Comments about ‘Defending the Faith: Defending the Faith: Keeping our eye on the president of the church’

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Published: Thursday, July 7 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

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Is there anything in the scriptures that teaches the doctrine that is found in these two quotes?

'My boy, you always keep your eye on the president of the church and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.' Then with a twinkle in his eye, he said, 'But you don't need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.'"

"I say to Israel," Wilford Woodruff declared, "the Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of the church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God."

Heber City, UT

Amen. Amen. And Amen. There's another sentence after President Woodruff's quote that goes to the heart of agency: "If I were to attempt that (lead members astray), the Lord would remove me ...". The challenge is that we mortals will never know how/if a prophet has been "removed." Better to hedge our bets, assume a great deal of "thinking has been done" from a broader and more enlightened perspective.

Somewhere in Time, UT

Dear aka: Your comment is exactly the reason we have living prophets and continuing modern revelation. These statements by prophets are becoming our new continuing sciptures. Either we sustain the Prophet or we don't. This is what seperates the sheep from the goats. If we follow the Prophet we will be blessed and protected from the evils of the world. If we don't, we will be left to our own devices.

"I the Lord am bound when ye do what I say. But, when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise."

"If it is by my word or the word of any of my servants, it is the SAME."

We need to follow the Prophet and have the faith to know it is right. This is the test for all of us.

Baraboo, WI

Well put Dr. Peterson! I appreciate your clarity on this issue.

Brigham City, UT

To answer "aka" ----- end of the D&C, page 292 in triple combination, official declaration number 1. Granted, it is your second quote that is there and not the first. I've heard somebody recently ask "what if I give everything to the law of consecration (which we aren't living) and my family starves to death" What happens then???.......Mr Peterson answers it: your blood would be on God's hands and not the person asking you to obey. God would have to make it up to you. To Mr. Peterson: did you ever tell Mr. Hugh Nibley your politics? I would have liked to be in that room when you did.

sandy, ut

Cats - the prophet speaking is not scripture. It is guidance, suggestions, etc. but it is not scripture. The prophet reveals no new doctrine, hasn't for quite some time. He may reinforce current doctrine with the talks he gives, but it is not considered scripture or revelation.

Eric the Half-bee
Bountiful, UT

Well said. You deftly described the perils of superimposing politics over doctrine.

Arlington, va

Excellent article Dr. Peterson! A lot of people are still having problems with Prop 8 when it's strikingly clear from modern revelation (and old revelation) where the Lord and the prophets stand on marriage. And yet, there are too many who nit pick and say that The Family: A Proclamation to the World is not "revelation" and just an opinion. Isn't it interesting that people will only believe the modern revelation that they want to believe, or what fits in their social constructs?

Provo, Ut

"You may not like what comes from the authority of the church," said President Harold B. Lee, serving at the time as a counselor to President Joseph Fielding Smith. "It may conflict with your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. Your safety and ours depends upon whether or not we follow. Let's keep our eye on the president of the church."

How democratic - God expects you to forfeit you moral obligation of voting your conscience, and to instead participate in a block vote on Mormon politics. Can we really say that the Church endorses patriotic ideals with rhetoric like this??

Walt Nicholes
Orem, UT

This article practically begs for a rebuttal, but I wonder if a rebuttal would be tolerated in this forum?

The scriptures proclaim that the voice of the majority is usually right (Mosiah 29:26.) Heber J. Grant (and others) declare that the prophet will never lead the people astray. What if the voice of the people come into conflict with the counsel of the prophet?

Bro. Peterson has said that the church Public Affairs department is not a rogue operation. But it can issue a statement that provides plausible deniability. And it can take a general direction given to it by leaders and massage it in a way that may not reflect the original intent of the leaders.

If God has spoken on this issue (as compared to the speaking reflecting the combined wisdom of the Brethren) then let someone stand up and say - "Thus saith the Lord." That alone will be sufficient for those who feel that they have private inspiration to the contrary in the matter.

Searching . . . .
Orem, UT

We've discussed circular logic on these boards before. Does no one see the circular logic in these statements? "If I were to attempt that (lead members astray), the Lord would remove me." If a used car salesman made a similar statement to you, what would you think? "Trust me because I say I am trustworthy."

I can understand following leader because you believe he is a prophet, but backing that belief by arguing that "the prophet said we should follow him because HE said that God said that he was trustworthy and would remove him if he tried to deceive" is weak logic.

