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The Arm of Flesh
Next to the committing of sin, there is no more fruitful cause of apostasy among the Latter-day Saints than when we put our trust in the arm of flesh. (Heber J. Grant, Gospel Standards, p. 31)
Within the LDS Church the instruction is all too frequently voiced to “Follow the Brethren” or to “Follow the Prophet.” There have been countless speeches, conference reports, panel discussions, pamphlets and entire books and manuals on this theme. But do we understand what this really means? Do we know the real implications and consequences of following such advice. It is like the acceptance of the word humongous, which someone started and many now use, but it’s not even found in the dictionary. It becomes generally accepted just because of frequent usage, not because of correctness.
Since so much emphasis and importance is placed upon our obedience to this expression of “Follow the Brethren”, each of us should certainly have a clear understanding of exactly what this means. Where did the term originate? Has the Lord ever given such a commandment? To what extent are we required to follow these Brethren? Are there times when we are justified in not following them?
Is this a geographical matter? Do we “follow the leaders” physically to the Rocky Mountains, or do we “follow the leader’s” advice and stay in foreign countries?
Is this a social call? Should we dress and act like them? Do we invest in similar financial programs, learn their professions, and mingle with the same kind of people?
Is this an educational calling? Should we go to their same schools, take the same classes, join the same clubs, and study the same books?
Is this a matter of character? Do we adopt their opinions, biases, and attitudes as our own, or are we free to do our own thinking?
Is it limited to the spiritual arena? Should we blindly accept everything they say without question–whether it is right or wrong? Or should we test the instructions we receive from them, based on correct principles and doctrines, reserving the right to reject error and follow only the truth? Of course, in taking this approach, we risk the criticism of not “following the Brethren.”
Granted, the above questions are taking things to the extreme, but exactly what is our responsibility in this regard? Having total faith in our leaders and “following the Brethren” is the same as trusting in the “arm of flesh”, for certainly their arm is comprised of the same mortal flesh as ours. And how many times do we read in the scriptures not to trust in the arm of flesh! Brigham Young warned the Saints in his day:
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. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, . . . (JD 9:150)
And if this was incorrect procedure in his day, then surely it is incorrect in ours.
It is hoped that this book will show that the arm of flesh and the iron rod of God frequently lead in separate directions–and that our individual salvation is determined by which direction we take.
 Chapter 1
The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (I Cor. 2:14)
Making choices that are unacceptable to God is the nature of fallen, mortal man. The existence of countless different religions of the world is a clear demonstration of man’s foolish and misguided natural weakness.
In the beginning God created man, but in a few years man had created god–from stone statues, golden cows, tiki dolls, totem poles, an omnipresent essence, and even federal notes–exhibiting mankind’s misunderstanding and rejection of the real Deity. We have exchanged clubs and bows for atomic bombs, log cabins for mansions, and mules for space crafts–and yet we have learned so little about the true God.
But these gods of stone, wood, metal and currency are not mankind’s only gods; we have also learned to worship each other. One thing seems common among savages or saints–as soon as a person rises to a throne, a royal chair or a presidential seat, mortals begin to revere him. The ruler becomes impressed by his own importance and the crowd gives him more.
 In I Samuel 8:5-22, Samuel relates how the Israelites were clamoring for a king “Like all the nations.” (v. 5) When Samuel approached the Lord about the matter, He responded, “They have not rejected thee [Samuel], but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.” (v. 7) Samuel warned the people of the controlling and unrighteous actions of a future king and prophesied:
And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that day. Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us. That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles. (vs. 18-20)
The similarities to our day are obvious. Human nature seems to indicate that they prefer a mortal man to rule rather than the Lord Himself–whether it be a king, a president, a monarch, or an emperor. The Lord has said He would fight our battles for us if we would but let Him, but since the people prefer a “king,” the Lord allows them to have a “king”–however, the price is high: “The Lord will not hear you in that day.”
But “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” (Prov. 16:18) We don’t seem to learn from history–it continues to be a never-ending cycle, one “eternal round.”
Both civilizations and individual men have a habit of rising and falling, just as consistent as the rising and setting sun. Power, wealth and greed are tremendous influences on mortal souls and draw them like magnets to offices of power and trust. People put them into offices, and they in turn lead the people back down. And of all people, the modern  Christians have proved to be the most barbaric, warmongering killers of their own kind. But as history has proved, people usually get the type of leaders they deserve.
The masses of mankind are usually too lazy to think for themselves. They become pawns in a game for unrighteous priests, power-hungry military commanders, and corrupt politicians. Paul the Apostle said, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” (1 Cor. 1:26) But even among the best of the disciples of Christ “there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest.” (Luke 9:46) Even later as they sat at the last supper “there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.” (Luke 22:24)
The Prophet Joseph Smith cautioned the Saints about such vanity:
We would say, beware of pride also; for well and truly hath the wise man said, that pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. And again, outward appearance is not always a criterion by which to judge our fellow man; but the lips betray the haughty and overbearing imaginations of the heart; by his words and his deeds let him be judged. (TPJS, p. 137)
Vanity is a noticeable characteristic of the prince of pride who told the Savior, “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” (Matt. 4:9) Moses learned an important lesson about pride when the Lord opened his eyes, and he observed, “Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.” (Moses 1:10)
The powers, influences, and spirits that work upon mankind today move along with accelerated force and  sophistication. They seem to concentrate the most on those who try to be the most righteous. The Prophet Joseph asked,
What is it that inspires professors of Christianity generally with a hope of salvation? It is that smooth, sophisticated influence of the devil, by which he deceives the whole world. (TPJS, p. 270)
The whole world was deceived by the devil (see Rev. 12:9) and still is. He has been called “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4) because he has “blinded” the minds of the unbelievers. His most intensive labors consist of perverting the gospel of Jesus Christ. This he does through mankind himself–even so-called religious men. Sometimes they are the most respected men in society–but prove to be the worst enemies of Christ. Brigham Young said:
Who is your enemy and mine? He that teaches language that is unbecoming, that presents falsehood for truth, that furnishes false premises to build upon instead of true; or that is full of anger and mischief to his fellow beings. I call no other enemies.
Who is the enemy of mankind? He who wishes to change truth for error and light for darkness. . . . (JD 16:24)
It is bad enough when men become enemies to each other, but it’s worse when they become enemies to God. Though men may try, they cannot change the gospel even though they are teachers of the gospel who think they are serving God! Throughout Matthew chapter 23 Jesus accused the scribes and Pharisees of sitting “in Moses’ seat” as “hypocrites”, “blind guides,” “fools,” “whited sepulchres” and “vipers.”
That’s a great deal of critical talk about religious leaders! But Jesus had good reason–He strongly disapproved of what  they were doing to the principles of the Gospel, knowing that their actions would damage or destroy the souls of many men. However, Jesus (or anyone else) should use criticism only when it is justified, otherwise the person himself may be condemned.
Dr. Hugh Nibley explained, “The word criticize is from the same root as the Latin cerno–`to sift, separate, decide’–and the Greek Krino–`to separate, decide, judge.'” Webster defines criticism as “the art of evaluation or analyzing with knowledge and propriety. . . .” (Taken from “Criticizing the Brethren,” H. Nibley, p. 3, F.A.R.M.S. publication)
It should be pointed out that a disagreement over doctrine, history, ethics, morals, science, art or religion is not necessarily “criticizing” the person who disagrees with you. Even if a person is wrong in his belief or interpretation, that is not grounds for criticism of the person himself. The Prophet Joseph explained that “It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.” (DHC 5:340) Fault finding of a person should not have any part of criticism because the targets are too large on both sides. Consequently, refusing to “follow” or agree with religious or political leaders should not include criticism or attack against them personally, but rather a serious and constructive study of what they advocate.
If someone should point out a fault in our character, we should be glad so that we can improve ourselves; but most people can’t tolerate that. Abraham Lincoln once stated that he loved his enemies because they told him his faults. It provides a means for self improvement. Brigham Young said “the man who will only receive chastenings from the Lord Himself is not in a proper state of mind before Him.” (JD 3:54)
But we should have no more interest in rumors of someone else’s personal failings that we would want them to  have an interest in ours. The Prophet Joseph said, “There is no salvation in believing an evil report against our neighbor. . . .” (Words of Joseph Smith, p. 365) Corrections should be discussed with the person in error–not with everyone else.
How are you going to correct a man’s faults, by hiding them and never speaking of them, by covering up every fault you see in your brother, or by saying, “O, do not say a word about his faults, we know that he lies, but it will not do to say a word about it, for it would be awful to reveal such a fact to the people?” That is the policy of the world and of the devil, but is it the way that the Lord will do with the people in the latter-days? It is not.
This is a matter that seems to be but little understood by some of the Latter-day Saints, it may be understood by a portion of them, but others do not understand it. Every fault that a person has will be made manifest, that it may be corrected by the Gospel of salvation, by the laws of the Holy Priesthood. (Brigham Young, JD 3:47)
This brings us to the importance of making a distinction between inspired teachings and man’s opinions–between helpful recommendations and rumors.
It is a melancholy and an humiliating fact that the opinions of most people are determined more by what others around them think and say than by what they believe themselves. They are not accustomed to the proper exercise of their own reason, and do not follow the convictions of their own minds. (History and Philosophy of Marriage, James Campbell, p. 23)
Rather than try to remove the defects and imperfections of the “natural man,” who become leaders, most people revere their learning, wealth or position.
 Milton William Cooper, a contemporary Salt Lake author, gave some excellent advice in a recent book:
Remember, never worship a leader. If you worship a leader, you then no longer have the ability to recognize when you have been deceived. (Behold a Pale Horse, Cooper, p. 91)
He went on to show how it applies to economic and political situations just as it does to religious:
What Mr. Rothschild had discovered was the basic principle of power, influence and control over people as applied to economics. That principle is when you assume the appearance of power, people soon give it to you. (Ibid., p. 42)
This principle has found a comfortable place in religious organizations. As soon as a man takes the position of a religious leader, he is revered and praised excessively, and pride seems to follow.
On only one recorded occasion, Moses took a little honor to himself–at the rock at Kadesh when he failed “to sanctify me [the Lord] in the eyes of the children of Israel” (Numbers 20:12). The Lord severely chastised him for it, prohibiting him from entering the promised land. If Moses (whom we think deserved considerable honor) failed in that instance to give praise to the Lord, why should anyone else deserve any credit or honor?
Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16) Only God deserves praise, honor and reverence, as Jesus said, “Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is God.” (Luke 18:19) Paul, speaking of man, said, “They are all gone out of the way, they are together  become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Rom. 3:12) That is certainly a very humbling statement.
We see religious leaders praising each other with the finest accolades as if to pat themselves on the back for all their goodness. Would this often be, however, for some self-serving purpose?
During the Catholic Inquisition the major crime for which members were brought to trial was for heresy–being accused of opposition to the system. If you disagreed with the leaders of the church, you were a heretic and excommunicated, and even killed. No one was excommunicated because of sin since those were taken care of through one’s confession and indulgences paid.
It is frightening to see so many similarities entering into the Mormon Church that were incorporated into the Catholic Church years ago. Members on trial are confronted with the “Do you follow the brethren?” question. If they have some reason for disagreement with church leaders, they are told, “The leaders are not on trial here.” In many cases they are even denied the right to use the scriptures in their defense.
The custom of “following the Brethren” has become such an infection in Church politics that members are being brought to trial and excommunicated, not for sin, as Elder Hugh B. Brown stated, but “solely a question of harmony with the authorities of the Church and the Church rules.” (Case of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints vs. J. Leslie Broadbent, 1929 trial, p. 8) Excommunications today are less frequently because of moral transgressions, and more for being “out of harmony” with Church leaders! This new “doctrine” of “following the Brethren” seems to be classified as some newly-discovered principle of virtue; a new commandment or special  law that supersedes even the Articles of Faith. If it is that important, then surely we should investigate it more than we have done previously.
During the Dark Ages of the Inquisition, the Catholic Church presented a written test oath to members for their signature. If they failed to sign, they were excommunicated–usually resulting in imprisonment, torture, and death. Unfortunately, similar test oaths have also come into practice in the Mormon Church in later years. In 1972 this author received one from Elder Mark E. Petersen with the threat that if I did not sign this document, “some kind of action will have to be taken”–meaning a trial and excommunication. At least the consequences were not as severe as the Catholics’ imprisonment or being burned at the stake. I was asked to make the following concessions:
I sustain the present-day program of the Church.
I accept fully and endorse and endeavor to make a part of my life, the present-day teachings of the General Authorities.
I am sincerely in harmony with these teachings.
I sustain the present-day leaders of the Church.
I sustain and accept their teachings as coming from the Lord.
I regard Joseph Fielding Smith as Prophet, Seer, and Revelator of the Lord and accept his policies and doctrines upon all subjects.
I accept and endorse the present policies and teachings of the General Authorities of the Church.
It is my intention to live my life in harmony with the present-day policies and practices of the Church. (As quoted in Complaint Against Ogden Kraut, p. 36)
Noticeably lacking from this test oath was any statement about keeping the commandments, laws, principles and ordinances of God. There was nothing about following God,  Christ, or the Holy Ghost–only that I must follow the “present-day program” of the Church and “the present-day teachings of the General Authorities,” and “the present-day leaders with headquarters at 47 East South Temple Street, Salt Lake City.”
In the days of Joseph Smith, when a particular Elder was questioned on his beliefs, Joseph said:
I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodist, and not like the Latter-day Saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammelled. (DHC 5:340)
Trammelling (shackling or restraining) is too prevalent today–not for sinning, but merely for disagreeing with the “Brethren” or some “program” or “present-day policy.”
Ironically, most of the people who now dislike this enforced doctrine of “following the Brethren” are those who once believed it and later discovered its foolishness and impropriety. They felt humiliated, deceived and victimized.
Did you ever buy a used car because you listened to the salesman tell you how good it was? It may have sounded too good to be true, and you soon learned it was. You believed in him and trusted his statements as being correct; but when you learned how wrong they were, you first felt angry because you had made a mistake, and then you felt you had been deceived and “taken in”.
There is a striking similarity in both the cases described in the above two paragraphs: they trusted in the arm of flesh.
 Each person is responsible for himself–temporally and spiritually. It doesn’t matter if he is a leader or a follower, both have responsibility for his own salvation. In the Day of Judgment, he cannot blame someone else for being led astray. Lucifer wanted to save everyone and allow no one to be lost, but he wanted all the glory for himself–and justly so! If a person allows himself to be led, protected, and governed by someone else, then the other person should earn the reward. Brigham Young clearly explained:
Those men, or those women, who know no more about the power of God, and the influences of the Holy Spirit, than to be led entirely by another person, suspending their own understanding, and pinning their faith upon another’s sleeve, will never be capable of entering into the celestial glory, to be crowned as they anticipate; they will never be capable of becoming Gods. (JD 1:312)
Exaltation is an individual achievement! Following another person might be unavoidable on a freeway, but it doesn’t work on the straight and narrow path to eternal life.
 Chapter 2
THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD
. . . choose you this day whom ye will serve; . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)
When Jesus came into mortality, He did more than make an atonement for all mankind–He also set an example for them. He established the Gospel and then lived it as it should be lived. Jesus was the most perfect example; man has proved to be the worst example!
So, whom should we follow? Christ Himself answered, “follow me”. He did not say follow My disciples or apostles, or the Sanhedrin, but “Me”! We should let the Lord be our shepherd, fileleader, hero, exemplar, captain, and master–as the following quotes explain:
Christ is the great Exemplar. With reference to “all covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations” (D & C 132:7)–that is, in all things–he leads the way and sets an example for his brethren. “Follow thou me,” is his cry. (2 Ne. 31:10) (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 259)
. . . the greatest and most important of all requirements of our Father in heaven and of his Son  Jesus Christ, is, to his brethren or disciples, to believe in Jesus Christ, confess him, seek to him, cling to him, make friends with him. Take a course to open and keep open a communication with your elder brother or fileleader–our Savior. (Brigham Young, JD 8:339)
Then let the Saints unite; let them hearken to the voices of the servants of God that are sounded in their ears; let them hearken to their counsels and give heed to the truth; let them seek their own salvation, for, so far as I am concerned, I am so selfish that I am seeking after my salvation, and I know that I can find it only in obedience to the laws of God, in keeping the commandments, in performing works of righteousness, following in the footsteps of our file leader, Jesus, the exemplar and the head of all. (Joseph F. Smith, JD 18:135)
But God is our Captain; he is our master. He is the “ONE MAN” that we serve. In him is our light, in him is our life; in him is our hope, and we serve him with an undivided heart, or we should do so. (Brigham Young, JD 14:81)
We are serving a good master, and he will give us all he has promised. Will you all enlist and serve this great Captain of our salvation to the end of the war? Then shall you obtain all the influence and power you can wish for. (Brigham Young, JD 10:194)
The Prophet Joseph Smith tried to explain to the people how much he depended on God:
I combat the errors of ages; I meet the violence of mobs; I cope with illegal proceedings from executive authority; I cut the gordian knot of powers, and I solve mathematical problems of universities with truth–diamond truth; and God is my “right-hand man.” (DHC 6:78)
 David, beloved of God, recognized the position and power of the Lord when he wrote, “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.” (Ps. 23:1) But this wise and true statement is not supported by all of mankind because of competition from too many other shepherds.
From our youth up we are taught to follow people in many occupations, education and the sciences, and there is certainly a time and place for following–but it is more the instructions of a temporary steward than the person himself that we should follow. For example, generally speaking, we should follow the teachings and instructions of teachers in the classroom, officers in the Army, employers at work, and the good examples of great men and women.
Children love heroes. It may be their dad, a movie star, a sports legend, or an astronaut. We loved to take the side of the “good guy” in the white hat, rather than the “bad guy” who was usually dressed in black. These two kinds of characters, intentional or not, represented good and evil, and they are still represented in many movies.
These fiction stories closely resemble reality because life is filled with good and evil. But today deception is so prevalent that values get mixed up, and now there are a variety of “gray hats”. We still find our heroes: Washington, Jefferson, or Joseph Smith–or Hitler, Mussolini or Tojo. Even when one finds a “good guy” hero, he frequently trusts too heavily on his arm of flesh. We should heed the admonition of Paul, Peter, John and Nephi:
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. (Col. 2:8)
 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: (I Peter 2:21)
Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. (John 20:16-17)
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, I know that if ye shall follow the Son. . . yea, by following your Lord and your Savior. . . yea, then cometh the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost. . . . (2 Nephi 31:13)
Christ Himself loved, served and worshipped the Father, giving us this first and greatest commandment:
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy might, mind, and strength; and in the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt serve him. (D & C 59:5)
It is easy to respect, honor, and trust men in leadership positions, especially when they are holding religious offices. But an important key to remember is to follow men only as they follow the Lord.
If I delight to see my brother walk in the path of obedience, let me pursue the same path, saying come, brethren and sisters, walk as I walk, and follow Christ as I follow him. Were this the case, but few could be found who would raise their voices against the kingdom of God upon the earth. (Brigham Young, JD 10:2)
I intend to follow the men appointed and ordained of God to lead and direct this Saints, as they follow Christ. “Know ye not,” says the apostle, “that to  whom ye yield yourselves to obey, his servants ye are whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness.” (Brigham Young, JD 20:173)
There are none of us very big; in fact we are all very little when you come to know all about us. None of us can do anything except the Lord help us, and if he does not help us, we, as a certain lady said, are “all poor, miserable, independent sinners.” There is none of the “big I and little you” amongst us. We should have a common sympathy one for another, and feel a kindly regard for the lowest of God’s creations, and especially for the Saints of God, no matter what position they occupy. If any are in error, try to reclaim them by kindness; if they have a bad spirit, show them a better one; if any do not do right, do right yourselves and say, “Come follow me, as I follow Christ.” Would not that be the right course to pursue? I think it would; that is the way I understand the Gospel. We do not, any of us, have the priesthood for self aggrandizement, or to be used to oppress, or take advantage of anybody, . . . (John Taylor, JD 20:261)
Brigham Young gave the following wise advice: “Let no being’s affections be placed upon me any further than mine are on eternal principles. . . .” (JD 3:360) This applies to the head of a household as well as to the head of the Church.
Similar advice was offered by Levi Edgar Young:
Brethren, we are now quickly to part from one another, and whether I may ever live to see your faces on earth any more, the God of heaven only knows; but whether the Lord hath appointed that or not, I charge you before God and his blessed angels that you follow me no farther than you have seen me follow the Lord Jesus Christ. (Conf. Rept. April 1960, p. 63)
 George Q. Cannon warned, “The best of men will fail us, . . . but our God can be trusted to the very utmost.” (Des. Weekly, Mar. 1891, p. 374) And Moses related, “God said unto me: Worship God, for him only shalt thou serve.” (Moses 1:15) In the latter days, Jesus revealed, “ye shall live by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God.” (D & C 98:11) And Joseph Smith explained why:
Search the scriptures–search the revelations which we publish, and ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, to manifest the truth unto you, and if you do it with an eye single to His glory nothing doubting, He will answer you by the power of His Holy Spirit. You will then know for yourselves and not for another. You will not then be dependent on man for the knowledge of God; nor will there be any room for speculation. No; for when men receive their instruction from Him that made them, they know how He will save them. (TPJS, pp. 11-12)
Throughout this dispensation, the same advice has been given: to trust in God rather than men. According to Joseph Smith–
I do not think there have been many good men on the earth since the days of Adam; but there was one good man and his name was Jesus. Many persons think a prophet must be a great deal better than anybody else. Suppose I would condescend–yes, I will call it condescend, to be a great deal better than any of you, I would be raised up to the highest heaven; and who should I have to accompany me? (TPJS, p. 303)
It is interesting to compare what Spencer W. Kimball had to say on two different occasions:
It is a disappointment, however, to find many others who are not willing to trust the Lord–or to trust in his promise when he says, “Prove me and see.”  I often wonder why men cannot trust their Lord. He has promised his children every blessing contingent upon their faithfulness, but fickle man places his trust in “the arm of flesh” and sets about to make his own way unaided by him who could do so much. (Faith Precedes the Miracle, Kimball, p. 3)
No one in this Church will ever go far astray who ties himself securely to the authorities whom the Lord has placed in his Church. This Church will never go astray; the Quorum of the Twelve will Never lead you into bypaths; it never has and never will. There could be individuals who would falter; there will never be a majority of the Council of the Twelve on the wrong side at any time. (The Tchgs. of S. W. Kimball, p. 459)
Following the brethren to such an extreme takes away a man’s free agency. We should be found following correct Gospel teachings rather than those occupying high Church positions.
Mortality is a proving and testing ground, similar to military proving grounds that serve as an area to test various weapons and chemicals of war. Man is given a body to see how he will handle it. He has a brain to see if he will develop and use it. He has wealth to see how he will spend it. He has a wife and children to see if he will treat them properly. Brigham Young said:
We are now in a day of trial to prove ourselves worthy or unworthy of the life which is to come. (JD 12:167)
The people of the Most High God must be tried. It is written that they will be tried in all things, even as Abraham was tried. (JD 4:369)
Every trial and experience you have passed through is necessary for your salvation. (JD 8:150)
 Among the many mortal trials and tests is included the testing of a man’s faith and trust in God. The devil knows he must do something to misguide men’s faith in God. He does it by influencing them to put their trust in man. It seems impossible that this could happen, but the devil has managed to do even that. Total faith in anything or anyone besides God and Christ leads to disaster.
Perhaps it is well for all of us to re-read the 23rd Psalm and be reminded of who our true shepherd and leader is.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
It is so much more comfortable and safe to look to and follow the Lord as our shepherd, rather than those with an arm of mortal flesh.
 Chapter 3
FALLIBILITY AND INFALLIBILITY
For there is not a just man upon the earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not. (Ecclesiastes 7:20)
In order to write a chapter on this subject, it is necessary to first define the terms. According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, 1984–
Fallible: (a) liable to be mistaken or deceived;
(b) liable to be erroneous or inaccurate.
The first definition refers to people, and the second to information or concepts.
Infallible:incapable of error; never wrong; reliable; sure; incapable of error in setting forth doctrine on faith and morals.
There can be little doubt that certain principles are infallible, eternal and everlastingly true; but when it comes to mankind, there has been only One “infallible” person.
The Catholics render even more inclusive definitions of infallibility:
Infallibility: Wherever it shows itself in the structured life of the Church, whether in the teaching Church or in the hearing, believing, and confessing Church, infallibility is more than a simple, de facto  absence of error. It is a positive perfection, ruling out the possibility of error and entailing necessarily a central fidelity to the Christian revelation in the doctrine taught and accepted by the Church. Infallibility is always primordially a gift of the Holy Spirit. * * *
When the Roman pontiff in discharge of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians, in accord with his supreme apostolic authority, defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church, he teaches infallibly by reason of the Spirit’s aid proper to his special role as the center of ecclesiastical unity. (Catholic Encyclopedia 7:496, 497)
Infallibility, the immunity from error that is claimed by the Roman Catholic church in all doctrines that pertain to faith and morals. The claim to infallibility assumes the positive and constant assistance of the Spirit of God to protect against the possibility of error. From a positive view, by virtue of this claim, the church must permanently teach the essential truths of God without fear of error. From a negative standpoint, the church assumes divine protection from ever receiving or teaching erroneous doctrines. * * * It is, by reason of the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, possessed of that infallibility with which the Divine Redeemer wished His Church to be endowed in defining doctrines of faith and morals. (American Peoples Enc. 10:244)
Catholics believe the Pope, be he saint or sinner, is preserved by God from leading the church into doctrinal error. This is referred to as his infallibility. (Religions of America, Leo Rosten, p. 43)
They think that infallibility is not centered upon the righteousness of the Pope nor on the righteousness of the people, but on their position. They believe that the moment a person assumes that high office, a miraculous transformation shrowds them with some type of protection and perfection– that infallibility comes with the office the man holds.
Many people have mistakenly assumed that the doctrine of infallibility was adopted by the Catholic Church nearly 2000 years ago. And indeed they did debate, discuss, and argue about the doctrine for many centuries until it finally came to an acceptable vote in the year 1870–coincidentally just about 20 years before it began to be taught in the Mormon Church!
Although the question of infallibility arose in discussions among theologians and was implicitly presumed to be present in the church by most of the Roman Catholic world, it was not defined as a tenet of the church until 1870. (Amer. Peoples Enc. 10:244)
It must be understood that neither the Catholic nor the Mormon church believes that man himself is infallible–only that by virtue of his office he is protected from teaching error or from leading the church astray.
The doctrine of infallibility was not even thought of in the early years of Christianity because of so much internal trouble with the constant flow of changing and contradicting doctrines. The weaknesses and faults of the church were too obvious for them to assume any kind of infallibility. Brigham Young described some of these problems:
The principles of the gospel are perfect, but are the Apostles who teach it perfect? No, they are not. Now, bringing the two together, what they taught is not for me to say, but it is enough to say this, that through the weaknesses in the lives of the Apostles, many were caused to err. Our historians and ministers tell us that the church went into the wilderness, but they were in the wilderness all the time. They had the way marked out to get out of the wilderness and go straightforward into the Kingdom of God, but they took various paths,  and the two substantial churches that remain–a remnant from the apostles, that divided, are now called the Holy Catholic Church and the Greek Church. You recollect reading in the Revelations of John what the angel said to John, when he was on the Isle of Patmos, about the Seven Churches. What was the matter with those Churches? They were not living according to the light that had been exhibited. Do the Latter-day Saints live according to the light that has been exhibited to them? No, they do not. Did the ancient saints live according to the revelations given through the Savior and written by the Apostles, and the revelations given through the Apostles, and left on record for the Saints to read? No, they did not. (JD 12:66-67)
The Catholics have believed that the Pope cannot give bad counsel or lead anyone astray by virtue of the office he holds. They assumed that the leader of the Church would be protected by the power of God so that he could not make any serious mistake because the Lord would intervene to protect him. It sounds like a wonderful promise, but it is not so. Such a promise might be given to a man because of his worthiness, but not because he holds a high church office.
Even those who have received the promise of their calling and election made sure, are still subject to making mistakes and errors in judgment.
As Thomas Jefferson once said, “The wise know too well their weaknesses to assume infallibility; and he who knows most knows best how little he knows.” (The Wisdom of Thomas Jefferson, p. 11)
It is said that the origin of the infallibility doctrine came through the–
 . . . spurious quotations from Greek Fathers and Councils, which had been composed in the thirteenth century by a Latin theologian, probably a Dominican who had lived long in the East. This catena deceived St. Thomas Aquinas, who unsuspectingly embodied it in his theology; from which it passed without question into the dogmatic system [of the church]. (Cambridge Modern History, p. 718)
It was a comforting doctrine which gave both Pope and church members a kind of self-security, assuring them that all was well.
The one who did the most to get that concept adopted into the doctrine of the Catholic Church was Giovanni Mastai-Ferretti who was proclaimed Pope under the name of Pius IX. He was a better priest than a pope because he inherited too many problems from the three previous Popes. When he became Pope, the government was at its worst. The reforms he made were inconsiderable and unacceptable because the people were ignorant to their duties as citizens and they soon got out of hand. A close associate, Minister Rossi, was murdered, which caused the Pope to flee from Rome to the fortress of Gaeta.
Pope Pius IX began a series of dogmatic pronouncements in 1854, beginning with the definition of the Immaculate Conception and later with the Papal infallibility. The latter concerned the privileges of Divine sanction over material possessions, entering into such principles as marriage, education, censorship of the press, ecclesiastical territory, and the enactment of laws. It was all summed up in both spiritual and temporal jurisdiction of the Pope.
Concerning the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception–
 The Immaculate Conception of the Virgin was her exemption from the stain not only of actual but of original sin. Later, it was enthusiastically championed by the Jesuits, some of whom forged documentary evidence in its favour, known from the place of its origin as the tablets and parchments of Granada. The fraud was discovered . . . not, however, till it had done its work. The scaffolding was removed, but the belief had advanced from the position of a disputed opinion to that of a doctrine which it was unlawful to criticize. (Cambridge Modern History, 11:713)
The doctrine of infallibility was not quickly and easily adopted because of a surge of pamphlets from the opposition. The most important was one under the title of “The Pope and the Council” by Janus.
Their object was to show that the doctrine of Papal Infallibility was unknown to antiquity, in contradiction with history, and based on forgeries and misconceptions. . . . The forgeries, which they could no longer deny, had but stereotyped existing usage. . . . (Cambridge Modern History 11:719)
The final definition of infallibility was voted on July 18, 1869, by 535 Bishops. There were 20 Bishops who were opposed to the definition, but they left Rome without voting out of reverence for the Pope. The definition is still debated. High Papalists, like John of Torquemada and Augustinus Triumphus, admit that it is still possible that the Pope could be a heretic. Even the Papal statements tend to show that the Pope is an individual, mortal person and should be recognized as such.
Even by their own definition, the Catholic Church leaves room for later correction, additions or subtractions from what has been adopted under that umbrella of infallibility.
 Infallibility does not absolve its bearers from the responsible and often laborious task of searching out in scripture and in tradition whether or not a truth is definable, nor is it a guarantee that an infallible pronouncement may not later require further refinement or precision.” (Catholic Encyclopedia 7:497)
How strange that infallible doctrine may later “require further” corrections and changes! These “infallible” doctrines adopted by the Catholic Church must be accepted by unanimous vote of their Bishops, just as they must be accepted by a unanimous vote of the Apostles in the Mormon Church. For Catholics, Mormons, or anyone else to think they can change eternal, everlasting and unchangeable doctrines and principles, just doesn’t make sense.
The Apostle Orson Pratt explained the nature of true infallibility and its place in the Church:
Where inspired officers, possessing power to obtain new revelation, have ceased, there infallibility has ceased, and there uncertainty and doubt must remain. Tell about the councils of the church of Rome being infallible! Who ever heard of any council being infallible where there were no prophets and revelators that could decide with a thus saith the Lord, and thus end all controversy? The Church of God never pretends infallibility upon any other grounds; yet, this apostate “Mother of Harlots” can, with one breath, call herself infallible and with the next breath deny new revelation. (Divine Authenticity of the Book of Mormon, Orson Pratt, p. 38)
The great variety of opinions which have torn asunder modern Christendom and bewildered the minds of millions, can have no existence in the Church of Christ; for there, all matters of importance are decided by revelation and not by creeds invented by human wisdom; there, the deep and hidden things of  God are revealed by the Spirit of truth; there, rich treasures of wisdom and knowledge are brought to light; there, they have no need of uninspired councils to invent “Articles of Religion” to fetter the mind of man; there the Holy Ghost takes the things of the Father and shows them by revelation unto the Church and there infallibility is indelibly and unchangeably stamped upon every doctrine, principle, ordinance and law of the Church. (Ibid., p. 26)
The doctrine of infallibility applies only to revelation and doctrine, as Joseph Smith explained: “I never told you I was perfect; but there is no error in the revelations which I have taught.” (TPJS, p. 368)
Some members of the Mormon Church oppose infallibility as a doctrine, but accept it in practice. For example, Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:
This dogma sets forth the belief that the “Vicar of Christ” cannot teach error because he is promised divine protection from error . . . . infallibility is a fabrication devised by the powers of darkness to act as a counterfeit for revelation.” (Religious Truths Defined, J. F. Smith, p. 183)
Strangely, however, the same author–who opposed the doctrine under the name of infallibility–later taught it as a correct principle and practice:
The time will never come when we will not be able to put confidence and exercise faith in the teachings and in the instruction of those who lead us. . . . Therefore it behooves us, as Latter-day Saints, to put our trust in the presiding authorities of the Church . . . .
SAINTS SAFE IN FOLLOWING CHURCH AUTHORITIES. No man ever went astray by following  the counsel of the authorities of the Church. (Doctrines of Salvation, J. F. Smith, p. 243)
This has the identical ring as the Catholic declaration of infallibility!
In the early years of Mormonism, infallibility of men was a doctrine repugnant to Church leaders, whereas fallibility of man was one of their central themes. For example, Oliver Cowdery, second Elder to Joseph Smith, wrote:
But let him beware lest a blind zeal for party throws him off his balance, and he imbibe the idea that man, frail man like himself, has claims to infallibility! Remember that the great Creator never made an independent man, and with equal propriety we might add he never made an infallible one. (Messenger and Advocate, vol. 3, p. 522)
According to Joseph Smith, only Jesus Christ was perfect:
It is but just also to the Prophet to say that he made no claim for himself of either impeccability or infallibility. “Where is the man that is free from vanity?” he asked on one occasion. “None ever was perfect but Jesus,” he continued; “and why was he perfect? Because he was the Son of God, and had the fulness of the Spirit, and was greater than any man.” (B. H. Roberts, CHC 2:356)
Benjamin Johnson, who lived in the Prophet’s house, commented on the fallibility of Joseph Smith:
And no man, seemingly, could make greater mistakes in selection of associates than did the Prophet; and this, with the many other things of which he was accused, his enemies held as evidence that he was a fallen prophet. And even the Lord not only at  times admonished him for neglect of duty; but speaks of his “sins” and “transgressions”, which would imply that he was not always equally enlightened and guided by inspiration. And in the earliest days he did so make mistakes that the Lord at one time withheld from him the keys of his calling. And he does not in his own history hesitate to say that after conversing with both the Father and the Son, and being administered to by holy angels, that he made great mistakes and was overcome in transgressions and sins. (“Benjamin F. Johnson Letter to Elder George F. Gibbs,” Pioneer Press, p. 35)
Years later George Q. Cannon wrote about the fallibility of President Wilford Woodruff and his counselors:
President Woodruff is distinguished from every other one of us by the fact that he possesses the keys of the kingdom on the earth. He represents the Supreme authority. His voice to us, in its place, brings to us the voice of God. Not that he is God; not that he is infallible. He is a fallible man. His counselors are fallible men. The First Presidency cannot claim, individually or collectively, infallibility. Infallibility is not given to men. They are fallible. But God is infallible. (Collected Discourses, comp. by Brian Stuy, vol. 4, Apr. 7, 1895)
If the doctrine of infallibility were true, it means there is a special defense to the church that is given to the president or pope. It would never allow them to teach anything wrong; therefore, the church would never fall. But the Church of Christ did fall.
The head of the Church of Jesus Christ is not exempt from temptations and weaknesses, and even has the potential to fail. Wilford Woodruff acknowledged:
Brother [George Q.] Cannon spoke about the temptation of the evil one. There never was a people on  the earth whom the devil was more anxious to tempt and to destroy than those who bear the Holy Priesthood. If anybody supposes that the First Presidency and the Apostles and leading men of Israel are not tempted, they are mistaken. If Jesus Christ was tempted of the devil for forty days and nights, do you suppose he would pass by these apostles and prophets? We are all of us tempted and tried day by day. There is no people that the arch enemy, Lucifer, is more at war against than these Latter-day Saints dwelling in the valleys of the mountains. (Coll. Disc. vol. 4, Sept. 7, 1895)
The scriptures say that even the “sanctified,” who should be Church leaders, appear to have no special protection. They all must “take heed” lest they too should “stumble and fall:”
But there is a possibility that man may fall from grace and depa rt from the living God; Therefore let the church take heed and pray always, lest they fall into temptation; Yea, and even let those who are sanctified take heed also. (D & C 20:32-34)
The doctrine of infallibility takes away the rights of men to make decisions and choices, even if they wanted to make a bad one. Henry D. Moyle gave some excellent advice:
Examine any movement that may be brought into our midst . . . and if it attempts to deprive us in the slightest respect of our free agency, we should avoid it as we would avoid immorality or anything else that is vicious. (Conf. Rept., Oct. 1947, p. 46)
When men attempt to place a protective infallibility upon their leaders, they do it because of their own mental laziness. There are at least three evils that follow such foolishness:
- It takes away their free agency, and the leaders are forced to do what’s right and teach what’s right.
- It retards the mental and spiritual growth of their followers who believe their leaders will tell them everything they need to think and do.
