This video discusses various issues surrounding the sustaining of fallible church leaders.
Okay. On this video, I want to wrestle with the topic of sustaining fallible church leaders. Many are familiar with the statement from President Wilford Woodruff, where he stated that God would not allow him to lead the church astray. So many have taken that to say, “well then that means that the prophet’s not going to make mistakes. He can’t make mistakes, or he’s perfect”, essentially. It’s become a little cliche, but the saying you may have heard that the Catholic church says is that the Pope is not fallible, but the members don’t believe it.
Our church says that the prophet is fallible, but the members don’t believe it. Now, especially as the international growth of the Church happens and more and more members are removed from Church headquarters geographically, essentially, they can also put the leaders on a higher perfection pedestal in a sense.
Ironically, there’s also this trend too, in some senses just culturally, of bucking authority and institutional distrust, if you will, that’s also affecting in some ways or impacting the sustaining of church leaders. So we’ll talk about that a little bit too. So also, please listen at the very end. There’s some really great stuff I want you to be able to hear from Terryl and Fiona Givens, great gospel scholars, on ways to look at this topic you may have not considered. I think it was fascinating.
So if you look at the Bible, just to start, I think God wanted to make it clear that the prophets and apostles are not perfect. There’s lots of examples in the Bible. A couple of quick ones from the Old Testament: We’ve got Moses who’s rebuked by the Lord for his actions at Meribah and his punishment was to not go into the promised land with the people. You have Jonah who ran from his assignment. He didn’t want to do it. And then even after he did do it, he was upset that the people of Nineveh repented. This is the prophet. Then you’ve got, let’s go to the New Testament. You’ve got the apostles bickering about who was to be the greatest of them. And then you’ve got Paul who’s rebuking Peter in Antioch. So, just some examples from the Bible.
And then look at the Doctrine and Covenants. So the Lord reveals section one, and he calls it the preface to what would become the Doctrine and Covenants. And listen to this, does this sound like He would have perfect and infallible leaders?
He says, “The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that the fullness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers. Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding. And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known; And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed; And inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent.”
That’s quite profound. How about section 21, verses four and five? “Wherefore meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his 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.”
I want to talk about that a little more throughout the video. Section 112, “Whosoever receiveth my word receiveth me, and whosoever receiveth me, receiveth those, the First Presidency, whom I have sent, whom I have made counselors for my name’s sake unto you.”
Okay. Now how about a few quick examples from the Book of Mormon. Moroni in Ether 12:6 says, “Condemn me not because of mine imperfections, neither my father … but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been.”
Now on the title page of the Book of Mormon we read, “And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.” I love what Joseph Smith we have recorded to new arriving converts. “I told them I was but a man, and they must not expect me to be perfect; if they expected perfection from me, I should expect it from them; but if they would bear with my infirmities and the infirmities of the brethren, I would likewise bear with their infirmities.” And his famous statement, “A prophet is only a prophet when he’s acting as such.”
Now how about this? The First Presidency, the current First Presidency in their first press conference, President Nelson says this, “Give your leaders a little leeway to make mistakes, as you hope your leaders will give you a little leeway to profit by your errors.” President Oaks, “We don’t believe in the infallibility of our leaders.” And then April 2013, Elder Holland wanted to emphasize this leader fallibility issue. He says in General Conference, “Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we. And when you see imperfection, remember that the limitation is not in the divinity of the work. As one gifted writer has suggested, when the infinite fullness is poured forth, it is not the oil’s fault if there is some loss because finite vessels can’t quite contain it all. Those finite vessels include you and me, so be patient and kind and forgiving.”
And six months later, President Uchtdorf in the October 2013 conference, “And, to be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles or doctrine. I suppose the Church would be perfect only if it were run by perfect beings. God is perfect, and His doctrine is pure. But He works through us–His imperfect children–and imperfect people make mistakes.”
Then the Church Newsroom website back in 2007. They really wanted to clarify that not everything that’s said by a general authority means its official doctrine of the Church. I shared this by the way in the video, one of the first videos I did, and I apologize for some of the poor production quality back in some of those early videos. But this one was called “Doctrines, Opinions and Practices: Sorting It All Out”, and I’ll link it on the end screen of this video.