Since the beginning of the church, prophets have instigated polygamy (with polyandry) and rescinded it. Smith ordained African-Americans; Young stopped the practice; Kimball returned it. There is no revelation from Brigham regarding his policy, but because of it an entire portion of God's children could not enjoy the fullness of the gospel's blessings. There are many explanations and rationalization about the policy, but it seems Young had a large sway over the direction of the church with little official guidance to explain it.


To christoph: Did the church ever vote on adding that to the printed scriptures?
Or was it just put in between the two Official Declarations?

Provo, UT

When the prophet speaks the thinking has been done.

When we think we may be in conflict with what the prophet has said. It almost seems that God, as we learn from his prophets in the near past, doesn't want us to use critical reasoning and thinking skills in the conduct of our lives.


Have to disagree with you on the prophet not revealing any new doctrine. Each and every general conference is considered to be a time for providing revelation which is often new doctrine. The counsel (i.e. revelation) and doctrine that Pres Hinckley gave on only wearing 1 pair of earrings was new doctrine. Elder Ballard counseling against wearing flip flops and jean skirts to church was new doctrine, ergo, new revelation from God as he and the sitting prophet claim to be prophets, seers and revelators.

Steve Warren
West Valley City, UT

Unfortunately, Dr. Peterson, presidents of the Church sometimes err, even on doctrinal matters. Our duty is to always follow the Spirit and to follow the leaders of the Church when they are correct. The following statement by a member of the Twelve is a well-deserved rebuke for those who would automatically follow Church leaders:

"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."

Twin Lights
Louisville, KY


I don't think the quote from Harold B. Lee is specifically political, but rather generally so.

That is, it's not about whether I vote for candidate A or candidate B or adhere myself to party A or to party B. Rather that, on certain specific topics such as those mentioned by Dr. Peterson, members on both sides of the political spectrum may sometimes have to review their political views in light of the prophet's counsel.

Note that in 35 years of interviews, I cannot recall ever having been asked about my politics. Further, I can recall several incidents where local leaders asked that political opinions not be expressed within church meetings.

Cold Ute
West Valley City, Utah

To Steve Warren:

Who gave the statement you quoted in your 9:39 a.m. post and when and where was it given?


Salt Lake City, UT

Dr. Peterson interesting article. Thank You! However, support of the Prophet does not mean blind following. Hear his words, and then follow the actions of a reverred prophet of the past Nephi and pray for personal confirmation. Once that comes, then as he did lead out in support.

full disclosure
Providence, UT

Mr.Peterson- In reference to'My boy, you always keep your eye on the president of the church and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.' Then with a twinkle in his eye, he said, 'But you don't need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.'"
What if what the prophet says is in complete opposition to the feelings we experience through the Light of Christ which is given to all men and the Holy Ghost which is given to members of the church.
An example would be women that were asked to be involved in polygamy. Acording to their journals they felt it was wrong. Should they have obeyed?
There is also the subject of blood atonement. Brigham Young said "Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God is death on the spot." Any thoughts?

Provo, Ut

Twin Lights:

Perhaps you didn't read the article, because Peterson pointed three times when the Church did tell members how to vote. Two of those times the pressure to vote a certain way was palpable, and the third time it was a (wink) "opinion" from the Church that holds a vested interest in the position it took (missionary work in Mexico). Of course the third time didn't really come down much of a public vote, so the pressure needed to only be applied to the State legislature.

Peterson invoked the Harold B. Lee quote in denfense of the Church against those who are upset with the recent "unconservative" position that the Church took (is no one familiar with the fact that the Church's political roots are tied to the democratic party?). Lastly, the trouble the Church faced both in Missouri and Nauvoo were instigated by the public distrust of bloc voting Mormons. We were not only told how to vote on Prop 8, but also (wink) encouraged to campaign for it - where the only tolerance towards personal preference was to decide how much "support" we are willing to give in the affirmative.

We the People
Sandy, UT


I do not agree with your statement about revelation. See Doctrine and Covenants 68:4 "And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the aHoly Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the bpower of God unto salvation."

Thinkman, I do not agree with you, either. Statements against flip flops at Church or too many pairs of earrings (though I agree with both) are not doctrine. Doctrine is a set a of principles which a religion, in this case, presents as truth necessary for salvation or central beliefs of the religion. Thus, to the LDS Church, the Atonement, Resurrection, Eternal Marriage, the Fall of Man, the Creation, and the nature of the Godhead are doctrines.

Not wearing flip flops at Church, visiting teaching, and even, yes, Green Jello are not doctrines, but rather policies, counsel, programs, and, in the case of Jello, just plain tasty (or nasty, depending on how it is prepared).

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