- It replaces faith in God with faith in man–and what’s worse, it limits and destroys power from God.
Unfortunately, the infallibility doctrine persists within the LDS Church with greater rapidity now than it ever has. Notice the following statement by Elder Marion G. Romney. He is not talking about revelation or scripture, but rather about the awesome power placed upon the “united voice” of Church leaders.
The united voice of the first Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve constitute the authoritative voice of the Church on any given doctrine, principle or practice of the Church. What they say as a presidency is what the Lord would say if he were here in person. This is the rock foundation of Mormonism. If it ever ceases to be the fact, this will be an apostate Church. . . . So I repeat again, what the presidency say as a presidency is what the Lord would say if he were here, and it is scripture. It should be studied, understood, and followed, even as the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants and other scriptures. (Conf. Rept., April 1951, p. 90)
It is interesting to note that the very criticism the Mormons have against the Catholic doctrine of the Pope’s infallibility can now be applied to the LDS people themselves because of their strong dependence and faith in their “infallible” ecclesiastical head.
 Chapter 4
TRUSTING IN THE LORD
Serve God and trust in Him. You cannot serve man, nor make flesh your arm, for your salvation. (Wilford Woodruff, Coll. Disc. vol. 2, Apr. 6, 1890)
When I was a child, we played a very popular game called “Follow the Leader.” It was fun trying to do everything the leader did; however, sometimes he did ridiculous, hard, dangerous, or wrong things. After I grew up, there was no need to play such silly childhood games. Nevertheless, I notice that many adults still play a form of “Follow the Leader” in their political, professional, economic, and religious activities; and sometimes they become just as ridiculous as children.
There seems to be a natural or spiritual instinct in man to have an example or a leader–someone to show him the right path to take. We are placed on this earth surrounded by physical and spiritual confusion. We grow up having to choose from thousands of paths leading every direction, and as bewildered children we struggle to find the right one.
However, God has not left us in total confusion and darkness. He has given us prophets who have received inspired revelations, visions and manifestations filled with instructions and directions. These scriptures are simple and true and filled with comfort and guidance.
 Positive Side: “Trust in the Lord”
Here are a few (27) of the passages on the subject of where we should place our trust:
O Lord my God, in thee do I put my trust. My defense is of God, which saveth the upright in heart. (Psa. 7:1)
In the Lord put I my trust. (Psa. 11:1)
I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength in whom I will trust. (Psa. 18:1-2)
He is a buckler to all those that trust in him. (Psa. 18:30)
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped. (Psa. 28:7)
He that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about. (Psa. 32:10)
It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes. (Psa. 118:8-9)
My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. (Psa. 121:2)
They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth forever. (Psa. 125:1)
In thee do I trust, cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee. (Psa. 143:8)
Whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe. (Prov. 29:25)
He is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. (Prov. 30:5)
Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his maker? (Job 4:17)
Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him. (Job 13:15)
He that putteth his trust in me shall possess the land, and shall inherit my holy mountain. (Isa. 57:13)
 O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps. (Jer. 10:23)
Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. (Jer. 17:7)
I will surely deliver thee, and thou shalt not fall by the sword, but thy life shall be for a prey unto thee: because thou hast put thy trust in me, saith the Lord. (Jer. 39:18)
Lord, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O Lord our God, for we rest on thee. (2 Chr. 14:11)
There be more with us than with him [King of Assyria]: With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles. (2 Chr. 32:7-8)
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matt. 11:28)
And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. (Mark 11:22)
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. (Acts. 16:31)
Your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. (I Cor. 2:5)
The Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom. (2 Tim. 4:18)
This is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us. (I John 5:14)
Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with me. (Rev. 3:20)
 Negative Side: “Don’t Trust in the Arm of Flesh”
In this section there are 29 references that tell us NOT to put our trust in the arm of flesh:
With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah. (2 Chr. 32:8)
Thus saith the Lord: Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. (Jer. 17:5)
Book of Mormon:
O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm. (2 Ne. 4:34)
Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost. (2 Ne. 28:31)
Doctrine and Covenants:
The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh. (D & C 1:19)
LDS Church Leaders:
I preached to a large congregation at the stand, on the science and practice of medicine, desiring to persuade the Saints to trust in God when sick, and not in an arm of flesh, and live by faith and not by medicine, or poison. . . . (Joseph Smith, TPJS, p. 190)
I would like to impress upon the minds of the brethren, that he who goes forth in the name of the Lord, trusting in Him with all his heart, will never want for wisdom to answer any question that is asked him, or to give any counsel that may be required to lead the people in the way of life and salvation, and he will never  be confounded worlds without end; while he who trusts in the wisdom of man, or leans on the arm of flesh, is weak and blind, and destitute of the principles that will lead the Elders of Israel to victory and glory. (Brigham Young, JD 12:34)
Let me observe that though there were men chosen of God through whom he gave revelations to the world, yet it does not follow of necessity, that those for whose use the revelations were given, had no other way of testing their truth, but the veracity of those through whom they came. This would to all intents be staying ourselves on man, and making flesh our arm; which is strictly forbidden in the word of the Lord. (Sidney Rigdon, Mess. & Adv., vol. 2, p. 259)
The time will come when no man or woman will be able to endure on borrowed light. (Heber C. Kimball, as quoted in Life of Heber C. Kimball, Orson F. Whitney, 1888 ed., p. 461)
Men have no right to trust in an arm of flesh, and for this reason, that Zion may again be built up on earth, that faith may increase, and the saints rely upon the mercies of God, . . . (Wm. W. Phelps, “Zion”, Evng. & Mrng. Star, Dec. 1832, p. 54)
We are not to trust in the arm of flesh, but we are to trust on the strength of Israel’s God, and live so that our conduct will warrant us a confidential application to Him in the hour of danger. (Lorenzo Young, JD 6:236)
If we, in our experience, have not yet proved the truth of the words of the prophet–“Cursed is he that trusteth in man, or maketh flesh his arm”–probably we will do if we live long enough. There is a curse attending every man and woman who does this. (George Q. Cannon, JD 12:45)
Brethren and sisters, live so that each of you can go to the Father and ask and receive from him the blessing that you need. He has said, “Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm.” Do not build upon man. Do not lean upon him, but lean upon our Father in heaven. (George Q. Cannon, JD 19:110-111)
 I often think of the Scripture which says, “Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm.” The best of men will fail us. They are fallible beings, full of frailties and short-comings; and they are not to be trusted with our salvation. But our God can be trusted to the very uttermost. No matter how serious the trial, how deep the distress, how great the affliction, He will never desert us. He never has, and He never will. He cannot do it. It is not His character. He is an unchangeable being; the same yesterday, the same today, and He will be the same throughout the eternal ages to come. (George Q. Cannon, Coll. Disc., Vol. 2, Mar. 1, 1891)
Do not, brethren, put your trust in man though he be a Bishop, an apostle, or a president; if you do, they will fail you at some time or place; they will do wrong or seem to, and your support be gone; but if we lean on God, He will never fail us. When men and women depend on God alone and trust in Him alone, their faith will not be shaken if the highest in the Church should step aside. (George Q. Cannon, Des. Weekly, Mar. 7, 1891, vol. 43, p. 322)
This is the way we should all feel; and we should, above all other considerations, be determined to cleave to the gospel, building our faith upon the rock, not upon the arm of flesh. (Joseph F. Smith, JD 19:197)
Our testimony does not depend upon Joseph Smith; it does not depend upon Brigham Young; it does not depend upon John Taylor, or upon the Council of the Twelve Apostles, which is now the presiding quorum in the Church. I pin my faith to no man’s sleeve; I am a believer in the Scripture which says, “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm.” (Charles W. Penrose, JD 20:295)
It is vain and futile for us to trust in the arm of the world. We have got to trust in Him, instead of looking to the world for that sustenance and support, that overruling help which shall control and advance the interests of Zion. He is going to have the credit of it himself. He is going to demonstrate the truth of that saying, “Wo unto him that trusteth in man and maketh flesh his arm.” (Franklin D. Richards, Coll. Disc., vol. 3, Oct. 6, 1893)
 Be not afraid with regard to the work; only serve God and trust in Him. You cannot serve man, nor make flesh your arm, for your salvation. If we are saved, if we are delivered, if we have redemption, it will be by the power of the God of Israel. (Wilford Woodruff, Coll. Disc., vol. 2, Apr. 6, 1890)
To walk safely and steadfastly without leaning upon the arm of flesh is the individual duty of every Latter-day Saint. Such a duty becomes a responsibility which men owe to themselves and to their God. (Jos. Fldg. Smith, Gospel Doc., p. 253)
We should be willing and anxious to believe the words of the Lord and have more confidence in what has come from him that in what has come through the arm of flesh. Let us increase our faith and confidence in the Lord. (Jos. Fldg. Smith, Doc. of Sal., 2:314)
Boasting is of two kinds: either righteous, or unrighteous; either in the arm of flesh, or in the Lord and his gracious goodness and power. “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord, …” ***
Boasting in the arm of flesh, one of the commonest of all sins among worldly people, is a gross evil; it is a sin born of pride, a sin that creates a frame of mind which keeps men from turning to the Lord and accepting his saving grace. When a man engages in self exultation because of his riches, his political power, his worldly learning, his physical prowess, his business acumen, or even his works of righteousness, he is not in tune with the Spirit of the Lord. (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 93)
Spiritual realities, gospel truths, the doctrines and principles of salvation, come only by revelation; they are only known to and understood by the spiritually literate, those who so live as to attune their souls to the spirit of revelation; they are withheld from and remain unknown to the worldly wise and those who trust in the arm of flesh. (Bruce R. McConkie, Doc. New Testament Comm. 1:466)
It is a disappointment sometimes, however, to find some who are not willing to trust the Lord, to trust in his promise when he says, “Prove me and see.” I often wonder why men cannot trust their Lord. He has  promised his children every blessing contingent upon their faithfulness, but fickle man places his trust in “the arm of flesh” and sets about to make his own way unaided by him who could do so much. (Spencer W. Kimball, Conf. Rept., Oct. 4, 1952)
In all ages when men have fallen under the power of Satan and lost the faith, they have put in its place a hope in the “arm of flesh” and in “gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know” (Daniel 5:23)–that is, in idols. This I find to be a dominant theme in the Old Testament. Whatever thing a man sets his heart and his trust in most is his god; and if his god doesn’t also happen to be the true and living God of Israel, that man is laboring in idolatry. (Spencer W. Kimball, Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 76)
Where men have lost a knowledge of the true and living God, they have had to create for themselves because of the desires within them, a god of their own making, and so they have depended upon the arm of flesh. (Hilton A. Robertson, Conf. Rept., Apr. 1953, p. 56)
And finally, to sum up–
If our faith is in Jesus Christ and not in the arm of flesh, then we will know that we are members of the Church of Jesus Christ and not the church of men. (Ezra T. Benson, Teachings of Ezra T. Benson, p. 90)
* * *
It makes one wonder if the more recent Church leaders have a correct and complete understanding of putting one’s trust in the arm of flesh–because one minute they quote this passage with conviction, and the next they tell the people to put their trust in them (the leaders). Does this mean they are exempt from being the “arm of flesh”–and that their arm is not flesh? Maybe we better take a closer look at a couple of definitions of terms:
 “Trusting in the arm of flesh” — believing and obeying the words and instructions of those who claim to have authority over us–regardless of title, position, wealth, appearance or holy office–even when it differs from what we have been told by the Lord and even though all mortals have weaknesses, personal opinions and biases. (See Ether 12:27)
“Trusting in the Lord” — depending on the Lord with the same trust that a little child trusts in his father. This covers all areas from one’s daily bread to eternal salvation. It entails making an honest effort to obey all His commandments, no matter what mortal men or leaders may say, and being willing to “put everything on the altar” and living our life according to His will.
The scriptures and teachings of inspired men tell us we should put our trust in God and not in the arm of flesh. This means that if we put trust in men, we have failed to trust in God. So if we put our trust in a Bishop, Apostle, or President of the Church, we are going contrary to scripture and good sense.
There are several specific and important reasons why the Lord doesn’t want men to put their trust in other men:
- It takes away honor from God and gives it to men.
- Spiritual gifts and answers to prayer do not come from man.
- Salvation comes from God.
- Men are fallible.
- Men do not have divine wisdom.
- God commanded us not to.
- He promised to curse people who do.
- He promised to bless those who trust Him.
- He alone knows all the answers to our problems.
- He promised to fight all our battles.
 Yet with all the scripture and good advice about NOT putting our trust in the arm of flesh, it seems to be the easiest and most popular course for the majority of Church members.
 Chapter 5
CHRIST AND THE JEWISH LEADERS
I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. (John 5:30)
Jesus started His ministry by saying, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4:4) One interpretation of this could be that the words of man have very little worth in comparison to the words of God.
When Jesus went into the wilderness to be with God, the tempter came to Him, but Christ’s best defense was quoting the scripture which says, “Get thee thence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and him only shalt thou serve.” (Matt. 4:10) Jesus was quoting from the Old Testament, but it is difficult to tell the exact source because it is mentioned so many times. (See Deut. 4:10; 6:13; 10:12; 11:13; 13:4; Josh. 22:5; 24:14, 15, 22; 1 Sam. 7:3; 12:14, 20, 24.) It is the foundation of the Israelite religion.
This scripture can be divided into two parts: one is to worship only the Lord; the other is to serve only Him. It seems like such a simple commandment, yet it is probably the most neglected.
One of the most misinterpreted scriptures of the Bible is, “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.”  (Matt. 11:13) Modern clergymen assume that Jesus did away with the law of the Old Testament because the law ended with Jesus; but Christ said:
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (Matt. 5:17-18)
Jesus was saying that–
- He would not destroy the law.
- He would fulfill the living of it.
- Not one jot or tittle would pass from the law.
- Religious leaders should be warned to make no changes in God’s laws.
But through the years, religious men in authority have made changes in the principles, laws and ordinances because they “felt” inspired. They had a church office so they believed the Lord must surely sanction and support their activities. These super-righteous Pharisees thought they had a shield of righteousness to protect them and sustain them from failure. But Jesus taught them there was a strong possibility of falling, and it is just as applicable today as it was then.
The Lord gave a strong warning against a brother, a leader or a seer who might cause people to err. Joseph Smith’s Inspired Translation provides a better rendition:
Therefore, if thy hand offend thee, cut it off; or if thy brother offend thee and confess not and forsake not, he shall be cut off. It is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands, to go into hell.
For it is better for thee to enter into life without thy brother, than for thee and thy brother to be cast  into hell; into the fire that never shall be quenched, where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
And again, if thy foot offend thee, cut if off; for he that is thy standard, by whom thou walkest, if he become a transgressor, he shall be cut off.
It is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell; into the fire that never shall be quenched.
Therefore, let every man stand or fall, by himself, and not for another; or not trusting another.
Seek unto my Father, and it shall be done in that very moment what ye shall ask, if ye ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive.
And if thine eye which seeth for thee, him that is appointed to watch over thee to show thee light, become a transgressor and offend thee, pluck him out.
It is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God, with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.
For it is better that thyself should be saved, than to be cast into hell with thy brother, where their worm dieth not, and where the fire is not quenched. (I.V., Mark 9:40-48)
There are some very important points in this translation that apply to trusting in someone else: the hand that may do wrong is a brother; the foot is a leader who transgresses the law of God; and the eye is the seer appointed to receive revelation for you. It is clear that each of them is capable of transgression and may lead you wrong–resulting in both of you ending up in hell.
Three important concepts are found in verse 44:
(1) Every man should stand or fall by himself.
(2) He should not stand or fall for another.
(3) He should not trust another.
 People make a serious mistake trying to serve both God and some misguided leader. The Jews had great confidence in their leaders who were very learned, wealthy, and socially prominent. Yet these “great” men were the worst enemies of Jesus. They loved their wealth more than God. Jesus taught:
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (Matt. 6:24)
It is usually an easy thing to support leaders who receive revelation, perform miracles, cast out devils, prophesy in the name of Jesus, and do many wonderful works. But even this may be very dangerous, as Jesus warned:
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast our devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (I.V. says, “Ye never knew me.” (Matt. 7:21-23)
What iniquity were those Jewish leaders guilty of? They walked a limited distance on the Sabbath day; they often made sacrifices; they paid tithing on their spices; and they prayed, preached and constantly led the church. They were very learned and capable men, yet they did something to cause them and their followers to make the most serious mistake of their lives: they crucified their Lord!
A little later Jesus was probably referring to church leaders when he mentioned “the wise and prudent:”
 At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. (Matt. 11:25)
A discerning Bible commentator carefully explained the above passage:
The thing he gives thanks for: Because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and yet revealed them to babes. These things–he does not say what things, but means the great things of the gospel, the things that belong to our peace. (Luke xix:42) He spoke thus emphatically of them, “these things”, because they were things that filled him, and should fill us: all other things are as nothing to “these things.”
Note (1.) The great things of the everlasting gospel have been and are hid from many that were “wise and prudent,” that were eminent for learning and worldly policy; some of the greatest scholars and the greatest statesmen have been the greatest strangers to gospel mysteries. The world by wisdom knew not God. (1 Cor. i:21) Nay, there is an opposition given to the gospel, by a science falsely so called. (I Tim. vi:20) Those who are most expert in things sensible and secular, are commonly least experienced in spiritual things. Men may dive deeply into the mysteries of nature and into the mysteries of state, and yet be ignorant of, and mistake about, the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, for want of an experience of the power of them.
(2.) While the wise and prudent men of the world are in the dark about gospel mysteries, even the babes in Christ have the sanctifying saving knowledge of them: “Thou hast revealed them unto babes.” Such the disciples of Christ were; men of mean birth and education; no scholars, no artists, no politicians, unlearned and ignorant men. (Acts iv:13) Thus are the secrets of wisdom, which are double to  that which is (Job xi:6), made known to babes and sucklings, that out of their mouth strength might be ordained. (Ps. viii:2), and God’s praise thereby perfected. The learned men of the world were not made choice of to be the preachers of the gospel, but the foolish things of the world. (I Cor. ii: 6, 8, 10)
(3.) This difference between the prudent and the babes is of God’s own making. It is He that has hid these things from the wise and prudent; he gave them parts, and learning, and much of human understanding above others, and they were proud of that, and rested in it, and looked no further; and therefore God justly denies them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, and then, though they hear the sound of the gospel tidings, they are to them as a strange thing. (Matthew Henry’s Commentary, 5:159)
When Joseph Smith went into the woods to pray and to ask which church to join, part of his answer was similar to the scripture which stated:
Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
But in vain they do worship me teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (Matt. 15:7-9)
This was the condition of hundreds of churches–speaking about God but teaching the commandments of men. Men had set aside the laws of God because they preferred to obey the laws of man. Time has not changed this. It was that way when Jesus was on the earth and that’s the way it is now.
Jesus made a rather spiteful remark about some of the religious leaders: “Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the  ditch.” (Matt. 15:14) He was not speaking of their physical blindness, but their spiritual blindness. It seems rather strange that these men who could nearly quote the whole Old Testament, had high positions in public and religious circles, and were very strict and devout in their faith, would be called “blind guides.” No wonder Christ did not chose His disciples from among them!
The greatest problems Jesus had seemed to originate with religious or political leaders. They were constantly trying to trap and condemn Him because they were afraid, “if we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.” (John 11:48) These Jewish leaders loved the temporal more than the spiritual.
Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?
Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them. (Matt. 21:42-45)
These chief priests and Pharisees were proud of their high positions and their genealogical heritage, but it didn’t mean much to Jesus.
And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. (Matt. 3:9)
 Joseph Smith also mentioned “these stony Gentiles–these dogs–to raise up children unto Abraham.” (TPJS, p. 319) The inference here is that a leader who has lost the spirit of the Lord has less chance with the Lord than stony dog gentiles.
These religious leaders were so very strict in their lives, yet they could not accept Jesus as the Son of God and their Savior–only that he was a “teacher come from God.” In the beginning of His ministry–
There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. (John 3:1-2)
Nicodemus was one of the greatest rulers of the Jews, and was speaking for many of his associates. They recognized Jesus as a “teacher from God” and yet did not want to accept His teachings. This should be a warning to all religious leaders: never deny the truth or change principles of the Gospel; do not put the laws of Babylon before the laws of God.
The lesson here is that honorable titles, esteemed positions, and professed religious sincerity do not protect anyone from being deceived.
In the on-going conflict between Jesus and the political and religious leaders, He finally said to them: “Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.” (Matt. 21:31) It sounds more like an insult than a truth. How could such “righteous” and highly religious people be preceded by harlots and publicans? Martin Luther answered the question:
 And in Matthew 21:31 he also says that harlots and base fellows shall enter the kingdom of heaven before the Pharisees and scribes, although they were pious, chaste, and respectable people. Why should that be? Because they opposed the word of God, the gospel; whereas the harlots and base fellows, although they sinned, did not strive against the gospel. (Selected Writings of Martin Luther, 3:21)
They did not, however, oppose all of the Gospel–only certain portions of it. They quoted the scriptures, made daily offerings, preached many beautiful sermons, sat in the uppermost seats of the congregation, worked at the temple and wore the robes of the Rabbi and the Priest. Yet these very men, who opposed some of the doctrines of Christ, finally condemned Him.
And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, … (Matt. 20:17-18)
From these scriptural passages, we learn that religious leaders are not necessarily blessed with discernment, honesty, and spirituality–just by virtue of their office. In fact, many should not be religious leaders at all–but God allows them to be there, as–
. . . they are instruments in my hands, and are permitted to try my people, and to collect from among them those who are not the elect, and such as are unworthy of eternal life. (Unpub. Revel., vol. 1, comp. by Collier, p. 105)
The Savior has left us with many valuable guidelines and warnings to help us in properly directing our faith and trust. Matthew alone contains the following:
 1. We must worship God only.
- We are to serve God only.
- We are not to trust another.
- All men are fallible.
- Even seers can fail and fall.
- Offices or titles protect no one from sin or deception.
- God forces no man to be good.
- Church leaders are servants, not rulers.
- Prophets performing miracles do not necessarily know God.
- Most church leaders have only a form of godliness.
- True disciples of Jesus are brought up before high councils in churches.
- Religious leaders can know Jesus, and still oppose Him and His teachings.
- True Christian followers or leaders are not usually found among the worldly lawyers, doctors, learned, wise, and prudent.
- Harlots have a better chance of getting into heaven before they do.
- People active in church usually choose the traditions and laws of society rather than Gospel principles.
- There is no middle ground between the world and the Gospel.
- Two or three true disciples can have Christ with them.
- There would always be an abundance of false prophets.
- Everyone is deceived except the very elect.
- Camels could go through the eye of a needle easier than rich men entering into heaven.
All of this is a reminder of the fact that–” . . it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. (D & C 121:39) This has been true since the beginning of time–and continues to hold true in our day.
 Chapter 6
THE REFORMERS’ ATTEMPT TO REFORM
No faithful man ought to follow either the pope himself or any of the holy men, but in such points as he hath followed the Lord Jesus Christ…. (John Wycliffe, The Great Controversy, E. G. White, p. 102)
Ecclesiastical history is checkered with accounts of scholastic theologians and ministers who, without the aid of revelation, use their own learning and reasoning to make changes in the ordinances and principles of the Gospel. When unable to get a genuine revelation from God, they supposed their own ideas were inspired.
One of the greatest catastrophes to come upon the Christians was not when they were fed to lions, burned at the stake, driven from their homes, or perished from famine. True Christianity died when men of learning and pride led the church by assuming divine guidance, but scholars can never replace prophets!
After the last inspired prophet died, new, uninspired, learned, and proud imitators took his place. From then on, truth and error were intermingled, and both sheep and wolves were “dressed” alike. Paul had warned the Saints:
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after  the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. (Col. 2:8)
Conditions worsened for hundreds of years. When the words of a Pope began to be valued and heeded more than those in the scriptures, the Reformation commenced. The resulting contention between the early reformers and the Catholic Church was an important phase in the history of the world. Thousands and thousands of men, women and children sacrificed even their lives for their faith in the Bible. The major conflict was over obeying the scriptures or following church leaders.
Many valiant reformers paid the ultimate price for their simple faith; and all the excommunications, prisons, tortures and death threats could not shake their firm convictions. But for these stalwarts to lay down their life for their religion required more than mere belief. Their stories and histories are faith promoting and awe inspiring, and their teachings and writings are just as important and applicable for our time as they were for theirs.
John Wessel, one of the notable lights of the Reformation in Germany, noticed the continual substitution of the word of man for the word of God, and warned the people with this analogy:
The sheep must discern the things on which he feeds, and avoid a corrupted nutriment, even when presented by the shepherd himself. The people should follow the shepherd into the pastures; but when he ceases to lead them into the pastures, he is no longer a shepherd, and then, since he does not fulfil his duty, the flock is not bound to follow him. (History of the Reformation, D’Abigne, vol. 1, p. 104)
 It was in this crisis that the Reformers took the word of God in the scriptures as a spiritual lamp to lead them out of gross darkness. They sought to distinguish the words of men from the words of God. But a serious problem arose in their mind. Can an individual think or act contrary to the instruction of the head of the Church? By what right can a person pursue a different course of salvation from those who should be authorized to preside over him? Could a member of the Church act contrary to the leaders of the Church? Could God sanction a man acting contrary to Church authority? These questions caused the Reformers much serious thought. They arduously studied the word of God in the scriptures for the answers.
First they discovered that “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.” (Psalms 118:8), and that “The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.” (John 13:16) Therefore, “He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber” (John 10:1), because “the scripture cannot be broken.” (John 10:35)
Martin Luther recognized that “the papists prefer the authority of the Church far above God’s word.” Ellen G. White wrote:
But only by gradual stages did Martin Luther come to the full apprehension of the fact that he had precipitated a religious revolution. He was thirty-four when he challenged Tetzel’s sale of indulgences, (95 Theses at Wittenburg) and it was two years later, in his famous debate with the Catholic theologian, John Eck, that he made the definite statement that neither popes nor church councils are infallible.
Even then, however, he neither desired nor intended to disrupt the ancient church. His convinced hope was that the church in general and the pope in particular, when shown crying evils of ecclesiastical  corruption, would correct them. (Great Voices of the Reformation, White, p. 68)
Luther explained the basis of his belief:
But when eternal interests are concerned, God wills not that man should submit unto man. For such submission in spiritual matters is a real worship, and ought to be rendered solely to the Creator. (History of the Reformation, D’Aubigne, 7:11)
Martin Luther studied these issues probably more than anyone of his day. It started with simple questions, but led to the revolution of nations.
In 1520 Martin Luther wrote over 16 treatises in less than six months against the abusive powers of the Catholic Church. One was a 120-page pamphlet called “The Babylonian Captivity of the Church,” and another was 100 pages entitled, “The Christian Nobility”, which expressed the clear mind, heart and soul of Luther. His strenuous efforts were simply an admonition for the leaders to correct the errors and corruptions within the church rather than dominate the thinking and pocketbooks of its members. He laid the axe to the abusive power of the Roman church by cutting down the evils in the “social, political, legal, and religious thought of the Western world which had been developing for nearly a thousand years.” (Selected Writings of Martin Luther, Theodore Tappert, 1:256)
Luther’s studies and publications led to over 100 books on these issues. These monumental works still stand as some of the most thought-provoking and in-depth studies ever written on this subject, and should be considered as significant today as they were then.
 In 1522 and 1525 Luther delivered two enlightening sermons on the subject of wolves among the sheep. Excerpts from those sermons–categorized under these four subtitles–are included here and are worthy of our serious consideration:
- Christ’s Warning of False Prophets
- God’s Word Is Most Important
- After the True Prophets Come the False Ones
- Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing
- Christ’s Warning of False Prophets
. . . the Lord exercises the office of a good shepherd and teacher, and warns us to beware of false prophets. As though he would say: Now you have heard the truth, from henceforth therefore beware of other doctrines. For it is certain that false teachers and false prophets will arise wherever this Word is preached. * * *
Now this gospel here overthrows the very foundation of popery and of all councils, for we are not bound to keep what the Pope commands and men decree. Therefore, I say again, firmly grasp what this Gospel teaches, for the authority has never been given either to the Pope or councils, or anyone else, to sit and determine what is faith. For Christ says: “Beware of false prophets.” Either the Gospel lies, or the Pope and the councils do. Christ says we have the right to judge all doctrines, and whatever is proposed for us to keep or to reject. Here the Lord does not speak to the Pope, but to all Christians. * * *
Hence I can say: Pope, you together with the councils have resolved, and now I have to decide whether I may accept it or not. Why? Because you will not stand and answer for me when I die, but I must see to it myself how I stand before God, so that I may be certain of my fate.
 For you must be so certain in regard to the matter, that it is God’s Word, as certain and more certain than you are that you are living, for on this alone your conscience must rest. Even though all men should come, yea, even the angels and all the world and pass a resolution, if you cannot grasp it and decide for yourself, you are lost; for you dare not base your decision on the Pope or anyone else; you must yourself be prepared so that you can say: this God says, and that He does not say; this is right, and that is wrong, otherwise it is not possible for you to stand.
For when you are about to die, and you rely on the Pope and the councils and say: The Pope said this, the councils have resolved that, the holy fathers Augustine and Ambrose have thus determined, then the devil can easily put a hole in your drum and insinuate: What if this were false? What if they had erred? And when such a temptation enters your mind, you are already overcome. For this reason you must act conscientiously, so that you can boldly and defiantly say: This is God’s Word, on this I will risk body and life, and a thousand necks, if I had so many.
This St. Peter also means when he says in his first Epistle 4:11: “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God.” And St. Paul says in 1 Cor. 2:3-5: “And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling; and my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power; that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. (Sermons of Martin Luther, John Lenker, 4:236-37)
Summary of No. 1
- We have been warned by Christ to be watchful of false teachers and false prophets.
- They always show up at the same time or shortly after the true teachers and prophets.
- They come in sheep’s clothing, or in other words, appear to be innocent by all outward appearances.
- The real danger from them is that they teach a perverted version of the truth.
- Each soul is given the power to discern the truth and need not depend on the councils of men to decide for them.
- You must decide for yourself what is right, even though men or angels tell you it is the truth.
- You should become so convinced of God’s word that you would risk death to defend it.
- Our faith should not be in men, but in God.
- God’s Word Is Most Important
Then they began to say: “Yes, but how can we know what is God’s Word, and what is right or wrong? This we must learn from the Pope and the councils.” Very well, then, let them conclude and say what they please, yet I will reply, you cannot put your confidence in that nor thus satisfy your conscience, for you must determine this matter yourself, for your very life depends upon it. Therefore, God must speak to your heart: “This is God’s Word;” otherwise you are undecided. * * *
What does it concern us whether St. Augustine or Jerome, St. Peter or St. Paul, or even the archangel Gabriel from heaven, who is still greater, said it; yet it will profit me nothing, for I must have God’s Word, I will only hear what God says. * * *
Surely, a person can preach the Word to me, but no one is able to put it into my heart except God alone, who must speak to the heart, or all is vain; for when he is silent, the Word is not spoken. Hence no one shall draw me  from the Word which God teaches me. . . .then you must know in the face of all councils, that this is the teaching of Christ, although all men said otherwise. * * *
Therefore no one can beware of false doctrine unless he be spiritual. For Paul says this in 1 Cor. 2:15: “But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.” So no one can judge false doctrine, but the spiritual man.
Hence it is very foolish for the councils to wish to determine and establish what a man must believe, when there is often not a single man present who ever tasted the least of the divine Spirit. So it was in the Council of Nice, when they undertook to enact laws for the spiritual orders that they should not marry, which was all false because it has no foundation in the Word of God. Then a single man arose, by the name of Paphnutius, and overthrew the whole affair and said: Not so, that is not Christian. Then the entire council, in which undoubtedly were many distinguished and learned individuals, were compelled to drop the resolution, and give way to this simple and honest man. For God is a great enemy to high titles and human wisdom, hence he allows them at times to be handled roughly, and puts them to shame in their speculations, that the truth of the proverb may appear: The learned are the most perverted.
Thus we are to remain free judges, to have the power to decide and judge, to accept or reject everything that the Pope establishes and the councils determine. But when we accept anything, we should so accept it, that it harmonizes with our faith and the Scriptures; and not just because the Papists say it. * * *
Even here so many holy fathers have erred like Gregory, Augustine and others, in that they take from us this right of judgment, for this torment and misery began far back in history, that we must believe the Pope and the councils. Hence you must be able to say: God said this, and  that God has not said. As soon as you say: A man has said this, or the councils have determined that, then you are building on sand.
Hence there is no judge upon the earth in spiritual things concerning Christian doctrine, except the person who has in his heart the true faith, whether it be a man or woman, young or old, maid or servant, learned or unlearned. For God is no respecter of persons, since all are alike precious to him, who live according to his commandments, Acts 10:34, hence they alone have the right to judge. * * *
In the worldly government of course the rule holds, that the older is wiser than the younger, a learned man than a layman; but in spiritual things a child or a servant, a common woman or man can have the grace of God as well as an old person or a lord, a priest or the Pope. To sum up, let no learned person take from you the right to judge, for you have this right as well as he.
Now let me tell you who the false prophets of our times are. For no one can judge or know this unless he has the Spirit. But the brief summary is, though much may be said on the subject, it is the Pope with his entire government; for they all have taught what is opposed to God. * * *
Again, look at the first commandment, which says that we should trust in God alone, and call upon him alone. But their entire doctrine is nothing else than to lead us to trust in human works, and to command us to call upon the saints. Do you not see that such people are the real false prophets, of whom we must beware? For they abolish the commandment which God has given. * * *
As I said before, no one knows others by their fruits, except he who is spiritually born again. Therefore, he who has not the Spirit, cannot have this knowledge. (Ibid., pp. 239-243)
 Summary of No. 2
- We must depend upon our conscience and on what God speaks to our heart.
- The words of men, apostles, or angels are not as important as God’s words.
- We must depend upon the word of God even though all men say otherwise.
- No one is capable of judging things until he has the Holy Spirit for a guide.
- The most learned men are often the most perverted.
- When you sustain the voice of councils of men, you are building on sand.
- False prophets teach things contrary to the word of God, and they lead people to trust in them rather than in God.
- After the True Prophets Come the False Ones
In the first place, we perceive from this that we must be prepared, because it will always happen, that after the true ministers come the false ones; yea, they will indeed even enter along side of them and mingle with them. * * *
So it happened in the days of the Apostles. Then the church was still pure, but as soon as they died who held fast to the pure doctrine, then came the false prophets and the evil spirit, who desired to change everything, as the Epistles of St. Paul sufficiently show. And inasmuch as this is so, and as we can expect nothing else, Christ our Lord warns us here as a faithful shepherd and bishop should, that we beware, so that, when the Gospel comes, that we hold firmly to it and not depart from it, though it cost our life and our treasures. For it cannot be otherwise, as the time passes than that there will be changes. * * *
 Here you may say: Why does the Lord do this? Why does he permit false prophets to come among the faithful, and follow the true ministers? Is he not strong and powerful enough to prevent it, so that the Gospel might remain pure and in all its force? Verily, he could indeed do this; but he does not, and for this reason, that he might prove those who are his, and punish the unthankful. * * *
For if you have the true Word and the right understanding of it, the world will rise to oppose you. Then, on the other hand, the devil will labor to tear you from it, so that not only the tyrants of the world will persecute it with the sword, but also our own reason and the wisest heads in the world, in order that God may exercise you in his Word, and give work to the Spirit whom he has bestowed upon you, that you may learn that God’s wisdom is more excellent than the wisdom of this world, and that God’s strength is stronger than the strength and power of this world, which you will not be able to learn without a struggle like this.
When God permits a faction to oppose thee, he would thereby stir thee up, saying: Defend yourself, grasp firm hold of the Word and test God’s wisdom and the powers of his Word, and learn how great is the folly of this world. Thus the power and wisdom of God’s Word will become manifest, that you may learn that it cannot be conquered by human power and wisdom; but that it will conquer all power, and put to shame all knowledge and wisdom, in order to awaken the truth and to show forth what is right, that the people may experience it. * * *
For how many are there who ever thank God for it? We forget it, cast it to the winds and become lazy and careless. It is approved by none; no one tastes it; no one lifts up his hands in thankfulness to God for it. We are so very richly overloaded with the Gospel that we become satiated with it, and St. Paul has rightly prophesied, 2 Tim. 4:3-4: “For the time will come  when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts and will draw away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables.”
Here and there throughout the whole Scriptures, we see how greatly it offends God, who regards it as the greatest sin when his Word is despised; which is so dear and precious, that it cost him the blood of his own dear Son, and we cast it to the wind as though it were of little importance. * * *
What does it matter, as die we must at any rate, if we are killed by the sword? But that the soul should be forever given to the devil, this is an eternal calamity, an everlasting misfortune and torment.
I would gladly prevent it, if I could, by preaching, praying and writing. * * *
For this reason I give warning, that we should not think so little of this matter but open our eyes, not regarding it merely as the word of a man. It is a precious Word, and if we sleep and snore and do not keep awake to hear it, we need not be angry when he strikes us on the head by sending us false prophets, but remember that we have richly deserved it.
Already there are but few who stand steadfastly. Sectarianism is rampant, and few there be who contend against it and preserve the true doctrine; their names could all be written on a little card. What shall come to pass when once it breaks out with force? Therefore, let no one consider it child’s play, for the Word is not an insignificant Word. It stands for something. (Ibid., 4:247-251)
Summary of No. 3
- Peter, Paul and other disciples warned the Saints that false prophets would arise among them.
- There will always be false teachers and prophets to follow the true ones, and they will change everything.
- When the true Gospel comes, hold on to it with your life.
- The false teachers and prophets are allowed to come so God can test His people to see if they will continue to follow the word of God.
- The false prophets must also have a chance to prove themselves and their followers to be unworthy of the truth.
- Truth will always be opposed, and true disciples must be willing to give up everything for it–even their lives if necessary.
