Conference quotes: “Fourteen Fundamentals,” Part 1

During General Conference this last weekend, two separate members of the Seventies Quorums quoted from a talk apostle Ezra Taft Benson delivered at BYU entitled “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet.” It is notable that the talk was not without controversy when it was given. Many authorities apparently were supportive but according to his biographer, “Spencer [Kimball] felt concern about the talk, wanting to protect he Church against being misunderstood as espousing ultraconservative politics or an unthinking ‘follow the leader’ mentality.” [1] What follows is a review of each point with some historical context and my own thoughts and analysis.

First, I think it is important to note at the outset that no one is called or ordained as the “Prophet of the Church.” We have a “Church President” or “President of the High Priesthood,” or President of the “First Presidency,” that we sustain with 14 or so others as having a prophetic capacity. So for clarity’s sake, I am editing Benson’s litany to refer to the Church President.

First: The [Church President] is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.
I think what Benson means is generally accepted, though I am not sure what it means to “speak for the Lord in everything.” The Lord speaks on his own in many things. But I do think that the Latter-day Saints believe that the Church President has the right to reveal the will of the Lord on any subject.

To bolster his statement, Benson quotes D&C 132:7: “There is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred.” I think this statement was true when the revelation was delivered in 1843; however, the whole principle of succession in our Church for the last 170 years or so has functioned on the basis that all members of the Council of the Twelve Apostles and First Presidency hold all the power and keys of the Priesthood. For succession to work, we say that though all those folks hold those keys and powers, only the Church President (and by extension the First Presidency) are authorized to direct their use. Otherwise, Strangites FTW.

Benson then quotes from the Revelation delivered at the organization of the Church. Now it is important to note that technically there were only three or four callings in the church at this point: maybe deacons (first evidence is given 4 days later), teachers, priests and elders. Joseph Smith is the first elder but God calls him a seer, translator, prophet and an apostle in the revelation. The Lord then says “Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his [Joseph Smith] words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me. For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.” Commandments at this point meant written revelations. I’m not sure about “words” in this context, but it is hard to say that either Joseph or the Church thought that they should do whatever Joseph said. Still he revealed skads of material to the church over the next 14 years, not all of which was written.

Should the modern church map the words of this revelation (Joseph Smith>>Church) onto the modern Church (Sitting Church President>>Church)? I think it works pretty well. Note that the revelation isn’t saying that Smith’s words were the Lord’s, just that the Lord wanted the people to treat him that way. It is quite certain that Smith got things wrong on occasion; but that wasn’t the point. Giving the words of the Church President serious treatment is important. And it is hard to think of many times in recent memory when the Church President has spoken and following his words hasn’t been demonstrably beneficial.

Second: The living [Church President] is more vital to us than the standard works.
For support, Benson read an account by Wilford Woodruff, where he related that at an early conference of the Church, some people wanted to confine teaching to the Book of Mormon, Bible, and Doctrine and Covenants. Joseph Smith asked Brigham Young to talk, who said those books were nothing to him compared to the living oracles.

I like to think of the Church President as they guy with the keys to the car (the car is the church). God lets him drive wherever he wants. Here is the thing, you need someone with the keys to drive the car. So of course, for the church, the living church president trumps the standard works. They can’t drive you anywhere.

Here is the other thing, though; as soon as he dies, all of the sudden, everything he said and everywhere he drove are less important than the standard works. How is that for temporal justice?

Third: The living [Church President] is more important to us than a dead prophet.
See: car driving metaphor.

Fourth: The [Church President] will never lead the Church astray.
And now things get interesting.

Not surprising, Benson goes to the originator of the terminology, Wilford Woodruff. It is important to know that this idea came about at a time when a not insignificant portion of the Church and its leaders actually thought the Church President may have actually been leading the Church astray (the manifesto). It is hard for me to imagine what that transition felt like to people who had dedicated and sacrificed so much to uphold the old way of things.

First, what would it mean to lead the Church “astray”? I’m not sure that a definition has ever been given. But if 1) the Church President will never lead us astray and 2) current views about God and the plan of salvation are accurate, then “astray” does not mean teaching ideas that are wildly wrong to the Church (see Adam-God). Does this matter that much? Well, no. The driver of the car will die and the offending ideas will inevitably be purged from the carburetor.

___________________

  1. For a good review of sources relating to the talk, including this quote, refer to Edward Kimball’s draft manuscript of Lengthen Your Stride on the CD which came with the biography, chapter 16, page 13.

Comments

  1. Oh, please finish this one! I was squirming in my seat through both these talks, and at Institute last week when the teacher quoted from it, and again at FHE when we went through it, point-by-point. Not that following the counsel of the prophets is generally a bad idea, but the fanatical cult-like unthinking obedience this talk seems to encourage is likely to backfire. We fought a war in heaven to preserve our agency, and to cede that freedom to choose to some other mortal person, prophet or not, seems at best inadvisable and at worst morally reprehensible.

  2. Oh, please. The current Gospel Principles manual and the most recent issue of the general conference Ensign both demonstrate that today’s Latter-day Saints talk freely and often about “the prophet” and “the living prophet.” And we all clearly understand what is meant by those terms.

  3. J. I really appreciate this post. I am looking forward to the rest of it. Thanks.

  4. “Otherwise, Strangites FTW.”

    Well done, Stapley.

  5. Third: The living [Church President] is more important to us than a dead prophet.

    Benson was spot on with this one… Which is why I’m puzzled by the inclusion of the 14 points in a 2010 GC (from a BYU address, while he was President of the 12). Was the irony really lost on these dear brethren??

    Thanks J, for the analysis.

  6. Great post, J. Thanks.

  7. My only hope is that discussion of these talks might displace the dreadful sorting of Saints according to how many earrings they have and how quickly they removed the offending ones. I doubt they will, but here’s hoping.

  8. Before I give my personal rebuttal, I’d just like to remind everyone of two things: First, Joseph Smith’s words that he was a prophet only when he needed to be and the same holds true for the president of the church today. Second, true past and present prophets do not contradict each other.

    My take on each of these “fundamentals:”

    1. This is false. The prophet can only receive instruction/revelation on matters pertaining to the entire church/world. If the Lord needs to speak to a local ward, He will speak through its bishop. If the president of the church is requested to perform an ordinance for someone in that ward, he needs the bishop’s permission. Not only that, but the prophet will not be told how to raise another person’s child.

    2. I am in agreement insofar as the prophet does not contradict what’s in the standard works unless of course the Lord speaks through him to make mention of the rescinding of a previous practice (ie: stepping down from the Law of Consecration to the Law of Tithing). As a slight aside, I’ve yet to see anything from the Lord lifting the condemnation over the church for its treating lightly of the Book of Mormon.

    3. I am in agreement insofar as one remembers that the dead prophets are also important to the living prophet. We believe that many of those dead prophets saw our day and what we would be experiencing. Without their knowledge and especially their testimony of Christ, the law of witnesses is not satisfied and the living prophet cannot draw from their recorded testimony.

    4. This is a completely false statement that was not given through revelation nor accepted by the church body. The mantra is a late 19th century invention and the notion of following it puts the church’s trust in the arm of flesh and not the Savior. I believe that any church leader who believes and preaches that statement is, in fact, leading the church astray. Any time the focus shifts away from the gospel or the Savior towards the prophet or agency-destructive notions such as blind obedience is leading the church astray. The fact that the church is full of problems that do not get resolved because the leadership even refuses to acknowledge that there are problems is leading the people astray.

    Finally, the prophet does not “lead” the church. He is a witness of and mouthpiece for the true head and leader of the church, Jesus Christ. We’re all in the lone and dreary wilderness that is this life and the prophet passed through the same veil of forgetfulness that we all did when we were born. It’s his duty to point us towards the true exemplar who said, “Come, follow me,” because he’s walking down the same path.

  9. Wasn’t the controversy surrounding Apostle Benson’s 14 Fundamentals talk more pronounced that alluded to in your first paragraph? I remember seeing an account that it ruffled some feathers at the time, specifically with President Kimball but also with others.

  10. re # 7, wouldn’t President Monson’s talk at the Relief Society General Meeting address that? And in theory his words would trump these Seventies who quoted Apostle Benson’s 14 Fundamentals.

  11. John Mansfield says:

    In the conference session two and a half years ago where Thomas Monson was first sustained by the church as its president, the last speaker was Henry Eyring. The last words of his talk were “Jesus is the Christ. He lives. I know that. I testify that Thomas S. Monson is His living prophet. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true, and it lives on.”

    J., your background to the points of Ezra Taft Benson’s talk is great, but editing out his use of “the prophet” does not add any clarity.

  12. What if President Benson was basing his 14 fundamentals precisely upon the calling of prophet? Can we so easily replace the word prophet with president of the church? Is it possible that that is the key? That when the president of the church is acting in his prophetic calling these things apply? Does that put greater responsibility on us to determine when the president of the church is speaking prophetically?

  13. John, do you have a reference for that at all? I would like to read more about any controversy over this talk and specifically what the concerns were, aside from one’s that J. has already mentioned.

  14. Benson’s fourth principle makes more sense given the accusations Woodruff endured. If “lead astray” means “lead into general apostasy,” then the quote is in line with all the Old Testament and Book of Mormon histories where (true) prophets never led nations into apostasy, but corrupt kings and the rejection of prophets do. Without that context, the statement is easily misunderstood, which of course has its own level of irony.

  15. Brian-A,
    Here is a very interesting passage from Ezekiel. It could be taken as contradicting your point.

  16. The talk’s publication in June 1981 as a First Presidency Message (click here) makes President Kimball’s earlier attitude toward Benson’s talk superfluous.

