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Challenging Issues, Keeping the Faith: Challenging issues & keeping the faith: What if the prophet is wrong?

Part 14

14th in a seriesAs noted in the previous issue,

we

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

already

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.

But

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?

If

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.

We

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

gathered

together

in my name,

there am I in the midst

of them\" (Matt. 18:20).

Quorums

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.

\"Some

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).

When

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.

First

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.

What

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

Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One's Testimony In the Face of Criticism and Doubt and

Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith.