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As requested:

Do our leaders always pray and receive inspiration before issuing instructions?

35 thoughts on “Inspiration

  1. I’ll try to make a case for a negative answer.

    First, an interview transcript from Australia, 1997:

    Gordon B. Hinckley: Now we don’t need a lot of continuing revelation. We have a great, basic reservoir of revelation. But if a problem arises, as it does occasionally, a vexatious thing with which we have to deal, we go to the Lord in prayer. We discuss it as a First Presidency and as a Council of the Twelve Apostles. We pray about it and then comes the whisperings of a still small voice. And we know the direction we should take and we proceed accordingly.

    RB: And this is a Revelation?

    Gordon B. Hinckley: This is a Revelation.

    RB: How often have you received such revelations?

    Gordon B. Hinckley: Oh, I don’t know. I feel satisfied that in some circumstances we’ve had such revelation. It’s a very sacred thing that we don’t like to talk about a lot. A very sacred thing. [Emphasis mine.]

    Second, the time factor. Hundreds of instructions are issued from the 1st Presidency every week, including mission calls, sealing cancellation authorizations, reinstatement authorizations, etc. Obviously, there isn’t time to pray and receive answers for each of these.

    Third, personal experience. Anyone who has been a local leader, or served closely with one, realizes that decisions, even important ones, are often made without praying first.

    Fourth, history teaches us that church leaders have occasionally issued instructions that are clearly uninspired. Consider Franklin D. Richards telling the Willie handcart company to push on.

    Having said all this, I think there are very few cases in which we should dismiss our leaders’ instructions. See Bradley’s latest.

  2. I don’t believe we should ignore the counsels of our leaders either. I also agree with Will, not evey item is inspired on a constant basis. We are to use our common sense, aren’t we? And the Prophets aren’t exempt from that either. Plus, the Lord lets us learn from mistakes and choices we make.

    I also believe that personal inspiration is important. There might be some general guidance (I am not referring to doctrinal issues) that either doesn’t apply to someone, or for a specific instance, isn’t appropriate.

    For example, members of the Church have been encouraged to stay in their own countries to build up the Church there. However, what if one family feels inspired to emigrate somewhere else? Perhaps it is for a job, or for some other situation. As a general rule then, members should listen, but sometimes an individual may be personally inspired to not heed that counsel at that time. It doesn’t necessarily make the counsel wrong, just not the right counsel for one individual. This can happen with many other situations as well, where it is COUNSEL. NOt necessarily direct revelation…the Lord saying “everyone must do this”.

  3. Okay, but here’s the bigger question.

    Why so much revelation on personal habits and so little revelation on the big ticket items?

    No official church stance on either of the big conflicts going on right now (Palestine and Iraq), but plenty of revelation on ink-work, multiple piercings and what colour shirt to wear.

    Doesn’t his seem odd?

    Aren’t the the big questions ‘vexatious’ enough to pray about?

  4. Well, I am sure there is some revelation. BUt I don’t think if the Propher were to be told that the Iraq war is wrong and the US should cease and desist that the US President would listen. Especially since the war is about economics, pretty much.

  5. Oh I agree, Mary.

    Even if the prophet came out stating that the will of God was against the war, I doubt the President, or administration would pay any attention to him at all.

    The real question is then: Would member families call their sons and daughter out of the war?

  6. “Consider Franklin D. Richards telling the Willie handcart company to push on.”

    I’m sorry to see that you’ve chosen to join the detractors who always think their view of history places them in a position to tear down Priesthood leaders.

    Consider the following, regarding the Martin Handcart Company:

    “It was in an adult Sunday School class of over fifty men and women. Nathan T. Porter was the teacher and the subject under discussion was the ill-fated handcart company [Martin Handcart Company] that suffered so terribly in the snow of 1856. Some sharp criticism of the Church and its leader was being indulged in for permitting any company of converts to venture across the plains with no more supplies or protection than a handcart caravan afforded. One old man in the corner sat silent and listened as long as he could stand it, then he arose and said things that no person who heard him will ever forget.