  17. R. Gary,
    Why?

  18. J., I agree with some of the commenters here that it is problematic and doesn’t add anything (and only invites distracting threadjacks like this one) to have edited out “prophet”. Your point is well taken about the title of the position being the “President of the Church” but we sustain him and the other Apostles as “prophets, seers, and revelators” and, as R. Gary points out, every Latter-day Saints (or at least most of them) regard it as common usage to refer to the President of the Church as “the prophet”. This has also been promoted by General Authorities for most of the Twentieth Century as well. This rigid compartmentalization between President of the Church and Prophet seems an artifact of mid-nineteenth-century Mormon usage. The focus of that, however, seems to be for the Presidents of the Church immediately following Joseph Smith to avoid giving the impression they were elevating themselves to the same status as Joseph Smith, whom they considered to be “The Prophet”, i.e. the chosen key prophet for our dispensation of time. I don’t think we view things like that anymore in the Church as General Authorities in the last 100+ years have emphasized that each successor President of the Church is the new Prophet with a capital P.

  19. Also, why is this talk taken as an endorsement of right-wing politics? Is it because President Benson endorsed them at the time? He didn’t when he became President. Is it because it mentions President Grant being anti-dole? That a particular leader took a political stand, doesn’t mean that we have to endorse it (especially when other prophets, seers, and revelators have taken different stands).

    I guess I’m not sure what all the fuss is about.

  20. “Does this matter that much? Well, no. The driver of the car will die and the offending ideas will inevitably be purged from the carburetor.”

    That may work for you, J., but it actually “matters that much” to me, and I believe to many others. The idea that the prophet, or President of the church, can teach us ideas that are wildly wrong is disturbing.

  21. John C.,

    Spencer Kimball was (to quote J.) President of the First Presidency. Benson was not even a member of the First Presidency. Under those conditions, it is inconceivable to me that Benson’s talk would have been published as a First Presidency Message over the objection of the Prophet.

  22. The truly problematic idea in Apostle Benson’s 14 Fundamentals talk is the concept that a living prophet is more important than the Standard Works. This is actually true in the sense that Apostle Benson meant it: that a living prophet such as the President of the Church or the Twelve Apostles will be in a position to receive current guidance that is more immediately relevant to the daily issues faced by Latter-day Saints at a given period of time.

    The problem is in the presentation, which, if not carefully parsed, easily leads to the misconception that Apostle Benson meant that a living prophet trumps the Standard Works.

    However, as all Latter-day Saints know, a prophet’s words/guidance does not actually become scripture until it has been formally incorporated into the canon through the process of common consent by sustaining vote, at which time as part of the Standard Works it takes precedence over oral guidance by subsequent prophets.

    So to present living prophets as more important than the scriptures or dead prophets is true in a certain, narrow sense (“Adam’s revelation did not instruct Noah to build his ark; nor did Noah’s revelation tell Lot to forsake Sodom; nor did either of these speak of the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt. These all had revelations for themselves.” (James E. Faust, “Continuous Revelation,” Ensign, November 1989, 8, quoting John Taylor, Millennial Star, 1 November 1847, p. 323. — ht:Wikipedia)), but it can serve to confuse the purpose and process of canonization and the importance of the holy scriptures, particularly the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

    It is instructive to look at Joseph Smith’s posture toward the Bible particularly and also the Book of Mormon as he received revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants. I do not think he viewed them as “more important” than Biblical revelation and passages, although they were indeed “more important” in the limited sense described above and likely as meant by Apostle Benson.

  23. If the prophet is speaking the mind of the Lord, the will of the Lord…for today, why would it be wrong for it to “trump” scripture? I don’t see that a reducing the role of scripture.

  24. ClaudiaHen says:

    I also wrote up my own answers. Here are my first four if anyone cares to read them.

    First: The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.

    That may be correct, but this does not mean that by extension he is the only man, nor that every word is the word of the Lord. Nor does it mean that the prophet is our only connection to the Lord. Nor does it mean that there can only be one prophet, as we are all entreated to be prophets. All in all, I find this a misleading sentence, if prophets sometimes speak as men and sometimes speak as prophets, since they seem to do so quite frequently. To take all their words as direct from the Lord seems to be a trifle much—just as I don’t take the Old Testament as if it were an infallible Quick Quill account.

    Joseph Smith taught, “Do you believe Joseph Smith, Jun., to be a Prophet?’ Yes, and every other man who has the testimony of Jesus. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. … Salvation cannot come without revelation; it is in vain for anyone to minister without it. No man is a minister of Jesus Christ without being a Prophet. No man can be a minister of Jesus Christ except he has the testimony of Jesus; and this is the spirit of prophecy. Whenever salvation has been administered, it has been by testimony.” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pages 119, 160.)

    Moses didn’t hoard the office of prophet, and exclaimed unto Joshua, “Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them! (Num 11:29)” Of course, I acknowledge the President of the church has the calling and right to make decisions for the whole church. I’m just a bit skeptical that the Lord has so drastically changed the order and method by which he calls prophets (probably my own lack of faith showing here)—I would like us to be more open to truths wherever we find them; I cannot tell you how many times I have had people in the church refuse to listen to good and helpful ideas because they were a bit strange or unfamiliar, because they didn’t come from church sources. I think we should always take words spoken by the Spirit as from the Lord’s mouth and we should learn to hear them, and not assume which direction they will be coming from.

    Second: The living prophet is more vital to us than the Standard Works.

    Yes, but nor should the Standard Works ever be replaced, nor should any word of the prophet supplant what we find there (although I like what J.Stapley said about clarifying something ).

    I have always found the words of Christ to be the most healing—and they have given me the direct access to a relationship with Christ that I have held to in my personal struggles. I do not have a direct relationship to the prophet, except that I find them to be good and kind men who are doing their best to follow Christ and give good advice.

    Third: The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.

    I’ll agree with you there. We should each be striving to have the living word of God in our lives now, wherever we find it.

    Fourth: The prophet will never lead the Church astray.
    God has always let people do what they want. Prophets have always made small and large mistakes. Prophets are always mortal men. Christ will never lead us astray. Put our trust and hope and salvation in his hands and we will always be safe. Now, I believe we should and ought to give careful consideration and heed to our leaders, but to believe they will always do right is to deny their humanity and their agency. Moreover, what is “astray”? How far off would we have to be before God would step in? Based on past history, we can get it pretty wrong.

    The Heber J. Grant story makes me cringe and nearly gag, twinkles in eyes, not withstanding. I will never do anything I do not decide for myself to be right, because I am accountable for my actions. I do not think that the Lord will accept the excuse that we handed over our agency to someone else, no matter who it was. We are promised we can know for ourselves. What a harmful and ridiculous notion! For me, it goes against everything the church stands for and against the teachings of Joseph Smith. We are intelligent beings! We are agents to make our own decisions! We can have the glory of God! Why would we ever turn that potential over to someone else?

  25. R. Gary,
    I don’t have the faith that you do in the tight control of the First Presidency over the contents of the Ensign, especially when the President is busy being deathly ill and the church is embroiled in a massive political controversy like the ERA. But I could have my timeline off and I could therefore be terribly wrong.

  26. britt k, what do you make of the canonization process and does it have any particular meaning? Why should anything ever be canonized, including the original scriptures?

  27. Really good stuff J Stapley. I knew as soon as I heard those talks that they would provide bloggernacle fodder for weeks to come, and I think you are off to a great start with your historical rather than hysterical approach.

    I agree, though, with those who feel the prophet/president edit is distracting. If one needs to paraphrase or edit the quote to make a point, IMO it weakens the whole thing.

  28. R. Gary, I imagine my approach bugs you (unless I am wrong in my perception that you are irritated) because I don’t employ a fundamentalist perspective. That said, do you really disagree with anything I said?

    RE: Prophet/President. My point was that “The Prophet” is a colloquialism. I know it is widely employed – heck, I use it frequently. But it doesn’t change that it is not an office in the Church. My point was just to clarify that. If it is overly distracting, I may not use it is subsequent posts.

    John F, I appreciate your thoughts and agree wholeheartedly. I was trying to get at your excellent description with my car shorthand.

    zehill: “The idea that the prophet, or President of the church, can teach us ideas that are wildly wrong is disturbing.”

    My intent was not to disturb, zehill; and let me be clear, while history demonstrates that the possibility exists, I believe that history also shows that it is not (wildly) common. But really, what is the alternative? Some sort of infallabilism? I don’t think that is part of the program.

  29. zehill, I also want to add that it isn’t like we are stuck alone. When Joseph Smith introduced his most controvesial teachings to people, he never said, “and do it because I said so.” Instead, he said, “and you will have your witness.” Some people did have their witness, other people did not. They were free either way. We are equally free and are entitled to a witness from God.

  30. StillConfused says:

    I viewed this talk as placing way too much importance on a human and not on Christ where it should be.

  31. Great post and I agree with pretty much all of it. I honestly couldn’t fathom all the angst about what I thought was a fairly uncontroversial talk by Pres. Benson.

    Dave (8). The idea the prophet can only speak for the Church in general and not to anything particular strikes me as odd. Certainly a Bishop can speak to his ward. But then so can the Stake President, Area Presidency, on up. Indeed this is regularly the case. I’m not sure where you get this idea.

    As for contradicting standard works, while the standard works should be given a great deal of weight we are inerrantists like many of Evangelical friends. Given that, why shouldn’t a prophet contradict the standard works when the standard works are wrong? It seems to me that Pres. Benson’s talk far from giving some sort of quasi-inerrancy to Mormonism actually is the strongest talk ever given against anything smacking of inerrancy.

    As for leading the church astray, you think Pres. Woodruff was leading the Church astray when he was defending his actions relative to the manifesto?

