Are Their Words Really Scripture?

Last week Eric Johnson blogged here on the topic of following the prophet and personal revelation. He cited a recent Salt Lake Tribune article by Peggy Fletcher Stack titled, “Are Leaders Infallible? LDS Faithful are Admonished to ‘Follow the Prophet.’” I would like to look at another point from Ms. Stack’s article.

After discussing different aspects of the ways Latter-day Saints view their leaders, Ms. Stack asks, regarding LDS leaders, “But are their words really scripture?”

According to John Fowles, a British Mormon interviewed for the article, Mormons have “unrealistic and unnecessary expectations” for their leaders.  He suggests that turning LDS authorities’ words into scripture would betray the LDS canonization process. He believes LDS leaders would probably prefer that members understand their words as “deeply pondered and inspired counsel sincerely delivered as such.” Or, in other words, inspired suggestions, wise advice — yes. Scripture? No.

But here’s the problem: Official Mormonism doesn’t agree.

Twice at last October’s General Conference, speakers made positive reference to a speech delivered in 1980 by an LDS Apostle (who later became President of the Church). In this original speech, Mormons were told that, “The Prophet Does Not Have to Say ‘Thus Saith the Lord’ to Give Us Scripture.” The point the apostle was making was that a prophet’s words are always wholly authoritative and binding upon the Church; what he says is scripture. Brigham Young, another LDS President, was quoted in this speech as having said, “I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call scripture” (Ezra Taft Benson, Fourteen Fundamentals of Following the Prophet, press copy, 6-7).

Conveying the idea of even more relevance for the 21st century LDS Church, this same speech has also been included in the newly updated Religion 333 Student Manual, Teachings of the Living Prophets, just released by the Church in March (2011, pp. 22-27).

The new edition of the Religion 333 Student Manual says, “What the First Presidency says is scripture” (43, 52). To support the point, the manual quotes Marion G. Romney:

“So I repeat again, what the presidency say as a presidency is what the Lord would say if he were here, and it is scripture. It should be studied, understood, and followed, even as the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants and other scriptures” (53, included here is an excerpt from a longer quote in the manual).

The Student Manual also says, “The words of the prophets delivered through the Spirit during general conference are latter-day scripture” (71, 72) and quotes Joseph Fielding Smith:

“When one of the brethren stands before a congregation of the people today, and the inspiration of the Lord is upon him, he speaks that which the Lord would have him speak. It is just as much scripture as anything you will find written in any of these records, and yet we call these the standard works of the Church… the word of the Lord, as spoken by other servants at the general conferences and stake conferences, or wherever they may be when they speak that which the Lord has put into their mouths, is just as much the word of the Lord as the writings and the words of other prophets in other dispensations” (73).

In January, Ensign magazine highlighted the topic of “The Scriptures” in its “What We Believe” column. It says,

“Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accept the following as scripture: 1. The Bible… 2. The Book of Mormon… 3. The Doctrine and Covenants… 4. The Pearl of Great Price… 5. God continues to reveal truths to living prophets through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. These truths are considered scripture (see D&C 68:4). They come to us primarily through general conference, held the first weekend in April and October, when members throughout the world hear addresses from our prophet and other Church leaders” (Ensign, January 2011, 14-15).

Of course, this is problematic for defenders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who like to say, for example, the Adam-God doctrine was just Brigham Young’s opinion. Or Orson Hyde’s statement that Jesus was the bridegroom at the wedding of Cana was mere speculation. Or Spencer Kimball’s insistence that American Indians who join the Church become lighter skinned was just his personal view. (All these teachings were delivered in General Conferences. See respectively, Journal of Discourses 1:50-51; Journal of Discourses 2:82; Conference Report, October 1960, 34.)

So, as Ms. Stack asks, are the words of LDS leaders really scripture? Mr. Fowles (and other Mormons, perhaps those described by Ezra Taft Benson in his speech as “the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich”) suggest the answer is no. But according to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, for members of the Church, the unequivocal answer is yes, they are.

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.