- False teachers and prophets are often allowed because the people are worthy of them.
- At times, the names of those who preserve true doctrine can be written on a little card.
- Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing
The Gospel lesson further says: “Who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves.”
No one sends them. They come of themselves. This is the true description of false prophets, that they force themselves into the ministry. Some, in order to find their bread and butter, which I do not consider of much importance, for even there they will not find a paradise. * * *
For he tests us by offering us the contrary, to see whether you on this account would depart from his Word. * * *
As our fanatics at present boast, that they have devoured the Holy Spirit, feathers and all, and are thoroughly filled with the Spirit and say, that the Holy Ghost has spoken to them from heaven, and has revealed something special to them, and the like. I too ought to know something of the Spirit of which they boast. But alas, they are all too highly spiritualized for me. ***
 This, then, is coming in sheep’s clothing, namely, so to preach and to quote the Scriptures that it may appear as the true doctrine; for it is not said that they come in wolves’ clothing, or with teeth and spears. They do not publicly preach anything destructive or without Scripture, otherwise people might recognize them. * * *
Therefore it is true as men say, the holy Bible is a book for heretics, that is, it is a book that heretics dare to claim for themselves most of all. For there is no other book which they so wickedly misuse, than just this very book. And there never was a heresy so bad or gross, that they did not try to patch up or cover with the Scriptures. Just as men say, God is the God of rogues, because they, who are the largest crowd in the world, claim for themselves the name of God, not that God is to blame, but the rogues who thus take the holy name of God in vain. Thus the holy Bible must be a book for heretics, not that the holy Bible is to blame, but the rogues who so shamefully misuse it. Should I for this reason neglect the Bible and not read it? By no means! * * *
Thus the Bible is a book for heretics, but I will not for this reason cast it away, but so much the more study and learn it, because these rogues oppose it.
Therefore, let now every person be thus well prepared and thoroughly equipped, that he may not so easily be led astray by their showy life, although they even attempt to quote Scripture to you, for ravening wolves are most certainly back of it. And although they think they feed and satisfy you, they actually rend you, destroy and devour you. However, without spiritual eyes, no one will be able so soon to decide or judge of this matter. * * *
I have often said, and will always say it, that the greatest and most difficult contest is, for a person to contend with the Scriptures against the Scriptures; to strike aside another man’s sword and  wrench it out of his fist, to slay him with his own sword; to take from him his weapon, and with it strike him again. This no one can accomplish, except he who is enlightened by the Holy Spirit, so as to be able to recognize these rogues.
You have often heard from me the safest doctrine and rule, by which to prove the spirits, as John tells us in his first Epistle 4:1–“Beloved, believe not every spirit but prove the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” * * *
Does not the Pope require his rules to be more strictly observed than the Gospel? Only compare them and see. * * *
Sects and factions will not last, if we are only able to await their destruction; but a faithful minister will be victorious and will endure. For the Word of God abideth forever. (Is. 40:8) (Ibid., 4:251-263)
Summary of No. 4
- False prophets always come in sheep’s clothing. In other words, they appear to be something they are not. They deceive by their looks, manners, and claims.
- They claim to have revelation–and an abundance of it.
- They teach from the scriptures to make it appear that their doctrine is of God.
- The greatest rogues in the world use the Bible for their own purposes.
- For this reason, we must study it more than they do and understand it better.
- We must fend off their words with the word of God as one sword fighter uses a sword against an enemy.
- False teachers demand obedience to their word over the word of God.
- These men seek to receive money, etc., from the people instead of giving it to help others.
- False teachers and false prophets will ultimately be destroyed along with their false teachings. Only God’s word will endure forever. * * * * *
Luther took his own advice when he was brought for trial before the councils of the church. He declared:
I beseech you by the mercy of God, that whoever can, whether high or low, let him bring forward the proof, let him convince me of errors; let the Scriptures of prophecy and gospels triumph, for I will be wholly ready to revoke every error, if I can be persuasively taught; yes, I will be the first to cast my books into the fire.
I believe in neither pope nor councils alone; for it is perfectly well established that they have frequently erred, as well as contradicted themselves. Unless then I shall be convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason, I must be bound by those Scriptures which have been brought forward by me; yes, my conscience has been taken captive by these words of God. (The Road to Reformation, Heinrich Boehmer, 1946, p. 415)
The Reformers did a fine job of exposing or correcting many errors that had crept into Christianity, but they were unable to restore all that had been lost. They did reveal, however, important facts:
- The church had made many changes in the laws, principles, and ordinances of the Gospel.
- The church had discarded and opposed many divine truths.
- The church leaders had lost the promised gifts of the Gospel and were guiding the church through their own knowledge and education.
- Church leaders could be led astray.
- It was possible for the church to lose the Holy Priesthood.
- The church needed to be reformed and set in order.
The church of Christ actually lost its purity in the very first century of its existence. Since the Reformers did not restore the Gospel or the priesthood that had been lost in the church, that would have to take place at a future time. This was to be the mission of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
 Chapter 7
JOSEPH SMITH’S ADMONITION
Joseph Smith said to this people, that all the wisdom he had was received from the hand of the Lord. (Brigham Young, JD 1:78)
All Mormons respect the name and position of Joseph Smith, but only a few really appreciate and comprehend what he taught. Said Brigham Young, who was one of his most devoted apostles:
It is my delight to hear the things of God brought to the understanding of the children of men. This is the beauty of the Gospel we have received. The excellency of the glory of the character of brother Joseph Smith was that he could reduce heavenly things to the understanding of the finite. When he preached to the people–revealed the things of God, the will of God, the plan of salvation, the purposes of Jehovah, the relation in which we stand to him and all the heavenly beings, he reduced his teachings to the capacity of every man, woman, and child, making them as plain as a well-defined pathway. This should have convinced every person that ever heard of him of his divine authority and power, for no other man was able to teach as he could, and no person can reveal the things of God, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. (JD 8:206)
The great division between the Reformers and the early church was whether to follow the teachings of the church or  the teachings of the Bible. There was a distinct difference between the two. This subject was often discussed by the Prophet Joseph, i.e.:
President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel–said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church–that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls–applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall–that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds. . . . (TPJS, pp. 237-38)
This paragraph is an excellent example of the depth and clarity of Joseph Smith’s inspiration referred to by Brigham Young. It is so full of meaning and divine instruction, that the major part of this chapter will consist of providing additional quotations supporting each of its seven significant statements.
- “The people should each one stand for himself.”
Next to the bestowal of life itself, the right to direct that life is God’s greatest gift to man. . . . (David O. McKay, Imp. Era, Feb. 1962, p. 86)
Go to your secret chambers and ask God and plead with Him, in the name of Jesus, to give you a testimony as He has given it to us, and I promise you that you will not come away empty, nor dissatisfied; you will have a testimony, and light will be poured out upon you, and you will see things that perhaps you cannot see and understand at the present time. . . . (Wilford Woodruff, Conf. Rept., Oct. 6, 1890)
It is indeed our right and privilege to have the companionship of the Holy Spirit of the Lord, and we need it. Even children may have it if they will, and need  not be left to walk alone on earth. Every woman should win and keep it for herself, and never try and walk by another’s light. If she puts her whole trust in another, even if he be her husband and a good man, he will surely some time fail her. Let her learn to stand alone so far as human aid is concerned, depending only on God and the Holy Ghost. (George Q. Cannon, Mill. Star 53:673)
The Israelites prayed that God would speak to Moses and not to them; in consequence of which he cursed them with a carnal law. (Joseph Smith, TPJS, p. 322)
I would not, even if I could, force your thinking, for free agency is the basic law of God. . . . (Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, Sept. 1978, p. 3)
- “Depend on no man or men.”
For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.” (Ecc. 7:20; see also Prov. 20:9 and 1 John 1:8.)
Search the scriptures–search the revelations which we publish, and ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, to manifest the truth unto you, and if you do it with an eye single to His glory nothing doubting, He will answer you by the power of His Holy Spirit. You will then know for yourselves and not for another. You will not then be dependent on man for the knowledge of God. . . . (Joseph Smith, TPJS, p. 11)
So long therefore as the people rely upon their leaders, they are not manifesting that degree of faith, they are not in a position to think and reflect for themselves as they should. (Moses Thatcher, JD 26:328)
How often has it been taught that if you depend entirely upon the voice, judgment, and sagacity  of those appointed to lead you, and neglect to enjoy the spirit for yourselves, how easily you may be led into error, and finally be cast off to the left hand? (Brigham Young, JD 8:59)
- “…that state of corruption of the Jewish church”
In the 23rd chapter of Matthew, Jesus described some of these corruptions that had entered into the Jewish church:
They say, and do not.
They bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
All their works they do to be seen of men.
They love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets.
They shut up the kingdom of heaven against men.
They devour widows’ houses.
For a pretense they make long prayers.
They compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.
They pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.
They are blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.
They make clean the outside of the cup and the platter, but within they are like whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.
They outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
They build the tombs of the prophets and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and boast that they would not have been partakers in the blood of the prophets.
 They did not heed Christ’s call: “How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not.”
According to the 14th chapter of Ezekiel, the Lord was angry then with the house of Israel because they had “set up their idols in their heart,” (v. 3) and “because they are all estranged from me through their idols.” (v. 5) He also warned them, “if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have deceived that prophet . . . and I will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel. . . . and the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him” (vs. 9-10).
Ezekiel continued to elaborate on the abominations of the house of Israel in chapter 22:
And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,… There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her many widows in the midst thereof.
Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.
Her princes in the midst thereof are like wolves ravening the prey, to shed blood, and to destroy souls, to get dishonest gain.
And her prophets have daubed them with untempered mortar, seeing vanity, and divining lies unto them, saying, Thus saith the Lord God, when the Lord hath not spoken. (Ezek. 22:23, 25-28)
 4. “Righteous persons could only deliver their own souls.”
Quoting again from the 14th chapter of Ezekiel:
Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God.
Though these three men were in it, as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither sons nor daughters, but they only shall be delivered themselves. (vs. 14 & 18)
President [Heber C.] Kimball then addressed the meeting and said that he wanted to give an exhortation and a word of caution. And after reproving the saints said many flattered themselves that they were going to lean upon others to save them without doing any thing themselves but they will get disappointed, for to bring up a figure he said you might graft ever so many sproughts into a tree. If they did not adhear to the tree they would remain there dead sticks sticking out of the tree. They would be dead themselves, not bring forth fruit. And do the tree no good but ownly scar it up, & those scars would remain untill the dead sticks were broke off & the skar healed over or other grafts put in that would bring forth fruit. So it was with all who leaned upon others to save them & would not harken to their council & take their advice & no man can save them if [they] do not save themselves. (Wilford Woodruff Journal, Feb. 13, 1848)
While such is the character of God’s government that its genius and policy are to the end that iniquity may be swept from off the earth, persons need not think to excuse themselves for performing a known unlawful act simply because they were told to do it by another; if such an excuse as this would justify, none would ever need to come under condemnation; for men would be sure to find some one on whom to lay the burden of  their sins. The day has come when every one may expect to answer for their own sins, without attempting to cloak them with another’s Priesthood. (Brigham Young, Mill. Star 14:595)
- “Applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”
The Prophet Joseph was warning the Saints to avoid the perils and failings of the Jewish church and warned them of the weaknesses of the prophets–that they could not rely on prophets to save them. He applied this to present-day Saints as well:
But there has been a great difficulty in getting anything into the heads of this generation. It has been like splitting hemlock knots with a corn-dodger for a wedge, and a pumpkin for a beetle. Even the Saints are slow to understand.
I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all. How many will be able to abide a celestial law, and go through and receive their exaltation, I am unable to say, as many are called, but few are chosen. (TPJS, p. 331)
Why will not man learn wisdom by precept at this late age of the world, when we have such a cloud of witnesses and examples before us, and not be obliged to learn by sad experience everything we know. Must the new ones that are chosen to fill the places of those that are fallen, of the quorum of the Twelve, begin to exalt themselves, until they exalt themselves so high that they will soon tumble over and have a great fall, and go wallowing through the mud and mire and darkness. (DHC 3:384)
 . . . for if Zion will not purify herself, so as to be approved of in all things, in His sight, He will seek another people; for His work will go on until Israel is gathered, and they who will not hear His voice, must expect to feel His wrath. (TPJS, p. 18)
If the Church knew all the commandments, one-half they would condemn through prejudice and ignorance. (TPJS, p. 112)
. . . the Saints should be a select people, separate from all the evils of the world–choice, virtuous, and holy. The Lord was going to make of the Church of Jesus Christ a kingdom of Priests, a holy people, a chosen generation, as in Enoch’s day, having all the gifts as illustrated to the Church in Paul’s epistles and teachings to the churches in his day. (TPJS, p. 202)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has also had its false spirits; and as it is made up of all those different sects professing every variety of opinion, and having been under the influence of so many kinds of spirits, it is not to be wondered at if there should be found among us false spirits. (TPJS, p. 213)
- “If the people departed from the Lord, they must fall.”
The moment we revolt at anything which comes from God, the devil takes power. (TPJS, p. 181)
The power, glory and blessings of the Priesthood could not continue with those who received ordination only as their righteousness continued; for Cain also being authorized to offer sacrifice, but not offering it in righteousness, was cursed. It signifies, then, that the ordinances must be kept in the very way God has appointed; otherwise their Priesthood will prove a cursing instead of a blessing. (TPJS, p. 169)
 Have we all rights? Yes, we have rights to do right, but we have, every one of us, covenanted to be true to God and his cause, have we not? And when we depart from that, we do wrong. You have lots of sheep here, and you have doubtless seen them sometimes make a break: one will start, and the others follow and away they go. Where are they going? They do not know. Do you know? No. But the sheep perhaps thought they were in bondage and wanted to get out; the lead sheep jumps, perhaps into a mire-hold, it does not matter, they all follow the leader. (John Taylor, JD 20:168)
The Lord would cut short his work in righteousness and except the Church receive the fulness of the Scriptures that they would yet fail. (TPJS, p. 9)
All of these warnings are directed to both followers and leaders. In the third section of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord warned how easy it is for someone to fail:
- He boasts in his own strength.
- He sets at naught the counsel of God.
- He follows the dictates of his own will.
- He follows carnal desires.
- He transgresses the commandments.
- He is greatly influenced by the persuasions of men.
- He fears man more than God.
- He despises God’s words.
- He lacks faith.
- He depends on his own judgment.
The Lord told Joseph to repent, for “Except thou do this, thou shalt be delivered up and become as other men, and have no more gift.” (D & C 3:11) The Prophet Joseph Smith had nearly every spiritual gift and power that any prophet ever enjoyed, yet the Lord was warning that even he could lose it all and become as other men.
 7. “They were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds.”
Perhaps it is His own design that faults and weaknesses should appear in high places in order that His Saints may learn to trust in Him and not in any man or men. (George Q. Cannon, Mill. Star, 53:658-59)
Now, was not Joseph Smith a mortal man? Yes. A fallible man? Yes. Had he not weaknesses? Yes, he acknowledged them himself, and did not fail to put the revelations on record in this book [the Book of Doctrine and Covenants] wherein God reproved him. His weaknesses were not concealed from the people. He was willing that people should know that he was mortal, and had failings. And so with Brigham Young. Was not he a mortal man, a man who had weaknesses? He was not a God. He was not an immortal being. He was not infallible. No, he was fallible. And yet when he spoke by the power of God, it was the word of God to this people. (George Q. Cannon, JD 24:274)
Now those men, or those women, who know no more about the power of God, and the influences of the Holy Spirit, than to be led entirely by another person, suspending their own understanding, and pinning their faith upon another’s sleeve, will never be capable of entering into the celestial glory, to be crowned as they anticipate; they will never be capable of becoming Gods. They cannot rule themselves, to say nothing of ruling others, but they must be dictated to in every trifle, like a child. They cannot control themselves in the least, but James, Peter, or somebody else must control them. They never can become Gods, nor be crowned as rulers with glory, immortality, and eternal lives. (Brigham Young, JD 1:312)
Do not, brethren, put your trust in man though he be a Bishop, an Apostle, or a Pres-ident; if you do, they will fail you at some time or place, they will do wrong or seem be; and our support is gone, but if we lean on God, He never will fail us. When men and women depend on God alone, and trust in Him alone, their faith will not be shaken if the highest in the Church should step aside. They could still see that He is just and true, that truth is lovely in His sight, and the pure in heart are dear to Him.
Perhaps it is His own design that faults and weaknesses should appear in high places in order that His Saints may learn to trust in Him and not in any man or men. (George Q. Cannon, Mill. Star, 53:673)
* * * * *
Nothing could be more clear. The Prophet Joseph repeatedly explained that the Saints should not depend on any mortal man, and that they should stand on their own feet. Too many were relying on the Prophet Joseph “hence were darkened in their minds.” He applied this admonition to all Latter-day Saints.
 Chapter 8
THE CONFLICT BETWEEN
DEAD AND LIVING PROPHETS
It would be a poor lighthouse that gave off a different signal to guide every ship entering a harbor. (Spencer W. Kimball, Conf. Rept., Apr. 1976, p. 7)
A schism has developed within the Church–not so much among the members as among its leaders–past and present. The contemporary leaders seem to have little difficulty in rationalizing their current position even though it contradicts that of the inspired early leaders. But many members are asking questions, such as, “How can some leaders teach one thing and other leaders something just the opposite, and both be right?” Like the changing of seasons, the Church seems to take on different appearances with the passing of time.
As Mormons, it is easy for us to see that there is something wrong with the following conflict: John the Baptist baptized people by immersion in the River Jordan; others have come along since then, also claiming to be prophets, saying we can now baptize by sprinkling, pouring, or not at all. It is evident that they both cannot be true prophets. It is more difficult, however, for Mormons to recognize and admit that similar changes have occurred within the LDS Church in the last century. (See 95 Theses by the same author.) We should ask ourselves:
- Would the Lord give two different and conflicting practices for any Gospel ordinance?
- Should any eternal ordinance, principle, or doctrine by changed, substituted or rejected?
- Has the Lord ever revoked any of His laws except in the case of the unworthiness of the people?
- When there is a conflict in doctrinal teaching, does it mean that mankind can be saved or exalted based on different laws, principles, and ordinances?
- If one prophet is teaching vastly different from another, doesn’t it mean that one of them is wrong?
The answers should be obvious. The Lord does not send several different Gospel plans; neither does He send prophets that preach different doctrinal interpretations.
Early Church leaders continually emphasized the purity of the Gospel and its eternal principles, but at the same time they recognized the weaknesses of the people. For example, Brigham Young explained:
There is no clash in the principles revealed in the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants; and there would be no clash between any of the doctrines taught by Joseph the Prophet and by the brethren now, if all would live in a way to be governed by the Spirit of the Lord. All do not live so as to have the Spirit of the Lord with them all the time, and the result is that some get out of the way. (JD 5:329)
William Phelps also observed that “God and religion were, are, and always will be the same.” (Mess. & Adv., Mar. 1835, p. 81)
Thus, scripture and the prophets–dead or alive–should all agree with each other if under the influence of the Spirit of  the Lord. Even the living Church authorities should be in agreement with each other, as Brigham Young explained on the following two occasions:
Brother Heber [Kimball] alluded to counselling men and women who come to him after they had been to me, and said that they always received the same counsel I had given them. I never have known it to fail, that if they come to me and then go to Brother Heber, they will get the same counsel all the time. And so they would from every one of the Twelve, from the High Council, from the Seventies, and High Priests, and every officer in the Church, if every officer in the Church would take the course that Brother Heber, and I, and a few others do. What is that? Never to give counsel unless you have it to give. If you have counsel, give it because you can have no correct counsel except by the spirit of revelation; that is my standard. I have no counsel for a man, unless I have the testimony of Jesus on the subject. Then, when the same man asks counsel of me, and goes to Brother Heber, do you not see that if he acts on the same principle and gives counsel, it must be by the Spirit of revelation; or he has no counsel to give, if it is not by that Spirit. Then let the same man go to Brother Wells and ask his counsel on the same subject, without letting him know that he has been to Brigham or to Heber, and Brother Daniel will give the same counsel by the same Spirit. (JD 5:101)
Adam, Seth, Enoch, Noah, all the Patriarchs and Prophets, Jesus and the Apostles, and every man that has ever written the word of the Lord, have written the same doctrine on the same subject; and you never can find that Prophets and Apostles clashed in their doctrines in ancient days; neither will they now, if all would at all times be led by the spirit of salvation. (Discourses of B.Y., p. 209)
Bishop Heber Bennion clearly agreed with Brigham Young and explained further:
 We are told that the living oracles take precedence over all other authority, living or dead. We agree that the living oracles take precedence, provided they do not conflict with the dead oracles. If it is true that the living oracles take precedence over all others regardless of their disagreements with the dead prophets, then the Saints must necessarily change their faith every time there is a change in the presidency to conform to the views of the new president. The mention of such an attitude is so absurd as to border upon the ridiculous. (Gospel Problems, Bennion, p. 6)
If a dead prophet has been recognized as a true prophet and someone living disagrees with him, which one is the true prophet? But Ezra Taft Benson warned, “Beware of those who would pit the dead prophets against the living prophets, for the living prophets always take precedence.” (Tchgs. of E.T. Benson, p. 136) But it wouldn’t be difficult to pit a dead prophet against a living one if they both taught the same Gospel.
It is often taught within the LDS Church that the present prophets are more important than the dead ones, and if both are actually true prophets of God, this would be an accurate statement. This idea was discussed in the days of Joseph Smith, as related by Wilford Woodruff in 1897:
I will refer to a certain meeting I attended in the town of Kirtland in my early days. At that meeting some remarks were made that have been made here today, with regard to the living oracles and with regard to the written word of God. The same principle was presented . . . when a leading man in the Church got up and talked upon the subject, and said: “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 revelation 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.”
 When he concluded, Brother Joseph turned to Brother Brigham Young and said, “Brother Brigham, I want you to take the stand and tell us your views with regard to the living oracles and the written word of God.” Brother Brigham took the stand, and he took the Bible, and laid it down; he took the Book of Mormon, and laid it down; and he took the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and laid it down before him, and he said: “There is the written word of God to us, concerning the word of God from the beginning of the world, almost to our day.” “And now,” said he, “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.” That was the course he pursued. When he was through, Brother Joseph said to the congregation: “Brother Brigham has told you the word of the Lord, and he has told you the truth.” (Conf. Rept., Oct. 1897, pp. 22-23)
Of course, at that time the written word of God and the spoken word of the prophets were one and the same.
The reason for living prophets being more important than the dead ones is because they can help us with current circumstances and dangers. Orson Pratt explained:
It is equally clear that there are many duties which are limited in their nature, and only required of such as God may name or designate under existing circumstances. These general laws which are universal in their application, though revealed ever so often, are always the same; they are as unchangeable as the Great Law Giver in whom they originated; while those individual or circumstantial laws which are limited to the individuals for whom they are given, are changeable in their nature. (Orson Pratt’s Works, pp. 123-124)
 If you lived at the time of Noah, his message would be more important to you than all the previous prophets. Each prophet may have revelations concerning the circumstances of the time and serve as warnings of destruction, wars, or plagues. However, the Gospel principles would always be the same and there would be no conflict among the prophets.
Other often heard, but irritating and incorrect, statements repeated within the Church are, “What the early prophets said is no longer in force because they are dead!” and “That particular teaching was for their time, but what we as leaders say now is for our time.” By this same reasoning, does this mean that the scriptures (the words of dead prophets) are dead and buried, and not for our time? According to Orson F. Whitney:
What the Lord said to the Jews and Nephites, two thousand years ago, or what he said to the Latter-day Saints fifty or sixty years ago, has no force whatever at this time, unless it agrees with present-day revelation, with the Lord’s most recent instructions to his people through his chosen or appointed servants or servant; and they who ignore this fact are liable to get into trouble. It is the latest word from God that must be heeded, in preference to any former revelation, however true. (Conf. Rept., Oct. 1916, p. 56)
Does this mean that the teachings of Christ are of no force because He was crucified and buried? Does it mean that the living president of the Church can change doctrines, principles, laws, ordinances and even the order of heaven–because those who established them are dead? The following is an example of such teaching:
 I recall when President McKay announced to the Church that the First Council of Seventy were being ordained high priests in order to extend their usefulness and to give them authority to act when no other General Authority could be present. I went down to Phoenix, Arizona, and I found a Seventy who was very much disturbed. He said to me, “Didn’t the Prophet Joseph Smith say that this was contrary to the order of heaven to name high priests as president of the first Council of Seventy when they were named in the beginning?” and I said, “Well, I had understood that he did, but had you ever thought that what was contrary to the order of heaven in 1840 might not be contrary to the order of heaven in 1960?” You see, he had not thought of that. He again was following a dead prophet, and he was forgetting that there was a living prophet today. Hence the importance of our stressing that word “living”. . . . (Harold B. Lee, “The Place of the Living Prophet,” Follow the Living Prophets, Brent L. Top, Larry E. Dahl, and Walter D. Bowen, p. 205)
This revision in the ordination of Seventies was a change in the actual structure and organization of the Church! The Prophet Joseph Smith had said:
“The order of the house of God has been, and ever will be, the same; even after Christ comes; and after the termination of the thousand years it will be the same. . . . (TPJS, p. 91)
In recent years the General Authorities did away with the Seventies and the Church Patriarch. This certainly is not classified as a “circumstantial” revelation, but a change in the true order of the house of God.
We should never really consider past prophets as dead because to us they are not. In a revelation to Wilford Woodruff, the Lord said, “The eyes of the Lord and the Heavenly  Hosts are watching over you and your acts.” (Revelations, 1880-1890, p 65) That does not sound like they are dead, nor can they be very far away. According to Joseph Smith–
The spirits of the just are exalted to a greater and more glorious work: hence they are blessed in their departure to the world of spirits. Enveloped in flaming fire, they are not far from us, and know and understand our thoughts, feelings, and motions, and are often pained therewith. (TPJS, p. 326)
Nephi, quoting Isaiah, said, “should not a people seek unto their God for the living to hear from the dead?” (2 Nephi 18:19) This is certainly not impossible, for the whole restoration of the Gospel was based upon the “dead” who returned to bring about that restoration. (See D & C 110.) Many other early brethren concurred with this doctrine, such as:
Now this record is as if one spoke from the dead; it is the voice of the ancient dead prophets who once inhabited this great continent; it is the voice of the dead to the living, a warning voice, the everlasting Gospel in all its plainness and purity, speaking out of the ground, whispering out of the dust, just as this passage of scripture declares. (Orson Pratt, JD 17:285)
He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and of the ancient prophets. They live! They live not only in the words they spoke, the predictions they made, and in the promises handed down from generation to generation to the children of men; they live not only in the record they made, in the doctrines that they taught, and in the hope that they held out for redemption, atonement and salvation, but they live in spirit, in entity, as they lived here. (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p. 22)
I bear to you my testimony that Wilford Woodruff is a prophet of the Most High God. I know that he  speaks by revelation. He communes with Brigham Young, though Brigham Young, we say, is dead. Joseph, the great modern prophet since death, has communed with our venerable living leader. Thus are we led step by step through the inspiration that comes from God and His servants; hence the joy we have felt today and yesterday. The work of God is onward and upward. Joseph Smith the Prophet is not dead, but he lives, and Brigham Young is associated with him, Hyrum, Presidents Taylor, Kimball, Grant and others, with Apostle Hyde and Benson–with pioneers and prophets–Peter Maughan, Wm. Hyde and a score of other valiant ones who died in the cause and yet live, and pray for us before the throne of God. (Moses Thatcher, Coll. Disc. 2:317)
The question could be asked today, “Are the current Church leaders communing with the earlier ones, and speaking with the same voice, and teaching the same doctrines?
A while ago a stake president called a member into his office and, among other things, asked him about his loyalty to the leaders of the Church. The member replied that he believed that sometimes they contradicted the early leaders, the scriptures, and sometimes even the word of the Lord. The state president responded that he should always follow the present leaders of the Church. then he asked, “Who would you follow if the president of the Church said one thing and the Lord said something else?”
The member replied, “I think their views should be the same.”
“Answer the question!”
“I would follow the Lord.”
“No, you should follow the present leader of the Church,” he retorted.
 These situations, if not so serious, are almost humorous. Apparently some leaders feel that they have more to say about how the Church is operated than the Lord Himself. The Church of Jesus Christ today is not run by Jesus Christ, but by the present living leader of the Church.
Another example of this point of view was described 20 years ago by Elder William G. Bangerter, Assistant to the Twelve:
On an occasion, again many years ago, when I was called to be a stake president, Elder Mark E. Petersen of the Council of the Twelve interviewed me searchingly as to my worthiness to serve, and he persisted with one question: “Brother Bangerter, do you believe the gospel?”
I responded that I did insofar as I understood it.
He said, “No, I mean do you believe the gospel according to President Joseph Fielding Smith?” (The Ensign, May 1975, p. 39)
In other words, Elder Petersen is saying that there is a different Gospel with each Church president.
The differences between the living and dead prophets are certainly growing in both variety and intensity. Many members are brought into their bishop’s or stake president’s office, and one of the first questions asked is, “Do you support the present leaders of the Church without any reservation?” Temple recommends have been withheld, members put on probation, or even excommunicated simply because they had disagreed with current Church leaders. It seems as if more disciplinary action is taken because of differing opinions than because of sin.
Some bishops and stake presidents have been so bold as to say that if Brigham Young were alive today, and taught the  doctrines he did then, they would excommunicate him–and no doubt they would!
But blindly “following the brethren” can bring serious consequences, as the following World War II story illustrates:
A woman, even the mother of four small children, had been newly widowed. Her husband, young and handsome, whom she loved more than life itself, had been killed during the final days of the frightful battles in their homeland of East Prussia. She and her children were forced to flee to West Germany, a distance of a thousand miles. The weather was mild as they began their long and difficult trek on foot. Constantly being faced with dangers from panicky refugees and marauding troops was difficult enough, but then came the cold of winter, with its accompanying snow and ice. Her resources were meager; now they were gone. All she had was her strong faith in God and in the gospel as revealed to the latter-day prophet Joseph Smith.
And then one morning the unthinkable happened. She awakened with a chill in her heart. The tiny form of her three-year-old daughter was cold and still, and she realized that death had claimed her. With great effort the mother prepared a shallow grave and buried her precious child.
Death, however, was to be her companion again and again on the journey. Her seven-year-old perished, and then her five-year-old. Her despair was all-consuming. Finally, as she was reaching the end of her travel, The baby died in her arms. She had lost her husband and all her children. She had given up all her earthly goods, her home, and even her homeland. (Thomas Monson, Conf. Rept., Oct. 1994, pp. 88-89)
One cannot help but wonder if this family had followed the teachings of the early Church and had gathered to Zion with the body of the Saints before it was too late, if this terrible sacrifice could have been avoided. But they had obeyed  their current leaders who taught them to stay in their homeland. Joseph Smith had emphasized:
All that the prophets that have written . . . goes directly to show that it consists in the work of the gathering. (TPJS, p. 83)
One of the most important points in the faith of the Church of the Latter-day Saints . . . is the gathering of Israel. (TPJS, p. 92)
There is no other way for the Saints to be saved in these last days [than by the gathering, and] this gathering together of all the Saints must take place before the Lord comes to “take vengeance upon the ungodly.” (TPJS, p. 183)
Numerous other statements by the early leaders made it very plain that it was a commandment from the Lord. (See D & C 29:1-8; 33:6; 39:22; 45:71; 84:2; 110:11 133:7.)
During a financial depression in 1896, the Utah Church leaders suggested that the Saints in foreign lands remain there until the depression was over. But unfortunately, they never changed their instructions back to gathering to Zion, which resulted in the unnecessary misery and death of many Saints in World Wars I and II.
Just before World War II most of the Church leaders were still counselling the Saints to stay in those foreign countries. Joseph Fielding Smith said, “. . . our building of foreign temples is to encourage the saints to stay in their own countries.” (Des. News, Oct. 17, 1936) And Heber J. Grant instructed, “. . . we advise you to counsel the missionaries that the people who have fairly good positions in their homeland remain where they are. . . .” (Message of the 1st Pres. 5:269) And from Bruce R. McConkie: “We are becoming a world church. . . . every nation is the gathering place for its own people.” (Des. Church News, Sept. 2, 1972)
 Thus, the European Saints who were caught in World War II suffered the consequences of “following the brethren”. What is even worse–Mormons were killing other Mormons because they disobeyed the command of “dead” prophets to gather to Zion. This doctrine of gathering is only one of many that the leaders have changed during the years.
There have been a few recent leaders who have been aware of the fact that some of the new teachings conflict with those of the early prophets, and they have tried to warn the Saints. J. Reuben Clark observed:
I want to say to you brethren, and I am not professing any spirit of seership or prophecy, I am only going on the lessons which history has taught me, but I tell you we are beginning to follow along the course of the early Christian Church. So long as that church was persecuted from without, it prospered, but when it began to be polluted from within, the church began to wither.
There is creeping into our midst, and I warn you brethren about it, and I urge you to meet it, a great host of sectarian doctrines that have no place amongst us. The gospel in its simplicity is to be found in the revelations, the teachings of the prophet and the early leaders of the Church. We shall make no mistake if we follow them. . . .
. . . We must not “liberalize,” and I put that term in quotes, our teachings: we must accept them as God gave them to us and there must be amongst us a unity in faith. (Immortality and Eternal Life, Mel Prst. Course of Study, Gen. Prsthd. Mtg., April 8, 1950, vol. 1, p. 156)
Elder Bruce R. McConkie had an interesting solution to the problem:
Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q.  Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world. ( “All Are Alike Unto God,” BYU Speech, 1978; also recorded in Priesthood, under the title of “The New Revelation on Priesthood,” p. 132)
He is saying that the early leaders “spoke with a limited understanding and without the light”–that the Gospel was only partly restored, but now we have it in its fullness! But when he said “forget everything that . . . Brigham Young . . . has said in days past,” it is very offensive to many Saints, as it is the same as accusing him of teaching false doctrine that should be forgotten.
When today’s leaders speak so disparagingly of “dead prophets,” they are really labelling their teachings and doctrines as dead also. In effect, they are saying the past Gospel is different from today’s Gospel–that it can change with each new Church president. They have made the rod of iron into a rod of rubber that can be twisted and bent in any way they so desire.
In reality, however, the Lord does not change–men do. It has always been the case that, with the passage of time, fallible, weak, and insignificant mortal man thinks he can improve on the Gospel of God. But the Prophet Joseph said:
Now taking it for granted that the scriptures say what they mean, and mean what they say, we have sufficient grounds to go on and prove from the Bible that the gospel has always been the same; the ordinances to fulfill its requirements, the same, and the officers to officiate, the same; and the signs and fruits resulting from the promises, the same. . . (TPJS, p. 264)
 Therefore, is there not good reason to be alarmed when men try to make changes in the Gospel? Are we out of bounds by refusing to accept some new modernized versions of Gospel principles? Is it wrong to admonish men who make changes in the eternal principles of an everlasting and unchangeable Gospel?
If there is a conflict in the teachings of those who are dead with those who are living, it would be wise to make a very careful study into who was telling the truth rather than on who is still alive.
 Chapter 9
THE GIFT OF PROPHECY AND REVELATION
Now it was the custom among all the Nephites to appoint for their chief captains, . . . some one that had the spirit of revelation and also prophecy; . . . (3 Ne. 3:19)
If all the nations and churches selected leaders who had the gift of prophecy and revelation, what a great world it would be! The less revelation received, the more corrupt the world becomes. The Prophet Joseph Smith said:
. . . we can see that the doctrine of revelation far transcends the doctrine of no revelation; for one truth revealed from heaven is worth all the sectarian notions in existence. (TPJS, p. 338)
When a prophet says, “Thus saith the Lord,” people can have a great deal of trust and confidence in that prophet:
We never suffered ourselves to go into any important measure without asking Brother Joseph to inquire of the Lord in relation to it. Such was our confidence in him as a Prophet, that when he said, “Thus saith the Lord,” we were confident it would be as he said; and the more we tried it, the more confidence we had, for we never found his word to fail in a single instance. (Alexander McRae, Des. News, Nov. 1, 1854)
Joseph said, “Thus said the Lord” almost every day of his life in laying the foundation of this work. (Joseph F. Smith, JD 3:225)
In this regard, William McLellin related an interesting account of how Joseph Smith received revelations:
I [William McLellin], as scribe have written [D & C] revelations from the mouth of both the revelators, Joseph Smith and David Whitmer. and I have been present many times when others wrote for Joseph; therefore, I speak as one having experience. The scribe seats himself at a desk or table, with pen, ink, and paper. The subject of inquiry being understood, the Prophet and revelator inquires of God. He spiritually sees, hears, and feels, and then speaks as he is moved upon by the Holy Ghost, the “thus saith the Lord,” sentence after sentence, and waits for his amanuenses to write and then read aloud each sentence. Thus they proceed until the revelator says Amen, at the close of what is then communicated. I have known both those men mentioned above, to seat themselves, and without premeditation, to thus deliver in broken sentences, some of the most sublime pieces of composition which I ever perused in any book. (Ensign of Liberty 1, 1849, pp. 98-99)
The prophet Amos said, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7) This is another way of saying, “If we are not getting revelation, the Lord is doing nothing with us.”
So has revelation ceased? John A. Widtsoe explained the reason why revelation ceases to be given:
Revelation may be received in various ways, but it always presupposes that the revelator has so lived and conducted himself as to be in tune or harmony with the divine spirit of revelation, the spirit of truth, and therefore capable of receiving divine messages. (Evidences and Reconciliations, Widtsoe, p. 258)
 One of the primary means of disrupting communication with the Lord is to disbelieve the revelations which He has already given. Brigham Young said:
I told the people that if they would not believe the revelations that God had given, he would suffer the devil to give revelations that they–priests and people–would follow after.
