The following quotation is found in the teacher’s manual for lesson 32 of the Gospel Doctrines Class. It is from President Harold B. Lee.
“Now the only safety we have as members of this church is to do exactly what the Lord said to the Church in that day when the Church was organized. We must learn to give heed to the words and commandments that the Lord shall give through his prophet, ‘as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me; … as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.’ (D&C 21:4–5.) There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.’ (D&C 21:6.)” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 152; or Improvement Era, Dec. 1970, 126).
Just before this the teacher is encouraged to write on the chalkboard, “Follow the prophet ‘with exactness’”. This is just one example of many illustrating the fact that the LDS Church teaches that its final authority is not the Bible. It is not even their other scriptures. The final authority in the LDS Church is the living prophet.
All this coincides with its belief in continuing revelation – that God needs to give revelation because the world and circumstances change. This point was made to me years ago by a LDS leader who told me that he felt sorry for me because all I had to live by was the Bible!
A couple of things come to mind because of this emphasis on the living prophet. One is that this is still another in a long list of proofs of how much Mormonism differs from Christianity. Christians do not think that their only safety comes from giving heeds to the words of the living prophet.
Another thought is the question of why the Lord is not revealing more new things through his prophet. The last official “new” doctrine was the proclamation in 1978 allowing blacks to be in the priesthood. Now almost everybody is agreed that the world has seen more change in the last thirty years than ever before. It would seem that if the reason why there has to be continuing revelation from God is because things change, then it seems that we should have expected a whole lot of new revelation these past 30 years! If not now with all this rapid change, when?
But most seriously of all, if people follow the words of the prophet as he reinforces the LDS doctrine that eternal life in the presence of heavenly Father is not solely the work of Jesus but is something that people also have to earn – if they follow that teaching the gates of hell will prevail against them while the gates of heaven will remain close to them.