Sacred Cow #3: Expiration Date On Words Of Prophets?

What is a sacred cow?  My definition is anything that is believed based only on tradition, and has little to zero basis on actual fact. These beliefs are held so strongly that the “worshiper” declares “blasphemy!” to anyone that challenges said belief.

Sacred Cow #3: Expiration Date On Words Of Prophets?

In 1980 Ezra Taft Benson gave the oft quoted talk “Fourteen Fundamentals of Following the Prophet” wherein he states:

“The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.”

Clearly the living oracle of the Lord is going to be able to give us the most relevant information that the people of God will need to hear at any given moment in time.  Clearly, there is no need for us to prepare for a worldwide flood by building an ark any more than there was a need for Noah’s family to be worried about internet predators.

However, many members of the Church have used this principle to put a metaphorical “expiration date” on the words of the Lord through His Prophet, making the assertion that if the current Prophet doesn’t speak about a certain topic, it is automatically void, or of little to no importance.

This is dangerous reasoning indeed.  Taken to its logical conclusion, this would lead one to seal their scriptures until particular verses were quoted by the “living” prophet as if eternal principles are only eternal until the one that said it dies. It would be impossible to know for ourselves what is right and what is wrong and, like the Christianity of the dark-ages, we would be dependent on others to read and interpret the scriptures for us.  Personal scripture study would be tantamount to apostasy and the Conference issue of the Ensign would have but a six month shelf life before it became “false doctrine”.

Is God not the same today, yesterday and forever? (Mormon 9:9)

Does the Lord go against what He has said? (Doctrine and Covenants 3:2)

What about those that teach a different Gospel other than that taught by the Prophets? (Galatians 1:8)

Will the principle of the Atonement be any less important if a particular Church President doesn’t emphasize it as much as another?

Where is the line in this logic?  Is everything up for grabs after the death of a Prophet?  Why the need for the scriptures at all?  Why not just throw away anything written before the last General Conference?

Principles and practices are two completely different things. Agency, repentance, love, and the Atonement are all examples of principles that cannot change no matter who the Prophet is.  Can you imagine the Prophet saying that repentance was now false doctrine?

What we must do to avoid the pitfalls of the world will change on a regular basis, as societies and cultures change, and the “living” prophet will be a much better guide in those things than a dead one any day of the week.

When anyone attempts to say that the principles taught by “dead” prophets are no longer true, or relevant, you know that the Lord says they are “accursed” (Galatians 1:8).

22 thoughts on “Sacred Cow #3: Expiration Date On Words Of Prophets?”

  1. A prominent member of our stake presidency recently stated that “If the Prophet chooses not to comment [on an issue], I choose not to worry about it… seems to me that militancy on a particular issue, when the Prophet is not militant on that issue, is basically a difference with the Prophet.”

    1. Ralph, your comment is disturbing to me. “It is not expedient that the Lord should command you in all things.”. The Prophet can only speak what the entire world is ready and worthy to hear. You must seek and pray for discernment. We have heard enough about secret combinations and not suffering them to get above us. That statement in itself encompasses and confirms that we need to be watchful and standing for truth and righteousness. the Prophet cannot micromanage each member of the church, nor each issue. You can continue to rationalize but your “out” is not going to pardon you on the day of reckoning, nor assuage your guilt and misery when you see your children in bondage.

  2. A slothful servant is one who must be commanded in all things. Must we hear directly from the prophet everything we need to be doing? In the last days we must be watchful and ready. We must pray and read our scriptures so that we can be in tune to what is going on in the world so that we can recongize the signs. We are told in the last days the wheat and the tares will grow up together and that the tares can not be destroyed until the wheat is ripe. Some of us will be ready, some of us will be blind to the signs or even worse, deceived into thinking that those who believe or see those things have somehow been deceived, are foolish or radical. The more I learn and the more I read the Book of Mormon the more amazed I am at what we are told about the last days, how to recognize them, and what to do to be prepared. Are you the wheat or are you the tares? I love the quote, “Preparation preceeds power.” We MUST be prepared. The time will come…and may come shortly. Don’t expect the prophet to warn you when we have already been forwarned…repeatedly. Now it’s up to us to do as we have been commanded without further prompting. “I will go and do the things that the Lord has commanded.”

  3. Don’t you realize that Mormonism IS ANOTHER GOSPEL? Christ said that he who BELIEVES on HIS name would have eternal life. He didn’t establish a formula that said do this plus A, B, C, D!

    How do you account for the Adam-God doctrine being accepted and then ditched by a more recent prophet. Or polygamy, and the racist ban on the priesthood for Blacks?

    Study the Bible as a child, and you will discover that Mormonism IS NOT TRUE! I have and have left its deception.

    1. My dear brother, I am very sorry to hear that you have left the church and denied your faith. I hope you will soon humble yourself and prayerfully reconsider.

      I would like to humbly address some of your stated concerns.

