Any religion or institution which involves authority of leaders must have “a proper conservative to this power” (see first quote referenced below) in order to avoid extreme notions of authoritarianism, dogmatism, or fundamentalism. And in Christian religion, given “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) we can fully expect that the moment God grants any authority to us, that is the moment God accepts that there will be imperfect exercise of that authority. This should instill in us a humility in our faith, patience and forgiveness for one another’s faults, as well as an openness to additional light and knowledge. As Brigham Young put it: “I do not even believe that there is a single revelation, among the many God has given to the Church, that is perfect in its fullness”. In Mormonism, as we exercise faith in the on-going process of revelation (Article of Faith 9), we can also ask God to help us correct these same revelations using additional light and knowledge to avoid the problems of authoritarianism, dogmatism, or fundamentalism.
The following is an on-going collection of quotes from LDS leaders on the topic of authority which highlight this “proper conservative to … power”. The point here isn’t to use circular logic of appealing to LDS authority to settle the discussion on LDS authority, but rather to show that within LDS authority itself, this “proper conservative to … power” is allowed for and advocated.
Because of … the apparent imperfections of men on whom God confers authority, the question is sometimes asked,–to what extent is obedience to those who hold the Priesthood required? This is a very important question, and one which should be understood by all Saints. In attempting to answer this question, we would repeat, in short, what we have already written, that willing obedience to the laws of God, administered by the Priesthood, is indispensable to salvation; but we would further add, that a proper conservative to this power exists for the benefit of all, and none are required to tamely and blindly submit to a man because he has a portion of the Priesthood. We have heard men who hold the Priesthood remark, that they would do any thing they were told to do by those who presided over them, [even] if they knew it was wrong: but such obedience as this is worse than folly to us; it is slavery in the extreme; and the man who would thus willingly degrade himself, should not claim a rank among intelligent beings, until he turns from his folly. … Others, in the extreme exercise of their almighty (!) authority, have taught that such obedience was necessary, and that no matter what the Saints were told to do by their Presidents, they should do it without asking any questions.When the Elders of Israel will so far indulge in these extreme notions of obedience, as to teach them to the people, it is generally because they have it in their hearts to do wrong themselves, and wish to pave the way to accomplish that wrong…
(Latter-day Saint Millennial Star, vol 14, num 38, pgs 593-595, 11/13/1852)
That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.
Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God.
We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
Hence many are called, but few are chosen.
No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
(Doctrine and Covenants 121:36-24, from a letter written to the church from the jail at Liberty, Missouri, dated March 20, 1839)
The Lord’s voice (revealed in revelation from Joseph Smith):
Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding. And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known; And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed; And inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent; And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time.
(Doctrine and Covenants 1:24-28 – November 1, 1831, during a special conference of elders of the Church, held at Hiram, Ohio)
How do you know but I am teaching false doctrine? How do you know that I am not counseling you wrong? How do you know but I will lead you to destruction? And this is what I wish to urge upon you—live so that you can discern between the truth and error, between light and darkness, between the things of God and those not of God, for by the revelations of the Lord, and these alone, can you and I understand the things of God…
. . . . But to return to my question to the Saints, “How are you going to know about the will and commands of heaven?” By the Spirit of revelation; that is the only way you can know. How do I know but what I am doing wrong? How do I know but what we will take a course for our utter ruin? I sometimes say to my brethren, “I have been your dictator for twenty–seven years”—over a quarter of a century I have dictated this people; that ought to be some evidence that my course is onward and upward. But how do you know that I may not yet do wrong? How do you know but I will bring in false doctrine and teach the people lies that they may be damned?
(Journal of Discourses Volume 14, Discourse 27)
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 rinning 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 owf becoming Gods. They cannot rule themselves, to say nothing of ruling others, but they must be dictated to do 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.
(Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, pg. 312)
What a pity it would be if we were led by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually.
(Journal of Discourses, Vol. 9, p. 150, 12 January 1862)
I know that some men . . . have advanced extravagant ideas . . . that the people must go on performing their daily duties without question, and then if the President should do wrong, God would look after him. Such teachings have now and then been heard; but I call your attention to the fact . . . that the Lord has provided means by which the Church can correct every man within it, and can dismiss the unworthy from power. That right is resident in the Church of Christ; and the Church don’t (sic) have to wait till God kills off unworthy servants before a wrong can be righted.