But this statement here, “Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church. With divine inspiration, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture, official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith.”
Then the Encyclopedia of Mormonism states online under the topic doctrine, “There are many subjects about which the scriptures are not clear and about which the Church has made no official pronouncements. In such matter, one can find differences of opinion among Church members and leaders. Until the truth of these matters is made known by revelation, there is room for different levels of understanding and interpretation of unsettled issues.”
There’s a lot of those. All right, so this is fascinating from Henry Eyring, “Reflections of a Scientist”, the book that he wrote there. This is the scientist Henry Eyring, President Erying’s father. He said, “The Lord uses imperfect people. He often allows their errors to stand uncorrected. He may have a purpose in doing so, such as to teach us that religious truth comes forth ‘line upon line, precept upon precept’ in a process of sifting and winnowing similar to the one I know so well in science.”
But how does this jive with the statement from Wilford Woodruff about the prophet not leading the people astray? Well, let’s look at the actual statement. You find this in the Official Declaration 1 underneath the Manifesto, some statements from President Woodruff. And this is when he was really trying to calm the saints that were affected by the Manifesto.
He says, “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place.”
More recently, this was in 1996, President Hinckley, he had been the prophet for one year. He says, “I want to make you a promise. I know it’s true. The Lord will never let the General Authorities of this Church lead it astray. It won’t happen. We have a presidency of three. We have a Council of Twelve Apostles. We meet together in the temple every Thursday. We pray together, we discuss together, we seek the inspiration of the Almighty, and it’s my testimony that it comes.”
Now, Elder Ballard gave a a devotional at BYU just a couple of years ago. I’m going to share it towards the end of the video a little more on that, but he actually said the Lord called the apostles and prophets, he said, to invite others to come unto Christ. That’s their job, their mission essentially, and also we’re promised this is the last dispensation. There will be no apostasy. The Church will not fail. So if you think about it in that broad sense though, inviting others to come unto Christ, they’re not going to fail in that mission. I love the recent talk Elder Anderson gave, a prophet doesn’t stand between you and the Lord, the prophet stands by your side and points you to Lord Jesus Christ. But it doesn’t mean that errors won’t occur. Another quick one on that, President J Reuben Clark, “We are not infallible in our judgment, and we err”.
And I love this as a wonderful clarifying quote from President Packer. In fact, he was talking about the protection from councils. He says, while explaining benefits of councils, also included an important clarification: “men of very ordinary capacity may be guided through counsel and inspiration to accomplish extraordinary things.” Yet he added, ” … even with the best of intentions, it does not always work the way it should. Human nature may express itself on occasion, but not to the permanent injury of the work.'”
I love that. That’s fascinating. Not to the permanent, it may even cause injury to the work, but not the permanent injury to the work. It’s kind of fascinating wording.
Okay, so the gospel scholar Taylor Halverson has a great blog, and he just did a piece on sustaining the brethren, and I’ll link to it in the description. But one of the things that really fascinated me, he talked about the etymology of the word sustain, and in Latin it means, there’s a number of things, it means “stand up, bear up, support, suffer and endure.” I thought those were fascinating words that could apply. I’m going to bring this back in a minute on some things we’ll talk about. But think about those words.
I wanted to share a brief story from somebody who went through a very tough experience of receiving stark consequences from an announcement from a prophet. And this was shortly after the Manifesto had been issued against polygamy by President Woodruff, and this was the experience of somebody experiencing this and what they went through. There’s some lessons here, and I’ll get into some of those here in a little bit, but this is a autobiography of Lorena Larsen who was in a polygamous marriage when the Manifesto came out.
“My husband told me about it and my feelings were past description. I had gone into that order of marriage because I believe God had commanded his people to do so, and it had been such a sacrifice to live it as I thought God wanted me to. It seemed impossible that the Lord would go back on a principle which had caused so much sacrifice, heartache, and trial before one could conquer one’s carnal self and live on that higher plane and love one’s neighbors as one’s self. My husband walked out without saying a word, and as he walked away, I thought, ‘Oh yes, it’s easy for you. You can go home to your other family and be happy with her, while I must be like Hagar, sent away.'”
