There are warnings that have come from the prophets of the LDS Church that we don’t often examine.  We hear about them, they are familiar to everyone, but I don’t remember ever having a Sunday School lesson where we actually discussed them in depth.  You know the ones…there will be “ravening wolves among the sheep”, “false prophets”, “tares among the wheat” and those that may deceive “even the elect.”

Ezra Taft Benson gave a talk in 1972, advising us of the danger.  He said, quoting J. Reuben Clark, Jr., 

Even within the Church we have been warned that ‘the ravening wolves are amongst us, from our own membership, and they, more than any others, are clothed in sheep’s clothing, because they wear the habiliments of the priesthood’ (CR, April 1949, p. 163). 

Ezra Taft Benson not only substantiates the words of J. Reuben Clark, he makes it clear that our situation is worse than when he first said it.  Benson further states, “The wolves amongst our flock are more numerous and devious today than when President Clark made this statement” (Ezra Taft Benson, Conference Report, April 1969, pp. 10-15). 

Even more interesting is the statement made by Brigham Young, who said,

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. … Let every man and woman know, by the whisperings of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not” (JD, vol. 9, p. 150). 

This warning was emphasized again by Elder Perry in a Conference address of 2003.  He states,

We have never been encouraged to be blindly obedient; it is an intelligent obedience that characterizes members of the Church.  Brigham Young is reported to have said that the greatest fear he had was that the members of the church would take what he said as the mind and will of God without first praying and obtaining a witness of the same for themselves.

Why would The Prophet say this about himself?  Aren’t we promised that he will never lead us astray?

Brigham Young himself, answered this question.  He said,

…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” (emphasis added). 

Having a testimony that our leaders are speaking the mind and will of the Lord not only helps us avoid deception; but gaining a witness of truth is necessary in order to exercise faith.  Bruce R. Mckonkie stated that “Faith is based on truth and is preceded by knowledge.  Until a person gains knowledge of the truth, he can have no faith” (Mormon Doctrine, “Faith”, 262). 

While faith is not a perfect knowledge, it is knowledge in part.  Real faith is never completely blind.  And the more spiritual knowledge you gain, the more faith you will be capable of exercising.  

Because spiritual knowledge and faith are inexplicably related, it is a misnomer to say that we should have the “simple faith of a child”.  While we ought to be childlike in some respects–submissive, meek, humble, patient and full of love (see Mosiah 3:19) we should not be children in understanding.  In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul exhorts us that “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

Not only should we avoid being children in understanding, but the simple are warned to be wise.  In Romans 16: 18-19 it reads, 

For they…by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.

In matters of faith, we need to be wise—not simple, not child like.  We need to be knowledgeable and use our heads as well as our hearts.

Harold B. Lee said,

People apostatize due to ignorance or sin. In nine cases out of ten—I’d say in every case—those who apostatize from this church do it from one of two reasons, either because of their ignorance of the doctrine or because of their sinfulness and falling away from the truth (Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 60-04).

I’d hate to see myself or anyone else fall away simply due to ignorance, so I’ve spent some time researching and organizing 6 doctrinal rules, and the exceptions to those rules, that will help keep us aligned with the will of the Lord.

What if you had to choose between following your priesthood leader or following your own promptings from the Holy Ghost?  How will you know if it is you or they who are deceived?  Better yet, how did Nephi (who was told to kill Laban) know that he wasn’t being deceived?  How did Abraham (who was asked to kill Isaac) know that he wasn’t being deceived?  

The answers to these questions could mean the difference between being faithful, or not. My hope is that the following will aid you in keeping your course.

