Archive for the 'LDS authority' Category


The Living Prophet

Ever since last fall’s General Conference, the LDS Church has been emphasizing the authority of the living prophet.  Twice in that General Conference, President Ezra Taft Benson’s 1980 speech, “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet”, was not just referred to but cited quite heavily.  In fact, two different speakers listed all fourteen fundamentals.  This is striking because this was and has remained a controversial speech even among Mormons.  Numerous active LDS members have told me how they take that speech with a large grain of salt.  That critical attitude was also evident in numerous posts made by Mormon bloggers after General Conference.

It’s not difficult to see why this speech causes discomfort among some Mormons.  Here are the 14 fundamentals.  Elder Kevin R. Duncan of the Seventy listed them with this introduction: “Because they are of such great importance to our very salvation, I will repeat them again.” (my emphasis)

“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.”

Those are quite lofty claims!

But this emphasis on the living prophet hasn’t ended there.  In subsequent months, statements about the importance of following the living prophet have been appearing on the pages of the official LDS magazine, Ensign.  In fact, March’s edition spotlights this again in its column, “What We Believe”.

I, for one, am happy to see this emphasis.  I say that because it has been an ongoing frustration to quote a living prophet only to have it downplayed by Mormons as not binding.  But that is not what Benson said above.  It’s obvious that, by twice quoting those fundamentals at General Conference, the present Church agrees with Benson.  As the January edition of the Ensign states, “God continues to reveal truths to living prophets through the revelation of the Holy Ghost.  These truths are considered scripture (see D&C 68:4).  They come to us primarily through general conference, held the first weekend in April and October, when members throughout the world hear addresses from our prophet and other Church leaders.”

With statements like the above, the proper method for seeing what Mormonism truly teaches is looking at what its prophets and leaders have said rather than what individual members say.  And when a individual member’s position differ from that of the prophet, doesn’t honesty demand that, on the specific topic under discussion, that the member is not representing official Mormon teaching?



“The only true and living church”


This is a claim that the LDS Church makes about itself in numerous places.  For example, D&C 1:30 talks about “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth with which I, the Lord, am well pleased.” Years ago, when I first started talking with Mormons, this was something many stressed.  They didn’t want to be identified with non-Mormons.  Many reflected the thoughts of Bruce R. McConkie who wrote:  “a perverted Christianity holds sway among the so-called Christians of apostate Christendom.” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 132) Note how in this brief statement he has three quite strong negative characteristics of Christianity and Christians:  “perverted”, “so-called”, and “apostate”.

In recent years, however, most members of the LDS Church have used much milder terms.  I can’t count how many have told me that, yes, I have the gospel, but I don’t have “the fulness of the gospel”.  Instead of characterizing me as belonging to a perverted and apostate Christianity and describing me as a ‘so-called” Christian, they see me as someone just lacking.  I just need a little something more.

But what approach is more faithful to LDS Scripture and its repeated statement that the LDS Church is the only true and living church?  The word “only” in that statement is very exclusive.  It rules out every other church.  No other church is true.  No other church is living.

If I say I am the only living person in the family, would it be appropriate for you to think that I have some family members who are sick, who just are lacking some medicine to get better?  That would be ridiculous.  The only way to take my statement is to think that the rest of my family is dead.

In the same way, by saying that the LDS Church is the only true and living church, LDS Scripture is saying that every other church is dead.  Therefore McConkie seems to be the one who is more faithful to LDS Scripture.

Here’s a question for my LDS readers.  I am a pastor in a conservative Lutheran church.  Am I a pastor of a false and dead church?  If not, please reconcile your statement with D&C 1:30.




     In the September issue of the LDS’s magazine, the Ensign, President Henry B. Eyring, the first counselor to the LDS President, refers to a teaching of Mormonism that warrants further examination.  He writes:  “The Book of Mormon also gives us confidence that we can become so purified in this life that we have no more desire to do evil (see Mosiah 5;2).” 

     This raises some questions.  Are there LDS members who presently fit this description – who have no more desire to do evil?  Mosiah 5:2, the Book of Mormon verse that he cites, expands by also saying that they “do good continually.”  Does that mean that there are LDS members who never have a selfish desire or never do anything selfishly?  Are there LDS members who never speak an unkind word after a bad day? Who never overlook an opportunity to help a fellow human being?  Who never act rudely?  If so, shouldn’t they be identified as such, so that we can be inspired by them?  For example, have all General Authorities reached this state of purfication?

     And if an individual LDS member hasn’t reached this state yet, what does that say about him or her?  President Eyring says that the Book of Mormon gives the confidence that this can happen.   What does it say if an LDS member isn’t confident about this happening in his or her life?  Shouldn’t every LDS member have this confidence?

