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Prophets Can Make Mistakes

I've been studying the idea of infallibility because of my recent circumstances, and turned to the Bible to see what it has to say.

Interestingly, Moses, one of the first and greatest prophets and Aaron, the High Priest did not believe what God revealed to them and they had consequences for their disobedience (Numbers 20:12)
And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.

Ancient Israel's prophets were condemned, which shows that the prophetic office itself is not protected from error, even serious error:
But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.

And Psalm 78 (read it) speaking in parable talks about our forebearers, the ancient Ephraimites and their repeated and persistent rebellion against God.

It is true, we have some special promises about our day, but those promises do not guarantee any type of infallibility, in fact the prophet Mormon admits his ability to have made mistakes in recording the scripture he wrote down:
And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD, manifesting himself unto all nations—And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.

Daniel H. Wells whom I believe was one of the Presidents of the Seventy (I may be mistaken in his exact office here) admitted that leaders could make mistakes and that we are not to pin our faith on another man's sleeves, EVEN the President of the Church:
It is our interest to keep aboard the ship Zion, and to continue our efforts to bring ourselves into subjection to the law of the Lord, that we may be the honored instruments in his hands of aiding to build up his kingdom on the earth. We can only do this by being faithful to the counsels of the servants of the Lord who are inspired to teach and lead us. He has placed them in his Church and kingdom to guide and direct us. We have not chosen these men—He has chosen them. They may be our selection too, it is very true, but the Lord has chosen them and he is responsible. But we need not pin our faith to any man's sleeve. No, we can go to the Bible, to the revelations of Jesus given in our day; and listen to the whisperings of the Spirit in our own hearts for the testimony of this being the work of God. The Lord will reveal to any faithful individual all that is necessary to convince him that this work is true. None need depend for that testimony upon others; all can have it for themselves, and that will be like a well of water within them, springing up to everlasting life, revealing to them the things of God, and all that is needful to make them wise unto salvation. They need not depend upon my testimony, or upon that of President Young or President Smith, nor upon anybody but God. He will direct the course of all who try to serve him with full purpose of heart. He will show them whether we are placed here properly, or whether any mistake was made concerning the calling of Joseph Smith. The testimony of the Lord will tell whether we teach things of ourselves or of the Lord; that testimony will tell its possessors whether the servants of God who stand here tell the truth about this work or not. They need be dependent upon none but themselves and the Lord for this knowledge, for the Lord is willing to give liberally to all, and he upbraids not. All the world may learn to know the Lord our Father, who is in heaven, and Jesus Christ, whom he has sent, if they will but take the course the Lord has marked out.

Charles W. Penrose taught:
Our testimony does not depend upon Joseph Smith; it does not depend upon Brigham Young; it does not depend upon John Taylor, or upon the council of the Twelve Apostles, which is now the presiding quorum in the Church. I pin my faith to no man's sleeve; I am a believer in the Scripture which says, "Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm." I obeyed this Gospel because I believed it was true, through reading the Scriptures, which I was taught from my early childhood to believe in. When the sound of the Gospel reached my ears I believed; and having bowed in obedience to the ordinances, I received a testimony for myself of its truthfulness, and that testimony has never departed from me. I know by the power and gift of the Holy Ghost that God lives. I know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. I know by the same Spirit that God Almighty has sent his angels in these the last days to Joseph Smith and others, for the purpose of commencing this work of the restitution of all things. I know that work has begun to be ushered in. I know that the power of God is being manifested on the earth, that the same power which rested upon the former-day Saints, rests down upon the Latter-day Saints. I know that the former-day ordinances have been restored, and the spirit and the power thereof. I know it for myself, because I have experienced it and realized it. I know there is a way to approach the Eternal Father and learn of him. I know that those who seek aright in the way appointed, find an answer to their prayers, and that the promise made by the Savior is true: "Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." And in bearing my testimony to the truth of these things, I say what most of this congregation know, and what the great majority of the people throughout this Territory could testify to, as well as thousands more who are scattered upon the race of the earth, who are longing to gather to these mountain vales. We have not come here for the mere purpose of enriching ourselves in gold and silver, in flocks and herds, or houses and lands, things which perish in their handling, but to become rich in the imperishable things of eternity, which we can obtain here in the way appointed of God, and about which the world know nothing. People wonder why it is that the leaders of this people are still upheld by the unanimous voice and vote of the Latter-day Saints, and why it is that we have faith in them and cling to them, in spite of all that is said against them. They do not understand the secret spring that moves this work. The power that unites and guides us does not rest in any man or any set of men, neither in this wonderful organization, but in this eternal, unerring Spirit which God has shed forth in our hearts through obedience to the Gospel, by which we can approach Him and learn of Him for ourselves.