Rule #1: Love the Truth and Keep It. NO EXCEPTIONS

I was an adult when it dawned on me that the CTR emblem is on a shield. I know that there is great protective power in keeping the commandments and searching them. Joseph F. Smith said,

The nearer we approach God, the better we endeavor to keep His commandments, the more we will search to know His will as it has been revealed, the less likely it will be for us to be led astray by every wind of doctrine, by these false spirits that lie in wait to deceive, and by the spirits of men, as the Lord has stated in the revelations which I have read to you. We will be protected, and we will have the power to understand, to segregate truth from error, we will walk in the light and we will not be deceived. Now the man who is dilatory, the man who is unfaithful, the man who is not willing to keep the commandments of the Lord in all things lays himself open to deception because the Spirit of the Lord is not with him to lead and direct him and to show him the way of truth and righteousness, and therefore some error comes along and he absorbs it because he cannot understand and realize the difference between truth and error. I want to tell you there is much error in this world that is passed off as truth, and it behooves every man of us to seek God, and, as stated by the prophet, draw near unto Him, and the nearer we draw unto Him, and the more we seek to do His will the more light we shall receive and the less shall be the danger of our deception.

If we love the Lord, we will expand our minds. Orson Pratt said,

We should not get into that old sectarian notion, that we have no right to know anything about this, that or the other, and that we must not pry into this, that or the other. That is an old sectarian notion, which we have fought against all the day long, and we do not want it to creep into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is the privilege of its members to let their minds expand, and to ponder upon the things of God, and to enquire of him, and by and by, when we have prepared ourselves by getting all the knowledge we possibly can from that which is written, God will give more (Journal of Discourses 16:336). 

John Taylor said that truth is our “groundwork” and “sure rock” what he said that, 

Truth, eternal truth is the groundwork of the Christian hope: it is the only sure rock upon which we can build. Forsaking that to support some favourite dogma, he falls into the mazes of infidelity, skepticism, error, delusion, and is on the highway to destruction. The power of God will always attend those who love the truth and keep it.

Daniel H. Ludlow quoted JS Matthew 1:37 “… And whoso treasureth up my words, shall not be deceived.” And then made this statement:

Not read, not study, not search, but treasure up the Lord’s word. Possess it, own it, make it yours by both believing it and living it. For instance: the voice of the Lord says that if men have faith, repent, and are baptized, they shall receive the Holy Ghost. It is not sufficient merely to know what the scripture says. One must treasure it up, meaning take it into his possession so affirmatively that it becomes a part of his very being; as a consequence, in the illustration given, one actually receives the companionship of the Spirit. Obviously such persons will not be deceived where the signs of the times and the Second Coming of the Messiah are concerned (A Companion to Your Study of the New Testament). 

Rule#2: Be Humble. NO EXCEPTIONS! 

In a talk entitled “The Laws of Revelation and Protection from Spiritual Downfall” Bishop Judd said,

Humility is the great protector. Humility is the antidote against pride. Humility is the catalyst for all learning, especially spiritual things… If we are humble enough to receive the counsel, the Lord can and will guide us through the counsel of our parents, our teachers, and our leaders.

When we are humble, we will be open to counsel. Brigham Young warns us that when we fail to heed that counsel and begin to find fault with our leaders, we have the spirit of apostasy.

When a man begins to find fault, inquiring in regard to this, that, and the other, saying, “Does this or that look as though the Lord dictated it?” you may know that that person has more or less of the spirit of apostasy. Every man in this Kingdom, or upon the face of the earth, who is seeking with all his heart to save himself, has as much to do as he can conveniently attend to, without calling in question that which does not belong to him. If he succeeds in saving himself, it has well occupied his time and attention. See to it that you are right yourselves; see that sins and folly do not manifest themselves with the rising sun

In 1951, Elder Spencer W. Kimball said,

I would not say that those leaders whom the Lord chooses are necessarily the most brilliant, nor the most highly trained, but they are the chosen, and when chosen of the Lord they are his recognized authority, and the people who stay close to them have safety.

