Follow the Prophet
This weekend the LDS Church is holding its semi-annual General Conference. It is a two-day affair where the church’s leaders, especially the president or living prophet, give talks.
Mormons are regularly urged to follow the prophet. It is difficult to overstate the high regard they hold him in. Years ago, Ezra Taft Benson, one of the presidents of the LDS Church, gave a speech at BYU entitled “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet.” It is considered a classic and is still quoted in its entirety in the official church manual, Teachings of the Living Prophet. Here are just a few of the 14 fundamentals he cites:
2) The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works. (Note: standard works are another title for their scriptures: Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, The Pearl of Great Price, and the Bible.)
3)The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet. In this connection, Benson also states: “Beware of those who would pit the dead prophets against the living prophets, for the living prophets always take precedence.”
4) The prophet will never lead the Church astray.
14) The prophet and the presidency – the living prophet and the First Presidency – follow them and be blessed; reject them and suffer.
The living prophet rarely makes a proclamation changing Mormon doctrine. More commonly, they announce administrative changes, often with great fanfare. The last significant doctrinal change was in 1978 when the living prophet proclaimed that black males could receive the priesthood – something they previously could not receive.
But what the living prophet does do, is to reinforce Mormon teachings - especially its emphasis on the need for people to contribute to their salvation by keeping the commandments and receiving LDS ordinances. That has not changed over the years.
And that is why he is so dangerous. According to the Bible, mixing our works with God’s grace is deadly (See, for example, Roman 11:6). Contrary to principle 14 listed above, following the LDS living prophet will ultimately result in tremendous suffering, not eternal blessings.
There is only one true living prophet, Jesus Christ. The writer to the Hebrews makes this point when he states: “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2).
Jesus’ message is diametrically opposed to the message of the LDS prophet. Jesus focuses on faith, not on keeping the commandments in order to be saved. As he said in the most famous of all Bible verses, John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”