    RGary, like John, I don’t see the correlation of the Ensign as being as tight as you do. But I fully agree it carries a great deal of weight. Especially if there was heavy discussion of the talk amongst the Apostles. It’s also not clear to me what Pres. Kimball found objectionable in the talk. Was it tone, content or something else?

    It is interesting that those who raise the political issue forget the context of the talk. The most controversial things politically the prophet was doing at that time were by Pres. Kimball. Look at some of his talks like The False Gods We Worship. Almost certainly it was those that Pres. Benson was calling attention to.

  32. Clark, you make a really good point that in giving his 14 Fundamentals address, Apostle Benson was buttressing the ministry of President Kimball, and not himself. So he was emphasizing that the Church should be strictly following President Kimball’s guidance relating to removal of the priesthood restriction, abstention from worshipping the false gods of modern culture etc.

    He gave other talks exalting the United States and a certain interpretation of the Constitution and view of its genesis and meaning. Perhaps we are making a category error in conflating the 14 Fundamentals talk with his political views that he often expressed in church talks.

  33. J. (#27) – I completely agree that infallibility is not the answer, and I appreciate your attempt to present the best alternative given the current position of church leaders and current teachings on the subject. I believe the president of the church can make mistakes or teach things that are not true and that it is my responsibility to figure out what I believe is true. The disturbing part for me is that most church members seem to either only give lip service to this idea and in action, follow church leaders believing that even if they’re wrong, they won’t be held accountable for acting on the misinformation since it came from a prophet, or they actually believe the president is infallible, although most wouldn’t come out and say it that way. If I’m supposed to seek confirmation of the prophets’ teachings, but the only answer that is culturally acceptable is that the prophets were correct (even though, as you note, there are historical instances where they were incorrect), what is the point? The alternatives, I believe, are for the prophets to be more explicit as to when they are speaking as prophets vs. wise men, and/or for the church culture to be more open to people who disagree with church leaders on certain issues.

  34. zehill, the quip really is true that (paraphrasing) “The Pope is infallible but no Catholics believe it; the Prophet is fallible but no Mormons believe it.”

  35. “The False Gods We Worship” talk of President Kimball ranks up there with the most important and timeless sermons in the history of the Church, in my opinion. President Benson’s “Beware of Pride” sermon is there too. Though I think you meant “we are errantists,” not inerrantists.

    As for leading the church astray, you think Pres. Woodruff was leading the Church astray when he was defending his actions relative to the manifesto?

    No. But I think the equating of his statements with infallibility are wrong.

  36. “Was it tone, content or something else?”

    Yes, I would say among the possible issues it would be of tone, content, or timing.

    Since the talk was reprinted later on in the Ensign, I would assume the issue was not content, probably not tone, unless there was something objectionable to the tone of the delivery of the speech vs. the words. Timing seems likely, but it was reprinted.

    I for one, do not think any weight should be put on the statement by Edward Kimball in light of the talk being reprinted anew in the Ensign. Regardless of how and why it became a first presidency message, if the FP was against it, and demanded an apology to the Apostles, it seems rather strange it would just get added in by some copy editor without someone approving it.

    My guess is either Gordon B. Hinckley, who would just one month later step into the first presidency was coordinate the FP messages with his media/pr background or it was one of the other apostles. In either case, I don’t think you can just dance around the issue of a First Presidency Message, which was written by none of the First Presidency being objectionable to the First Presidency. It’s possible, but I’d rate that at the bottom list of possibilities. It’s one thing to have some assistant collecting a string of quotes from the prophet and passing them off for the FP message. It’s another for an assistant to grab quotes from someone not in the FP and pass them off for a message without some kind of approval or consent of the higher-ups, whether that’s the FP, GBH or President Benson himself.

  37. J,

    I like your analysis and appreciate your positive contribution to the discussion. I look back to Pres. Woodruff and the Manifesto era, when church leadership certainly viewed the role of the President of the Church much differently than we do today. While the Godbeites were off base in some areas, their questioning of the church’s right to dictate in economic and political matters to it’s members as in spiritual matters is pretty much taken for granted today. Woodruff’s own change of heart from what Tom Alexander in Woodruff’s biography calls a holistic view of temporal and spiritual affairs to the later accommodation and cooperation with the “gentile” world was a huge paradigm shift for the church. I fear few of us today would have enjoyed living under such strict hierarchical direction in all things.

    Many of us, perhaps unfairly, perhaps not, view Benson’s 14 principles as leading back towards that holistic view of temporal and spiritual obedience. I can understand and sympathize with those concerns.

    As others have pointed out, Pres. Benson’s conduct after he became the President of the Church seemed to differ dramatically from his earlier strident conservatism. I for one feared his ascendancy to the office of President with some trepidation, but came to love and respect him for many things, not the least of which was his emphasis on studying the Book of Mormon, which seems to correspond with an altered understanding of the doctrine of the atonement.

  38. And regardless of all I just said, there’s such a thing as going off the deep end in over analyzing the words to split hairs. It should suffice to say that generally the counsel is fine. And you can apply it to specific instances, but like all general prophetic counsel, if you are applying it specifically you need to use the wisdom that comes of being in tune with workings of the spirit if you want to get it right.

  39. Julie M. Smith says:

    I think your driving-the-car metaphor can help us with the meaning of “astray” (which, as far as I know, has never been officially or adequately defined):

    God will not let the car be driven into a ditch. He would remove the driver first.

    But that doesn’t mean that the prophet can’t drive a longer-than-necessary route, take a detour, or swerve so hard I throw up out the window, etc.

    I can rest assured that I should be in the car, but not that I will enjoy the ride. :)

  40. Well said Chris. A big problem is that folks want to act like fundamentalist inerrantist Evangelicals with respect to conference talks. (Something that goes against the letter of Pres. Benson’s talk as I noted)

    Kevin, what do you mean? It seems to me that most Mormons reject the Godbeite position intellectually but are just thankful that the Church doesn’t actually dictate economic and political matters. It’s the whole idea you can claim observance of such things by things like the United Order not being demanded in any practical sense. Even acknowledging the relative ignorance of the body of the Church of 19th century Utah history I think most recognize that the Church might call everyone up one day to live a communitarian lifestyle in Jackson country. I think most (but not all) just hope it doesn’t happen in their lifetime.

    But one of the funnest things about living in Utah are the inevitable rumors and associated excitement of some “big announcement” in conference. Even if most never see those big announcements as quite as enveloping as people experienced in the 19th century there is that sense that the Prophet could make big practical changes that affect ones life. In effect this is the remnant of 19th century history that has been made vague and then overly romanticized.

  41. J (35). Whoops. Yeah. I meant to type errantists.

    As for my question about “leading astray”, I was directing that towards Dave in (8). He seemed to indicate that even teaching that was apostasy. Which would make sense for someone who thought the change with the manifesto was apostate but more difficult for anyone else. (IMO).

    John (32) what is so interesting to me is that many of Pres. Kimball’s utterances were very much against Pres. Benson’s own views. He (and many others) had to really have a great deal of humility to sustain the Prophet. I think people are just so disconnected from that era of conservative politics and the cold war. It’s interesting that not only did Pres. Benson repudiate some of his own strongly held beliefs to sustain Pres. Kimball but followed through with this in his own Presidency. I think far too many forget it was pretty much Pres. Benson that killed the MX-Missile program via his opposition. And his opposition was hardly typical of conservatives (although I’m not that familiar with the Bircher view of such things).

  42. john willis says:

    To understand the controversy over President Benson’s talk consider the times and circumstances in which the talk was given. First , Brother Benson was the senior apostle at the time and in line to suceed Predient Kimball which of course he did five years later. This talk was seen and I think rightly so as laying the groundwork for President Benson to take the Church in a more rightwing politcal direction when he became president of the church.

    My great fear at the time was that Predient Benson would become president of the church and endorse a right wing political candidate for president (Regan being the obivous example) The talk clearly implies that the president of the church can and should do that if the circumstances are right.

    Fortunately President Benson became President of the Church after Regan was reelected and he never had the chance to endorse him.

    I often wonder if when President Benson became President of the Church there was an implicit, unspoken agreement between him and the other brethren that he would be silent about political matters on becoming president of the church. He never gave an explicitly political talk after becoming church president though he had given plenty in conference before.

    I believe that the prophet and the bretheren are infallible when they testify of Chirst and his mission. They are NOT infallible when they speak on political issues. President Grant’s opposition to the repeal of Prohibition and the establishment of Social Security are clear examples of that.
    (I think that the anti-ERA campagin and the flawed legal and sociological aruments the church pushed in the Proposition 8 campagin will over time bee seen in a similar light).

    To ilustrate my point consider two talks by Bruce R. Mckonkie.
    First his “Seven Deadly Herisies” talk. I found the talk quite interesting as I belived and still believe in a number of the herisies he condemed( But so did James, E. Talmage, John A. Widstoe and H

  43. Clark,

    That’s pretty much what I meant. Any of us who think for a moment about our temple covenants recognize the commitment we have made to building up the Kingdom of God, but are indeed relieved that we haven’t yet been called to do so (even though we have, just not through living the united order or truly sacrificing all that we have temporally).

    I suspect that for many, raising the specter of Pres. Benson’s 14 principles brings up a fear of being told how to vote, or to step up to a higher level of obedience to doctrines or policies that we find uncomfortable or inconvenient. I for one do not like the concept, as you describe it, of having to move back to Missouri and live the law of consecration in an exacting manner.

    But I also realize that I have currently covenanted to do a lot of uncomfortable stuff, and I’m not always as diligent in all the things that I know I should be doing. Sometimes, we use Pres. Benson, or other general authorities, living and dead, as bogeymen, to justify our own weaknesses.

    I guess I don’t find the 14 principles all that problematic, just how some may choose to interpret them. I include myself in that group, as well.