(Defense of the Faith and the Saints – Page 222)
J. Rueben Clark:
even the President of the Church, himself, may not always be ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost,’ when he addresses the people. This has happened about matters of doctrine (usually of highly speculative character) where subsequent Presidents of the Church and the people themselves have felt that in declaring the doctrine, the announcer was not ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost.’
How shall the Church know when these adventurous expeditions of the Brethren into these highly speculative principles and doctrines meet the requirements of the statutes that the announcers thereof have been ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’? The Church will know by the testimony of the Holy Ghost in the body of the members, whether the Brethren in voicing their views are ‘moved upon by the Holy Ghost’; and in due time that knowledge will be made manifest.
(“When Are the Writings and Sermons of Church Leaders Entitled to the Claim of Scripture?”, Address to Seminary and Institute Personnel, BYU, Jul. 7, 1954)
(Reported in: “When Are Church Leaders Words Entitled to Claim of Scripture?”, Church News, 31 July 1954, 9-10)
(Cited by D. Todd Christofferson in May 2012 Ensign article titled, “The Doctrine of Christ”)
D. Todd Christofferson:
At the same time it should be remembered that not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. It is commonly understood in the Church that a statement made by one leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, not meant to be official or binding for the whole Church.
(“The Doctrine of Christ” – April 2012 General Conference)
…the people should each one stand for himself…righteous persons could only deliver their own souls…if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall–that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds…
(May 26th,1842, History of the Church, Volume 5, Pg. 19)
Dieter F. Uchtdorf:
The invitation to trust the Lord does not relieve us from the responsibility to know [truth] for ourselves. This is more than an opportunity; it is an obligation…Latter-day Saints are not asked to blindly accept everything they hear.
(“What Is Truth?”, Church Broadcast January 2013 – link)
George Q. Cannon:
Do not, brethren, put your trust in man though he be a bishop, an apostle, or a president. If you do, they will fail you at some time or place; they will do wrong or seem to, and your support be gone . . .
(Millennial Star, v 53, p 658-659)
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…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.
(Journal of Discourses 3:43-51)
President Wilford Woodruff is a man of wisdom and experience, and we respect him, but we do not believe his personal views or utterances are revelations from God; and when ‘Thus saith the Lord’, comes from him, the saints investigate it: they do not shut their eyes and take it down like a pill.
(Millennial Star 54:191)
Joseph Fielding Smith:
You cannot accept the books written by the authorities of the Church as standards of doctrine…Every man who writes is responsible, not the Church, for what he writes. If Joseph Fielding Smith writes something that is out of harmony with the revelations, then every member of the Church is duty bound to reject it.
(Mormon Doctrine, p. 547, also in “Are the General Authorities Human” 1966)
Joseph F Smith:
We talk of obedience, but do we require any man or woman to ignorantly obey the counsels that are given? Do the First Presidency require it? No, never.
(Journal of Discourses 16: 248)
Dallin H. Oaks:
As a General Authority, I have the responsibility to preach general principles. When I do, I don’t try to define all the exceptions. There are exceptions to some rules. . . . don’t ask me to give an opinion on your exception. I only teach the general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught this same thing in another way. When he was asked how he governed such a diverse group of Saints, he said, ‘I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.’
(“Dating versus Hanging Out”, Ensign, June 2006)
We who are General Authorities and general officers are called to teach His general rules. You and we then lead specific lives and must seek the Lord’s guidance regarding specific circumstances.
(“General Patterns and Specific Lives,” Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, Feb 2008)
Boyd K. Packer:
As General Authorities of the Church, we are just the same as you are, and you are just the same as we are. You have the same access to the powers of revelation for your families and for your work and for your callings as we do.
(“The Weak and Simple of the Church” Oct 2007 General Conference)
Boyd K. Packer:
Once again: ‘Notwithstanding those things which are written’—meaning, regardless of what is in print, including the handbooks—’it always has been given to the elders of my church from the beginning, and ever shall be, to conduct all meetings as they are directed and guided by the Holy Spirit’ (D&C 46:2).
