Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Fourteen Fundamentals Examined Part 1

Ezra Taft Benson, President of the Quorum of the Twelve apostles at the time, gave a talk entitled “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet” (Address given Tuesday, February 26, 1980 at Brigham Young University).

His claims are somewhat contraversial. In fact even some relatively conservative members have ripped them to pieces of late, not just the DAMs. In fairness to him I thought it wise to do examinations of the claims of this talk. I won't do all 14 at once though.

It is neither my intention to defend falsehood on the one hand, nor to find fault where it doesn't exist, on the other. So I am seeking to do a realistic appraisal of his claims.

In looking at his statements I think we have to remember that he was talking at BYU. He wasn't anticipating that his words would be analysed under a microscope on the internet. Also I think the talk was anticipated to be simplistic, not used as a doctrinal backing for a particular line of thought (as has occurred).

Also we need to observe that, except for one, these qualities aren't entirely unique to the president of the church. He has only attempted to inform us what to keep in mind in following instructions from the president.

Brother Benson states the following, "Here then is the grand key — Follow the prophet — and here are fourteen fundamentals in following the prophet." He then qualifies that when he uses the term "the prophet," he means "the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." This qualifying of the title "the prophet" is important to the subject, as we view the claims.

First Claim: The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.

To support this claim he quotes the following
"In section 132 verse 7 of the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord speaks of the prophet—the president—and says:
'There is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred.'

Then in section 21 verses 4–6, the Lord states:
'Wherefore, meaning the church, you shall give heed to all his words and commandments which he shall give to you as he receives them, walking in all holiness before me; For his word you shall receive, as if from my own mouth, in all patience and faith. For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.'”

Firstly we have an incredibly ambiguous statement. It needs a LOT of defining. What does he mean; the president speaks for the Lord in "EVERYTHING?" For example, the president couldn't instruct on how to fly a Concorde. And we know Brother Benson's not implying he could. So we need to examine just what he is proposing.

His real meaning should be revealed by the references he's quoted.

The first one points out that only the president has the full set of keys (entitlement to automatic revelation for an office). The second reference informs us that WHEN a president receives revelation from God that revelation should be accepted as if God himself had said it.

In regard this latter I think it important to mention that this promise isn't unique to the president of the church.

"What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by my own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same." D&C 1:38

So if God speaks to ANY of his servants and they pass that message on, it is the same as if God himself has said it.

In regard to anyone sent forth to preach the gospel the D&C states,

"And this is the example to them, that they shall speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost. And whatever 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.

I would further expand that and say that anyone who is moved upon by the Holy Ghost to say anything, is speaking for the Lord. And what they say in that regard is to be taken as if God himself were speaking.

It should be noted that the texts quoted by Brother Benson don't claim that all things the president says are the words of God. What they say is that IF he is walking in all holiness before God then the words God has GIVEN him come from God. Not everything that the president says has been received by revelation. He has many of his own opinions, as we all do.

So considering all the disecting that is going on, his first claim would be better to have stated,
"The president of the church is the only man who is automatically entitled to speak for the Lord in all things relative to the church organisation and its basic teachings. And he also joins all his brothers and sisters in that when any of God's servants are instructed of God they may speak as if God himself has spoken."

Second Claim: The living prophet is more vital to us than the Standard Works.

To support this claim he refers to a statement that was made by Brigham Young and supported by Joseph Smith, after an erroneous claim was made by a particular local leader. The claim was the following,

"You have got the word of God before you here in the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants; you have the written word of God, and you who give revelations should give revelations according to those books, as what is written in those books is the word of God. We should confine ourselves to them."

Brother Brigham got up and made a statement to the extreme opposite of this extreme statement. Amidst it he said,

"When compared with the living oracles those books are nothing to me; those books do not convey the word of God direct to us now, as do the words of a Prophet or a man bearing the Holy Priesthood in our day and generation. I would rather have the living oracles than all the writing in the books."

Are we serious? Did he really think before saying this or has he just gone off to the other extreme, to combat the nonsense he has just heard? I believe that if I spoke to Brigham today he would admit it was the latter.

The words of the Savior in the sermon on the mount are the most important things that can be said. Nothing ANY person speaking today says is "more vital". This is why he delivered the same message when he came to the Americas. This is why this same message is taught by disguise in the temple.

