Mormonism Argument - The Prophets Were Just Men! That's why they are imperfect! Jesus Christ and God are perfect!

By Zack - October 27, 2013

These are the things I can say if I believe all the prophets were just men:

  • You're right, they were just men. They can't be counted on to do God's will successfully, so God won't fault me for not trusting them and discounting/ignoring their advice.
  • If imperfect men are corrupting God's message to me, then they should be removed from the chain of communication.
  • Following the prophet is as trustworthy as a playing a game of telephone. The words may make sense, but you have no way to knowing their source.
  •  It's called the great apostasy when other churches teach the ideas of men mingled with scripture, or change the holy ordinances. This church shouldn't get a free pass to repeat the mistakes it was supposedly set up to correct.
  •  If there is ever an instance where a prophet was “speaking as a man” when they thought they were giving revelation to the church, then that means that a prophet of god can’t tell when they are receiving revelation or not. And if they can’t tell when they’re receiving revelation and when it’s just themselves, then they’re not getting any revelation at all. If there’s no way to tell, then both of them are the same.
  • If they were prophets, why is their system of receiving revelation no different sounding than ours? Why don't they hear Jesus's voice? Joseph Smith supposedly heard Jesus' voice for the Doctrine and Covenants, why aren't modern prophets receiving revelation in the same fashion as Joseph Smith did? Why aren't they using the seer stones for revelation, translation and prophecy?
  • Why are prophets seemingly unable to distinguish when they themselves are speaking as prophets or men? Why can't they sense a difference? They're supposed to have special gifts of discernment, why don't they sound all that special?
Analysis / Quotes:
  • When the Prophet speaks, the debate is over." -Ensign, Aug. 1979, pp. 2-3.
  • "There have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes." - Dieter Utchdorf
  • "The prophet does not have to say "Thus saith the Lord" to give us scripture." - Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p.136
  • Brigham Young said, "I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call scripture" (Journal of Discourses, 13:95).

Do you realize the implications of that statement? President Young, speaking as President, said that all his sermons, however small or off-the-cuff, were scripture. And remember, he was a Prophet at the time, so he could not lead the Saints astray with this or any other statement. It's just not in God's program. He was meaning the Saints could have full confidence that his sermons were the same as if from the mouth of God. (D&C 1:38)
  • The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as 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 to do that, the Lord would remove me out of my place..."- President Wilford Woodruff, Deseret Evening News, Oct. 11, 1890, p. 2.
  • "...convince us of our errors of doctrine, if we have any, by logical arguments, or by the Word of God, and we will be ever grateful for the information, and you will ever have the pleasing reflection that you have been instruments in the hands of God of redeeming your fellow beings from the darkness which you may see enveloping their minds..."- Apostle Orson Pratt, The Seer, pp. 15-16
  • Elaine Cannon said: "Personal opinions may vary. Eternal principles never do." -Ensign Nov. 1978, p. 108
  • Brigham Young said: "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 9:15
  • Brigham also said, "How easy it would be for your leaders to lead you to destruction, unless you actually know the mind and will of the spirit yourselves. That is your privilege." JD 4:368
  • Elder McConkie said, "Wise gospel students do not build their philosophies of life on quotations of individuals, even though those quotations come from presidents of the Church. Wise people anchor their doctrine from the Standard Works..."
  • President George Q. Cannon expressed it thus: "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 never will fail us.
Elder Benson said the Prophet takes precedent over the scriptures, and Elder McConkie says the Scriptures should be the final anchor of truth, not the quotations of church leaders. Who to believe?
  • Apostle Charles W. Penrose declared: "President Wilford Woodruff is a man of wisdom and experience, and we respect and venerate him, but we do not believe his personal views or utterances are revelations from God; and when 'Thus saith the Lord', comes from him, the saints investigate it: they do not shut their eyes and take it down like a pill." Millennial Star Vol. 54 #12 p. 191
  • And again he said, "And none are required to tamely and blindly submit to a man because he has a portion of the Priesthood. We have heard men who hold the Priesthood remark, that they would do anything they were told to do by those who presided over them, if they knew it was wrong; but such obedience as this is worse than folly to us; it is slavery in the extreme; and the man who would thus willingly degrade himself should not claim a rank among intelligent beings, until he turns from his folly. A man of God who seeks for the redemption of his fellows would despise the idea of seeing another become his slave, who had an equal right with himself to the favour of God; he would rather see him stand by his side, a sworn enemy to wrong, so long as there was place found for it among men. Others, in the extreme exercise of their almighty authority have taught that such obedience was necessary, and that no matter what the Saints were told to do by their Presidents, they should do it without asking any questions. When Elders of Israel will so far indulge in these extreme notions of obedience as to teach them to the people, it is generally because they have it in their minds to do wrong themselves." Millennial Star, vol.14 #38, pp.593-95
  • "I do not wish any Latter-day Saint in this world, nor in heaven, to be satisfied with anything I do, unless the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit of revelation, makes them satisfied. I wish them to know for themselves and understand for themselves, for this would strengthen the faith that is within them. Suppose that the people were heedless, that they manifested no concern with regard to the things of the kingdom of God, but threw the whole burden upon the leaders of the people, saying, 'If the brethren who take charge of matters are satisfied, we are,' this is not pleasing in the sight of the Lord." JD 3:45
D&C Official Declaration--1-- The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as 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. (Sixty-first Semi-annual General Conference of the Church, Monday, October 6, 1890, Salt Lake City, Utah. Reported in Deseret Evening News, October 11, 1890, p. 2.)