In addition to this, Elder Neal A. Maxwell contributed that, 

The living prophets are not perfect men, but they live close to him who is perfect. It is no real reflection on them that in their imperfections these great men at times wish to hold back or to hasten history. Peter smote off the ear of one of those who came to take Jesus captive on the Mount of Olives. (Matthew 26:51.) Peter did not understand that the “arrest” of Jesus should not be arrested, because the unfolding events would move from Gethsemane to Golgotha and then to an empty grave, all of which he would witness and preach about for years after. When such great individuals move so marvelously along the straight and narrow path, it is unseemly of us to call attention to the fact that one of their shoelaces is untied as they make the journey (Things as They Really Are, pg. 77). 

The prophet Joseph Smith said,

I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the Kingdom. It is an eternal principle, that has existed with God from all eternity: That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives (TPJS, pp. 156-157). 

So if we suspect false leaders, how should we handle it?

Ezra Taft Benson said,

When individual actions of some Church members disturb you, here’s another principle to consider. And this is the principle of stewardship. As the kingdom grows larger, more and more responsibilities have to be delegated and stewardships handed out. Men respond in different degrees of valiancy to their stewardships. God is very patient and long-suffering as he waits for some of us to rise to our responsibilities. He usually gives a man a long enough rope and a long enough time to either pull himself up to the presence of God or drop off somewhere below. But while God is patient, no puny arm of man in his stewardship can long impede or pervert the work of the Lord. The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind ever so finely.

Because God has given men their agency, there will always be those who will misuse it. The gospel net draws in the good and the bad, the best and the worst. The worst because the devil, before the final cleansing, put some of his followers within the kingdom in order to try and destroy it. We have some of them within the kingdom today, and in due course their number shall be known. Time has a way of taking care of all things, of elevating the good and bringing down the bad. If we see things going on within the kingdom that disturb us, we might first resolve, if the matter falls within our stewardship, to go to the person or people involved. If it is of such a nature that we think it should be called to the attention of higher authority, then we can, in a kindly and quiet manner, take the necessary steps at the proper level (Jesus Christ—Gifts and Expectations, New Era, May 1975)

Rule #3 Follow the living prophet and the leadership of his church.

In 1890, Wilford Woodruff declared:

I say to Israel, the Lord will never permit me nor any other man who stands as the 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 (Wilford Woodruff, p. 572). 

Hoyt W. Brewster once remarked that, 

Those who reject the words of the living prophet of God place their souls at risk, for, as previously cited, the Lord declared that “they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people.” (D&C 1:14.) To truly follow Christ is to follow His anointed servants, for they teach what He would have us know and do. We bear witness to the world of the living Christ and of the authority of His living prophet. We invite all mankind to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him. (Moro. 10:32) (Prophets, Priesthood Keys, and Succession).

Boyd K. Packer said,

A man who says he will sustain the President of the Church or the General Authorities but cannot sustain his own bishop is deceiving himself. The man who will not sustain the bishop of his ward and the president of his stake will not sustain the President of the Church.

Exceptions:

No one but the prophet is exempt from going astray.

Ezra Taft Benson explained,

“The Lord distinguishes between the Church and its members. He said He was well pleased with the restored Church, speaking collectively, but not individually (D&C 1:30). During His ministry on earth, the Lord spoke of the gospel net drawing in fish. The good fish, He said, were gathered into vessels, while the bad were cast away. (See Matthew 13:47–50.) It is important to realize that while the Church is made up of mortals, no mortal is the Church. Judas, for a period of time, was a member of the Church—in fact, one of its apostles—but the Church was not Judas” (God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties)

Harold B. Lee taught,

It is not to be thought that every word spoken by the General Authorities is inspired, or that they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost in everything they read and write. Now you keep that in mind. I don’t care what his position is, if he writes something or speaks something that goes beyond anything that you can find in the standard church works, unless that one be the prophet, seer, and revelator-please note that one exception-you may immediately say, “Well, that is his own idea.” And if he says something that contradicts what is found in the standard church 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 (To seminary and institute of religion faculty, July 1964). 

