This is a continuation, examining 14 contraversial claims made by Ezra Taft Benson in regard following prophets.
Third Claim: The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.
To support and define this claim he quotes the following
"God’s revelation to Adam did not instruct Noah how to build the Ark. Noah needed his own revelation. Therefore the most important prophet so far as you and I are concerned is the one living in our day and age to whom the Lord is currently revealing His will for us. Therefore the most important reading we can do is any of the words of the prophet contained each month in our Church Magazines. Our instructions about what we should do for each six months are found in the General Conference addresses which are printed in the Church magazine.
Beware of those who would set up the dead prophets against the living prophets, for the living prophets always take precedence."
To support this he starts off with a good arguement. Which certainly fares well as one side of the equation. But without considering the other side at all, he then says that church magazines are better than the Scriptures. Then he presents his opinion that living prophets take presedence over dead ones.
I would present the following statement from Harold B. Lee, who was president at the time he said it.
"If anyone, regardless of his position in the Church, were to advance a doctrine that is not substantiated by the standard Church works, meaning the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price, you may know that his statement is merely his private opinion. The only one authorized to bring forth any new doctrine is the President of the Church, who, when he does, will declare it as revelation from God, and it will be so accepted by the Council of the Twelve and sustained by the body of the Church. And if any man speak a doctrine which contradicts what is in the standard Church works, you may know by that same token that it is false and you are not bound to accept it as truth." The First Area General Conference for Germany, Austria, Holland, Italy, Switzerland, France, Belgium, and Spain of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, held in Munich Germany, August 24-26, 1973, with Reports and Discourses, 69.
This presents that no one's words can just be taken as the mind and will of the Lord. Their words must be supported by the Scriptures to be regarded as anything but personal opinion. In the case of the president there is exception WHERE it is presented to the church and sustained as new doctrine. In such cases it is then placed in the Standard Works to become part of the accepted doctrine of the church. Sustaining people to positions DOESN'T mean we sustain every opinion they present.
If these statements of the president were the mind and will of the Lord at the time of Harold B. Lee, are we to believe that God changed his ways between 1973 and 1980? And was this acceptable because Brother Lee was dead when Brother Benson (who was then president of the quorum of twelve) proposed this?
The death of an individual does NOT alter truth. Those principles Christ preached in the Scriptures to Joseph Smith, Christ's apostles and other inspired men are as relevant today as they were on the day they were written. They don't become removeable truths because the people who stated them have since died.
Jesus Christ's sermon on the mount is far more important to us than anything any prophet states or stated throughout history. You'll find it in the Standard Works written by dead apostles.
I think Brother Benson's statement would have been better to have said,
"The living president may, at any time, receive revelation that we need to hear at this time. Therefore as a suppliment to Scripture reading I would advise reading of what the current president is talking about."
Fourth Claim: The prophet will never lead the Church astray.
In support of this claim he quotes the following from Brother Wilford Woodruff,
“I say to Israel, the Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of the Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God.” (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, pp. 212–13.)
Then he presents the following from Brother Marion G. Romney (of the Council of Twelve),
“I remember years ago when I was a bishop I had President Heber J. Grant talk to our ward. After the meeting I drove him home … Standing by me, he put his arm over my shoulder and said: ‘My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.’ Then with a twinkle in his eye, he said, ‘But you don’t need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.’ ” (Conference Report, October 1960, p. 78.)
I have written on this matter in a recent post. So some of this will be a direct quote from that post.
This was stated because of the great opposition he faced from church members and leaders due to his declaration opposing the present practice of plural marriage. So his statement should be kept in context.
Today there are those that choose to believe that this is a reason to feel that nothing the President of the church says can be wrong. However that statement not only says that the President of the church would be removed out of his place but that ANYONE attempting to lead people astray, from the words of God, would.
To be moved out of their place they must have some "place" to be moved out of. It is posing church positions. So are we to believe that all bishops, stake presidents, high councilmen, elder's quorum presidents, relief society presidents, scout leaders, class secretaries, ward mission leaders, home teachers, visiting teachers etc are infallible in their offices: That every word they say is the mind and will of God?
Because that's what you would have to believe to use Wilford Woodruff's statement as used by some, concerning opinions expressed by the president of the church.
Note also that he states that it would have to be a deliberate attempt to lead astray, on behalf of the leader - "...If I were to attempt that...any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray..."
I think we have to use a bit of sense in our understanding of his intention. He is posing that such a major change, as he was presenting, wouldn't be allowed by God if it were wrong. To make more out of it not only is ridiculous (as demonstrated 3 paragraphs above) but doesn't fit in the context, nor with other statements of church presidents to the contrary.
Additionally such thinking leaves members open to anti-material where they demonstrate the differences of ideas expressed by church presidents and other GAs. We need to move beyond such ideas, as we learn in the gospel.
The idea that we should look to another man, in some position, to tell us what God has to say, is essential for new members, those with mental retardation problems, children under 8, those who have recently reactivated, people suffering altzeimers disease, those coming to church only for social reasons and those having serious troubles seeing the point in obeying God (such as Israel at the time of Moses).
For any others there are 2 men that actually ARE infallible. One we call "Heavenly Father." And the other we call "Jesus Christ." Fortunately both are very much available for comment. You don't need to book an appointment to see them. You can just ask at any time.
Along with them we have the Holy Ghost, who is quite happy to reside inside you ALL the time. He can guide you in anything. He also is infallible.
That sounds a much better idea to me. The other is just being spiritually lazy, in my opinion.
I have to add that if Brother Woodruff's statement were to be taken as Brother Benson suggests then how did the apostacy occur? Someone lead the church astray as its president.
I would further add that Brother Grant's teaching of blind obedience would only be suitable when a person is incapable of receiving personal guidance from the Holy Ghost. Otherwise they'd better get on their knees and find out or they will be accountable for what they do.
His statement would have been better to have stated _God seems to have suggested that no further restoration will be occurring before the millenium. Therefore the president of the church will continue to have God's authority.
Fifth Claim: The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or diplomas to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.
To define this idea he states the following,
"Sometimes there are those who feel their earthly knowledge on a certain subject is superior to the heavenly knowledge which God gives to his prophet on the same subject. They feel the prophet must have the same earthly credentials or training which they have had before they will accept anything the prophet has to say that might contradict their earthly schooling. How much earthly schooling did Joseph Smith have? Yet he gave revelations on all kinds of subjects. We haven’t yet had a prophet who earned a doctorate degree in any subject. We encourage earthly knowledge in many areas, but remember if there is ever a conflict between earthly knowledge and the words of the prophet, you stand with the prophet and you’ll be blessed and time will show you have done the right thing."
I would fully support this claim: Relative to the subject it is completely correct. The only thing I would add to this (in the interest of perspective) is that this not only pertains to the president, but to those statements in Scripture and any statement by a person receiving revelation.