14th in a seriesAs noted in the previous issue,
play a major role in understanding the word of God. We may wonder how
this should affect our trust of prophets and our willingness to follow
their counsel. If Mormon prophets can make fallible pronouncements, can we
pick and choose which of their words we should follow? And why should
we follow their counsel if they might be wrong?
The truth is, we
pick and choose when we follow the words of the prophets. We also pick
and choose the counsel we follow from the scriptures, our boss, the
law, health professionals, our spouses, etc. Because we're not perfect
and not robots, it always comes down to personal choice. We have our
agency to follow the prophet, go to church, avoid pornography, obey the
speed limits, come to work on time, mow our lawn, etc. Sometimes there
are no apparent consequences for ignoring rules, counsels or
commandments, while other times the consequences are nearly immediate.
what if the prophet is wrong? What are the consequences of following a
prophet's erroneous opinion? The same question might apply to those
with stewardship over smaller spheres of responsibility. What are the
consequences of following the advice of a righteous wife, mother,
husband or father?
we are living lives that allows the Holy Spirit to work within us and
speak to us; if we are seeking God's guidance through our actions,
thoughts and desires; if we pray always, accept Christ's atonement
into our lives, and conform to His; are we going to make mistakes? Most
certainly. But what kind of mistakes? Will we make errors that have
negative eternal consequences? Not likely.
must remember that — despite the portrait painted by some critics — the
prophets and leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are servants of the Lord and, by
extension, servants of his children. They don't do it for power or
pride. They serve out of love and Christ-like charity. As many lay
members, they live lives that are harmonious with the Spirit of God and
generally have extensive experience behind their thoughts and actions.
They also have the support of their quorum. \"For where two or three are
in my name,
there am I in the midst
of them\" (Matt. 18:20).
and counselors help assure that God's will is revealed. This doesn't
mean that a quorum is infallible, but spiritual strength is increased
in the unity of a righteous quorum. That's why (for the most part) LDS
doctrine is proclaimed by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve
as a unified body of God's prophets. Elder Boyd K. Packer said the men and
women who are called to lead the church are ordinary people who seek
inspiration in the same manner as any other member.
are disposed to find fault with us; surely that is easy for them to do.
But they do not examine us more searchingly than we examine ourselves.
A call to lead is not an exemption from the challenges of life. ... We are sorry for our inadequacies, sorry we are not better than we are. ... But this we know. There are councils
and counselors and quorums to counterbalance the foibles and frailties
of man. The Lord organized his church to provide for mortal men to work
as mortal men, and yet he assured that the spirit of revelation would
guide in all that we do in his name\" (Boyd K. Packer,
Ensign, Nov 1989, 14).
some leaders have said that the prophets will not lead God's people
astray — that statement is not a claim of infallibility, but instead it
is a promise that God will not allow modern-day prophets to lead his
people away from Christ. A member and prophet may disagree on certain
historical, scientific or even gospel issues, but we can be assured
that none of those issues — of themselves — should have any impact on our
personal journey home to the Father.
we should attempt to gain a testimony of Jesus Christ. Then we should
seek a testimony of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith and our current
prophet. Lastly, we should seek our own testimonies on gospel issues.
If our testimony of a specific issue isn't firm, following those who
are called of God (as confirmed by our own testimony) is probably a
wise choice. If we know that the prophet is God's prophet, then we can
rest assured that while he may make mistakes or have erroneous
opinions, he will not teach us or counsel us in ways that would
separate us from God.
are the consequences of not following the prophet? And what happens to
those who privately or publicly disagree with the prophets or official church doctrines? This and more to come in later issues.
Michael R. Ash is on the management team for FAIR (the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research)
and is the author of