“My anguish was inexpressible, and a dense darkness took hold of my mind. I thought that if the Lord and the church authorities had gone back on that principle, there was nothing to any part of the gospel. I fancied I could see myself and my children and many other splendid women and their families turn adrift, and our only purpose in entering it had been to more fully serve the Lord. I sank down on our bedding and wished in my anguish that the earth would open and take me and my children in. The darkness seemed impenetrable. All at once I heard a voice, which said ‘Why this is no more unreasonable than the requirement of Abraham to offer up Isaac, and when the Lord sees that you were willing to obey in all things, the trial shall be removed.’ There was a light whose brightness cannot be described, which filled my soul and I was filled with joy and peace and happiness that I felt that no matter whatever should come to me in all my future life, I could never feel sad again.”
The spirit can also help us to sustain our leaders through difficult, challenging situations we may be in. Also, I thought of, I shared this in the Women and the Priesthood video about the oath and covenant of the priesthood and some thoughts that Sheri Dew shared about this, so I wanted to share that again. It’s perfect placement here.
“The words ‘also all they’ and the word ‘receive’, used no fewer than 10 times in these verses, arouse my curiosity. The phrase ‘also all they’ seems to refer to more than those who are ordained. And though we typically use ‘receive’ to mean ‘to acquire something’, receive can also mean ‘to believe’ or ‘to accept as true’. Interestingly, the secondary definition of ‘receive’ is used frequently in the scriptures by the Lord Himself.”
“As I read verses such as these and ponder the secondary definition of ‘receive’, I found myself wondering if the transcendent promises of D&C 84:35-40 might be tied to believing the priesthood is the power of God, accepting the manner in which the Lord has organized his kingdom, sustaining those who hold priesthood keys, and honoring priesthood power as the power of God.”
That was helpful to see. Now some say we have blind obedience and the critics will often deceptively point to a key phrase that was once published in our church magazine in 1945. Very unfortunate. It said, literally, quote, “When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done.” Now, “This statement was printed in Ward Teacher’s Message in the June 1945 Improvement Era Church Magazine. Later it was discovered that it had been written by a young clerk in the Presiding Bishop’s office and was sent out without anyone in authority having approved it.”
Now critics won’t say that the error in publishing was addressed immediately by the prophet actually. And he was addressing criticism that had come immediately about this. So here’s what he said, President George Albert Smith, “The leaflet to which he refer …”, so he’s addressing this to Dr. Raymond Cope, “…and from which you quote in your letter, was not ‘prepared’ by ‘one of our leaders’. However, one or more of them inadvertently permitted the paragraph to pass uncensored. By their so doing, not a few members of the Church have been upset in their feelings, and General Authorities have been embarrassed. I am pleased to assure you that you are right in your attitude that the passage quoted does not express the true position of the Church. Even to imply that members of the Church are not to do their own thinking is grossly to misrepresent the true idea of the Church, which is that every individual must obtain for himself a testimony of the truth of the Gospel, must, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, work out his own salvation and is personally responsible to His Maker for his individual acts.”
So I thought that was helpful. Okay, so I love this. 1969, then apostle George Q. Cannon wrote a great editorial in the Deseret News. He said, “We could conceive of a man honestly differing in opinion from the Authorities of the Church and yet not be an apostate; but we could not conceive of a man publishing these differences of opinion and seeking by arguments, sophistry and special pleading to enforce them upon the people to produce division and strife and to place the acts and counsels of the Authorities of the Church, if possible, in a wrong light and not be an apostate, for such conduct was apostasy as we understood the term. We further said that while a man might honestly differ in opinion from the Authorities through a want of understanding, he had to be exceedingly careful how he acted in relation to such differences, or the adversary would take advantage of him, and he would soon become imbued with the spirit of apostasy and be found fighting against God and the authority which He had placed here to govern His Church.”
