August 28th, 2006

Follow the Prophet, He Knows the Way


(Cross-posted at Blogger of Jared)

In recent weeks I have been pondering about the role of the prophet. Some people in the “bloggernacle” seem to doubt the inspiration, direction, and words of the prophet. They seek to “critically analyze” what he says before choosing to obey, and often use secular knowledge and understanding to discredit, demean, or disbelieve what he has said.

This morning I cracked open The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, which I have owned for some time, but never read. I dove into a few pages dealing with this topic, and would like to cite them with my comments, to illustrate what I have come to learn.

The prophet will not necesarily be popular with the world or the worldly. As a prophet reveals the truth, it divides the people. The honest in heart heed his words, but the unrighteous either ignore the prophet or fight him. … As we come close to the Lord’s second coming, you can expect that as the people of the world become more wicked, the prophet will be less popular with them. (p. 133)

Such a division is occurring within the church right now. The First Presidency’s stance on the family and same-sex marriage have divided the church. Many feel that the prophet should not tell us how to vote, or what to think politically, or be involved in any way in this regard. This quote is especially insightful considering it comes from President Benson, who spoke out quite frequently regarding secret combinations and government corruption in our own nation. Many people disregarded what he said, ignored him, disbelieved him, or were annoyed by his frequent calls to action and understanding. Prophets rarely have been popular with the people, for theirs is the charge and responsibility to denounce the sin and abominations of the people. In doing so, President Hinckley stands with Samuel the Lamanite, who testified:

…if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil. (Helaman 13:26)

Referring to the prophetic office of President of the Church, President Benson has said:

The President can speak on any subject he feels is needful for the saints. As Brigham Young stated: “I defy any man on earth to point out the path a prophet of God should walk in, or point out his duty, and just how far he must go, in dictating temporal or spiritual things. Temporal and spiritual things are inseparably connected, and ever will be.” Other officers in the kingdom have fallen, but never the Presidents. (p. 134)

True, some church leaders have fallen. Even some of the elect will be deceived, as we know. However, the prophet has never been led astray, nor will the Lord suffer him so to do. He would sooner be removed from office (by God playing the “death card“). As Presidents Benson and Young declare, the prophet can and will testify and command on any subject seen as needful for the saints. When he commands, we should obey, for what he says is the mind, will, and voice of the Lord. Commenting further on this, Benson said:

Beware of those who would pit the dead prophets against the living prophets, for the living prophets always take precedence. President Wilford Woodruff stated: “I say to Israel, The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of the Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God.” (p. 136)

The prophet will never lead this people astray. It won’t happen, no matter what some might say and speculate. As long as we follow and obey the current prophet (and not cling to the teachings of a previous one, whose teachings and commandments might have been superceded by successive prophetic direction), we will be fine.

The prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning. There will be times when you will have to choose between the revelations of God and the reasoning of men—between the prophet and the politician or professor. Said the Prophet Joseph Smith, “Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof until long after the events transpire” (p. 134)

I come across many people who guide themselves by the “reasoning of men”, or the “arm of flesh”. Such a stance to take is a dangerous one, for the word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword and we should all choose to adhere to the revelations of God, so that we may be found on the right hand of God. However, if you choose the reasonings of men, Alma says: “it matters not, for the word of God must be fulfilled” (Alma 5:58).

A revealing characteristic of a true prophet is that he declares a message from God. He makes no apology for the message, nor does he fear for any social repercussions which may lead to derision and persecution. (p. 135)

Has the First Presidency in our day watered down their proclamations? Have they tweaked the language so as to be “politically correct” and offend no one? Of course not. People are going to be offended by God’s word, as it always has been. Prophets do not seek popularity, nor do they fear the social repercussions which almost always are associated with their messages.

