Flash: Mormon leaders are fallible!


The current First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, from left to right: Henry B. Eyring, first counselor; Thomas S. Monson, president; Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor.


Even the New York Times (“All the news that’s fit to print”) is excited:


“A Top Mormon Leader Acknowledges the Church Made Mistakes”


I suppose it was inevitable, now that we’ve jettisoned our long-time teaching that our leaders are infallible.


What long-time teaching?” you may ask.


And well might you wonder.


We’ve never even taught that our scriptures are infallible, let alone our living, mortal leaders.


“And now,” reads the revealed ancient title page to the Book of Mormon, “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.”


The apostle Paul was very aware of his own limitations, and those of his fellow apostles and prophets:


“Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.  But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:  In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.  For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.  For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”  (2 Corinthians 4:1-7)


“For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.  But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.  When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.  For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”  ( 1 Corinthians 13:9-12)


Of course, many Latter-day Saints have tended to place their leaders on pedestals that their leaders haven’t themselves claimed to occupy.  As the old joke goes, “The Catholic Church teaches that the pope is infallible, but no Catholic really believes it.  The Mormon Church teaches that its leaders are fallible, but no Mormon really believes it.”



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  • http://and-still-i-persist.com bfwebster

    Punchline to one of my favorite stories: “Then came the sixty-four dollar question. ‘Do you believe that Heber J. Grant is a prophet of God?’ His answer, ‘I think he ought to keep his mouth shut about old age assistance.’

    • DanielPeterson

      That’s a great story.

  • Ryan

    The link to the article seems broken.

    • DanielPeterson

      Ooops. I think I’ve fixed it now.

  • Heath Dowers

    I do not condemn leaders for saying harsh things against those who believe what earlier brethren taught. Elder McConkie’s address at BYU dubbed “The Seven Deadly Sins” states those who believe such things do not deserve to be saved. Harsh no doubt, but forgiven. I know I have said harsh things and regret them. Concerning Elder McConkie’s address, I just do not agree with all he stated in that talk. Unfortunately, I spoke to someone about certain earlier teachings and was quickly brought to the carpet of the Stake President. I learned my lesson to not speak of these things again.

    • DanielPeterson

      Wisdom, humility, discretion, and charity for the weaknesses of others are never out of place.

  • Heath Dowers

    It is requisite that we all have the Spirit and know for ourselves what is truth and error. Does that mean we should not listen to our leaders? Absolutely not!! We must use our agency and give it over to the Lord, all the while sustaining our leaders. We must be merciful to those who make mistakes and not hold them in contempt for making a mistake and draw ridiculous conclusions about their calling and position. They are still called of God. We must write the laws of God upon our hearts through pondering and mining the scriptures. We must become a ZION people!

  • David_Naas

    Wow! Mormons and Catholics have a lot in common! Well, at least that both have leaders who say things that get blown up in the media.
    Some years ago, I had occasion to be teaching a Gospel Doctrine class, and foolishly asked, “What is the most important principle of the Gospel?” The answer shot back from a dear old Saint, “Obedience!” Somewhat non-plused (not the answer I was fishing for), I said,” Well, *intelligent* obedience is good, but I was looking for “faith”.

  • RaymondSwenson

    Any Mormon who thought the Brethren are infallible is now trapped in that paradox: “He said they are fallible, and he is infallible, so it must be true that they are fallible . . .?”

    One of the wonderful things about the Book of Mormon is that we get to see how a scripture is composed, and how the people who did it confess their own inadequacies and imperfections, even as they testify of the perfections of God and His plan for us. There is a refreshing honesty and lack of pretense that is also a characteristic of Joseph Smith’s testimony of his visionary experiences, the quality that first attracted Arthur Henry King to them as sincere narratives. I prefer being led by imperfect men who have known the perfect God.

  • DanielPeterson

    Curiously, Bob Oliverio, I don’t think that there’s a single thing in your post above that I agree with. Except maybe the first sentence.

  • David Tiffany

    The biggest mistake the early mormon church fathers made was to preach a different gospel than the one that the Apostle Paul preached. Some will think that I’m attacking mormons, but I’m not. A different gospel other than the one Paul preached is a gospel that does not save from judgment. http://downtownministries.blogspot.com/

    • DanielPeterson

      Thanks, for your note, David Tiffany. It’s good to have a statement of standard Evangelical Protestant anti-Mormon dogma here, so that people who might not have run into it before can understand what it is on this point.