Brigham Young warned our credulous saints:

Some may say, ‘Brethren, you who lead the Church, we have all confidence in you, we are not in the least afraid but what everything will go right under your superintendence; all the business matters will be transacted right; and if brother Brigham is satisfied with it, I am.’ I do not wish any Latter-day Saint in 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… 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 (Brigham Young). 

Joseph Smith instructed,

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 (Millennial Star, vol.14 #38, pp. 593-95). 

A prophet is only a prophet when he is acting as such.

Joseph Smith taught “that a prophet was a prophet only when he was acting as such” (DHC, vol. 5, p. 265). 

John A. Widstoe said,

…Official prophetic utterances to the Church are usually made in the great general conferences of the Church, or in signed statements circulated among the people. The phrase “Thus sayeth the Lord” may at times be used; but is not necessary. When the prophet speaks to the people in an official gathering or over his signature, he speaks as the Lord directs him. If a new doctrine or practice be involved in the revelation, it is presented to the people for acceptance, in recognition of the free agency of the Church itself, but once accepted, it is thereafter binding upon every member…[The Prophet’s] unofficial expressions carry greater weight than the opinions of other men of equal or greater gifts and experience but without the power of the prophetic office. It would be wisdom on all occasions and with respect to all subjects in any field of human activity, to hearken to the prophet’s voice. There is safety and ultimate happiness in following the counsel that may be received from the prophet” (When Does a Prophet Speak as a Prophet?) 

Ezra Taft Benson related:

The story is told how Brigham Young, driving through a community, saw a man building a house and simply told him to double the thickness of his walls. Accepting President Young as a prophet, the man changed his plans and doubled the walls. Shortly afterward a flood came through that town, resulting in much destruction, but this man’s walls stood. While putting the roof on his house, he was heard singing, ‘We thank thee, O God, for a prophet!’” (Civic Standards for the Faithful Saints , Ensign, p. 59. July 1972)

Reuben Clark Jr. said,

The question is how shall we know when the things they have spoken were said as they were ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost?’ I have given some thought to the 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 (To seminary and institute faculties, Brigham Young University, July 7, 1954; DCSM:144).

In order to not be deceived, we MUST take the Holy Spirit for our guide. 

For they that are wise and have received the truth, and have taken the Holy Spirit for their guide, and have not been deceived—verily I say unto you, they shall not be hewn down and cast into the fire, but shall abide the day (D&C 45:57).

We must not follow anything at discord with the head of the Church.

“But anything at discord with that which comes from God through the head of the Church is not to be received as authoritative or reliable” (Published message of the First Presidency of the Church, President Joseph F. Smith, Anthon H. Lund and Charles W. Penrose). 

We must not follow anything at discord with the standard works or the other teachings of the Gospel.

Joseph Fielding Smith said,

If I should say something which is contrary to that which is written in the standard works of the church, and accepted by the authorities of the church and approved by the church generally, no one is under any obligation to accept it. Everything I say and everything that any other person says must square itself with that which the Lord has revealed, or it should be rejected.

Marion G. Romney also counseled that,

I would like now to suggest some tests which can safely be used to distinguish the genuine from the counterfeit… 

…The teaching must not only come under the proper label [that of Jesus Christ], but it must also conform to the other teaching[s] of the Gospel of Jesus Christ (CR1960Oct:76-77). 

Rule #4: Living prophets takes precedence over dead prophets, but they do not downgrade the importance of them.

As stated in one prominent LDS-based magazine,

Not only do the living prophets take precedence over those who have gone before them, but their inspired words also have a priority over scripture. When he was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, President Ezra Taft Benson explained this principle: “Because [the living prophet] gives the word of the Lord for us today, his words have an even more immediate importance than those of the dead prophets. When speaking under the influence of the Holy Ghost his words are scripture (See D&C 68:4) (In Conference Report, Oct. 1963, p. 17). 

President Benson stated that,

Placing a priority on the living prophet does not downgrade the importance of holy writ, for the same God whose words are found in the scriptures is the one who is revealing His mind and will to the living prophet. The scriptures and the words of the living prophet are used in tandem, for “every generation has need of the ancient scripture plus the current scripture from the living prophet (In Conference Report, Korea Area Conference, 1975, p. 52).