Have I seen this fulfilled? I have. I told the people that as true as God lived, if they would not have truth, they would have error sent unto them, and they would believe it. (Des. News, June 18, 1873)
Prophets and revelators have had checkerboard appearances throughout the history of the world. There have been only a few prophets in comparison to the massive numbers of people, yet they have held the power to warn, guide or bring destruction upon the disobedient. The Bible is an excellent record of that mighty force.
The scholars of the Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible expressed the importance of continuous or “progressive revelation” in the following statement:
Realization of the principle of progressive revelation. The Bible is not simply a book of rules or of theological propositions. It sets forth the way in which God presented His truth to human beings. Little by little He revealed great and important truths as He led people into the understanding of what He desired them to know. The principle of progressive revelation needs to be recognized if Scripture is to be correctly interpreted. (Vol. 4:895)
These Biblical authors relate examples showing the need for continuous or “progressive revelations.” They are to–
- Rebuke persons, a people, or a nation for their sins.
- Warn of judgments or catastrophe.
- Encourage the people of God.
- Reveal further information about God and His creations.
- Give practical and helpful guidance.
- Serve as an answer to prayer.
- Appoint or recognize certain persons.
- Make preparations for the coming Messiah.
- Instruct with further light and knowledge of the Gospel.
- Provide prophetic powers as a blessing and comfort.
Until about 400 BC the prophetic movement was prominent in Israel. Time and again an individual came forward declaring the word of God, boldly facing political leaders, and denouncing them for their sins, giving encouragement to God’s people, or announcing God’s will as the next step to be taken. (Zondervan Enc. of the Bible 4:884)
Only a few years after the time of Christ, revelation to the church ceased. Not by strange coincidence, revelation also ceased to be given to the LDS Church shortly after the Restoration. When people refuse to believe in the revelations of the Lord, He refuses to give them any more.
There are many reasons for revelation to be given, but only one for it to cease. The Prophet Joseph explained:
Because faith is wanting, the fruits are. No man since the world was had faith without having something along with it. The ancients quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, women received their dead, etc. By faith the worlds were made. A man who has none of the gifts has no faith; and he deceives himself, if he supposes he has. (TPJS, p. 270)
 The Holy Ghost is one of the greatest gifts which God has given to man, yet it can easily be lost or forfeited. By not using such a gift, it will wither away like a muscle not used. The Holy Ghost is given for self-guidance, self-preservation and self-protection; but if we fail to use it or allow another to deter us from using it, we will lose the gift entirely.
Anciently revelation was vital to the ministry and operation of the church. Many Book of Mormon prophets spoke by the gift and power of revelation, i.e.:
. . . notwithstanding the many revelations and the many things which I had seen concerning these things, for I truly had heard the voice of the Lord speaking unto me in very word, from time to time. . . . (Jacob 7:5)
I have been called to preach the word of God among all this people, according to the spirit of revelation and prophecy . . . . (Alma 8:24)
Nephi and Lehi, and many of their brethren who knew concerning the true points of doctrine, having many revelations daily, therefore they did preach unto the people. . . . (Helaman 11:23)
And it came to pass that Nephi–having been visited by angels and also the voice of the Lord, therefore having seen angels, and being eye-witness, and having had power given unto him, . . . (3 Ne. 7:15)
Today we should beware of men who are led by their own learning and wisdom and who have disregarded the principle of revelation–assuming that whatever they decide must be inspired of the Holy Ghost. That is bad enough, but when other people begin to believe him, then it becomes a double transgression. When a leader assumes he is a revelator, and the  people also assume he is, then it becomes a fraud like the story of the emperor and his invisible new clothes. No one wants to admit the obvious truth for fear of being accused of being different or wicked or apostate. However, when some innocent soul discovers the truth and inquires, “Where are his clothes?” or “Where are the revelations?”, then the deception is exposed.
One of the prominent but dangerous doctrines of the LDS Church today is that our leaders will get all the revelations, and all we have to do is follow them. The Prophet Joseph Smith warned about such a thing, however, and stated:
The Israelites prayed that God would speak to Moses and not to them; in consequence of which he cursed them with a carnal law. (TPJS, p. 322)
In other words, the people wanted to by-pass their responsibility of getting revelation for themselves, as it was so much easier to leave it for the leaders. But, if God cursed the Israelites anciently for such an attitude, why wouldn’t He do the same with the Mormons now?
People love the “follow-the-brethren” syndrome because it is easy. Getting revelation for yourself requires effort, study, work–and worthiness! Since most people are mentally and spiritually lazy, following the brethren provides an excellent avenue of escape, relieving them from the burden of responsibility. Why do work when someone else can do it for us? However, if someone else does the work, they should get the reward.
We can never know what the prophets have known unless it is revealed to us. Bruce McConkie said:
All of the prophets who have seen within the veil have known many things that were never preserved  and passed on to their posterity and to the residue of men. Joseph Smith and the early brethren in this dispensation knew much that we do not know and will not know until we attain the same spiritual stature that was theirs. (Mortal Messiah, vol. 1, p. 32)
The Prophet Joseph gave the Saints (then and now) some very vital counsel pertaining to personal revelation:
Search the scriptures–search the revelations which we publish, and ask your Heavenly Father, in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, to manifest the truth unto you, and if you do it with an eye single to His glory, nothing doubting, He will answer you by the power of His Holy Spirit. You will then know for yourselves and not for another. You will not then be dependent on man for the knowledge of God; nor will there be any room for speculation. No; for when men receive their instruction from Him that made them, they know how He will save them. (TPJS, pp. 11-12)
Joseph began his statement with the exhortation for the Saints to “search the scriptures” and to pray for God “to manifest the truth unto you.” Scripture plays a vital role in our instruction, and should certainly not be considered as the work of “dead prophets.” Joseph went on to say:
I hope you will search the Scriptures to see whether these things are not also consistent with those things which the ancient Prophets and Apostles have written. (TPJS, p. 29)
The revelations are consistent in all ages. President Joseph Fielding Smith wisely said: “If I ever say anything which is contrary to the scriptures, then the scriptures prevail.” (Church News, Aug. 23, 1975)
 When Peter wrote, “. . . no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20), the Catholics and many Mormons said it means the church must interpret the scriptures for the people. The next verse, however, helps us understand what Peter meant: “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (v. 21) In other words, the prophecies in the scriptures did not come by the will of man, but through revelations of the Holy Ghost. The Lord further clarified:
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 68:4)
The problem is knowing when a person truly speaks or writes by the power of the Holy Ghost. Elder J. Reuben Clark explained: “We can tell when the speakers are `moved upon by the Holy Ghost’, only when we, ourselves, are `moved upon by the Holy Ghost.'” (Church News, July 31, 1954, p. 9)
The early Christian church suffered when the wisdom of man supplanted revelation. As revelation decreased, man’s learning and power increased. A mountain stream is most pure and clear at its source, but by the time it reaches the Mississippi River, the waters are polluted and unfit to drink. As a church grows, its purity decreases.
The early Christian church followed the same pattern. Before the sixth century Christianity had become a mongrelized system of religious truths incorporated with worldly riches and customs and philosophies of men. Church leaders had made such significant changes, that scripture and  the course of the church were so different, they could scarcely be recognized as coming from the same source of light. As a case in point, Reverend Wylie described:
An Archbishop of Mainz, lighting upon a Bible and looking into it, expressed himself thus: `Of a truth I do not know what book this is, but I perceive everything in it is against us.'” (Hist. of Protestantism 1:5)
When revelation was no longer present in the early Christian church, the leaders tried to keep the scriptures away from the members, or at least discouraged the reading of them. Emphasis was placed on the need to follow only the leading brethren of the church.
There are certain similarities to this condition in our present LDS Church, as many of the early writings become more and more inaccessible and are labeled as incorrect by the current leaders.
Generally speaking, there are two major areas of revelation from the Lord. Apostle C. W. Penrose explained:
The man standing at the head holds the keys of revelation to the Church; but each individual may receive revelation for himself, if he has the gift of the Holy Ghost. And the Spirit by which God reveals through the head, is the same spirit by which He reveals to the individual for his own benefit. (JD 23:355)
Thus, the two classes or divisions of revelation from God are– (1) to individuals for their personal benefit; and (2) to Church leaders for the benefit of the Church in general.
The Prophet Joseph explained how important individual revelation is:
And we shall at last have to come to this conclusion, whatever we may think of revelation, that without it we can neither know nor understand anything of God, or the devil; and however unwilling the world may be to acknowledge this principle, it is evident from the mutifarious creeds and notions concerning this matter that they understand nothing of this principle, and it is equally as plain that without a divine communication they must remain in ignorance. (TPJS, pp. 205-206)
Reading the experience of others, or the revelation given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation to God. (TPJS, p. 324)
. . . we never can comprehend the things of God and of heaven, but by revelation. We may spiritualize and express opinions to all eternity; but that is no authority. (TPJS, p. 292)
Two of the great church fathers, Origen (185-253 A.D.) and Augustine (353-430 A.D.), spoke of the principle of revelation and spiritual gifts as proof for the divine origin of Christianity. Origen showed how the Jews were–
“. . . entirely abandoned by God . . . and they no longer possessed” spiritual gifts so that “not the slightest indication of divinity was to be had among them. For they no longer have prophets and wonders, of which some traces may still be found among the Christians.” (Contra Celsum II, p. 8)
He is not only showing the departure of God from the Jews, but also that only “some traces” of these spiritual gifts remained “among the Christians.” This was less than 200 years from the ministry of Christ, and should be of some concern to the present-day Mormons as there exists only “some traces” of those gifts today.
 Just as the true church of Christ prided themselves in revelation as evidence of their favor with the Lord, so the absence of revelation proved their apostasy.
When human wisdom and learning began to replace revelations from God, changes were made in the ordinances, and some of the offices were eliminated. Temporal power supplanted spiritual power. The poor were excluded from church positions and were replaced by the wealthy. The spiritual church became a business, and humble, prophetic men were replaced with professionals. Ecclesiastical laws were substituted with worldly laws. Pride and arrogance became more common than humility and spirituality, and members were threatened if they did not pledge allegiance to the leaders and their authority.
Yet as each alteration and substitution took place, it was claimed to be done by “revelation”. So cunning and shrewd were these perversions of the Gospel, that the people didn’t even know it was wrong–and many still don’t.
To help us solve our problems, Jesus counselled: “Ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.” (Matt. 7:7) He is saying that God–not the Bishop nor even the Church President –will provide the answers.
The Lord clearly outlined some excellent reasons why we should get revelation directly from Him, many of which are listed in the first section of the Doctrine and Covenants:
- That the weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones.
- That man should not counsel his fellow man.
- That man should not trust in the arm of flesh.
- That every man might speak in the name of God.
- That faith also might increase.
- That God’s everlasting covenant might be established.
- That the fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple.
- That these commandments could be given unto His servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to an understanding.
- Inasmuch as they erred, it might be made known.
- Inasmuch as they sought wisdom, they might be instructed.
- Inasmuch as they sinned, they might be chastened, that they might repent.
- Inasmuch as they were humble, they might be made strong and blessed from on high.
- That they might receive knowledge from time to time.
- I the Lord am willing to make these things known unto all flesh.
- That the prophecies and promises shall all be fulfilled.
- That the Lord shall have power over his saints.
(See Doc. & Cove. 1:18-37.)
The gifts of God cannot be conveyed or given by one man to another–nor can they be received simply by asking. Ordinations do not give them, and they cannot be obtained in a school or by holding some church office. They are God’s gifts to men, and He gives them when, where, and to whom He so chooses.
Regarding the Church president receiving revelation for the governing of the Church–when Church authorities govern you, it is only pertaining to work in the Church and not to you individually. In fact, an individual should know by personal revelation if his leaders are doing their job. Revelation is a serious obligation for all Saints. George Teasdale expressed it well:
Now, if we desire to be saved, we must appeal to our Father. This is individual salvation, and every individual has the right to appeal to heaven, has the right to the revelations of the Father, that he may not be led astray, nor be the victim of priestcraft, but that he may obtain that light and intelligence which is promised unto all. (Coll. Dis., Stuy, vol. 3, Mar, 19, 1893)
One of the factors for failure of the early Christian church was the people’s dependence on their own wisdom and mutual agreement rather than God’s revelations. This began to manifest itself in the latter days also, according to Elder Howard W. Hunter:
“Any major questions, policies, programs or doctrines are prayerfully considered in council by the counselors in the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles,” Hunter said. “No decision emanates from the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve without total unanimity among all concerned.” (S. L. Tribune, Oct. 2, 1994)
It has even been disclosed recently that the President of the Church is not chosen by revelation. Joseph Fielding Smith admitted:
There is no mystery about the choosing of the successor to the President of the Church. The Lord settled this a long time ago, and the senior apostle automatically becomes the presiding officer of the Church, and he is so sustained by the Council of the Twelve which becomes the presiding body of the Church when there is no First Presidency. (Doc. of Sal. 3:156)
The same author did write, however, that there could be a time when a revelation would be received:
The fact is that the senior apostle automatically becomes the presiding officer of the Church on the death of the President. If some other man were to be chosen, then the senior would have to receive the revelation setting himself aside. (Ch. Hist. & Mod. Rev., J. Fldg. Smith, 1:172-73)
So, according to Joseph Fielding Smith, the only time the Lord reveals His choice as to the Church President is when He tells the senior apostle he is not chosen. So, ironically, only those who are not called, receive a revelation! But this doesn’t make much sense. If that senior member was unworthy of being selected as president, then how could he be worthy of receiving a revelation? Or, if he was unworthy, would he be honest enough to tell the others that he was unworthy? Besides that, an unworthy person is usually the person who thinks he is worthy.
First counselor, N. Eldon Tanner, explained how Spencer W. Kimball was called to be president:
Dressed in the robes of the holy priesthood, we held a prayer circle; President Kimball asked me to conduct it and Elder Thomas S. Monson to offer the prayer. Following this, President Kimball explained the purpose of the meeting and called on each member of the quorum in order of seniority, starting with Elder Ezra Taft Benson, to express his feelings as to whether the First Presidency should be organized that day or whether we should carry on as the Council of the Twelve. Each said, “We should organize now,” and many complimentary things were spoken about President Kimball and his work with the Twelve.
Then Elder Ezra Taft Benson nominated Spencer W. Kimball to be the President of the Church. This was seconded by Elder Mark E. Petersen and unanimously approved. (Conf. Rept., Oct. 1979, p. 63)
 Article 5 of our Articles of Faith clearly states that, “We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy….” and revelation–not by “nomination,” “approval,” “vote,” and “seniority.”
The majority of active members believes the LDS Church is being run by constant revelation. However, if such an important process as choosing the president of the Church is done by nominations, seniority and voting, then we should wonder how other Church affairs are being conducted and administered. Most members today believe that Church leadership cannot err, but Brigham Young disputed that:
The first presidency have of right a great influence over this people; and if we should get out of the way and lead this people to destruction, what a pity it would be! (JD 6:100)
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. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whisperings of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. (JD 9:150)
According to the established order of the senior apostle becoming Church President, if the Lord should want someone else, He would have to take the lives of all the older apostles to reach the one He wants. In reality, the Lord should dictate His preference by revelation. He may not even want one of the Apostles as president–not because they are incapable, but  perhaps He is satisfied with their work as missionaries. God chose the shepherd boy, David, to save Israel, and He might want to make a similar choice today rather than a senior apostle.
Since the proper order for selection should be by a revelation from God, who should receive this divine communication? It should come through the father of the Church–the patriarch, not by the Quorum of Apostles making a unanimous vote of their own selection and approval. The duties of the Apostles, as “traveling councilors . . . in all the world”, are (1) “to officiate in the name of the Lord,” (2).”to build up the Church,” and (3).”to regulate all the affairs of the same in all nations” (D & C 107: 23 & 33) — not in the stakes of Zion. Joseph made it very clear when he said: “The Twelve will have no right to go into Zion, or any of the stakes, and there undertake to regulate the affairs thereof. . .” (TPJS, p. 74)
Although it is often admitted that apostles have nothing to do with governing the affairs in the stakes of Zion, this has not always been the case. For example, Elder Mark E. Petersen spent much of his time going through the stakes directing the excommunications of numerous members.
Since the Apostles are acting in the affairs of the stakes and determining the selection of the Presidency of the Church, this means they are not following the Lord’s counsel–so why should He give them any further revelation when they haven’t complied with what has already been given?
If the Apostles are making the selection of Church presidents, it is similar to a woman getting revelation to govern her husband. Such a revelation makes it questionable and suspect, regardless of how clear, beautiful and reasonable it may be. Furthermore, when the Apostles released the Church Patriarch from his duties, it was like several wives  putting away their husband as head of the house. Revelation from God to the Church does not continue when proper order is not followed.
When President Joseph F. Smith gave his deposition before the Senate Hearings in 1904, he admitted that revelation had ceased among Church leadership:
Senator Hoar. . . .I would like to ask one question which is flatly curiosity, for this is a most interesting matter. Did I understand you correctly that there has been no revelation since this revelation of Woodruff’s for the general government of the church?
Mr. Worthington. He said there have been none for twenty-one years except that. That is the only one in twenty-one years.
Senator Hoar. Then there has been none since, so that you have received no revelation yourself?
Mr. Smith. No, sir. * * *
Senator Dubois. Have you received any revelation from God, which has been submitted by you and the apostles to the body of the church in their semiannual conference, which revelation has been sustained by that conference through the upholding of their hands?
Mr. Smith. Since when?
Senator Dubois. Since you became president of the church.
Mr. Smith. No, sir; none whatever. * * *
Senator Dubois. Have you received any individual revelations yourself, since you became president of the church, under your own definition, even, of a revelation?
Mr. Smith. I cannot say that I have.
Senator Dubois. Can you say that you have not?
Mr. Smith. No; I cannot say that I have not.
Senator Dubois. Then you do not know whether  you have received any such revelation as you have described, or whether you have not?
Mr. Smith. Well, I can say this: That if I live as I should in the line of my duties, I am susceptible, I think, of the impressions of the spirit of the Lord upon my mind at any time, just as any good Methodist or any other good church member might be. And so far as that is concerned, I say yes; I have had impressions of the Spirit upon my mind very frequently, but they are not in the sense revelations. (Smoot Hearings 1:314; 483-84)
This is an amazing confession! For over 100 years the Saints have gone to conference and have never heard a prophecy or a “Thus saith the Lord” revelation. With all the earth-shaking events, troubles and perils that have transpired, where was a prophecy or revelation warning the Saints about them? With all the changes that have been made in Church doctrine and ordinances, where are the revelations upon which they were based? Doesn’t it seem strange that for over a century 15 men have been continuously sustained as “prophets, seers, and revelators,” but yet they have never published a prophecy or revelation?
If men do not have the gift of prophecy and revelation, how important is it to “follow” them? If they have only “impressions of the spirit just as any good Methodist” does, then there is no more reason to follow them than to follow any good Methodist!
Joseph Fielding Smith rationalized that “impressions on the soul” are greater than visions or seeing the Savior:
The question frequently arises: “Is it necessary for a member of the Council of the Twelve to see the Savior in order to be an apostle?” It is their privilege to see him if occasion requires, but the Lord has taught that there is a stronger witness than seeing a person-age, even of seeing the Son of God in a vision. Impressions on the soul that come from the Holy Ghost are far more significant than a vision. (Imp. Era, Nov. 1966, p. 979)
But compare this with Oliver Cowdery’s instructions to the first Twelve Apostles in this dispensation (February 1835):
Never cease striving until you have seen God face to face. Strengthen your faith; cast off your doubts, your sins, and all your unbelief; and nothing can prevent you from coming to God. Your ordination is not full and complete till God has laid His hand upon you. We require as much to qualify us as did those who have gone before us; God is the same. If the Savior in former days laid His hands upon His disciples, why not in latter days? (DHC 2:195-96)
Hugh B. Brown, a member of the First Presidency for several years, explained how “revelation” is currently received:
Hugh B. Brown, a high-ranking member of the Mormon hierarchy for 22 years up to his death in 1975, says in just-published memoirs that many church decisions called “revelations” were actually decisions first “thrashed out” thoroughly by the top authorities. * * *
“[An idea] is submitted to the first Presidency and Twelve, thrashed out, discussed and rediscussed until it seems right. Then, kneeling together in a circle in the temple, they seek divine guidance and the president says, `I feel to say this is the will of the Lord.’ That becomes a revelation. It is usually not thought necessary to publish or proclaim it as such, but this is the way it happens.” * * *
Most Mormons are unaware of such a complex procedure, said Mormon historian Michael Quinn in an interview. Or, if they are aware of it, they are uncomfortable with the notion in light of the appearance of unanimity and divine inspiration when decisions are announced. (S. L. Tribune, Dec. 4, 1988)
 Ancient prophets never had to “thrash out, discuss, and rediscuss” an idea “until it seems right” and then assume “that becomes a revelation.” President Brown was indeed correct in stating that their “revelations were actually decisions,” by the authorities today.
Of note is the fact that shortly before the turn of the century, many revelations were given to leaders of the Church, and were even written down, but they were seldom published, and widely circulated among the members. There were over a dozen “Thus saith the Lord” revelations given between 1880 and 1890, but they were never printed in the English editions of the Doctrine and Covenants. They appeared in many journals, lesson books, and official messages of the First Presidency, and some were printed in foreign D & C editions, but none in the English.
Since the turn of the century, two “official declarations” have been added to the D & C and have been called “revelations”, but no clear “Thus saith the Lord” revelations have appeared in the last century. Isn’t it interesting that these 1880’s “Thus saith the Lord” revelations were considered by Church authorities as inconsequential, but yet they accepted and published some “official declarations” as genuine revelations from the Lord!
The Lord has never given a revelation, anciently or currently, that began as an “Official Declaration” or “To Whom It May Concern.” There is no such thing in the Bible or Book of Mormon. According to the Prophet Joseph Smith–
If anything should have been suggested by us, or any names mentioned, except by commandment, or thus saith the Lord, we do not consider it binding. (TPJS. p. 136)
 One must conclude, then–if there have been any “Thus Saith the Lord” revelations, “Where are they?” If there aren’t any, then we should not consider anything else “binding.”
Dr. Hugh Nibley defined the proper order for receiving revelation when he was teaching a text from the book of Mosiah. There is a time to ask and to receive revelation and a time not to, he explained.
They had many prophets, you notice. Verse 3: “My sons, I would that ye should remember that were it not for these plates, which contain these records and these commandments, we must have suffered in ignorance.” This is in spite of the fact that they had many prophets. Don’t get the idea that because we have a prophet, we don’t have to pay much attention to the scriptures. There’s this idea that we have a living prophet to answer all our questions and solve all our problems for us–nothing could be more absurd than that. Here he says, “Were it not for these plates . . . we must have suffered in ignorance, even at this present time, not knowing the mysteries of God.” Well, don’t prophets reveal mysteries of God? The Lord told Joseph Smith, if I’ve told you a thing once, I won’t tell you again; if it’s in the scriptures, don’t ask me about it. You look it up yourself; I’m not going to repeat these things. If we don’t take advantage of the revelations we have, we are not going to have more. If the heavens have been silent, there is a good reason for it. (Teachings of the Book of Mormon, Nibley, Semester 1, 1989-90, Lecture 27, p. 438)
Let’s itemize some of Dr. Nibley’s important points:
- If we don’t pay attention to the scriptures, we will suffer ignorance in spiritual things.
- A prophet does not supersede our study of the scriptures.
- A prophet cannot answer all our questions or solve all our problems.
- Many mysteries are explained in the scriptures.
- When the Lord has revealed something to us, we should not continue asking Him about it.
- The things revealed in the scriptures need not be revealed again.
- If we neglect the scriptures, we will lose contact with the Lord for any more revelations.
- If we are not receiving revelations now, it’s because we have failed to obey revelations already given.
Spiritual gifts characteristic of both the early Christian church and the Restoration were very similar and very abundant. Gradually, however, they dwindled away in both dispensations. Prophecy was considered one of the most important, if not the most distinguishing gift–marking divine approval of the church and His people. Dr. Hugh Nibley noted this and elaborated:
A most remarkable witness to the cessation of heavenly gifts in the church, and especially of prophecy, was the celebrated Tertullian (circa 160 – 230 AD), the first and in many ways the greatest of the Latin Fathers. He seems to have been a convert–joining the church at about the age of forty in Carthage [No. Africa]–and was one of the greatest lawyers of his day. Tertullian was not a man to be fooled; he wanted to know things for himself, and he made himself the foremost authority on the nature and institutions of the original Christian church. Like Clement and Justin Martyr before him, he was predisposed by long and laborious study in the schools of the pagans to recognize and appreciate those special characteristics of the Christian teaching which set it off sharply from all other doctrines.
He knew, as they knew, that philosophers, administrators, journalists, scholars, orators, and teachers,  if not quite a dime a dozen, can be trained up in any desired numbers. But not so with prophets! The gift of prophecy was for Tertullian the strongest recommendation of the divinity of the Christian church, and it was only when painful experience had convinced him beyond a doubt that the main church no longer possessed that gift, that he did an amazing thing: Tertullian, commonly called the Puritan of the early church, the man who placed zeal for salvation above all other considerations and who showed by word and deed that no sacrifice was too great provided only he gain that salvation–Tertullian left the church! In doing so he did not change his mind about the gospel. What he did was to join the Montanists, a strictly orthodox sect which differed from the main church in one important thing: They preached that the gift of prophecy must be found in the church if it is the true church. That was what Tertullian was after.
At the time of his going over he wrote a remarkable work in which he accused the main church of having supplanted the authority of revelation by the authority of office and numbers. Because they have the teaching (doctrinam) of the Apostles, he reminds the clergy, it does not follow that they have their authority (postestatem). All men are governed by discipline, but power comes only from God by the Spirit. The Apostles worked not by the formal operation of discipline but by direct power from God. “Show me therefore, you who would be apostolic, some prophetic examples, and I will acknowledge the divinity of your calling.” It is true, they have ministerium, an official calling, but that is not imperium, the actual possession of power. The spiritual power of the church is that exercised only by apostles and prophets, for “the Church is the spirit working through an inspired man; the Church is not a number of bishops. The final decision remains with the Lord, never with the servant; it belongs to God alone, not to any priest.” (The World and the Prophets, Nibley, pp. 246-248)
 Today we have a multitude of men claiming to be prophets and revelators, but there is no evidence of the gift of prophecy. When people have spiritual gifts of revelation, prophecy, seership, and miracles, it is a demonstration that God is with them. What, then, does it mean when they do not have those gifts? The Prophet Joseph said:
Because faith is wanting, the fruits are. No man since the world was had faith without having something along with it. . . . A man who has none of the gifts has no faith; and he deceives himself, if he supposes he has. (TPJS, p. 270)
A man might not have any office in the Church, yet possess the gift of prophecy. Likewise, the ordination of a man as a prophet, seer, and revelator does not make him one nor automatically give him the gifts of prophecy, seership, and revelation. When those gifts and powers are lost, much more is lost with it, as Joseph F. Smith explained:
If the time or condition should ever come to pass that a man, possessing human weaknesses, shall lead the Church, woe be to the Church; for it will then became like the churches of the world, man-made and man-led, and have no power of God or of life eternal and salvation connected with it; only the wisdom, the judgment and intelligence of man. (Gospel Doctrine, p. 138)
How many spiritual gifts must be absent from the Church before we recognize that God is no longer with us? The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “The gift of tongues is the smallest gift perhaps of the whole. . . .” (TPJS, p. 246), and yet how many Saints today have heard the gift of tongues? If we do not enjoy the “smallest gift” among us, does the Church have any “power of God or of life eternal and salvation?”
Now, reader, you need present revelation from God to your own dear self, in order to help you out of this nasty, confused labyrinth, and to set your feet firmly upon the solid rock of revelation. Mere flesh and blood cannot help you now. It requires an Almighty arm to effect your deliverance. Therefore, put no more trust in man, for a curse rests upon him that will be guided by the precepts of man. * * * You also must know it for yourself, and not for another. (1853 editorial, Mill. Star 15:276)
To summarize this chapter, we should recognize that today presents a new form of test to the Saints. Formerly the members suffered from mobs, persecution, Indian trouble, famine, crickets, U.S. troops, obnoxious laws, and public hatred. No longer are such troubles inflicting the Saints, but the testing continues on another front. Personal revelation is the only safeguard for salvation. We are told that deceptions will be so severe that almost the very elect will be deceived. Furthermore, we have been warned that “God will send them strong delusions.”
The spirit of revelation comes like a radio signal: if we are not in tune to that spirit, we fail to get revelation from the Lord. Even some of the best people can pick up the wrong station and get the wrong signal. In other words, a high-tech $1,000 radio can miss the right signal by a small degree, but a $5.00 radio might pick it up if it is tuned in correctly.
Today there are many signals and many revelations–but only one station originates from the Holy Ghost and the Lord. Revelation from God is more critical now than it ever has been.
 Chapter 10
CAN LEADERS LEAD ASTRAY?
You cannot lead a person astray unless that person is willing to be led astray. (Heber C. Kimball, JD 12:189)
During a seven-mile cross-country race in Malaysia, the lead runner took a wrong turn, and all the other racers followed him–running about ten miles before the race officials found them. We think how stupid the racers were to follow the lead runner so blindly! But many times in our earthly experience, we play “Follow the Leader” because it’s too difficult to make the effort to learn if the leader is actually heading in the right direction. Occasionally someone will come along who stops long enough to study out where that front man, or men, are leading. The Savior could be considered in this category.
There was a full fledged race going when He came upon the scene. All the runners were following the leaders. They were pushing with all they had to keep up, to be abreast, racing with the crowd. The leaders had always run their path, and they never questioned its authenticity. They simply took for granted that the runner in front was going the right way.
Then He came into the race. He saw where those who were supposed to be leading the race were headed, and He knew that that was not the path that the Judge had set for the race. So He stopped, took note of the roads, and headed off in another direction. Since he was the Leader in this new direction, the leaders that  were going in the other direction became very angry that He should do such a thing. Why didn’t He follow them like all the other runners? Of course, the only thing to do was to belittle Him, and eventually get rid of Him. He could prove dangerous to the course they were leading!
Somehow, this same idea of following the leader that prevailed back then is still around today. (“American Family Association” newsletter, Dr. Donald E. Wildmon, Pres., Tupelo, MS)
For over a century various LDS Church leaders have declared that the Lord would not allow them to lead anyone astray. Why is that? Are the Saints too righteous? Are the leaders infallible? Or are their leadership positions too sacredly protected? Is it possible that those in leadership positions are put into a spiritual isolation bowl where they are protected from temptation, unrighteous desires, or apostasy? Brigham Young apparently didn’t think any of these questions could be answered in the affirmative, for he commented:
How often has it been taught that if you depend entirely upon the voice, judgment, and sagacity of those appointed to lead you, and neglect to enjoy the Spirit for yourselves, how easily you may be led into error, and finally be cast off to the left hand? (JD 8:59)
And what is the fate of those who lead others astray? The scriptures say, “Whoso causeth the righteous to go astray in an evil way, he shall fall himself into his own pit. . . .” (Prov. 28:10)
Joseph Smith himself was warned by the Lord: “. . . remember the promises which were made to you, if you did not transgress them.” (D & C 3:5) But even the Prophet Joseph had his weaknesses and the Lord reminded him:
- “How oft you have transgressed the commandments and the laws of God.”
- “. . . have gone on in the persuasions of men.”
- “You should not have feared man more than God.”
- “Men set at naught the counsels of God, and despise his words–yet you should have been faithful.”
- “Thou was chosen to do the work of the Lord, but because of transgression, if thou art not aware thou wilt fall.” (D & C 3:6-9)
What? Joseph Smith–the man who saw and talked with the Father and the Son–might “fall”? If he could fall, then how much more we need to be concerned about every subsequent president and apostle of the Church!
Immediately after the 1890 Manifesto, a doctrine called “the leaders cannot lead you astray” was instigated. It was obvious that many people questioned Wilford Woodruff’s issuing the Manifesto, so to defend himself, he began to teach that doctrine by virtue of his position as President of the Church. Lorenzo Snow supported that idea when he presented the motion of accepting the Manifesto to the Church membership in that General Conference:
I move that, recognizing Wilford Woodruff as the President of the Church, . . . authorized by virtue of his position to issue the Manifesto. . . . (D & C, p. 292, 1981 ed.)
The Manifesto was signed September 24, 1890, and within three weeks Pres. Woodruff said, “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray.” (Des. News, Oct. 11, 1890, p. 2)
 In 1978 this doctrine was again emphasized with the presentation of the next “Official Declaration”. A “constituent assembly”–meaning all the leaders of the Church–signed a statement saying they were “recognizing Spencer W. Kimball as the prophet, seer, and revelator, and president of the Church. . .” to ordain the priesthood “without regard to race or color.” (D & C, p. 294)
Neither of these “Official Declarations” were accompanied by a “Thus Saith the Lord” revelation. Both were issued out of fear of and pressure from the Federal Government. Explaining why he issued that “Declaration” three years later, Woodruff said, “I knew something had to be done to ward off the blow that I saw impending.” (quoted in Way of the Master, Mark E. Petersen, p. 50)
President Woodruff said that not a hand was raised against the Manifesto, but at another time he admitted “there are many members of the Church throughout Zion who are sorely tried in their hearts because of that Manifesto,” and again, “I have heard of many who are tried in these things.” (Des. News, Nov. 7, 1891)
Once again, in 1978, there were many who were tried in their hearts because of the Church’s compliance with political “civil rights” programs and pressures.
Both “Official Declarations” (nearly 100 years apart) were issued as compromises with the Federal Government. But the politics of government has no place in religious issues; nor does the Church have any responsibility in adopting federal politics. Both have become corrupting influences.
To justify Church leaders’ actions, the expression that “the leaders can never lead the people astray” has become very  common during the last century. It sounds as though they were not sure of the direction they were going and needed to support each other. At the risk of “overkill,” consider the following 25 selections proving this amazing phenomenon within the Church:
Let us make up our minds to serve and honor God. do not have any fears concerning the kingdom; the Lord will lead that aright; and if Brother Woodruff or any of the Presidency of this Church should take any course to lead you astray, the Lord will remove us out of the way. (Wilford Woodruff, 1889, Coll. Disc. 1:294)
It is my faith that the Lord will never permit any man upon whose shoulders He places the authority and power to lead Israel, to go astray, or to lead the children of God from the path of duty. The Lord would remove such a man from his place. (Wilford Woodruff, 1890, Coll. Disc. 2:82)
I say to Israel, the Lord will never permit me nor any other man who stands as the President of this Church, to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty. God bless you. Amen. (Wilford Woodruff, 1890, Coll. Disc. 2:137)
When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan, it is God’s plan. (Ward Teaching Lesson, June 1945)
The authorities which the Lord has placed in his Church constitute for the people of the Church a harbor, a place of refuge, a hitching post, as it were. No one in this Church will ever go far astray who ties himself securely to the Church Authorities whom the Lord has placed in his Church. This Church will never go astray; the Quorum of the Twelve will never lead you  into bypaths; it never has and never will. (Spencer W. Kimball, Conf. Rept., Apr. 1951, p. 104)
Neither the President of the Church, nor the First Presidency . . . will ever lead the Saints astray. . . . (L. Aldin Porter, Conf. Rept., Apr. 1955, p. 94)
I say to all Israel at this day, I say to the whole world, that the God of Israel, who organized this Church and kingdom, never ordained any President or Presidency to lead it astray. Hear it, ye Israel, no man who has ever breathed the breath of life can hold these keys of the kingdom of god and lead the people astray. (Bruce R. McConkie, Conf. Rept., Oct. 1958, p. 117)
Now . . . if we will keep these things in mind, we shall not be deceived by false teachings. I remember years ago when I was a bishop, I had President [Heber J.] Grant talk to our ward. . . . 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.” (Marion G. Romney quoting Heber J. Grant, Conf. Rept., Oct. 1960, p. 78)
. . . the Lord will never let his prophet, the seer, lead his people astray. Men in all ranks on this earth and in the Church have fallen from grace, but the Lord will never permit the great prophet, our seer, and revelator, to fall or to lead the people astray. (Theodore M. Burton, Conf. Rept., Oct. 1961, p. 122)
Keep your eye on the Prophet, for the Lord will never permit his Prophet to lead this Church astray. (Ezra Taft Benson, Conf. Rept., Oct. 1966, p. 123)
This does not imply the infallibility of man, but it does imply the promise that no man or council of men who stand at the head of the Church shall have power  to lead the Saints astray. (John Longden, Conf. Rept., Apr. 1967, p. 128)
The path of safety for the Saints always has been in following their President. We are divinely promised that the President will never lead the Church astray. (Mark E. Petersen, The Way to Peace, p. 285)
Other presidents before him [Jos. Fldg. Smith] also have said that if we follow the leadership of the first Presidency, we shall never go astray nor apostatize from the truth.” (Mark E. Petersen, The Salt and the Savor, p. 29)
We have a living prophet who receives revelation from God in this day to guide us in this fast moving world. Always follow the leadership of the First Presidency and the Brethren, and you need not fear the decisions of today. (John H. Vandenberg, Era, June 1970, p. 59)
There is one thing which we should have exceedingly clear in our minds. Neither the President of the Church, nor the First Presidency, nor the united voice of the First Presidency and the Twelve will ever lead the Saints astray or send forth counsel to the world that is contrary to the mind and will of the Lord. (Joseph Fldg. Smith, Conf. Rept., Apr. 1972, p. 99)
Members of the Church are taught that “. . . it behooves us, as Latter-day Saints, to put our trust in the presiding authorities of the Church.” (Joseph Fldg. Smith, Doc. of Sal., p. 243)
Do the people of the Church want a safe guide to what is well for them to do? It is this: Keep in harmony with the Presidency of this Church. (Joseph F. Merrill, 1941, Ensign, Oct. 1972, p. 6)
The Saints are now told that they “. . . should follow the men who they sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators, for they will lead no one astray.” (Church News, Mar. 17, 1973)
 With warnings and safeguards such as the Lord provides, need anyone be deceived? If we follow the president of the Church, we need never go astray. (Church News, Aug. 17, 1974)
President N. Eldon Tanner said, “Follow him [the prophet] and you cannot go astray.” (“Things We Should Do,” in Speeches of the Year, 1976, p. 458)
Fourth: The prophet will never lead the Church astray. (Ezra Taft Benson, “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophets,” Feb. 26, 1980)
We also have the precious promises concerning the President of the Church–that he will never lead the people astray. (Neal A. Maxwell, All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience, p. 102)
I cannot imagine a body of men less likely to go astray or to lead anyone else astray than the present leaders of the Church. (Hugh Nibley, “Criticizing the Brethren,” Sunstone, Aug. 26, 1989, p. 24)
Follow your leaders, who have been duly ordained and have been publicly sustained, and you will not be led astray. (Boyd K. Packer, conference address, Ensign, Nov. 1992, p. 73)
Stand by the brethren, even if someday they are proven in error or inaccurate, it will be attributed to you for righteousness, and the Lord will bless you. This is a basic principle. (Ezra Taft Benson, reported in Sunstone, Dec. 1994, p. 32)
* * *
Every dispensation has had its share of false prophets and teachers who have come along to oppose or betray the true prophets. This was the case even at the time of Christ and His apostles. The Prophet Joseph Smith stated as fact, “False prophets always arise to oppose the true prophets” (TPJS, p.  365), and he could have added “false teachers” as well. It seems to be a continual pattern that exists as a test for the people.