    “His face was white with emotion, yet he spoke calmly, deliberately, but with great earnestness and sincerity. He said in substance, ‘I ask you to stop this criticism. You are discussing a matter you know nothing about. Cold historic facts mean nothing here, for they give no proper interpretation of the questions involved. Mistake to send the Handcart Company out so late in the season? Yes! But I was in that company and my wife was in it, and Sister Nellie Unthank whom you have cited here was there, too. We suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation, but did you ever hear a survivor of that company utter a word of criticism? Every one of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with Him in our extremities!

    ” ‘I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from illness and lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and I have said, I can go only that far and there I must give up for I cannot pull the load through it. I have gone to that sand and when I reached it, the cart began pushing me! I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart, but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the Angels of God were there.

    ” ‘Was I sorry that I chose to come by handcart? No! Neither then nor any minute of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay and I am thankful that I was privileged to come in the Martin Handcart Company.’

    “The speaker was Francis Webster. And when he sat down there was not a dry eye in the room. We were subdued and chastened lot. Charles Mabey who latter became Governor of Utah, arose and voiced the sentiment of all when he said, ‘I would gladly pay the same price to personally know God that Brother Webster has.’ ” – Writings of William R. Palmer.

    Apparently those who actually suffered through the experience had a considerably less critical perspective than yours.

  7. “Apparently those who actually suffered through the experience had a considerably less critical perspective than yours. “

    Or at least one of them did.

  8. Itbugaf, if you’re implying that the wintertime trek was inspired, you’re taking a position contrary to Brigham Young. I used the Willie Company example because I thought that nobody would argue with the fact that it was a bad decision. Silly me. There are many other examples that I could have chosen.

    This thread (thank you, Kaimi) is a response to your statement from the Iraq thread: But as I stated before, I DO think that when Prophets and Apostles issue instructions, they don’t do so lightly, and they don’t do so without both seeking and receiving at least some degree of inspiration on the matter. My point is that this isn’t always the case. Do you agree or disagree with this?

  9. Sorry Kim. I always get you and Kaimi mixed up. And, come to think of it, I’ve never seen the two of you in the same room at the same time. Fishy.

  10. “I DO think that when Prophets and Apostles issue instructions, they don’t do so lightly, and they don’t do so without both seeking and receiving at least some degree of inspiration on the matter.”

    Will: Please point to some instruction from the Brethren and prove to an absolute certainty that it contains no inspiration.

    Explain how anyone but the Lord’s Prophet can point to a particular instruction and say, “That one! That’s uninspired!”

    Your example of handcart company shows that (1) an apostle instructed a company to proceed and (2) that some people in the company suffered, and some died. You then leap inexorably to the unwarranted conclusion that the apostle’s instruction was unispired. Not so fast.

    Do you know what would have happened to the handcart company if they had not followed the instruction?

    Do you know whether the Lord was willing to let this suffering happen in order to fulfill even greater and more important purposes?

    Do you know if God wanted the example of their courage, sacrifice and devotion to inspire the generations of saints who would come after them, more than he wanted them to be warm, comfortable, safe, or even alive?

    Did God know, in his own wisdom, that these harsh and dreadful experiences were somehow going to provide the saints who suffered with something that would build their testimonies?

    Did God know that it was time to bring some of them home to him through death?

    You don’t know the answers to any of these questions. Yet you are willing to point with smug satisfaction at Franklin D. Richards and tell the world he got it wrong, and that you KNOW God didn’t inspire him. Phooey.

  11. ltbugaf said,“Please point to some instruction from the Brethren and prove to an absolute certainty that it contains no inspiration”

    How about this:
    “Who can tell us of the inhabitants of this little planet that shines of an evening called the moon? …when you inquire about the inhabitants of that sphere you find that the most learned are as ignorant in regard to them as the ignorant of their fellows. So it is in regard to the inhabitants of the sun. Do you think it is inhabited? I rather think it is. Do you think there is any life there? No question of it; it was not made in vain,” Bigham Young (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, p. 271)

    Emphasis mine.

    But then again when he said this he was only speaking as a man…

  12. Generally on this topic, here are some words of Boyd K. Packer to ponder:

    “Obedience to constituted priesthood authority will protect us from going astray.