I want to talk about this. I want to share two other things and then share a couple thoughts on that. So the next one is Linda Burton at the BYU Women’s Conference 2013. I also shared this in the Women and the Priesthood video. She said “What a healthy discussion to have about the priesthood. What is cultural and what is doctrine? It is enlivening and wonderful. It helps us define: what is authority, what are the keys? But let’s go to the right sources for answers. Why would we believe the internet and not the prophets. We can figure out how to ask the questions in a way that facilitates cooperation and brings honest concerns to the table. If you aren’t in a leadership position, bring questions to your leaders in an honest and humble way. See what we can figure out together. Offer solutions. What would you do if you were the leader? But be patient and humble.”
And then the one that’s really stuck with me over the years is this modern-day example from Dallin H. Oaks and President David O. McKay. It illustrates a great point I want to make. So, “Decades ago when the U.S. …” now this was published in Interpreter Journal in 2015, Duane Boyce wrote this. “Decades ago, when the U.S. Supreme Court first ruled against prayer in the public schools, President David O. McKay publicly criticized the ruling: he considered it to be leading the country ‘down the road to atheism’. Dallin H. Oaks, on the other hand, who was a law professor at the time, saw good reason for the Court’s decision in the case before it and worried that criticism might be based on incomplete information and the full rationale and intent of the ruling. Brother Oaks began organizing his thoughts on paper, reviewing the Court’s reasoning and showing its application to secular influences in the public schools as well as to religious ones.”
“Soon after completing this document, he met President Henry D. Moyle of the First Presidency at a church function in Chicago. When President Moyle asked him about his work, Brother Oaks gave him a copy of this writing. President Moyle took interest in it and upon returning to Salt Lake City, shared it with President McKay. Interestingly, after reading Brother Oaks’ thoughtful treatment, President McKay directed that it be published in the Improvement Era. Thus, brother Oaks did not give up his ‘right to think’. He felt dissonance between his own judgment and the public expressions of the prophet. He wondered about the issue and prayerfully brought to bear his own best thinking on the relevant questions. Significantly, however, he did not publish a critical article or give a disapproving speech. Instead, he expressed his feelings respectfully and privately (remember that it was President McKay who directed that it be published), with no motivation other than to help and in the spirit of true discipleship.”
“The outcome of this story is also instructive..” And this is interesting. “Some 30 years later, and now one of the Twelve himself, Elder Oaks wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal on the subject of school prayer. He said, ‘When the Supreme Court decided the original school prayer case in 1962, I thought the case was correctly decided. What I did not foresee, but what was sensed by people who’s vision was far greater than mine, was that this decision would set in motion a chain of legal and public and educational actions that would bring us to the current circumstances in which we must reaffirm and even contend for religious liberty.'”
“While the Court’s decision was probably the correct one on the matter before it at the time, the way the majority opinion was written set in motion a chain of events that President McKay had originally feared. In recognition of the prophetic nature of President McKay’s warning, Elder Oaks wrote ‘My worldly wisdom in writing approving of the school prayer case on the facts of the decision was just a small footnote in history compared with the vision of a prophet who saw and described the pernicious effects of that decision in the years to come.’ It was, he says ‘a powerful learning experience on the folly of trying to understand a prophetic vision in terms of worldly wisdom.'”
And this brings me to the thought of, we sustain them as “seers”, “see-ers” and they can see. Remember, they’re the watchmen on the tower. We are not on the tower. We might be winning a battle, but losing a war that they can see the bigger picture of that. So I think it’s just a very helpful thing to remember this experience and the one I shared about Lorena Larson too. The Spirit can comfort and help us through some of these things.
But I also like some of these examples from Elder Oaks, I had them on the screen, that little box: politely, privately, respectfully, pure motives, prayerfully, best thinking, patience and faith. And I would say that one of the biggest things is prayer. Pray. Pray for our leaders that they will have the Spirit to guide them and direct them. They will seek this revelation. And this is particularly if you feel in conflict on something, pray for the body of the saints. I’m about to show you that the body of the saints matters too. The Lord can only move as the body of the saints moves.
So be aware of that too. And pray for yourself that you will have maybe experience like Lorena Larson, or that you’ll have the patience to endure, that you’ll sustain in that sense of that suffering and the enduring aspect of it, and that you’ll have that experience to add the comfort in the meantime there. And then to be patient, and the Church might change, the body of the church, the leaders, you might change there, but to be patient and be faithful in the meantime there.