President John Taylor taught that inspired acts and utterances of the past still have binding force.  

The theology of our Church is the theology taught by Jesus Christ and His apostles, the theology of scripture and reason. It not only acknowledges the sacredness of ancient scripture, and the binding force of divinely-inspired acts and utterances in ages past; but also declares that God now speaks to man in this final Gospel dispensation (Address from the First Presidency of the Church to the world, delivered to and accepted by vote of the Church in general conference, April 1907). 

Orson F. Whitney instructed that, 

God’s work is progressive. It changes its appearance, but never its principles. The truths upon which it is founded are eternal, unalterable, but there are many regulations that change and change and change, as the work of God goes on (In Conference Report, Oct. 1916, pp. 55-56)

Spencer W. Kimball taught that the safest way to follow the leadership of the Church was to follow prophets, “dead and living.”

Every normal person may have a sure way of knowing what is right and what is wrong. He may learn the gospel and receive the Holy Spirit, which will always guide him as to right and wrong. In addition to this, he has the leaders of the Lord’s church. And the only sure, safe way is to follow that leadership—follow the Holy Spirit within you and follow the prophets, dead and living (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 19). 

RULE# 5: Remember the Law of Witnesses

One thing more in order to prove the work as we proceed. It is necessary to have witnesses, two or three of whose testimonies, according to the laws or rules of God and man, are sufficient to establish any one point (Liahona The Elder Journal, 225). 

Bruce R. McKonkie wrote that,

[The law of witnesses] . . . is that the Lord always sends his word by witnesses who testify of its truth and divinity; that one witness alone, though he speaks the truth, is not enough to bind his hearers; that two or more witnesses always unite their voices to make the divinely borne testimony binding on earth and sealed everlastingly in the heavens; and that thus, in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established (The Mortal Messiah, 2:76).

Speaking as the Lord’s prophet in 1972, President Joseph Fielding Smith stated, 

I think there is one thing which we should have exceedingly clear in our minds. Neither the President of the Church, nor the First Presidency, nor the united voice of the First Presidency and the Twelve will ever lead the Saints astray or send forth counsel to the world that is contrary to the mind and will of the Lord. An individual may fall by the wayside, or have views, or give counsel which falls short of what the Lord intends. But the voice of the First Presidency and the united voice of those others who hold with them the keys of the kingdom shall always guide the Saints and the world in those paths where the Lord wants them to be (“Eternal Keys and the Right to Preside,” p. 88). 

Similar to the law of witnesses, we have been given a Key that will never rust.

William G. Nelson reported that, 

I have heard the Prophet speak in public on many occasions. In one meeting I heard him say: ‘I will give you a key that will never rust,—if you will stay with the majority of the Twelve Apostles, and the records of the Church, you will never be led astray.’ The history of the Church has proven this to be true.

In addition, Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said, “The law given to Israel in the beginning was that in the mouth of two or three witnesses all things should be established” (Answers to Gospel Questions, 1:204; TLDP:733). 

In the Gospel Principles Manual appears the following important statement:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accepts four books as scripture: the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. These books are called the standard works of the Church…

In addition to these four books of scripture, the inspired words of our living prophets become scripture to us. Their words come to us through conferences, Church publications, and instructions to local priesthood leaders…

Rulon T. Burton said, “Since by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word is to be established, when a concept appears only once and is NOT repeated by prophetic witness it is not doctrine of the Church” (We Believe). 

Doctrinal decisions must be done in unanimity. D&C 107:27-29 states that

Every decision made by either of these quorums must be by the unanimous voice of the same; that is, every member in each quorum must be agreed to its decisions, in order to make their decisions of the same power or validity one with the other—

A majority may form a quorum when circumstances render it impossible to be otherwise—

Unless this is the case, their decisions are not entitled to the same blessings which the decisions of a quorum of three presidents were anciently, who were ordained after the order of Melchizedek, and were righteous and holy men.

