The Arm of Flesh
In Jeremiah 17:5 we read: "Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm...." This Scripture means that we are not to put our trust in any man, but that we are to rely only upon God and put our trust in Him. Men can lead us into error, but God leads us only into truth and righteousness.
The Mormon church condemns the Catholics for teaching that the Pope is infallible, yet it teaches essentially the same thing. Brigham Young boasted: "The Lord Almighty leads this Church, and he will never suffer you to be led astray if you are found doing your duty. You may go home and sleep as sweetly as a babe in its mother's arms, as to any danger of your leaders leading you astray..." (Journal of Discourses, vol. 9, p. 289).
Since Brigham Young's death, Mormon leaders have continued to teach that the Lord will "never permit" the president of the church to lead anyone astray. Mormons are encouraged to put all their trust in the church authorities and not try to do their own thinking. The ward teacher's message for June, 1945, contained this admonition:
Any Latter-day Saint who denounces or opposes, whether actively or otherwise, any plan or doctrine advocated by the "prophets, seers, and revelators" of the Church is cultivating the spirit of apostasy.... Lucifer ... wins a great victory when he can get members of the Church to speak against their leaders and to "do their own thinking."...
When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan—it is God's plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give direction, it should mark the end of controversy (Improvement Era, June 1945, p. 354).
Heber C. Kimball, First Councilor to Brigham Young, exhorted the Mormon people to "... learn to do as you are told,
... if you are told by your leader to do a thing, do it, none of your business whether it is right or wrong" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 6, p. 32).
"If you do things according to counsel and they are wrong, the consequences will fall on the heads of those who counseled you, so don't be troubled" (William Clayton's Journal, p. 334).
Joseph Smith gave a revelation in which the Mormons were told to "give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you ... his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith" (Doctrine and Covenants 21:4-5).
Apostle Orson Pratt asked:
Have we not a right to make up our minds in relation to the things recorded in the word of God, and speak about them, whether the living oracles believe our views or not? We have not the right....
God placed Joseph Smith at the head of this Church; God has likewise placed Brigham Young at the head of this Church.... We are commanded to give heed to their words in all things, and receive their words as from the mouth of God, in all patience and faith (Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, pp. 374-75).
Joseph Smith himself once boasted: "God made Aaron to be the mouthpiece for the children of Israel, and He will make me to be god to you in His stead, and the Elders to be mouth for me; and if you don't like it, you must lump it" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, by Joseph Fielding Smith, p. 363; also History of the Church, vol. 6, pp. 319-20).
No New Revelation
On April 3, 1976, the Church Section of the Deseret News announced that "Two revelations received by former Presidents of the Church, were accepted as scripture Saturday afternoon, April 3, by vote of Church membership."
This was certainly a surprising move for the Mormon leaders to make. Since one of the revelations which was canonized was given by Joseph F. Smith, we feel that it is possible this move was made to counter some statements which we printed in Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? We cite the following from that book:
Although the Mormon Church claims to be led by revelation, Joseph F. Smith, the sixth President of the Mormon Church, testified as follows in the Reed Smoot Investigation:
Senator Dubois.—Have you received any revelations from God, which has been submitted by you and the apostles to the body of
the church in their semiannual conference, which revelation has been sustained by that conference, through the upholding of their hands?
Mr. Smith.—Since when?
Senator Dubois.—Since you became President of the Church.
Mr. Smith.—No, sir; none whatever.
Senator Dubois.—Have you received any individual revelations yourself, since you became President of the church under your own definition, even, of a revelation?
Mr. Smith.—I cannot say that I have.
Senator Dubois.—Can you say that you have not?
Mr. Smith.—No; I cannot say that I have not.
Senator Dubois.—Then you do not know whether you have received any such revelation as you have described or whether you have not?
Mr. Smith.—Well, I can say this: That if I live as I should in the line of my duties, I am susceptible, I think, of the impressions of the Spirit of the Lord upon my mind at any time, just as any good Methodist or any other good church member might be. And so far as that is concerned, I say yes; I have had impressions of the Spirit upon my mind very frequently, but they are not in the sense of revelations. (Reed Smoot Case, Vol. 1, pages 483-484)
On page 99 of the same volume Joseph F. Smith stated: "I have never pretended to nor do I profess to have received revelations." From this it is plain to see that just because a man is ordained a "Prophet, Seer, and Revelator," it does not necessarily mean that he is. If Joseph F. Smith was only susceptible to the impressions of the Spirit of the Lord as "any good Methodist," then why should his word be trusted above that of a good Methodist?