This entry was posted in Mormon Leaders, Mormon Scripture and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

78 Responses to Are Their Words Really Scripture?

  1. Engkei says:

    Mr Hammer,
    The GA Poelman mentioned eternal principles which are independent of location and time. I was just illustrating that it just isn't true. Simply say that you didn't understand, please don't project anything.

  2. wyomingwilly says:

    [part 2]
    I think everyone who is concerned with their relationship with God will see the priority of taking
    Jesus' words in Matt 7:15 ; 24:11,24 very seriously. Are there indeed false prophets today ?
    Who are those who claim to be God's prophet today ? Can we ascertain whether they are a
    false prophet ? The fact that many of those who claim to be spiritual leaders who speak for God
    can and do live moral lives in accord with the scriptures, can these then still be considered false
    prophets ? May our Mormon friends test their leaders to see if they have been faithful to their claim
    of being God's "mouthpiece" . May our Mormon friends not be lulled into thinking that a false prophet
    is always a immoral man. The Bible says that in these times there will be MANY false prophets/teachers,
    obviously not all of them live immoral lives. Put the claims mentioned above to the test. You may wish
    to peruse the articles on this ministries home page listing.

  3. The_Hammer says:

    Engkei,
    You can call me Rick, The moniker (The Hammer) and (Rick the Hammer), I am the same. I some how got logged out and when I tried logging back in it put back my original moniker.

    Then you said

    Simply say that you didn't understand, please don't project anything.

    What exactly do you think I was projecting? I said to the first half of the reply that I think it is sad that even if LDS find out a statement or teaching or book has been changed, LDS dont seem to care. Then You started talking about bread, words, hearts and lungs. That was when I said I missed your point and felt you were rambling.

  4. wyomingwilly says:

    Violet, you mention some good points. It's sad to behold how our Mormon friends don't seem to
    have the time to objectively evaluate some of the teachings from their leaders.They are so busy
    striving to be "worthy " people. I'm sure that Thomas Monson would make a good neighbor. But
    have Mormon leaders really heard from God in what they teach their people about Him ? That's
    the question to be answered. After all, I 've known some atheists who are just as moral as most
    LDS. When I see the track record of the teachings of mormon prophets and apostles I see a
    pattern of inconsistency, vacillating on doctrine, a confusion as it were as to what is termed truth.
    This is why they have proven over time to be unreliable in correctly dispensing important spiritual
    truths , especially concerning God and how a person can find a right relationship with Him. To be
    wrong on these issues is to be in a very dangerous spiritual position. [ 2 Cor.11:4 ]

  5. falcon says:

    Kate,
    This is totally off topic, but I was discussing with Sharon that we've never had an article here on MC about what people experience when they leave the Mormon church. I'm guessing this is an intensely personal thing, but on another blog, I read a recent testimony of a woman and it sounded like their home was invaded and under constant assault from Mormons from the rank and file to the missionaries.
    I also know of people who leave, resign and are pretty much left alone. What was your experience if you don't mind my asking?

  6. Kate says:

    falcon,

    I sent in my resignation letter to member records in SLC the first of October last year. In it I stated that I wanted absolutely NO contact from anyone from the LDS church. I was sent a letter stating that it needed to go through my Bishop and Stake President, member records in SLC just couldn't take care of it for me. A pamphlet from the first presidency came with the letter. I'm still upset over that pamphlet. It was basically spiritual blackmail. I wish now that I had kept it so I could tell you exactly what it said. One part that sticks out is how they "invited" me to come back and "once again feast with the Good Shepard". I then received a visit from my visiting teachers. I didn't answer the door. Then the phone calls and messages from the ward clerk started. I didn't answer the phone because I knew the Bishop wanted to interview me. Then the Bishop called me from his work and I didn't recognize the number so I answered. I was polite but firm because this man is one of my neighbors and I like him as a person. BUT they certainly didn't care about the "no contact" that I requested. I received my confirmation letter ( FROM THE MEMBER RECORDS OFFICE!) the week of Christmas, and New Year's Day, the full time missionaries were at my door. The first of February a new set of missionaries came knocking.They've been here twice. I'm sure they will keep coming. My 2 sons are ready to send in their letters and I really need to help them with that soon. I do know that in their letters we are going to add that if we don't receive a confirmation letter from member records within 10 days we will be seeking legal action and contacting every media outlet in the country. There is absolutely no reason for member records not to take care of this promptly. I felt like I was being held hostage and my life as a new Christian was in limbo. I have a friend who left the LDS church years ago and she has never had her records removed because she doesn't think it matters. She doesn't believe it anyways. I'm sort of an all or nothing person, that would never have worked for me. I really don't want to get mean with anyone, but I've had enough of being bothered. I'm not above contacting the police and filing charges. I just love the old mormon saying…."They can leave the church, but they just can't leave the church alone." Yeah right 🙂