    “There are those within the Church who are disturbed when changes are made with which they disagree or when changes they propose are not made. They point to these as evidence that the leaders are not inspired.

    “They write and speak to convince others that the doctrines and decisions of the Brethren are not given through inspiration.

    “Two things characterize them: they are always irritated by the word obedience, and always they question revelation. It has always been so. Helaman described those who ‘began to disbelieve in the spirit of prophecy and in the spirit of revelation; and the judgments of God did stare them in the face.’ (Hel. 4:23.) ‘They were left in their own strength’ (Hel. 4:13), and ‘the Spirit of the Lord did no more preserve them; yea, it had withdrawn from them’ (Hel. 4:24).

    “Changes in organization or procedures are a testimony that revelation is ongoing. While doctrines remain fixed, the methods or procedures do not.

    “For instance, when the editions of the scriptures were published, many corrections were made on the basis of original or printer’s manuscripts, some of which had not previously been available. For instance, in Alma chapter 16, verse 5, the word whether had appeared. [Alma 16:5] The original manuscript for that verse does not exist. However, when we found the printer’s copy, we saw that the Prophet Joseph Smith had changed the word to whither. Whether means ‘if’; whither means ‘where.’ The next verse verifies whither to be correct.

    “Another example: in Alma chapter 32, verse 30, the words ‘sprouteth and beginneth to grow’ occurred three times. [Alma 32:30] An obvious typesetting error left one of them out. In the 1981 edition, thirty-five words were restored. It now conforms to the original text.

    “There were many such changes. None altered the doctrine. Each change, however small in detail, was carefully and prayerfully considered and approved by the Council of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in a meeting in the temple.

    “All such matters are determined that way. The Lord established that process when He gave revelations relating to temple ordinances.

    “In 1841 the Saints were commanded to build a temple in Nauvoo in which to perform baptisms for the dead, and they were given time to do it. They would be rejected if they failed. He said:

    ” ‘I command you, all ye my saints, to build a house unto me; …

    ” ‘And if you do not these things at the end of the appointment ye shall be rejected as a church, with your dead, saith the Lord your God.’ (D&C 124:31–32.)

    “The Saints did not fail. However impossible it may have seemed to them, given the terrible opposition they faced, the Lord promised to guide them through His appointed servants:

    ” ‘If my people will hearken unto my voice, and unto the voice of my servants whom I have appointed to lead my people, behold, verily I say unto you, they shall not be moved out of their place.

    ” ‘But if they will not hearken to my voice, nor unto the voice of these men whom I have appointed, they shall not be blest.’ (D&C 124:45–46; italics added.)

    “Later, speaking on the same subject of temple ordinances, the Lord affirmed again that He will reveal His will to His authorized servants:

    ” ‘For him to whom these keys are given there is no difficulty in obtaining a knowledge of facts in relation to the salvation of the children of men.’ (D&C 128:11.)

    “That principle of revelation has been with the Church ever since. Those who hold the keys have obtained knowledge on what to do. When changes have come, they have come through that process. The Lord does as He said He would do:

    ” ‘I, the Lord, command and revoke, as it seemeth me good.’ (D&C 56:4.)

    ” ‘I command and men obey not; I revoke and they receive not the blessing.’ (D&C 58:32.)

    “He told the Saints that when enemies prevented them from keeping a commandment, he would no longer require them to do so. And he said:

    ” ‘The iniquity and transgression of my holy laws and commandments I will visit upon the heads of those who hindered my work, unto the third and fourth generation, so long as they repent not.’ (D&C 124:50.)

    “The gospel plan was revealed line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, and there a little. And it goes on: ‘We believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.’ (A of F 1:9.)

    “There will be changes made in the future as in the past. Whether the Brethren make changes or resist them depends entirely upon the instructions they receive through the channels of revelation which were established in the beginning.

    “The doctrines will remain fixed, eternal; the organization, programs, and procedures will be altered as directed by Him whose church this is.