  44. john willis says:

    Hit the send button by accident. The other person who belived in at least some the seven deadly herisies was Henry Eyring Sr. so I think I am in pretty good company.

    Secondly ,consider his last talk in general conference in April 1985 when he knew he was dying and this would be his last talk. He did NOT give a fundamentalist, literal interpretation of scripture but rather bore his testimony of Christ. I do expect to hear such a powerful witness of Christ and his mission again in my lifetime.

    As I read the scriptures I am impressed that this is the most important role of Prophets and Apostles , to bear wtiness of Jesus Chirst, NOT to give infallible teaching on social and political issues

  45. As I listened to conference, I suspected that these talks would draw some lightning just as President Benson’s talk did originally.

    I sat in the Marriott Center for the original address and heard President Benson speak, and I was oblivious to the controversy he was causing. I have read the Kimball biography and I’ve read President Benson’s biography as well. As I recall, much of the public outcry was based on the suspicion that President Benson would one day become The Prophet and his conservative political views would take a seat at the doctrinal table. Of course we know that he did become president of the church and his political views did not take a seat at the doctrinal table.

    I do not understand the hue and cry that these points somehow reinforce a cult mentality. It is no surprise that now Seventies would also reinforce their message that we should sustain (and follow) God’s prophet on the earth today. Furthermore the notion that God’s prophet can speak on any issue God tells him to speak on is also completely reasonable.

    Of course as a member of the church I have my agency (so taught by an apostle and The Prophet himself in the most recent conference) to act however I like based on that counsel.

    J. Stapely, I don’t agree with your edit of President Benson’s words. I think it’s clear who “The Prophet” is in common parlance in the church.

    Rather than looking for ways in which we can disregard words of the living prophets (eg, by waiting for them to die so their words can be purged from the carburetor (BTW, we don’t put many of those on cars these days — even the ones the Brethren drive)) perhaps we’re better served by sorting out how to follow what they’ve taught today.

    The Prophet (President Monson in case you missed the memo) taught us about missionary work, gratitude and agency in this past conference. I don’t think anything he taught contradicted the standard works, though it’s possible he might clarify them from time to time. Seems pretty safe to follow his counsel.

  46. John Mansfield says:

    Clark is right that people are forgetting the sort of opposition Spencer Kimball was receiving as President of the Church. Benson’s talk was only months after Sonia Johnson’s excommunication. Those who think the Church’s Prop. 8 activism was unprecedented have short memories. In Nevada in 1978 there was a ballot referendum as to whether the legislature should ratify the ERA. After Sacrament meeting one Sunday, my ward went canvassing against it.

    Also, as a little reminiscence from ’78, that was the year that two Latter-day Saints, Devoe Heaton, father of eight, and Myron Leavitt, father of eleven, each won his party’s primary and faced each other in November to see who would become lieutenant governor of Nevada. It was a close race, and Brother Leavitt, the Democrat, won, and the license plate bearing only the numeral “2″ went on the family van. Now, lieutenant governor is an office without a lot to do, but one thing it is does is break ties in the state senate. Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment would come before the next session of the legislature, and Myron Leavitt promised that if called upon to break a tie, he would follow the results of a referendum question on the matter. Question No. 5 appeared on the ballot along with the choice between Brother Heaton and Brother Leavitt and asked “Do you recommend that the Nevada Legislature ratify the following proposed amendment to the United States Constitution, commonly known as the equal rights amendment?” Two-thirds of Nevada voters answered “No.” In the state senate, ratification did tie, and Myron Leavitt, voting against ratification, broke the tie.

  47. So to those who thought the Constitution was hanging by a thread as a result of the proposed ERA, Leavitt came in on a white horse and as a Mormon elder (or was he a High Priest?) saved it?

    If that is the case, then it has already been saved by the Mormon elders and it should be a settled matter these days. Or is the White Horse Prophecy to be read as recurring, never fulfilled once and for all but rather situation to be continued in perpetuity?

  48. Paul: Seems pretty safe to follow his counsel.

    That is what I said.

  49. “They are NOT infallible when they speak on political issues. President Grant’s opposition to the repeal of Prohibition and the establishment of Social Security are clear examples of that.”

    #42, I don’t have a huge beef with either of the above concepts, I recognize them as “settled precedent” so to speak.

    But why are those clear examples? Could it not be true that they concept of social security was not God’s will for us? But having chosen it of our own popular-vote exercised agency, he’s letting us have it, just like we have and will continue to have many things that may not be his will?

    I’m not wanting to side track this into the pros and cons of those programs. But I’m not sure what’s so “clear” about it, other than your apparent disagreement with it.

  50. Chris, he got it backwards. I read him as having meant “they are NOT fallible when they speak on political issues”.

  51. Apparently God has not received the memo that the title for the President of the Church is “the Prophet,” or at least He has not yet inspired the Brethren to change the title. I wonder why God has not yet inspired such a change in title (really)?

    Assuming it is “the Prophet” and only the living Prophet who can speak for God in all things, as others have pointed out, then the words of the deceased President Benson (and presumably the current words of seventies, who are not sustained as prophets) do not carry the same weight as the living Prophet. I have never heard President Monson endorse the 14 points. Perhaps they will appear again as a First Presidency message.

    Finally, I think Elder Oaks’ talk subtly modified the 14 points, when he distinguished two lines of communication with God–a direct personal line and a priesthood line. “The Prophet”, as I understand it, is the human head of the priesthood line. He said “Personal decisions and family governance are principally a matter for the personal line.” And the priesthood line “operates principally to govern heavenly communication on Church matters.”

    This seems different from implications of the 14 points of a totalizing control of “the Prophet” over the members. It seems to put a generalized (though not impenetrable) boundary on the scope of Church dictation of personal and family matters (and among personal matters, I would include deciding how to exercise the right to vote).

  52. Oops, actually, it makes sense for him to have said “they are NOT infallible when they speak on political issues”. Scratch my # 50.

  53. John Mansfield says:

    For any with concerns that Ezra Taft Benson’s talk was aimed more at future support for himself rather than sustaining of President Kimball, I recommend reading another talk of his, “President Kimball’s Vision of Missionary Work.” That talk to missionary presidents was given months before Kimball died and was devoted completely to outlining the teachings on a particular topic of the then-current Prophet of the Church.

  54. This conference had more than its share of jarring statements. I have come to the conclusion that the church does not want my education as a scientist, me reading academic church history, me discussing my opinion, or me thinking about things in my own way. I have decided to refrain from any more reading and/or commenting on LDS blogs, and also to keep my feelings and thoughts to myself in church as much as possible except to be kind to people. I hope you will all be blessed in your individual path. Goodbye.

  55. Early in President Hinckley’s tenure as President of the Church, I recall hearing him say that there is more power in his President of the Church office than his Prophet office, and he wished we would use the President of the Church title more than the Prophet title when referring to him. I recall hearing it with my own ears, but I don’t have a citation.

    I also think there is value in reading President Hinckley’s answer to the 60 Minutes interviewer Mr. Wallace when asked about being a prophet to the Church.

  56. I would love to hear input from the spouses of church presidents/apostles on this topic and similar topics. These are women who know the men in these callings to be men, to be sometimes mistaken, to be people who express opinions. How does, for example, the wife of any church president deal with statements that his words should be treated as if from the Lord? I would love to hear how these women negotiate their understanding of their husbands as both men and prophets.

  57. john willis says:

    In reply to Chris and post#49— I chose the examples of Social Security and Prohibition because some 80 years after these were big issues in the 30’s the verdict of history clearly is that Heber J. Grant was wrong on both issues.

    I would refer you the recently published book Closing Time by Daniel Okrent . After reading that definitive history of prohibition you have to come to the conclusion that prohibition was a big mistake, (B.H. Roberts had opposed prohibition despite the fact that Joseph F. Smith supported it. 90 years later Roberts looks more like a prophet on that issue than Smith)

    On social security I would only note that EVERY developed county in the world has a system of government supported old age pensions . Social Security had drastically reduced the poverty rate among the elderly compared to what it was in the 30’s.

    Mormons are not Amish and the Church and familes simply could not provide the level of support to the elderly that Social Security does.

    All the alarmist talk about social security going broke is just that talk, the social secuity system can provide promised benefits in the forseeable future with relatively minor increases in the ammount of wages of the top income levels that are subject to social security witholding and other small adjustments.

    I do not want to start a threadjack on the merits or demerits of prohibition or socail security or the ERA or gay marriage,

    My point is that there is no evidence that Heber J.Grant received a revelation such as President Kimball did in 1978 on priesthood restriction on the issues of prohibition or social security. He made an informed honest judgment on these issues and the verdict of history is that he was wrong.

    Again, I do not see how the scriptures can be honestly read to support the idea that the President of the Church or any apostle is an infallible guide to social and political issues.
    That was my problem with president Benson’s talk in 1980 and it is my problem now.

    Prophets and apostles struggle with current social and political issues. Sometimes they get it right and sometimes they get it wrong. So do you and I.

    What they cannot get wrong is their testimony of Jesus Christ and his mission. When the brethern concentrate on that and practical applications of that they will never lead us astray.

    Read the new biography of President Monson and his personal acts of Christlike service and many other similar acts that he has inspired. That is pure religion undefiled.

  58. If Joseph Smith’s vision of Zion wasn’t a socio-political enterprise, I don’t know what is. Just because something is hard to attain and we keep failing doesn’t mean the cause isn’t just.

