Follow the Prophet, Don’t Go Astray

There is a common belief among the Saints is that our leaders will never lead us astray. This idea comes from Official Declaration 1 where Wilford Woodruff said that God would never let Him lead the church astray. This is a really comforting idea because we can trust that whatever the prophet says it is the will of the Lord. So let’s look at what the Scriptures and Joseph Smith say about this topic.

In the book Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, we read that Joseph Smith taught the Relief Society that the church was threatened because the people were blindly following the prophet rather than being independent in their thinking,

“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…”
TPJS p.237


Here Joseph Smith references Ezekiel Chapter 14 and tell us that if we depend on the prophet rather than our own understanding we will be darkened in our minds. In other words if we blindly follow the prophet, rather take it upon ourselves to ensure that what we are taught is correct, then we will fall.

But how is this possible? Doesn’t the prophet always teach us what is correct? If the prophet always teaches what is correct then why would we fall away by following him? Well the answer lies in the reference Joseph Smith gave, Ezekiel Chapter 14. Have you ever read this chapter. I hadn’t until I read that quote. You can read te whole think if you like but I will only comment on one verse.

9 And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the LORD have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel.

This verse says plain and simple that the Lord does allow prophets to be deceived. We can now understand Joseph Smith’s comment. If we follow the prophet without doing our own research into the word of God then we might be lead away by the prophet. But maybe this is not correct. It is only one verse in the Bible after all.

But it is true and we can understand more by reading 1 Kings 22:21-23:

21 And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him.
22 And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also; go forth, and do so.

23 Now therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil concerning thee.

So here we read that it is not actually God the deceives prophets but He allows them to be deceived by Satan. After all God does not lie. But this does help confirm the prophets can be deceived.

By why would a loving God, or loving Heavenly Father, allow His prophets to be deceived and lead His children into wickedness? The anser is in Deuteronomy 13:1-4.

1 If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,
2 And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;

3 Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

4 Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.

This says that if there is a prophet that teaches contrary to the laws of God, even if that prophet gives signs and wonders that come to pass, we should not listen to him. But God allows prophets to be deceived to “prove” us and to test us if we really do love God with all our hearts and all our soul.

Now still I can understand if you think I might just be putting a bunch of verses together and making it up. But Joseph Smith himself confirmed that Satan can give false revelations to true prophets.

In 1829 Joseph Smith received a revelation telling Oliver Cowdery and Hiram Page to sell the Canadian copyright of the Book of Mormon to raise money to pay for its publication. When they returned from Canada they had not sold the copyright. Joseph Smith then received important information concerning revelations, “Some revelations are of God: some revelations are of men: and some revelations are of the devil.

Here Joseph Smith has independently confirmed my conclusion. In fact in the early church it was an apostate idea to believe that prophets could never lead us astray. So we can see that through the scriptures and words of the prophets that the idea that prophets cannot lead us astray, while comforting, is utterly false and is in fact a deception designed to test us. The test is to see if we will follow the prophets blindly, which according to Joseph Smith leads to a darkening of our minds. Or if we will think for ourselves and compare the teachings of prophets to the scriptures to see if what they say is of God, man, or of the devil.

So how do we know if a prophet is leading us correctly or if we are being deceived. Joseph Smith also gave us the way to know.

“There have also been ministering angels in the Church which were of Satan appearing as an angel of light. [Gives an example].. Many true things were spoken by this personage, and many things that were false. How, it may be asked, was this known to be a bad angel? By the color of his hair; that is one of the signs that he can be known by, and by his contradicting a former revelation.
(Joseph Smith, TPJS, pp. 214-215(emphasis added))


It’s that simple. If a modern prophet, even the current living prophet, contradicts a previous revelation then that revelation which contradicts is FROM A LYING SPIRIT. It’s that easy to know. So this shows us the importance of studying our scriptures especially the Doctrine and Covenants. If we do this then we can know the true word of God and not be deceived by false teachings and doctrines of men. If we fail to do this then we deserve to be led away to darkness. If we are true believers of Christ then we will do this simple thing to prove our love for Christ. We will pass the test by not being lead away by lying spirits that God allows to deceive His true prophets.

Do we idolize our modern prophets so much that we will refuse to compare their word with the Word of God? Will we accept anything and everything they teach without testing it to see if it is true? To we put our trust in the Arm of Flesh rather than the Arm of God?

If so then we have failed and God will allow us to be lead into further darkness by the very prophets we idolize. We cannot just go to church every Sunday and hope that what we are being taught is correct. We have to take action and find God’s will ourselves.

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6 Responses to Follow the Prophet, Don’t Go Astray

  1. Dave P. says:

    This is something that Brigham Young feared would happen whenever he spoke and I don’t know if his espousing the concept of blood atonement or the Adam-God doctrine were both his personal beliefs or means of actually testing the saints to see if those fears came to pass.

    Unfortunately this is also the general case in the Doctrine and Covenants themselves regarding Section 132, which wasn’t added into the canon of scripture until long after Joseph Smith had died and only his scribe at the time claimed to remember the receiving of the revelation. However, without the Lord re-revealing it or without another living witness at the time, it contradicts the Law of Witnesses. Of course I don’t mean this as a swipe at plural marriage because it’s a man’s choice to take multiple wives as much as it’s my own to only take one (if I can find one, that is).

  2. zo-ma-rah says:

    I also understand the Joseph Smith would smoke in public to see if the Saint were following him or the Revelations from God. Not that not smoking is a commandment fbut for those who try to live by the Word of Wisdom you should stand on your own witness, not on another person.

    Yes, Section 132 is dodgy at best. But my personal acceptance of Plural Marriage is based on the Spirit confirming it to me. I find many useful and true things in Section 132. But there are also some things that seem out of place.

  3. Jill Cox says:

    I’ve also found this concept from your post intriguing… would you mind posting the full quote from Wilford Woodruff to bring this full circle? Doesn’t he say something like God would strike him down if he was trying to lead the church astray? (I think the way I had interpreted this in the past –if a prophet of God becomes corrupt and is knowingly trying to lead the church away from God, God would…intervene.) thanks for your thoughts.

    I’d note though as well, that I personally think while it’s possible to question your leaders and confirm their guidance personally to be truth as a part of a ‘healthy’ (not that anyones’ paths are quite the same) testimonial process, I don’t think it’s possible to get past a certain point in spiritual progression until you’ve confirmed that those holding the priesthood keys DO have the authority/rights/abilities to speak for God (even though it’s not 100% of the time, or there may be cases of personal opinion or dodgy revelations as you noted–there MUST be a basis of testimony in the priesthood for the correct revelations. I believe Harold B Lee said something like (sorry for the paraphrase) a man is not truly converted until he sees the spirit of God resting on the leaders of His church and it goes down into his heart like fire. This confirmation not of a specific revelation, but in the authority/mantle of the leaders of the church to receive truthful and applicable revelation for the church is a basic tenet needed for belief in further specific revelations.)
    Anyways. Just some thoughts.

  4. Lynne McKinley says:

    You need to read the Joseph Smith translation. 9: “And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the Lord have NOT deceived that prophet; therefore I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel”. If all you do is glance at the footnotes in the standard works every so often you will not discover the other 98% of the changes Joseph Smith made to the KJV. You will, of course, have to get the full JST from the reorganized Church, which owns the copyright, much to the dismay of the LDS leaders. But if you’re going to make firm statements and stand on scriptural evidence in your blog, make sure you have the truth on your side, as in the incredible work Joseph did to overcome mistranslations which lead the people astray. ALWAYS check JST before you go on record on something like this, very embarrassing to be wrong.

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