15 Comments

  1. Mark Greene

    I agree with your comments about continuing revelation but in conjunction with your post about accountability, I would like to offer another perspective. I don’t believe that the spirit of prophecy and revelation is always commensurate with priesthood authority. Revelation may be given to anyone as the Lord decides. This revelation can have important information for the Church in general or for mankind. This fact is evidenced in the Book of Mormon where prophets seemed to come out of the woodwork and where even babes prophesied. Revelation to any one individual does not necessarily mean that it will become official Church doctrine.

    The problem with thinking that you must have a priesthood office or an education degree in order to speak in the name of the Lord with authority is that once you have this office or degree you tend to think that no one below you can teach you. This problem was discovered and discussed by Pres. Henry Eyring in his 1988 BYU speech “Listen Together”. In this sense, those above are accountable to those below.

    When we say in the Church that we “follow the prophet” what do we mean? Are we following just one man or are we following fifteen prophets? While only one man holds all the keys of the kingdom, I would be concerned if there were discord between those designated as prophets. In such a case, I may even side with a position. This has occurred in the past, notably with the Jerusalem Council in the Book of Acts and with the question of Blacks holding the priesthood in our day. In both cases, discord turned to accord by the spirit of prophecy and revelation. When fifteen prophets agree such as in the proclamation on the family then if I disagree, I hold a dangerous position. The strength of any one voice is in the spirit of prophecy and revelation which requires our spiritual agency to discern. The strength of a prophetic voice is in unity with other prophets, past and present.

  2. Thanks for your comments Mark.

    I must disagree on a couple points. Revelation may be given to anyone the Lord chooses, but revelation given to any member may not be used to exercise authority over anyone not in their priesthood jurisdiction. I can receive revelation for my own family, but not for my ward, for instance (only the Bishop has authority to receive revelation for his ward). I would not use any revelation that I personally receive to give information to the Church as “important.” If there is “important” information that the Lord wants to give His Church, He will give it through His living prophet, who has the proper authority and keys over the whole Church.

    Yes, those above can learn from those below, but I don’t believe that is accountability. Accountability is responsibility to someone or for some activity. In this, I believe the Brethren are accountable to the Lord, first and foremost. Elder Oaks explained this well in his contrast between elected government officials and authorities called by God. The only accountability, I believe, that those in priesthood authority have towards us is that they do what the Lord has told them to do (their accountability is that they are accountable to God’s word).

    There has been “discord” or seeming “contradictions” between those designated as prophets in this dispensation. That is why continual revelation is so important. We are safe when we follow the living prophet, as he is God’s current mouthpiece on the earth. The strength of a prophetic voice is in unity with the living First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, not in any past prophet or apostle.

  3. Mark Greene

    Bryce:

    The point I was trying to make in my original comment is that all of us are accountable to the spirit of prophecy and revelation including the living prophet. The unity of the living prophet and the apostles comes by the spirit of prophecy and revelation. This is what makes the prophet as a “collective” prophet powerful. Revelation from the spirit of prophecy and revelation may be given to anyone and it may be important revelation. However, priesthood authority and priesthood keys must be followed for revelation to become authoritative or applied church doctrine. If you received a revelation that you thought was important for the Church membership, how would you proceed? The accountability that we all have is doing what the Lord has revealed to us even if it means being taught by someone of lesser authority.

  4. Antony

    Bryce, where do the Lehi’s and Samuel the Lamanite’s fit into the jurisdiction doctrine? They were respectively called to prophecy against the Israelites and the Nephites. Neither was the President of the Church or in the Quorum of 12 or any other position of authority in the then organised Church (at least not that I can discover). What about Isaiah or Jeremiah or the many prophets who were stoned / killed / ostracized for prophesying against the Israelites?

    I am also interested in your “fundamentalist” conversation. The “fundamentalists” that I have spoken to tend more towards wishing there was more revelation in the Church. The complaint is that since the members of the Church find it so hard to follow the council given that more and more is taken from the Church.

    Examples given are:
    – Law of Consecration gets pared down to Law of Tithing.
    – 7 year food and sundry supply becomes 1 year (and last I heard, in some places 3 months or less).
    – …

    The question asked is: Should the individual lower his goal because the majority are not willing to try for the higher goal?

    I am sure you know what Brother Joseph had to say about the Saints in his day (corn-dodger and hemlock knots?), and listening to President Ezra Taft Benson it has not changed much even in our day.

    In no way is this meant as disrespect for the 1st Presidency or Quorum of the 12, I believe that they are doing the best that they can with what they have been given: I believe that we as a Church though are suffering from the curse of 2 Nephi 28:30.

    As President Hinckley said, we all need to reach a little higher.

  5. If you received a revelation that you thought was important for the Church membership, how would you proceed?

    My father had to consider this question once, and his conclusion has always been the guiding principle in my life too (I’ll have to find out where he learned it). If we receive a new revelation that we think is important for Church membership, or even if we just haven’t ever heard it taught before by the proper Authorities, we should keep it private until the day that we hear or read that it is taught by a General Authority who has the right to teach such a revelation to the general membership of the Church. Then we may teach it to others too. Teaching it to others any time prior to that point is overstepping our priesthood authority.

  6. Antony,

    I believe Lehi and Samuel the Lamanite were called by God as prophets to teach the people, the same way God calls his prophets today. They may not have been the “president” of the Church as we know it, because there was no such church organization in their day. Isaiah, Jeremiah, the same way. They were called to teach the people what the Lord commanded them. Today, there are no such prophets outside of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and not outside the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. There may be individuals that are inspired of the Lord to teach good things, but the prophet of the Church is the only person on the earth with the authority to receive new revelation for mankind.