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. (p. 137)

If the reasonings of men say that same-sex marriage isn’t such a bad thing, it does not matter. There is currently a conflict between earthy knowledge and the words of our prophet. Who will you stand with? Will you accept, promote, and live the counsels taught in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World“? If you do, as the prophets have urged, then time will vindicate you.

The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich. (p. 138)

This resonates perfectly with 2 Nephi 9:28:

O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.

And lastly:

We cannot compromise good with evil in an attempt to have peace and unity in the Church, any more than the Lord could have compromised with Satan in order to avoid the War in Heaven. Think of the impact for good we could have if we all united behind the prophet in preserving our Constitution. Yet witness the sorry spectacle of those presently of our number who have repudiated the inspired counsel of our prophet when he has opposed federal aid to education and asked support for the right-to-work laws. (pp. 141-2)

I would alter this to say “witness the sorry spectacle of those presently of our number who have repudiated the inspired counsel of our prophet when he has asked us to contact our senators and express ourselves regarding the Federal Marriage Amendment. Did you contact yours? Or did you repudiate the counsel given from our prophet?

I’m grateful to have a prophet today who knows the mind, will, and voice of the Lord. I will follow him, for “he knows the way”.

Now we have a prophet, in the latter-day,
He is here to guide us in so many ways.
If we choose to follow all that he may say,
We will have the Spirit with us every day.

alternate ending verse for the primary song “Follow the Prophet”

12 Responses to “Follow the Prophet, He Knows the Way”

  1. the narrator
    August 28, 2006 at 3:48 pm #

    The prophet will never lead this people astray. It won’t happen, no matter what some might say and speculate.

    In response to questions about a failed revelation (about selling the BofM copyright in Canada), Joseph Smith said “Some revelations come from God, some from man, and some from the devil.” Joseph Smith, himself, claimed that prophets of God can be mistaken about what is revealed from God.

    Moroni (or Mormon) in the title page of the BofM says of the divine texts, “if there are faults they are the mistakes of men.” Moroni, himself, is claiming that prophetic words and texts can be mistaken. This is reiterated in the text of the BofM as well.

    Brigham warned about the potential for the highest leaders of the church to lead members to destruction “What a pity it would be, if we were led by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken the influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually”

    He also said, “How easy it would be for your leaders to lead you to destruction, unless you actually know the mind and will of the spirit yourselves”

    George Q. Cannon warned that your kind of mythical view of prophetic infallibility would lead to a loss of faith: “Do not, brethren, put your trust in man though he be a bishop, an apostle, or a president. If you do, they will fail you at some time or place; they will do wrong or seem to, and your support be gone;”

    Brigham Young taught that it was revealed to him by God that God the Father was Adam. Joseph F. Smith said that the Adam-God Doctrine was false. Either one president of the church is leading the saints astray in belief, or the ontological nature and past history of God changed.

    I could give you lists and lists of Apostles (sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators) who have taught things that were blatantly false. Apostles and Presidents have openly fought over what they believed were revealed doctrines and practices.

    These all contradict the notion that prophets cannot lead members astray. In fact, they prove that prophets are fallible and able to lead members astray.

    However, the prophet has never been led astray, nor will the Lord suffer him so to do. He would sooner be removed from office (by God playing the “death card“).

    Does God pull out his supposed death card before or after the prophet leads others astray? If it is after, then how by what standard do you determine the prophet was wrong? Of course, if you hold to your rigid belief, then the prophet would be killed off by God before he has the opportunity to lead another astray. But this leads to a plethora of problems concerning free-will and the problem of evil (why would God kill off Hitler?)

    Of course all this discussion also hinges on the question of whether or not an Apostle or President of the Church (or any person for that matter) is speaking as a Prophet of God. What criteria is there for seperating divine words from human opinion and speculation? “Thus saith the Lord” is practically absent in talks, discussions, and pronouncements from LDS leaders. A long history of censorships and problems make it difficult to appeal to a ‘pulpit standard’ (just look at the Journal of Discourses). Official pronouncements, while authoritative, hold similar difficulties. In the end, it comes down to one’s own reflection and intution by the spirit – exactly what Young and others taught should be the standard.

