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Gospel Topics

The Prophet Will Never Lead Us Astray

“In the Catholic church everyone says the pope is infallible but nobody believes it; and in the Mormon church everybody says the prophet is fallible but nobody believes it.”              - Old Mormon Joke

Where did we get the idea that a prophet will never lead the people astray?

The idea is not supported from the Scriptures 

  • The Prophets misled King Ahab because "the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets" (1 Kings 22:23)
  • A "man of God out of Judah" was persuaded by an "old prophet in Beth-el" to come to his house. This was contrary to what the Lord had told him and he was killed by a lion. (1 Kings 13)
  • Abinadi tells us that prophets can and have fallen into transgression

Mosiah 15:13 Yea, and are not the prophets, every one that has opened his mouth to prophesy, that has not fallen into transgression, I mean all the holy prophets ever since the world began? I say unto you that they are his seed.

  • Joseph Smith had failures.
“And behold, how oft you have transgressed the commandments and the laws of God, and have gone on in the persuasions of men. For, behold, you should not have feared man more than God. Although men set at naught the counsels of God, and despise his word– Yet you should have been faithful; and he would have extended his arm and supported you against all the fiery darts of the adversary; and he would have been with you in every time of trouble.” (D&C 3: 6-8.)
  • Joseph was also told that he couldn't always judge the righteous from the wicked.
“Behold, I do not say that you shall not show it unto the righteous; But as you cannot always judge the righteous, or as you cannot always tell the wicked from the righteous, therefore I say unto you, hold your peace until I shall see fit to make all things known unto the world concerning the matter.” (D&C 10: 36-37.)
  • Even the President of the Church can transgress and be taken before a common council.
"There is not any person belonging to the church who is exempt from this council of the church. 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; And their decision upon his head shall be an end of controversy concerning him. Thus, none shall be exempted from the justice and the laws of God, that all things may be done in order and in solemnity before him, according to truth and righteousness." (D&C 107:81-84)
  • We should not follow men.
"O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm." (2 Nephi 4:34

"Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost." (2 Nephi 28:31)

"Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord." (Jeremiah 17:5)

"The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh—" (D&C 1:19)

Statements from LDS Leaders

Joseph Smith
Joseph warned that, "they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves…” (The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg. 237-238).

“We have heard men who hold the priesthood remark that they would do anything they were told to do by those who preside over them even if they knew it was wrong; but such obedience is worse than folly to us; it is slavery in the extreme; and the man who would thus willingly degrade himself, should not claim a rank among intelligent beings, until he turns from his folly. A man of God would despise the idea. Others, in the extreme exercise of their almighty authority have taught that such obedience was necessary, and that no matter what the saints were told to do by their presidents, they should do it without any questions. When Elders of Israel will so far indulge in these extreme notions of obedience as to teach them to the people, it is generally because they have it in their hearts to do wrong themselves" (Millennial Star, 1852, Volume 14, No. 38, Pages 593-595). (unsigned article on Priesthood. It has been attributed to three people: Joseph Smith, apostle Samuel Richards (editor in 1852) and apostle Charles W. Penrose)

Brigham Young

“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...” (Journal of Discourses, v. 9, p. 150).

“I told the people that if they would not believe the revelations that God had given, He would suffer the devil to give revelations that they – priest and people – would follow after.  Have I seen this fulfilled?  I have.
“I told the people that as true as God lived, if they would not have truth, they would have error sent unto them and they would believe it" (Brigham Young, Deseret News, June 8, 1873).


"The Lord Almighty leads this Church, and he will never suffer you to be led astray if you are found doing your duty." (Journal of Discourses, v. 9, p. 289)

George Q. Cannon
“Do not, brethren, put your trust in a 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...” (Millennial Star, vol. 53, pg. 658-659).

What is the origin of: "the prophet will never lead us astray"?

Wilford Woodruff preached strongly that they church would never give up polygamy.
“If we were to do away with polygamy, it would only be one feather in the bird, one ordinance in the Church and kingdom. Do away with that, them we must do away with prophets and Apostles, with revelation and the gifts and graces of the Gospel, and finally give up our religion altogether and turn sectarians and do as the world does, then all would be right. We just can’t do that, for God has commanded us to build up His kingdom and to bear our testimony to the nations of the earth, and we are going to do it, come life or come death. He has told us to do thus, and we shall obey Him in days to come as we have in days past.” (Journal of Discourses, v. 13,p. 166)

“We will not end the practice of plural marriage until the coming of the Son of Man.” (Journal of John Henry Smith, 21 May 1888)

Dec. 20, 1888 – Wilford Woodruff tells Twelve, “The Lord never will give a revelation to abandon plural marriage.”

Since he had made such strong statements, how was Wilford going to get the church to accept the idea that he had been wrong or that things had changed. He was faced with the dilemma of  how to reconcile his previous words in the minds of the Saints. So he basically told them to just trust him.
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, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty. (Sixty-first Semiannual General Conference of the Church, Monday, October 6, 1890, Salt Lake City, Utah. Reported in Deseret Evening News, October 11, 1890, p. 2.) [Official Declaration 1]

Wilford had some historical precedent for what he was saying. In 1857, a similar idea was expressed by Brigham's brother stake patriarch John Young.
It is not my desire or intention to take up much time this morning; but I was desirous to bear my testimony to the truth set forth by President Kimball, a man filled with the Holy Ghost. I wonder if some one won't go away and say that brother Kimball and the authorities were misinformed. I can tell you they are not; for those men who stand at the head of affairs have the light of heaven with them all the time; they have the power of the Spirit and the visions of the heavens with them always, and they can read men and women from head to foot. After this, I don't want anybody to go away from the meeting and say, "I guess they were mistaken." Don't let us hear any more of it, brethren; never let such a thing be spoken, that a Prophet of God is mistaken. I ask this congregation, and I adjure you in the name of the Lord to speak, if ever you heard brother Brigham, brother Kimball, brother Jedediah, or brother Wells say anything that was not strictly true. I answer, you never did.

[President H. C. Kimball: If it were so, a man might be a Prophet one minute and a devil another.]

Isn't it interesting that Heber C. Kimball would interrupt John Young's talk to make this comment. We can judge from some of the many topics below as to whether they were all "strictly true" doctrines and positions. If there was any false concepts, does that make the leaders into devils?

Brigham made a similar statement (if you ignore the "if" condition), but it was with Wilford's strong affirmation that this position became firmly embedded in the doctrine of the church. It was echoed by many others.
Joseph F. Smith stated, “If any man in that position should become unfaithful, God would remove him out of his place.”(JD 24:192); Harold B. Lee tells us, “Never would He permit one in this position to lead this church astray.”(Teachings of Harold B. Lee, pp. 535-536); Joseph Fielding Smith declared, “ Neither the President of the Church, nor the First Presidency, nor the united voice of the First Presidency and the Twelve will ever lead the Saints astray.”(General Conference, April 1972); Heber J. Grant counseled, “The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.”(Conference Report, Oct 1960, p. 78); Ezra Taft Benson tells us, “ Keep your eye on the Prophet, for the Lord will never permit his Prophet to lead this Church astray.”(General Conference, Oct. 1966); However Benson did add this, "Let us live close to the Spirit, so we can test all counsel." (General Conference, Oct. 1966)

Have the leaders of the LDS church ever led the Saints astray?

Of course the LDS church can make policy changes and they have many times during their history. But do any of the changes affect doctrine, or could they be considered as evidence of leading the church astray. Some of the changes were later changed and discredited–which raises the question about the status of the earlier policy or doctrine.

Can we verify that the Saints have never been led astray?