So now about the saints themselves, listen to what the prophet Joseph said. It’s fascinating here. He said, “I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all.”
And listen to what he said about the great vision of the kingdoms of glory described in section 76. “I could explain a hundred fold more than I ever have of the glories of the kingdoms manifested to me in the vision, were I permitted, and were the people prepared to receive them.”
And here’s George Q. Cannon, even a more clarifying statement. He says, “There are many things that the leading men of the Church can see and understand that they cannot impart to the people nor ask the people to do. Why? Because they know that the people would not come up to the requirement and that therefore they would be disobedient. Better to give them line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little than to give them something that they could not receive and that they would rebel against. That is the manner in which the Lord deals with his children, and it is the manner in which wise men inspired of the Lord deal with their fellow man. Speaking as a First Presidency, if we could have our way, there are many changes that we would make; but you know how difficult it is to have people see alike upon many points.”
And the last thing on this is the Samuel Principle that President Benson talked about, limiting things. And I actually shared this in the priesthood ban video as one of the possible possibilities that could have been involved in that. I will link this on the end screen.
This is what he said, “If you see some individual in the Church doing things which disturb you, or you feel the Church is not doing things the way you think they could or should be done, the following principles might be helpful. God has to work through mortals of varying degrees of spiritual progress. Sometimes he temporarily grants to men their unwise requests in order that they might learn from their own sad experiences. Some refer to this as the ‘Samuel Principle’. The children of Israel wanted a king, like all the nations. The prophet Samuel was displeased and prayed to the Lord about it. The Lord responded by saying to Samuel, ‘They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.’ The Lord told Samuel to warn the people of the consequences if they had a king. Samuel gave them the warning, but they still insisted on their king. So God gave them a king and let them suffer. They learned the hard way. God wanted it to be otherwise, but within certain bounds he grants unto man according to their desires.”
Now switching gears for just a second, misunderstandings also come up with the thought of the prophet being a fax machine for the Lord. And I used to say that and now I should probably say receiving texts from the Lord, essentially there. They work and grow line upon line as well. Just as we’ve learned in Luke two, the Lord himself, Jesus, said He grew in wisdom and stature before God and man. And so we see this even in Joseph Smith changing revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants, as he grew in revelation and experiencing this.
And I love what Robert Boylan runs a blog called Scriptural Mormonism. It’s a great blog and he wrote this back in 2015. I’ll link to it in the show description. It’s called Biblical Prophets Changing their Words and Words of Previous Prophets. So he first gives us a great example from a biblical scholar, Michael Heiser of how we know the Bible has had different changes from anachronisms and things that are in there. And then he says, “Who had the authority to edit the Bible like this? The short answer is whomever God moved to do so under inspiration. The longer answer is that, in the case of the prophetic writings, someone accepted by the believing community of Israel to be a member of the prophetic class or tradition served as editor of the preaching and teachings of the prophets.”
And then there was a master’s thesis at BYU in 1955 that had been written by Melvin Petersen on a study of the changes that had been made in the Doctrine and Covenants. And he summarized this, “Once a man has been recognized and accepted as a prophet and favored with communications from God, his great responsibility is to make sure, inasmuch as he has power to do so, that those to whom the communications are directed, understand what God has revealed for them. The power is his to revise, correct, omit, or change any of his writings in order that he might manifest more clearly what God revealed through him.” And he, the prophet, might understand more and more as we grow line upon line.
This was actually, the Church website did an article called “How the Revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants Were Received and Compiled”. And I love this in the middle where he says “he updated them in light of continued revelation.” And I was thinking, I had an experience just a couple of months ago. I was reading some notes that I had written in my scriptures just five or six years ago in 1 Nephi. And I read this comment I wrote and I literally thought, “I don’t think that’s right. And I feel very different about that right now.” I thought “why?” And it’s from experiences I’ve had and from greater light and knowledge I’ve gained from learning and studying. I thought “this happens with the prophets too.”
Think about Joseph Smith. Compare his early sermons and teachings to the King Follett Discourse right before he died. Fascinating to see that growth. And think about even the institutional church, how we have grown and built upon the foundation from the past. It’s just a fascinating thought.