(Nov 2010, General Handbook training)
… we need to develop the capacity to form judgments of our own about the value of ideas, opportunities, or people who may come into our lives. We won’t always have the security of knowing whether a certain idea is ‘Church approved,’ because new ideas just don’t always come along with little tags attached to them saying whether the Church has given them the stamp of approval. Whether in the form of music, books, friends, or opportunities to serve, there is much that is lovely, of good report and praiseworthy, that is not the subject of detailed discussion in Church manuals or courses of instruction. Those who will not risk exposure to experiences that are not obviously related to some Church word or program will, I believe, live less abundant and meaningful lives than the Lord intends.
(“On Dealing with Uncertainty”, Ensign, August 1979)
Gordon B. Hinckley (GBH) interview with radio broadcaster David Ransom (RB):
RB: As the world leader of the the Church, how are you in touch with God? Can you explain that for me?
GBH: I pray. I pray to Him. Night and morning. I speak with Him. I think He hears my prayers. As He hears the prayers of others. I think He answers them.
RB: But more than that, because you’re leader of the Church. Do you have a special connection?
GBH: I have a special relationship in terms of the Church as an institution. Yes.
RB: And you receive?
GBH: For the entire Church.
RB: You receive?
GBH: Now we don’t need a lot of continuing revelation. We have a great, basic reservoir of revelation. But if a problem arises, as it does occasionally, a vexatious thing with which we have to deal, we go to the Lord in prayer. We discuss it as a First Presidency and as a Council of the Twelve Apostles. We pray about it and then comes the whisperings of a still small voice. And we know the direction we should take and we proceed accordingly.
RB: And this is a Revelation?
GBH: This is a Revelation.
RB: How often have you received such revelations?
GBH: Oh, I don’t know. I feel satisfied that in some circumstances we’ve had such revelation. It’s a very sacred thing that we don’t like to talk about a lot. A very sacred thing.
Q: But it’s a special experience?
GBH: I think it’s a real thing. It’s a very real thing. And a special experience.
I do not even believe that there is a single revelation, among the many God has given to the Church, that is perfect in its fullness. The revelations of God contain correct doctrine and principles so far as they go; but it is impossible for the poor, weak, low, grovelling, sinful inhabitants of the earth to receive a revelation from the Almighty in all its perfections.
(Discourses of Brigham Young, Deseret Book, 1977, p. 40)
It is not the place for any person to correct any person who is superior to them, but ask the Father in the name of Jesus to bind him up from speaking false principles. I have known many times I have preached wrong.
(Thomas Bullock minutes, 8 May 1854)
Bruce R. McConkie:
Prophets are men and they make mistakes. Sometimes they err in doctrine… Sometimes a prophet gives personal views which are not endorsed and approved by the Lord… Yes, President Young did teach that Adam was the father of our spirits, and all the related things that the [polygamous] cultists ascribe to him. This, however, is not true. He expressed views that are out of harmony with the gospel. But, be it known, Brigham Young also taught accurately and correctly, the status and position of Adam in the eternal scheme of things. What I am saying is that Brigham Young, contradicted Brigham Young, and the issue becomes one of which Brigham Young we will believe. The answer is we will believe the expressions that accord with the teachings in the Standard Works.
(In a letter to Eugene England, 19 February 1981)
Dallin H. Oaks:
“As a General Authority, I have the responsibility to preach general principles. When I do, I don’t try to define all the exceptions. There are exceptions to some rules. For example, we believe the commandment is not violated by killing pursuant to a lawful order in an armed conflict. But don’t ask me to give an opinion on your exception. I only teach the general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord.”
(“Dating versus Hanging Out” – May 1, 2005 young single adults at a Church Educational System fireside telecast)
Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 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. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
(1 Cor 13: 8-13)
Leonard J. Arrington:
That the Lord is in charge does not mean that he inspires or approves everything done in the church.
(“Adventures of a Church Historian”, pg. 144)
Dieter F. Uchtdorf:
To be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles or doctrine…I suppose the Church would only be perfect if it were run by perfect beings.
