In any organization or corporation, there is a need for order. Employees don’t take over the responsibilities of the president of the company. Members of the Catholic Church don’t take over the responsibilities of the Pope. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints don’t take over the responsibilities of the Prophet. No one has the right to preside or conduct church activities other than the regularly constituted church authorities. It is their right.
When Hiram Page professed to be receiving revelations for the church, Joseph Smith received the following revelation. “But, behold, verily, verily, I say unto thee, no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church excepting my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., for he receiveth them even as Moses . . . And thou shalt not command him who is at thy head, and at the head of the church” Doctrine and Covenants 28:2, 28:6
When a man has a right to preside and conduct church activities, are faithful members of that church obligated to follow the man? What if the man is a true messenger of God? Should he be followed?
I’ve grown up with a mantra that says, “Follow the Prophet”. I’ve searched the scriptures looking for this mantra, but I can’t find it. On the other hand, I have found scriptures that oppose this viewpoint.
“Cursed is he that putteth his trust in man, or maketh flesh his arm, or shall hearken unto the precepts of men, save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost.” 2 Nephi 28:31, 2 Nephi 4:34
Is the Lord saying that we can’t put our trust in any man? What if the man is really good? What if the man is a true messenger of God? Are we going to be cursed for putting our trust in that kind of man?
What does the Lord mean when he says, “save their precepts shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost”? Are we obligated to get a confirmation from the Holy Ghost before accepting any precept taught by humans? Can’t we just follow them? Are we required to get a witness from God before accepting anything as being true? That’s a lot of work.
President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel - - said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church - - that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls - - applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - - said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall - - that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds, in consequence of neglecting the duties devolving upon themselves, envious towards the innocent, while they afflict the virtuous with their shafts of envy. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith pages 237-238
When a messenger sent from God visited John the Revelator, he tried to worship the messenger. The angel told John to worship God. “And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Revelation 19:10
The Lord doesn’t make any distinction between those who choose to follow men and the liars, sorcerers, adulterers, and whoremongers. D&C 76:99-103 That sounds like a pretty serious sin.
The Lord's position is higher than any head of any organization. “He ruleth high in the heavens, for it is his throne, and this earth is his footstool.” 1 Nephi 17:39 When the Lord sends a messenger, it would be wise to listen, pray for a witness from God, and then obey. Let’s look at some of the messengers He has chosen to send:
Amos was among the herdmen of Tekoa. Amos 1:1 In other words, he was a nobody. Yet, he saw a vision concerning Israel. He was called by the Lord to prophesy unto the people. Amos was shown the judgments of the Lord before they happened. He then tells the people “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” Amos 3:7
Abinadi was a nobody. We don’t even know where he came from. King Noah and his priests, the recognized religious authorities of the area, questioned Abinadi’s right to judge them. This prophet of God was perceived as a troublemaker. “Now when king Noah had heard of the words which Abinadi had spoken unto the people, he was also wroth; and he said: Who is Abinadi, that I and my people should be judged of him, or who is the Lord, that shall bring upon my people such great affliction? I command you to bring Abinadi hither, that I may slay him, for he has said these things that he might stir up my people to anger one with another, and to raise contentions among my people; therefore I will slay him.” Mosiah 11:27-28
Even Jesus Christ was rejected. The leaders of His church “spake unto him, saying, Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things? or who is he that gave thee this authority?” In their view, Jesus was not credible. He then used a parable to illustrate how his people would reject his prophets. They would even reject Him. See Luke 20:1-19
When the Lord sends prophets to deliver a message, there is no difference between their words and His words. The prophecies and promises given by the Lord’s servants will all be fulfilled. D&C 1:37-38
So, how will we know if a message comes from God?
“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” Moroni 10:4-5
It’s vital to receive a witness from the Holy Ghost. He will manifest the truth of all things unto you.
Who should I follow? Over and over again I hear Jesus say, “Come follow me.”
And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. Matthew 4:19 If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour. John 12:26 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9:23
No one can bring us back to the Father except for Jesus Christ. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:6
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: John 10:27
And he gathereth his children from the four quarters of the earth; and he numbereth his sheep, and they know him; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd; and he shall feed his sheep, and in him they shall find pasture. 1 Nephi 22:25
We can only follow one shepherd. Who will it be?