  59. Thank you for your thoughts on the 14 Fundamentals. I think I pretty much agree with you.

    My problem with the 14 Fundamentals is two-fold – and neither has anything to do with it being incorrect or necessarily unscriptural – especially when understood like you do, and most of the commenters here.
    My problem is that it seems to be overkill in a time and place where most Mormons (especially those along the Wasatch Front – the Heartland of Mormonism) already look to the prophet as being infallible. They’ll admit humanity of the prophet, but they still look to him (and the rest of the Apostles) as being near-perfect idols.
    Problem 1) If we assume ourselves to be the offspring of deity with potential to one day become creators ourselves, then one of the great abilities that we will have to attain is being able to discern the good amongst ambiguity. One of the greatest virtues of our Gospel and Doctrine is the necessity to become agents unto ourselves, free thinking, discerning; to understand morality within confusion. Talks like the 14 Fundamentals – though not specifically incorrect – solidify the tendency to want to be commanded in all things – possibly even to the level of whether or not we should have body piercings or let our kids have sleepovers. The offspring of God were never meant to be so minutely led if they are to acheive their highest potentials.
    Problem 2) In a church where we are so large, and therefore so disconnected from the leaders that we begin to overly glorify and idolize them, talks like this unnecessarily de-emphasize the prophets ability to err. In a world where so many travesties have happened in the name of infallability of religion, it seems that we would want to greater emphasize the prophet’s ability to make mistakes. I realize that it is unlikely that President Monson will institute Thursday Night Human Sacrifices at the next General Conference, but at the same time we teach Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of Isaac every four years, and we ponder to ourselves could we do it? Now we have to ask, in a church of 12 million, for every 9,999 that would never kill in the name of religion out of obedience to a leader, are there one or two that might? Could we find 1000 faithful members that might spill blood out of ignorant obedience? I bet we could.

  60. In the time of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young when people were breaking off and forming their own sects of Mormonism, a talk like this would have been sensible. Instead it seems that Joseph often emphasized the need to seek one’s own witness.
    Now in a time where I think very few (percentage-wise) Mormons take the information received at Conference and individually pray to receive a witness of its veracity, we get talks that I believe have an effect of de-emphasizing that very need.
    I realize that we are currently enduring a somewhat tumultuous time in the church in comparison to the last decade or so, what with the hurt feelings over Prop-8, and the speakers probably felt a need to restore faith in a living prophet, and testify of him. I just get a little worried when I hear talks like this, and talks like this are then re-read or “talked about (re-read)” in Elders Quorum and Sacrament meeting countless times, and yet no one that I recall has gotten up since I was alive to testify of the importance of seeking our own witness BECAUSE of the fallability of the prophet.

  61. Steve Evans says:

    The question of what constitutes “leading the Church astray” is a very interesting thought question. Of course, given Pres. Woodruff’s quote, we are to take it to be an impossibility.

  62. #48 — “That’s what I said.” Yes, you did. I didn’t mean to say that I objected to everything you said, simply your edit of Pr. Benson’s use of “the prophet” to designate the president of the church.

    I don’t (as I previously said) share the concern that others do about the correctness of the 14 principles or their effect that we will suddenly become (or continue as) mindless drones doing whatever good the prophet asks us to do.

    Far more dangerous in my mind is conflating some administrative direction as “the prophet’s will”, and that’s being tantamount to God’s will (I’m sure we can all think of serveral examples).

    #57 John, I certainly agree with you that both prohibition and social security did not fall President Grant’s way, but I still don’t understand your argument that he was “wrong” unless by that you mean his being right means that things needed to turn out the way he wanted.

    #54, I don’t know what conference you listened to, but the conclusions I drew from conference were certainly very different.

  63. Perhaps I haven’t read the comments carefully enough, so advance apologies if this is redundant, but I think it’s appropriate to point out that President Woodruff’s statement can hardly be taken as authoritative on the matter. It was probably the one point in our entire history when such a statement had less absolute credibility than any other. A Church President, whom a significant number of Church members believed might be leading the Church astray, tried to assuage those concerns by claiming that God would not permit him to do so. He tried to play a trump card, but in order for the statement to be taken as authoritative and binding the authority that it claims for itself must be presumed a priori rather than derived.

    “How do you know that a Church President won’t lead the Church astray?”

    “Because a Church President trying to deflect doubts that he might be leading the Church astray told me so.”

    But there are several other possible interpretations consistent with President Woodruff’s making of this claim, for example:

    —Claiming that it’s not possible for a Church President to lead the Church astray is a sign that a Church President is, in fact, trying to lead the Church astray (or is at least doubtful as to whether or not his actions will lead the Church astray).

    —The belief that a Church President cannot lead the Church astray is a precondition that actually makes it possible for a Church leader to lead the Church astray.

  64. CJ Douglass (5) (and many others from the GC Conference threads who said variations on this same theme):

    Third: The living [Church President] is more important to us than a dead prophet.

    Benson was spot on with this one… Which is why I’m puzzled by the inclusion of the 14 points in a 2010 GC (from a BYU address, while he was President of the 12). Was the irony really lost on these dear brethren??

    This really isn’t as clever of a jab as ya’ll seem to think it is. The fact that we consistently have explicitly, systematically, used the words of dead, past prophets as the material for courses in Church meetings implies that it’s wrong-headed to chant, “Neener-neener, you’re quoting a dead prophet, hahaha! How ironic!” whenever someone uses that phrase.

    To me, it seems fairly obvious that this statement is only relevant when we have contradicting or competing statements. To the extent that any of the 14 points remain uncontradicted since the death of President Benson, there is no reason that those points should be viewed at all through a “Whoa, buddy! Past prophet!” kind of window.

  65. J.

    When I was a teen, I voted yes on this: “It is now proposed that we sustain David O. McKay as Prophet, Seer, and Revelator and President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

    Last week, I voted yes on this: “It is proposed that we sustain Thomas Spencer Monson as Pophet, Seer, and Revelator and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

    Yes, Virginia, there is a Prophet. And he is sustained as such in every general, stake, and ward conference. It is NOT merely a colloquialism. It is his rightful title.

  66. LOL. R. Gary you are a peach.

  67. 65 wow, that was one of the more unnecessarily insulting comments I’ve ever seen.

  68. Just for the sake of perspective, imagine you are an outsider. Since that is difficult to do as a member of the Church, pretend the same statements were made about Scientology or Jehovah’s Witnesses or some other group. If they taught the same absolute devotion to a single leader on all matters, whether religious or civic or not, it might seem fairly cultish to us.

  69. “I have come to the conclusion that the church does not want my education as a scientist, me reading academic church history, me discussing my opinion, or me thinking about things in my own way.”

    That’s sure not what I got out of conference.

  70. For what it’s worth: The speech President Benson gave at BYU was not, verbatim, the same as the one printed later in the Ensign. A cursory comparison shows that Point 10 (referring to the Church President’s role in political activity) was severely truncated in the Ensign version.

  71. R. Gary, you bring up an important idea. I sustained President Monson as a prophet, seer and revelator as well. I also sustained the rest of the members of First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers and revelators. By your reasoning, then all of them are “The Prophet” as well? Or why don’t we call President Monson “The Seer”? The fact remains that there is no office or calling of “Prophet” in the church, only offices associated with the capacity and many other capacities. However, a convention has developed over time to call the Church President “the Prophet,” which I often use as well as other Latter-day Saints.

  72. Mike S, I just don’t see it entailing that much as a practical matter. Further the bigger issue is what the consequences of disagreeing are. And let’s be honest. So long as you don’t make a big PR mess no one cares if you disagree.

  73. Mike S (68),
    If you want to make that argument, you need to properly cite The Scientology Rule.

  74. @Brad #63: Your post seems based on the assumption that the Holy Ghost will not confirm the truth of Woodruff’s/Benson’s assertions to their respective audiences.

  75. 57 – so it’s clear because you say it is. Point taken. I don’t need to see example of what other nations do that “works” to somehow mean it’s what God desires. I’m not sure how you can so surely make that claim. The truth of the matter is more prophets and apostles have spoken one way than another, but they’re not harping on it now. Apparently you’d say its because they figured out they were wrong. Maybe it’s because the people have spoken and they can’t keep spitting in the wind.

    But that’s not the point of this topic, I’m just glad you cleared up your opinion for me.

  76. Quinn argues that up till Pres. McKay the President was referred to as “President”; “the Prophet” meant Joseph Smith. It was under Pres. McKay that it changed.

  77. The other person who belived in at least some the seven deadly [heresies] was Henry Eyring Sr. so I think I am in pretty good company.

    Several of the “seven deadly heresies” were prominent teachings of Brigham Young. Of the seven only two appear to be rejected by the contemporary Church without question. The rest are moderately respectable.

  78. I hate to agree with Quinn about anything, Steve, but that matches my observations (after thousands of hours with church magazines and lesson manuals).

  79. It makes sense with the internationalization of the Church. When most Mormons are in the Deseret Quarter one takes the Presidency for granted simply because you have the social structures carrying thing on with a force of their own. When the Church starts to be in so many places without Mormon culture then there will be a move to have something replace that social authority.

  80. Aside from discussing these points, did anyone else find it funny that the 2nd guy very likely had to redo a big chunk of his talk during the break after the morning session? hahah I can just imagine his heart sinking while he listened… ‘dang! he’s using all my material’…

    ok, sorry for the interruption… please carry on with the nit picking

  81. I heard, a long time ago, that Joseph F. Smith was asked during the Smoot hearings if he were a prophet. And that he answered “My people sustain me as a prophet.”

    Is that a true story, or just a faith-promoting rumor?

  82. Mark B., that is from the opening day and opening questions of his Testimony. If you have access to the volumes, it is on 1:80 (though on 1:288 there is some more interesting similar discussion where he democratizes being a prophet seer and revelator to every man and woman in the church).