Duane Crowther (who has given considerable study into the gifts of prophecy and revelation) wrote in his book entitled Thus Saith the Lord:
The revelatory gift can be lost if an individual does not abide in Christ. The scriptures contain numerous warnings that prophets and revelators can and do fall into wickedness and cease to be the mortal instrument for the revealing of God’s will.
The danger that a prophet might “fall” is most clearly demonstrated by citing the many warnings and conditional promises revealed to Joseph Smith in the Doctrine and Covenants. As part of His system of checks and balances, the Lord also revealed, in the Doctrine and Covenants, provisions for examining the conduct of general authorities, including the President of the Church, should they fall into sin and error.
The idea that a prophet will never lead the Church astray is NOT a scriptural teaching. It appears to have originated with a revelation given through Joseph Smith to Heber C. Kimball in 1842 as Heber wrestled with a serious challenge to his personal testimony. The Lord said that “if I see that there is any danger of his apostatizing, I will take him to myself.” The concept evolved, in the few instances where it was quoted by intimate acquaintances of Elder Kimball. In the evolution the emphasis shifted from “the Lord removing those who do wrong” to “leaders not leading the saints astray.” It was not a revelation foretelling the future course of the Church, but rather a specific promise made to one particular individual. (Thus Saith the Lord, Crowther, p. 93)
 Ironically, this book by Duane Crowther was banned from LDS book stores.
Comparatively few faithful men and women will ever prove themselves worthy to receive the promise of exaltation, making their calling and election sure. The Lord promises them only that they will not be allowed to sin so far that they will lose that reward. That promise has nothing to do with a particular church office, only with an individual’s worthiness. And he is still subject to weaknesses, poor judgment and failures.
An incident occurred in 1985 that shattered the theory of Church leaders not being led or leading others astray. Mark Hofmann, a confessed deceiver and forger, came into the national spotlight when it was shown he had sold nearly 400 counterfeit documents, many of which had been purchased by Mormon Church leaders. A noteworthy example was published in a Salt Lake newspaper showing one of Hofmann’s transactions with the current leaders of the Church.
This photograph appeared in many newspapers at the time Mark Hofmann sold the bogus Anthon manuscript to Church leaders. N. Eldon Tanner, President Spencer W. Kimball, Marion G. Romney, Gordon B. Hinckley, and Boyd K. Packer accepted the bogus manuscript as genuine.
(taken from the S. L. Tribune, Sept. 19, 1992, p. A-5)
Ten years after Hofmann’s exposure, two S. L. Tribune articles recapped the major events; pertinent excerpts follow:
Among Hofmann’s first forgeries was the “Anthon Manuscript,” which he said he found folded in an old Bible. The brittle and yellowed document seemed to contain ancient characters copied by church founder Joseph Smith. * * *
Hofmann traded the manuscript to church leaders for $20,000 worth of other valuable documents in 1979. Nobody noticed that Hofmann had used Elmer’s glue to paste the document into the Bible. * * *
His “finds” began to cast Smith and other early church leaders in the unflattering light of charlatans and folk magicians. * * *
One of the dozens of people duped by Hofmann’s forgeries was Gordon B. Hinckley, then second counselor in the church’s First Presidency and now church president.
For $15,000, Hinckley bought a letter from Hofmann supposedly linking church founder Joseph Smith to money digging and magic–which went against traditional Mormon accounts. * * *
In 1985, the church enlisted [Steve] Christensen to act as a middleman to buy from Hofmann the documents of William McLellin, a former Mormon apostle who became one of Smith’s harshest critics.
After Hofmann missed several deadlines for producing the collection, and cashed a $185,000 signature loan secured by Hugh Pinnock, a high church official, Christensen issued an ultimatum. Hofmann was to turn over the collection Oct. 15 or face exposure. (S.L. Tribune, Oct. 14, 1995)
The media and anti-Mormons had a heyday with incriminating information as it was uncovered:
Mr. Hofmann was well acquainted with the former Church Archivist Donald Schmidt and sometimes met with Gordon B. Hinckley, of the Church’s First Presidency. Hinckley and Apostle Boyd K. Packer often gave approval for the Church to purchase Hofmann’s documents. (Tracking the White Salamander, Tanner, p. 49)
The Salt Lake Tribune, October 21, 1985, stated that Gordon B. Hinckley admitted that the Church had bought “40 some documents” through Hofmann, but according to the Deseret News, April 12, 1986, the number was nearly ten times that amount. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, April 12, 1986, “Mormon officials have released descriptions of almost 400 documents and court records they received as a gift, traded or bought.” The Deseret News, May 3, 1980, reported: “President Spencer W. Kimball expressed gratitude to Brother Hofmann for his discovery. . . .”
 To have the Church “prophet, seer, and revelator”, give his endorsement to this forger, opened the door and made it easy for Hofmann to lead others astray. As a result, several people were financially devastated and some professionals ruined because of forgery transactions with Hofmann.
Hofmann’s financial enterprises became increasingly lucrative for him: the Anthon transcript sold for $25,000; the Salamander letter netted $40,000; McLellin collection, $185,000; and hundreds of other items brought Hofmann a very profitable income. But as a result of his criminal dealings with various LDS Church departments, Deseret Book closed their Rare Book Department, BYU Special Collections now has a very limited budget, and the Church archives accepts only donated items–all of which could have been avoided had there been true prophets to detect this false prophet and expose him as a fraud. It was indeed a devastating experience for Church leaders and a blow to Church members who thought their leaders could not be led astray. Even non-members wondered how LDS Church leaders could be deceived by phony documents pertaining to their own doctrine and history.
Another twist of events resulting from the Hofmann case revealed that when Church leaders were preparing to buy the McLellin collection, it was discovered that the Church already had that collection in their possession, and it had been there since 1908!
Hofmann pleaded guilty in a plea bargain. Prosecutor Gerry D’Elia said the plea bargain left unanswered the question of whether the LDS Church played a part in getting the case resolved without a public trial; otherwise, Church leaders would have been brought into a very embarrassing public trial.
 To say that leaders cannot go astray supports the principle of compulsion and lack of free agency–two concepts that disrupted pre-mortal life. Why shouldn’t leaders be allowed to make poor choices–even bad ones? Shouldn’t they have that experience so they can learn what others’ temptations are like?
To say that Church leaders cannot go astray is not even scriptural. Nowhere did the Lord tell people to follow leaders instead of Him. Jesus never told the people to follow Peter because he would never go astray; He instead exhibited his personal weaknesses. What if people had followed Judas because he was a chosen apostle of Christ?
If the President and other leaders of the Church cannot go astray, why have current leaders ceased to follow their previous leaders? Spencer Kimball, Mark Petersen, Bruce McConkie and others have accused Brigham Young of teaching false doctrine–which is the same as saying that Brigham Young was leading the people astray. If Brigham Young could teach “false” doctrine, then by the same reasoning we know the present leaders can do the same.
Men have weaknesses because they are mortal men. Prophets, seers and revelators are also men for as the Prophet Joseph Smith said, “a prophet was a prophet only when he was acting as such.” (DHC 5:265) A seer is only a seer when he acts as such; and a revelator is only a revelator when he receives revelation.
It seems there are more and more incidents that are discovered where it demonstrates that Church leaders are not acting under inspiration or revelation from God. For example, a recent newscast reported that two men were given temple recommends and were sealed to each other in marriage in the Salt Lake City temple!
 Another fraud similar to Mark Hofmann was the celebrated Dee Jay Nelson, popular lecturer at BYU. This man claimed to be a “professor of Egyptology” with two PhD’s, the “world’s leading authority on Egyptology,” etc., and was soon referred to as the Number One authority on the Book of Abraham. Christian churches gladly accepted his denunciations of that manuscript, and anti-Mormons quoted him extensively–especially Gerald and Sandra Tanner.
However, Robert and Rosemary Brown learned and recorded that–
In Nelson’s two-hour taped lecture on February 22, 1980, at the Central Christian Church in Mesa, Arizona, ninety-six statements were found to be false or misleading. (They Lie in Wait to Deceive, Vol. 1, p. vi, “Introduction”)
Dee Jay Nelson did not have two PhD’s; he had two years of high school and less than one quarter of college. His “degree” from Pacific Northwestern College was from a “Diploma Mill” which required “no classes, no exams, no study.” His diploma for a doctorate degree cost $195 for the “order form,” and that “university” was later shut down by the attorney general of Washington.
Dee Jay also claimed a degree from the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, but the Browns checked on that and learned that Nelson had never even been registered and was never given a degree of any kind.
Dee Jay claimed to be the author of eight books and 130 scientific papers and articles. In actuality, he co-authored one book on “pyramid energy” which is outside the study of Egyptology, and wrote several anti-Mormon booklets which were supported and printed by Gerald and Sandra Tanner. After  reading these, the Browns wrote, “Isn’t it easy to see that both Nelson and the Tanners are guilty of deception?” (Ibid., p. 159)
Another person duped in this Nelson fiasco was the anti-Mormon Walter Martin who said, “Professor Nelson was the most brilliant Mormon Egyptologist lecturer at BYU, international authority in the Egyptian language, and whose credentials cannot be challenged.” (They Lie in Wait to Deceive, Vol. 1, p. 116)
Unfortunately the negative effects of such work by people like Hofmann, Nelson and the Tanners do not deceive just the blind gentiles and Christians, but even confuse many of the Mormons.
For there are many yet on earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it. (D & C 123:12)
Many Mormon people have been duped into thinking such “scholars” know what they are talking about, but most of them do what they do for money, and practice a form of priestcraft.
Why does God allow such deceptions, false claims, false doctrines, and priestcrafters among the true Saints of God? To give them experience and to test their integrity, discernment, and faith in God rather than man. False prophets have always had their place and always will as “it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.” (2 Ne. 2:11) And there will certainly be greater deceptions to come. Brigham Young wisely counselled:
Were your faith concentrated upon the proper object, your confidence unshaken, your lives pure and holy, every one fulfilling the duties of his or her calling according to the Priesthood and capacity bestowed upon you, you would be filled with the Holy Ghost, and it would be as impossible for any man to deceive and lead you to destruction as for a feather to remain unconsumed in the midst of intense heat. (JD 7:277)
With this gift of discernment, the Saints would be able to detect that the “Follow the Brethren” doctrine–that is so popular in the LDS Church today–is certainly not the same thing as Christ’s instructions to “Come, follow me.” Only a sampling of instances where this has been taught since the turn of the century are included here:
Just as we must learn to “follow the Brethren” in small things, so that we can follow them in large things, . . .
We cannot fully respond to the divine invitation, “Come follow me,” unless we are willing to follow the Brethren. (Neal A. Maxwell, All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience, p. 96 and 121)
Are prayers offered in our families for strength and commitment to follow the brethren who lead the Savior’s Church as they counsel us on pertinent issues? (Sacred Truths of the Doctrine and Covenants, Otten & Caldwell, Vol. 1, p. 153)
I assure you, my brethren and sisters, that it is an easy thing to be a follower of Brother Spencer Kimball, both in making addresses and in the work of the Church. (S. Dilworth Young, Conf. Rept., Apr. 1955, pp. 98)
Follow the brethren; listen to the Brethren. (Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye in Holy Places, p. 385)
 One of the problems, however, with “following the brethren” today is that we are asked to follow brethren who failed to follow their brethren. They set us a poor example when it is so evident that they teach different from what their brethren taught. Why should we follow leaders who failed to follow theirs? Many recorded sermons and writings of early Church leaders are in serious conflict with the sermons and writings of the present leaders and are being condemned today as false doctrines. The Prophet Joseph Smith gave a solution to the conflict:
Our only confidence can be in God; our only wisdom obtained from Him; and He alone must be our protector and safeguard, spiritually and temporally, or we fall. (TPJS, p. 253)
All of the scriptures, the words of ancient prophets and our own common sense tells us that we should seek to God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit for our guidance. A friend once said, “I love the brethren, but they didn’t die for me.” Our greatest love and honor goes to Him who does the most for us. (See Luke 7:41-43.)
The scriptures make the doctrine of following the Lord the only sure path to take:
. . . the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him; for they know not the voice of strangers.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.
I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. (John 10:4-5, 7-8, 14)
But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal  life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. (John 10:26-28)
If we follow the Lord, we are promised eternal life. If we follow imposters, we are not His sheep and have no promise. So many sheep today, however, are following blindly without recognizing and following the True Shepherd. The following illustration has a strong message:
(picture of sheep falling off cliff but one black
sheep trying to head the other way)
OUT OF HARMONY
“Many are called but few are chosen”
 It is easy to see that the black sheep is the only one going the right direction and the only one that may be saved. He is not following the crowd because he is an independent thinker–and not a blind follower. Actually, the single black sheep should be white and all the others black.
Brigham Young summed up the situation very clearly:
Now those men, or those women, who know no more about the power of God, and the influences of the Holy Spirit, than to be led entirely by another person, suspending their own understanding, and pinning their faith upon another’s sleeve, will never be capable of entering into the celestial glory, to be crowned as they anticipate; they will never be capable of becoming Gods. They cannot rule themselves, to say nothing of ruling others, but they must be dictated to in every trifle, like a child. They cannot control themselves in the least, but James, Peter, or somebody else must control them. They never can become Gods, nor be crowned as rulers with glory, immortality, and eternal lives. They never can hold sceptres of glory, majesty, and power in the celestial kingdom. Who will? Those who are valiant and inspired with the true independence of heaven, who will go forth boldly in the service of their God, leaving others to do as they please, determined to do right, though all mankind besides should take the opposite course. Will this apply to any of you? Your own hearts can answer. (JD 1:312)
This does not mean the Lord hasn’t sent nor can still send the Saints true prophets to help instruct and guide His people. The important key to remember, however, is to follow leaders and prophets only as they follow the Lord.
Moses Thatcher stated that members should “follow their leaders as they follow Christ, and we will be safe. `Well,’ says one, `are not our leaders liable to go astray?’ Why, yes, certainly they are.” (Coll. Disc., Nov. 1891; At the time  he made this statement, there will still a few leaders with this understanding.)
The question is often asked, “Where is scripture does it say that church leaders have been led astray or have led the people astray?” To mention a few, consider the transgressions demonstrated in the lives of Moses, Aaron, Balaam, David, Solomon–and even Zeniff’s son Noah from the Book of Mormon. (For specific accounts, see Appendix A.) And, of course, the examples of Cain and Judas could also be mentioned here, but their cases are discussed elsewhere in this book.
If any of us realize that we are being deceived and led astray, we should ask ourselves: Is it because–
- our faith is not sufficient nor properly directed?
- our lives are not holy and spiritual enough?
- our emphasis is too much on the things of this world?
- we are not using the Holy Priesthood as we should?
- through our own sins, we have invited such deceptions into our lives?
- we have followed our fallible leaders blindly?
Our only sure guide is to hold to the iron rod and follow the eternal word of God.
 Chapter 11
THE NEED FOR DEVILS AND FALSE PROPHETS
There is evil in the world, and there is also good. Was there ever a counterfeit without a true coin? No. (Brigham Young, JD 7:240)
It is sometimes difficult to understand why God created such a beautiful world and then allowed evil, sin and wickedness to have so much dominion over it. “Where does this evil come from?” Isaiah records the answer:
I am the Lord, and there is none else. I form the light and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things. (Isa. 45:6-7)
But why does God put evil on the earth that He created? This has been a great mystery to both Protestant and Catholic scholars, and there are very few good answers. Bible scholars have commented:
To what extent physical sufferings are the necessary means to greater good is, however, a great question. (Ungers Bible Dic., p. 329)
Of this problem, some have been embittered. (Zondervan Enc. of Bible 2:420)
God is against evil, but its existence is often a stumbling-block to belief in a God of love. (The Illus. Bible Dic. 1:487)
Philosophers have pondered the existence of evil for centuries. And many ordinary people, stricken by tragedy or victimized by the sins of others, have cried out, “Why?” (The Revel Bible Dic., p. 352)
Jeremiah was perplexed with the natural evils of life and questioned: “Why is my pain perpetual, and my wound incurable, which refuseth to be healed?” (Jer. 15:18) “Innumerable evils have compassed me about. . . .” (Ps. 40:12)
Many answers have come with the restoration of the Gospel. We now understand why there are false prophets, a devil, and evil influences upon the earth. It originated in the Garden of Eden–where Adam and Eve had to learn the difference between good and evil, and we are all here in mortality to gain this same knowledge and experience.
The Prince of Devils
The devil is known by many names and titles: Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub, Demon, Prince of Devils, Prince of the World, Prince of Darkness, Accuser, Dragon, Serpent, Destroyer, Adversary, Angel, god of the world, and even worshipped as a god. He has a high and powerful office with many sub-stations in governments and churches throughout the world.
When the Garden of Eden was planted, the devil was nearby planting weeds, and he’s been around ever since planting weeds of contention, hatred, and deceit. Every prophet, priest, king and common man and woman has suffered from his diabolical schemes and influences.
In the Book of Job, the devil presented himself before the Lord as one of the “sons of God.” He was very ambitious, determined and enthusiastic about his mission, but could only do what he was allowed to do. Brigham Young said:
. . . every earth has its redeemer and every earth has its tempter.” (JD 14:71)
When we have lived to see millions of worlds created–yea, more in number than the particles of matter that compose this earth and millions of earths like this, if so many could be numerated by man, and people live on them to pass through the ordeals we are passing through, you will never see one of them without a devil. (JD 9:108)
Do you not suppose that it is necessary to have devils mixed up with us, to make Saints of us? We are as yet obliged to have devils in our community; we could not build up the kingdom without them. Many of you know that you cannot get your endowment without the devil’s being present; indeed we cannot make rapid progress without the devils. (JD 3:49-50)
Most of the time, when the devil has made an appearance, he has been like a fine gentleman and even as an angel of light. Brigham Young said:
I will defy any man on earth to be more gentlemanly and bland in his manners than the master spirit of all evil. We call him the devil; a gentleman so smooth and so oily, that he can almost deceive the very elect. (JD 12:128)
The Christians teach a different kind of devil–wearing a red suit, having a long tail and horns, and carrying a pitchfork. Joseph F. Smith explained:
We have been deceived; we thought that the devil had long horns and tail, a cloven foot, and was black, hideous, and grinning; but when we find him out, he is a gentleman in black broad cloth, with a smooth tongue, pleasant countenance, high forehead, and so on; quite a good looking fellow. That is the kind of a person we find the devil to be, and we will find him in more persons than one, and that too right in this city. (JD 11:313)
 The Prophet Joseph described the devil with–
. . . the angelic form, the sanctified look and gesture, and the zeal that is frequently manifested by him for the glory of God, together with the prophetic spirit, the gracious influence, the godly appearance, and the holy garb, which are so characteristic of his proceedings and his mysterious windings. (TPJS, p. 205)
Joseph knew this because of actual confrontation with him. Heber C. Kimball related:
When I returned home, I called upon brother Joseph, and we walked down the bank of the river. He there told me what contests he had had with the devil; he told me that he had contests with the devil face to face. (JD 3:229)
The devil is needed to give man the opportunity of learning good and evil so he can be exalted. A man must gain his crown as a victor in battle, and so a devil gives a man that chance. Brigham Young always expressed the need and blessing of having a devil. Once he said, “All is right, and the devil is not dead; for which we have great reason to be thankful.” (JD 7:139) God uses the devil for His own purposes–and He uses wicked men for the same reasons. Brigham also explained:
If God has foreordained certain men to certain ends, it is because He knew all things from eternity, as in the case of Pharaoh, who He knew would do wickedly; consequently, selected him to be put upon the throne. “You are determined to be wicked and to carry out the schemes of the Devil; therefore I will use you to promote My kingdom on the earth and to exalt me among men, for I know that you will do all you can against my children, against my work, and against my grace to save the children of men.” God raised him to  the throne of Egypt, because He foresaw that in this position He could use him to the greatest advantage to His cause–not because he was foreordained to that position. (JD 8:160)
Two kinds of deities were represented in the persons of Moses and Pharaoh. This gave the children of Israel a chance to see the difference. However, the true and false often are not so obvious and even appear very similar. The Prophet Joseph explained:
The Egyptians were not able to discover the difference between the miracles of Moses and those of the magicians until they came to be tested together; and if Moses had not appeared in their midst, they would unquestionably have thought that the miracles of the magicians were performed through the mighty power of God, for they were great miracles that were performed by them–a supernatural agency was developed, and great power manifested. (TPJS, p. 202)
And from Orson Pratt:
As soon as the Book of Mormon came forth, the counterfeit then spread like the counterfeit gifts exercised by the old magicians of Egypt. When Moses went down with the power and authority of Heaven, the counterfeit sprang up in order to delude the Egyptians, and make them think the power of Moses was the same in character as that exercised by the magicians. (JD 13:134-135)
Brigham Young also commented on the difficulty of telling the difference between these two great powers:
Persons may see miracles performed; may see the sick healed, the eyes of the blind opened, the lame made to leap, and even the dead raised, and may acknowledge that it is all done by the power of God, but will all this enable them to discern whether it is the power of  God or not? No, it will not. They must have the spirit by which the dead are raised, by which the sick are healed, and the eyes of the blind opened, or they cannot tell whether it is done by the power of God or the power of the devil, or whether there is a mist over their own eyes. (JD 3:155)
An editorial from the Millennial Star gives an interesting description of the devil, making detection a little easier:
It is a great mistake to suppose that Satan is altogether a religious personage. No, far from this. He is a politician, a philosopher, an erudite scholar, a linguist, a metaphysician, a military commander, a prince, a god, a necromancer, an enchanter, a diviner, a magician, a sorcerer, a prophet, and (if it were not railing) a clergyman and liar from the beginning. With these universal endowments, he has never hitherto made a full and grand exhibition of himself, as it remains for him to do. (Mill. Star 15:274)
It is not just men and miracles that require the spirit of discernment to determine their source, but more especially teachings and doctrines. Brigham Young cautioned:
The adversary presents his principles and arguments in the most approved style, and in the most winning tone, attended with the most graceful attitudes; and he is very careful to ingratiate himself into the favour of the powerful and influential of mankind, uniting himself with popular parties, floating into offices of trust, . . . (JD 11:238)
When the devil gets into such positions, he influences people to believe in some minor changes in true principles and thereby gains a major victory. Again Brigham warned:
Let a Saint diverge from the path of truth and rectitude, in the least, no matter in what, . . . and his mind will begin to be darkened. (JD 3:222)
 Thus, it is extremely important to be able to discern between the true and the false; otherwise we will be deceived and eternally regret the mistake.
False Prophets and Teachers
Since the devil cannot make personal appearances wherever he wants to create evil, his servants do it for him. These are known as false prophets, satanic prophets, deceived prophets, fallen prophets, false apostles, false teachers, etc., etc. The list could go on and on to include some politicians, ministers, educators, business executives, etc. Nearly every-one has been duped, deceived, tempted and swayed by that master of evil and most do not even know it.
The devil’s deceptions are so cunning that even those who serve him think they are serving God. He is a master of camouflage; he makes evil appear good and good appear to be evil. He has divided Christianity into thousands of different sects–and all the ministers think they are serving Christ.
A false prophet will never admit he is a false prophet because he is convinced that he is serving God. It is those who profess to serve Christ that are the devil’s main targets; and the closer they are to God, the more he tempts them. Therefore, men with the Holy Priesthood, of course, would be the most tried, tested and tempted by the evil ones.
The prophets, like all men except the Lord Jesus Christ, were fallible and sinful. In their human capacity they were apt to err. It was only when directly presenting a message that God chose to give them that their words were free from error. (Zond. Enc. of Bible 4:885)
 There were several hundred prophets of Baal. (See I Kings 18.) These men possessed unusual powers and gifts to support the worship of their god, and what is most interesting is their faith, sincerity and determination in serving him. For example, in the contest with Elijah, they cried to their god “from morning until noon;” then they proceeded to “cut themselves after their manner with knives and lances, til the blood gushed out upon them.” (v. 28) That’s real dedication and sincerity!
Elijah was without such enthusiasm, emotion and diligence, but nevertheless he manifest the power of God to the destruction of hundreds of these false prophets.
But we do not have such powers of God manifest today, and the false prophets flourish in greater numbers. Too often we assume that people who claim to be prophets must actually be true prophets. Jeremiah foretold of prophets that were not prophets and the Lord said to him:
The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination. . . . (Jer. 14:14)
For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; let not your prophets . . . deceive you, . . . for they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the Lord.” (Jer. 29:8-9)
Ezekiel also warned of men who claimed to be prophets:
Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel that prophesy, and say thou unto them that prophesy out of their own hearts, Hear ye the word of the Lord; thus saith the Lord God; Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! (Eze. 13:2-3)
 But there have always been more false prophets than true ones, and we have been repeatedly warned about them.
With his false prophets, the devil works against the true prophets, and there is a continual battle of principles. Dr. Hugh Nibley stated:
One of the most interesting features of the Book of Mormon is the inclusion in it of long speeches by false prophets. These men are skilled Sophists who use all the stock arguments against the gospel with practiced skill and great success. It is hard for a philosopher today to find anything to add to the arguments of Sherem, Korihor, Zeezrom, or Nehor. (Since Cumorah, Nibley, p. 240)
Toward the end of the 200 years of peace among the Nephites, false prophets infiltrated the work of Christ and they established many priestcrafts. The people “were led by many priests and false prophets to build up many churches. . . .” (4 Ne. 1:34)
False prophets usually rise up along side the true ones–often within the same church. Elder Mark Forscutt said:
The richest productions of ingenuity, the most consummate skill and elaborate taste have been, under the despotic power of priestcraft, turned from their legitimate use to the degradation of man. (Mill. Star 20:613)
In other words, priestcraft is corrupted priesthood; and as principles of priestcraft are introduced, the power and gifts of the priesthood are lost.
False prophets have a tendency to institutionalize the Gospel, and try to conform Gospel principles to be in harmony with the world. Isaiah gave a key to discerning such deception:
To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. (Isa. 8:20 and 2 Ne. 18:20)
Joseph Smith said that true prophets always have to contend against the false ones:
“. . . false prophets always arise to oppose the true prophets and they will prophesy so very near the truth that they will deceive almost the very chosen ones. (TPJS, 365)
Jesus Himself had trouble with them, as recorded in Matthew 23: He said they were sitting “in Moses’ seat,” but He warned, “do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.” He said, “all their works they do for to be seen of men” and they “love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues.” They “devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer.” They appeared to be good men for they “pay tithe of mint and anise, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law.” They “strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel,” they were “like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones.” “Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” They would even “build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous,” which makes them appear to be on the right track. But Jesus said, “I sent unto you prophets, and wise men” but “some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city.” (See Matt. 23.)
Jesus gave a solemn warning to His disciples:
“Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. (Matt. 24:4-5)
 Certainly it is evident, then, that so-called religious men can be very wrong and very deceived.
The objectives of true and false prophets cannot always be distinguished by the methods they use, because they are so similar. For instance:
The language of love and the language of seduction are the same. The one who wishes a girl for a wife and the one who wishes her for a night in order to throw her away afterward, both say, “I love you.” Jesus has told us to distinguish the language of seduction from the language of love, and to know the wolves clad in sheepskin from the real sheep. (Tortured for Christ, R. Wurmbrand, p. 15)
Dr. Hugh Nibley explained the character of a “pseudo-prophet and a false prophet:”
The scriptural term “pseudo-prophet” designates one who is not a prophet, but who occupies the place that rightly belongs to a prophet, regardless of whether he has been put there by himself or by his followers. Fool’s gold, the glittering yellow pyrites that one finds sometimes on the beach, is so called not because it pretends to be gold, but because fools take it for gold. A pseudo-prophet is one to whom foolish people accord the obedience and attention due only a true prophet, whether he or they actually take him for a prophet or not. * * *
Even good, devout, sincere men and women can be false prophets. * * * We still live in a world of false prophets. Anyone whose work competes with God’s work, who makes claims on the time and energies of men which rightly belong to God, who puts the word of God in second place to the theories of men, or forces the teachings of true prophets to yield precedence to his own discourses–anyone, in a word, who puts his own knowledge above or on a level with revelation from heaven is a false prophet. (The World and the Prophets, Nibley, pp. 254 & 255)
 The false prophet will be just as sincere, convincing, and well-meaning as the true prophet. The Lord allows the existence of both, just as He does the existence of both good and evil. It gives men additional experience and provides them with an opportunity to choose.
Sometimes men who are called to be true prophets simply fail to do their duty. It may not mean they are false prophets, but it does exhibit a weakness.
True prophets are sent to warn the people both in and out of the LDS Church. They should even warn and at times reprove leaders of governments and nations. In the 1880’s Wilford Woodruff said this government and its leaders were steeped in sin and ripened for the damnation of hell; they have not repented since then, and have simply become worse.
Some of the Church presidents since that time have met with presidents of the nation. Shortly after World War II, President George Albert Smith visited with Pres. Harry S. Truman–who should have been rebuked for his political and moral corruption.
(picture of George Albert Smith & Harry S. Truman)
 In 1986 President Ezra Taft Benson visited with President Ronald Reagan. Both of them did fairly well in exposing the corruption in the Federal Government, but much more could have been said by both.
On November 13, 1995, President Clinton and President Hinckley met for a half hour at the White House, but apparently the LDS Church President was not there to warn or reprove. “We had a very delightful visit,” President Hinckley said. He also visited with “some of the country’s high-level executives,” and he exclaimed, “I enjoyed meeting these people who have so much influence in the world.” (Church News, Nov. 18, 1995)
After his visit with President Clinton on Monday, President Hinckley traveled to New York for a luncheon at the Harvard Club with several business, industry and media leaders.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell accompanied President Hinckley and introduced him to those assembled. Among those in attendance were Richard Smith, editor-in-chief of Newsweek; John Mack Carter, president of Hearst Magazine Enterprises; Andrew Heyward, vice president and executive producer of CBS Evening News; David Briggs, religion editor of Associated Press; Joyce Tudryn, executive director of the International Radio and Television Society; and Mike Wallace of CBS television’s “60 Minutes”. * * *
President Hinckley told those in attendance at the reception that he had not come to Washington to discuss politics, but to “express to President Clinton the fact that we pray for him as we do for all of our elected representatives.” (Church News, Nov. 18, 1995)
Admittedly, Presidents Hinckley and Clinton did not discuss any of the national or international problems. But if ever a president of this nation had reason to be rebuked and warned by the Lord, it is President Bill Clinton! Just “visiting”  and not even mentioning politics seems to have been a failure to capitalize on a golden opportunity!
(picture of Hinckley and Clinton)
Regarding the Church’s friendship with the world, Brigham Young was certainly a true prophet when he prophesied:
When the spirit of persecution, the spirit of hatred, of wrath and malice ceases in the world against this people, it will be the time that this people have apostatized and joined hands with the wicked, and never until then. . . . (JD 4:327)
There is nothing that would so weaken my hope and discourage me as to see this people in full fellowship with the world, and receive no more persecution from them because they are one with them. In such an event, we might bid farewell to the Holy Priesthood with all its blessings, privileges and aids to exaltations, principalities and powers in the eternities of the Gods. (JD 10:32)
One of the early documents of the Christian era was a manuscript called “The Ascension of Isaiah,” originally written in Hebrew. It was included in the works of the early Christian fathers and writers of the first and second centuries, and many scholars quoted from it, i.e., Origen, Tertullian, Justin, Martyr, and Jerome. The manuscript is important because of its accuracy in describing many events of the Christian church and also the failure of Christian leaders.
. . . his disciples will abandon the teaching of the twelve apostles, and their faith, and their love, and their purity. And there will be much contention at his coming and at his approach. And in those days there will be many who love office, although lacking wisdom. and there will be many wicked elders and shepherds who wrong their sheep, and they will be rapacious because they do not have holy shepherds. And many will exchange the glory of the robes of the saints for the robes of those who love money; and there will be much respect of persons in those days, and lovers of the glory of this world. And there will be many slanderers and much vain glory at the approach of the Lord, and the Holy Spirit will withdraw from many. And in those days there will not be many prophets, nor those who speak reliable words, except one here and there in different places, because of the spirit of error and of fornication, and of vain glory, and of the love of money, which there will be among those who are said to be servants of that One, and among those who receive that One. * * *
And they will make ineffective the prophecy of the prophets who were before me, and my visions also . . .  they will make ineffective, in order that they may speak what bursts out of their heart. (“The Ascension of Isaiah,” p. 161)
This is one of the clearest documentations of the causes leading to the apostasy of the Christian church. It could also serve as a warning signal to saints in the latter-days to help them avoid the same disasters.
Power-hungry men exist today who claim to be prophets and say they have been baptized, ordained, or set apart by angels. this is either a very significant claim or else another deadly deception. How can we tell the difference?
The Prophet Joseph shed valuable light on this subject. In 1832 Elder Francis Gladden Bishop was seeking to be made a High Priest, but for several reasons it was not accomplished. While in the missionfield, however, Elder Bishop claimed he was a High Priest and that an angel had ordained him. When the Prophet Joseph heard about this, he immediately sent for him to be questioned before the School of the Prophets.
Brother Joseph observed to Bishop that he knew he had lied before he confessed it; that his declarations were not only false in themselves, but they involved a false principle. An angel, said Joseph, may administer the word of the Lord unto men, and bring intelligence to them from heaven upon various subjects; but no true angel from God will ever come to ordain any man, because they have once been sent to establish the priesthood by ordaining me there-unto; and the priesthood being once established on earth, with power to ordain others, no heavenly messenger will ever come to interfere with that power by ordaining any more. (Mill. Star, editorial, 8:138-39)
 Since there are still many men who hold the priesthood, and, according to Joseph, they will continue to hold it to the end of the Millennium, there is no need and it would be incorrect for angels to ordain mortal men at this point in time. This is an important key to remember.
Another way of distinguishing between false prophets and true prophets is the way they are treated by the people of the world. According to Joseph Smith:
The world always mistook false prophets for true ones, and those that were sent of God, they considered to be false prophets, and hence they killed, stoned, punished and imprisoned the true prophets, and these had to hide themselves “in deserts and dens, and caves of the earth,” and though the most honorable men of the earth, they banished them from their society as vagabonds, whilst they cherished, honored and supported knaves, vagabonds, hypocrites, impostors, and the basest of men. (TPJS, p. 206)
The Prophet Joseph Smith had the devil and mobs and persecutions continually against him. Brigham Young explained in 1853 that God had allowed them for his benefit:
Joseph could not have been perfected, though he had lived a thousand years, if he had received no persecution. If he had lived a thousand years, and led this people, and preached the Gospel without persecution, he would not have been perfected as well as he was at the age of thirty-nine years. You may calculate when this people are called to go through scenes of affliction and suffering, are driven from their homes, and cast down, and scattered, and smitten, and peeled, the Almighty is rolling on His work with greater rapidity. (JD 2:7-8)
The devil hates true prophets and will gather up all known devices to array against them. Persecution seems to  follow them as part of their heritage because the world hates them so much.
On the other hand, false prophets are an integral part of the world. They love the wealth and praise of the world. They invest in it; they participate in its politics; they form part of its society; and they receive its honors.
So why aren’t there any evident persecutions today? Could it be that the devil is already happy with the way things are?
Why doesn’t the Lord treat false prophets like He did the barren fig tree that He cursed because it produced no fruit and it withered away? Why does the Lord allow false prophets to threaten His own people? This is beautifully answered in a revelation to Orson Hyde:
In my meditations this morning, the Spirit of the Lord came upon me, and I was moved to write:
And being grieved in my spirit on account of false pretenses by evil designing persons to gain power, and lead away the flock of God, it whispered [to] me and said:
Evil men, ambitious of power, must needs arise among you, and they shall be led by their own self-will and not by me. Yet they are instruments in my hands, and are permitted to try my people, and to collect from among them those who are not the elect, and such as are unworthy of eternal life.