Unless a decision is made by the unanimous voice of the quorum (whether it is the First Presidency, The Quorum of the Twelve or The Quorum of the 70) the decisions are not entitled to the same blessings as the ones that are. 

Rule #6: There have been and will continue to be times when the Lord will will act out of expedience.

This last principle encompasses all of the other principles.  I’ll give a current issue example for illustration. Sometimes the church acts out of expedience, meaning they do that which is most advantageous (or in the Church’s best interest) as opposed to that that which is right or just.  

The Church recently came out in public support for a non-discrimination ordinance in Utah.  It was very puzzling to me, because I know these ordinances violate religious liberties, property rights, freedom of speech and freedom of association. This one in particular forces businesses to create “gender neutral” bathrooms.  And there is already precedent in the United States for “No Judgement Zone” bathrooms which punish women who complain if males who “identify” as women use their locker rooms at a public facility. 

Just before voting, Senator Margaret Dayton gave her reasons for opposing SB296. She said:

I too would like to explain my vote. I have some concerns with this bill. I had several people tell me they have concerns that DSM-V includes Pedophilia. I haven’t been able to resolve that yet. But my real concern is creating a special protected class. That always brings particular legal problems. And I’m concerned with the part in this bill that says that the size of one’s business determines the amount of freedom that’s available. If small landlords or small businesses have the freedom to hire who they want, then why does that freedom go away if their business grows? There’s just too many unanswered questions and I have real angst with creating special protected classes, because I feel like all of us should be ‘special protected citizens’ under the law of the Constitution. So my vote is ‘No’ (2:01:00 – 2:02:41). 

Even though 5 of our leaders supported this bill in an unprecedented meeting with the media, “Only the First Presidency can speak for the Church or commit the Church to support or oppose specific legislation or to seek to intervene in judicial matters”(Handbook vol. 2, 21.1.29).

While I believe the Lord has instructed the brethren who showed up at the press conference to support this measure, it is not binding. The support of this bill is in high contrast to the statement signed by the First Presidency and delivered over the pulpit to the members of the church to support Prop 8. In addition, there are other rules which govern our assessment of the situation.

Again, Joseph Fielding Smith said,

If I should say something which is contrary to that which is written in the standard works of the church, and accepted by the authorities of the church and approved by the church generally, no one is under any obligation to accept it. Everything I say and everything that any other person says must square itself with that which the Lord has revealed, or it should be rejected.

Not only is there zero evidence that the First Presidency wants us to support anti-discrimination laws, but nowhere in scripture is their precedent for using the law to support immorality. On the contrary, the righteous leaders of the Book of Mormon legislated morality (and even enforced these laws on the unbelievers). 

In Alma 1:32 it says,

For those who did not belong to their church did indulge themselves in sorceries, and in idolatry or idleness, and in babblings, and in envyings and strife; wearing costly apparel; being lifted up in the pride of their own eyes; persecuting, lying, thieving, robbing, committing whoredoms (this is sexual immorality), murdering, and all manner of wickedness; nevertheless, the law was put in force upon all those who did transgress it, inasmuch as it was possible.

We can search the scriptures all day, but we’ll never find a precedent for legalizing, protecting and promoting homosexuality. This idea positively does not square itself with that which the Lord has revealed. So, we can only come to one of two conclusions.

  1. The brethren who represented the Church to the media are really wolves in sheep’s clothing, and we’ve had plenty of warning from the prophets that there would be, or
  2. God is doing what is politically expedient–something we do have precedence for.

Option #1: The brethren who represented the Church to the media are really wolves in sheep’s clothing.

I am certain that the 5 brethren who showed up to the press conference are not fallen men. Their talks and teachings on every other occasion are full of light. Secondly, the fact that there are 5 of them bears witness to me that they are on the Lord’s errand.  Again, Joseph Smith said,

One thing more in order to prove the work as we proceed. It is necessary to have witnesses, two or three of whose testimonies, according to the laws or rules of God and man, are sufficient to establish any one point.