Okay. Now a handful of quick items here, various things. So seek personal revelation. Elder Marion G. Romney, “those who will through mighty prayer and earnest study inform themselves as to what these living prophets say, and act upon it, will be visited by the spirit of the Lord and know by the spirit of revelation that they speak the mind and will of the Father.”
So President Nelson, he just spoke at BYU in September of 2019. He said, “Ask your Heavenly Father if we truly are the Lord’s apostles and prophets. Ask if we have received revelation on this and other matters”, that he had been speaking about. “Ask if these five truths…” that he just taught “…are, in fact, true. My dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to seek earnestly a confirmation from the Spirit that what I have told you is true and it’s from the Lord.”
Okay. Now look at this example of how Brigham Young dealt with the teaching from Joseph Smith on the three degrees of glory, which were totally new to him. He grew up with heaven and hell concept, as most Christians did. He said, “I was not prepared to say that I believed it, the three degrees of glory, and I had to wait. What did I do? I handed this over to the Lord in my feelings, and said ‘I will wait until the Spirit of God manifests to me for or against.’ I did not judge the matter, I did not argue against it, not in the least. I never argued the least against anything Joseph proposed, but if I could not see or understand it, I handed it over to the Lord.”
Also, it’d be great to have Lorenzo Snow’s attitude that he had about Joseph Smith’s weaknesses. He says, “I saw Joseph Smith the prophet, do things which I did not approve of; and yet, I thanked God that He would upon a man who had these imperfections the power and authority which He placed upon him, for I knew I myself had weaknesses and I thought there was a chance for me.”
Okay. Now, are there exceptions sometimes to the rules? Yes, but the general authorities do not teach the exceptions. Elder Oaks said, “As a General Authority, I have the responsibility to preach general principles. When I do, I don’t try to define all the exceptions. There are exceptions to some rules. For example, we believe the commandment to not kill is not violated by killing pursuant to a lawful order in an armed conflict. But don’t ask me to give an opinion on your exception. I only teach the general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord.”
And I love what Elder Ballard just said a few years ago in a devotional at BYU on here. Remember what general authorities are and what they are called to do. Here’s a poignant reminder. He says, “As we begin to consider some of your questions, it’s important to remember that I’m a general authority, but that doesn’t make me an authority in general. My calling and life experiences allow me to respond to certain types of questions. There are other types of questions that require an expert in a specific subject matter. This is exactly what I do when I need an answer to such questions: I seek help from others, including those with degrees and expertise in such fields. I worry sometimes that members expect too much from Church leaders and teachers, expecting them to be experts in subjects well beyond their duties and responsibilities.”
And listen carefully here. This is what I said before, “The Lord called the apostles and prophets to invite others to come unto Christ, not to obtain advanced degrees in ancient history, biblical studies, and other fields that may be useful in answering all the questions we may have about scriptures, history, and the Church. Our primary duty is to build up the Church, teach the doctrine of Christ, and help those in need of our help. Fortunately, the Lord provides this counsel for those asking questions: Seek ye out of out of the best books by studying and also by faith.”
Okay, now remember also that the Lord often doesn’t explain why. Elder Maxwell says, “I found that the Lord gives more instructions than explanations.” Elder Oaks said, “If you read the scriptures with this question in mind, ‘Why did the Lord command this or why did He command that’, you find that in less than one in a hundred commands was any reason given. It’s not the pattern of the Lord to give reasons. We can put reasons to revelation. We can put reasons to commandments. When we do, we are on our own.”
Now this is the conclusion I wanted to share from Terryl and Fiona Givens in their book, “The Crucible of Doubt”. Just fascinating thoughts about the subject of fallible leaders. So they say here, “Mormons frequently describe priesthood as the authority to act in God’s name. Authority is the source of delegation, delegation involves humans, humans entail error, and error in the context of authority creates conflict and tension. These stresses, which involve fallibility in conduct as well as in words, can be a challenge to the most faithful. Delegation is a terrifying gesture on God’s part. To delegate or to deputize, both mean that the person receiving that authority has something like God’s power of attorney; the person’s acts, within circumscribed limits, carry the weight and efficacy of God’s own acts. But surely no human can act with the wisdom, the perfect judgment and infallibility of God. Precisely so. And if delegation is real principle, if God really does endow mortals with the authority to act in His place and with His authority, even while He knows they will not act with infallible judgment, then it becomes clearer why God is asking us to receive the words of the prophet ‘as if from my mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.'”