Grieve not after them, neither mourn nor be alarmed. My people know my voice and also the voice of my spirit, and a stranger they will not follow;
Therefore such as follow strangers are not my people. (Revelation given through Apostle Orson Hyde at Nauvoo, Illinois, April 1846, as printed in Unpub. Revel., ed. by Collier, vol. 1, pp. 104-05)
 There is often a very fine line between a true prophet and a false one. Both might be sustaining the same religion, the same scriptures, the same cause of Israel, and yet they are operated on by two different and opposing spirits. The Prophet explained that one great evil is that–
. . . men are ignorant of the nature of spirits; their power, laws, government, intelligence, etc., and imagine that when there is anything like power, revelation, or vision manifested, that it must be of God. (TPJS, p. 203)
He went on to explain:
. . . nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they have the Spirit of God. (TPJS, p. 205)
Joseph even admitted:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has also had its false spirits; and as it is made up of all those different sects professing every variety of opinion, and having been under the influence of so many kinds of spirits, it is not to be wondered at if there should be found among us false spirits. (TPJS, p. 213)
We need to recognize some of the red warning flags of detecting these false spirits and false prophets:
- Contradicting scripture
- Contradicting former revelations
- Unintelligent manifestations
- Confusing revelations
- Revelations praising the revelator
- Lacking or misinterpreting spiritual gifts
- Criticism of true prophets
- Changing eternal laws of the Gospel
- Changing ordinances
- Teaching false principles and doctrines
- Supporting worldly governments
- Seeking wealth and/or high positions
- Receiving gentile friendship
- Seeking gentile favors and honors
- Acknowledging and accepting evils such as abortion
- Sustaining laws of the land over God’s laws
- Doing evil deeds or causing them
- Unwilling to sacrifice or give to the poor
- Failing in their prophecies
- Teaching to trust in the arm of flesh
* * *
In concluding this chapter, listen to the admonitions of this dispensation’s first prophet:
If any man writes to you, or preaches to you, doctrines contrary to the Bible, the Book of Mormon, or the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, set him down as an imposter. (Times & Seasons, Apr. 1, 1844)
. . . do not betray the revelations of God, whether in Bible, Book of Mormon, or Doctrine and Covenants, or any other that ever was or ever will be given. . .lest innocent blood be found upon your skirts, and you go down to hell. (TPJS, p. 156)
And if any man preach any other gospel than that which I have preached, he shall be cursed; and some of you who now hear me shall see it, and know that I testify the truth concerning them. (Historical Record 7:548)
 Nevertheless, as this chapter has shown, these false prophets are very necessary in helping the true Saints to gain their exaltation. Since we seem to have more false prophets now than ever before, we should feel blessed to have an even greater opportunity to gain exaltation!
 Chapter 12
A HOUSE IN CONFUSION
Son of man, thou dwellest in the midst of a rebellious house, which have eyes to see, and see not; they have ears to hear, and hear not: for they are a rebellious house. (Ezek. 12:2)
Churches are composed of many personalities and nationalities. They are like a schoolhouse with many levels of intelligence and understanding. Thus, revelation to the church has to be very general, to apply to all members; whereas revelation to an individual is designed to fit the specific needs of the individual.
If you have ten people or a thousand in a group, the only possible level on which they can be “united” or in agreement is the level of the lowest of the lot and that isn’t exalting to anyone very high. (Patriarchal Order of Family Government, Harold W. Blackmore, 1974, p. 70)
Church leadership cannot rise much higher than the level of its members, nor does the level of church members rise above its leaders. Thus, sometimes church leadership impedes the advancement of individuals.
Since Church leaders can dispense only general information, individuals must rise above the general level of the church  to achieve exaltation. All ten million Mormons are not going to walk through the celestial gate, so every Saint–using correct guideline–must reach as high as he can by himself. Most men, governments and even churches eventually fail.
Too frequently Church members are content to “go with the flow,” not “make waves” nor “buck the establishment.” They prefer to enjoy the social comfort and security of the church which serves as a type of teddy bear or pacifier. It creates a condition of coziness without real courage.
Too often a church becomes a cult, which (according to Lou Chandler) is a body of people where a “leader proclaims doctrine or `truths’ and determines rules for daily life that cannot be questioned,” and where “individual thought is discouraged. A member is expected to surrender his or her intellect to unquestioned doctrine.” (“Why Do Some Perceive the Church to be a Cult?”, Chandler, Dialogue, Summer 1995, p. 123)
An important distinction, then, is that a cult is a body of people following a leader, while a religion is a group of people following God.
History is of little worth if we don’t learn from it. Those who passed before us naturally made mistakes; and if we don’t learn from their faults, failings and disasters, then we have missed the purpose of education.
What happened to the church that Christ established? That history should certainly be of great value. Professor James R. Barker wrote a book about the falling away of Christ’s church. He spent most of his life studying this field, even going to Europe on this pursuit. One significant statement he made was–
It is important also to follow the history of Christianity down through the centuries, to learn what important changes, if any, were made in doctrine, organization and government; when they were made and by what authority. (Apostasy from the Divine Church, Barker, pp. 5-6)
Thus, the purpose of this chapter is to study and learn some of the changes that brought about the apostasy of Christ’s church, and to show how those changes can happen again.
Jesus said that in the last days “false Christs,” “false prophets,” and “deceivers” would become so prevalent that they would “deceive almost the very elect.” He is talking about His own church and people, and the same warning is commonly recorded throughout the scriptures.
Apostasy is a continual danger to the church, and the New Testament contains repeated warnings against it. It increases in times of special trial and is encouraged by false teachers who seduce believers from the purity of the Word with “another gospel.” (Illus. Bible Dic. 1:78)
It has been foretold that much of the latter-day apostasy would come about “as a result of persecution.” (Hastings Bible Dictionary, p. 46) Unger said it would come from men with “a form of godliness without power,” but “not from the outward profession of it.” (Unger’s Bible Dic., p. 72)
In his book, The Great Apostasy, Dr. James E. Talmage described apostasy in “two distinct phases or stages: (1) apostasy from the Church, and (2) apostasy of the Church.” (p. 23) Actually it should be stated “apostasy from God” and “apostasy from the Gospel.” The church is merely an organization and does nothing of itself; it’s the members  who deviate from the truth and apostatize. That includes all members because no one is exempt from temptation. The question might be asked, “Why didn’t God protect His church leaders from apostasy?” This question was answered by Dr. Talmage:
The Father of souls has endowed His children with the divine birthright of free agency; He does not and will not control them by arbitrary force; He impels no man toward sin; He compels none to righteousness. (Ibid., p. 41)
The Influence of Wealth
Money is one of those luxuries that can be as dangerous as it is useful. It’s not money itself that is evil–it’s the love of it. Men have made images of silver and gods of gold. Without even knowing it, most of them end up worshipping it. Few men have ever used wealth for the purposes God intended.
One of the rare recorded occasions where Christ displayed anger was at the Jerusalem temple where He “cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple.” (Matt. 21:12) Men were placing temporal things above the spiritual.
The devil uses wealth like a precision tool. He is “continually” watching “day and night . . . in tempting and laying snares for the people of God.” (TPJS, p. 130) He tempts men to make small sacrifices of their principles in order to obtain wealth, and the small compromises eventually lead to greater ones. This was one of the major factors in the apostasy of Christ’s church because riches drew men away from their dependency on God.
Persecution was a terrible force against the early church, and as a result many apostatized; but this served as a cleansing  process and got rid of the dross. However, when the desire for prosperity became a destructive influence, it seemed to affect everyone in the church. Within a few years church members were prosperous in temporal goods but weak spiritually. What began with a few poor and humble disciples, soon became a wealthy and powerful empire.
Many Protestant writers grudgingly acknowledge the apostasy of Christianity under the hands of the Catholics. But they themselves had apostatized from that apostate church. And what is worse, they brought many false doctrines, corrupt philosophies, and perverted ordinances with them. Reverend J. A. Wylie described the early history of Catholicism.
It is scarcely possible to imagine humbler beginnings than those from which the Papacy arose, and certainly it is not possible to imagine a loftier height than that to which it eventually climbed. He who was seen in the first century presiding as the humble pastor over a single congregation, and claiming no rank above his brethren, is beheld in the twelfth century occupying a seat from which he looks down on all the thrones temporal and spiritual of Christendom. (History of Protestantism, Wylie, 1:8)
Mosheim described the same wealth and temporal power of the church:
They appropriated to their evangelical function the splendid ensigns of temporal majesty. A throne, surrounded with ministers, exalted above his equals the servant of the meek and humble Jesus; and sumptuous garments dazzled the eyes and the minds of the multitude into an ignorant veneration of their arrogated authority. (Ecclesiastical History, Mosheim, chap. 2:3,4)
 Edward Gibbon, in his masterpiece, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, commented on the influence of Christian wealth: “Prosperity had relaxed the nerves of discipline. Fraud, envy, and malice prevailed in every congregation.” Wealth became one of the most dreaded plagues of the early Christians. Leaders learned how to gain wealth by making slight changes in doctrines for political and financial favors.
The same dangerous influences have become a serious consideration for the present-day church of the latter-day saints. It is not uncommon to see great affluence among stake presidents, high councilmen, apostles, and even presidents of the Church. The Prophet Joseph foretold of the danger of wealth within the Church:
You will live to see men arise in power in the Church who will seek to put down your friends and the friends of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Many will be hoisted because of their money and the worldly learning which they seem to be in possession of; and many who are the true followers of our Lord and Savior will be cast down because of their poverty. (recorded in the Mosiah Hancock Journal, p. 19)
Supplanting the Scriptures
Throughout religious history, doctrinal differences and disputes have continually existed, and the issues are usually settled by those who have the greatest persuasive powers: the most learned and/or the most wealthy. The early leaders of Catholicism first tried to solve the disputes by using only the scriptures, but that failed because of varying interpretations. They then provided instructional and guide books, which didn’t help much either. They placed restrictions on church members that they could read only “approved” books, but such control was too difficult to enforce. Nothing seemed to  solve the problem, so they decided that the best advice for the people was just to follow the Pope and what he said. The scriptures were all but discarded, and few people ever saw them. From then on, they just put their trust in the Pope for their salvation.
Such a dangerous practice demonstrated the foolish thinking of those early Christian leaders. But upon close observation, it can be seen that similar thinking has crept in among the Mormons.
Pride and Learning
Jesus selected His disciples from among fishermen, tent makers, and the poor. The reason is simple–they were more likely to be dependent on God. Even though the rich and the learned have just as much need for God in their lives, they seldom think so. With their wealth they can buy whatever they need or persuade others to get whatever they want. Education gives them a false sense of knowledge that they can make decisions for themselves without asking God. Church leadership soon attracted the proud and the learned into its highest offices.
Knowledge is a great gift, but it can also be a liability. Too often a so-called scholar leans upon his own learning instead of calling upon God for guidance and direction. Nephi understood this well:
When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.
But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God. (2 Nephi 9:28-29)
 Pride was Lucifer’s weakness from the beginning, for his desire to save all mankind was not out of charity; he just wanted the recognition and glory for doing it. He boasted:
I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation. . . . I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. (Isa. 14:13-14)
His motivation to save mankind was to satisfy his own pride and magnify his own importance.
One of the Lord’s first warnings to the Church in this dispensation was–
For although a man may have many revelations, and have power to do many mighty works, yet if he boasts in his own strength, and sets at naught the counsels of God, and follows after the dictates of his own will and carnal desires, he must fall and incur the vengeance of a just God upon him. (D & C 3:4)
The Prophet Joseph foretold of danger to the Church by men of “much learning:”
You will be called the first Elders of the Church, and your missions will be to the nations of the earth. You will gather many people into the fastness of the Rocky Mountains as a center for the gathering of the people, and you will be faithful because you have been true; and many of those that come under your ministry, because of their much learning, will seek for high positions, and they will be set up and raise themselves in eminence above you, but you will walk in low places unnoticed and you will know all that transpires in their midst, and those that are my friends will be your friends. (J.S. before the Nauvoo Legion, “Diary of John E. Forsgren,” quoted in Fate of the Persecutors. . ., Lindwall, p. 154)
 Pride has always brought out the worst in men. Solomon said, “Pride goeth before destruction,” and indeed it has caused the fall of many governments, businesses, and even the church of Christ. Jesus warned, “. . . woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.” (Luke 6:24)
The Ways of the World
Joseph Fielding Smith gave considerable thought to these weaknesses, temptations, and sins among the present Latter-day Saints, and called such to their attention:
I want to call your attention to the fact that the ways of the world have crept in among us and are becoming established in the midst of the people of Zion. Right here in this city (Salt Lake City), which at one time was indeed a city of the saints, but is that no longer, can be found all manner of abomination and iniquity. The ideas, theories, the fashions and ungodliness of the world, their sins and evil practices are to be found within the borders of our cities. * * *
Because of the love of the things of the world and the enticing influence of the powers of darkness, we . . . have departed from the strait path which leads to life and which our Lord has said few men find because they love darkness rather than light, their deeds being evil. We have permitted the philosophies of men, which deny the divinity of Jesus Christ and mock at the sacred ordinances of the gospels, to enter into our schools, and businesses, and our homes, thus weakening our faith and our reverence for our Creator. * * *
With some of us it is the custom to do very much as the world does. We dress as the world does. We seek its pleasures; we follow its customs; and there is no question in my mind that these things do bring us somewhat in conflict with things the Lord has taught and commanded us to do. (Doc. of Sal., J.F. Smith, 3:292 & 295))
 Apostle George A. Smith had confirmed the same condition in the earlier days of the Salt Lake Saints:
I am astonished when I reflect upon the great number with whom I have been acquainted that are not now to be found, and of whom we have no report only that they have gone off this, that, or the other way. * * *
Among the great number who have entered into the fold of Christ, by baptism, few have remained faithful to the present time. (1865, JD 11:176)
The definition of an idol is commonly thought to be some stone or wood image that people pray to. But the dictionary says an idol can be “a god or a saint” or “that to which the affections are passionately set;” an idolater is “one who is inordinately fond of some person or thing.” (New Intern’l. Dic., 1:628)
Many leading Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans thought they were some kind of god, and some of them fatally learned they were not. That lofty assumption has not ceased down through history. Men who place too much affection or attention upon wealth, property, or another person are, in effect, embracing a form of idolatry. Those things become like a god to them and their esteem becomes a form of worship.
These sins entered into the early church of Christ, among both members and leaders, attributing greatly to its apostasy.
We should avoid exalting the leaders so high that no one dares question or disagree with them, setting them up as some kind of idols for idolaters to worship.
 Regrettably, however, excessive praises have crept into the Mormon Church. For example, during one recent General Conference the following adulations and praises were voiced about President Gordon B. Hinckley:
He [Hinckley] was prepared and foreordained before the foundation of the world. For over a half century, he has been taught and tutored by apostles and prophets with whom he has served. He is wise. He is caring. He speaks for the Lord. His is the voice to which we should now respond. Our spiritual safety lies in turning to the clear voice of our living prophet. If we listen to his voice and obey his counsel, we will be able to live as Christ would have us live. . . . (Robert Hales, Ensign, May 1995, p. 17)
I have been acquainted with him [Hinckley] since my early youth and have observed firsthand that the fabric of his noble character contains not a single shoddy thread. From the living water of the Lord and his restored gospel, President Hinckley has drunk deeply throughout his entire lifetime. Because of his righteous obedience, streams of living water have flowed and will continue to flow from him to quench the thirst of a spiritually parched world. (Joseph B. Wirthlin, Ibid., p. 20)
President Hinckley is not only a man for all seasons–but for all the world! (David B. Haight, Ibid., p. 37)
* * *
Mosheim, a noted historian of the early Christian church, noted how easily the weaknesses of men caused the failure of Christ’s own church:
There is no institution so pure and excellent which the corruption and folly of man will not in time alter for the worse, and load with additions foreign to its  nature and original design. Such in a particular manner was the fate of Christianity. (see Ecc. Hist., Century 2, Part 2, Chap. 4)
Even the apostles of Christ contended over who was the greatest, the most learned, the best speaker, the most experienced, the wealthiest, and the most senior member. Because of these weaknesses, they began to idolize themselves and others. The ancient prophets had warned of this tendency, and Avraham Gileadi recorded:
The idea of human idols flows naturally out of other forms of idolatry. Indeed, many ancient gods of myth and ritual had human beginnings, some claiming divine parentage or ancestry. The Hebrew prophets refer to various individuals as false gods. Jeremiah calls an apostate ruler in Judah “a despised broken idol.” (Jer. 22:28) * * *
Zechariah describes false prophets as idols who speak folly and singles out a certain “idol shepherd” who forsakes the flock (Zech. 10:2; 11:17). Instead of feeding the flock, this religious leader consumes the flesh of the fattest (Zech. 11:16). The Lord punishes him by smiting him in the arm and blinding him in one eye (Zech. 11:17), in mock imitation of a marred statue. This punishment renders the religious leader ritually blemished and his ministry illegitimate. (The Last Days, Gileadi, p. 31)
Our God is a jealous God and takes offense at such conduct. The “punishment,” as Gileadi mentioned, is sometimes a physical affliction which the prophets said was an indication that their “ministry is illegitimate.” Many leaders in the Mormon Church during the last century have had serious afflictions–some becoming completely incapable of functioning in their office and calling. According to ancient scriptures, this could mean that God does not approve of their administrations.
 We certainly can’t say that we haven’t been warned. One of the strongest admonitions comes from Nephi, when he saw our day and, referring to all churches, exclaimed:
Yea, they have ALL gone out of the way; they have become corrupted. Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrine, their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up.
They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up.
They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.
O the wise, and the learned, and the rich, that are puffed up in the pride of their hearts, and all those who preach false doctrines, and all those who commit whoredoms, and pervert the right way of the Lord, wo, wo, wo be unto them, saith the Lord God Almighty, for they shall be thrust down to hell! (2 Ne. 28:11-15)
When Nephi refers to ALL churches, this does not exempt the LDS Church. It has been prophesied that the house of God would have to be set in order. (See D & C 85:7.) also, that unfaithful and counterfeit prophets, apostles, and bishops will be condemned and replaced by others:
For it shall come to pass that the inhabitants of Zion shall judge all things pertaining to Zion. And liars and hypocrites shall be proved by them, and they who are not apostles and prophets shall be known. And even the bishop, who is a judge, and his counselors, if they are not faithful in their stewardships, shall be condemned, and others shall be planted in their stead. (D & C 64:38-40)
 There should be no question that currently we indeed have a “house of confusion.”
 Chapter 13
SUSTAINING AND FOLLOWING THE BRETHREN
Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey. (Romans 6:16)
When used in this context, to sustain means to “support” and “uphold;” to help “keep in existence;” to assist someone in his office and calling. It doesn’t mean you necessarily have to agree with every word he says. Over 40 years ago, Elder Marion G. Romney related the following story:
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.
“Do you believe Wilford Woodruff was a prophet of God?”
“Yes,” said he.
“Do you believe that his successor, President Lorenzo Snow, was a prophet of God?”
“Yes, I do.”
 “Do you believe that President Joseph F. Smith was a prophet of God?”
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. (Conf. Rept., Apr. 1953, p. 125)
Elder Romney seemed to think that because this man disagreed with the Church President about old age assistance, that he was on his way to apostasy and forfeiting his chance for eternal life. But the Prophet Joseph had a more understanding and tolerant approach and said:
Our Heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and boundless in His mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive; . . . (TPJS, p. 257)
Also he claimed that “God would not exert any compulsory means” on man. (Ibid., p. 187) In this perspective we should learn to be more like God than man.
The Lord has instituted an equitable governing procedure for the Church which is accomplished by vote of the people:
All things shall be done by common consent in the church, by much prayer and faith. . . . (D & C 26:2)
No person is to be ordained to any office in this church, where there is a regularly organized branch of the same, without the vote of that church. (D & C 20:65)
And a commandment I give unto you, that you should fill all these offices and approve of those names which I have mentioned, or else disapprove of them at my general conference. (D & C 124:144)
 This is a very important passage. The Lord is saying that even though He “mentions” certain people for Church offices, the membership still has the free agency to disapprove of them. That is certainly an awesome responsibility. How many Mormons will get to the other side and discover that they voted against what the Lord really wanted for them?
Joseph Fielding Smith explained Church voting procedure and the expectations of the voters:
All of the quorums will vote in this manner.
Everyone is perfectly free to vote as he wishes. There is no compulsion whatsoever in this voting. When you vote affirmatively, you make a solemn covenant with the Lord that you will sustain, that is, give your full loyalty and support, without equivocation or reservation, to the officer for whom you vote.
After all the quorums have so voted, a vote will then be called of the whole congregation, those bearing the priesthood and those not bearing it. All will arise. Those voting to sustain will raise their right arms to the square, to witness that they sustain the officers for whom they vote. (Conf. Rept., Apr. 1970, p. 103)
Elder Smith seems to be a little over-enthusiastic in saying that when you vote, you must “give your full loyalty and support, without equivocation or reservation, to the officer for whom you vote.” The Lord has never told us to give such support to any man without reservation. You vote for him to fill his office in the manner he is supposed to; it doesn’t mean you continue to support him no matter what he does.
And another extreme opinion came from Elder David Haight:
When we sustain the President of the Church by our uplifted hand, it not only signifies that we acknowledge before God that he is the rightful possessor  of all the priesthood keys; it also means that we covenant with God that we will abide by the direction and the counsel that come through His prophet. It is a solemn covenant. (Conf. Rept., Oct. 1994, p. 17)
What covenant is made when we vote? Is it a covenant that we will follow that leader blindly without question? Is it a covenant that we must believe or do whatever he says? Or is it a commitment to sustain him only if he lives up to his calling? If he fails to fulfill his obligation, is that covenant then null and void? In fact, if he breaks the rules of the Church, shouldn’t he be subject to the same disciplinary action that applies to any other member? John Taylor explained:
When we vote for men in the solemn way in which we do, shall we abide by our covenants? or shall we violate them? If we violate them, we become covenant-breakers. We break our faith before God and our brethren, in regard to the acts of men whom we have covenanted to sustain. But supposing he should do something wrong, supposing he should be found lying or cheating, or defrauding somebody or stealing or anything else, or even become impure in his habits, would you still sustain him? It would be my duty then to talk with him as I would with anybody else, and tell him that I had understood that things were thus and so, and that under these circumstances I could not sustain him; and if I found that I had been misinformed, I would withdraw the charge; but if not, it would then be my duty to see that justice was administered to him, that he was brought before the proper tribunal to answer for the things he had done; and in the absence of that I would have no business to talk about him. (JD 21:208)
The Lord’s system works both ways. The members should support their leaders in every way possible so they will be able to fulfill their obligation. The leaders, too, are supposed to obey the Lord the best they can so they can better serve the people. Brigham Young explained:
It may be that some pray that their Bishop may be led wrong, that they may get rid of him. If so, is that taking a course to save the children of men? Take a man of the weakest intellect of any in a ward and ordain him a Bishop, and then let every other man in that ward be filled with the power of his holy calling; are they not ready and willing to give a word of counsel to their Bishop when they meet him? Their faith is concentrated upon him; they pray for him early and late, that the Lord will fill him with wisdom, enlarge his understanding, open the visions of his mind, and show him things as they are in time and in eternity. You all know that even such a man would become mighty in the house of Israel, if he had the faith of his ward. (JD 7:278)
A lay member of the Church may object to the way a Bishop, Stake President, Apostle or even the President of the Church is doing his job, but his criticism is worth nothing unless it can assist and improve the situation. Brigham Young clarified this:
My maxim is, and it is a rule I have established in the Legislature of this Territory, never to oppose anything unless the one making the objection can present something better. Do not oppose when you cannot improve. If you are not capable of dictating your brethren, do not say that you will dictate them until you have found out a better path than the one in which they are walking. Before you oppose your Bishop as a man unworthy of your best feelings, first point out a better path to him; and then you shall have the right of going to the higher authorities to show that you know more than your Bishop. (JD 6:44)
If leadership in the Church goes off course, then blind obedience certainly will not straighten things out. If the people are sufficiently led by the Holy Spirit to know that they are being led incorrectly, they can exercise enough faith to effect a change. According to Brigham Young:
I want you to have faith enough concerning myself and my counsellors for the Lord to remove us out of the way, if we do not magnify our calling, and put men in our places that will do right. (JD 9:142)
If members do not have confidence in their leaders, or have some legitimate reason for not sustaining them, then they should not be the hypocrite and vote for them. If they have hope that the leaders will do better, correct their mistakes, and repent, then they should constructively admonish them by writing letters or visiting with them–then turn the matter over to the Lord for His judgment.
Too often members sustain Church leaders without really understanding what they are doing. Even though they disagree with those holding high offices, they want to continue enjoying benefits of Church membership, so they raise their hands to sustain the brethren so they can maintain their status in the Church, share in Church activities, and go to the temple.
However, today the members are being taught to never even look for any errors among Church leaders; and if you did notice something amiss, just accept it. Ezra Taft Benson was quoted by his grandson, Steve Benson–when recalling memories of his grandfather–as reportedly saying:
Stand by the Brethren, even if someday they are proven in error or inaccurate, it will be attributed to you for righteousness and the Lord will bless you. This is a basic principle. (printed in Sunstone, Dec. 1994, p. 32)
If this “basic principle” were true, then a different set of standards applies to members and leaders: members are brought to trial for doing something wrong, but leaders are to be sustained if they do the same thing. Members are told to  sustain the leaders even if they do wrong, but if a member does wrong, he can get excommunicated!
To sustain and support someone when they do wrong, is also wrong. A corrupt lawyer will tell a jury how innocent his client is, knowing he is guilty. Is this the same procedure we follow in supporting and sustaining the wrongs of Church leaders? If we should support them when they make mistakes, shouldn’t they support us when we do the same? If a leader does wrong and you sustain him in it, you are being led to do wrong yourself, which is the same as being led astray.
Sustaining is supporting, and if you sustain someone who is opposed to any of the doctrines of Christ, you are a partaker of their transgression. According to the Apostle John:
Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds. (II John 9-11)
John discourages the support of persons opposed to any of the doctrines of Christ–either by bidding them well or by association.
If Brigham Young’s instructions regarding this were correct in the 1800’s, they should certainly apply today. He makes it very clear–
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. I am fearful they settle  down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually. (JD 9:150)
How often has it been taught that if you depend entirely upon the voice, judgment, and sagacity of those appointed to lead you, and neglect to enjoy the Spirit for yourselves, how easily you may be led into error, and finally be cast off to the left hand? (JD 8:59)
Now those men, or those women, who know no more about the power of God, and the influences of the Holy Spirit, than to be led entirely by another person, suspending their own understanding, and pinning their faith upon another’s sleeve, will never be capable of entering into the celestial glory, to be crowned as they anticipate; they will never be capable of becoming Gods. (JD 1:312)
In the beginning of Christ’s ministry, He delivered the “sermon on the mount” discourse to his disciples. In the King James edition, one particular statement is recorded: “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: . . .” (Matt. 7:1-2) But in the Inspired Translation of the Bible by Joseph Smith, he corrected it to read: “Judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged; but judge righteous judgment. For with what judgment ye shall judge, ye shall be judged; . . .” (Matt. 7:2-3) That sheds a new and different light on our responsibility to judge. Sustaining and voting is a part of the judgments by which “ye shall be judged.”
 Every day and every hour of life, we are consciously or unconsciously making judgments, decisions, and selections. Our character and our spirit is molded by the way we select, vote, and sustain. If we make mistakes and err, then our leaders should correct us. Conversely, if our leaders (political or religious) should err, then it is our obligation to admonish and try to correct them. Heber C. Kimball acknowledged this:
When we are corrected by our leaders, it is to set us right, to show us the wrong course, and induce us to pursue the right one. If I do wrong, if I get astray, it is perfectly right that some one should correct me; and when I am corrected, it is not right for me to justify myself; for, if I do, I sustain the course of an incorrect purpose. (JD 4:334)
Brigham Young said if leaders get out of order, we should “burn” them out of office, but not by fire.
I would beseech and pray the people to so live that if I do not magnify my office and calling, you will burn me by your faith and good works, and I shall be removed. (JD 7:281)
What do you do when political leaders disobey righteous political and moral principles? What should you do when religious leaders disobey laws and principles of the Gospel? Both the government and Church officials are determined by the vote of the people.
An interesting explanation for voting in the LDS Church was recently given by a stake president. When a particular member raised a negative vote in their stake conference, he was subsequently called into the stake president’s office and chastised for voting against the general authorities. The member asked, “Well, what then is the reason for having the voting?” The stake president replied, “So we can tell who the apostates are!”
 Too many Church members have been put on probation, disfellowshipped, or excommunicated simply because they disagreed with and failed to sustain their leaders. What is the fate of such persons? Brigham Young explained what would happen:
[Brigham Young] said that if we were accused falsely and tried before a Bishop Court or an High Council and even an unjust decision placed upon us, for us to go forth and make the requisition they required of us or the acknowledgment they desired no matter if it were unjust and he promised us in the name of the Lord we should come out right and shine bright as the noon day sun while they went down. (Charles Walker Journal, p. 17)
In other words, if “we were tried” and the leaders made “an unjust decision” upon us, we should accept their decision even if it was unjust, and it would still be all right for us and serve as a judgment against them.
Our decisions and choices certainly have a serious consequence in our daily lives. We may suffer the terrible effects of choosing the wrong time to walk across a busy street or driving a car too fast. What we read, whom we associate with, and even how we vote all have lasting effects. Not only does our vote affect the life of the person we vote for, but it also has an impact upon us and our salvation. It matters not whether we are a lowly member of the Church or one of its leaders. For instance, Heber C. Kimball described some very serious consequences:
You might as well deny “Mormonism,” and turn away from it, as to oppose the plurality of wives. Let the Presidency of this Church, and the Twelve Apostles, and all the authorities unite and say with one voice that they will oppose that doctrine, and the whole of them would be DAMNED. (JD 5:203)
 In other words, we will associate with people in the next world that are similar to those we select to associate with here in mortality. If we despise polygamists here, we will probably not be able to associate with them over there–which means those who oppose plural marriage in this life will not have association with Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob. And may we also include the Savior Himself?
Anyone who raises his hand to vote is making a very serious decision–and leaders of the Church are no exception. In 1852 Brigham Young said to the State Legislature:
Let this Church which is called the Kingdom of God on the Earth; we will summons the first Presidency, the Twelve, the High Council, the Bishopric, and all the Elders of Israel, suppose we summons them to appear here, and here declare that it is right to mingle our seed with the black race of Cain, that they shall come in with us and be partakers with us of all the blessings God has given to us. On that very day and hour we should do so, the Priesthood is taken from this Church and Kingdom and God leaves us to our fate. The moment we consent to mingle with the seed of Cain, the Church must go to destruction–we should receive the curse which has been placed upon the seed of Cain, and never more be numbered with the children of Adam who are heirs to the Priesthood until that curse be removed. Therefore, I will not consent for one moment to have an African dictate [to] me or my brethren with regard to Church or State Government,. I may vary in my views from others and they may think I am foolish in the things I have spoken, and think that they know more than I do, but I know I know more than they do. (as quoted in Tchgs. of Brigham Young, comp. by Collier, vol. 3, p. 46)
Both the U.S. Government and the LDS Church have elected leaders to represent the sheep–not to shear them. The Lord has made it clear that leaders are supposed to act on  matters according to the approval and vote of the people.
However, it should be pointed out here that while members have the opportunity to vote on whether or not they accept Church policies and leadership, they do not have that same opportunity when it comes to matters of the Holy Priesthood. God determines and controls that, based on righteous and eternal principles–not on the whims and opinions of man. When things are in order, the Church acts as the vehicle for the operation of Priesthood laws–but the membership can choose to accept or reject them, as they have done many times in the past. When these eternal laws are rejected by the Church membership, however, they can and should be continued separate and apart from the Church. Joseph Smith instructed:
A key: Every principle proceeding from God is eternal and any principle which is not eternal is of the devil. The sun has no beginning or end; the rays which proceed from himself have no bounds, consequently are eternal (TPJS, p. 181)
Priesthood laws are obligatory upon those who bear that Priesthood, and common consent or democratic vote will never change such laws.
There are serious penalties for those who reject or vote against true revelation, as Brigham Young explained:
. . . I will go still further and say, take this revelation [on plural marriage], or any other revelation that the Lord has given, and deny it in your feelings, and I promise that you will be damned.
But the Saints who live their religion will be exalted, for they never will deny any revelation which the Lord has given or may give. (JD 3:266)
 We have been taught repeatedly that we will be held accountable for our actions in this life–including how we vote and which leaders and principles we decide to sustain and follow. Our eternal judgment and salvation depend on the choices we make.
 Chapter 14
PORTRAIT OF A PROPHET
Joseph Smith laid the foundation of this work; he was chosen by the Lord for that purpose, and was ordained by prophets and inspired men who formerly held the keys of the kingdom of God upon the earth. (Wilford Woodruff, JD 14:32)
This chapter is included to help us in distinguishing true prophets so we will know the correct ones to sustain.
There are a variety of prophets upon the face of the earth today, and many of them seem to congregate in the Utah area. They may be classified into the following groups:
- true prophets
- false prophets
- fallen prophets
- ordained prophets
- pretended prophets
There are only a few true prophets and even fewer fallen prophets. Ordained prophets are those assuming to be prophets and pretended prophets are the most numerous and the most popular. But the false prophets are the most dangerous. All of them have a place and purpose, and in a way they provide a maze that true sheep must experience and struggle through.
 In fact, a person should learn enough about true prophets so he can become one himself– “that every man might speak in the name of God. . . .” (D & C 1:20)
To date, this author has been acquainted with nearly 50 people who claimed to be a prophet, a revelator, the one mighty and strong, one like unto Moses, the Davidic king, keeper of the keys, a translated being, or some miraculous personage. But how do we know if they are what they claim to be?
Can appearances alone be an indication? If this were the case, then we should all have paid particular attention to three men who appeared outside Temple Square during the 1995 October General Conference.
. . . three men in flowing robes carrying long, carved walking staffs and professing to speak the language of the Biblical Adam, drew a lot of attention at the Saturday’s opening session of the 165th Semi-Annual General Conference of the LDS Church.
The three walked briskly around Temple Square several times, stopping at each gate to raise their arms and deliver prayers in a foreign tongue, which they said was Adamic.
Ondi-Ahman was the leader. The other two deferred to him, saying they had both seen God appear to him. (Ogden Standard Examiner, Oct. 1, 1995)
Can someone’s professed revelations suffice? Most of the pretended prophets have a stack of written revelations. Can seniority, ordination, or knowledge of scripture be proof of their validity? Joseph Smith gave some very broad definitions of a prophet:
I then called upon the quorums and congregation of Saints to acknowledge the Twelve Apostles, who  were present, as Prophets, Seers, and Revelators, and special witnesses to all the nations of the earth, . . . (TPJS, p. 109)
No man is a minister of Jesus Christ without being a Prophet. No man can be a minister of Jesus Christ except he has the testimony of Jesus; and this is the spirit of prophecy. (TPJS, p. 160)
If any person should ask me if I were a prophet, I should not deny it, as that would give me the lie; for, according to John, the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy; therefore, if I profess to be a witness or teacher, and have not the spirit of prophecy, which is the testimony of Jesus, I must be a false witness; but if I be a true teacher and witness, I must possess the spirit of prophecy, and that constitutes a prophet. . . . (TPJS, p. 269)
Anthony W. Ivins, counselor to Heber J. Grant, came up with an interesting and innovative description of a prophet:
When future events are to be declared, he predicts them; but his direct and most important calling is to be a forth-teller, or director of present policy, rather than a foreteller of that which is to come. (Conf. Rept., Oct. 1925, p. 20)
Since there has been no prophecy, or foretelling, in over 100 years, maybe we shouldn’t sustain Church leaders as “prophets,” but rather as “forth-tellers” of present policy.
When Amos asked, “who can but prophesy?” (see Amos 3:8), he indicated that this was a rare qualification. In ancient times it was stated that, “he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer.” (I Sam. 9:9) However, King Limhi stated that “a seer is greater than a prophet” (Mosiah 8:15); so a person who is a “prophet, seer and revelator” has at least three different qualifications that would distinguish him from most other men.
 No human agency or power can make a man a prophet. He does not become a prophet because his father was one nor because he is a member of the Quorum of Twelve or First Presidency–neither does setting him apart and ordaining him a prophet. Seeing visions, angels, and heavenly beings does not qualify one to be a true prophet. All these ordinations, appointments, offices and spiritual blessings are helpful in obtaining the title of prophet, but a man must prove himself worthy and then receive that blessing from the Lord.
Some people are converted to the missionaries or to the leaders as individuals, instead of to the Gospel or to the Lord. A somewhat humorous account illustrating this point was related by Jedediah Grant:
. . . it makes me think of an old Baptist preacher in Virginia. He came and preached in a certain place; the next time he came round, a drunken man came staggering up to him and said, “Brother Jones, when you was last in our settlement, you converted my soul.” “Well,” said Brother Jones, “I should think I did, for I do not believe the Lord had anything to do with it.” (JD 2:72)
At what stage in his life is a man first called to be a prophet? Jeremiah was told:
Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. (Jer. 1:5)
Some received their instructions from the Lord at an early age–such as Samuel, Nephi, Moroni, and Joseph Smith. On the other hand, Moses was 40 years old when he received his call. When Joseph Smith was speaking on the subject of prophets, he said:
Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of heaven before this world was. I suppose I was ordained to this very office in that Grand Council. (TPJS, p. 365)
The Lord usually calls prophets from among the most humble classes of people, i.e., fishermen, tent makers, farmers–the poor and unlearned. Paul wrote, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” (I Cor. 1:26) Eusebius (264 – 349 A.D.), one of the early Christian fathers, explained how the disciples of Christ received the gifts for their ministry:
Those inspired and truly pious men, the apostles of our Saviour, as they were most pure in their life, and adorned with every kind of virtue in their minds, but common in their language, relying upon the divine and wonderful energy granted them, they neither knew how, nor attempted to propound the doctrines of their master, with the art and refinement of composition. But employing only the demonstration of the divine Spirit, working with them, and the wonder-working power of Christ, displayed through them, they proclaimed the knowledge of the kingdom of heaven throughout the world. They bestowed but little care upon the study of style, and this they did, because they were aided by a cooperation greater than that of men. (Eccles. Hist., Eusebius, pp. 107-108)
A true prophet comes as a witness. He does not speak as other religionists who have graduated from some theological college, but as one having authority. He is not noted for being a businessman, professor, lawyer, doctor or banker. His message is not a poetic piece of philosophy, a skillfully written sermon, nor a collection of ideals from popular men of the time. His material comes forth with the words and wisdom of God. His message is written and sealed by the Holy Spirit to  those who have that same spirit; whereas to the spiritually dead, his message is repulsive, unpopular and usually rejected.