(“Come, Join with Us”, October 2013 General Conference)
Jeffrey R. Holland:
…be kind regarding human frailty—your own as well as that of those who serve with you in a Church led by volunteer, mortal men and women. Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we. And when you see imperfection, remember that the limitation is not in the divinity of the work. As one gifted writer has suggested, when the infinite fulness is poured forth, it is not the oil’s fault if there is some loss because finite vessels can’t quite contain it all. Those finite vessels include you and me, so be patient and kind and forgiving.
(“Lord, I Believe”, April 2013 General Conference)
Harold B. Lee:
It is not to be thought that every word spoken by the General Authorities is inspired, or that they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost in everything they write.
(“The Place of the Living Prophet, Seer, and Revelator”, address delivered to seminary and institute of religion faculty, 8 July 1964, p. 14.)
Charles W. Penrose:
We do not believe in the infallibility of man. When God reveals anything it is truth, and truth is infallible. No President of the Church has claimed infallibility.
(“Peculiar Questions Briefly Answered,” Improvement Era 15 no. 11 (September 1912))
James E. Faust:
How informed should you be regarding your own religious beliefs? Is it enough to simply accept the religious idea of another person due to their position of authority? Consider these quotes from LDS leaders:
As a means of coming to truth, people in the Church are encouraged by their leaders to think and find out for themselves. They are encouraged to ponder, to search, to evaluate, and thereby to come to such knowledge of the truth as their own consciences, assisted by the Spirit of God, lead them to discover. … In this manner no one need be deceived.
(“The Truth Shall Make You Free” Ensign, September 1998)
Seventy years ago this Church was organized with six members. We commenced, so to speak, as an infant. We had our prejudices to combat. Our ignorance troubled us in regard to what the Lord intended to do and what He wanted us to do. We advanced to boyhood, and still we undoubtedly made some mistakes, which generally arise from a lack of experience. We understand very well, when we reflect back upon our own lives, that we did many foolish things when we were boys. Yet as we advanced, the experience of the past materially assisted us to avoid such mistakes as we had made in our boyhood.
It has been so with the Church. Our errors have generally arisen from a lack of comprehending what the Lord required of us to do. But now we are pretty well along to manhood. When we examine ourselves, however, we discover that we are still not doing exactly as we ought to do, notwithstanding all our experience. We discern that there are things which we fail to do that the Lord expects us to perform, some of which He requires us to do in our boyhood. While we congratulate ourselves in this direction, we certainly ought to feel that we have not yet arrived at perfection. There are many things for us to do yet.
(April 1900 Conference Report)
The most prominent point of difference in sentiment between the Latter Day Saints & sectarians was, that the latter were all circu[m]scribed by some peculiar creed, which deprived its members the privilege of believing any thing not contained therein; whereas the L. D. Saints had no creed, but are ready to believe all true principles that exist, as they are made manifest from time to time.
(Latter-Day Saints’ Millennial Star, Volume 20)
The creeds set up stakes, & say hitherto shalt thou come, & no further, which I cannot subscribe to.
(Letter to Isaac Galland, March 22, 1839)
I never thought it was right to call up a man and try him because he erred in doctrine, it looks too much like Methodism and not like Latter day Saintism. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be kicked out of their church. I want the liberty of believing as I please, it feels so good not to be tramelled.
(The Words of Joseph Smith, pp. 183-184)
I believe all that God ever revealed, and I never hear of a man being damned for believing too much; but they are damned for unbelief.
(History of the Church, 6:477)
But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad: and the spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the tabernacle: and they prophesied in the camp. And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them. And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the LORD’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!
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.
‘Do you believe Joseph Smith, Jun., to be a Prophet?’ Yes, and every other man who has the testimony of Jesus. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg. 119)
Salvation cannot come without revelation; it is in vain for anyone to minister without it. No man is a minister of Jesus Christ without being a Prophet. No man can be a minister of Jesus Christ except he has the testimony of Jesus; and this is the spirit of prophecy. Whenever salvation has been administered, it has been by testimony.
(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg. 160)
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 . . .
(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg. 237-238)
This morning I read German and visited with a brother and sister from Michigan, who thought that ‘a prophet is always a prophet;’ but I told them that a prophet was a prophet only when he was acting as such.
(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg. 278)
How easy it would be for your leaders to lead you to destruction, unless you actually know the mind and will of the spirit yourselves.
