This is a continuation of an analysis of a controversial talk by Brother Ezra Taft Benson (then president of the quorum of the twelve). In it he presented 14 fundamentals to following a president of the church. Not all 14 have drawn criticism, but I'll cover all anyway. This is for the purpose of seeing his intent and making facts clearer.
Sixth Claim: The prophet does not have to say “Thus saith the Lord” to give us scripture.
To support this claim he says the following,
"Sometimes there are those who argue about words. They might say the prophet gave us counsel but that we are not obliged to follow it unless he says it is a commandment. But the Lord says of the Prophet, 'Thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you.' (D&C 21:4.)
And speaking of taking counsel from the prophet, in D&C 108:1, the Lord states:
'Verily thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant Lyman: Your sins are forgiven you, because you have obeyed my voice in coming up hither this morning to receive counsel of him whom I have appointed.'
Said Brigham Young, 'I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call scripture.' (Journal of Discourses, 13:95.)"
Firstly D&C 21:4 goes on to say, in the same verse, "AS he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me." These are 2 significant additions to that which Brother Benson has presented. It is only those things the president has received from God, as he walks in all holiness before him, that we need to regard to be commandments from God. How can we know which is which if he doesn't declare it to be from the Lord?
D&C 108:1 doesn't say whether Joseph Smith had or hadn't said "thus saith the Lord." It would be incredibly likely that he, in fact, did.
In regard to anyone sent forth to preach the gospel the D&C states,
"And this is the ensample unto them, that they shall speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost. And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation." D&C 68:3-4.
So it would be wise to remember that this isn't unique to the president of the church, by any means. In fact anyone speaking by the Holy Ghost can be considered as speaking Scripture where the words he is then speaking are coming directly from the Holy Ghost. Even if the man has no official position (as we see demonstrated many times in Scripture, such as with the child Samuel receiving revelation to give to the prophet Eli [1 Sam 3]).
Harold B. Lee has declared that the president should present any additional revelation to the church for a sustaining vote. Thus he would be declaring it such when it was from the Lord. So while technically what Bro Benson says is true, to be ACCEPTED as Scripture, by the church, he would have to declare it such.
Seventh Claim: The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.
To support this claim he states,
“'Thou has declared unto us hard things, more than we are able to bear,' complained Nephi’s brethren. But Nephi answered by saying, 'The guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center.' (1 Ne. 16:1–2.)
Said President Harold B. Lee:
'You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may conflict with your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life … Your safety and ours depends upon whether or not we follow … Let’s keep our eye on the President of the Church.' (Conference Report, October 1970, p. 152–153.)
But it is the living prophet who really upsets the world. 'Even in the Church,' said President Kimball, 'many are prone to garnish the sepulchres of yesterdays prophets and mentally stone the living ones.' (Instructor, 95:527.)
Why? Because the living prophet gets at what we need to know now, and the world prefers that prophets either be dead or worry about their own affairs. Some so-called experts of political science want the prophet to keep still on politics. Some would-be authorities on evolution want the prophet to keep still on evolution. And so the list goes on and on.
How we respond to the words of a living prophet when he tells us what we need to know, but would rather not hear, is a test of our faithfulness.
Said President Marion G. Romney, 'It is an easy thing to believe in the dead prophets, but it is a greater thing to believe in the living prophets.' And then he gives this illustration:
'One day when President Grant was living, I sat in my office across the street following a general conference. A man came over to see me, an elderly man. He was very upset about what had been said in this conference by some of the Brethren, including myself. I could tell from his speech that he came from a foreign land. After I had quieted him enough so he would listen, I said, ‘Why did you come to America?’ ‘I am here because a prophet of God told me to come.’ ‘Who was the prophet?’ I continued. ‘Wilford Woodruff.’ ‘Do you believe Wilford Woodruff was a prophet of God?’ ‘Yes, sir.’
'Then came the sixty-four dollar question, ‘Do you believe that Heber J. Grant is a prophet of God?’ His answer, ‘I think he ought to keep his mouth shut about old-age assistance.’
'Now I tell you that a man in his position is on the way to apostasy. He is forfeiting his chances for eternal life. So is everyone who cannot follow the living prophet of God.' (Conference Report, April 1953, p. 125.)"
I must start by pointing out that Nephi wasn't the president of the church in making his statement. So it isn't a relavent quote for what Brother Benson is trying to present. However I would support the use of this text for the subject, as in reality this statement applies to all people asking anyone to change their ways for good.
A relevant question in regard Brother Romney's story is whether the man he quotes actually HAS apostatised? Had he waited to find out, and it being so, it would make quoting the story closer to being justified.
I know a guy who still, after over 30 years of disagreeing with a decision of Spencer Kimball's, is very active and having one-on-one communication with God. So if he's on his way to apostacy he's taking a long time getting there. I also don't believe that the direction of Brother Kimball's was something anyone needed to know (as Brother Benson feels it would be). In fact I can assure you that it wasn't. We have to keep in mind that these people are human and have human frailties. To put them up on a pedistal and expect to keep them there we must bury our heads in the sand. Which isn't very helpful spiritually.
So while I believe in the statement overall I don't support it as some absolute.
Eighth Claim: The Prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning.
In support Bro Benson states,
"There will be times when you will have to choose between the revelation of God and reasoning of men—between the prophet and the 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.' (Scrapbook of Mormon Literature, vol. 2, p. 173).
Would it seem reasonable to an eye doctor to be told to heal a blind man by spitting in the dirt, making clay and applying it to the man’s eyes and then telling him to wash in a contaminated pool? Yet this is precisely the course that Jesus took with one man, and he was healed. (See John 9:6–7.) Does it seem reasonable to cure leprosy by telling a man to wash seven times in a particular river, yet this is precisely what the prophet Elisha told a leper to do, and he was healed. (See 2 Kgs. 5.)
'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.' (Isa. 55:8–9.)"
I would have to support him in this statement. Again I would qualify that any prophetic person is in the same situation. But this doesn't alter the truth of it as applying to the President of the church.