  7. jackg says:

    I guess that's right, Falcon. 🙂 That means you can't go to the Word of God yourself and discern if what was said was true or not, BECAUSE you know it just has to be true. As for the Bible being outdated, I maintain my stand that Mormons have relegated the Bible to a fourth class piece of literature. Who needs the Bible when you have living prophets breathing God's word to us for today's context??? This is where the Wesleyan quadrilateral plays a part in discernment: scripture, tradition, reason, and experience.

    Peace…

  8. Violet says:

    Clyde. You can work on your righteousness all day long. That is called self-righteousness. Its HIS righteousness that we are to focus on. Our self-improvement is like holding a candle to the sun. He is everything and we are but dust. Bringing someone to Christ does not mean bringing them to the mormon church. Being perfect might be a giant turn-off for someone who is laying in the gutter. Letting the God's light shine through you, is what matters. Not worried about man judging or following or seeing you. YOU are the problem. Only Christ Jesus can judge us. He was once a man, so He knows how hard we try. Because He is God, He saves us. PS. Are the Indians you referring to Lamanites, or Nephi? (Just joking.) Someone who is broken and needs God the most, might not come to God through the 'perfect looking Christian'. God works in mysterious ways. Haven't you heard that? Maybe a poor miserable sinner like me can lead someone to Him too?

  9. Engkei says:

    I used to listen, wondering if there was ever going to be an addition to D&C etc…But never when I was active LDS. Otherwise, your pretty right on. The only thing confrontational concerns sexual roles of women, abortion, gay rights, marrying only in your race…but other than that….

  10. Engkei says:

    you said, "It almost seemed as if it was drunken rambling.

  11. wyomingwilly says:

    Kate, none of us who were ever LDS can possibly know what it must have been like. I just have
    to tip my hat to you ,f-melo, SetfreebyJC, and the rest of you ex-Mormons out there who are
    not only free from a false prophet organization, but free in JESUS. God Bless you all.

    ww

  12. wyomingwilly says:

    Violet, great comment !

    ww

  13. The_Hammer says:

    Engkei, I never said you were drunk, I said it seemed that way by how you just babbled on, even another poster said he did not understand you. Many times you just babble on and make no sense and it has been said before by me or others that you do that.

  14. falcon says:

    WOW, what a story!
    What's that line from the song "Hotel California"? "You can check in but you can never leave."
    This, ladies and gentlemen, is what is known as "cult behavior". What's with these Mormons? What part of "NO!!" don't they understand? They must have a real problem with rejection.
    And what's with this setting up barriers to someone wanting to resign?
    Here's the funny thing, as long as someone stays "on the rolls" everything's OK; at least to a certain degree. But say, "I want out." and then the full force of the morg comes against you.
    I've heard of the funny things exMormons do to discourage contact. Very creative.

  15. falcon says:

    I found Kate's account of Mormonism (above) not only interesting but insightful.
    Here we have a religion in which the adherents are so wedded to their leaders and "group" that they can't let those who have lapsed in their belief and devotion go, move on, leave or make a choice not to be involved.
    These TBM types really believe that their leaders are speaking for God and have the answers to the questions that will lead the faithful into the Celestial Kingdom and personal deification.
    My guess, based on what I've read, Mormons have a real problem anyway with personal boundaries and being in other people's business and judging/evaluating others.