     St. Paul didn’t agree with President Eyring or the Book of Mormon.  This type of purification wasn’t something St. Paul claimed for himself.  In fact, he claimed the opposite:  “For the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do.”  (Romans 7:19)  But not only did he confess this about himself, this is also what he taught.  “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other; so that you cannot do the things that ye would.”  (Galatians 5:17)

     Which of the two do you identify with?  I identify with Paul.  Every day I find myself doing the evil that I don’t want to do and not doing the good that I want to do.  The Book of Mormon thought of not having any desire for evil is a completely foreign concept – and not part of my reality.  That is why each and every day I rejoice in knowing that all more sins have been washed away by Jesus’ blood.  That is the only purification I have confidence in.


Personal Revelation


     I recently received the May issue of the Ensign (the official magazine of the LDS Churchh) which contains the talks from last month’s General Conference of the LDS Church.  This is an important issue because General Conference talks are so important.  How important?

     Elder Mark E. Petersen, said:  “A general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is far more significant than most people realize. . .

      . . .it is one of the most important events of the present day.  Many do not regard it, even among the Latter-day Saints.  But for those who appreciate its true significance, it is of transcending importance, for in it PROPHETS OF GOD SPEAK, living prophets.

     When God gives a message to mankind, it is not something to be lightly cast aside.  Whether He speaks personally, or through His prophets, He himself said, it is the same.

     And in this conference HIS PROPHETS SPEAK!”   (Teachings of the Living Prophets, p. 63)

     Ezra Taft Benson said, “The most important prophet, so far as we are concerned, is the one living in our day and age. . .Therefore, the most crucial reading and pondering which you should do is that of the latest inspired words from the Lord’s mouthpiece.  That is why it is essential that you have access to and carefully read his words in current Church publications.” (Teachings of the Living Prophets, p.19)

     Because of the importance Mormonism places on these talks, I take extra time reading them.  I have just read the first few talks but what has already struck me is how much emphasis there is on the Holy Spirit and on receiving personal revelations from him. Mormonism teaches that personal revelations come through feelings and impressions and a person has to be worthy to receive them.

     For many Christians, this has always been a puzzling aspect of Mormonism because feelings are notoriously fickle.  How many times haven’t people, even with the best intentions, done something because it felt right, only to discover that it was the wrong thing to do?  Over the years I have asked numerous Mormons how they can determine if what they feel is truly from the Holy Spirit.  Has a feeling, which they thought was a personal revelation, ever led them astray? 

     The responses have been interesting to say the least.  Some have said their feelings have never led them astray.  Others admitted that their feelings had led them astray, but the problem was with them.  It has been interesting to see this topic being discussed on Mormon blogs with again differing reactions.

     More than one Mormon has told me that they felt sorry for me because the only revelation I had was the Bible.  I, however, would much rather rely on it.  It is perfectly sufficient for me. It especially reassures me that Heavenly Father considers me worthy to live eternally with him, not because of what I do, but because of what Jesus did for me.  It emphasizes that the temple work that needed to be done to live with Him was already done for me by Jesus when he was sacrificed for me.  It gives me great guidance for life.  It comforts me with tremendous promises of the Lord’s protection and provision.  I receive revelation not through feelings, but through His Word.  For me, that is much more solid ground to stand on.


Toyota and the LDS Church

     I’m sure you all have heard about the problems Toyota is having – not only with its cars but also with its image.   There are a lot of questions about when the company was first aware of the problems with its cars.  Some are wondering if the company put people into danger by not immediately recalling cars once they knew they were defective.  I have heard, more than once, the word criminal used to describe the company’s slow response.

    That got me thinking about the stance the LDS Church takes on the Bible.  It is increasingly promoting the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible in its TV ads and other promotions.  At first, that seems only natural because it is the version officially accepted as Scripture by the LDS Church.  But when you think about it, not only does that not make sense, it is disturbing.  It is disturbing because the LDS Church says that the KJV is defective.  I cited one example of that in my last post with the word “paradise” in the story of the thief on the cross.  The LDS Church says that it was mistranslated.

     What is even more disturbing is that the LDS Church claims to have a better translation – in fact, an inspired translation.  I’m talking about the Joseph Smith Translation or, as it is also known as, the Inspired Version.  It is something that is referenced in many church manuals.  The LDS edition of the Bible contains excerpts of it in the footnotes and an appendix.  But it’s not the version that they promote.

     That doesn’t seem loving to me.  Why promote a product that you believe is defective?  Why not promote the product that you think is superior – even inspired?  Why put, what you think is the correct translation, in the footnotes and not the main body of text. Isn’t that the normal procedure?  Especially when it deals, not just with people’s physical lives, but with their eternal lives!  That doesn’t just seem unloving, that seems criminal. 