Brigham Young Taught:
Some may say, "Brethren, you who lead the Church, we have all confidence in you, we are not in the least afraid but what everything will go right under your superintendence; all the business matters will be transacted right; and if brother Brigham is satisfied with it, I am." I do not wish any Latter-day Saint in this world, nor in heaven, to be satisfied with anything I do, unless the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit of revelation, makes them satisfied. I wish them to know for themselves and understand for themselves, for this would strengthen the faith that is within them. Suppose that the people were heedless, that they manifested no concern with regard to the things of the kingdom of God, but threw the whole burden upon the leaders of the people, saying, "If the brethren who take charge of matters are satisfied, we are," this is not pleasing in the sight of the Lord.

Every man and woman in this kingdom ought to be satisfied with what we do, but they never should be satisfied without asking the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, whether what we do is right. When you are inspired by the Holy Ghost you can understandingly say, that you are satisfied; and that is the only power that should cause you to exclaim that you are satisfied, for without that you do not know whether you should be satisfied or not. You may say that you are satisfied and believe that all is right, and your confidence may be almost unbounded in the authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ, but if you asked God, in the name of Jesus, and received knowledge for yourself, through the Holy Spirit, would it not strengthen your faith? It would. A little faith will perform little works; that is good logic. Jesus says, "If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you."

Even our current Priesthood and Relief Society manuals have a note inside the front that says to email or write suggestions for improvements to be incorporated in the future.

I must trust in God. Any man who would teach to have blind faith in the teachings of a human or any council of humans, no matter how good their track record has been, is extremely dangerous, and scripture and the words of prophets testify of this. I have not even given the best possible quotes here, just the first few I came across.

A long and interesting passage delivered by Brigham Young, Oct 6, 1855:

In all High Councils, in Bishops' Courts, and in all other departments for transacting our business, the Church and kingdom of God, with the Lord Almighty at the head, will cause every man to exhibit the feelings of his heart, for you recollect it is written that in the last days the Lord will reveal the secrets of the hearts of the children of men.

Does not the Gospel do that? It does; it causes men and women to reveal that which would have slept in their dispositions until they dropped into their graves. The plan by which the Lord leads this people makes them reveal their thoughts and intents, and brings out every trait of disposition lurking in their organizations. Is this right? It is. How are you going to correct a man's faults, by hiding them and never speaking of them, by covering up every fault you see in your brother, or by saying, "O, do not say a word about his faults, we know that he lies, but it will not do to say a word about it, for it would be awful to reveal such a fact to the people?" That is the policy of the world and of the devil, but is it the way that the Lord will do with the people in the latter-days? It is not.

This is a matter that seems to be but little understood by some of the Latter-day Saints, it may be understood by a portion of them, but others do not understand it. Every fault that a person has will be made manifest, that it may be corrected by the Gospel of salvation, by the laws of the Holy Priesthood.

Suppose that a man lies, and you dare not tell of it; "Very well," says the man, "I am secure, I can lie as much as I please." He is inclined to lie, and if we dare not chastise him about it he takes shelter under that pavilion, cloaks himself with the charity of his brethren, and continues to lie. By and bye he will steal a little, and perhaps one or two of his brethren know about it, but they say, "We must cover up this fault with the cloak of charity." He continues to lie and to steal, and we continue to hide his faults; where will it lead that person to? Where will he end his career? Nowhere but in hell.

