do believe in Joseph Smith and in the original Church he restored and in the Book of Mormon and the original D&C. But they would have to receive their authority & Priesthood directly from God today in order to lead or start a true Church.

No true prophet would stay a member of a corrupt church.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

To my knowledge, the chapters posted here contain the the entire work in its most readable form.

Z said...

When I read that JJ's work was on your site I thought, Oh ya, that's the guy that is believed to be the Joseph Smith reincarnated. I do not know his official stance on it, but I have met believers in him that are convinced that he is Joseph reincarnated. I guess I always find it difficult to buy into some Joe's work when credit is taken from a dead guy. At least an alarm goes off in my head. Also of mention is Christopher Nemelka who also believes himself to be a Hyrum Smith reincarnated, and had brought a new restoration of the gospel. url:

What is your opinion of said persons work? or overall missions. I think JJ has some good to be told, but that other guy?

Alan Rock Waterman said...

Never heard of the other guy. Also never heard of anyone believing Dewey was Joseph Smith reincarnated.

Oh well. Dewey can't be responsible for what other people say about him. Some people have said I'm the devil incarnate, but as long as I don't claim it, I hope nobody buys it.

Anonymous said...

J.J. Dewey falls into the category of fallible authority. In his book, The Immortal he wants the reader to believe the book is based upon his actual conversations with John, the Beloved. When confronted if an encounter really happened, he refuses to answer by rather replies, I let the reader decide for themselves. The so-called "special witnesses of Jesus Christ" in the LDS Church are no different in what they allow their members to assume about them. As a special witness, wouldn't they be obligated to reveal to the world they had a heavenly visitation, yet no member since Joseph Smith as ever publically made claim to such a visit. Those that make claim to special dreams must know that dreams are not reality and that anyone could dream about meeting Jesus. Likewise, the day dreams of an author that lead to subject matter in a book are imaginations. In fine, JJJ Dewey is no different than LDS General Authorities, in seeking an adoring audience and running away from scrutiny to his claims of greater wisdom.

Alan Rock Waterman said...

I think you're being a bit unfair to JJ Dewey by lumping him in with those who assert a claim as "special witnesses for Christ" and then fail to make their witness known. It's hardly proper to accuse Dewey of being a "fallible authority" when he makes no claim to being any kind of authority whatsoever.

JJ Dewey chose to frame "The Immortal" as a work of fiction. Whether the novel is based on real events is something he leaves to the reader to decide. Did those conversations with John the Beloved actually take place? Who knows?

Whatever the facts, The things "John" teaches strike me as worthy of consideration and certainly beneficial, so either Dewey is presenting things he was taught by John the Beloved, or Dewey himself is a theologian of exceptional insight. Take your pick. Either way, it's great food for thought, especially for latter-day Saints, as it is all consistent with Restorationist thinking.

You are correct in your assertion that those who claim to be apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ are obligated to bear witness to having had some kind of encounter with Him. Otherwise, what is their purpose? That "calling" seems to have devolved into having a seat on the board of directors of the Corporation of the President.

JJ Dewey does not claim to be an apostle or leader of this or any other church. He is at liberty to publish whatever "stories" he wishes, whether fact or fiction. If his story is a true story disguised as fiction, how does that make him a "fallible authority" as you claim?

Dewey does not claim to be either an apostle or a prophet. He has made no claim to have met Christ or to speak in Christ's name, as is the role of a prophet and apostle, so I'm not sure what your beef with him is. In order to be a fallible or infallible authority, one must first claim to be an authority. It would seem to me you agree with Dewey that those who claim to have authority from on high should be able to produce some fruits as evidence of their claim.

I know enough about JJ Dewey to find no merit in your statement that he is "seeking an adoring audience." Dewey doesn't look to be anyone's guru. He is is a writer and a teacher out of Boise, Idaho. There's no need to project anything else onto him.

Unknown said...

"Paul, who wrote more than anyone else, according to many scholars, was not even a member of the quorum of the twelve, but had a special calling directly by Christ to be “the apostle of the gentiles.” (Rom. 11:13) He was an apostle “neither by man, but by Jesus Christ.” (Gal. 1:1)"

Sure. Paul asserts that. But don't be confused. He never knew Jesus. Jesus was dead before Paul ever got close to Jerusalem. His talk was cheap. He lead the Church astray for his own ends. What remains today isn't the "Church of Jesus Christ." It's the "Pauline Church of the Gentiles."

R. Metz said...

D&C 85: 7 says that the house of God (which includes the church) can and will go astray. Mosiah 27: 13 reads "This is my church and I will establish it; and nothing shall overthrow it, save it is the transgression of my people". That has always been the pattern, also in 1890. And that statement by Wilford Woodruff? That was just propaganda, to save him from further disgrace; and for which he will be sorry by now, I'm sure.