  2. Connor
    August 28, 2006 at 4:09 pm #


    Therefore, what?

    What are you trying to imply? What are you trying to say? What is the end goal of your citing these quotes and statements?

    Do you deny the prophetic calling of President Hinckley? Do you disbelieve everything he says? Do you credit these fine man with anything positive? Or do you just like to tear down, destroy, and criticize?

    I’ll be interested to see where you stand when things get dicey in the last days and we all have to choose sides. For some reason, I think you and I will be on different sides of the fence.

  3. John
    August 28, 2006 at 5:32 pm #

    Narrator: Isn’t it just easier to say “we need to appeal to more than one source in order to gain truth?”

    I mean, if we base all our decisions on scripture only, that gets pretty shaky, especially because the Bible is translated, and the Book of Mormon is transliterated. If we rely only on modern prophets, they’ll occasionally do things their own way. If we rely solely on (what we think to be) the Spirit, we’ll get decieved by our own imaginations and emotions from time to time.

    I think you probably won’t get in trouble for following the prophet, and our prophet is the best man on earth to take divine advice from, but leaning only on one source is probably not the best idea.

    In a sense, you’re both right… right?


  4. the narrator
    August 28, 2006 at 5:42 pm #

    John, thanks. That’s was pretty much going to be my response to Connor. As George Q. Cannon put it, when someone puts everything on a single person, that person is bound to fail them. Elder Ronald Poelman gave an excellent talk in 1984 about the importance of understanding the imperfections of the earthly church and leaders. You can read the original and censored versions here.


    Do you deny the prophetic calling of President Hinckley? Do you disbelieve everything he says? Do you credit these fine man with anything positive? Or do you just like to tear down, destroy, and criticize?

    Nice slippery slope. I think bringing the temple to the poor and small (through mini temples) was a fabulous and inspired action by Pres. Hinckley. The Perpetual Education Fund is one of many. You seem to hold to some odd idea that a prophet is either perfect or a complete waste. I see that you are reading Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling. I hope you can learn something from it.

    I’ll be interested to see where you stand when things get dicey in the last days and we all have to choose sides. For some reason, I think you and I will be on different sides of the fence.

    I think and hope we’ll be on different sides.

  5. James
    August 30, 2006 at 4:42 pm #

    “…lean not unto thine own understanding” Intellect can always disprove or contradict something that the Spirit has already told us is true. Does that mean it is false? The Spirit clearly teaches us to follow the Prophet. We could come up with 10 reasons not to, but that sounds like a waste of time to me. It’s sad to see the Spirit lose out because someone insists on challenging it, and finding loopholes and ways to justify sin.
    Sure, the prophet isn’t perfect. Big deal. His understanding is opened, and he KNOWS our potential reward, and if he tells me to do it, I will.

  6. the narrator
    August 30, 2006 at 5:41 pm #

    It’s sad to see the Spirit lose out because someone insists on challenging it,

    Nobody is (at least I am certainly not) advocating to go against the Spirit. The question is whether one should follow the President of the Church (who is not always acting as a prophet) or follow what they feel is the Spirit speaking to them.

    Example: President Hinckley says ‘fight gay-marriage’; Spirit says: ‘don’t fight gay-marriage’. Which do you follow?

    Another example: President Hinckley says ‘War in Iraq is justified.’ Spirit says: ‘War in Iraq is not justified.’ Which do you follow?

  7. Connor
    August 30, 2006 at 5:47 pm #

    The difference between your two examples is that one is a call to action and the other is not. When the prophet asks us to do something, we obey. But if he simply voices his opinion on something, that is not to say that we are to homogenize our opinions on the matter in order to conform.