His mission is not to support existing corrupt systems, nor to make compromises with the world. To him evil is evil. Wherever there is wickedness, it should be condemned–it matters not if its source is a person, a society, or a government. and he will also foretell their fate and disaster if there is no repentance.
Elder Spencer Kimball once remarked, “Some may wonder why General Authorities speak of the same things from conference to conference.” (Conf. Rept., April 1976, p. 7) But compare that statement to one made by the Prophet Joseph: “It has always been my province to dig up hidden mysteries–new things–for my hearers.” (DHC 6:364)
The devil knows who are true prophets, and he arouses the powers of hell and earth to condemn or kill them. Christian preachers may gather thousands upon thousands to listen to them pound their pulpits and shout out their warnings against evil, but instead of receiving persecution, they receive “offerings” of wealth. Distinguishing between true and false prophets has always been difficult for mankind, as the Prophet Joseph Smith explained:
The world always mistook false prophets for true ones, and those that were sent of God, they considered to be false prophets, and hence they killed, stoned, punished and imprisoned the true prophets, and these had to hide themselves “in deserts and dens, and caves of the earth,” and though the most honorable men of the earth, they banished them from their society as vagabonds, whilst they cherished, honored and supported knaves, vagabonds, hypocrites, impostors, and the basest of men. (TPJS, p. 206)
He that will war the true Christian warfare against the corruptions of these last days will have wicked men and angels of devils, and all the infernal powers of darkness continually arrayed against him. (TPJS, p. 259)
But Jesus said consolingly, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you. . . . Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: . . . for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” (Matt. 5:11-12) Church leaders today, who profess to be true prophets, do not seem to be experiencing persecution, but they try to make people believe they are. For example, Spencer W. Kimball said:
Even in the Church, many are prone to garnish the sepulchers of yesterday’s prophets and mentally stone the living ones.” (Instructor, Aug. 1960, p. 257)
There is a big difference between being physically and mentally stoned with rocks. Did anyone ever go to the hospital because he was injured when someone mentally stoned him?
George Q. Cannon explained when persecution would cease for the prophets and Saints:
There is nothing short of complete apostasy, a complete denial of every principle we have received, a throwing away of the Holy Priesthood, that can save us from persecution. When this takes place, when all the chief features of the Gospel are obliterated, when we can float along the stream and do as the world does, then and not till then will persecution cease. . . . (JD 22:374)
Most persecution against the LDS Church ended at the turn of the century, and Heber J. Grant enjoyed telling the members that: “. . . in place of everyday persecutions and  bitterness, we now enjoy the high regard and happy association with all denominations.” (S.L. Tribune, Nov. 22, 1938)
Rather that persecution, Church leaders today are receiving awards and honors from many religious and political leaders throughout the nation and even the world.
As mentioned, it is not always easy to determine who is really a true prophet. Performing church duties and activities, dispensing wisdom and knowledge, and quoting scripture do not indicate that a man is a prophet. Zondervan has given some significant and helpful signposts:
- A true prophet must speak in the name of the Lord. (Deut. 18:20-22) * * * Although good ideas may be obtained from many different sources, such truths are mixed with error. The true prophet gives a message directly from God; therefore his message can be considered entirely trustworthy. No such claim can be made for any alleged revelation not given specifically in the name of the Lord. * * *
- A true prophet may produce a sign or a wonder. (Deut. 13:1, 2) God enabled Moses to perform certain miracles to show the Israelites that God had sent him (Exod. 4:1-5) and also to prove to Pharaoh that he represented the true God. This sort of authentication of the prophet’s ministry was particularly evident in the work of Elijah and Elisha. It was, however, the exception rather than the rule. * * *
- A prediction given by a true prophet may be visibly fulfilled. This test is specifically mentioned (Deut. 18:22): “if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word which the Lord has not spoken.” In the test mentioned above, God enabled Jeremiah to present proof that he was the true prophet and Hananiah, the false one. * * *
- The most important test of all–agreement with previous revelations. It is clearly  brought out in Deuteronomy 13:1-5 that a man might claim to speak for the Lord, might perform what appeared to be a miracle, and might make a prediction that would come true, and still be a false prophet. It is the duty of God’s people to check carefully the content of any revelation and see whether it is in line with what God has revealed previously. Paul brought out this truth very clearly (Gal. 1:8) where he said, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. (Zondervan’s Enc. of Bible 4:886)
Which is the most important: a messenger of God or a message from God? Which one does God want the people to trust and follow: the prophet or His heavenly communication? The answers are obvious, as one represents mortality and fallibility, whereas the other is more eternal, perfect, and heavenly.
Even the Prophet Joseph Smith had weaknesses and personal failings. After he gave the Book of Mormon manuscript to Martin Harris, Joseph was told by the Lord, “And you also lost your gift at the same time, and your mind became darkened.” (D & C 10:2)
Who would want to follow Joseph in those conditions? If Joseph Smith could fail to the point of being left without his spiritual gift and his mind was darkened, then surely any other prophet or president of the Church could do the same. In such circumstances, the people should not “follow” them.
On another occasion, Joseph was chastised by the Lord when He said:
And now I command you, my servant Joseph, to repent and walk more uprightly before me, and to yield to the persuasions of men no more. (D & C 5:21)
 Even Joseph was capable of yielding “to the persuasions of men.” Previous to that the Lord had told him:
. . . how oft you have transgressed the commandments and the laws of God, and have gone on in the persuasions of men. . . . You should not have feared man more than God. (D & C 3:6-7)
The “persuasions of men” is a very powerful force, and the situation with Joseph was serious enough that the Lord warned him:
Thou wast chosen to do the work of the Lord, but because of transgression, if thou are not aware thou wilt fall, * * * [and] except thou do this, thou shalt be delivered up and become as other men, and have no more gift. (D & C 3:9 & 11)
Thus, it is evident that all men, regardless of their high and holy calling, can fall. The oft repeated statement about the one man at the head of the Church never being allowed to fall is contrary to what the Lord has previously said. Prophets, seers, and revelators can and have been influenced by “the persuasions of men,” and they can “lose their gifts” and “fall.”
A prophet of God should be found totally dedicated to the work of the Lord–not involved with tedious labors or worldly honors. His life should be one of consecration–totally and completely serving God. His time should not be spent on a board of directors for big businesses, nor in any type of lawyercraft, doctorcraft, or political craft. He should not be daily involved with the governments of Democrats and Republicans, but more concerned with building up the Kingdom of God. Joseph said:
. . . there are provisions made until the work [on the temple] is completed, so that men may receive their  endowments and be made kings and priests unto the Most High God, having nothing to do with temporal things, but their whole time will be taken up with things pertaining to the house of God. (TPJS, pp. 362-363)
When the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph that there were to be prophets and apostles in our day just as in the days of Jesus, the Quorum of Twelve were selected and ordained. Oliver Cowdery gave them instructions and an exhortation that should be immortalized in the minds of men who expect to be prophets, apostles and special witnesses of Christ. In that charge to the Twelve, he said:
Never cease striving until you have seen God face to face. Strengthen your faith; cast off your doubts, your sins, and all your unbelief; and nothing can prevent you from coming to God. Your ordination is not full and complete till God has laid His hand upon you. We require as much to qualify us as did those who have gone before us; God is the same. If the Savior in former days laid His hands upon His disciples, why not in latter days? (DHC 2:195-196)
And in his charge to Parley P. Pratt, Oliver Cowdery declared:
. . . bring your mind to bear upon what will be imperiously required of you to accomplish, viz., the great work that lies before you. Count well the cost. You have read of the persecutions and trials of ancient days. Has not bitter experience taught you that they are the same now? You will be dragged before the authorities for the religion you profess; and it were better not to set out, than to start and look back, or shrink when dangers thicken around you, or appalling death stares you in the face. I have spoken these things, dear brother, because I have seen them in visions. There are strong dungeons and gloomy prisons for you. These should not appall you. You must be  called a good or a bad man. The ancients passed through the same experience. They had this testimony–that they had seen the Savior after He rose from the dead. You must bear the same testimony; or your mission, your labor, your toil, will be in vain. You must bear the same testimony, that there is but one God, one Mediator; he that hath seen Him, will know Him, and testify of Him. Beware of pride; beware of evil; shun the very appearance of it; for the time is coming when, if you do not give heed to these things, you will have a fall. * * * Avoid strife and vain glory; think not yourself better than your brethren, but pray for them, as well as for yourself; and if you are faithful, great will be your blessings; but if you are not, your stewardship will be taken from you, and another appointed in your stead. (DHC 2:193)
The question logically follows, then, do the “prophets and apostles” today bear this testimony–that “God has laid His hand” upon them, that “they have seen the Savior,” and that they are special witnesses of Him? President Joseph F. Smith explained what it means to be a special witness of Christ:
For instance these twelve disciples of Christ are supposed to be eye and ear witnesses of the divine mission of Jesus Christ. It is not permissible for them to say, I believe, simply; I have accepted it simply because I believe it. Read the revelation; the Lord informs us they must know, they must get the knowledge for themselves. It must be with them as if they had seen with their eyes and heard with their ears and they know the truth. That is their mission, to testify of Jesus Christ and him crucified and risen from the dead and clothed now with almighty power at the right hand of God, the Savior of the world. That is their mission, and their duty, and that is the doctrine and the truth. . . . (Gospel Doctrine, J.F. Smith, p. 222)
 In light of this description, it is most interesting to read what Elder Bruce R. McConkie had to say regarding such a relationship to the Savior:
. . . you have never heard one of the first Presidency or the Twelve . . . advocate this excessive zeal that calls for gaining a so-called special and personal relationship with Christ. (“Our Relationship with the Lord,” BYU Devotional, Mar. 2, 1982, p. 11)
A good example of a prophet having a personal relationship with God is when He said to Moses: “With him will I speak mouth to mouth . . . and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold.” (Num. 12:8) Moses was a prophet “whom the Lord knew face to face.” (Deut. 34:10) But unfortunately–
That portion which brought Moses to speak with God face to face was taken away; but that which brought the ministry of angels remained. All the prophets had the Melchizedek Priesthood and were ordained by God himself. (TPJS, pp. 180-181)
The Character of Prophets
Through a detailed study of the scriptures, the following pattern emerges in describing the character and work of the prophets:
- They continually denounce and rebuke the evils of their times among both the people and their government.
- After such rebukes, they expressed the Lord’s mercy and His encouragement for them to seek for Zion and His kingdom.
- They brought forth the word of the Lord, revelation, and scripture–often accompanied by miracles.
- They were actively engaged in some special project or work which required divine guidance, i.e. translation of  ancient texts, building an ark, defeating the enemy in battle, etc.
- Prophetic direction is predicated on blessings or cursing, depending on obedience or disobedience to the Lord. An example is found in Leviticus where the Lord says, “If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments. . . then I will give you [such and such blessings].” (Lev. 26:3.4) And from Deuteronomy the Lord says, “If thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God. . . all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee. . . .” (Deut. 28:1,2); but “if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord, . . . all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee; . . . (28:15)
Compare the above to the scriptural pattern that becomes evident when a false prophet comes forth:
- They will speak well of the people and the nation, and declare that all is well in Zion.
- They will encourage the people to work for the Gentiles, obey the laws of the Gentiles, and live like the Gentiles.
- They will have no written revelations, nothing saying “Thus saith the Lord,” and nothing that can be recorded as scripture.
- They have no spiritual gifts, seer stones, works of translation, prophecy or special work assigned by the Lord.
- They have no prophetic promises from the Lord for obedience or disobedience. Instead of instructing people to seek the Lord and obey His words, they encourage people to put their trust in them.
Other characteristics become evident in the lives of true prophets:
The authority of the prophets over the people was derived from several sources:
 1. Their own character as holy, self-denying, unselfish men.
- Their message touched the conscience, which declared that the prophets were right.
- Their message was in accordance with the results of the past history of the nation.
- The assurance on the part of the prophets that they were messengers of God, and were speaking his truth, gave power to their words. They spoke with authority.
- Miracles wrought by God through the prophets, confirmed the word not only of the prophets who wrought them, but of the whole school of prophets.
- The fulfillment of their prophecies was a strong confirmation of the inspired messages. Only God could reveal the future as the prophets foretold it. There is not one of their prophecies which was not fulfilled or in the process of fulfillment. (Peloubet’s Bible Dic., p. 533)
With these guidelines to help in distinguishing true prophets, what is a person to do when he cannot find them exemplified in those who claim to be prophets? In the early days of the church there were abundant testimonies of angels, tongues, spiritual gifts and revelations. Gradually, however, they dwindled until there are no longer written revelations, seer stones, nor speaking in tongues. It appears that God has left man all alone in a barren wilderness without the light of heaven. Why is this? It is to teach the Saints to hold fast to the true principles of the Gospel and weather the storm until it is over, as has been prophesied.
The day will come when every Saint must learn to walk by sheer naked principles alone, without bringing either men or their individual actions into the question at all. (Mill. Star, editorial, 20:708)
The Lord’s lantern lights the pathway to the principles of the Gospel, not to mortal men. Men can deviate, stumble, and fall, but true principles are always constant and eternally true.
 If you are walking in an unfamiliar country in a steep and hazardous area, and the night overtakes you, you have a couple of options: (1) You can keep going–stumbling, banging into trees and obstacles, and maybe fall off a cliff, or (2) you can remain still, build a little fire for protection and warmth, and wait until it gets light again.
In 1939, Elder Hugh B. Brown was speaking to one of the members of the House of Commons in England on the topic of religion. Since they both were in the legal profession, being trained in the importance of both evidence and logic, they took up the subject of the Gospel restoration in an “Examination for Discovery.” Elder Brown wrote:
We agreed, that at least the following characteristics should distinguish a man who claims to be a prophet:
- He will boldly claim that God has spoken to him.
- Any man so claiming would be a dignified man with a dignified message: no table-jumping, no whisperings from the dead, no clairvoyance, but an intelligent statement of truth.
- Any man claiming to be a prophet of God would declare his message without fear, and without making any weak concessions to public opinion.
- If he were speaking for God, he could not make concessions although what he taught would be new and contrary to the accepted teachings of the day. A prophet bears witness to what he has seen and heard and seldom tries to make a case by argument. His message, not he himself, is important.
- Such a man would speak in the name of the Lord saying, “Thus saith the Lord,” as did Moses, Joshua, and others.
- Such a man would predict future events in the name of the Lord and they would come to pass, as did Isaiah, Ezekiel, and others.
- He would have not only an important message for his time, but also often a message for all future time, such as had Daniel, Jeremiah, and others.
- He would have courage and faith enough to endure persecution and to give his life, if need be, for the cause he espoused, i.e., Peter, James, Paul, et al.
- Such a man would denounce wickedness fearlessly. He would generally be rejected and persecuted by the people of his time, but later generations, the descendants of his persecutors, would build monuments in his honor.
- He would be able to do superhuman things, things that no man could do without God’s help. The consequence or result of his message and work would be convincing evidence of his prophetic calling . . . “by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matt. 7:20)
- His teachings would be in strict agreement with scripture, and his words and his writings would become scripture. “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (II Pet. 1:21)
(“The Profile of a Prophet,” H. B. Brown, as quoted from Eternal Quest, pp. 130-31)
Once again, clear and accurate guidelines have been given to help us in our discernment. Let’s now apply some of them to our current leaders who claim to be God’s prophets:
- Boldly claim that God had spoken to him.
This claim has been seldom heard in over a century. They cover their statements with ambiguities that are difficult to understand, but lead one to think that God has spoken to them.
- He would make no weak concessions to public opinion.
It is almost impossible to find any “prophets” who have not made compromises with Babylon.
- His message, not he himself, is important.
Now we hear the constant repetition of “follow the brethren”, instead of “follow the Lord.”
- He would speak saying, “Thus saith the Lord.”
It has been a little over a century since the Church has published a revelation declaring “Thus saith the Lord.”
- He would predict future events.
The gift of prophecy has been almost extinct among all who claim to be Church prophets for the past 100 years.
- He would be rejected by the people and endure persecution.
It would be difficult to find any persecution today. Most persecution ceased in the Church about the turn of the century.
- He would do superhuman things, which no man could do without God’s help.
There have been few, if any, such things since the days of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and John Taylor.
- His teachings would be in strict agreement with the scriptures.
The older the Church becomes, the more changes are made in doctrine, principles and ordinances–contrary to the scriptures.
It seems that Elder Brown was condemning himself and his associates with his own words.
Suppose men are known to be prophets, seers, and revelators–and actually have the spirit and gifts of that calling–can they commit sin or fall from that holy calling and  lose those gifts? In answer, Brigham Young gave some very enlightening information:
If a man is called to be a Prophet, and the gift of prophecy is poured upon him, though he afterwards actually defies the power of God and turns away from the holy commandments, that man will continue in his gift and will prophecy lies.
He will make false prophecies, yet he will do it by the spirit of prophecy; he will feel that he is a prophet and can prophesy, but he does it by another spirit and power than that which was given him of the Lord. (JD 3:364)
In other words, a man could have the Lord’s gift and power of prophecy and revelation throughout his life, but if he does something wrong, he could continue to receive revelations but by another spirit, and he would not even know. This is a very important key for us today in determining true prophets.
There is an ancient document called The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (that has been included in some of the apocryphal works), which purportedly includes the testaments of Jacob’s twelve sons to their children. These have been considered as both patriarchal blessings and a prophecies concerning their posterity, some describing events of the last days. Levi gives a warning of what would happen to Church leaders in our dispensation:
A Decadent Priesthood
And whereas ye have heard concerning the seventy weeks, hear also concerning the priesthood. For in each jubilee (or period of time) there shall be a priesthood. And in the first jubilee, the first (Joseph Smith) who is anointed to the priesthood shall be great, and shall speak to God as to a father. And his  priesthood shall be perfect with the Lord, and in the day of his gladness shall he arise for the salvation of the world. In the second jubilee, he that is anointed (Brigham Young) shall be conceived in the sorrow of beloved ones (the journey west); and his priesthood shall be honoured and shall be glorified by all. And the third priest (John Taylor) shall be taken hold of by sorrow. (He lived and died as a fugitive from the law.) And the fourth (Wilford Woodruff) shall be in pain, because unrighteousness (the U.S. Government) shall gather itself against him exceedingly, and all Israel shall hate each one his neighbour. The fifth (Lorenzo Snow) shall be taken hold of by darkness. Likewise the sixth (Joseph F. Smith) and the seventh (Heber J. Grant). And in the seventh shall be such pollution as I cannot express before men, for they shall know it who do these things. Therefore, shall they be taken captive and become a prey, and their land and their substance shall be destroyed. (The Testaments of the 12 Patriarchs, R. H. Charles, London, 1925 ed., pp. 45-46)
He said that during this time they would become “idolaters, lovers of money, proud,” etc.
Further prophecy regarding the future of the Saints is recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants:
And the rebellious shall be cut off out of the land of Zion, and shall be sent away, and shall not inherit the land. For, verily I say that the rebellious are not of the blood of Ephraim, wherefore they shall be plucked out.
Behold, I, the Lord, have made my church in these last days like unto a judge sitting on a hill, or in a high place, to judge the nations. For it shall come to pass that the inhabitants of Zion shall judge all things pertaining to Zion.
And liars and hypocrites shall be proved by them, and they who are not apostles and prophets shall be known. And even the bishop, who is a judge, and his counselors, if they are not faithful in their  stewardships shall be condemned, and others shall be planted in their stead.
For, behold, I say unto you that Zion shall flourish, and the glory of the Lord shall be upon her; … (D & C 64:35-41)
The fulfillment of this scriptural passage is still in the future, for–
- The rebellious have not been cut out of the land and sent away or plucked out.
- The Church has not been a judge to the nations.
- Those who are not true prophets and apostles have not been exposed, condemned and replaced.
- Zion has not flourished and the glory of the Lord has not been upon her.
This must refer to the time when the Lord will send “one mighty and strong . . . to set in order the house of God and to arrange by lot the inheritances of the saints” (D & C 85:7), which certainly indicates that the house of God must first get out of order.
Apparently, we need to “build our fire” and “wait out the storm” until “it gets light again,” and true prophets are once more evident among the Saints.
 Chapter 15
WHERE HAS ZION FLED?
For a voice of wailing is heard out of Zion, How are we spoiled: we are greatly confounded, because we have forsaken the land. . . . (Jer. 8:19)
What conditions result when true prophets are no longer found on the earth? What happens to the Zion that God’s prophets have encouraged the Saints to establish for thousands of years? Zion is lost!
Failure to create a Zion was constantly repeated in ancient Israel. Worldly influences have had a powerful effect upon those church and political leaders who should have led the people away from the influences of Babylon, so “the Lord hath caused the solemn feasts and sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion, and hath despised in the indignation of his anger the king and the priest.” (Lam. 2:6) There was no divine intervention to prevent them from leading the people astray. Kings, priests, and prophets fell into temptation and were overcome, and they lost their Zion.
It is written in the Book of Mormon that “the laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money, they shall perish.” (2 Nephi 26:31) Nephi was not just talking to common folks, but leaders who were supposed to labor to build up Zion. The Lord has instructed, “And your whole labor shall be in Zion, with all your soul, from henceforth. . . .” (D &  C 30:11) Business concerns, corporation affairs, and worldly matters should be only a small part of the activities of leaders in Zion. They should not depend on the labors of others for their support, but as Alma said, “He also commanded them that the priests whom he had ordained should labor with their own hands for their support.” (Mos. 18:24) And again–
All their priests and teachers should labor with their own hands for their support, in all cases save it were in sickness, or in much want; and doing these things, they did abound in the grace of God. (Mos. 27:5)
In 1831 the Lord gave a similar warning to the Latter-day Saints:
Now, I, the Lord, am not well pleased with the inhabitants of Zion, for there are idlers among them; and their children are also growing up in wickedness; they also seek not earnestly the riches of eternity, but their eyes are full of greediness. (D & C 68:31)
And in 1832 He reiterated:
And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received–which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation. And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.
And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written–that they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion. (D & C 84:54-58)
 Mormon scholars have unsuccessfully search the scriptures, revelations and the archives to see if this curse has been removed. Since the Saints have failed to redeem Zion, they remain under this condemnation.
The Lord continued to warn the Latter-day Saints that if they did not observe to do the things He had commanded, that they would be stricken with “affliction, with pestilence, with plague, with sword, with vengeance, with devouring fire.” (D & C 97:26)
Zion was supposed to have been redeemed by now. We could have been in the Millennium, the temple in Jackson County should have been built, and Jesus Christ should have been declared the King of Kings. As early as 1833 the Lord said:
There is even now already in store sufficient, yea, even an abundance, to redeem Zion, and establish her waste places, no more to be thrown down, were the churches, who call themselves after my name, willing to hearken to my voice. (D & C 101:75)
The Lord described how this redemption of Zion will come about:
Behold, I say unto you, the redemption of Zion must needs come by power; therefore, I will raise up unto my people a man, who shall lead them like as Moses led the children of Israel. For ye are the children of Israel, and of the seed of Abraham, and ye must needs be led out of bondage by power, and with a stretched-out arm. And as your fathers were led at the first, even so shall the redemption of Zion be. (D & C 103:15-18)
So far this event has not happened, and we still await this man “like unto Moses” to lead us out of bondage.
 Zion Today
So today, are we closer to or further away from establishing this Zion? Are we in the same condition that Jeremiah described regarding the children of Israel?
The ways of Zion do mourn, because none come to the solemn feasts: all her gates are desolate: her priests sigh, her virgins are afflicted, and she is in bitterness. (Lam. 1:4)
Why did the Saints fail in redeeming the land and why are we not living in Zion today? The Lord clearly explained that “Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself.” (D & C 105:5)
The Saints failed to live the higher laws in the center stake of Zion in Missouri so they were expelled. During the four years at Nauvoo, there was not even an attempt to live the United Order, for example, so they were again driven out. They became like the children of Israel in the desert with only the hope of keeping Zion’s laws.
But here in the valleys of the Rocky Mountains we have done worse than in Missouri and Illinois. For a few years after the pioneers arrived, an attempt was made to live the United Order and plural marriage, but both leaders and members failed to continue those important laws. Thus, the Church has gone astray from keeping all the laws of Zion, and the redemption of Zion is seldom even mentioned.
Saints and Church leaders today dwell in false security. Spencer Kimball and many other Church dignitaries have proclaimed, “all is well in Zion,” but this expression was not to be used until Zion was redeemed. As Nephi prophesied:
And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well–and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell. * * *
Therefore, wo be unto him that is at ease in Zion! Wo be unto him that crieth: All is well! Yea, wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost! (2 Nephi 28:21, 24-26)
Being carnally secure does not mean all is well in Zion. Some leading men in the Church have made millions of dollars, but this does not indicate an essential nor desired step towards building Zion.
So what are the principles that lead to establishing Zion? They were clearly explained by the Lord:
And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them. (Moses 7:18)
Thus the four major qualifications of a Zion are–
- The people are of one heart–all desires and goals are the same.
- They are of one mind–they all think and believe in the same principles and doctrines.
- They dwell in righteousness–no stealing, no lying, no murders, no prisons, no lawyers.
- There is no poor among them–no millionaires, no homeless living under viaducts, and no starving nor unemployed.
Under these provisions, do we qualify as Zion or have we gone astray from celestial principles? Are any of the leaders, in or out of the LDS Church, crying for Zion? When was the last  sermon you heard pleading for us to redeem Zion? Zion is certainly not represented in Zions Mercantile, Zions Bank, Zions Book, Zion Upholstering, Zions Insurance, Zions Credit or Zions Roofing.
The community of Salt Lake City has more crime per capita than nearly any other city of its size in the nation. It has been called the “fraud capital” of the country because so many crooked schemes are perpetrated here. Law-breaking and unethical and immoral conduct among business, government, and church officials continually make the news. Street gangs, prostitution, shootings, rape, robbery, and criminal activity are commonplace. Yet, in the midst of this corruption, most people seem to be content.
Zion has fled socially, economically, politically, morally and spiritually. We think, look, act, and work like the world, and educate, practice, and promote the laws of the world. We must certainly acknowledge that “Zion has fled.”
The condemnation we live under–both as a church and as individuals–cannot be blamed on just the leaders or just the members; the blame is shared by both because of their transgressions. The Lord explained that the only way the Church can be overthrown is because of transgression:
This is my church, and I will establish it; and nothing shall overthrow it, save it is the transgression of my people. (Mosiah 27:13)
Thus, the people get what they deserve.
The influences of Babylon have been with the Church from the beginning. Brigham Young explained how it was in 1875:
. . . show some of the Elders of Israel according to their present conduct, a dollar on one side and eternal life on the other, and I fear they would choose the dollar. (JD 18:305)
That attitude has not changed.
The Book of Mormon has been given to us to read, but only about 6% of the Mormon people have read it. As Moroni was about to bury the plates, he was permitted to look down through the centuries and saw us as we are today. He then left the following thought for those in our time to ponder:
Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.
And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches, yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts.
For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and needy, the sick and the afflicted. O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers, who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never dies–because of the praise of the world?
Why do ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the  needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not?
Ye, why do ye build up your secret abominations to get gain, and cause that widows should mourn before the Lord, and also orphans to mourn before the Lord, and also the blood of their fathers and their husbands to cry unto the Lord from the ground, for vengeance upon your heads?
Behold, the sword of vengeance hangeth over you; and the time soon cometh that he avengeth the blood of the saints upon you, for he will not suffer their cries any longer. (Mormon 8:35-41)
Anciently the children of Israel were in spiritual and temporal bondage for several hundred years. Then a deliverer (Moses) came and led them into the wilderness where they were supposed to learn the laws of God. Only a few remained faithful to the higher laws of the priesthood and were permitted to enter the promised land.
History repeats itself–with Brigham Young playing the role of a deliverer and the Salt Lake Valley as the wilderness, and only a few will go back to Jackson County to redeem Zion. But before that day, there must be a house-cleaning and purifying process.
The Lord described the redemption of Zion in a parable of the nobleman and his vineyard. (See D & C 101:44-58.) The nobleman sent his servants out to do a job in the vineyard with some olive trees. But the servants soon became slothful and neglected portions of the work and “hearkened not unto the commandments of their lord.” (v. 50) When the nobleman returned, he asked, “Why! what is the cause of this great evil? Ought ye not to have done even as I commanded you. . . ? (vs. 52-53) He then gathered up a small residue of the faithful servants and went “straightway unto the land of my vineyard”  and then they accomplished the work that those who were appointed had failed to do.
Thus, from prophecy, scripture, and present-day conditions, it is evident that Zion has indeed fled!
 Chapter 16
LAWS, PRINCIPLES AND ORDINANCES
If the principles by which any of us attempt to save ourselves are contrary to the Bible, we may know they are man’s teachings, not God’s, for the Lord and His gospel remain the same–always. (editorial, Church News, June 3, 1965, p. 16)
Since we have been commanded not to put our trust in the arm of flesh, where can we put our trust? The answer, of course, is in the Lord, for the Savior Himself commanded, “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. (Matt. 4:10)
Many scriptural passages make it very clear that we should put our trust only in the Lord:
I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies. (Ps. 18:1-3)
Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded. (Ps. 22:4-5)
I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surely he shall  deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. (Ps. 91:2-4)
It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes. (Ps. 118:8-9)
They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever. As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even for ever. (Ps. 125:1-2)
The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence. I will call on the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies. (II Sam. 22:3-4)
And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good–yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit. (D & C 11:12)
Let him trust in me and he shall not be confounded; and a hair of his head shall not fall to the ground unnoticed. (D & C 84:116)
These words should certainly leave no question as to where we should place our trust and the blessings that result.
How do we as mortals–as Saints–best serve Him and put our trust in Him? First, we need to learn and obey His laws, principles and ordinances–those He instituted Himself and those He has revealed through His true prophets. Righteous men in all dispensations are saved by obedience to the same eternal and unchangeable laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
 Cain was the first person on our earth to think he could change the laws and ordinances of God.
Abel offered to God a sacrifice that was accepted, which was the firstlings of the flock. Cain offered of the fruit of the ground and was not accepted. . . . (TPJS, p. 58)
Both made a sacrifice to God and both did it with good intentions; yet Cain’s was not accepted because he changed the ordinance. Men in our day might change the laws, principles and ordinances with good intentions, as a sincere sacrifice and as an offering to God, but He cannot accept it.
In the beginning, Cain was a righteous man. He held the priesthood and his skin was white. He walked and talked with God and knew the Gospel very well. But he made a serious mistake–he thought he could make some minor changes in an ordinance and be justified in so doing. But when his sacrifice was not accepted, he became resentful and bitter; and feeling inferior to his brother, Abel, slew him. Cain was cursed: he lost the priesthood, his skin became black, he began to fight against God, and eventually became a son of perdition.
This illustrates that even a “minor” change could lead to “major” consequences! The Lord also warned:
Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; . . . (Matt. 5:19)
“Strait is the gate and narrow is the way” (Matt. 7:14), and nothing we can do will broaden it.
 One of the first major errors committed by the early Christians was to make changes in the principles, ordinances and laws of the Gospel. With good intentions and the unanimous vote of their leaders, they thought they were doing the right thing. However, if they would have maintained the principles, they would have continued with the Priesthood. An editorial in the Times and Seasons explained how their Priesthood was lost.
We have not time to enter into the various abuses of the Church of Rome, but will merely state that if they had continued pure, their priesthood would also have been pure; and their authority to administer in the ordinances of the church would have been legal; not because they had a succession of popes, but in consequence of their adherence to the pure principles of the gospel, for the priesthood cannot continue when the gospel is perverted; * * *
But as they have departed from his gospel, introduced the ordinances of men, and neglected to teach the things that God commanded them, they have lost the authority, blessings and power of the priesthood. (T & S, editorial, 4:9)
Joseph Smith confirmed this when he explained, “If there is no change of ordinances, there is no change of Priesthood.” (TPJS, p. 158) In other words, when someone changes or discards the ordinances, he also changes or discards the Priesthood, which can continue only through the adherence to eternal laws and ordinances.
The Priesthood is the greatest and strongest power in the universe, yet it is also extremely fragile and delicate. It is very difficult to preserve and very easy to lose. Sometimes we wonder if there are more men who lose it than those who are able to keep it.
 God does not interfere with the actions of men if they choose to “introduce the ordinances of men and neglect to teach the things that God commanded them.” (Ibid.) He allows them to do it, but He takes away their “authority, blessings and power of the priesthood.” If men who preside over the Priesthood can err and lose their priesthood, then all those who blindly follow them could lose the Priesthood, too.
Some have claimed that God can revoke, change or do away with His laws, and the following verse is often quoted in support of that theory:
. . . when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work, behold it behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings. (D & C 124:49)
Of course, the key word here is work, which is mentioned four times. A work is an activity or project, such as constructing a building, a boat, or a temple; translating a manuscript; performing a mission to a certain people; etc. This has nothing to do with eternal laws, principles, or ordinances. A work is flexible and can change; God’s laws, principles and ordinances do not:
. . . God’s work is progressive. It changes its appearance, but never its principles. The truths upon which it is founded are eternal, unalterable, but there are many regulations that change and change and change, as the work of God goes on. (Orson F. Whitney, Conf. Rept., Oct. 1916, p. 56)
Charles W. Penrose also explained this distinction:
It is a little singular that some people will persistently refuse to see the difference between a certain special work and a principle or law. The consistency of the Lord relieving a people from any such obligation as the building of a house when prevented by enemies from accomplishing it is self-evident. When it comes to the abrogation of a law, a principle, a truth, the matter is entirely different. The revelation does not apply even remotely. . . . (Des. Even. News, June 5, 1885)
There are numerous statements declaring the eternal nature of God’s laws, principles, and ordinances. For example:
Ordinances instituted in the heavens before the foundation of the world, in the priesthood, for the salvation of men, are not to be altered or changed. All must be saved on the same principles. (TPJS, p. 308)
He set the ordinances to be the same forever and ever. . . . (TPJS, p. 168)
It signifies, then, that the ordinances must be kept in the very way God has appointed; otherwise their Priesthood will prove a cursing instead of a blessing. (TPJS, p. 169)
The order of the house of God has been, and ever will be, the same, even after Christ comes; and after the termination of the thousand years it will be the same; and we shall finally enter into the celestial kingdom of God, and enjoy it forever. (TPJS, p. 91)
Now taking it for granted that the scriptures say what they mean, and mean what they say, we have sufficient grounds to go on and prove from the Bible that the Gospel has always been the same; the ordinances to fulfill its requirements, the same, and the officers to officiate, the same; and the signs and fruits resulting from the promises, the same; . . . (TPJS, p. 264)
All men who become heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ will have to receive the fulness of the ordinances of his kingdom; and those who will not receive all the ordinances will come short of the fullness of that glory, if they do not lose the whole. (TPJS, p. 309)
A key: Every principle proceeding from God is eternal, and any principle which is not eternal is of the devil. (TPJS, p. 181)
We have laid down here, certain principles of the Gospel that Paul taught to the Hebrews nearly 2,000 years ago, but principles that were not new even in that day; on the contrary, principles of eternal truth which have always existed, that always will exist, which cannot be changed in their form, cannot be annihilated through the unbelief of the human family; for they are self-existent. . . .
And I will here say, as I wish to be understood by all men, that our faith is, there never has been but one Gospel upon the earth, though today there are six hundred three score and six different religious faiths, all more or less diverse one from another; but there is but the one true and everlasting Gospel, and never will be any more, and it is the same Gospel that was taught to Adam, to Noah, to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the Patriarchs, and which Jesus and the Apostles preached; it never did vary in the least in one single instance, nor never will. And I say, if we teach any other gospel than that which was taught by Jesus and His Apostles, we teach a false Gospel and shall be under condemnation before God, angels and men. (Wilford Woodruff, JD 23:126-127)
There are revelations in that book (Doc. & Cov.) concerning counsel and the management of affairs that are not binding upon us only so far as they are applicable to us. When, however, it comes to the revelations concerning principle, then those revelations are unalterable, and they will stand as long as heaven and earth will endure, because they are  true. (George Q. Cannon, Des. Even. News, Sept. 21, 1895)
There are certain truths that are not affected by ever-changing circumstances; truths which are always the same, no matter how often they must be revealed, truths which are elementary, permanent, fixed; from which there must not be, and cannot be, any departure without condemnation. (B. H. Roberts, Imp. Era, May 1900, p. 576)
These principles do not change; they cannot change; they must endure immutably through all time. But we stand for the revelations of God as they have been revealed in this dispensation, unchangeable, immutable, enduring forever, because they are eternal. (Jos. Fldg. Smith, Conf. Rept., Oct. 1924, p. 100)
It makes no difference what is written or what anyone has said, if what has been said is in conflict with what the Lord has revealed, we can set it aside. My words, and the teachings of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear. We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man’s doctrine. (Doc. of Sal., Jos. Fldg. Smith, 3:203)
Even the writings, teachings, and opinions of the prophets of God are acceptable only to the extent they are in harmony with what God has revealed and what is recorded in the standard works. When the living oracles speak in the name of the Lord or as moved upon by the Holy Ghost, however, their utterances are then binding upon all who hear, and whatever is said will without any exception be found to be in harmony with the standard works. The Lord’s house is a house of order, and one truth never contradicts another. (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, p. 765)
 Compare the above 12 quotations with the following, which represents the position taken by the Church today:
. . . it is not uncommon for people to feel uncomfortable when changes occur. * * * But changes in the Church are not only inevitable; also, as Elder Boyd K. Packer testified, they “are a testimony that revelation is on-going.” (Follow the Living Prophets, Top, Dahl, and Bowen, p. 20)
When the early Christian church kept making changes through the centuries, it certainly did not mean that revelation was “on-going”. Rather, when laws, principles, and ordinances of the Gospel were changed, it was evidence that revelations from God had ceased, and “revelations” from man had taken over.
