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The Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet

President Ezra Taft Benson’s sermon on following the prophet is frequently quoted and used in modern church teachings. I’m going to deal with my personal beliefs on each of the fourteen points:

  1. “The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.” That’s a rather ambiguous statement. What is “everything”? Are there other men who speak for the Lord, but just not in “everything”? How exactly do we know when he is speaking for the Lord and when he is not?
  2. “The living prophet is more vital to us than the Standard Works.” This is a very interesting statement. It gives the prophet the ability to disregard or refute scripture. Such is the case with declaring homosexuality to be so immoral. No LDS scriptures mention it (aside from a passage quoting the Bible). And the Bible verses are horribly misunderstood and misquoted. The hateful, bigoted agenda against same-sex marriage comes entirely from this “fundamental of following the prophet.” Another in-depth look at the commonly misunderstood Bible passages.
  3. “The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.” This, over the years, has been a rather convenient way of justifying or glossing over previous statements by prophets that are obviously untrue or no longer popular enough for the church to endorse. I completely agree that a current prophet should have more relevant and current advice for the church. But using this as justification for the Adam-God doctrine, for example, is not acceptable in my mind.
  4. “The prophet will never lead the church astray.” This is provably false and an outright lie. The church has been lead by its prophets to racism, false doctrine, sexism, misery, heartache, and bigotry.
  5. “The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or diplomas to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.” Shouldn’t the prophet, if he is speaking on a matter he knows very little about like science, only do so when he receives revelation from God? What about all the times the prophet has been dead wrong in those cases? Landing on the moon, people living on the sun, dinosaurs, evolution, and the global flood are just a few topics the prophets have been completely wrong about in the past.
  6. “The prophet does not have to say “Thus saith the Lord” to give us scripture.” So what does that mean exactly? President Benson continues: “Sometimes there are those who argue about words. They might say the prophet gave us counsel but that we are not obliged to follow it unless he says it is a commandment. But the Lord says of the Prophet, “Thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you.” (D&C 21:4.)” That certainly makes it sound like everything the prophet says is a commandment. What about the lies and false doctrine? What about things I may disagree with on a moral basis (Prop 8)? And why is the justification sometimes given that prophets are men and sometimes speak as men rather than as prophets? Clear as mud.
  7. “The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.” Is this the excuse for no official statements on whether polygamy is still a doctrine, why racism was so prevalent in the church, why the church opposed interracial marriage, why the Book of Abraham is still considered scripture, why Joseph Smith copied the temple ceremony from the Masons, and other major considerations? Or is this reinforcing that members should listen to the prophet and obey him even if they disagree with him?
  8. “The Prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning.” What about when he doesn’t get revelation? What about Joseph F. Smith, who after 40 years as an apostle and a few years as prophet, had never received revelation? Wouldn’t he be limited by his own reasoning since that was all he had?
  9. “The prophet can receive revelation on any matter—temporal or spiritual.” Why limit a spiritual leader to spiritual matters? More power!
  10. “The prophet may well advise on civic matters.” More power!
  11. “The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.” I may be considered quite wealthy in much of the world, but certainly not in my own location and culture. Am I learned? I rather think not. I’m well aware that my knowledge of scriptures and church history falls far short of many others. But I think this is a terrible pronouncement by Benson. It’s essentially a warning against studying things and learning for yourself. “Just accept what we tell you. No need to figure anything out for yourself.”
  12. “The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.” No question of that. The storm of controversy surrounding the church’s involvement in Prop 8 is telling. But it’s interesting that the church tried to protect its name by doing it with a front group. And did the same with Hawaii, Alaska, and CA Prop 22.
  13. “The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency—The highest quorum in the Church.” Okay.
  14. “The prophet and the presidency—the living prophet and the First Presidency—follow them and be blessed—reject them and suffer.” That, again, is a rather ambiguous statement. There are plenty of people within the church who follow the prophet and suffer. Remember Stuart Matis? He lived his entire life trying to obey the prophet. He believed the prophet when he was told that his homosexuality was not part of who he was. He tried and tried to overcome it or change it. He was miserable all the way until he committed suicide on the church steps.

Essentially, what President Benson is claiming is that the current living prophet:

  • has supreme authority
  • is never wrong
  • can negate scriptures/words of the Lord/dead prophets
  • can speak the will of the Lord on any matter including political/scientific/temporal/etc.,
  • should be followed even when I think he is morally wrong on an issue
  • is assumed to be speaking for the Lord in all cases except when he is proven wrong after the fact (Kinderhook plates)
  • can be followed for blessings or rejected for sufferings

That’s an immense amount of power and influence over the 4 or 5 million active members the church has. And frankly, it sounds eerily similar to cults and cult leaders.

Next Step: Free Agency and Eternal Families

2 Comments
  1. Nancy permalink

    6. “Thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you.” (D&C 21:4.)” It says “heed” I looked up the definition ” to give consideration or attention to :” so to me that does not mean obey but to think about his words/advice.

  2. sheaf permalink

    Great job, Nancy. You found a scriptural contradiction.

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