Yet, as God was restoring many truths to the earth at that time, it is reasonable to see Joseph Smith's message as extremely vital to Brigham. Yet Thomas S. Monson hasn't come up with any new doctrine. His use is in administrative areas within the church and encouragement.

Brother Benson's claim could have been better to have said,
"Continued revelation to a living president is vital, to keep the church and basic doctrines taught, where God would have them at this time."

You can find the other 4 sections to this posted on the following dates:
Part 2 Nov 29
Part 3 Oct 18
Part 4 Sep 19
Part 5 Aug 20


Jason said...

I would disagree with your comment on his 2nd claim. I think he meant it as he said it. As important the prophets of old and even the Saviors words in the NT are, for our salvation today-- in the last days, we have to follow every word that comes from the living prophet. Things are calm and apparently pretty easy-going for most Saints today, but we are literally upon the destructions of the last days and it will require every ounce of faith and obedience we have poured into our lamps to follow the living prophet as he directs and guides the faithful Saints before Christ's return. The scriptures will definitely sustain and help during these dark years, but honestly, it is imperative we follow every word President Monson says. Let me ask you this, would you be willing to abandon your home/family/possessions at a moments notice if President Monson asked you to? Are you spiritually ready for something of that magnitude? He might not ask it, but I would use that as a spiritual gauge to determine how prepared you are. Just my two cents.

Doug Towers said...


Thanks for your 2 cents. Some good thoughts.

This discussion can be looked at from several levels. I am approaching it from ultimate spiritual value. My thought is that as an ultimate way of life nothing can exceed the sermon on the mount.

However in fairness to the side of the argument you feel needs further consideration, your ideas raise an additional thought to me.

Yet firstly lets look at what you are presenting relative to physical obedience. I assume you are raising it to point to at least physical safety by following a direction to move.

In answer to your question, all directions given to me by any person in any position in the church, that are unique, must be cleared by the Holy Ghost first. This would happen instantly in this case you have presented. And then I would follow the direction of the Holy Ghost in that regard. In fact many GAs have presented this as being imperative. I have done what you have posed several times, in varying degrees, in regards leaving places, possessions and people when instructed by the Holy Ghost.

Yet there is truth in your point in that many things that are hidden in the Scriptures will be revealed in these latter days, presumably through the president of the church at the time God chooses.

Though I would say that these things are already in the Scriptures, but not found due to lack of use of the Spirit.

Presidents of the church should be able to present ideas that may be new, for us to use the Spirit to advise us on our application of the principle presented to us.

Yet if I had to choose between having the Scriptures or just the words of Brother Monson, I would clearly choose the Scriptures (it isn't even a contest). If God has something that I need to know that badly, he will say it. That isn't a problem.

I would encourage you to seek full direction from the Spirit in your life.

Jason said...

Thanks for your comment. It has been fun reading through your posts and it is clear you are one who understands the doctrine well; that is and probably will continue to be a great blessing to you and those around you. However, if I were you I would be extremely cautious about ever disagreeing with a prophet let alone two. The Savior spoke on this as well Matt 23:30,40 He teaches that if the Pharisees and scribes had lived in the day of Moses they would have done the same. Again, it is always easier to obey a dead prophet than a living one. in the introduction President Benson warns, "Beware of those who would pit the dead prophets against the living prophets, for the living prophets always take precedence."

Again, the scriptures are wonderful and needful, but I have seen close friends apostatize because they held to something a dead prophet said over the living prophet. I would warn all that this is a dangerous path. The Last Days will prove many Saints will fall away-- we don't know exactly how, but it wouldn't be hard to guess that many will not be able to follow the direction the living prophet is moving the Saints. I hope this has been helpful and I'm sure we'll have future exchanges. I'm thinking of starting my own Doctrine blog as it is a great way to share ideas and learn. Have a good one. Jason

Doug Towers said...


Yes, a site sounds like a good idea. We can never have too many good ones.

In regard your comments I think it best to begin by being pedantic and saying that I am appearing to oppose the words of an apostle (Brigham Young at the time), the lack of interjection by a president (Joseph Smith) and the opinion of a president of the council of twelve.

Let me first say that when president of the church and in a general conference Brother Lee expressed that opinions of any man in ANY position in the church that oppose the standard works may be deemed to be false. He also states that for anything to become accepted by the church as Scripture it must be sustained by the council of twelve and then by the body of the church.

