"When the prophet has spoken, the thinking has been done"
This claim is often appealed to by many members of the church. In fact, one of the counselors in my bishopric made this claim a few days ago in priesthood meeting. I have also seen it and other very similar claims made on this very site quite often.
The oft-quoted phrase, Ã¢â‚¬Å“When our leaders speak, the thinking has been doneÃ¢â‚¬Â originally appeared in one of the ChurchÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s teaching pamphlets in 1945. This phrase has been passed down and repeated by members and leaders for the past sixty years to silence questioning and propagate a myth of ecclesiastical infallibility. However, this has all been a big mistake.
In December of 1945, President George Albert Smith had this to say about this oft-quoted claimÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
The leaflet Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ was not "prepared" by "one of our leaders." However, one or more of them inadvertently permitted the paragraph to pass uncensored. By their so doing, not a few members of the Church have been upset in their feelings, and General Authorities have been embarrassed.
I am pleased to assure ... that the passage quoted does not express the true position of the Church. Even to imply that members of the Church are not to do their own thinking is grossly to misrepresent the true ideal of the Church, which is that every individual must obtain for himself a testimony of the truth of the Gospel, must, through the redemption of Jesus Christ, work out his own salvation, and is personally responsible to His Maker for his individual acts. The Lord Himself does not attempt coercion in His desire and effort to give peace and salvation to His children. He gives the principles of life and true progress, but leaves every person free to choose or to reject His teachings. This plan the Authorities of the Church try to follow.
The Prophet Joseph Smith once said: "I want liberty of thinking and believing as I please." This liberty he and his successors in the leadership of the Church have granted to every other member thereof.
Yet, many members still use this to silence free thought. If not this claim, other very similar claims are made. Ã¢â‚¬Å“DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t question the ProphetÃ¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬Å“Questioning leads to apostacyÃ¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬Å“Because the prophet said so, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s whyÃ¢â‚¬Â and on and on and onÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
Still many of you will say, Ã¢â‚¬Å“But that is just one phrase, the prophets have said elsewhere that we need to unquestioningly follow their command!Ã¢â‚¬Â My elders quorum instructor bore his testimony Sunday that Ã¢â‚¬Å“the mind of the prophet is constantly in line with the will of GodÃ¢â‚¬Â. I about choked on my own tongue. I constantly hear fellow members poking fun at the Catholic belief of Papal Infallibility, yet they blindly accept this for the president of the church. Ironically, Papal Infallibility is far, far, far more reserved and limited than what many Mormons grant the president of the church.
Furthermore, many of the leaders of the church have not only denied this heretical idea of prophetic infallibility, but have urged and told members to question them. Here are some examplesÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
President Joseph F. Smith Ã¢â‚¬â€œ
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We talk of obedience, but do we require any man or woman to ignorantly obey the counsels that are given? Do the First Presidency require it? No, never.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Elder Charles W. Penrose Ã¢â‚¬â€œ
Ã¢â‚¬Å“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.Ã¢â‚¬Â
(Printed in the Millenial Star) Ã¢â‚¬â€œ
Ã¢â‚¬Å“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... would despise the idea. 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 themselvesÃ¢â‚¬Â
Brigham Young Ã¢â‚¬â€œ
Ã¢â‚¬Å“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 the 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, themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continuallyÃ¢â‚¬Â
BY again Ã¢â‚¬â€œ
Ã¢â‚¬Å“How easy it would be for your leaders to lead you to destruction, unless you actually know the mind and will of the spirit yourselvesÃ¢â‚¬Â
And again Ã¢â‚¬â€œ
Ã¢â‚¬Å“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...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.Ã¢â‚¬Â
And again Ã¢â‚¬â€œ
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Now those men, or those women, who know no more about the power of God, and the influences of the Holy Spirit, than to be led entirely by another person, suspending their own understanding, and pinning their faith upon another's sleeve, will never be capable of entering into the celestial glory, to be crowned as they anticipate; they will never be capable of becoming Gods. They cannot rule themselves, to say nothing of ruling others, but they must be dictated to in every trifle, like a child. They cannot control themselves in the least, but James, Peter, or somebody else must control them. They never can become Gods, nor be crowned as rulers with glory, immortality, and eternal lives. They never can hold sceptres of glory, majesty, and power in the celestial kingdom. Who will? Those who are valiant and inspired with the true independence of heaven, who will go forth boldly in the service of their God, leaving others to do as they please, determined to do right, though all mankind besides should take the opposite course. Will this apply to any of you? Your own hearts can answerÃ¢â‚¬Â
Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith Ã¢â‚¬â€œ
Ã¢â‚¬Å“President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel [see, for example, verses 9-10: 'If the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing...the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him.']...said the Lord had declared by the Prophet [Ezekiel], that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church -- that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls -- applied it to the present state  of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints -- said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall -- that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves..."
George Q. Cannon Ã¢â‚¬â€œ
Ã¢â‚¬Å“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;"
Interestingly, in the last priesthood session, Elder Holland gave an account of Lorenzo Snow and Ezra T Benson getting capsized in Hawaii and Snow almost dying. The part he did not tell is how they ended up on the boat that got capsized. Also on the trip was their junior, Joseph F. Smith. As they neared the island, the more experienced Smith advised his seniors, that the waters were unsafe and they wait until a smaller boat arrived to bring them to shore. Not only did they reject his counsel, but in telling Smith to join them, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Young man, you would better obey our counsel.Ã¢â‚¬Â Joseph F. Smith refused to follow their order, stayed on the ship and watched the two apostles almost kill themselves.
What think ye?