April 6, 2009
Or at least that’s what I’m being told.
I recently had a discussion with a family member about Mormonism— he’s a believing member. He acknowledged that Joseph Smith was wrong in his prophecies regarding the Kirtland Bank but said that it was okay for God’s spokesmen to get some things wrong. “See,” he says “prophets like to think that everything that come out of there mouth is revelation but it isn’t.” The thought here being that sometimes even prophets can’t even tell if what they say is revelation. Sometimes they may even think they are receiving revelation in one way but be getting it in another (think Joseph Smith and the egyptian papyri).
Here are my responses:
Most LDS really don’t believe that their prophets are ‘dumb terminals‘ either currently or in the early church. Based on what I observe in Sunday meetings I would say that most members take virtually all that General Authorities say now in an official capacity as revelation. I believe the ‘dumb terminal” approach is limited to defender-members and professional apologists. It’s a convenient way to get rid of those pesky prophetic revelations that you just can’t reconcile.
Ironically, most of the “speaking as a man” qualifications have come from current prophets (dumb terminals themselves???) talking about dead prophets. It’s totally possible that some of these men’s teachings will be rejected by another dumb terminal in thirty-five years or so. So how are they qualified or to say that what someone else called revelations is not. They can’t even tell if what they say is?
Anyway, if the Brethren can’t be trusted to know if what, if anything, they say is revelation how are members supposed to figure it out? General Authorities have authority to receive revelation for the church— not the membership.
How is a member to decide what to take as revelation and what to live by? If a member of the Quorum of the Twelve says A , B and C are members required to live up to all of these even if half of it is man-made opinion? If so this would make continuing revelation far less helpful and revelatory than the name implies.
Luckily, that still leaves the scholars and apologists to set the prophets straight. They’re professionals and know better. But truthfully apologists really have no place correcting God’s prophets. Honestly, I don’t recall the office of ‘Apologist’ in any D&C revelation about church government or revelation. They are no less fallible and don’t have the institutional authority that General Authorities have. Also they have been know to employ ‘the philosophies of men’ in their defense of the faith. Isn’t there some sort of rule against that?
Some claim that the safety valve in the whole LDS equation was supposed to be the voice of the Church as a whole. If an apostle or prophet teaches something wrong another will correct it. If all the leaders are wrong, the body of the church will use their common consent to correct it. It’s revelation by majority. Problem is— it doesn’t work like that.
This “valve” only works in a system where dissent is probable or even possible. How many times have you seen a LDS General Authority publicly correct another….while their alive? Rarely happens, if ever. How many members have you seen vote in opposition to ANYTHING in the Church? Me? Not once. It happened in the beginnings of the Church— or so I’ve heard— but Mormonism long ago traded common consent for a sustaining affirmation. For the most part, most LDS, including apologists and scholars, now strive to bring their actions in line with what leaders (and the majority of the Church) believe, rather than critically look at the ‘revelations’ given. If they think prophets are unsure about whether what the leaders say is revelation or not, they don’t show it. Call me stupid— but methinks the apologist are just playing dumb.
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