    “We who have been called to lead the Church are ordinary men and women with ordinary capacities struggling to administer a church which grows at such a pace as to astound even those who watch it closely. Some are disposed to find fault with us; surely that is easy for them to do. But they do not examine us more searchingly than we examine ourselves. A call to lead is not an exemption from the challenges of life. We seek for inspiration in the same way that you do, and we must obey the same laws which apply to every member of the Church.

    “We are sorry for our inadequacies, sorry we are not better than we are. We can feel, as you can see, the effect of the aging process as it imposes limitations upon His leaders before your very eyes.

    “But this we know. There are councils and counselors and quorums to counterbalance the foibles and frailties of man. The Lord organized His church to provide for mortal men to work as mortal men, and yet He assured that the spirit of revelation would guide in all that we do in His name.

    “And in the end, what is given comes because the Lord has spoken it, ‘whether by [His] own voice or by the voice of [His] servants, it is the same.’ (D&C 1:38.) We know His voice when He speaks.

    “Revelation continues with us today. The promptings of the Spirit, the dreams, and the visions and the visitations, and the ministering of angels all are with us now. And the still, small voice of the Holy Ghost ‘is a lamp unto [our] feet, and a light unto [our] path.’ (Ps. 119:105.) Of that I bear witness, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” (Boyd K. Packer, “Revelation in a Changing World,” General Conference, October 1989.

  13. Rick: Interesting quote from President Young. Now you need only do two more things:

    1. Show that it contains any instruction. (What exactly did he tell us to do in this little quote?)

    2. Prove that he was wrong and uninspired.

  14. Itbugaf, I’m not sure if you’re yanking my chain, but I’ll proceed on the assumption that you’re being sincere.

    The handcart example is incidental to my point. If you read up on this episode, I think you’ll come to agree with Brigham Young’s assessment of it.

    Returning to the main point, I’m not privy to the daily routine of apostles, and I assume that you aren’t either. But logic, experience, and history compel me to believe that not all of their instructions are a product of prayer and inspiration. Believing otherwise requires mental gymnastics that my mind just isn’t capable of.

  15. Will: I’m not yanking your chain. Neither is Elder Packer. I encourage you to actually read what I’ve already posted above.

  16. Itbugaf, thank you for posting Elder Packer’s words, which I read carefully. Unfortunately, we’re talking past each other, as you’ve addressed only one sentence from my original comment.

    It’s obvious to most informed people (including Brigham Young) that the Willie and Martin treks were egregious mistakes. It’s also obvious to most informed people that the sun is uninhabited. Since you’re unwilling to cede even basic points such as these, I don’t see how this discussion is anything but an exercise in futility.

  17. By “informed people” I suppose you must mean “people who claim omniscience.” You know–the type who claim that they know there can’t be any kind of being, spiritual or otherwise, that lives, unknown and unseen to man, in an area such as the sun. If it can’t be seen or measured or detected by our scientific instruments, then it can’t exist!

    It’s also obvious to most informed people that no one can turn water into wine. And that the blind can’t be healed by faith. And that the dead can’t be raised. And that the seas can’t be parted by a man waving a stick. And it’s certainly obvious to most informed people that a man can’t be killed by crucifixion, lie dead in a tomb for three days, and then rise and appear to people.

    If such beliefs are a prerequisite for a meaningful discussion with you, then let’s not have one.

  18. instruction: An imparted or acquired item of knowledge; a lesson.

    The lesson? There exist at least two inhabitants on the sun.

    If I need to explain to you why this is wrong, please watch more Discovery Channel. :P

    Was it inspired? I mean, who knows?
    Young was constantly saying things that suggest he was off his rocker.

    Your guess is as good as mine.

  19. Rick: “instruction: An imparted or acquired item of knowledge; a lesson.”

    Then we’ve been using mismatched terminology. I have used “instruction” throughout the thread, to mean a direction–telling someone to do something.

    As to the infallibility of the Discovery Channel, please see above.

  20. Itbugaf, I’ve finally figured out that you’re just messing with our minds. You gave it away when you interpreted informed as omniscient. Congratulations on stringing me along for so long.