What shall we do with such men? Shall we reveal their faults? Yes, whenever we deem it right and proper. I know it is hard to receive chastisement, for no chastisement is joyous, but grievous at the time it is given; but if a person will receive chastisement and pray for the Holy Spirit to rest upon him, that he may have the Spirit of truth in his heart, and cleave to that which is pleasing to the Lord, the Lord will give him grace to bear the chastisement, and he will submit to and receive it, knowing that it is for his good. He will endure it patiently, and, by and bye, he will get over it, and see that he has been chastised for his faults, and will banish the evil, and the chastisement will yield to him the peaceable fruits of righteousness, because he exercises himself profitably therein.

In this way chastisement is a benefit to any person. Grant that I have a fault, and wish it concealed, would I not be likely to hide it? And if the Lord would not reveal it I might cling to it, if I had not the spirit of revelation to discern my fault and its consequences. Without the influence of the Spirit of the Lord, I am just as liable to lie and abide in false principles, false notions, and unrighteous actions as true ones. It is so with you.

If your faults are not made known to you, how can you refrain from them and overcome them? You cannot. But if your faults are made manifest, you have the privilege of forsaking them and cleaving unto that which is good. The design of the Gospel is to reveal the secrets of the hearts of the children of men.

When men intimate to me, whether in public or in private, that their faults must not be spoken of, I do not know how worldly-minded men feel in similar cases, but like Elijah, when he mocked the priests of Baal, I feel to laugh and make derision of such men.

Do you suppose that I will thus far bow down to any man in this Territory, or on the earth? Do you suppose that I will suffer myself to be so muzzled that I cannot reveal the faults of the people when wisdom dictates me to do it?

I fear not the wicked half so much as I would a mosquito in my bedroom at night, for he would keep me from sleeping, but for the unrighteous, those who will act the villain and conduct themselves worse than the devil, to insinuate that I have not the privilege of speaking of their faults makes me feel like laughing at their folly. I will speak of men's faults when and where I please, and what are you going to do about it?

Do you know that that very principle caused the death of all the Prophets, from the days of Adam until now? Let a Prophet arise upon the earth, and never reveal the evils of men, and do you suppose that the wicked would desire to kill him? No, for he would cease to be a Prophet of the Lord, and they would invite him to their feasts, and hail him as a friend and brother. Why? Because it would be impossible for him to be anything but one of them. It is impossible for a Prophet of Christ to live in an adulterous generation without speaking of the wickedness of the people, without revealing their faults and their failings, and there is nothing short of death that will stay him from it, for a Prophet of God will do as he pleases.

I have been preached to, pleaded with, and written to, to be careful how I speak about men's faults, more so than ever Joseph Smith was in his life time; every week or two I receive a letter of instruction, warning me to be careful of this or that man's character. Did you ever have the Spirit of the Lord, so that you have felt full of joy, and like jumping up and shouting hallelujah? I feel in that way when such epistles come to me; I feel like saying, "I ask no odds of you, nor of all your clan this side of hell."

I have wise brethren around me who will sometimes say, "Don't speak so and so, be very careful, now do be cautions;" and I have been written to from the east; I have package after package of letters, yes, a wheel-barrow load of them, saying, "O, brother Brigham, I would beseech and pray and plead with you, if I only dare, to be careful how you speak. Would not this or that course be better than for you to get up in the stand, and tell the Gentiles what they are? Would it not be better to keep this to yourself?"

Do you know how I feel when I get such communications? I will tell you, I feel just like rubbing their noses with them. If I am not to have the privilege of speaking of Saint and sinner when I please, tie up my mouth and let me go to the grave, for my work would be done.

It was for this that they killed Joseph and Hyrum, it is for this that they wish to kill me and my brethren; we know their iniquity, and we will tell of it when the Spirit dictates, or talk about this, that, or the other person and conduct at the proper time.

