Are we duty bound to question the words of church leaders?

Due to recent events in my life and comments on a recent post, I thought I should post some comments by church leaders on questioning what church leaders teach. (Yes, the irony is not lost on me.)

“The doctrines of the church cannot be fully understood unless it is tested by mind, by feelings, intellect and emotions, by every power of the investigator. Every church member is expected to understand the doctrine of the church intelligently. There is no place in the church for blind adherence.” —John A. Widstoe, Evidence and Reconciliations, p. 226

“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.” —Brigham Young, (12 January 1862) Journal of Discourses 9:150.

“God has not established His Church to make of its members irresponsible automatons, nor to exact from them blind obedience.” —James E. Talmage, The Vitality of Mormonism, p. 42.

“Latter-day Saints are not obedient because they are compelled to be obedient. They are obedient because they know certain spiritual truths and have decided, as an expression of their own individual agency, to obey the commandments of God . . . Those who talk of blind obedience may appear to know many things, but they do not understand the doctrines of the gospel. There is an obedience that comes from a knowledge of the truth that transcends any external form of control. We are not obedient because we are blind, we are obedient because we can see.” —Boyd K. Packer, Conference Report, 1983 April, pp. 89–90.

“Here may be some things that the First Presidency do; that the Apostles do, that cannot for the moment be explained; yet the spirit, the motives that inspire the action can be understood, because each member of the Church has a right to have that measure of the Spirit of God that they can judge as to those who are acting in their interests or otherwise” —Lorenzo Snow, Conference Report (October 1898): 54

“You cannot accept the books written by the authorities of the Church as standards of doctrine, only insofar as they accord with the revealed word in the standard works. Every man who writes is responsible, not the Church, for what he writes. If Joseph Fielding Smith writes something which is out of harmony with the revelations, then every member of the Church is duty bound to reject it. If he writes that which is in perfect harmony with the revealed word of the Lord, then it should be accepted.” —Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols., (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954–56), 3:203–204

“And if he says something that contradicts what is found in the standard works (I think that is why we call them “standard”—it is the standard measure of all that men teach), you may know by that same token that it is false; regardless of the position of the man who says it.” —Harold B. Lee, “The Place of the Living Prophet, Seer, and Revelator,” Address to Seminary and Institute of Religion Faculty, BYU, 8 July 1964

“I have given some thought to this question, and the answer thereto so far as I can determine, is: We can tell when the speakers are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’ only when we, ourselves, are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost.’ In a way, this completely shifts the responsibility from them to us to determine when they so speak.” —J. Reuben Clark, (31 July 1954). “When Are Church Leaders’ Words Entitled to Claim of Scripture?”. Church News.

“President Wilford Woodruff is a man of wisdom and experience, and we respect 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.” —Charles W. Penrose, Millennial Star, v. 54, p. 191

What are your own thoughts on these statements?

Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same

When we hear discourse in the church about the legitimacy of the prophets’ words, inevitably, this scripture comes up.

“What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” (D&C 1:38)

It is usually used to support the inerrancy of the prophets’s words. After all, if God’s voice and the servants’s voice are the same thing, then it stands to reason that what the prophets say is literally God’s words.

There is a problem with this traditional interpretation however. While the common interpretation of this scripture amounts to something like “mine own voice and the voice of my servants are the same,” we can see that the scripture doesn’t actually say that.

What is the central message of this verse? “my word shall not pass away”.

Everything before and after that phrase and ties back to it. Consider what comes before it:

“What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself.” But why does he not excuse himself? The answer lies in the next phrase:

“and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away”

He doesn’t excuse what he says because what he says last forever; it’s eternal and will never fail.

What about the rest of the verse?

“my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled”

Not only will his words last forever, but instead of failing, they will be fulfilled.

Then finally: whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same. In this instance, the Lord isn’t saying that his words are the same as the prophets’ words. What he is saying is that whether his words are fulfilled by his own voice or whether his words are fulfilled by the voices of the prophets (or literally, his servants), the result will be the same, his words will be fulfilled.

I think it so important that when we read our scriptures that we always put forth effort to determine what is meant by what we read, and we should always be careful not to project on what we read traditional interpretations just because we assume they are correct interpretations.

Looking for male actors


I am directing a play next month, and I am looking for male actors.

The play is Carol Lynn Pearson’s musical “The Order is Love. It’s about the collapse of the United Order. Despite already having 30 actors in place, we’re still short 4 men.

If you are in the Lethbridge area and interested in being a part of this great play, please let me know. If you know someone in the Lethbridge area who would like to be a part of this play, please let me know.