  21. So anyone who’s INFORMED believes that unless we can detect and measure things through scientific methods, they can’t exist? That’s the argument you’re bringing to bear against President Young. The problem is that it disqualifies you from believing in the parting of the Red Sea, the changing of the water to wine, the resurrection of Christ, the existence of God, etc. etc.

  22. Itbugaf, you’ve already tipped your hand, so there’s no need to keep up the pretense. You’re testing me to see:

    1) How crazy the discussion will get before I realize that you’re not serious.


    2) How far you can derail the thread before I realize that you haven’t addressed my original argument.

  23. If it makes you feel better to believe that no rational person can question your conclusions, then go ahead and believe that.

    You said that the instruction to a handcart company was uninspired because the company suffered hardship and death. I said the hardships and deaths didn’t conclusively prove there was no inspiration in the instruction.

    You said the fact that we can’t detect any form of life in the sun means that President Young’s thought that there might be some unseen, unknown kind of life there must be wrong. I said the fact that we can’t see or detect a thing doesn’t mean it can’t exist. I can’t reach an absolute and final conclusion on the matter (as you do) because I don’t pretend to know everything. I can’t discount the possibility of things I can’t see.

    You said that the seers who lead the Church give us false and uninspired directions, and frequently lead without revelation. (That’s the main point you keep saying I haven’t addressed, isn’t it?) In response, I offered you the words of Elder Packer, who said, “Whether the Brethren make changes or resist them depends entirely upon the instructions they receive through the channels of revelation which were established in the beginning.” He also said, “That principle of revelation has been with the Church ever since. Those who hold the keys have obtained knowledge on what to do. When changes have come, they have come through that process.” He also said, “He [the Lord] assured that the spirit of revelation would guide in all that we do in His name.”

    Why you want to think I’m kidding, I don’t know. But have fun.

  24. Itbugaf, I made four arguments to support the thesis that our leaders’ instructions aren’t always inspired. You ignored my arguments, and instead disagreed with an example I offered. Rick offered another example, with which you also disagreed.

    Now, here’s why I think you’re messing with us:

    – You focus on refuting our examples, knowing full well that we can always come up with replacement examples, which would drag the discussion on ad infinitum while leaving my arguments unaddressed.

    – You oppose Brigham Young’s views on the handcart treks, but defend his views on the sun.

    – You pretend that omniscience is required in order to draw reasonable conclusions. (But you don’t let this stop you from drawing conclusions.)

    Putting yourself in my shoes, what would you think?

  25. “knowing full well that we can always come up with replacement examples”

    Which would fail as miserably as your first two.

    “You oppose Brigham Young’s views on the handcart treks”

    You haven’t even presented any of them for me to oppose.

    “You pretend that omniscience is required in order to draw reasonable conclusions.”

    No. I simply point out that your criteria for dismissing President Young’s views as false and uninspired will also lead you to dismiss all other things that are not scientifically provable. And that creates a big problem for anyone who still believes in divine beings or events of any kind.

    “Putting yourself in my shoes, what would you think?”

    If I were you, I suppose I would be thinking up more ways to “convince others that the doctrines and decisions of the Brethren are not given through inspiration.” Or, I might be thinking that it’s time to abandon that position and repent. I don’t know which you will choose.

  26. “If I were you, I suppose I would be thinking up more ways to ‘convince others that the doctrines and decisions of the Brethren are not given through inspiration.'”

    I don’t believe Will ever made an absolute statement as this.

  27. Itbugaf, you still haven’t addressed the points in my original post, other than disputing the handcart example. I’ve appealed to Brigham Young 4 times in order to defend that example. If you didn’t know what I was talking about, why didn’t you say so?

    From the Encyclopedia of Mormonism “Handcart Companies” entry: In mid-November President Brigham Young angrily reproved those who had authorized the late start or who had not ordered the several parties back to Florence when they still had the opportunity, charging “ignorance,” “mismanagement,” and “misconduct.”

    I recommend gathering your facts before accusing people of smugness and saying that their example has failed miserably.

  28. I’ve been pretty snarky on this thread, so I’m going to end it before I become even more so. Itbugaf, I hope there are no hard feelings. I wish you well.

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