      Why then does it continue to promote the KJV?  Could it all be about image?  Just think how much more difficult it would be for the LDS Church to claim to be Christian if it promoted the Joseph Smith Translation as its official Bible.


The Temptation of Jesus

      This Sunday I will be preaching on Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness.  Today, as I began preparing my message, I was again struck by Matthew’s wording, “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.”  This occurred right after Jesus’ baptism and entrance into his public ministry.  Immediately the battle is joined.  But what I so appreciate is that it’s God who takes the initiative – Jesus is led by the Spirit to be tempted.

      I appreciate this so much because here Jesus is already acting as my Hero, my Substitute.  Jesus did not just die for us, he also lived for us.  Paul wrote to the Romans: “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19)  Not only did God credit Jesus death on the cross as payment for our sins, he also credited Jesus’ obedient life to us as our obedience.  It is his perfect life, his righteousness that makes me acceptable to God.

     That is why I so appreciate how Jesus’ temptation is recorded.  Jesus is taking the initiative to do what we couldn’t do.  Unlike Israel’s 40 years of repeated failures in the wilderness, Jesus experienced 40 days of victory in the wilderness – for Luke tells us that Jesus was tempted all 40 days.  “Being forty days tempted of the devil.”  (Luke 4:2)  His successful resisting of the devil’s temptation serves much more than an example for me; it serves as a wonderful reassurance that God already sees me as successfully resisting the devil – in Christ.

     For curiosity sake, I looked to see how the LDS Church talked about Jesus’ temptation.  This is what I found in its manual, The Life and Teaching of Jesus & His Apostles. 

     Matthew 4:1: Did Jesus Go into the Wilderness to Be Tempted?

         Compare the Inspired Version account of these verses with the King James.

         “Then Jesus was led up of the spirit, into the wilderness, to be with God.

         “And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, and had communed with God, he was afterwards an hungered, and was left to be tempted of the devil.” (Matthew 4:1, 2, Inspired Version. Italics added.)

          “Jesus did not go into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil; righteous men do not seek out temptation. He went ‘to be with God.’ Probably he was visited by the Father; without question he received transcendent spiritual manifestations. The temptations came after he ‘had communed with God,’ ‘after forty days.’ The same was true in the case of Moses. He communed with God, saw the visions of eternity, and was then left unto himself to be tempted of the devil. After resisting temptation he again communed with Deity, gaining further light and revelation.” (McConkie, DNTC, 1:128; see also Mosiah 3:7.)

     Both the change made by the Joseph Smith in the Inspired Version, and the explanation by McConkie, remove the idea of God taking the battle to the devil.  That not only drastically changes the meaning but also, for me, dramatically weakens this account.


The New Gospel Principles Manual


     One of the things that have been discussed repeatedly on this blog has been the question of what are considered authoritative sources for current Mormon teaching.  Whenever this topic is raised, quite a bit of disagreement has been expressed.  One area of contention has been over what weight should be assigned to official church manuals.  How authoritative are they?

     That is why I was interested to see an article in the January 2010 Ensign carrying the same title as the title of this post.  I became even more interested when I saw that it was written by one of the LDS apostles, Russell M. Nelson.  That itself lends quite a bit of credibility to the article.

     Following are a couple of things that I found interesting.  In answer to the question of why the change in curriculum, Nelson writes:  “Since we first began using Teachings, millions of people have joined the Church.  Many of them have tender testimonies and with relatively limited experience in the Church, will benefit greatly by a focus on the fundamentals of the gospel.  In addition, all Church members will benefit b a return to the basics.  A careful study of core doctrines as presented in the new and improved Gospel Principles manual will help members strengthen their understanding of the fundamental teachings of the gospel.”

     And then under the conclusion entitled “A Timeless Book” he writes, “It is our hope that the new Gospel Principles manual will take a prominent place in the homes and lives of all Latter-day Saints.”

     As the word Principles in the title implies, as Nelson states, this is a manual about core and fundamental LDS teachings.  LDS teaching involves more than what is presented in Gospel Principles.  But wouldn’t you agree that Nelson, in his role as an apostle, presents this manual as a true and authoritative source of the fundamentals of LDS teaching?  And that it is only right and proper for non-Mormons to look to it to see what Mormonism teaches?  And that such non-Mormon observers of Mormonism have, at the very least, a good reason to become befuddled when individual Mormons disavow or dismiss quotations from Gospel Principles as not authoritative of Mormonism?  And isn’t it legitimate to ask why changes are made in each edition of Gospel Principles – changes that are not just cosmetic or made for easier readability – but changes that affect the sense of what is being presented?

December 2022

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