    Mr. Tayler. What official position do you now hold in the church?
    Mr. Smith. I am now the president of the church.
    Mr. Tayler. Is there any other description of your title than mere president?
    Mr. Smith. No, sir; not that I know of.
    Mr. Tayler. Are you prophet, seer, and revelator?
    Mr. Smith. I am so sustained and upheld by my people.
    Mr. Tayler. Do you get that title by reason of being president or by reason of having been an apostle?
    Mr. Smith. By reason of being president.
    Mr. Tayler. Are not all the apostles also prophets, seers, and revelators?
    Mr. Smith. They are sustained as such at our conferences.
    Mr. Talyer. They all have that title now, have they not?
    Mr. Smith. Well, they are so sustained at the conferences.
    Mr. Tayler. I want to know if they do not have that title now.
    Mr. Smith. I suppose if they are sustained they must have that title.
    Mr. Tayler. Are they sustained as such now?
    Mr. Smith. I have said so twice, sir.

  83. I, for one, like J’s decision to change “prophet” to “President”. Benson’s speech is already prone to ridiculous interpretation by churchmembers in other ways. The last thing we need is members who read it and conclude that their ridiculous interpretations are also applicable to the apostles, who are also referred to as “prophets” in some contexts.

  84. J.

    Re: “President Monson as a prophet, seer and revelator”

    Yes, we sustained 15 men as such. But immediately prior to that, we sustained one man, Thomas S. Monson, “as Prophet, Seer, and Revelator and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

    Not “as a prophet” (to quote you again), rather “as Prophet.”

    Steve Fleming,

    Re: “It was under Pres. McKay that it changed.”

    During the fifties, we knew McKay as the Prophet. That is how we have known all seven of his successors. When you have to reach back sixty years, it becomes irrelevant.

  85. “When you have to reach back sixty years, it becomes irrelevant.”

    I’ll hold you to that little gem in the future, R. Gary.

  86. I’m sure you will.

  87. It’s not really a matter of liking or not liking the change from prophet to president. I like J’s explanation of why he did it just fine. It’s just that if we want to talk about what ETB said, well, we should talk about what he actually said. Which was prophet.

    Changing it just becomes a distraction.

  88. A few quick points

    1) It wasn’t until President McKay and his magnetism and prophetic appearance, that LDS referred to the President of the Church as “The Prophet.” Prior to that time, if you said “the prophet” you would most likely have been thought to be talking about Joseph Smith.

    2) Regarding the idea of going astray, the idea was certainly around before Wilford Woodruff. There seems to have been some variation on this theme, of who or what you should stick with- The president of the Church? the majority of the Twelve? The majority of the LDS people? The First Presidency collectively? The presence of records of the Church?

    “I never was afraid of Joseph, although many would falter and feared Joseph would go astray. I did not serve Joseph, but I patterned after the doctrine the Lord has revealed through him. There was no possibility of Joseph leading the people astray. If I thought that God would suffer a man to lead a righteous people astray I would not serve him, I would leave him and seek another; I serve the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers; he has called Joseph and will never let him lead this people astray, but when he has done his work he will take him to himself. I never was afraid of my friends and you need not be; the Lord Almighty will never suffer his people to go astray, unless they as a people want to follow iniquity; never, no never, no never.” Brigham Young 7 April 1850 Salt Lake City General Conference Mill Star 12:273-276; Elden J. Watson, Brigham Young Addresses, 2. 12

    Wilford Woodruff: “I say to all Israel at this day, I say to the whole world, that the God of Israel, who organized this Church and kingdom, never ordained any President or Presidency to lead it astray. Hear it, ye Israel, no man who has ever breathed the breath of life can hold these keys of the kingdom of God and lead the people astray”, June 2, 1889, YMMIA Conference; Collected Discourses 1.293

    “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.” (from recollection of William G. Nelson, in Young Women’s Journal 17 (December 1906): 543.

    Ezra T. Clark recalled: “I heard the Prophet Joseph say he would give the Saints a key whereby they would never be led away or deceived, and that was: the Lord would never suffer the 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.” (Improvement Era 5 (January 1902): 202.

    “Edward Stevenson remembered the statement as “a key by which you may never be deceived” and that it was that “a majority of the saints and the records and history of the Church also” would remain with the Church. (Andrew Jenson, and Edward Stevenson, Infancy of the Church (SLC 1889): 5.

    (If my notes are right, some of the above citations are taken from Madsen, Joseph Smith the Prophet (Bookcraft 1989): 39, and note 22, page 147.)

    Did this apply not just to the man at the top, but to every Apostle and leader? Wilford Woodruff seemed to think so.

    The Lord will not permit me or any other man to lead this people astray. If the leaders do wrong, the Lord will take them away. If an Apostle does not magnify his calling, the Lord will remove him and not permit him to lead away the people.” Brigham Young, 21 July 1861 WW p 418; Wilford Woodruff Journal, date; Elden Watson, Brigham Young Addresses 4.122

    All of this throws great doubt, in my mind, on the claim that these statements pertain to the idea of de facto infallibility (though certainly WW may have pushed it in that direction with the Manifesto), and more towards Church government and authority vis-a-vis breakoffs or schisms, like the then-RLDS Church.

  89. One of my favorite quotes from Hugh Nibley comes from his class on the Book of Mormon that FARMS recorded and distributed. He was talking about Lehi and a student raised his hand.

    “I’m a little confused. I’m used to thinking of prophecy being linked to leading the church” [in reference to Lehi]

    “No” Nibley cut him off, “prophecy is a gift, not an office. One of the greatest prophets we’ve ever had in the church is Eliza R. Snow.”

  90. Nice pulls, Ben.

  91. This subtopic isn’t nearly as important as the quantity of ink spilled on it would suggest.

  92. Steve, that rules.

  93. Scott B.

    I missed that post. I like the rule and sorry I didn’t quote it. :-)

  94. Ben S,
    All of those quotes (unlike, say, authoritative statements about Evil-lution) are more than 60 years old. Which, of course, makes them irrelevant to the question of prophetic authority.

  95. I feel like being nit-picky today—,

    Benson’s talk was reprinted in the Liahona, not the Ensign. I would speculate that perhaps this was because the editorial board of the magazines felt that the message was ok outside the context of American politics. Or maybe the editor just needed a 1st presidency message and all the others were taken. I’ll never know, but it’s fun to guess. It has also been noted that the content of the talk was edited as well, thanks for pointing that out. That being said, there are a lot of unfortunate things that have made their way into church magazines and other official publications over the years. That’s just life.

    As for the “never lead you astray, I seem to recall Justin pointing out once that the Woodruff quote found under OD1 was never canonized. I would think that it is no more binding on the saints than any of the other footnotes, study aids, or any other random GA quote.

  96. I’m just going to swoop in to say that I discussed my analysis of the whole living prophets vs. dead prophets vs. scriptures thing in this post (provocatively entitled “The Prophet Is Dead”), if anyone’s interested. (I know it’s bad form to pimp my own post like that, but it really is too long to summarize here.)

    At any rate, I look forward to your comments on the other points, J. Stapely.

  97. I don’t know whether ETB had a hidden agenda when his talk was originally given, but I wonder if all the emphasis on following prophetic counsel in this conference can be traced back to Prop 8 and the difficulty so many LDS members had with it.

  98. John Mansfield says:

    So, when Evan Stephens wrote “We ever pray for thee, our prophet dear,” was he way out there, confusing singers as to why they were asking God to give to the Prophet Joseph Smith comfort and cheer as the advancing years furrowed his brow. Any clues from your readings of the old magazines, Ardis?

  99. John Mansfield says:

    At the October 1898 conference, at which Lorenzo Snow was first sustained as President of the Church, Heber J. Grant expressed “Do I know that Lorenzo Snow is a Prophet of God? Yes, I do. Do I know that Wilford Woodruff was a Prophet of God? Yes, I do. Do I know that John Taylor and Brigham Young were Prophets of God? Yes, I do.”

    For those telling us that from Joseph Smith’s death until the presidency of David O. McKay the Latter-day Saints didn’t regard the president of the Church as “the prophet,” why did Heber J. Grant make a point of testifying that those four particular men were prophets? Why those four who happened to be the only four men to be President of the Church since Joseph Smith? Why prophets?

  100. John Mansfield, I haven’t made a scientific study of it, but my understanding is that people did look at the Church President as a prophet. Brigham Young famously told people to stop calling him prophet, for example. The Saints have sustained the First Presidency and Twelve as prophets (seers and revelators) for a long time. I think the shift was more about popular usage. We tend to talk about the “Prophet” all the time now and very infrequently, the “President of the Church.” That doesn’t mean we don’t think he is still the president of the church, though.

  101. “God will not let the car be driven into a ditch. He would remove the driver first.

    “But that doesn’t mean that the prophet can’t drive a longer-than-necessary route, take a detour, or swerve so hard I throw up out the window, etc.

    “I can rest assured that I should be in the car, but not that I will enjoy the ride. ”

    Julie M Smith, I cannot express how much that helps me process this mess.

    And J.- I’m looking forward to the rest of this series. Fascinating read for those of us ignorant of our history or the frame of reference from those talks. I appreciate your work and your insight.

  102. The reason I can sustain the Brethren as Prophets, seers and revelators is because I have felt the very gifts. These are gifts of the spirit, available to all people.

    As to why we sustain the Brethren, specially, as prophets, seers and revelators, I suspect it is to emphasize their callings to the Church, to receive revelation for the Church. You could sustain me to be a prophet also, and yourselves, and you would not be wrong.

    In priesthood terms, the Melchizedek priesthood has 5 offices, elder, high priest, seventy, apostle and presidency. There is no office in the priesthood called prophet, according to D&C 107. Or, maybe, the new presidents of the church, because of their primacy, are making a new office. I guess nothing is sacrosanct. Why argue?

    Wait a few years and section 107 will be modified, like it was for the seventy.

