Fifth: The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.
One of my favorite accounts of Joseph Smith was written by the itinerant preacher Nancy Towle. She was disturbed by early Mormon practice:
And I turned to Smith, and said, “Are you not ashamed, of such pretentions? You, who are no more than any plough-boy of our land! Oh! blush at such abominations! and let shame, forever cover your face!”
He only replied, by saying, “The gift, has returned back again, as in former times, to illiterate fishermen.”
Of course the Church President can talk about whatever he feels like talking about. There has never been a proscription against that. Benson’s concluding remarks on the matter are as follows: “We encourage earthly knowledge in many areas, but remember, if there is ever a conflict between earthly knowledge and the words of the prophet, you stand with the prophet, and you’ll be blessed and time will vindicate you.” It has been a while since a Church President has said something that conflicted with secular knowledge of his day. So let’s move to hypotheticals – what if the Church President were to say that the sky was red. I probably would not change my mind on the matter. Would the Church President ever say anything that time would not vindicate? Because I don’t believe in infallibility, I think it is possible and I think there is historical precedent. Here is the trick: Jesus promised the Holy Ghost.
Sixth: The prophet does not have to say “Thus saith the Lord” to give us scripture.
Well, this all depends on what scripture means now doesn’t it? It certainly doesn’t mean canonized instruction. Among his descriptions, Benson states:
“Even in the Church,” said President Kimball, “many are prone to garnish the sepulchers of yesterday’s prophets and mentally stone the living ones” (Instructor, 95:257).
Why? Because the living prophet gets at what we need to know now, and the world prefers that prophets either be dead or mind their own business. Some so-called experts of political science want the prophet to keep still on politics. Some would-be authorities on evolution want the prophet to keep still on evolution. And so the list goes on and on
Again, I believe that the Church President has every right to talk about whatever he wants to. Moreover, according to canon and tradition, whatever he says is law for the Church, generally speaking. If the Church President wants to talk about evolution, more power to him. My perspective is that in doing so he should be careful, though, because it is easy to take positions that time might not vindicate (see previous post about the car metaphor). That being said, these complaints about political scientists and would-be evolution experts seems a bit stale today. I’m unaware of people that think the Church President should not talk on certain topics. I am aware of plenty of people that think he would be wrong if he made any number of claims, however.
Eighth: The prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning.
I would hope not. Many of my most poignant experiences in the Church have resulted from ideas and actions that appear to have occurred outside human reasoning. Benson quotes Joseph Smith as saying that whatever God requires is right, regardless of the situation. This was from a letter from Smith to Nancy Rigdon and the context of the original letter was regarding polygamy and deception to cover it up.  I have to admit, that if you want to take things to their logical conclusion that is not a bad test case. He follows up with how irrational the Saviors’ healing methods would be to a physician. I think the key here is that if Jesus failed to heal then the physician would have been right.
Ninth: The prophet can receive revelation on any matter–temporal or spiritual.
All things are spiritual to the Lord. No problem there. Benson points to Brigham Young discussing criticism of Joseph Smith in Kirtland. And this gets a little bit tricky. I have no doubts that Joseph received revelations regarding temporal matters; I also tend to believe that he handled the Kirtland Safety Society to the best of his ability, which was significantly lacking. Smith’s temporal revelations are still inspiring; the bank, not so much.
Tenth: The prophet may be involved in civic matters.
Benson cites Joseph Smith as Mayor of Nauvoo and Brigham Young as Governor. He also states: “Those who would remove prophets from politics would take God out of government.” I’m not sure that I see the logic of that statement, but I agree that the Church President has the right to make comments on political matters. I also think that the Church’s Statement on Political Neutrality trumps everything. Elder Oaks has also discussed that the Church President is and should be limited by civil law. I’m not sure if this has been fully worked out yet.
Eleventh: The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.
See, e.g., the Book of Mormon. It is nice to have such good examples in Church leaders who are both learned and rich. We have been repeatedly instructed to get as much education as possible. Amen. If we are going to single out categories, I would also say fundamentalists, too.
Twelfth: The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.
No question there. He can have great hair, though (viz., David O. McKay).
Thirteenth: The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency–the highest quorum in the Church.
Yep. On Succession and the evolution of quorum dynamics, see here.
Fourteenth: The prophet and the presidency–the living prophet and the First Presidency–follow them and be blessed; reject them and suffer.
Just ask Isaiah!
Dean C. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City Deseret Book Company, 1984), 507-8.