Adam-God

Brigham Young
When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He helped to make and organize this world. He is MICHAEL, the Archangel, the ANCIENT OF DAYS! about whom holy men have written and spoken—He is our FATHER and our GOD, and the only God with whom WE have to do. Every man upon the earth, professing Christians or non-professing, must hear it, and will know it sooner or later. (JD 1:50)
Spencer W. Kimball
We hope that you who teach in the various organizations, whether on the campuses or in our chapels, will always teach the orthodox truth. We warn you against the dissemination of doctrines which are not according to the scriptures and which are alleged to have been taught by some of the General Authorities of past generations. Such, for instance, is the Adam-God theory. We denounce that theory and hope that everyone will be cautioned against this and other kinds of false doctrine. - President Spencer W. Kimball (General Conference, October, 1976)

Blacks and the Priesthood

Brigham Young
"Any man having one drop of the seed of Cane in him Cannot hold the priesthood ... I will say it now in the name of Jesus Christ. I know it is true & they know it. The Negro cannot hold one particle of Government ... if any man mingles his seed with the seed of Cane the only way he Could get rid of it or have salvation would be to Come forward & have his head Cut off & spill his Blood upon the ground. It would also take the life of his Children." (Wilford Woodruff's Journal, Vol. 4, p. 97)

LDS.ORG
There is no reliable evidence that any black men were denied the priesthood during Joseph Smith’s lifetime. . . In 1852, President Brigham Young publicly announced that men of black African descent could no longer be ordained to the priesthood . . . Over time, Church leaders and members advanced many theories to explain the priesthood and temple restrictions. None of these explanations is accepted today as the official doctrine of the Church. . . . The revelation rescinded the restriction on priesthood ordination. It also extended the blessings of the temple to all worthy Latter-day Saints, men and women. The First Presidency statement regarding the revelation was canonized in the Doctrine and Covenants as Official Declaration 2. . . . Soon after the revelation, Elder Bruce R. McConkie, an apostle, spoke of new “light and knowledge” that had erased previously “limited understanding.” (https://www.lds.org/topics/race-and-the-priesthood?lang=eng)

Blood Atonement

Brigham Young
    I could refer you to plenty of instances where men, have been righteously slain, in order to atone for their sins. I have seen scores and hundreds of people for whom there would have been a chance (in the last resurrection there will be) if their lives had been taken and their blood spilled on the ground as a smoking incense to the Almighty, but who are now angels to the devil, until our elder brother Jesus Christ raises them up—conquers death, hell, and the grave. I have known a great many men who have left this Church for whom there is no chance whatever for exaltation, but if their blood had been spilled, it would have been better for them. The wickedness and ignorance of the nations forbid this principle's being in full force, but the time will come when the law of God will be in full force.
    This is loving our neighbour as ourselves; if he needs help, help him; and if he wants salvation and it is necessary to spill his blood on the earth in order that he may be saved, spill it. Any of you who understand the principles of eternity, if you have sinned a sin requiring the shedding of blood, except the sin unto death, would not be satisfied nor rest until your blood should be spilled, that you might gain that salvation you desire. That is the way to love mankind. (JD 4:221)

Mormon Church Statement, June 2010
However, so-called "blood atonement," by which individuals would be required to shed their own blood to pay for their sins, is not a doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We believe in and teach the infinite and all-encompassing atonement of Jesus Christ, which makes forgiveness of sin and salvation possible for all people. Deseret News.

Priesthood ordination

  • March 4, 1912 – Joseph F. Smith establishes a new rule that the priesthood ordination should first confer the priesthood and then ordain to an office in that priesthood. Previously there was no conferral of the priesthood, just ordaining to an office.
  • April 7, 1921 – First Presidency and Twelve decide to return to pre-1912 “old form of ordaining” to office without first conferring priesthood.
  • January 31, 1957 – First Presidency & Twelve decide to recommend that priesthood be conferred first before ordaining to office of deacon or elder.

