A. Neal de Gaston

Scriptures and Holy Ghost’s
Inspiration Is Test of Leaders,
Not Vice-Versa

February 4, 2005

     Often I find that the Saints take the word of the leaders of the Church as "scripture". Their words are not automatically scripture whether published in the Ensign, or spoken over the pulpit at a General Conference. Even a "Declaration" is not scripture, as either the third or the fourth general "Declaration" reversed the earlier one. Before any words are "scripture" they must be canonized as such. It is good to remember the 8th & 9th Articles of Faith regarding what we accept as scripture (Book of Mormon, Bible as far as translated correctly, etc.).

     To further support this position, I offer the following quotes for everyone’s consideration and reference. It will explain why seemingly I had the "cheek" to write a General Authority to correct a conflict between his article in the Ensign which said that God’s love was conditional…a contradiction of scripture. Many of you received a copy of my letter, and his return letter. But the Gospel Doctrine teacher and the class were ready to throw out the scriptural teachings and go with the "new" idea in one Ensign article! (And if not from previous experience with me, I probably would have been hardly tolerated with expressions like, "Don’t you support the authorities?", etc.) Another time, when I didn’t write a response, an article in the Ensign by a non-general authority caused most of the Gospel Doctrine class to throw out the scriptural teaching that Adam had "sinned". Pardon me, but I can’t help but think of the scriptures that "seeing they see not…" and "Get knowledge, and with all thy getting, get understanding".

     We need to develop our own understanding, and know how to reason, rather than be ready to let someone else think for us. We need to be in tune with the Holy Spirit so that He will bring appropriate scriptures to mind when doctrine is espoused so that we can either be reinforced, or see the conflict between what is being espoused and scripture. The following quotes support these principles.

     J. Reuben Clark observed that there is only one way that we can be certain that Church leaders are speaking the mind and will of the Lord: "I have given some thought to this question, and the answer thereto so far as I can determine, is: We can tell when the speakers are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’ only when we, ourselves, are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost.’ In a way, this completely shifts the responsibility from them to us to determine when they so speak." [J. Reuben Clark, "When Are Church Leaders’ Words Entitled to Claim of Scripture?" Church News, 31 July 1954.] From the title of the article from which this quote is obtained, we see (or hopefully see) that Church leaders’ words are not necessarily or automatically entitled to be treated as if scripture.

      In the same address, President Clark also cited the following quotation from Brigham Young: "I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful that they settle down in a state of blind self security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelation of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whisperings of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not." [Ibid.; also in Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. (London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1860), 9:150.]

The prophet, President Joseph Fielding Smith, said, "If I say anything that is contrary to the scriptures, the scriptures prevail." [Church News, Week beginning April 17, 1983, p.16.]

      To this we could add the experience of my great-great-grandfather (Alvenia’s grandfather), Levi Savage, Jr., with the Willy-Martin’s Handcart Company. Willy and all, were the leaders of a group of handcart pioneers that were on their way to SLC. These leaders pressed the people to push on late in the season. Levi was invited to speak to the people, and in speaking tried to dissuade the pioneers, creating a hostile disposition in the leaders towards himself. Levi said that he knew he was speaking the truth…and that if they, the people, decided to go, that he would go with them, and help bury them…and that he was speaking the truth. He did. Rather than getting a truly prayerful answer from God through the ministry of the Holy Ghost, the people "followed their leaders", and many perished. I think that this is a good "case in point". The point is that the people could have, done properly, obtained the same testimony that Levi had, rather than letting their leaders do the thinking (and emoting) for them. Democracy and sustaining is fine, but it cannot determine truth, but rather judge the people at an individual level one by one as to whether they have learned or been inspired of the truth for themselves.

     So there it is, J. Reuben Clark, Jr., Brigham Young, Joseph Fielding Smith, and Levi Savage, Jr.