Who Must Mormons Listen To?

By Donna Morley

Who do Mormons listen to?  In other words, who has final authority in their lives?  Is it God?  They would say so.  Yet, this isn’t completely accurate.    Any Mormon, in good standing, must listen to and obey the “Living Oracles” of the church.  The Mormon would say that this is equal to listening to God.

The Living Oracles

The Living Oracles are “words from the Lord” given to the Mormon prophets, presidents, and those in the leadership of the LDS priesthood. The oracles are considered scripture and are passed on to the members of the church with the expectation that they be obeyed. [History of the Church, 6:12].

In the Mormon study guide Gospel Principles, Mormons are told to “believe in and follow the living prophet…. sustain the President of the Church as prophet, seer and revelator…. Study his words…follow his inspired teachings completely. We should not choose to follow part of his  inspired counsel and discard that which is unpleasant or difficult. . . . The Lord will never allow the President of the Church to lead us astray.” [ Gospel Principles 49-50].

Second church President, Brigham Young, wanted his people to understand very clearly the importance of following his words. So, with an air of drama, he took the Bible and laid it down; he took the Book of Mormon and laid it down: and he took the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and laid it down before him, saying,

…when compared with the living oracles, those books are nothing to me; those books do not convey the word of God direct to us now, as do the words of a Prophet, or a man bearing the Holy Priesthood in our day and generation. I would rather have the living oracles than all the writing in these books.  [October 1963 Conference Report of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 17. Ezra Taft Benson. Also see Conference Report, October 1897, 18-19, Brigham Young.]

President Ezra Taft Benson wanted Mormons to have an unfailing allegiance to the Living Oracles, so he said,

Always keep your eye on the President of the Church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.  [Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 137. Formerly the words of President Heber J. Grant.]

The Living Oracles are of such importance that, according to Bruce McConkie in Mormon Doctrine, a Mormon “may accept or reject” the Oracles but they must keep in mind that “acceptance brings salvation; rejection leads to damnation.” [Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 416, “Kingdom of God.”]

Apostle Heber Kimball stressed very clearly, “When a servant of God counsels you, it is your duty to hear and obey his words…. You have no salvation only what you get through that source, and every true hearted Latter-day Saint believes so.”  [Journal of Discourses, 3:262, June 10, 1855, Heber C. Kimball.]

Imagine—no salvation except through the president of the church!

Debra, who is currently spiritually confused, just left the Mormon church because of the Living Oracles. She sums up the Oracles this way: “Once a church leader has spoken, the thinking has been done.”

Does it make sense that human leaders of a church can contradict what a perfect, all-wise God says in the Bible and still be correct? Or that you will be blessed for following a church president even if what he says is wrong? And if he’s wrong when giving an oracle—a prophetic message—wouldn’t that make him a false prophet? If so, then the following Bible verse would apply to him:

As for the prophet or the priest or the people who say, ‘The oracle of the LORD,’ I will bring punishment upon that man and his household (Jeremiah 23:34).

If only the church leaders could be aware of God’s warning! But, until they are made aware, they will continue to warn church members, telling them, “Your safety and ours depends upon whether or not we follow the ones whom the Lord has placed to preside over his church.”  [L.G. Otten and C.M. Caldwell, The Sacred Truths of the Doctrine and Covenants, 1:94. Warning given by Mormon apostle and later LDS president Harold Lee.]

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