(Journal of Discourses 4: 368)
He is a prophet, I am a prophet, you are, and anybody is a prophet who has the testimony of Jesus Christ, for that is the spirit of prophecy.
(Journal of Discourses 13: 165)
Hugh B. Brown:
Official statements of the First Presidency that have not been submitted to the membership of the church for its approval are matters of temporary policy only. Under present conditions, for example, the First Presidency may say, ‘We recommend this or that.’ But conditions may subsequently change, and when they do the First Presidency may wish to make a statement which may not be in complete harmony with a former statement. We have to keep our theology up to date by submitting everything that is intended to become a permanent part of the gospel to those whose right and privilege it is to so interpret and then by having it sustained by the people as a definite rule of the church so that all things may be done by common consent.
(An Abundant Life: The Memoirs of Hugh B. Brown, ed. Edwin B. Firmage [Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1999], 124-125)
Elder Orson F. Whitney:
“Perhaps the Lord needs such men on the outside of His Church to help it along… They are among its auxiliaries, and can do more good for the cause where the Lord has placed them, than anywhere else… Hence, some are drawn into the fold and receive a testimony of the truth; while others remain unconverted… the beauties and glories of the gospel being veiled temporarily from their view, for a wise purpose. The Lord will open their eyes in His own due time. God is using more than one people for the accomplishment of His great and marvelous work. The Latter-day Saints cannot do it all. It is too vast, too arduous for any one people… We have no quarrel with the Gentiles. They are our partners in a certain sense.”
(Conference Report, April 1928, p. 59.)
“the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have; therefore we see that the Lord doth counsel in wisdom, according to that which is just and true.”
“I [the Lord] shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.”
“While the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is established for the instruction of men; and it is one of God’s instrumentalities for making known the truth yet he is not limited to that institution for such purposes, neither in time nor place. God raises up wise men and prophets here and there among all the children of men, of their own tongue and nationality, speaking to them through means that they can comprehend. … All the great teachers are servants of God; among all nations and in all ages. They are inspired men, appointed to instruct God’s children according to the conditions in the midst of which he finds them.”
(Defense of the Faith and the Saints, 2 vols. (1907), 1:512–13)
“As to the printed discourses of even leading brethren…they do not constitute the court of ultimate appeal on doctrine. They may be very useful in the way of elucidation and are very generally good and sound in doctrine, but they are not the ultimate sources of the doctrines of the Church, and are not binding upon the Church. The rule in that respect is—What God has spoken, and what has been accepted by the Church as the word of God, by that, and that only, are we bound in doctrine. When in the revelations it is said concerning the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator that the Church shall “give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them—for his word ye shall receive as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith”—(Doc & Cov., Sec. 21)—it is understood, of course, that his has reference to the word of God received through revelation, and officially announced to the Church, and not to every chance word spoken.”
(“Answer Given to ‘Ten Reasons Why “Christians” Can Not Fellowship with Latter-Day Saints,’” discourse delivered in the Salt Lake Tabernacle, 10 July 1921.)
Elder M. Russell Ballard:
…it is important to remember that I am a General Authority, but that does not make me an authority in general!
My calling and life experiences allow me to respond to certain types of questions. There are other types of questions that require an expert in a specific subject matter. This is exactly what I do when I need an answer to such questions: I seek help from others, including those with degrees and expertise in such fields.
I worry sometimes that members expect too much from Church leaders and teachers—expecting them to be experts in subjects well beyond their duties and responsibilities. The Lord called the apostles and prophets to invite others to come unto Christ—not to obtain advanced degrees in ancient history, biblical studies, and other fields that may be useful in answering all the questions we may have about scriptures, history, and the Church. Our primary duty is to build up the Church, teach the doctrine of Christ, and help those in need of help.
(“Questions and Answers” Nov. 14, 2017 BYU Devotional)
“I think that it is a reasonable conclusion to say that constant, never-varying inspiration is not a factor in the administration of the affairs of the church; not even good men, no, not though they be prophets or other high officials of the Church, are at all times and in all things inspired of God.”
(“Relation of Inspiration and Revelation to Church Government”, Improvement Era, March 1905, 365-366)