This is a huge declaration. Stake Presidents may, on occasion, lead you astray, bishops may falter, even apostles may fall. Quite a number of apostles have been excommunicated, especially in the early years of the Church. But the President of the Church, according to President Woodruff, can never fall. He can never lead you astray, which is to say he can never teach you false doctrine.

Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye In Holy Places, p.164 -- Yes, we believe in a living prophet, seer, and revelator, and I bear you my solemn witness that we have a living prophet, seer, and revelator. We are not dependent only upon the revelations given in the past as contained in our standard works -- as wonderful as they are -- but we have a mouthpiece to whom God does reveal and is revealing His mind and will. God will never permit him to lead us astray. As has been said, God would remove him out of his place if he should attempt to do it. You have no concern. Let the management and government of God, then, be with the Lord. Do not try to find fault with the management and affairs that pertain to Him alone and by revelation through His prophet -- His living prophet, His seer, and His revelator.

In an eternal truth, all statements given as fact by a prophet must be in harmony with previous statements given as facts by previous prophets on the same subject.

"We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world… We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past." -Bruce R. McConkie

Elder McConkie’s statement suggests that sometimes prophets have limited understanding, and even “darkness” in their views (as we ALL do). Notice McConkie did not say “sorry, but the Lord was wrong. We actually did lead you all astray.”
Where do we find the doctrine that says the Lord won’t allow the President of the Church to lead people astray? I can’t find it anywhere, and I’ve looked. The closest I’ve come to finding something is Wilford Woodruff’s statement, “I say to Israel, the Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray.” [Emphasis added] (“I say to Israel” is omitted in Official Declaration 1, but you can read the original text in Deseret Evening News, October 11, 1890, p. 2).

From all this we can conclude that:

1. Prophets have made mistakes, taught false doctrine, and have led members astray.

2. Leaders and scriptures have said they would never lead anyone astray but yet future leaders confirm that past leaders did make mistakes

That brings us to the question: exactly when is a prophet acting as a prophet?

What writings from the prophet and other general authorities can be considered as scripture?
  • D&C 68:4: 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 68:2: And, behold, and lo, this is an ensample unto all those who were ordained unto this priesthood, whose mission is appointed unto them to go forth—
So if all Brigham Young's sermons were inspired scripture, should we expect less of today's Prophet? Aren't today's prophets as entitled and worthy of inspiration as Brigham Young? Do they not also have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost to guide their words and actions, especially concerning sermons pertaining to the Kingdom of God?

We remember that today's Prophet is human, and makes mistakes. But when it comes to teaching doctrines, he makes no mistakes or false statements which could lead a Saint astray.

               In conclusion, according to these integral portions of LDS doctrine, when the living Prophet makes a comment, stated as fact and not merely as his opinion, concerning the Church as a whole or doctrine of the Church as a whole, his statements must be correct, so as not to possibly lead anyone astray. If it is a situation-specific revelation, it supersedes any prior revelations on the same subject. If it is an eternal truth, it will be in harmony with all other statements by previous prophets on the same subject. In sum, all of his statements given as fact concerning the Lord's Kingdom must be true for the Church to be true. They are given as scripture to the Saints. That is why the Church leaders counsel the Saints today: "When the Prophet speaks, the debate is over." Remember this when reading the words of today's prophets. If it concerns eternal truths, and is given as fact, it must be true for the Church to be true. The Prophet is not permitted to preach, knowingly or unknowingly, false doctrine as fact, because that might lead some astray. Further, if you are reading from the teachings or sermons of previous prophets, things taught as eternal truths, then they must still be true today.

                 If it is not in the program of the Lord for Thomas S. Monson to lead members of the Church astray, then neither was it in the program of the Church for Joseph Smith or Brigham Young to lead the Church astray (again, either knowingly or unknowingly). It's just not part of the program. When you are reading words of one of these earlier prophets, the same things apply to them as to today's prophets. If they are speaking for the Church as a whole or expounding as fact (not opinion) doctrines for the Church as a whole, those sermons must be inspired, for the Church to be true. Situation-specific revelations can change, but eternal truth revelations must last forever. They couldn't lead their members astray, either. In the days when Brigham Young was prophet, when he spoke (as fact concerning doctrine), the debate was over. All eternal truths taught by Joseph or Brigham or John Taylor or Wilford Woodruff must still be true today. That is the program, and it is the only program concerning revelation and scripture given by the Lord to the Church, as we have seen by the statements of Church leaders. Eternal truths are the same yesterday, today, and forever, and cannot be changed.

LDS members are told to unquestioningly follow the "Brethren" and not to doubt, and to avoid reading anything that might cast the Brethren in a bad light. And who tells the members to do this? These very same Brethren. In essence, "Only read the literature we have approved, not things that might shake your testimony (make us look bad.)"

Can you imagine the Board of Directors of a company to tell their stockholders, "Only read good stuff about us. Don't dig into anything else." That Board wouldn't last too long. "Have total trust in us," is in essence what they are saying, though they couch that essence by saying "Trust God totally" and then tell us that they are God's only authorized Prophets and Apostles.

I end this but just asking you to value history. Value truth. I have taken many quotes here and phrases from various websites but I included reputable sources. I just didn’t have to do most of the research. I just want you to value the doctrine and history and how the church was ran  for a 100 years.

How long until our current set of prophets become looked back on as speaking as men out of their own prejudice?!  

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