How can we know when the prophet speaks of religious matters if he is giving his opinion or speaking based on a revelation from Heavenly Father?

Leland from Menifee,

One Response to “How can we know when the prophet speaks of religious…”

2020-06-28 13:54:57
Dear Leland: This is an excellent question! Here are a few general guidelines:

  1. Is the communication coming through an official channel (e.g., general conference)?

  2. You should focus primarily on official communication, such as general conference talks, official statements (things like the family proclamation, the living Christ, etc), and the scriptures.

  3. Does the prophet state that this is "In the name of the Lord", that it is the prophet's personal opinion, etc.?

  4. Alma, for example in Alma 40:20 (see 19-21 for additional context), makes clear distinction between things that are his opinion and things that are firm doctrine.

  5. Have we appealed to the Spirit to help us to discern these things?

  6. John 16:33 teaches, "when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth."

  7. Are we trying to reframe something as opinion because we do not want the obligation to agree with or follow the council?

  8. This is a great mistake that is sometimes made that we were warned against in Helaman 12:26-27. We must remember that when the Lord's servants speak for Him, "whether by [His] own voice or by the voice of [His] servants, it is the same" (D&C 1:38). As Jacob advised: "Seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand" (Jacob 4:10).

  9. Prophets are human. They are entirely capable of making mistakes and being wrong. They also have personal opinions and develop ideas over time, like all humans. They are unique in that they have access to special revelation and have been charged with a spiritual stewardship over large groups (even the entire world).

  10. The Lord will not allow His appointed servants to lead the Church astray (by accident or intentionally).

  11. "The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty." (D&C - Official Declaration 1).

For further reading, I suggest using the topical guide in the scriptures on the subject of prophets. You can also review this newsroom article "With divine inspiration, the First Presidency (the prophet and his two counselors) and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest governing body of the Church) counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture (the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith. Isolated statements are often taken out of context, leaving their original meaning distorted."

Keep searching and following truth. God bless you!

- John

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