Last week’s general conference featured two sermons which recapitulated the main themes of the speech given by apostle Ezra Taft Benson at BYU in 1980 entitled Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet. In response to those sermons, J. Stapley wrote two excellent posts in the past week (found here and here) which reviewed each of the fourteen points and gave some brief commentary. These blog posts generated more interest than usual, resulting in over 200 comments. There has also been additional commentary at various places around the LDS blogosphere.
The consensus appears to be that although we do not believe in prophetic infallibility, we nevertheless do not consider it within the realm of possibility that the president of the church could be in error in any serious way. On the remote chance we might be confronted by something that might appear to be prophetic wrongdoing, our acceptable list of options is as follows:
1. Since it is metaphysically impossible for the president of the church to be wrong, we are wrong to think that he is wrong.
2. Even if he is wrong, we should do what he says anyway and we will be blessed for our obedience and loyalty.
3. In the event that we are certain we are right and the president of the church is in error, we should keep it to ourselves.
I find no fault with these options, since they closely track my own opinion. But what really interests me is that nowhere in the original speech in 1980, nor in the two recent conference sermons, nor in over 200 blog comments this past week did anyone think to consider what the Doctrine and Covenants says about this question. Please consider these verses from section 107:
65 Wherefore it must needs be that one be appointed of the High Priesthood to preside over the priesthood, and he shall be called the President of the High Priesthood of the Church; ………….
81 There is not any person belonging to the church who is exempt from this council of the church.
82 And inasmuch as a President of the High Priesthood shall transgress, he shall be had in remembrance before the common council of the church, who shall be assisted by twelve counselors of the High Priesthood;
83 And their decision upon his head shall be an end of the controversy concerning him.
84 Thus, none shall be exempted from the justice and the laws of God, that all things may be done in order and solemnity before him, according to truth and righteousness.
These verses are clear, unambiguous and straightforward. Our Doctrine and Covenants allows for the possibility that the prophet may error to such an egregious extent that excommunication is warranted. But it is also just as clear that it doesn’t matter to us what these verses of scripture say. Perhaps this demonstrates just how much we really believe Elder Benson when he said that statements of the prophet must take precedence over scripture.