  16. The_Hammer says:

    Kate, You can call me Rick,
    Anyway I have no doubts that it is hard to leave. Here is my thinking though. If you read the Bible and really believe what Jesus said, then everyone has to face the fact that we will either go to heaven and be with Jesus or go to hell and suffer torment for all of eternity.

    Would I rather suffer rejection of family and friends, or would I rather hear from Jesus on the final day, Depart from Me into everlasting destruction for I never knew you. I know either choice is hard, but I would rather lose family than go with family into everlasting destruction and then still be separated from them in hell since we will not be all holding hands and playing games in hell.

    I heard a story from my pastor about how he was sharing the gospel with a guy over in Israel, This guy had a choice, believe Jesus or reject Jesus, This guy said I must reject Jesus because if I were to believe He was God as He claimed and believe Hell is real, then that would mean my father who died was now in hell, and I simply dont want to believe that, so I must then reject Jesus. That is really sad, because this guy cannot simply change the facts, now not only is his father in hell, according to this man, but he himself is headed to hell for rejecting Jesus.

  17. Kate says:

    Rick,
    I know what you are saying. As a Christian, I now understand the traditional Christ of the Bible. What you say is true. But, Mormons believe in the Christ of the Book of Abraham. ( Although they will swear they believe in the Christ of the Bible ) Pres. Hinckley himself said that he didn't believe in the "traditional Christ of the Bible." Here's the difference. They don't study and understand the Bible like a true believer in Christ. I honestly don't know why mormons don't just ditch the Bible. So much of the religion directly contradicts it. As far as suffering rejection from family and friends, I'm with you, didn't Jesus say he would come bearing a sword and divide families? I'm not sure if you've ever been a mormon, but it's hard for those outside the religion to understand the way it works. It's all just so bizarre. Of course I didn't realize just how "out there" it was while I was a believer. It's sad to me that so many people in my life have no clue who Christ is.

  18. Kate says:

    falcon,
    This reminds me of a conversation I had with family members over the Fall General Conference talk by Boyd Packer. You are familiar with the talk on homosexuality I'm sure. My comments to my family was that it's not our place to judge anyone and that what a person does in life is between them and God. We have no idea what is in a person's heart. We are commanded to love EVERYONE and that doesn't mean that we love everything someone does, but it's basically none of our business if someone is gay or straight. Wow, I really took the heat! LOL! Two of my family members said that yes we are to judge! We are to use "righteous judgment!" Now I know that Jesus said something like this in John, but I'm not sure this is what he had in mind. Any thoughts?

  19. The_Hammer says:

    Kate,
    I understand what your saying, but at the very least dont Mormons understand that family's are not for ever? Even if the LDS dont believe in hell or the Christ of the bible, they cannot all stay together. What if some do not enter the temple? or they get a divorce, etc. So many things will help break them apart.

  20. Violet says:

    Kate, Rick.
    Suffering the rejection of family and friends, is the cruelest method of 'keeping members in the faith.' Its so unbelievable to me that is why I keep trying to learn more and more about mormonism. Its like a good story gone bad. More unbelievable than fiction.

    I mentioned 'shunning' to my neighbor. She said if she left her faith, her family would never, ever do anything like that.

    She also said her 'aunties' (catholics) were so wonderful to fly across the country to attend a mormon family member's wedding (in-laws) and were only allowed to wait in the lobby. I was speechless. I have learned just to listen. Arguing or agreeing only makes her defensive.

  21. Kate says:

    Rick,

    No they don't understand that their families aren't forever. Those that do the temple thing will just take care of the ones that don't. That's part of the purpose of temple work. For example, my mom and her one brother are the only ones in their immediate family that aren't temple mormons. My mom's sister is going to do or have her children do my mom's "work" for her after she's gone. So you see in their logic, they can just do the work for them and they can accept it on the other side of the veil and viola! Done deal and they are together forever! I know a few ladies who have gotten divorced after a temple marriage and they have not gotten a temple divorce because then they will lose their ticket to the celestial kingdom. Like I said, bizarre. Now when I start asking the hard questions like " If you are a god of your own world and your son is a god of his own world, how are you going to be together?" There are no answers. I'm just told that god has that all worked out and we just need to have faith like a little child.