The point established at the press conference wasn’t that we should vote for non-discrimination ordinances. The point established was that five men came to make sure that the non-discrimination ordinances, already being considered, contained language to protect religious freedom. Thirdly, it was revealed to me on praying about it, that these men were doing the Lord’s will, and that their actions were a matter of expedience.

Option #2 Political expedience.

There is precedence for the principle of expedience. Meaning that the Lord does that which is most advantageous (or in the church’s best interest) as opposed to that that which is right or just.

Take for example, the church’s political neutrality. Some believe that the church is neutral because it is both expedient and right. However, it is interesting to note that they are currently bound by 501(c)(3) tax exemption laws which state that

“In general, no organization, including a church, may qualify for IRC section 501(c)(3) status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation (commonly known as lobbying).”

One should also note that the brethren came out on many issues prior to 1954, before President Johnson restricted churches from having influence on public policy.

And if “neutrality” for the church were a correct principle, why did leaders of our church publicly endorse candidates and speak out on “non-moral” issues prior to 1954? 

On one hand, the Church currently does not “endorse, promote or oppose political parties, candidates or platforms…it does not direct its members as to which candidate or party they should give their votes to.”

On the other hand, members are told that their civic duty “…is to be actively involved in the political process. That meaning that they study the issues, they determine what the needs are as they see it, that they then use their freedom and their agency to vote according to their own conscience…”

Sometimes the Lord instructs his prophets to do that which is expedient. Sometimes He gives peculiar and highly exceptional commandments which may be hard to understand, but are for the greater good. Please consider some examples. 

You’ll remember that Nephi was asked to kill Laban, as it was “better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.”

You’ll remember that Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for denying the expedience of the atonement:

In John 11:49-50 states“…Ye know nothing at all…Nor consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.”

You’ll remember that Wilford Woodruff encouraged the Saints to stop the practice of polygamy (something commanded by the Lord Himself) because “The Lord showed [him] by vision and revelation exactly what would take place if [he] did not stop this practice.”

At the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple, he stated,

I will tell you what was manifested to me and what the Son of God performed in this thing. … All these things would have come to pass, as God Almighty lives, had not that Manifesto been given. Therefore, the Son of God felt disposed to have that thing presented to the Church and to the world for his own purposes in his own mind. The Lord had decreed the establishment of Zion. He had decreed the finishing of this temple. He had decreed that the salvation of the living and the dead should be given in these valleys of the mountains. And Almighty God decreed that the Devil should not thwart it. If you can understand that, that is a key to it((Emphasis added) From a discourse at the sixth session of the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple, April 1893. Typescript of Dedicatory Services, Archives, Church Historical Department, Salt Lake City, Utah). 

God is all powerful, and it could be argued that it really isn’t necessary for him to “do that which is expedient.” Yet we have evidence that He does. He, out of respect for man’s agency, adjusts and protects his Church, even at the expense of His own commandments. He issues instructions that are to be “presented to the world for His own purposes in His own mind.” And isn’t it incumbent upon us to “study the issues, determine the needs as we see it, and use our freedom and agency to vote according to our own conscience?” Certainly we couldn’t use Nephi’s example of killing Laban to justify our own sin, or the church’s example of political neutrality to justify our own apathy. The Lord’s decisions to do that which is expedient does not exempt us from doing that which is right and good.

In Conclusion

If we understand the principle of expedience and the law of witnesses, if we love the truth and keep it, if we are in the habit of being humble and following the Prophets both dead and living, we can trust that the Holy Ghost, as our constant companion, will help us judge truth from error.

In John 10:27 it says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” 

I submit that Nephi and Abraham were not only in the habit of following The Good Shepherd, they could take confidence in the face of expedience because they knew his voice. I pray that each of us will strive for such familiarity.

Image: Kate HaskellCC BY 2.0

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