All of the many Christian religions of the world have a portion of the gospel, but they do not teach the fullness of it. The Lord has said, “There are none that doeth good except those who are ready to receive the fulness of my gospel, which I sent forth unto this generation.” (D & C 35:12) So, just being a Latter-day Saints does not mean we will automatically be saved in the Celestial Kingdom.
All who profess to be Latter-day Saints will not be saved in the celestial world, for they cannot abide the celestial law, but all will attain to the glory which they can abide. Every righteous thing that we do in this mortality is a rudimental lesson in the celestial law of our God. Let us go to with our might, mind, and strength, to abide the celestial law, as it shall be revealed to us from time to time, until we can abide its fulness, that we may ultimately be introduced into the presence of our heavenly Father to dwell with him for ever more. (Heber C. Kimball, JD 11:146)
 Although Church leaders and officers may try, they cannot change these eternal laws and ordinances of the Gospel:
The Lord and His Prophets have declared it as a law unto His people, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Then who can say, Thou mayest commit adultery, and it will be no sin? It is written as a law unto the Saints, “Thou shalt not kill.” Then we ask again, Who can kill and be forgiven? And in like manner it might be asked of all the laws of God. Who has the right to make them void? None can revoke the decree but Him by whom it was given, neither can the laws of God be trampled upon with impunity, or revoked by a lesser power than that by which they were framed. (editorial, Mill. Star, 14:595)
And if they try to make such changes, God will justify the people in not following their counsel:
If a bishop counsels the people of his ward to swear, shall they swear? No. If he counsels them to steal, shall they steal? No. If he counsels them to lie and bear false witness, shall they do these wrongs? No. If he teaches them to break the Sabbath, shall they break the Sabbath? No. If a bishop or any other officer in this Church shall counsel the people to violate any of the laws of God, and to sustain and build up the kingdoms of this world, I will justify them, and the Lord will justify them IN REFUSING TO OBEY THAT COUNSEL. (Brigham Young, JD 12:164)
The objective is clear. We should not follow a leader if he breaks a moral law–neither should we follow him if he breaks any other Gospel law. A man would be more justified in following the inspired teachings of a man outside the Church than he would be by following uninspired teachings of a leader inside the Church. History has taught us that neither position, title, nor good works has anything to do with following a man  who opposes the laws, principles, and ordinances of the Gospel. Sometimes good men can be partly wrong and bad men partly right.
It is the nature of man to try to improve things, and some things do need improvement–but not the everlasting Gospel. Nephi saw a rod of iron which was the word of God to rule the world (See I Nephi 8:19.), which was the same rod or set of laws that John the Revelator saw with which Christ would rule the world (See Rev. 12:5.). Iron is very firm, unyielding and strong, so it well represents the word of God. Unwise men, however, have changed the word of God to be more like a rod of rubber!
As the Constitution directs and limits government, so the Doctrine and Covenants directs and limits the Church. To forsake the Constitution is treason; to forsake the Doctrine and Covenants is apostasy.
The history of Christianity shows that the changes made in Gospel principles were never intended to be wrong. Changes were made in the mode of baptism simply because they lacked water. Other changes came because they wanted to increase converts, to avoid persecution, to comply to the laws of the land, or for some other logical reason. The best of men can have the best of intentions, yet make the worst mistakes. Christian leaders persecuted, tortured, and killed people, thinking they were doing God a service.
If men do not accept the gospel as it stands, there is no profit in dressing it up to make it more appetizing. The gospel needs no “adorning,” to use St. Augustine’s word. (Hugh Nibley, The World and the Prophets, p. 53)
 We who are supposed to be Latter-day Saints are like the ancient Israelites who could not quite reach and accept the higher laws of the Gospel. The Lord said to them:
Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. (Jer. 6:16)
Jude was one of the few Christians who tried to warn the people of unrighteousness men who would try to change the Gospel:
. . . it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:3-4)
But current Church leaders are taking the opposite approach and are telling us to “forget” what was said by former-day leaders, even though this constitutes a change or loss of the laws, principles, and ordinances of the Gospel. It has been taught that men cannot change the Gospel–they can only administer it. But it was prophesied that such changes would eventually take place:
The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. (Isaiah 24:5)
Changing laws, ordinances, or covenants will also change blessings and results. If the ingredients in a bread recipe are changed, so will be the results. With even slightly changes, the  bread could be worthless and inedible. A very minor alteration in the formula of one’s eye glasses could make reading impossible. Men who change Gospel principles and ordinances will eventually lose both their Priesthood power and their exaltation.
Church leaders today continually give conflicting information to the members, i.e.:
I hold it entirely compatible with the genius of the Church to change its forms of procedure, customs and ordinances in accordance with our own knowledge and experience. (Stephen L. Richards, S.L. Tribune, Apr. 10, 1932)
However, Elder Robert Wells of the First Council of Seventy declared:
We have, in original form, everything that has ever been brought to earth that is part of the great Plan of Salvation–nothing altered, nothing modified. (Ensign, Nov. 1995, p. 66)
The fact is that nearly every law, principle and ordinance of the Church has been changed. To mention only a few–
- Gathering to Zion no longer encouraged
- Gifts of the Spirit (tongues, visions, etc.) diminishing
- Wording changed in Priesthood ordinations
- Disappearance of Seventies on local levels
- Discontinuance of the Church Patriarch
- Missionaries no longer travel without purse or scrip
- United Order and consecration discontinued
- Plural marriage abolished
- Council of Fifty and organization of the Kingdom of God dissolved
- Blood atonement no longer believed nor taught.
- Rebaptism discontinued
- Temple ceremony changed
- Priesthood garment style changed
- Law of adoption (sealing men to men) discontinued
- Adam-God doctrine no longer believed
- Blacks can now hold Church priesthood
Whether or not one chooses to believe in any of the above principles and doctrines, he will nevertheless have to admit they have indeed been changed throughout the 160+ years of Church history. Joseph Smith must have seen our day and knew that such revisions would be made in the Gospel, for he repeatedly warned the Saints:
If any man writes to you or preaches doctrines contrary to the Bible, the Book of Mormon, or the Doctrine and Covenants, set him down as an imposter. (T & S, Apr. 1, 1844)
O ye twelve and all Saints! Profit by this important key–that in all your trials, temptations, afflictions, bonds, imprisonments and death, see to it that you do not betray the brethren [referring to his brethren at that time]; that you do not betray the revelations of God, whether in the Bible, Book of Mormon, or Doctrine and Covenants, . . . (TPJS, p. 156)
. . . if any man preach any other Gospel than that which I have preached, he shall be cursed; and some of you who now hear me shall see it, . . . [Some in that audience lived beyond 1890.] (TPJS, pp. 366-367)
It is now up to us an individual Saints to determine the truth for ourselves–trusting only in the Lord. Look very closely at the Gospel today and compare it with the Gospel as it was restored; then determine which set of Gospel laws, principles, and ordinances you should obey!
 Chapter 17
THE FAILURE OF MANKIND
I can tell you this much about it, it is pretty hard work to make sheep out of goats. (Brigham Young, JD 20:43)
This chapter is divided into three sections:
- The Failure of Men
- The Failure of the Church and Government
- The Failure of the World
- The Failure of Men
Of all the slaves who ever rowed oars, shoveled dirt, picked cotton, or carried burdens, did any of them really want to be a slave? Probably not, yet nearly all men allow someone else to do their thinking for them–which is actually a form of slavery.
God gave each individual a body to use in many different ways: he has legs to walk, hands to work, a mouth to eat, eyes to see, and a mind to think. He wouldn’t want someone else to walk for him, eat for him, or see for him. So why do most men want someone else to do their thinking for them? If another person dictates the use of your body as a slave, what is it when he dictates the use of your mind?
 For several years we have heard the expressions in the LDS Church, “follow the brethren even if they are wrong,” “when the leaders speak, the thinking has been done,” and “your leaders cannot lead you astray.” If we followed that mentality to its fullest extent, the result would be similar to the subjects who followed Soviet propaganda. Reverend Richard Wurmbrand told the following story illustrating this:
I will never forget my first encounter with a Russian prisoner. He told me he was an engineer. I asked him if he believed in God. If he had said “no,” I would not have minded it much. It is the right of every man to believe or disbelieve. But when I asked him if he believed in God, he lifted his eyes toward me without understanding and said: “I have no such military order to believe. If I have an order, I will believe.”
Tears ran down my cheeks. I felt my heart rent in pieces. Here stood before me a man whose mind was dead, a man who had lost the greatest gift God has given to mankind–to be an individual. He was a brainwashed tool in the hands of the communists, ready to believe or not on an order. He could not think any more on his own. This was a typical Russian after all these years of communist domination! After the shock of seeing what communism had done to human beings, I promised God I would dedicate my life to these men, to give them back their personalities and to give them faith in God and Christ. (Tortured for Christ, p. 14)
Most people who are physically handicapped or mentally disabled must be supported by someone else. A person who cannot or will not work, is sustained by the welfare of others. Those who have a serious accident with severe loss of blood must have blood donated to them from another person. Thus, if people are spiritually supported by someone else, it must mean they are spiritually weak, sick or incapable of sustaining themselves.
 But Brigham Young admonished, “Though our interest is one as a people, yet remember, salvation is an individual work; it is every person for himself. (JD 2:132)
We cannot be exalted by leaning on the arm of someone else. Brigham said, “No man can be exalted unless he be independent.” (JD 1:111) If you work for someone else, you are his servant; if you labor for yourself, you are independent and self-supporting. Orson Hyde and Brigham Young observed:
Still, one can hardly refrain from thinking, when he sees his neighbour begging and borrowing bread, how much more commendable it would be in him to apply himself to labour and produce thereby bread from the soil by his own exertion.
And inasmuch as our Heavenly Father is accessible to all, it is far better to store our minds with the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, by our own spiritual labours and toil, direct from the great Fountain of celestial light and love, than to trust wholly to the testimony and teachings of others. Obtain the testimony of Jesus, which is the spirit of prophecy. Startle not at the idea of prophecy and prophets; for I would to God that all the Lord’s people were prophets. (Orson Hyde, JD 7:71)
There are those among this people who are influenced, controlled, and biased in their thoughts, actions, and feelings by some other individual or family, on whom they place their dependence for spiritual and temporal instruction, and for salvation in the end. These persons do not depend upon themselves for salvation, but upon another of their poor, weak, fellow mortals. (Brigham Young, JD 1:312)
To place your trust in man is a form of apostasy, for the dictionary says apostasy is “to forsake one’s faith or principles.” (New Intern’l Dic. 1:69) So if a person turns from following principles to following personalities, it actually can be called apostasy.
 When men place their trust in someone else, they are preparing themselves to be servants. Most men are preparing to be servants in this world and the next, but only a few are preparing to be Gods. You become like the ones you serve. This also applies to organizations, as the following demonstrates:
Every year many corporations that have grown sluggish and are headed downward are rebuilt. And how? By changing a handful of executives at the top. Companies and colleges and churches and clubs and unions and all other types of organizations are successfully rebuilt from the top down, not from the bottom up. Change the thinking at the top and you automatically change the thinking at the bottom. Over a period of time, subordinates tend to become carbon copies of their chief. The simplest way to get high-level performance is to be sure the master-copy is worth duplicating. (The Magic of Thinking Big, P. Swartz, pp. 217-18)
Changing the thinking at the top can either be for good or for worse–and if church leaders make errors, the members who follow will make the same errors.
Mormonism has turned from cursed is he that puts his trust in mortal men to blessed is he that does. In its proper perspective, we should honor the offices men hold, obey the truths they teach, but recognize them as mortal, fallible, and subject to weaknesses and error. Don’t trust them in all they say and do. There is no fault in giving men admiration, esteem and personal regard, but trust in the Lord. As an ancient Arab proverb said, “Believe in Allah but tie up your camel.” Mankind cannot be trusted in temporal or spiritual things. So much homage and reverence were paid to Buddha and Mohammed that they became recognized as gods. The same obeisance caused temporal disaster to the followers of Hitler,  Stalin, and Mao Tse Tung. Spiritually it can become an eternal disaster.
In the early days of the Church, members were taught to get their endowments and then work to achieve their second anointings. Then they would be ordained as kings and priests, queens and priestesses, UNTO GOD . . . not unto any man. This was because they had proved themselves worthy to receive revelation and guidance directly from God, and they would be given a kingdom. He would then preside over his own kingdom–not be a slave in someone else’s. A king wears a crown on his head, not a ring in his nose. According to Nephi there would not be many in our time who would qualify:
They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men. (2 Nephi 28:14)
Isn’t that preposterous? Almost everyone has gone off the track except “a few humble followers of Christ,” and even they are in error because “they are taught by the precepts of MEN! Will we ever learn?
- The Failure of the Church and Government
The Church of Jesus Christ should last forever, but it has always failed because it eventually becomes governed by man. Wilford Woodruff explained:
They had neglected to magnify their callings as apostles, as elders. They had used that priesthood to attempt to build themselves up and to perform some  other work besides the building up of the kingdom of God. (JD 21:190)
When churches and governments become absorbed in the things of the world, they lose sight of the things of God. As they become more concerned with big business, corporate powers, boards of directors, and wealth, they lose sight of God’s kingdom and its meaning and importance.
People, like sheep, tend to follow their leaders; and when the leaders fail, the people also fail. Jeremiah saw this and wrote:
A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so; . . . (Jer. 5:30-31)
And Dr. Hugh Nibley observed:
After the prophets came the false prophets, and after the apostles, the false apostles, and after the Christ, the anti-Christ. Is it unthinkable that the church should likewise have a dubious successor? (Mormonism and Early Christianity, Nibley, pp. 186-87)
In 1890 a strange thing happened when Wilford Woodruff signed the Manifesto. He told members of the Church:
I hereby declare my intention to submit to those laws [of the land], and to use my influence with the members of the Church over which I preside to have them do likewise.” (“Official Declaration”, commonly known as the Manifesto, which follows the Doc. & Cov.)
It was a transition from obeying God’s laws to man’s laws. He was speaking of national leadership rather than  Divine leadership, leading to the laws of the land having jurisdiction over the laws of God. Ask Mormons if a law of God clashed with national laws, what should they do, and most will answer, “We must obey the laws of the land.”
Immediately after issuing the Manifesto, persecution stopped, members turned to business, sought for Federal employment and political offices. Historians have written extensively on this condition, such as Tom Alexander’s book, Mormonism in Transition. Even the title alludes to the fact that when Christianity goes through such a transition, it is called apostasy.
During the last century we have been encouraged to submit to the laws of the land, regardless of their opposition to the laws of God or the Constitution. We are even being tricked into joining the wicked, atheistic New World Order, which is really the Old World Order of Babylon.
Our national leaders are making treaties, agreements and obligations with foreign governments without the vote or approval of the citizens. Likewise, our Church leaders are making commitments to our national leaders without the vote or approval of the members.
The more corrupt the Federal Government became, the more they opposed Mormonism. In 1890 they did not repent and concede to Mormonism; Mormonism conceded to them. The government has not changed for the better; Mormonism has changed for the worse. We have failed to sustain all the laws of the Gospel, to redeem Zion, to live righteously and to enjoy all the gifts of the Gospel. We do not rebuke the evils in Washington, D.C.; we participate in their politics and shake hands with them. Brigham Young prophesied that this would happen:
And when the spirit of persecution, the spirit of hatred, of wrath, and malice ceases in the world against this people, it will be the time that this people have apostatized and joined hands with the wicked. . . . (JD 4:327)
The Church experienced both political and doctrinal transitions through the turn of the century. As a result of these changes, there was also a transition in their communication with the Lord, which is evident from this experience of Lorenzo Snow:
Shortly before the death of President Woodruff and knowing of his serious illness, Elder Snow went to his room in the Temple, where he was residing at the time, dressed himself in the robes of the priesthood and in the solitude of one of the sacred rooms, he knelt before the altar and poured out his soul to God to spare the beloved leader. He prayed that the Lord would extend the mortal life of the aged President beyond his own that he might not be called upon to bear the terrific burdens associated with the highest office in the Church. “Nevertheless,” he said, “Thy will be done. I have not sought this responsibility, but if it be Thy will, I now present myself before Thee for Thy guidance and instruction.” Emerging from the room, the Apostle received a personal visitation from the Lord Jesus Christ, from whom he received instructions relative to the reorganization of the First Presidency when the mantle should fall upon him to lead the Church. (Life of Lorenzo Snow, T. C. Romney, p. 445)
“One of the sacred rooms” was actually the Holy of Holies, and Romney was correct when he said that the Savior appeared to Lorenzo Snow after he emerged from that room. The Savior explained why He did not honor that sacred place:
Donning his temple clothes, he went into the holy room of the temple to receive advice and counsel from God on the subject. For hours, he pled with the Lord for  an answer. No answer came. Finally he left the room and went out into the foyer. He sadly looked at a large painting on the wall, of the Savior Jesus Christ. Then to his joy, the Savior appeared. At this time, Jesus explained to him that He could not come to him while in the Holy of Holies, because the Church was not worthy of such a revelation. They had given up that most holy principle which leads to eternal lives–Celestial Marriage, or in other words, Plural Marriage.
Jesus then explained to Lorenzo Snow that He was not coming to him as President of the Church. The Savior explained that it was due to Lorenzo’s own personal righteousness that He had come to answer his questions. This incident is related by Lorenzo Snow’s granddaughter, who heard it from his lips. (Keys of the Priesthood, Illustrated, Lynn and Steven Bishop, p. 223; see also Temples of the Most High, Lundwall, pp. 139-142.)
This author was privileged to meet Lucille Snow, the last living daughter of Lorenzo Snow, and talk to her about this incident. She stated that she was going to meet with some of the Church leaders to tell them something she was sure they did not know. I asked, “Would that be the account of the Savior appearing to Lorenzo Snow after he came out of the Holy of Holies, because he was personally worthy, but not as a leader in the Church? Surprised, she responded, “How did you find out about that?” This verified for me that the story was indeed true.
When Brigham Young was speaking at one of the meetings during the St. George Temple dedication, he–
. . . showed the folly of the saints in giving their sustenance to the gentiles, and to wicked and corrupt men. Said that some of this people if they had the power would build a railroad to the bottomless pit, and would send all they had and the earth besides to the devil; rebuked such with shame and said we acted like  damned fools, . . . He smote the stand with his walking stick as he spoke thus that sentence and made the remark again and the marks are on the stand and will remain there as a testimony of the truth and the power by which he spoke. (Charles Walker Journal, Jan. 1, 1877)
Those marks remain–and so does the foolishness of most Mormon people. Already knowing the answer, John Taylor asked the Saints,
Shall we give up our religion and our God and be governed by the practices that exist in the nation which are contrary to the laws of God? (JD 20:356)
Apparently most of them thought they should.
We no longer seek for things to be “done on earth as they are in heaven,” but rather as they are done in Washington, D.C. We allow the laws of the land to prevail over the laws of God.
- The Failure of the World
The whole world has fallen under a curse and–
“They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of its own God, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, . . . (D & C 1:16)
Our world today represents the depth of sin and wickedness, similar to the condition that existed just before it was destroyed by flood. We are not only sinning in the same ways that other dispensations did, but we are sinning scientifically as well. According to Brigham Young, our world is worse than others:
We are inhabitants of a world of sin and sorrow; pain and anguish, every ill that can be heaped upon intelligent beings in a probation we are heirs to. I suppose that God never organized an earth and peopled it that was ever reduced to a lower state of darkness, sin and ignorance than this. (JD 10:175)
And the Prophet Joseph Smith said:
This generation is as corrupt as the generation of the Jews that crucified Christ; and if He were here today, and should preach the same doctrine He did then, they would put Him to death. (TPJS, p. 328)
These present worldly conditions, however, are a fulfillment of the prophecy, “As the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” (Matt. 24:37) So, based on the level of wickedness in the world today, the second coming of the Savior must be very close.
The gentiles of the world are the “tares,” and “the enemy that sowed them is the devil.” (See Matt. 13:38 & 39) The world at best is represented as a telestial world; so if we live celestial laws, we are going to be in conflict with the world. True prophets condemn immoral people and corrupt government leaders. False prophets are at peace with them, compromise with them, and even receive honors from them. Thus, following a false prophet can jeopardize a man’s eternal salvation.
Suppose an influential religious leader speaks 99 truths and one falsehood. What can be the outcome of a person who has put total trust in what he says? An example is an incident related by Orson Pratt about his conversation with Mr. Godbe, a former member of the LDS Church, and some of his associates:
They also said that James, in connection with Peter and John, gave them many instructions, which Mr. Godbe read to me; he also read to me many instructions purporting to have come from Heber C. Kimball and Joseph Smith, and he told me there was a great deal more that they did not let me see. Probably I was not strong enough in the faith to see it. These statements were made to me in the most perfect plainness. I told them, “I do not believe in the truthfulness of your manifestations. I believe you have had manifestations, just as you say, but I do not believe that Peter, James, John, Solomon, Joseph Smith, Heber Kimball or Jesus have been to you. I do not believe one of them has been to you; it is the devil, just the same as he has manifested himself in the world.” “Oh,” said they, “here is the difference between us and them: we believe in the Priesthood; we believe in plurality of wives; we believe in the order of the Church,” and so on. Said I, “Don’t you know that the devil would be very foolish, if he wished to lead astray men who had been in this Church, who had been taught for years to believe the principles you believe in, if he should undertake to lead them astray by telling them there was no truth in all these things? The devil can adapt himself to the belief of any person. If you believed in plurality, he would make you think it was all right. If he could get you to swallow down one or two great lies that would effect your destruction, and which you would preach and destroy many others, he would not mind how many truths you might believe. (JD 13:72-73)
God suffers Satan to compound and mix up truth and error in such proportions as to be captivating and strongly delusive. As a snare, this composition will be ingeniously mixed and administered to all nations, by skillful and practiced hands. . . . Men will be raised up for the express purpose of furthering the designs and marvelous works of the devil. (“The Coming Crisis”, Mill. Star, 15:274)
 Since the Lord seems to be gradually withdrawing His spirit from the world, men are getting more and more corrupt. They no longer believe in the ancient prophets, and Jesus said, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” (Luke 16:31) Indeed, we live in a generation of unbelievers.
The whole world has been taken captive by the devil and “darkness covereth the earth, and gross darkness the minds of the people, and all flesh has become corrupt before my face.” (D & C. 112:23) They have become slaves of Satan and servants of sin, and “they who are not chosen have sinned a very grievous sin, in that they are walking in darkness at noonday.” (D & C 95:6) And how does one walk “in darkness at noonday?” He has to be blind–spiritually blind!
The prospects for the future are dim. The prophet Malachi warned:
“For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. (Mal. 4:1)
But Malachi also gave some hope for the righteous:
But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the Lord of hosts. (Mal. 4:2-3)
Malachi is speaking of the end of the world as we know it, and Brigham Young foresaw the same destructions throughout the world:
When the testimony of the Elders ceases to be given, and the Lord says to them, “Come home; I will now preach my own sermons to the nations of the earth,” all you now know can scarcely be called a preface to the sermon that will be preached with fire and sword, tempests, earthquakes, hail, rain, thunders and lightnings, and fearful destruction. * * *
They will be like the Jaredites who preceded the Nephites upon this continent, and will destroy each other to the last man, through the anger that the Devil will place in their hearts, because they have rejected the words of life and are given over to Satan to do whatever he listeth to do with them. You may think that the little you hear of now is grievous; yet the faithful of God’s people will see days that will cause them to close their eyes because of the sorrow that will come upon the wicked nations. The hearts of the faithful will be filled with pain and anguish for them. (JD 8:123)
* * *
In summary of this chapter, one might ask, as did the nobleman (the lord of the vineyard), recorded in D & C 101:52: “What is the cause of this great evil?” And the answer could also be taken from the same book of scripture:
Because their hearts are set so much upon the things (including leaders) of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson–
That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the  heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man. (D & C 121:35-37)
The failure of men, churches, governments, and the world will eventually bring about the great and terrible judgments of God–but certainly we can’t say we haven’t been warned.
 Chapter 18
Blessed is that man that maketh the Lord his trust, and respecteth not the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies. (Ps. 40:4)
Just before His crucifixion, Jesus sat upon the Mount of Olives with his disciples and looked down through the centuries to the latter days. (See Matt. 24.) He described to them the signs that would precede His second coming and the “end of the world.” He gave four major warnings for His disciples, both then and now, to help them avoid the pitfalls of the last days:
- “Take heed that no man deceive you.” (v. 4) This shows that man and deception would be one of the greatest dangers to His disciples in the last days.
- “Many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” (v. 5) Christ warns them of a grave danger coming from among His own followers.
- “Many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.” (v. 11) A greater danger would come from those who are considered true prophets but in reality were not.
- “There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders, insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” (v. 24) This final deception is so severe that only the “very elect” have a chance to escape. All who are not the very elect will be deceived.
 People who are deceived seldom realize it. When they are influenced or led by false spirits, they fall into the worst kind of deception. The Prophet Joseph said, “Nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they have the Spirit of God.” (TPJS, p. 205) A thousand different Christian churches, all opposing each other, is proof of their being deceived.
Since Christ’s Church was restored in this dispensation by Joseph Smith, there have been hundreds of people claiming to be prophets or revelators–some of them teaching the strangest, most bizarre doctrines imaginable. They claim to have received revelations or even glorious manifestations. Some say they have seen and talked to ancient prophets, or even the Savior Himself. Yet their doctrines conflict with each other and with the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. But this is not the extent of the deception, as they all have many followers!
How is it possible that men, and even women, have fallen under the spell of such profound delusion? Most of them seem to be honest, hard-working, intelligent people that are pillars of the community–the kind you would like as your neighbors or friends. Will they be classified among those who will say, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?” (Matt. 7:22) What better things could you expect of them? Yet, these are they who have been the most deceived!
The grand question is–“How could all these people, both leaders and followers, become so misled? The Prophet Joseph Smith explained that most of these people usually “have been imposed upon in consequence of some transgression,” and “when the spirit of apostasy takes possession of a man’s heart,  he becomes completely blind to every true principle.” (Mill. Star 8:138) Brigham Young, as quoted earlier, also said that transgression or turning “away from the holy commandments” was reason for deception:
If a man is called to be a Prophet, and the gift of prophecy is poured upon him, though he afterwards actually defies the power of God and turns away from the holy commandments, that man will continue in his gift and will prophecy lies.
He will make false prophecies, yet he will do it by the spirit of prophecy; he will feel that he is a prophet and can prophecy, but he does it by another spirit and power than that which was given him of the Lord. (JD 3:364)
This same thing can happen to anyone (not just a prophet) who had received spiritual guidance from the Lord, then transgressed to the extent that the Lord’s spirit could no longer direct him, leaving an open door for the adversary to step in and continue giving that person similar spiritual direction and experiences, eventually leading that individual astray. The person himself may not detect the difference in spirits, and would thus continue in his belief that he was being directed by God, at the same time influencing others to think the same. It’s similar to the enemy capturing a fort and continuing to fly the same flag. It’s easier to deceive others that way. Hence, this is another danger of putting one’s trust in the “arm of flesh.”
These two great kingdoms of Christ’s and Satan’s are continually at war with each other, and each is determined to win. The battle is not necessarily fought with bullets and bombs, but over correct and incorrect principles–and everyone is involved.
Oh man, you cannot be neutral. You must choose your side and put on your armor. Those that come not  up to the help of the Lord in the day of battle, will be sorely cursed. (“The Coming Crisis,” Mill. Star, 15:276)
The Apostle Paul also speaks of this battle:
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Eph. 6:10-12)
It takes faith, courage and knowledge to win any mortal combat, and spiritual battles are no exception. God cannot use half-hearted soldiers nor weak-kneed compromisers. “A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation. . . .” (“Lectures on Faith” 6:7)
If a man puts his trust in another man, what is left for God? Putting trust and faith in a bishop, apostle, or president, instead of God, divorces men from their connection with God. All who bear the Priesthood should seek directly for God, trust in Him, and then expect Him to reveal His will to them, because those “rights are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven.” (D & C 121:36)
Jesus was asked, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” (Matt. 22:36-37) This requires a total commitment, with total devotion and trust–not half in God and half in man.
 The second commandment, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (v. 39), pertains to all others except God and places men no higher than one’s weak and fallible nature. This lesser commandment about neighbors includes file leaders, apostles, presidents, and prophets. If we should reverse the order of importance of these two commandments, we commit a sin, which usually leads to other more serious errors.
I heard a voice saying, Shall mortal man be more just than God? Shall a man be more pure than his maker? Behold, he put no trust in his servants; and his angels be charged with folly: How much less in them that dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is in the dust. . . . (Job 4:16-19)
The devil’s primary objective is to take away man’s faith and trust in God, and he accomplishes this by persuading him to place his trust in men instead. His success ratio has been extremely high. With one exception (the city of Enoch which was translated), every dispensation has been a failure and ours is on the same track.
Every ancient empire rests in ashes, including the chosen nation of Israel, who sealed their fate when they chose to serve a mortal king. The Lord sadly explained to Samuel, “they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.” (I Sam. 8:7) It was just another repetitious and fateful blunder in the history of mankind.
The early Christians made the same mistake. At first they chose death rather than compromise; they were fed to lions, burned at the stake, and cruelly tortured to death. But in a short time they began to give in, shake hands with the world, and become one with them. The Romans, who had been their worst enemies, became their temporal and spiritual leaders.
 Today, the modern Christian and the modern Mormon have joined hands to honor the rulers of the world. We have adopted the customs of the world, support the economic and political systems of the world, and live under the laws of the world. Indeed the LDS people are part of a world church. Our trust in the arm of flesh has become predominant, showing that we have failed to obey the first and greatest commandment. The consequences will certainly follow, as they have throughout history.
The Lord has repeatedly warned us in scripture that “cursed” are those who put their trust in the arm of flesh. The word cursed should have been put in bold CAPITAL letters and printed in red ink, for apparently the message has not been understood nor obeyed. The word cursed means “to invoke evil or injury; a source of calamity, or as punishment.” (New Intern’l Dic. 1:317) If the punishment is that bad, why would anyone with common sense follow such a course?
President John Taylor once asked the Mormon people: “Shall we trust in God or in the arm of flesh?” (JD 20:356) The unanimous vote in 1879 was to abide by the laws of God. But unfortunately, about ten years later, their actions proved differently when they voted to obey the laws of the land over the laws of God; and the consensus of Church opinion remains the same today.
There are two major classifications of people in the resurrection: those who are raised to be Gods and those who are raised to be servants to Gods. Those who have trained themselves to follow someone else in this world, will become servants in the next world.
What a sad history of mortal man! However, there is a glimmer of hope, for Brigham Young prophetically declared:
God will preserve a portion of this people, of the meek and the humble, to bear off the kingdom to the inhabitants of the earth, and will defend His Priesthood. (Contributor 10:362)
So all is not totally lost. But who will be among that “portion of this people”? The Lord described them:
For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived. . . shall abide the day. (D & C 45:57)
- They are wise. They do not need to lean on someone else for their wisdom.
- They received the truth. They have the courage to accept the truth no matter who else receives or rejects it.
- They take the Holy Spirit for their guide. They do not trust in anyone’s arm of flesh because they are close enough to God to receive the Holy Spirit.
- They have not been deceived. They have been able to discern between true and false laws and teachings.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said:
. . . the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity–thou must commune with God. (DHC 3:295)
No better conclusion to this subject could be given than the words of the Savior Himself:
Wherefore, let no man glory in man, but rather let him glory in God, who shall subdue all enemies under his feet. These shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever. (D & C 76:61-62)
 APPENDIX A
The following information refers back to page 146, Chapter 10, “Can Leaders Lead Astray?”, and includes a few very brief examples of Bible and Book of Mormon leaders who were led astray and/or led the people astray.
We all know what a great deliverer and leader Moses was, and yet–
Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them. (Num. 20:10-12)
For ye [Moses] rebelled against my commandment in the desert of Zin, in the strife of the congregation, to sanctify me at the water before their eyes: that is the water of Meribah in Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin. (Num. 27:14)
The pride Moses displayed in this instance shows how difficult it is for religious leaders to be perfect examples at all times, and how easy they can be “led astray.”
As the elder brother and spokesman for Moses, Aaron was born into the tribe of Levi and was thus entitled to the rights and powers of Priesthood. Moses’ instructions were to:
. . . take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office, . . . (Ex. 32:2-5)
Because of his Priesthood position and power, Aaron performed many of the miracles of the exodus. However, while Moses was up on Mt. Sinai and Aaron was left in charge as the leader of the children of Israel, he was guilty of a serious transgression when he provided the people with the “visible god” that they requested.
And Aaron said unto them, Break off the golden earrings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me. And all the people brake off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; . . . (Ex. 32:2-5)
According to this passage of scripture, it was Aaron who commanded the people to bring him their earrings; it was Aaron who fashioned the golden calf; and it was Aaron who built the altar before it. When Moses returned, he asked Aaron, “What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?” (Ex. 32:21) He was apparently placing most of the blame upon his brother, rather than the people. Leviticus Chapter 8 describes the extensive process of repentance that Aaron later had to endure because of his sin.
Balaam was a such a righteous leader that he conversed with God on several occasions (See Num. chaps. 22-24.); and Balak, king of the Moabites, looked to him to provide protection for his people against the children of Israel. However, Balaam disobeyed the Lord when instructed not to go to Moab, and eventually yielded to the temptations of riches and honor offered by Balak–and even counselled the Midianite women “to commit trespass against the Lord.” (Num. 31:16) As a result, “they slew the kings of Midian, . . . and Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword.” (Num. 31:8)
God loved David and said:
I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people, over Israel: And I was with thee withersoever thou wentest, and have cut off all thine enemies out of thy sight, and have made thee a great name, . . . (II Sam. 7:8-9)
But in spite of all David had going for him, he was led astray:
Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, . . . (II Sam. 12:9-10)
David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me, . . . and in none of these things did he sin against me save in the case of Uriah and his wife; and, therefore he hath fallen from his exaltation, . . . (D & C 132:39)
 Because of David’s sins, the Lord caused a pestilence to come upon Israel resulted in the death of 70,000 men. David, beloved of God and king of Israel, admitted, “Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly.” (II Sam. 24:17)
Solomon also became king of Israel and God blessed him with the great gift of wisdom:
. . . I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. (I Kings 3:12)
However, the Lord warned him that he could go astray:
But if ye shall at all turn from following me, ye or your children, and will not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods, and worship them: Then will I cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them; and this house, which I have hallowed for my name, will I cast out of my sight; and Israel shall be a proverb and a byword among all people. (I Kings 9:6-7)
As with David, Solomon’s sins affected the whole House of Israel, and eventually the kingdom was taken from him:
And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice. And had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the Lord commanded. Wherefore the Lord said unto Solomon, forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant. (I Kings 11:9-11)
 Zeniff and Noah
Zeniff was a righteous king in the land of Nephi, and the Lord strengthened him and his people in battle against the Lamanites. When he became old, he conferred the kingdom upon Noah, one of his sons. However, he did not follow in his father’s footsteps and went astray:
. . . he [Noah] did not keep the commandments of God, but he did walk after the desires of his own heart. . . . And he did cause his people to commit sin, and do that which was abominable in the sight of the Lord. * * *
Yea, and they also became idolatrous, because they were deceived by the vain and flattering words of the king and priests; for they did speak flattering things unto them. And it came to pass that king Noah built many elegant and spacious buildings; and he ornamented them . . . .
And it came to pass that he built a tower near the temple; yea, a very high tower, . . . (Mosiah 11:2, 7-8, 12)
These are some of the actions of leaders who have gone astray, and how easy it is, then, to lead their followers after them.
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Many other examples could be drawn from scriptural accounts, but if there is such evidence that these great leaders could be led astray, how much more probable is it that similar weaknesses and transgressions could exist among the leaders in other dispensations!
It is human to stand with the crowd, it is Divine to stand alone. It is man-like to follow the people, to drift with the tide; It is God-like to follow a principle, to stem the tide.
It is natural to compromise conscience and follow the social and religious fashion for the sake of gain or pleasure; it is divine to sacrifice both on the altar of truth and duty.
“No man stood with me, but all men forsook me,” wrote the battle-scarred apostle in describing his first appearance before Nero to answer for his life for believing and teaching contrary to the Roman world.
Truth has been out of fashion since man changed his robe of fadeless light for a garment of faded leaves.
Noah built and voyaged alone. His neighbors laughed at his strangeness and perished in style.
Abraham wandered and worshipped alone. Sodomites smiled at the simple shepherd, followed the fashion, and fed the flames.
Daniel dined and prayed alone. Elijah sacrificed and witnessed alone. Jeremiah prophesied and wept alone. Jesus loved and died alone.
Of the lonely way His disciples should walk, He said: “Straight is the gate and narrow the way which leadeth unto life and few there be that find it.”
Of their treatment by the many who walk in the broad way, He said, “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, therefore the world hateth you.”
The church in the wilderness praised Abraham and persecuted Moses. The Church of the Kings praised Moses and persecuted the prophets.
The Church of Caiphas praised the prophets and persecuted Jesus. The church of the popes praised the Savior and persecuted the saints. And multitudes now, in the church and in the world, applaud the courage of the patriarchs and prophets, the apostles and martyrs, but condemn as stubbornness or foolishness, like faithfulness of today.
WANTED TODAY, men and women, young and old, who will obey their convictions of truth and duty at the cost of fortune and friends and life itself.