If this opinion is false then it must be true, because a president of the church said it in general conference.

I have seen the fire of the Holy Ghost in Brother Monson's eyes. I know that he is called of God to act in his position. I am in no way refuting or wishing to diminish his authority or position. However I also can't make him greater than he is by the same standard.

You have posed that perhaps I'm accepting dead prophets yet not accepting living ones. Yet you feel that perhaps I'm disputing with 3 dead members who became presidents of the priesthood.

I remember a member once showing me how that Bro Woodruff and Bro Snow expressed opposite opinions in regard whether God knows everything. Yet both these ideas needn't present conflict. Because we can talk of God knowing everything relative to anything we would understand, yet be still learning on a level he understands.

I remember reading "Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith" to my children and even they noted that he contradicted himself. This is called, "learning." And presidents of the church go through this process as surely as you, I and God.

The quote you have made on living prophets taking precedence is disputed by the then living prophet Bro Lee (as mention above). And this is why I repeat to you that you must use the Holy Ghost.

In regard your friends who apostatized, there could be many other reasons for that. Yet let me pose the question for your consideration, was it that they believed the dead one over the living one, or was it that people tried to make them feel that they had to take the ideas of the living one over the dead one?

Because this is the problem I have seen with many such. People can't accept that maybe the dead is right and the living one is presenting a more basic doctrine. This can be because of ignorance on behalf of the living one (in using the word "ignorance" I am meaning lack of personal knowledge). It is not the job of God to direct the current prophet to understand anything beyond that basic doctrine that God feels the members are ready for at this time.

Bro Eyering believes in the false concept of an ancient earth. Of the idea maybe things lived before Adam. If he were currently the prophet would you believe him or Moses saying that man was the FIRST flesh upon the earth, the first man also? Do you believe in men by their positions?

Doug Towers said...

Jason, Part 2

The apostle B H Roberts claims that it doesn't matter if you have a sabbath on Thursday. The then apostle Joseph Fielding Smith claims it has to be Sunday. The latter became a prophet (thus making his opinion the mind and will of God???). Yet if another person with Bro Roberts opinions comes along will that then be the mind and will of God if he is made president? And if so, for how long?

When a prophet dies must we all wait to hear what the current doctrine and truth is from the now current prophet? Of course not. You know that, and I know that.

Yet I must state again (least I be misunderstood) that we should be listenning to the words of the current prophet to hear if any new doctrine or action is being suggested. Then we must take these to the Lord and ask his will concerning it. This isn't posing that we don't listen to prophets. It is posing that men make mistakes.

I could give you quite a list of mistakes made by prophets over the time of this earth. The greatest would be that made by the then president of God's church, Caiaphas. He received revelation that Christ would die for that nation etc. So he decided it was his responsibility to see that it occured. Follow the prophet?????

I'm sure Bro Monson won't lead us that far astray. But I like that Holy Ghost idea. It is FAR safer.

Jason said...

Good points Doug. I do agree that we are all learning and all of us, including the Living prophet and apostles make mistakes. I have lived a very fortunate life to have rubbed shoulders with many of them through the years and I can attest that though they are great men, they aren't perfect and are trying to get through life just like the rest of us. I do know though that they are called of God. I have seen miracles at their hands and as you put it, received a witness from God that their teachings are correct and this latter witness from the spirit is what gives me strength to follow and faith to trust. I think our points are not as far off as I might have thought from the beginning, however I will make a final point here at the end, but first a quote from Brigham Young. He said, “What a pity it would be, if we were led by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. This goes to your point that it is vital to our salvation that we receive a witness from God that what is being taught comes from Him. At the same time this being true I would also reference President Heber J Grant who said, "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. But you don't need to worry, The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray." [In Conference Report, October 1960, p. 78]"

Some could argue these are at odds... but I would disagree. I can do both. So far in my life all the doctrine taught by the brethren so far as I can tell is good and produces good fruits-- I can therefore conclude they are true. I have received specific witnesses from the Holy Ghost that Joseph Smith is a Prophet, on the BOM, Bible, D&C, tithing etc... I have not inquired and received a witness about all things, but the core principles I have received a witness. These are comforting witnesses to me that give me stability and hope. These truths are pertinent to my eternal salvation-- there are some doctrines and teachings that are not and I have to drawn a distinction and classify some that really don't matter (in the grand scheme of things) i.e. ancient earth, worshiping on Sunday. Does that make sense?