Although the Mormon Church is supposed to be led by revelation, the evidence of this revelation is very hard to find. The Manifesto of 1890 is the last revelation, if it can be termed a revelation, that has been added to the Doctrine and Covenants. So we see that the last revelation that was added to the Doctrine and Covenants is eighty years old. Bruce R. McConkie, of the First Council of Seventy, admits that there is not much written revelation in the church today, but he still maintains that the church leaders are receiving "daily revelation":
"It is true that not many revelations containing doctrinal principles are now being written, because all we are as yet capable and worthy to receive has already been written. But the Spirit is giving direct and daily revelation to the presiding Brethren in the administration of the affairs of the Church....
"The presence of revelation in the Church is positive proof that it is the kingdom of God on earth" (Mormon Doctrine, Salt Lake City, 1966, page 650).
The Reorganized LDS Church has continued to add new revelations to their Doctrine and Covenants, but the Utah Mormon Church has not added a new revelation since they added the Manifesto of 1890. It is interesting to note that during the last century, when new revelations were being added to the Doctrine and Covenants, the Mormon leaders were condemning the Catholics for not adding new revelations to their "sacred canon." The Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt stated:
"That the Romanists have continued in their apostacy until the present day is demonstrated from the fact that they have not added one single book to their canon since they first formed it. Now, if there had been any prophet or apostle among them, during the last seventeen centuries, they certainly would have canonized his epistles, revelations, and prophecies, as being equally sacred with those of the first century. As they have not done this, it shows most clearly, that even they, themselves, do not consider that they have had apostles, prophets, and revelators among them, during that long period of time.... Upwards of 250 Popes pretend to have successively filled the chair of Peter... Why then has the church showed such great partiality? Why has she placed Pope St. Peter's writings in the sacred canon, and left all the writings of the other Popes out?... Here, indeed, is a strange inconsistency! Even the Catholic church herself, evidently places no confidence in the popes and bishops, the pretended successors of St. Peter and the rest of the apostles; if she did, she would have canonized their revelations along with the rest of the revelations of the New Testament.... Well might the revelator John.... call her 'THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH!'" (Orson Pratt's Works, "The Bible Alone An Insufficient Guide," pp. 38-39).
The very words used by Orson Pratt concerning the Catholics could now be applied to the Mormon Church, for "if there had been any prophet or apostle among them," during the past eighty years, "they certainly would have canonized his epistles, revelations, and prophecies...." The Church "evidently places no confidence" in the last six Presidents; "if she did, she would have canonized their revelations along with the rest of the revelations" in the Doctrine and Covenants (Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? p. 184).
It is difficult to resist the idea that the Mormon leaders decided to canonize two "new" revelations to offset the criticism found in Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? That they would choose a revelation given to Joseph F. Smith is especially interesting.
This purported revelation was given less than two months before Joseph F. Smith's death in 1918. He had served as "Prophet, Seer and Revelator" for some seventeen years before receiving this revelation. The reader will remember that Joseph F. Smith had previously admitted he had served as "Prophet, Seer, and Revelator" for some time without receiving any revelation: "I have never pretended to nor do I profess to have received revelations."
The other revelation which the Mormons canonized was given to Joseph Smith on January 21,1836. We have previously shown that this revelation was falsified before publication to avoid a major contradiction.
Joseph F. Smith once stated that any new revelations would be added to the Doctrine and Covenants, but Mormon leaders have decided that these two revelations should be added to the Pearl of Great Price instead (Deseret News, Church Section, April 3, 1976).
At any rate, these two revelations can hardly be considered as "new" revelations. The one given to Joseph F. Smith is sixty-one years old, and the revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith is 143 years old. On September 20, 1976, the Salt Lake Tribune reported: "President Kimball said the church is based on 'revelations of God.' He declined to say if he has had any in his three years as president and prophet."
On June 9, 1978 President Kimball claimed he had a revelation that blacks could receive the priesthood. We have noted, however, that the church has failed to produce a copy of it. All we have is a statement by the First Presidency which says a revelation was received. Furthermore, Kimball himself made a statement that gives the impression that it was only a feeling or assurance that he received. The reader will remember that President Joseph F. Smith admitted that "any good Methodist or any other church member" is susceptible to "impressions of the Spirit of the Lord." If the Mormon leaders really believe they are led by revelation, why don't they canonize a revelation by Spencer W. Kimball which begins with the words, "Thus saith the Lord your God ...."?
