Neal A. Maxwell, during General Conference, quotes various sources stating that Church leaders are not all knowing or infallible, but are still authoritative teachers Saints should respect.

Oct 1984
Speech / Court Transcript
Neal A. Maxwell

Neal A. Maxwell, "Out of Obsurity," General Conference, October 1984, accessed October 31, 2023

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Neal A. Maxwell
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

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Throughout scriptural history, we see recurring efforts to demean prophets in order to dismiss them—to label them in order to diminish them. Mostly, however, they are simply ignored by their contemporaries and by secular history. After all, early Christians were merely called “the sect of the Nazarenes.” (Acts 24:5.)

Like his predecessors, Joseph Smith reflected some of the anxieties and activities of his time and period. Yet a torrent of truth came through that good, but imperfect, conduit—more than Joseph could communicate, as he once declared:

“It is my meditation all the day and more than my meat and drink to know how I shall make the saints of God to comprehend the visions that roll like an overflowing surge, before my mind.” (Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, eds. and comps., The Words of Joseph Smith, [Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1980), p. 196.)

Some followers became disaffected, but later returned—including once-statusful men like Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and Thomas B. Marsh. Yet these men voted with their feet to rejoin and reconcile with the kingdom. The true doctrines drew them back, however, and the only status sought or conferred was membership, once again, in the Lord’s church.

In all this, there is great cause for hope and even gratitude. Moroni prescribed:

“Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, … but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been.” (Morm. 9:31.)

And Lorenzo Snow practiced:

“I can fellowship the President of the Church,” he said, “if he does not know everything I know … I saw the … imperfections in [Joseph Smith] … I thanked God that He would put upon a man who had those imperfections the power and authority He placed upon him … for I knew that I myself had weakness, and I thought there was a chance for me … I thanked God that I saw these imperfections.”

From Elder B. H. Roberts, who loved the Prophet dearly, there were these words:

“Joseph Smith … claimed for himself no special sanctity, no faultless life, no perfection of character, no inerrancy for every word spoken by him. And as he did not claim these things for himself, so can they not be claimed for him by others. …

“Yet to Joseph Smith was given,” said Brother Roberts, “access to the mind of Deity, through the revelations of God to him.” (Comprehensive History, 2:360–61.)

In fact, brothers and sisters, the Prophet Joseph, just a few days before his martyrdom, confirmingly said,

“I never told you I was perfect; but there is no error in the revelations which I have taught. Must I, then, be thrown away as a thing of naught?” (History of the Church, 6:366.)

Should we be surprised that prophets and people alike experience this next reality?

“For he will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept; and I will try you and prove you herewith.” (D&C 98:12.)

Herewith means “in this manner” or “in this way.” The same gradual unfolding will pertain to the history of God’s work. (See Isa. 28:10; D&C 98:12; D&C 128:21.)

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Citations in Mormonr Qnas
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