    Also of note is the fact that regarding the recent same-sex marriage (FMA) issue, we were not told to contact our Senators and tell them to vote yes on the amendment. We were asked to contact them and express ourselves. Never was it commanded or suggested that we do so in the affirmative. Yes, the First Presidency stated their stance on it, but that is not to say you wouldn’t be able to “express yourself” against it.

  8. the narrator
    August 30, 2006 at 10:43 pm #

    So the prophet can only lead our thoughts go astray (which thoughts may lead to actions), but will not directly lead our actions astray?

    As far as the letter concerning the FMA goes, a quick (or detailed) look at posts concerning the letter quickly shows that most LDS took it as a plea to write their senators in support of the FMA (though it was carefully written to grant plausible deniability to the claim). Almost every LDS I know saw the letter as an urge to write support letters, to say the opposite seems to require a bit of intellectual dishonesty.

  9. James
    August 31, 2006 at 9:08 am #

    Narrator, your two examples are not only hypothetical, but they simply wouldn’t happen as you’ve suggested. The point is, if the Prophet teaches us, the Lord is sending His words to us THROUGH the Spirit, and the Spirit would never contradict Himself by then telling us something different in our own hearts.
    If the Prophet said ‘Sweaters are better than cardigans’, it’s obvously his opinion. Differentiating between the Prophet’s own personal thoughts and ideas, and the truth of God, would either be cleary evident (as in this example), or in such harmony with each other that they are synonymous. You sound intelligent enough not to confuse the two.

  10. the narrator
    August 31, 2006 at 1:40 pm #


    I simply do not see the line between a President of the Church speaking for the Lord or speaking for himself as being all that clear. Hinckley in some media interviews implied this ambiguity when he talked about revelation as being subtle and being that still small voice.

    President Hinckley said women should not have more than one pair of earrings and that men should have none. I think that this was the opinion of an old man with certain views of what someone should dress like. Others feel that he was voicing the words of God. The same goes with the church’s views of homosexuality and support of the FMA. The line isn’t so clear.

  11. James
    August 31, 2006 at 4:24 pm #

    Narrator, When it comes to issues such as earrings, I think we can both agree that this probably won’t make it or break it for someone to go through the pearly gates. God will judge our hearts and compare our deeds to our own personal knowledge, understanding, and intent, and what we did with it all during our lives on earth. He will judge us against our own potential. That being said, if He sees us as someone willing to humble ourselves and submit to the will of the Prophet (which we can safely assume is generally the will of the Father), we can be assured He will be merciful to us. On the other hand, if we try to pick and choose what we want to follow because we want black and white rather than living the Spiritual law, then he might not be so forgiving.
    You’re right, the Prophet may have been expressing his opinion about earrings. We should be able to govern ourselves, having the knowledge of correct principles, and be able to live above the ‘line’ rather than on the line. Goes back to the old edge of the cliff analogy; why even get close? Life has made many a man happy while staying far, far away.

  12. Rebecca C
    October 21, 2014 at 2:25 am #

    Yikes, scary. We cannot assume the prophets are always speaking the word of God. They are men with agency, are they not? Or has God subverted their agency to make sure they will never lead us astray. Are the prophets infalliable? They must be if they can never leave us astray. For some funny reason, they were not even called prophets after joseph smith until about the 1920s. They were always referred to as president of the church. Brigham Young, as a so called prophet (not really because he went by president, not prophet) taught many supposed doctrines that the church today has denounced. Adam God theory, anyone? Among others. So was BY leading us astray, or are we now being led astray? I dont think it works both ways. Lastly, where are all the official revelations from God from these prophets? Over at least the last 60 years none of them have had any thus saith the Lord (revelations from the Lord through a prophet have specific language, or at least say they are the words of the Lord, and dont use the word “I”) revelations, published, or added to scripture. So where are the fruits of these prophets? They are definitely filling the role of president if the church. Just not so much the messenger from God part. This is an old post. Has your opinion changed at all since then?

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