As we at Faithful Saints take up this labor, it is with the hope of receiving the help and blessings of the Lord and desiring His understanding. What is the difference between being the accuser of the true priesthood of God and blindly following just anyone because of their prescribed title?
We wish to show, starting with the following quotes from George Q. Cannon, the consequences of speaking evil of the servants of God and, also, what constitutes a man of God.
We have been taught from the beginning that one of the most dangerous symptoms of apostasy from the Church is speaking evil of the Lord’s servants; whenever a spirit of this kind takes possession of one who is called a Latter-day Saint, it is sure to grieve the Spirit of God; it invites darkness to enter the mind, and, unless it is sincerely repented of, it causes apostasy to follow. For this reason, if for no other, our children should be taught from the time they are old enough to comprehend that they are treading upon slippery ground whenever they venture to criticise, censure or condemn those whom the Lord has chosen to be His servants. (Gospel Truth. p. 490)
“There is not a man in the Church,” continues President Cannon,
… that has anything overpowering about him, that we should render him any degree of obedience. It is not that. These are but the earthly vessels… But while these men are but earthly vessels, it is the authority, it is the power, it is God… that is within them that causes them to do these godly works. Without God were in them, they could not baptize men for remission of sins; they could not lay on hands for the reception of the Holy Ghost.
It is the spirit and power which God gives to all who receive His Priesthood that makes them in the sight of God so holy that they ought not to be spoken against; they ought not to be belittled; they ought not to be disobeyed by the people of God. (Apr. 17, 1897, DW 55:35 and Gospel Truth, 490)
This places a great deal of responsibility upon the people that they cannot afford to follow blindly.
The following shows that no matter what position a man has in the church he can fall.
Let him, the apostle says, that standeth take heed lest he fall. There is no one so strong that he can be sure he will get through. It is only through the grace of God that we can expect to be faithful and to receive salvation. Think of the mighty men who have been in this church who have fallen… (Gospel Truth, 486)
In the Doctrine & Covenants we read,
That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God. (D&C 121:36-38)
When Oliver Cowdery brought charges against Joseph Smith, was he not the accuser of the prophet of God and the president of the Church? Why hold a trial with the high council, if Joseph was not subject to accusations before God? Was Joseph not above the members of the high council? If he were to do wrong, would not God simply remove him Himself? Why should Joseph have to answer to this high council of men at all. Remember: “Behold thou art Joseph, and thou wast chosen to do the work of the Lord, but because of transgression, if thou art not aware thou wilt fall.” D&C 3:9. This scripture is clear. No one is infallible. The high council heard the case against the servant of the Lord and came to the conclusion that the accusations were, in their judgment, false. Again: “And those who swear falsely against my servants.” (D&C 121:18) All priesthood leadership are to be held accountable. It is only when false accusations are brought against the Lord’s anointed that there is sin in the accuser.
Cursed are all those that shall lift up the heel against mine anointed, saith the Lord, and cry they have sinned when they have not sinned before me, saith the Lord. (D&C 121:16)
It is sin and wickedness that causes a man with the priesthood to fall. Just because a man is the president of the church or any other authority, it does not give him the right to commit sin without consequences, as is he is not exempt from temptations. As the Lord said, amen to the priesthood or authority of that man!
If the people are under obligation to obey the priesthood authority of God, then it is their duty to know whether their leaders are led by God. Each member of the Church has a right to expose sin and iniquity in their leaders when one is under such strict obligations of obedience to them.
The following quotes are from Brigham Young,
How do you know that your humble servant is really, honestly, guiding and counseling you aright, and directing the affairs of the kingdom aright? . . . How do you know but I am teaching false doctrine? How do you know that I am not counseling you wrong? How do you know but I will lead you to destruction? . . . Live so that you can discern between the truth and error, between light and darkness, between the things of God and those not of God, for by the revelations of the Lord, and these alone, can you and I understand the things of God . . . But to return to my question to the Saints, “How are you going to know about the will and commands of heaven?” By the Spirit of revelation; that is the only way you can know. How do I know but what I am doing wrong? How do I know but what we will take a course for our utter ruin?. . . But how do you know that I may not yet do wrong? How do you know but I will bring in false doctrine and teach the people lies that they may be damned? (Journal of Discourses, 14:204)
“I told the people in Nauvoo,” related Brigham,
. . .that if they were not Saints at that critical juncture, they ought to repent of their sins, and get the Holy Ghost, and not live another twenty-four hours without the Spirit of revelation within themselves, for who knows but what you are the elect; and you know that false prophets were to arise in the last days, and, if possible, deceive the very elect, and that many false shepherds would come and pretend to be the true shepherds. Now, be sure to get the spirit of revelation, so that you can tell when you hear the true Shepherd’s voice, and know him from a false one; for if you are the elect, it would be a great pity to have you led astray to destruction. (JofD 6:45)
The First Presidency have of right a great influence over this people; and if we should get out of the way and lead this people to destruction, what a pity it would be! How can you know whether we lead you correctly or not? Can you know by any other power than that of the Holy Ghost? I have uniformly exhorted the people to obtain this living witness each for themselves; then no man on earth can lead them astray. (JofD 6:100)
In another sermon, Brigham 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. (JofD 9:150)
It should be obvious that there will arise false prophets in these the last days. They will lead astray all who do not sufficiently have the spirit of God, and instead, will be their guide to destruction. This is why there is warning after warning from the servants of the Lord and in the scriptures, a oft repeated refrain and concern in the Words of Christ. There is no evidence to suppose that our specific Church is immune or disqualified from these last days prophecies. In fact, false prophets are to be expected—and avoided more than ever—in the House of Israel today.
The Prophet Joseph Smith is described in the following account,
President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel—said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, 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. (History of the Church, 5:19)
We must realize that we are responsible—not our leaders—if we get on the other side and find we have missed the mark. We will only have ourselves to blame. It is the responsibility of each individual to receive revelation for themselves what—or even who—is of God.