Why balance and consensus ("correlation") is so important: [Joseph
Fielding McConkie, Straightforward Answers to Tough Gospel Questions:
178]

QUESTION    Why can General Authorities disagree on doctrinal matters?

ANSWER    It comes as a matter of surprise to many people that Church
leaders do not always have the same understanding of all gospel
principles. That surprise reflects the confidence the members have in
their leaders and suggests that they almost expect the leaders to be
infallible. It also suggests that they equate priesthood offices with
knowledge. It would be comfortable to suppose that among our leaders
there are no unanswered questions and that a perfect equality of
understanding exists. Realizing that each of us is responsible for our
own understanding and that no two people are at exactly the same place
in that process is an important lesson. It is also important to realize
that we cannot always lean on others. To walk by borrowed light is
necessary for a time and a season, but at some point it is expected that
we take our place as the source of light for others.There is room in the
Church for differences of understanding. On matters about which the
revelations are plain, however, there ought to be a unity of thought and
faith. We need not put question marks at the end of revealed
pronouncements. We sustain the man who stands at the head of the Church
as the living constitution of the Church. We follow the direction he
points and accept his voice as final where doctrinal differences may
exist. Such authority must rest with him if the Lord's house is to be a
house of order and if we are to avoid being tossed about by every wind
of doctrine. This is simply to say that there is but one head, and in
this sense, one spokesman, for the Church.It is not to be expected,
however, that every General Authority will be the equal of every other
General Authority in doctrinal understanding any more than it is to be
expected that every bishop have the same understanding as every other
bishop or every Sunday School teacher have the same understanding as
every other Sunday School teacher. It is common to see people change and
improve their views in the process of serving. We should all find
ourselves giving better answers to questions and preaching better
doctrine with the passing of years. That is true at all levels of the
Church. It is also to be expected that the present generation can and
will improve upon the preceding generation. Surely we are obligated to
improve upon what we have been given. There is danger that some may use
that idea as justification to liberalize their views and move further
and further from the mainstream of faith and truth. That is a shabby
counterfeit to be guarded against. The greater danger rests in our
refusing to move forward, announcing that what we have received is
sufficient and that nothing more can be added to it. Warning against
such an attitude the Lord said: "From them that shall say, We have
enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have" (2 Ne.
28:30). Thus, in those instances when the views of one man reach beyond
those of another, we ought to rejoice in the additional knowledge and in
the realization that the process of spiritual growth is alive and well
in the Church. To do so will require that we surrender our security
blanket (or the notion that in this mortal world all are equal in
understanding) and realize that learning the gospel is a process, not an
office, and that each individual is responsible for what he or she
chooses to believe and teach.

QUESTION    How can prophets be deceived, as in the case of Mark
Hoffman?

ANSWER    This question is simply another way of asking why prophets
aren't infallible. It is doubtful that those asking the question suppose
themselves obligated to be faultless. Why, then, do they suppose others
must be? We do not believe in the infallibility of missionaries, or
Sunday School teachers, or even bishops or stake presidents. At what
point do we suppose infallibility must begin?In a revelation dealing
with the lost one hundred and sixteen pages of the Book of Mormon the
Lord told Joseph Smith: "But as you cannot always judge the righteous,
or as you cannot always tell the wicked from the righteous, therefore I
say unto you, hold your peace until I shall see fit to make all things
known unto the world concerning the matter" (D&C 10:37). If Joseph Smith
had a weakness of character, it was in being too trusting and forgiving.
Were we allowed to choose our own faults we would be hard pressed to do
better than that.We have the assurance that the man standing at the head
of the Church will never lead it astray. We also have the promise that
the united voice of the First Presidency and the Twelve will never err
on matters that pertain to principles of salvation. The notion of
infallibility, however, is not a part of our theology. In his preface to
the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord said: "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" (D&C 1:24-28).

--
Marc A. Schindler
Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada -- Gateway to the Boreal Parkland

“We do not think that there is an incompatibility between words and
deeds; the worst thing is to rush into action before the consequences
have been properly debated…To think of the future and wait was merely
another way of saying one was a coward; any idea of moderation was just
an attempt to disguise one’s unmanly character; ability to understand a
question from all sides meant that one was totally unfitted for action.”
– Pericles about his fellow-Athenians, as quoted by Thucydides in “The
Peloponessian Wars”

Note: This communication represents the informal personal views of the
author solely; its contents do not necessarily reflect those of the
author’s employer, nor those of any organization with which the author
may be associated.

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