Finally, here is a quote from Brigham Young and then I'll make a final point, "You cannot destroy the appointment of a prophet of God, but you can cut the thread that binds you to the prophet of God and sink yourselves to hell."

For my salvation I need to decide before a crisis comes where I stand in relation to the prophet because when it comes, it will be too late. Let me explain-- How many of the first appointed apostles in this dispensation left the church because they believed Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet? Some had even seen an angel or even heard the voice of the Father, but because their faith didn't allow for him making mistakes or going a direction they believed to be false. For some, the things he asked were to hard, moving again, law of consecration, polygamy, all the flops in Kirtland. I'm sure a time will come in my life time when President Monson or the next prophet instructs or invites me to do something that goes against my current thinking or logic,(I'm hopeful that I can receive a witness from the Holy Ghost that what he asks is true), BUT IF NOT, I will follow because I will not be found at odds with him because I have received a witness that he is Gods mouthpiece and being at odds with him puts me at odds with the Savior. It has to be black or white when it comes to following the prophet, in regards to matters of eternal salvation.

Doug Towers said...


I often hear that statement about what is and what isn't important to my salvation.

If we are talking about salvation from sin then the only thing that is important is that I accept that Jesus Christ is right and that my past deliberate wrong actions have been sins. That I then accept his atonement. Salvation acheived; provided I sin no longer.

Yet if we are talking about getting eternal life there is nothing in existence that isn't important to that salvation. For how can I be a God without having answers to these simple questions? How can I instruct my people with knowledge and understanding that I don't have?

Many will pose that God will teach us these things later. The devil likes this doctrine. He calls it "being safe." Like the idea that if we get a body we could end up worse off, that he preached in the pre-existence. So we should play it safe and not do things. Kind of like staying at home because you could get killed on the road if you go out.

Unfortunately for these people this just isn't reality. God cannot magically impart understanding to us. He can only present information. And the day of this life is the time for us to prepare to meet God. If we have procrastinated learning in this life that same spirit will take possession of our body and procrastinate forever.

I would pose to you that it is very important whether Eyering is erring or if what Moses says is wrong. Do I believe in the philosophies of man above the Scriptures? This is a vital question. If I can just ignore Scripture where man appears wiser for the moment where do I draw the line? Perhaps psychologists got it right too and it is good to be angry. Perhaps Darwin was right and there are no eternal families we are just reconstructed worms. Or perhaps those people worshipping Molech were right and we should throw our first born children into the fire. Choose you this day whom you will serve, God or man. As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.

As to the sabbath, another vital question. Is God such a crackpot that he will punish people for not knowing that he apparently decided that there is only one day in a week that can be observed as a sabbath? Is he going to ignore all other days? And how do we get on with the date line where one lot think it is Saturday while the rest think it is Sunday? Must we all judge by the date in Jerusalem?

Yet in all seriousness it is important that we come to know God to gain eternal life. We have to come to think as he thinks. This makes everything important to my salvation.

I have to agree with you that fundamentally we are in agreement on the issue of listenning to presidents of the church.

I not so long ago heard an idea presented from the pulpit that made me think some local leader had come up with an idea of his own. However the Spirit gave me strong burning on the point stating it to be true. I afterwards found out that this had been promised by Bro Hinkley.

I remember when being unable to get to church for a while being instructed to do something with my family and when I got back some months later I found that the president had been teaching this.

I agree with you also that we are facing bad times to come that will make today look like a picnic. The Scriptures do make it plain that God will begin his cleanup in the church. And many will fail.

Many will be cut off from the church in isolated places and need revelation of their own, even.

Yet all this doesn't change the things that I've said in regard the words of Christ. I still hold that no words stated by any prophet before or after will ever be more vital to my eternal salvation than his message.

Jason said...

I guess we will have to agree to disagree on this matter. Here are my final comments.

Regarding being saved accepting Jesus and his sacrifice isn't enough, we both know that baptism is required for basic salvation which all but very few will not accept.