    The fundamentalist I conversed with believed that there had been NO revelation in the Church for the last 100 years, nay, since the days of Joseph Smith. He believed, therefore, that the Church had apostatized some time ago, and that there were no real prophets and apostles today, etc., etc. He claimed to be an active LDS member.

    I have no problem trying to live the laws of the gospel today as closely as we can, while still being in harmony with the teachings of the living prophets and apostles. I encourage it! As Elder Maxwell has said, that is true orthodoxy. See my series on the Law of Consecration.

    Yes, as President Hinckley said, we should all reach a little higher.

  7. Mark Greene

    Should the Apostle Paul have kept his knowledge of no circumcision of the gentile members to himself? He proceeded to introduce his revealed knowledge through the proper priesthood channels of the Church. The Spirit of prophecy and revelation through the presiding authority of the Church at that time was the final arbiter.

  8. Paul was an Apostle, therefore he was in that circle of prophets, seers, and revelators to which such revelation comes.

    If any of us believes we have received a new revelation for the Church, it is outside our priesthood authority to teach it to anyone else until those with the proper authority teach it. If there is something important for the general membership of the Church to know, God will reveal it through His prophets.

    Remember D&C 28.

  9. Mark Greene

    Paul was an apostle but he was not the presiding prophet of the Church at that time. Are you saying that revelation, even important revelation, only comes to those designated as prophets in the “circle of prophets”? If so, this contradicts your previous statement that “revelation may be given to anyone the Lord chooses”. What was Joel prophesying in Joel 2:28? What did Moses mean in Numbers 11:29? I disagree with your position about teaching what we individually believe to be the truth even if we believe that it valid for the Church in general. If your position were right, Paul should be criticized. However, we do not individually have the right to teach such truths as official church doctrine until it is declared as such by those that have the authority. I asked you if you had received what you think is important revelation for a circle larger than yourself or your family how you should proceed. Your response was to keep it private. I prefer the Apostle Paul’s procedure. He taught what he believed to be revealed truth to the Church but he also took his beliefs before the priesthood authority of the Church where the Spirit of prophecy and revelation through the presiding authority of the Church decided the matter as official Church doctrine. The same procedure should apply to us today. The presiding prophet of the Church has the keys to the knowledge of the spirit of prophecy and revelation as it applies to the Church at a particular time. I believe this is the meaning of D&C 28:2. While the presiding prophet holds these keys and this authority, he does not have exclusive right to the spirit of prophecy and revelation.

  10. Mark, I’m going to try this again. Anyone can receive revelation, but no one may receive new revelations (that are unique or different from what the Brethren currently teach), and then teach them outside of their priesthood jurisdiction (which is precisely what Hiram Page was doing, and why D&C 28 was received to correct the Church). Revelation that is very important may be given to an individual, for their own edification, for their family, or for those over whom they preside in their office, but that revelation is not meant for the wider Church body. Such new revelation for the Church will come only through the prophet the Lord has designated for that purpose. If I received what I thought was important revelation for a circle larger than myself and my family, but it was something that was not currently taught by the General Authorities, then it would be very inappropriate for me to teach it to any other members of the Church (which is what Hiram Page was doing, and why he was wrong). It does not matter if we don’t teach it as “official Church doctrine.” It is not my priesthood right to teach it at all. It is only the prophet’s right and authority to introduce new or unique revelation to Church members. I would hold the revelation private to myself until the day that I learned the General Authorities teach it. Then it would be appropriate for me to also teach it. Such is the order in the priesthood (D&C 28:1–7). Again, Paul was an Apostle, we are not.

    Perhaps I can find out where my father learned about this. I’ve heard some talks myself on this subject. I’ll find them and post some links.

  11. I must say, I haven’t received any emails from antis or fundies in quite some time now. I can’t decide whether I miss their emails or not.

    Arguing with them can be entertaining, but certainly wastes a lot of time.

    Great write-up of your email conversation with this fundamentalist. I love the story of Brigham Young preaching on the oracles vs. scriptures. Good stuff!

  12. Benjamin Oram

    This was an interesting conversation. It cause me to recall past teachings on the subject.

    Elder Packer made it clear when he said “leaders receive revelation for their own stewardships. Individuals can receive revelation to guide their own lives. But when one person purports to receive revelation for another person outside his or her own stewardship—such as a Church member who claims to have revelation to guide the entire Church or a person who claims to have a revelation to guide another person over whom he or she has no presiding authority according to the order of the Church—you can be sure that such revelations are not from the Lord.” (Boyd K. Packer, “Prayers and Answers,” Ensign, November 1979, p. 20).

    I think this conversation would also be helped by a definition of “important” revelations. Certainly the revelation that all persons may come closer to Christ through Temple study is important and may be given to an individual through personal revelation. This revelation may passed on to anyone since it comports with the teachings of all the prophets and apostles. However, if by “important” you mean a change in Church policy or a teaching concerning doctrine which is not currently in circulation, that will most definitely not be brought forward by anyone but the presiding authorities of the Church, lest we cease to be a church of order. For additional clarification, here are some talks that speak directly to the subject which I have found helpful.

    Elder Dallin H. Oaks (then Utah Supreme Court Justice) “Revelation,” 1981.
    President Ezra Taft Benson “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet,” Ensign, June 1981.

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