There are people in our midst who grunt at this course, and at the same time have evils that I think are hardly worth notice, for I do not think that such persons will be good for anything even should they happen to get into the kingdom of heaven, though I suppose they are good in their place if we can find out where it is, but as yet I am ignorant of it; I presume that the Lord knows where it is, but I do not. I wish to say to the Elders of Israel, to all people, I shall tell you of your iniquity and talk about you just as I please, and when you feel like killing me for so doing, as some of the people did who called themselves brethren in the days of Joseph Smith, look out for yourselves, for false brethren were the cause of Joseph's death, and I am not a very righteous man. I have told the Latter-day Saints from the beginning that I do not profess much righteousness, but I profess to know the will of God concerning you, and I have boldness enough to tell it to you, fearless of your wrath, and I expect that it is on this account that the Lord has called me to occupy the place I do; I feel as independent as an angel.

Some of you have been brought before the High Council, charged with this fault and with that, and you say it is too much for you, that you cannot bear it. But you have got to bear it, and if you will not, make up your minds to go to hell at once and have done with it. If you wish to be Saints you must have your evils taken away and your iniquities exposed, this must be done if you remain in the kingdom of God. If you do wrong, and it is made manifest before the High Council, don't grunt about it, nor whine about your loving, precious character, but consider that you have none; that is the best way to get along with it. Myriads have scandalized me since I have been in this Church, and I have been asked, "Brother Brigham, are you going to bear this? Do you not know that such and such persons are scandalizing your character?" Said I, "I do not know that I have any character, I have never stopped to inquire whether I have one or not." It is for me to pursue a course that will build up the kingdom of God on the earth, and you may take my character to be what you please, I care not what you do with it, so you but keep your hands off from me.

If you are brought before the High Council, or before a Bishop's court, and it is proven before either of those tribunals that you are covetous, don't fly in a passion and become so excited that you are ready to burst. I may see fit to expose some men who have not paid their tithing; now if you are going to get nervous about it and are afraid of bursting, let me know, and we will slip and egg shell over you and your precious characters. What precious characters some of you had in Wales, in England, in Scotland, and perhaps in Ireland.

Do not be scared if it is proven against some, before the Bishop's court, that you did steal the poles from your neighbor's garden fence. If you did, it would be far better for you to get right up and own it, for you have in reality lost your character before God, angels, and men, and then refrain from such evils and try to establish a good character. It would be better for you to do that, than to become angry when your faults are made manifest. If it is proven before the High Council that you did steal a beef creature, don't get angry, but rise up and acknowledge that you did steal it.

If it is proven that you have been to some person's wood pile and stolen wood, don't be frightened, for if you will steal, it must be made manifest. Some one may say, "Why I did not think Saints were guilty of such deeds!" Nor I either. Such crimes are committed by people who gather with the Saints, to try them, to afflict and annoy them, and drive them to their duty. Do you not suppose that it is necessary to have devils mixed up with us, to make Saints of us? We are as yet obliged to have devils in our community, we could not build up the kingdom without them. Many of you know that you cannot get your endowment without the devil's being present; indeed we cannot make rapid progress without the devils. I know that it frightens the righteous sectarian world to think that we have so many devils with us, so many poor, miserable curses. Bless your souls, we could not prosper in the kingdom of God without them. We must have those amongst us who will steal our fence poles, who will go and steal hay from their neighbor's hay stack, or go into his corn field to steal corn, and leave the fence down; nearly every ax that is dropped in the kanyon must be picked up by them, and the scores of lost watches, gold rings, breast pins, &c., must get into their hands, though they will not wear them in your sight. It is essentially necessary to have such characters here.

After we had given the brethren such a scouring two or three months ago, about returning lost property when found, one or two men brought in two or three rusty nails of no value, which they had picked up; this was tantamount to saying to brother Sprague, "If we had found your purse, or if we had found Brigham's purse, we would see you in hell before we would return it." We wish to impress upon you the necessity of your bringing the ax you find, the hay fork, or any other lost property which you find, to the person who is appointed to take charge of such property, that the owners may again possess it. But if you should pick up a piece of rotten wood, and bring it to brother Brigham, or Dr. Sprague, with a show of honesty, and in derision of the counsel you have received, it would be like saying, "If we could find or steal your purses, you should never see them again. We are poor, miserable devils, and mean to live here by stealing from the Saints, and you cannot help yourselves."