In any case, the church has now had twelve presidents. Only four of the first six presidents have received revelations that have been canonized in the "four standard works." None of the last six presidents have received revelations which have been canonized. Where, then, is the evidence of present-day revelation? We are told that revelation is found in the Conferences of the Church, when the leaders of the church speak under the inspiration of the Lord, but how can we know when they are
A photograph of the Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, page 95. Brigham Young claimed that his sermons were to be received as scripture.
speaking under the Spirit of the Lord? Obviously, much of what has been said at the conferences of the church down through the years was not spoken under the inspiration of the Lord. If a leader of the church were to stand up in conference today and say the same things that Brigham Young said, he would stand the chance of being excommunicated from the church; yet it was Brigham Young himself who stated: "I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call scripture" (Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, p. 95). In a letter to Morris L. Reynolds, dated may 16, 1966, Mormon Apostle LeGrand Richards takes a different position: "Your next question: Can the Journal of Discourses be used as doctrine if the man speaking says, 'Thus saith the Lord' I cannot answer that question because I don't know what part of the Journal of Discourses you have in mind. I would have to know just what you were referring to."
The search for revelation, that is, present-day revelation, in Mormonism is really in vain. As we have pointed out, no new revelations have been added to the Doctrine and Covenants since the "Manifesto" of 1890, and even the Manifesto is only an "official statement" which does not contain the words, "Thus saith the Lord your God...." The two revelations which have been added to the Pearl of Great Price are certainly not from the present time—one is sixty-one years old and the other 143 years old.* The sermons given in conference may be considered
*Just as this book was about to go to press the Mormon Church announced plans to add three new items to the Doctrine and Covenants: "The extension of the Mormon priesthood to blacks is one of three changes to be made in the Doctrine and Covenants ... Mr. LeFevre said the announcement ... includes the June 1978 declaration on blacks and two portions of the Pearl of Great Price.... Church founder Joseph Smith's 'Vision of the Celestial Kingdom' and former church president Joseph F. Smith's 'Vision of the Redemption of the Dead' will be the first additions since the 1890 manifesto on polygamy, Mr. LeFevre said" (Salt Lake Tribune, June 3, 1979). This announcement is apparently another attempt to offset criticism that the Church does not have any present-day revelation. The reader will remember that the "June 1978 declaration on blacks" is only a statement written by the First Presidency, not a revelation beginning with the words: "Thus saith the Lord your God...." The addition of the other two revelations to the Doctrine and Covenants only tends to emphasize that the Church is led by fallible men rather than by direct revelation from God. The Church Section of the Deseret News for April 3, 1976 had announced that these revelations "will be arranged in verses as part of the Pearl of Great Price." As we pointed out earlier in this chapter, "Joseph F. Smith once stated that any new revelations would be added to the Doctrine and Covenants." The Mormon authorities apparently realized that they had made a mistake when they put the revelations in the Pearl of Great Price, and therefore they have now decided to print them as part of the Doctrine and Covenants.
A photograph of the Journal of Discourses, vol. 12, page 66. Brigham Young frankly admitted that some of the Mormon Apostles disagreed about God and reincarnation.
as revelation today, but fifty years from now they may be rejected as many of Brigham Young's sermons are today.
Even though the leaders of the church are supposed to be led by revelation, it is evident that they are not always in harmony as to which doctrines are from the Lord. Brigham Young once stated that there were apostles in the Mormon church who taught that there was no personage called God, that Jesus was not the Saviour and that the spirits of some who lived formerly have been reincarnated:
... and yet right here in the Quorum of the Twelve, if you ask one of its members what he believes with regard to the Deity, he will tell you that he believes in those great and holy principles which seem to be exhibited to man for his perfection and enjoyment in time and in eternity. But do you believe in the existence of a personage called God? "No, I do not," says this Apostle. So you see there are schisms in our day....
We have another one in the Quorum of the Twelve who believes that infants actually have the spirits of some who have formerly lived on the earth, and that this is their resurrection.... This is not all. we [sic] have another one of these Apostles, right in this Quorum of the Twelve, who, I understand, for fifteen years, has been preaching on the sly in the chimney corner to the brethren and sisters with whom he has had influence, that the Savior was nothing more than a good man, and that his death had nothing to do with your salvation or mine (Journal of Discourses, vol. 12, p. 66).
During the past few years Mormon leaders have been faced with some serious problems. Their response to these problems plainly shows that they are not led by revelation. Several of these problems appear to be complicated by the fact that some of the Mormon leaders are very old. David O. McKay, the ninth president of the church, lived to be ninety-six years old. But he was in very poor health toward the end of his life and was hardly in any condition to function as prophet, seer and revelator for the church. Instead of appointing a younger man after McKay's death, church leaders chose Joseph Fielding Smith who was ninety-three years old. Smith lived to be ninety-five, and the leadership of the church passed to Harold B. Lee who was seventy-three years old. Lee lived for less than two years and Spencer W. Kimball became president. President Kimball is now in his eighties. The way the Mormon hierarchy is structured there seems to be little hope of a younger leader, and apparently less hope for any new revelation. The claim of being led by a "living Prophet" has for a long time appeared to be just an idle boast.