Chapter 6 in the Teachings of George Albert Smith deals with the responsibility LDS members have to sustain their leaders. Incidentally this is also emphasized in the March issue of the LDS church magazine, the Ensign. Leaders are sustained at conferences by the members raising their right hands. As both this chapter and the Ensign articles emphasize, the more important aspect of sustaining the leaders is by following their counsel, accepting the calls the leaders call them to, and by praying for them.
Most of chapter 6 deals with sustaining the president of the church, who is also their living prophet. The following quote from that chapter gives the flavor of its advice. Note how it ties in salvation with following LDS leadership.
“There is only one pathway of safety for me in this day and that is to follow those whom the Lord has appointed to lead. I may have my own ideas and opinions, I may set up my own judgment with reference to things, but I know that when my judgment conflicts with the teachings of those that the Lord has given to us to point the way, I should change my course. If I desire salvation I will follow the leaders that our Heavenly Father has given to us, as long as he sustains them.” (p. 60)
A number of years ago, Ezra Taft Benson, who was one of Mormonism’s living prophets, gave a speech entitled, “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet”. Over the years, numerous Mormons have not entirely embraced these fundamentals. But they remain a good summary of Mormonism’s teachings about the living prophet especially because they have been quoted in their entirety twice in recent General Conferences. Here they are as given by Elder Kevin R. Duncan of the Seventy in the October, 2010 General Conference.
“First: The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.
“Second: The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.
“Third: The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.
“Fourth: The prophet will never lead the Church astray.
“Fifth: The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.
“Sixth: The prophet does not have to say ‘Thus saith the Lord’ to give us scripture.
“Seventh: The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.
“Eighth: The prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning.
“Ninth: The prophet can receive revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual.
“Tenth: The prophet may be involved in civic matters.
“Eleventh: The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.
“Twelfth: The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.
“Thirteenth: The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency—the highest quorum in the Church.
“Fourteenth: [Follow] … the living prophet and the First Presidency … and be blessed; reject them and suffer.”
The second and third points are especially enlightening. The standard works are the books the LDS Church views as Scripture including the Bible. The living prophet, it states, is more vital than Scripture. Or consider point 3. Who are the dead prophets? Included in that list would be all the biblical prophets. In light of statements like these, who is reflecting the teachings of official Mormonism more consistently: the person who says that the highest authority in Mormonism is the Bible or the one who says that the highest authority in Mormonism is the living prophet? And if the claim is made that there is no conflict between the two, than what is the purpose of the second and third fundamental listed above?
When Mormons sustain their living prophet, something they will do again in a couple of weeks at General Conference, they are saying that his words are the most important words in the entire world – more vital than Scripture – more important than those of Moses, Isaiah, and all the biblical prophets.
A LDS leader one time told me that he felt sorry for me because the only thing I had to follow were the words of the Bible. Today I want to express my sorrow that Mormons, by their sustaining of the living prophet, are declaring that he is more vital than the Bible, that he is more important than all the prophets in the Bible. That not only does dishonor to the Bible; that also puts their eternity into jeopardy.