      First, the Adam-God doctrine was never fully revealed or explained. When Brigham Young found that there were members of the Twelve who opposed his teaching on the subject he wisely dropped it. He never clarified it. It was obvious to him that if the Twelve did not have enough faith and humility to hear him out, then it was little likely that the church in general would be prepared to do so either. Consequently, our current understanding of the Godhead is very much simplified and will do just fine for now. Some day, probably after ZION is established, the full doctrine will be revealed publicly. Until then, forget it and don’t let it challenge your faith.

      In regard to the principle of Celestial Plural Marriage, we need to understand that it is an eternal principle. This principle was never denied, cancelled, or refuted by any of our prophets. In 1890 the First Presidency placed a moratorium on entering into additional plural marriages. This policy continues to this day. Our prophet today still holds the keys for performing plural marriages. However, no recommends are issued for such marriages per Official Declaration-1. Some day, after the church is cleansed from within and divided from the wicked, the Saints will be required to live this principle again. This will prove a severe test for some.

      In regard to the Blacks holding the priesthood, the only reason the Blacks were denied the priesthood in this dispensation is because the majority of church members were not ready to allow it. I have been told, but have seen no documentation on it, that Joseph Smith ordained some Blacks to the priesthood, but was told by some of the brethren that such a thing simply would not be tolerated. It seems that the Lord had a plan in mind which would allow the acceptance of Blacks among the ranks of the priesthood at a future time. However, I must say that if the Lord and his prophets choose not to allow a certain group of people to hold the priesthood, it is not any of our business. Let the Lord and his prophets run the church; if you try to steady the arc you will be destroyed–your own apostasy being a painful case in point.

      Personally, when I see people leave the church it is always because of one of two reason. Either they are just looking for an excuse to deny their covenants and live after the manner of the world; or they think they are smarter, wiser, and more spiritual than the entire First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. All I can say to that is: “WOW!”

      Best of luck friend. I do hope and pray you will come back to us.

      Brother Jared

    2. In response to specific doctrines and policies of The Church.

      Adam-God Theory: Brigham Young did not teach that Adam is our Heavenly Father. There are two statements that are usually quoted. The first: “that character in the Garden of Eden, who is our Heavenly Father…” is usually shown as meaning Adam is God, but there were five characters in the Garden of Eden and in this clause Brigham Young is explicitly narrowing which character he is talking about: specifically Heavenly Father and not Adam. The second: “Adam is the only god with which we have to do…” is easy to understand if you define what the term “God” means; this I will leave as an exercise for the reader, but the definition must be consistent with all other Church doctrine in order to understand what Brigham Young is teaching.

      Priesthood for African Americans. Through the history of The Church various blacks did receive the priesthood, but it was not a general practice by policy and not doctrine. I believe that it was withheld because most people of the United States were not mature enough until after the Civil Rights movement. After the Civil Rights movement of the ’60s and with the growth of The Church in Nigeria this policy was changed. I recommend any well researched academic papers on the subject.

      Plural marriage is a doctrine that still exists in The Church, but as it is a violation of law in most countries it is not the policy of The Church to allow a man to have more than one living wife. Please note that this is not the same as polygamy in that polygamy is the generalization where multiple men and women are married, and has never been a doctrine of The Church.

      1. Agreed. But I do wish to clarify what I said.

        I did not say anything about what the Adam-God doctrine was or wasn’t, or whether or not I claimed to understand it or support it. All I said was that it was not clarified, “revealed or explained.” I was just trying to defuse Fulanito’s attempted assertion that it conflicted with other doctrines. A doctrine that was never really explained and certainly never ratified cannot conflict be cause it does not officially exist.

        Again, I don’t see any conflict between my post and yours. I do appreciate your added comments.

        Brother Jared

        1. Hey Lance, this wordpress program is confusing me. It looked on my computer like you were responding to my comment. I see now that you were responding to the Fulanito guy’s comment. Sorry if I got a bit defensive.


  4. It is impossible that a ‘true’ doctrine would ever become obsolete. The Prophets have said that all true revelation must harmonize with each other. It is impossible for a ‘truth’ to not be vital to our happiness & eternal wellbeing & thus not needed to be adhered to anymore.

    It would be impossible for a Prophet to say or teach something that would contradict the ‘true’ teachings of a previous prophet. But it is possible & has happened many times, that more resent Prophets have said things that have corrected ‘false’ things said & taught by former Prophets.

    If something is true & right it will forever be something we should do & live by, or we can know that it was a false doctrine.

    1. “But it is possible & has happened many times, that more resent Prophets have said things that have corrected ‘false’ things said & taught by former Prophets. ”

      This is a bold assertion. Please give at least a couple of examples. Otherwise I will have to assume that you are mistaken and will continue to operate under the principle that the Prophet is not teaching false things while acting as Prophet.

      If the Prophets have taught false things in the past then I can expect that they teach false things today. How then are they Prophets and why should I follow them? So the next Prophet can come along and switch things back that were previously corrected? Essentially playing out like an argument between Prophets?

  5. The talk by Ezra Taft Benson about the 14 fundamentals of following the prophet was deeply rejected by Spencer W. Kimball, who was the president of the church at the time. Benson was required to apologize to the quorum of the 12, the first presidency, and I believe also the quorums of the 70. I’m not sure why it’s been resurrected fairly recently, but it was *not* well received at all by the person who was then the prophet. In contrast, the members of the church have latched on to this talk beyond all reason.