    Violet,

    A lot of families wouldn't do that. For the most part mine aren't like that either. I'm sure some of them will disown me when the word gets to them, but they aren't my immediate family so I'm OK with it. Not allowing family into a wedding ceremony is one of the most horrible things. I'm surprised they even let them in the lobby. I've never heard that before. Usually they have to sit outside the temple on a bench, or go do something else until it's over. Can you imagine being a parent and not being allowed to see your child married? Some couples do a "mock" ceremony after the temple ceremony. I too am learning that it's best not to argue, I just try to share Christ with them. Although when I'm being preached to and it's coming from one of the mormon scriptures, I will say "That's not Biblical." It usually ends the discussion.

  22. Kate says:

    Oh my gosh guys! I found this quote from Brigham Young about those of us who have apostatized:

    "…but let them apostatize, and they will become gray-haired, wrinkled, and black, just like the Devil." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 5, p 332)

    Now I've admitted (above) that I am in fact an apostate. I wonder when this is going to happen to me…….I'm blonde and white by the way……

  23. wyomingwilly says:

    Kate, don't worry. Realize that statement came from the lips of just another false prophet using fear
    tactics to keep his followers in line. The Devil having black skin ? Just another example of spiritual
    guidance from a false prophet. The Mormon people need to dismiss these prophets/teachers
    and come to know Jesus in a complete way —Heb.7:25

    ww

  24. f_melo says:

    Kate, interesting that that comes from a church that portrays Jesus as having blond hair and blue eyes… but dare to say anything about racism to them to see their reaction…

  25. f_melo says:

    Kate, we have to help each other in our Christian walk, and we shouldn´t be shy about our beliefs even if they are unpopular. You´re right though, you should love everyone. You should judge righteous judgement but that doesn´t mean that you lift yourself up making yourself more righteous than others giving yourself the right to point your finger at some people while being ignorant of your own sins. The only way we can judge righteous judgement is if we do it with humility remembering our state before God and how we´ve been forgiven of our own sins by the blood of Jesus. That´s my opinion i´d have to check that with scripture though. Also, in my opinion, Jesus judges people just by you preaching the Gospel. Every time i read the words of Jesus i feel that i´m falling short, i feel the need to repent and trust in Him because His light shines on my heart and i can clearly see how bad things really are deep inside. Only through the work of Sanctification by the Holy Spirit we can improve in good works and then help others in their walk as well.

  26. Kate says:

    WW,

    Is that crazy or what? No wonder the superstitious people of the 19th century didn't dare apostatize. That's quite a curse he put out there. Come to think of it……I have noticed a little "crow's feet" around my eyes….:)

  27. The_Hammer says:

    kate, I figure if the LDS teach that BY got it wrong on Adam God, Then he must have gotten this wrong as well. So no need to fear. Plus how does BY know the devil is black? The Bible does not say he is black.

  28. Mormon investigators who are taught that the only LDS scriptures are the BOM, D&C, POGP, and the Bible, and later learn that Conference Reports are also scripture, are usually shocked when they learn about the Journal of Discourses, which contain only General Conference addresses by the 19th Century Brethren. Then they discover that the Lectures on Faith were regarded as cannonized scripture until the 1920s, and then were conveniently decannonized. When they are told by their Priesthood leaders in Church that the LOF were not really cannonized as a standard work in 1835, and then they read the true history of the Lectures on Faith and discover that they were, they lose faith. The same thing applies to Brigham Young's Adam-God Doctrine, blood atonement, and the Doctrine of Adoption. When newly baptized converts learn that these doctrines were taught in General Conference by prophets and apostles, they lose faith when they are told by their Priesthood leaders that they were opinions, etc. The truth is the best avenue to teaching.

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