Live here then, you poor, miserable curses, until the time of retribution, when your heads will have to be severed from your bodies. Just let the Lord Almighty say, "Lay judgment to the line and righteousness to the plummet," and the time of thieves is short in this community. What do you suppose they would say in old Massachusetts, should they hear that the Latter-day Saints had received a revelation or commandment to lay "judgment to the line and righteousness to the plummet?" What would they say in old Connecticut? They would raise a universal howl of, "How wicked those Mormons are; they are killing the evil doers who are among them; why I hear that they kill the wicked away up yonder in Utah." They do no kill anybody down there, do they?

As for the inhabitants of the earth, who know anything about the "Mormons," having power to utter worse epithets against us than they do, they have to get more knowledge in order to do it; and as for those enemies who have been in our midst, feeling any worse than they do, they have first to know more; they are as full of bad feeling now as they can hold without bursting. What do I care for the wrath of man? No more than I do for the chickens that run in my dooryard. I am here to teach the ways of the Lord, and lead men to life everlasting, but if they have not a mind to go there, I wish them to keep out of my path.

I want the Elders of Israel to understand that if they are exposed in their stealing, lying, deceiving, wickedness, and covetousness, which is idolatry, they must not fly in a passion about it, for we calculate to expose you, from time to time, as we please, when we can get time to notice you.

During this Conference, I do not want to think where the "Mormons" have been, and how they have been treated, but I want to think of matters that will make my heart light, like the roe on the mountains—to reflect that the Lord Almighty has given me my firth on the land where He raised up a Prophet, and revealed the everlasting Gospel through him, and that I had the privilege of hearing it—of knowing and understanding it—of embracing and enjoying it. I feel like shouting hallelujah, all the time, when I think that I ever knew Joseph Smith, the Prophet whom the Lord raised up and ordained, and to whom He gave keys and power to build up the kingdom of God on earth and sustain it. These keys are committed to this people, and we have power to continue the work that Joseph commenced, until everything is prepared for the coming of the Son of Man. This is the business of the Latter-day Saints, and it is all the business we have on hand. When we come to worldly affairs, as they are called, they can be done in stormy weather, if we attend to the kingdom of God in fair weather.

May God bless you. Amen.

1 comment:

Roy W. Wright said...

There are those among this people who are influenced, controlled, and biased in their thoughts, actions, and feelings by some other individual or family, on whom they place their dependence for spiritual and temporal instruction, and for salvation in the end. These persons do not depend upon themselves for salvation, but upon another of their poor, weak, fellow mortals. "I do not depend upon any inherent goodness of my own," say they, "to introduce me into the kingdom of glory, but I depend upon you, brother Joseph, upon you, brother Brigham, upon you, brother Heber, or upon you, brother James; I believe your judgment is superior to mine, and consequently I let you judge for me; your spirit is better than mine, therefore you can do good for me; I will submit myself wholly to you, and place in you all my confidence for life and salvation; where you go I will go, and where you tarry there I will stay; expecting that you will introduce me through the gates into the heavenly Jerusalem."

I wish to notice this. We read in the Bible, that there is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars. In the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, these glories are called telestial, terrestrial, and celestial, which is the highest. These are worlds, different departments, or mansions, in our Father's house. Now those men, or those women, who know no more about the power of God, and the influences of the Holy Spirit, than to be led entirely by another person, suspending their own understanding, and pinning their faith upon another's sleeve, will never be capable of entering into the celestial glory, to be crowned as they anticipate; they will never be capable of becoming Gods. They cannot rule themselves, to say nothing of ruling others, but they must be dictated to in every trifle, like a child. They cannot control themselves in the least, but James, Peter, or somebody else must control them, They never can become Gods, nor be crowned as rulers with glory, immortality, and eternal lives. They never can hold scepters of glory, majesty, and power in the celestial kingdom. Who will? Those who are valiant and inspired with the true independence of heaven, who will go forth boldly in the service of their God, leaving others to do as they please, determined to do right, though all mankind besides should take the opposite course.

- Brigham Young