You are correct that all knowledge must be attained in order to be exalted, but you and I both know that we cannot know all things by the end of our mortal lives. This also shouldn't discourage us to seek out all truth as he that has more will have so much more the advantage on the other side of the veil. However, for me my studies that focus around the atonement, i.e. Christ's gospel which strengthen my faith and increase my godliness I consider essential to my learning throughout my life. Don't get me wrong, I read and study other things that I really enjoy learning about in the gospel, but these other ancillary truths are not vital to my exaltation at this stage in my progression. Don't get me wrong; eventually I will need to learn them, but I shouldn't dedicate all my studies to them nor should I put this knowledge in front of core gospel truths, faith, repentance baptism, gift of the Holy Ghost, enduring to the end.

Finally, the ancient Israelites were not ready to receive the higher law, so they were given a lower law. Christ came and delivered the higher law to the Jews teaching us there is a progression. How do I love my neighbor as myself? How do I not get angry? How do I get rid of lust completely? What does God want me to learn today? These questions are answered by living prophets that God has called to instruct us in this modern day. I believe if Christ came today he would be more worried about me following what the prophets taught last conference (which are his words DC 1:38) than my reading and sticking to what he said 2,000 years ago. His message is dynamic and fits the times and situations. This is the exact problem the Jews had with him bringing a different message than what they had received from Moses. They couldn't let go of the tradition.

Have a good one.

Doug Towers said...

Jason Part 1

It is interesting that we do agree on so much. In fact everything you are presenting I agree with. It is only your conclusions and mine that aren't coming together.

In regard baptism it isn't essential to perform a symbol where the meaning of the symbol has become a reality in the person's life. We are commanded to be baptised because (I don't know about you but in everyone I've seen and in my case) we don't really make a complete change when repenting at first. Thus we have the hidden meaning of baptism to lead us to the truth of what we must do. Symbols are used so that seeing the truth we do not see it and hearing the truth we do not hear it. But the day, hopefully, will come for the person that they will understand and obey. This is the purpose of all temple ordinances done before and after Christ.

D&C 76 informs us that only the Telestials won't have been saved from their sins by the atonement of Christ. This means that all truly repentant non members are forgiven of their sins when they repent. I can testify to you that I have seen the workings of the Holy Ghost in great sanctification in already saved non members.

These people are fulfilling the message delivered in the ordinance of baptism. Peter posed in regard those who had just received the GIFT of the Holy Ghost, "Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?" (note Acts 10:45 & 47). We know that baptism must come BEFORE receiving the gift. So plainly the true baptism had already occurred to these people, and they had also received to gift of the Holy Ghost without any symbolism either.

So God commands the symbolism so we will learn. But, of those people living, there are more people saved from their sins who aren't baptized than those who are. I've even seen several Moslem women who plainly were forgiven of their sins and were in the process of being sanctified at that time.

We need to be careful that we don't become caught up so much in the stictness of the law that we forget that man comes first. Remember that the first member of the Latter-day church was baptized by a non member. And both were ordained without any baptism or gift of the Holy Ghost ordinances having been done.

Doug Towers said...

Jason Part 2

In regard learning - the fact that I will not learn everything in this life does not slow me down in the slightest. When I take on studies of anything it is plain that I won't know it all at first. Yet that doesn't stop me going at it full bore if it is worth the effort.

I have found that that which can seem almost totally unimportant can suddenly become vital in some way I hadn't anticipated. How can you know what value something has until you have it to consider its value? We can only make uniformed assumptions.

Yet that having been said, I must say that the greatest mystery in the church: That which is least understood: Is faith, repentance, baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost.

I agree with you that we must keep our focus on creating love in ourselves for our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and our fellow man. The more we have these the greater our knowledge will become.

I do also have to agree with your last 2 paragraphs (hopefully I'll have a good day). I don't exactly see a conflict in that idea IF we are only looking at people who will never go beyond the law of Moses in thinking. They will never see Christ's message anyway.

In making my site the Holy Ghost and I discussed what I really wanted and what to therefore call the site. It says "deep doctrine" and I didn't want it to rate where people would just be doing a search using terms such as "mormonism" or the like. If you type in such my site won't rate. But if you type in "deep doctrine" my site rates exceptionally well - the glory be to God and His miracles. So to those people who would be more likely to be visiting my site my statement would be appropriate.

But let me add that nevertheless, to all mankind, I still know that the words of Christ are the fulness of the everlasting gospel (in entirety) and there is no other message to match, let alone excell it, made by anybody ever throughout all the eternities. I can assure you that its not possible.

Yet it is to you to believe as you will believe. Hopefully one day we may be in full agreement on this subject.