  103. RW, you may want to read WVS’s 12-part treatment of D&C 107 before a such a quick judgment.

  104. Ezra Taft Benson’s 2 best known talks, the 14 Fundamentals and the talk proclaiming that all history must be faith promoting, are the 2 most destructive and harmful talks to capture the imagination of mainstream Mormons. Thankfully, his idea that all history must be faith promoting has all but been repudiated. Too bad the 14 fundamentals is still with us.

  105. John M., I think what J. is trying to say with this technicality is that there is no actual office of Prophet but rather that the actual technical office held is titled President of the Church. This seems uncontroversial — do you see it differently?

    I don’t think J. is actually claiming that we don’t understand the President of the Church to be “The Prophet” and sustained as such — in fact, it is clear that virtually all Latter-day Saints view President Monson as the prophet at the head of the Church at this time (note that as a matter of usage we don’t call him Prophet Monson, even if some investigators are known to do that). So it’s hard to see what you are objecting to — seems to be straining at a gnat, which in my opinion J. is also doing by changing “prophet” to “Church President” in his discussion of the 14 Fundamentals. (Although Aaron B. makes a good point above that the change helps clarify that Apostle Benson was referring to the President of the Church and not to all 15 Apostles each of whom are also sustained as prophets in their office as Apostles.)

    But I also agree with Ardis and others (e.g. Quinn) that from my perspective, until the mid-twentieth century, when Mormons referred to “The Prophet”, they were typically referring in shorthand to Joseph Smith. If I am not mistaken, this is particularly pronounced in the writings of Joseph F. Smith and Bruce McConkie.

  106. I meant to say Joseph Fielding Smith.

  107. John Mansfield says:

    John F., I am disagreeing with comments like #76 by Steve Fleming. There were several like that under other posts this weekend that run too far with J. Stapley’s idea and tell us, based on reading Quinn I guess, that until David O. McKay came along the saints didn’t think of the president of the chuch as the prophet. They would have us understand that if a visitor to Salt Lake City circa 1920 stopped a dozen people on the street and asked “Who is the Mormon prophet?”, most would have answered “Joseph Smith.” I think too much can be made for a preference of using the title “President.” For example, in your comment above you refer to “Apostle Benson,” which is a very infrequent usage. If you asked any member of the church who Neal Maxwell, LeGrand Richards, and James Talmage were, he would answer, “They were apostles,” even though he would always title them Elder.

    Consider if Sunday schools through the last century had been asked to fill in the blank of this sentence: “The man who leads the LDS Church is the ___________ .” Would there have been a shift from filling that blank with president to filling it with prophet?

  108. Consider if Sunday schools through the last century had been asked to fill in the blank of this sentence: “The man who leads the LDS Church is the ___________ .” Would there have been a shift from filling that blank with president to filling it with prophet?

    I do not believe so and I don’t think that J. is arguing that either. Mormons have always viewed the President of the Church as the current prophet (with perhaps the exception of how Brigham Young saw himself?) — but this does not mean that then or now “prophet” has ever been an actual office in the Church, which is J.’s point.

    As to my usage of “Apostle Benson” above, I find that a necessary and helpful practice particularly with Ezra Taft Benson to distinguish from things he wrote and said while an Apostle from positions he took officially after being invested with the office of President of the Church. In this case, the 14 Fundamentals talk was during his tenure as an Apostle. His talk on pride, by contrast, was delivered when he was the President of the Church, sustained by all of us as “the prophet” for that time period.

  109. The Prophet of the Church is also the Church President and the Church President is also the Prophet of the Church. In many situations, one term is as good as the other. Ezra Taft Benson chose to speak of “the prophet” instead of the “Church President.”

    It doesn’t matter whether there is an actual “office” of Prophet or not, it is appropriate to speak of the office of Prophet or the Prophet of the Church.

    “I return to where I started with the dream of a poor boy who was sleeping alone on a mountain and saw a mansion toward which he hurried. Before entering, he stopped to cleanse himself and dress himself in clean garments. He was reproved for being late. He replied, ‘Yes, but I am clean!’ The Prophet Joseph smiled, and Joseph F. Smith, that young missionary, eventually succeeded to the office of Prophet and President himself.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Be Ye Clean,” Ensign, May 1996, p.49.)

    “Of the sacred gifts of the Spirit, one that I believe has impact on each of our lives is the gift of prophecy or revelation. This gift is different from the priesthood office of prophet.” (Robert D. Hales, “Gifts of the Spirit,” Ensign, Feb 2002, p.12.)

    The prophet of the Church, whether Joseph Smith or someone who would be called to be prophet after Joseph, is the only one who receives revelation for the entire Church.” (Primary 5: Lesson 15.)

    “From time to time, I have been interviewed by representatives of the media. Almost invariably they have asked, ‘How does revelation come to the prophet of the Church?’ I reply that it comes now as it has come in the past.” (“The Quorum of the First Presidency,” Ensign, Dec 2005, 46–50.)

    Since it doesn’t appear that J. is launching a Churchwide crusade against the use of these terms, it comes down to an attitude of superiority toward one man, Ezra Taft Benson. And that’s what bothers me.

  110. John Mansfield says:

    John F., I pretty much agree with your description. (I also loved your suggestion to deal with the White Horse prophesy by telling people that it was fulfilled in ’78 by some guy named Leavitt—over and done with.)

    I’m not sure if J. Stapley is correct or not that there is no office of prophet of the church. Here is Bruce McConkie’s description of the ordination of Spencer Kimball:

    And then all those present placed their hands upon the head of President Kimball, and he was ordained and set apart, with President Benson being mouth, to serve as President of the Church and as the prophet, seer, and revelator for this time and this season.

  111. “Since it doesn’t appear that J. is launching a Churchwide crusade against the use of these terms, it comes down to an attitude of superiority toward one man, Ezra Taft Benson. And that’s what bothers me.”

    R. Gary–J. does not launch crusades. He’s a nerdy, straightforward chemist turned historian. You can count on him describing what he sees in the historical record the way someone whose used to observing in a lab would. Save your accusations of bias and “an attitude of superiority” for those of us who might actually deserve them. (Although, seriously–superiority to a prophet?! Not around here.)

  112. argh–someone _who’s_

  113. There were several like that under other posts this weekend that run too far with J. Stapley’s idea and tell us, based on reading Quinn I guess, that until David O. McKay came along the saints didn’t think of the president of the chuch as the prophet.

    Serious, serious misreading of this point and a terrible misstatement of the perspective of people like me who endorsed Quinn’s observation!

    Of course I personally think, and believe that Saints of the past thought, that presidents of the church were and are prophets. It is grossly unfair to charge us with thinking otherwise.

    Quinn’s observation, which I continue to endorse, was that the title “the Prophet” — the Prophet, the capital-P Prophet, the title alone without need to be followed be a name — was generally reserved for Joseph Smith. A statement like “The Prophet taught that …” would have been understood to be a reference to Joseph Smith, unless the immediate context indicated otherwise. A song like “Follow the Prophet” couldn’t have been written in the early 20th century because the words would have meant one thing while the context means something else.

    Noting that the title “the Prophet” was generally reserved for one man in no way negates a recognition that presidents of the church, and others, function as prophets (lowercase-p prophets, in the sense of a role rather than a personal title). Don’t you dare suggest that I believe otherwise when I observe the historical usage of the title.

  114. I don’t have any numbers to back this up, but I have heard that there is almost always a goodly portion of the body of the Saints who leave the church upon the change in leadership in the presidency of the church.

    My parents knew many who left the church when SWK died and ETB took his office. I met a man on my mission who left when Pres. Hinckley changed Rick’s College to BYU-Idaho and eliminated the football program there. He was insistent that such a decision could not come from a true prophet.

    So with that kind of context, it makes sense to me to have a General Authority point out that the living prophet (or president of the church) is more important than a dead prophet (or president of the church). Also, there is this folk-lore concept (possibly taught in conference at one point or another), that if we were to lose every single copy of the scriptures, we as Latter-day Saints would be okay because the Lord could reveal His word and will to the living prophets, seers, and revelators. So, again, we can see how a living prophet is more important to us today than a dead prophet. This doesn’t mean that past prophets are unimportant, though. They are important. Just not as important as those currently among us. Unless, of course, we want to be like those who say, “I am of Paul” or “I am of Cephas” or “I am of Joseph Smith” or “I am of David O. McKay”.

  115. John Mansfield says:

    Ardis, J. Golden Kimball seemed to feel that Joseph F. Smith was not only a prophet, but the capital P Prophet filling the same role in the Church that Joseph Smith had. Was he unique in this view for his time?

    General Conference, April 1910

    President Joseph F. Smith is the Prophet of this Church, and he is the man who is appointed. When the Lord wants to give this Church a revelation, or give it instruction, He will give it through Joseph F. Smith, the Prophet. He will not give it through me, and He will not give it through an Apostle. The Apostles are prophets, seers, and revelators, and as such we sustain them. God does not give His revelations through the Twelve for His Church; He gives them through His living Prophet that is appointed, as the Prophet Joseph Smith was.

  116. DKL (104): Ezra Taft Benson’s 2 best known talks, the 14 Fundamentals and the talk proclaiming that all history must be faith promoting

    Best known to whom? I bet the typical member doesn’t even know that latter talk and see the Pride and Book of Mormon talks as the best known.

    John, I suspect the change wasn’t an abrupt one but rather it was in the 50’s that the dominant use changed. With the manifesto and other such changes there would have been more and more pressure to elevate the living prophet above past ones if only to deal with the schizm over polygamy and the like. So J. Golden’s use probably wasn’t that unusual. (I don’t know not having done a survey of the documents) But certainly his emphasis was very common for that time.