    1. The articles assertion is not against the talk it was against our mistaken interpretation. Please provide a reference to Pres kimballs dislike or the apology to the twelve. I have never heard this and i study these things a lot. But i like to sort fact from rumor. The fact that pres kimball did not edit or strike the talk from the ensign or record as they have done on occasion leads me to believe this is a rumor. The fact that it continues to be quoted in general conference also supports my assumption.

    2. Anyone read Ed Kimball’s book on his presidency. Mentioned talk if you read cd version and feels no political message may have been intended. If someone else gave talk not as much controversy. Guesses. Benson meant to underscore Kimball’s Presidency. Talk still up at BYU and I see many good points in it.

  6. Among the hundreds of discourses delivered on the Adam-God doctrine are:


    11 March 1857
    26 October 1859
    27 June 1860
    14 October 1860
    29 January 1870
    18 June 1874
    6 June 1877
    29 Dece

  7. Many people today attribute the Adam God doctrine as solely that of Brigham Young, but the facts just don’t bear that out. There is a “KEY” principle in the following quote by president Young… Can you detect it?

    “What I have received from the Lord, I have received by Joseph Smith; he was the instrument made use of. If I drop him, I must drop these principles; they have not been revealed, declared or explained by any other man since the days of the Apostles…” JD 6:279

    Just how much reliance can we place on the words of Brigham Young? Many Latter Day Saints (including General Authorities) have him pegged as a “dissident” and a visionary “old fool.” They believe he got off on tangents and taught “false doctrine” to the church.

  8. They are convinced that old Brigham Young led us astray. If this be factual, how do we handle the the theory and the policy in the Church today that ” God will not allow the Prophet to lead us astray.”??? How do we handle the facts that Brigham Young taught MANY doctrines that today have been labeled as “False?” The two positions just dont coincide.

    Page 12 of the Master Thesis entitled “Father Adam” we read:

    “President Brigham Young was a very holy man. Before Josephs death he had been sealed up to eternal life and had made HIS CALLING AND ELECTION SURE. [JD 12:103] This gave him the privilege of conversing with those beyond the veil…Brigham once commented, ” I know my heavenly Father and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, and this is eternal life.” [JD 4:218]

  9. Heber C. Kimball remarked that he (Brigham) does right all the time, God is with him, angels are with him, and round about him night and day. The wisdom of God is given to him, and it will supercede the wisdom of the world; I know this as well as I know that you are here this day.”

    Very few people understand the real significance of having one’s “Calling and Election made sure”. These Attributes describe the true position and Brigham Young functioned under these conditions. When ever somone takes a “cheap shot” against the doctrine proclamimed by Brigham Young, it would be wise for you to determine which one really declared the words of God.

  10. That is a nice collection of quotes from the Journal of Discourses and the Deseret News. I have not looked up those citations but am familiar with others. I do not pretend to understand what happened with that doctrine, but I know a couple of things.

    First, I know that we do not understand all things. I also know that things have been and will be revealed according to our faith and our ability to live the law we currently have. I also know that as hard as I try, I have a long way to go in such simple things as Love Thy Neighbor. I have as much information about the Godhead as I need to strive to become more like them and become perfect in love.

  11. Second, the blessings I have received through striving to become more like my Father in Heaven as taught by precepts and ordinances of this gospel far out-trump my questions.

    Third, my experiences with feeling of my Heavenly Father, Savior, and the Holy Ghost’s influence in my life teaches me that ALL my questions will be answered and what I have been taught is enough to keep me eternally progressing.

    In summary, I rejoice in joining Nephi when he said, “I know that he loveth his children, nevertheless I do not know the meaning of all things.” (1 Nephi 11:17)

  12. Darn! I forgot something! Not one of those references is canonized scripture. In fact, it was never ratified by the main body of the Saints–which is an essential element of scripture. Still, I understand your concern and the above answer is how I have dealt with my questions. If we will be faithful, someday we will understand, just as Nephi was shown the condescension of God by an angel. It will be on God’s timetable though, and not ours.

  13. Missionaries don’t go without purse or scrip anymore. The office of Seventy evolved. No longer Patriarch to church, Assistants to Twelve or regional representatives. Seventy exclusive to General and Area officers not local. Saints no longer gather. Peter was asked to break old Word of Wisdom. Leaders and missionaries don’t have beards or long hair. Age of missionaries vary. Some point Jesus said go without purse or scrip other time take purse. We need to study the words of the living prophets for what is timely. That is why we have them. If President Monson said drink Coffee what would most of us do? We need to follow the living prophet for what is appropriate for our time. Though there are many eternal truths taught by dead prophets.

  14. Brigham Young dropped it? He included it in the Temple Ceremony and it stayed there until the early 1900’s (If I remember correctly it was there in 1907). The site has a list of all that they can find where Adam God is mentioned, note that Brigham Young taught it directly from 1847 to 1876, and at least 23 times in that period (quick count without a recount).

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