“A different question emerges when it is the action, not the person, that is imperfect. If a Bishop makes a decision without inspiration, are we bound to sustain the decision? The story is told of a Church official who returned from installing a new stake presidency. ‘Dad, do you brethren feel confident when you call a man as the stake president that he is the Lord’s man?’ the official’s son asked upon his father’s return home. ‘No, not always,’ he replied, ‘but once we call him, he becomes the Lord’s man.”‘
The Givens say some may say it’s arrogant to think God would work this way. I love what the Givens said, “It’s also possible that this church official’s reply reveals the only understanding of delegation that’s viable.” And then they went on to say, “If God honored only those decisions made in perfect accord with His perfect wisdom, then His purposes would require leaders who were utterly incapable of misconstruing His intention, who never missed hearing the still small voice, who were unerringly and unfailingly, a perfect conduit for heaven’s inspiration. And it would render the principle of delegation inoperative … After calling Joseph Smith to his mission, the Lord didn’t say, I will stand by you as long as you never err in judgment. He said, Thou was called and chosen … Devote all thy service in Zion; and … lo, I am with thee, even unto the end.”
Then Nathaniel Givens observed, “As for the question of what is or is not revelation, the answer is simple. People just don’t like to hear it. D&C 68:4 says, ‘And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.'”
“There’s your answer and, in terms of simple language, it’s not hard to understand. The problem is it doesn’t do what people want. What people want is to be absolved of responsibility. They want a formula, a rule book, or an oracle to which they can defer tough questions. God says: ‘if you want to know if it’s scripture or not, you’re going to have to have your own connection to the Holy Ghost sufficient to figure that out.’ In other words, ‘The burden is on you.’ People say, ‘That sounds like hard work. Please give us a cheat sheet.’ And when God refuses to give out a cheat sheet, people just invent one. They invent doctrines of prophetic or scriptural inerrancy or infallibility, that doesn’t ask us to do any genuine hard work.”
And I love how they finished this with Elder Todd Christofferson repeating counsel given earlier by J. Reuben Clark Jr. with an interesting caveat: “The Church will know by the testimony of the Holy Ghost in the body of members, whether the brethren in voicing their views are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’: and in due time that knowledge will be made manifest.” And then Givens then says, “Hence the ‘in all patience’ part of the Lord’s revelation on the subject.”
Which I think is a perfect way to end on. Hope you enjoyed the video. I hope it was helpful. Subscribe for more. Thanks.
Other Latter-day Saints Q&A Videos:
Doctrines, Opinions & Practices – Sorting It All Out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ts5u…
Priesthood & Temple Ban – How Did This Happen? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hqjlu…
Taylor Halverson Blog Article on Sustaining Church Leaders: https://taylorhalverson.com/2019/09/3…
Robert Boylan Blog Article on Biblical Prophets Changing Their Words and the Words of Previous Prophets: http://scripturalmormonism.blogspot.c…
Fairmormon helpful links:
Crucible of Doubt by Terry & Fiona Givens – Chapters 5 & 6
Planted by Patrick Mason – Chapter 6
Shaken Faith Syndrome by Michael Ash – Chapter 3
Faith Matters Foundation – Can I Trust & Sustain Fallible Leaders https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75juR…
FairMormon Podcast – Can A Prophet Make Mistakes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7g5kY…
FairMormon Podcast – Are Prophets Perfect https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7g5kY…
FairMormon Podcast – Why Would God Allow Prophets to Make Mistakes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zmznb…
Saints Unscripted – Can Prophets Make Mistakes https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVIMq…
Latter-day Saints’ Q&A is a video series not produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but by me, an ordinary member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an independent voice, with a passion for studying Church history and defending the faith. In this series, I provide evidences for the restoration, and address tough questions posed by critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, offering faithful answers based on accurate research and historical references which will be posted at the end of each video.
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