Sacrament

  • April 6, 1857 – Brigham Young did not allow the sacrament for the past 6 months.
  • July 5, 1906 – First Presidency and Twelve begin consistently using water and not wine in their own sacrament.
  • July 1967 – Priesthood Bulleting prohibits women from praying in sacrament meeting.
  • Sep. 29, 1978 – First Presidency allows women to pray in sacrament meetings again.

Scriptures

  • Brigham Young in talking about his discourses: "I say now, when they are copied and approved by me they are as good scripture as is couched in this Bible" (JD 13:264)
  • Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made 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 (the prophet and his two counselors) and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest governing body of the Church) counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture (the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith. Isolated statements are often taken out of context, leaving their original meaning distorted. (Mormon Newsroom - Approaching Mormon Doctrine)

Re-baptism

Temple

  • Jan. 15, 1877 – Brigham dictates first written version of endowment and adds minister.
  • Feb. 7, 1877 – Adam-God lecture included in temple endowment.
  • Mar. 28, 1927 – First Presidency and Twelve decide to end practice of private prayer circle groups.
  • Dec. 15, 1969 – First Presidency authorized two-piece temple garment
  • April. 10, 1990 – Change endowment: remove penalties, 5 points, Adamic words, lecture and minister. Women no longer covenant to obey law of their husband.
  • 2005 – Initiatory ordinances changes, water and oil only applied to the head, fully dressed in garment.
  • See Isaiah 24:5 and D&C 1:14-15 "the day cometh . . . broken mine everlasting covenant"

Prophets

  • Oct. 6, 1877 – Twelve are sustained as "Prophets, Seers and Revelators" first time in 41 years.
  • July 31, 1954 – Counselor J. Reuben Clark in talk to seminary and institute teachers, “even the President of the Church has not always spoken under the direction of the Holy Ghost.”
  • Sep. 7, 1963 – Deseret News refers to McKay as “President McKay” until 1965, then increasingly headline references to him as “the Prophet” or “the Beloved Prophet”.
  • April 25, 1970 – Joseph Fielding Smith is first president always identified as “the Prophet” by  Church News, throughout his administration.

Church Patriarch

  • Nov. 9, 1901 – Joseph F. Smith proposes to sustain Presiding Patriarch above Quorum of the Twelve.
  • Oct. 6, 1902 – Joseph F. Smith has conference sustain Presiding Patriarch as prophet, seer and revelator, first time since Hyrum Smith in 1840s.
  • Jan. 2, 1919 – Heber J. Grant rules that patriarch ranks below apostles.
  • Oct. 6, 1979 – First Presidency ends office of Patriarch to the Church by giving emeritus status.

Politics

  • Oct. 23, 1888 – Wilford Woodruff & Twelve approve sending $20,000 to bribe Democrats
  • Oct. 20, 1893 – First Presidency & Twelve agree to bribe Utah’s non-LDS attorney general.

Seventy

  • Sep. 8, 1888 – Apostles approve salary for First Council of Seventy.
  • Jun 11, 1961 – David O. McKay ordains members of First Council of Seventies as High Priests.
  • Oct. 3, 1975 – Organizes First Quorum of Seventy for first time in 131 years.

Women

  • July 29, 1947 – Quorum of Twelve letter to Relief Society states that women should seek blessings of health from priesthood holders and not from other women. This officially ends more than century of women’s anointing and sealing blessings of health.
  • July 17, 1970 – First Presidency letter ends financial independence of Relief Society.
  • June 27, 1975 – End of conferences at church headquarters for church’s auxiliaries.
  • Oct. 2, 1988 – Primary Pres. is first woman to speak in general conference in 133 years.
  • Jan. 11, 1991 – Official statement allows flexibility for abortion after council and prayer.

Jesus Christ

  • Mar. 2, 1982 – Bruce R. McConkie denounces those who strive to have relationship with Christ.