  117. Mansfield, you are willfully misconstruing peoples’ comments. Stop it. R. Gary, you are getting all worked up over very little, that I can see. I maintain that there is no priesthood or church office of prophet. The examples you gave were of popular colloquial usage. If you disagree, let’s see some actual evidence. For a bibliography (and some discussion on the fairly recent practice of ordaining the Church President), see here. Otherwise, let’s all move along.

    Thanks for the supportive comments, all.

  118. Mansfield, I wrote “…unless the immediate context indicated otherwise.” Your quoted paragraph is saturated with references to the then-current President Joseph F. Smith.

    That’s what “context” means. Don’t be so dense.

  119. John Mansfield says:

    J., one of your references says that the first ordination of the Church President happened with Lorenzo Snow (1898) and was standard from then on. If there were a church office of prophet, what would be the signs of that different from what we see such as sustainings and apostles claiming to have recently set the Church President apart as the prophet?

  120. Ah, colloquialisms. How many people, upon seeing an insect of some variety or other, refer to it as a bug? Unless they are actually talking about an insect of the order hemiptera, these people are technically wrong.

    All bugs are insects. Not all insects are bugs. Bugs are a specific group of insects. No matter how many books for children are published that claim that bugs are all insects and many arachnids and other arthropods, it doesn’t change the fact. Nor does it matter how much people want to claim that usage trumps all. The fact remains that, from a specific, technical standpoint, folks who refer to all manner of insects as bugs are wrong. Yes, we know what they are talking about, but they are still not being accurate in their word choice.

  121. So to those who thought the Constitution was hanging by a thread as a result of the proposed ERA, Leavitt came in on a white horse and as a Mormon elder (or was he a High Priest?) saved it?

    Assuming that President Benson was aware of M. Leavitt’s deed on a white steed, it does not appear that President Benson thought that M. Leavitt had saved the U.S. Constitution.

    In “Fourteen Fundamentals” (Feb. 1980), President Benson commented to his audience that the U.S. Constitution “at this time seems to be almost hanging by a thread.”

  122. Again, all this talk of Prophets vs Presidents is just so damn interesting! Certainly more edifying than a boring discussion about the scope of the Prophet’s power and authority in the modern church. I haven’t had this much fun since I painted my family room, then pulled up a chair and spent all evening watching the paint dry. I am happy to provide a riveting minute-by-minute write-up of all 6 hours, if anyone’s interested.

  123. I’m drawing a blank right now, so I’ll work with you under the assumption that it was Snow who was first ordained. I would think that the creation of a new office in the priesthood would require some explicit instruction to that effect. Are you saying that Brigham Young, John Taylor and Wilford Woodruff occupied a different office than Thomas S. Monson? I think it is also important to note that Relief Society presidencies were ordained into the twentieth century. I view the rise of ordaining the Church President in similar terms. Julie Beck holds the same office in the Church that Eliza R. Snow did, even though Snow was ordained and Beck was not.

  124. Has it occurred to anyone that maybe the thread by which the Constitution hangs is more like a thick rope, tied to the document with one of those invincible knots we all learned how to do in Boy Scouts? Really changes your perspective, doesn’t it? Let’s talk about this!

  125. John Mansfield says:

    Steven Heath, “Notes on Apostolic Succession,” Dialogue 20 (Summer 1987): 44-57.

  126. J., I did not know that they stopped ordaining RS Presidents. Does anyone know when that happened roughly?

  127. probably coincides with Correlation.

  128. Thanks for the pointer, John.

    Aaron R., I don’t know. I have many accounts of RS presidents being ordained on the local level in the 19th century and I have Eliza R. Snow and her presidency’s ordinations. I have to admit that I haven’t nailed down when the shift occurred.

  129. I wonder whether it changed at the point when they stopped having lifetime service at the General level, i.e. with Emmeline B. Wells. Hence I would speculate that it was a little earlier than ‘correlation’.

  130. Yeah, I was going to guess after EBW, too. But it’s just a guess.

  131. Correlation is the point at which all auxiliaries were put under the direction of the priesthood — it seems like this would be the natural point for such a change to have entered in.

  132. John Mansfield says:

    I already cited McConkie saying that participated in ordaining Spencer Kimball, but this part is more explicit:

    And so after there had been full expression and consideration, Elder Ezra Taft Benson, the next one in seniority to President Kimball, made the formal motion that the First Presidency of the Church be reorganized; that President Spencer W. Kimball be sustained, ordained, and set apart as the President of the Church; as the prophet, seer, and revelator to the Church; and as the Trustee-in-Trust. This motion was adopted unanimously.

  133. Alright, everyone got a stick? Check.
    Honorary dead horse? Check

    On the count of three
    one, two, three

    BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT . . . . .

    Alright, now that we have that out of our system, what was this thread originally about. . . . oh yes, the 14 fundamentals.

  134. John, everyone already agrees that the Church President is sustained as a prophet, seer and revelator. JS was sustained as such; BY was sustained as such. I view that description as being descriptive of his calling, as Church President. If he had said, “; as the soul individual authorized to direct the use of all priesthood keys;” I would not say that this was a new calling. The inclusion of Trustee in Trust is a great example as that is a legal capacity that goes to the Church President (as per the incorporation agreements).

  135. This debate would quickly end if Thomas S. Monson said___”I am The Prophet of prophets, and The Church President”.

  136. LOL – yeah that’s true Bob.

    John, I think you are misunderstanding the point of contention. When did the phrase “THE PROPHET” rhetorically move from primarily being Joseph Smith into primarily being about the President of the Church. It’s a general point so merely finding exceptions is beside the point as there are always exceptions to any general pattern.

  137. On a semi related note, have any of you heard of the new church committee that is targeting the internet, blogs, etc. It is called the anti anti-mormon committee or something to that affect. My understanding is that it is meant to challenge what the brethren perceive as massive disinformation on many sticky issues. The fear is that too many single adults and youth are leaving the church.

    I wonder if the talks are a reaction to what they see going on within the church to which the free flow of information on the internet has contributed. I wonder if there should be more inoculation as Kevin Barney has suggested opposed to what appears to be retrenchment.

  138. Joshua, the committee has been around since before the internet. The church is under scriptural mandate to collect information (good and bad) that is said about the Church. I also don’t see any of the retrenchment that you are seeing.

    Bob, I don’t think that would end it, because of course, he is the Prophet of prophets. What would end debate is if he said, “Prophet is an office in the Priesthood/Church in addition to the office of Church President.”

  139. 136..I think it started with that primary song. Follow the president of the church wasn’t as easy to fit into verse.

  140. J. Stapley

    Im aware of what you are mentioning but I am speaking of a brand new committee that will answer specific charges against the church. My understanding is they want to answer difficult questions as opposed to having apologists or lay members do so. My information comes from a source that works closely with the brethren.

  141. i hope this isn’t one of the questions i’m asked at the pearly gates as i seek admittance after this life… if it is, i may as well live it up as there’s no hope for any of us

  142. No. 134. I don’t think that Brigham Young was sustained as prophet, seer and revelator, but only as President. I’m pretty sure John Taylor was also not sustained as PS&R.

    Sheldon

  143. Stapley

    I based by comment on BY not being sustained as Prophet, Seer and Revelator on Quinn. I just read your Jan. 2008 comment on this issue and the issue seems more nuanced than I had thought.

    Sheldon

  144. Thanks Sheldon. For those interested, here is that link.

  145. StillConfused says:

    You know what would be cool is if each blog posting had a line at the bottom on the front page (where the summaries are) which showed the last time a comment was made on that particular blog. The sidebar to the right is helpful but it doesn’t provide any timing of when a comment was made. Any thoughts?

  146. As my latest contribution to flogging that poor dead horse, I’ve been using the Relief Society Magazines for the 1940s today. The alternate Social Science lessons for 1948-49 have these titles:

    Preview: The Presidency a Unit — The Three Are One
    Lessons 1-2: The Presidency of the Prophet Joseph Smith
    Lessons 3-4: The Presidency of Brigham Young
    Lesson 5: The Presidency of John Taylor
    Lesson 6: The Presidency of Wilford Woodruff
    Lesson 7: The Presidency of Lorenzo Snow

    Notice the subtle difference in title? That’s exactly the kind of thing you see over and over and over in the lesson manuals and magazines until around 1960.

  147. Mommie Dearest says:

    I don’t think it’s a bad call to put Joseph Smith, as a prophet, in a class by himself. Some days I think we could surely use some of that fountain of revelation that came from him again in these times. But at the edge of that thought is a voice whispering, “You may not be strong enough to take that.”

  148. Even in the OT there are prophets and then there are PROPHETS. Look at the place of Moses or Elijah or perhaps even Isaiah. I think Joseph has that role within the restoration. That’s not to disparage all the other guys. But some people are just in a different class.

  149. J. Yelpats says:

    I just had to chime in here to agree with many people that J. Stapley’s effort at mixing semantics with ambiguity is disappointing.

    A prophet is not ordained, as it’s not an office in the priesthood. A prophet is however CALLED (despite Stapley saying otherwise) and SUSTAINED as such. The fact that he is called and set apart as the President of the Church also makes him the prophet OF THE CHURCH.

    The attitude of Stapley “editing Benson’s litany” to reflect his own distorted doctrinal views has further assured I hope many readers of this blog to avoid the darkness that is contained within any post that carries an author’s name of J. Stapley.

  150. J. Yelpats, you’ve badly misunderstood what J. was saying. Even if you hadn’t, there’s no basis for your accusations about darkness and distortion.

  151. Wow, J. Yelpats, your comment deserves some kind of award. Seriously, that’s about the dumbest misreading I’ve ever seen of a Bloggernacle post, and I’ve seen a lot of dumb misreadings.

  152. Steve Evans says:

    Awesome.

  153. I’m coming to this late, but just want to say thanks to J for posting on this topic. I think the nuance you’re trying to bring to it is important.

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