Sunday, October 03, 2010

Two blogs and a biography on Benson's Fourteen Fundamentals

1.  (pro, from a blog): "When something is quoted word for word by two or more speakers, then to me, it's a bit like the Lord getting on His heavenly [Public Announcement] system and saying  ' Hey everyone, listen up!  Did you get that?!  In case not, here it is again!  Take Notes! ' ”  (Fourteen Fundamentals Spotlighted at Conference, by MormonSoprano.)

2.  (con, from a blog): "Living prophets are more vital than the scriptures, living prophets are more important than dead prophets, the prophet will never lead the church astray. We must make our own decisions on this but for me, I cannot flush the scriptures because a ‘prophet’ has provided a new direction in a talk. If such is the case, why wouldn’t it be called revelation and added to the canon of scripture? I believe that the scripture provide an anchor with with to assess whether purported revelation is consistent with the current word of God. Giving man the ability to replace scripture is exactly what led to the apostasy in the meridian of time."  (Day One - October 2010 Conference, by Spektator.)

3.  (pro, from Sheri L. Dew, Ezra Taft Benson: A Biography, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1987, pp.468-469):

"On Tuesday, February 26, 1980, he delivered what President [Dallin H.] Oaks called a  ' landmark address '  and what others described as  ' a classic '  at a BYU devotional assembly.  In a message on  ' Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet,'  he talked about the calling of a living prophet.  He prefaced his remarks by explaining,  ' To help you pass the crucial tests which lie ahead I am going to give you today several facets of a grand key which, if you will honor, will crown you with God's glory and bring you out victorious in spite of Satan's fury.  Soon we will be honoring our Prophet on his eighty-fifth birthday.  As a church we sing the song, "We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet."  Here then is the grand key — Follow the Prophet.'

"President Benson taught that the prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord, and that his words are more important than those of a deceased prophet.  Further, he asserted, while it might not always be popular, a prophet is qualified to speak out on civic affairs.   ' The world prefers that prophets either be dead or mind their own business,'  he said.  ' Some so-called experts of political science want the prophet to be still on politics ... [but] those who would remove prophets from politics would take God out of government.'  He also encouraged the students to enroll in the BYU religion class  ' Teachings of the Living Prophets.'

"Some of the local media took President Benson to task for his remarks, speculating that he was setting the stage for the day when he might become president of the Church....

"In just two weeks, over six hundred requests for copies of his BYU address came to President Benson's office, as well as hundreds of letters from Saints hailing his message as an inspiring tribute to the role of a prophet.  While the talk generated a great deal of publicity, for his part President Benson had intended it to simply underscore President Kimball's prophetic call.

During the April 1980 monthly meeting of the General Authorities, President Benson explained that he had meant only to reaffirm the divine nature of the prophetic call.  It was a faith-building, emotional experience.  His family were aware of his concerns and had been praying for him.  When he returned to his office that day, he found a phone message from Reed and a brief letter from Mark:  ' All will be well—we're praying for you and know all will be well.  The Lord knows your heart.'  There was also a brief message from Elder Packer:  ' How I admire, respect and love you. How could anyone hesitate to follow a leader, an example such as you? What a privilege! '

Notice the words of President Boyd K. Packer and Elder Dallin H. Oaks quoted by Sister Dew in connection with President Benson's talk.

One additional thought

On his blog, Spektator questioned specifically President Benson's second fundamental: "The living prophet is more vital to us than the Standard Works."  In course language, Spektator states, "I cannot flush the scriptures."  The following is included for Spektator's benefit:

"That caused me to reflect on the absolute importance of a living oracle, and also on the words of Elder Orson F. Whitney of the Council of the Twelve, who said:  ' The Latter-day Saints do not do things because they happen to be printed in a book.  They do not do things because God told the Jews to do them; nor do they do or leave undone anything because of instructions that Christ gave to the Nephites.  Whatever is done by this Church is because God speaking from heaven in our day has commanded this Church to do it.  No book presides over this Church and no books lie at its foundation.  You cannot pile up books enough to take the place of God's priesthood inspired by the power of the Holy Ghost.'

"Elder Whitney was not taking away from the power and majesty of the scriptures — he was just putting them into perspective.  He also said,  ' No man ought to contend for what is in the books in the face of God's mouthpiece who speaks for him and interprets his word.  To so contend is to defer to the dead letter in preference to the living oracles, which is always a false position.'  (Loren C. Dunn, "A Living Prophet," Ensign, May 1976, pp.65–66.)


Blogger Joseph Smidt said...

R. Gary,

Very interesting quotes. I must say I really enjoy this talk as well. I wish I could have been in attendance when Brigham did what he did. :)

10/03/2010 12:35:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

President Benson's talk was also printed as a First Presidency Message (click here).

10/03/2010 04:10:00 PM  
Blogger Jared* said...

Interestingly, that sentence--"those who would remove prophets from politics would take God out of government."--is missing in First Presidency message.

10/03/2010 08:53:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Jared*,  Ezra Taft Benson often made minor changes when a talk was later published in a new context. Gordon B. Hinckley and Thomas S. Monson have been known to do the same. That doesn't change the remarkable fact that all Fourteen Fundamentals were cited verbatim twice in general conference. I appreciate your visit and your comment.

10/03/2010 09:14:00 PM  
Blogger Jared* said...

Sure, but the Kimball biography, Lengthen Your Stride, highlighted that sentence as being controversial. So I think it was probably dropped to avoid further misunderstanding.

10/03/2010 10:17:00 PM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Ezra Taft Benson was accustomed to controversy. He once ridiculed those who "stumble around in the middle of the road trying to avoid being 'controversial,' and get hit by traffic going both ways."

10/03/2010 10:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Those who would remove prophets from politics..." I submit that the church has done exactly this. Except on rare occasions, the church does stay out of politics. Given our rather bumpy past, I for one think they have done the right thing.

10/04/2010 06:18:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

Updating Benson's speech for publication as a First Presidency message did NOT remove the prophets from politics. Consider:

When Benson delivered his speech at BYU on February 26th, 1980, the March issue of the Ensign was already in the mail. Delivered with it was a 24-page booklet in which Church leaders vigorously opposed passage of the equal rights amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In my lifetime, the Church has urged restrictions on the sale of alcoholic beverages, opposed the legalization of gambling and lotteries, favored right-to-work legislation (no closed or union shop), advocated defeat of the equal rights amendment (ERA), and successfully promoted passage of California's Proposition 8.

Just last month, Dallin Oaks cited the earlier equal rights amendment and the possibility of federal courts nullifying a state law on marriage as examples of events that adversely affect the dominance of state law.

These are not the words and actions of prophets removed from politics.

10/04/2010 01:34:00 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

R. Gary, thanks for this post. I remembered quite favorably sitting in the Marriott Center listening to President Benson's talk when he gave it. And if memory serves, I was enrolled at the time in the Teaching of the Living Prophet's class, or enrolled in it the next semester.

As I felt the spirit of President Benson's testimony I was naive about whatever controversy might surround his talk, and was surprised to read of it in the following weeks.

And, as many have since observed, President Benson's time as president of the church were free from political controversy, despite the fear that some had based on his history.

You are right, of course: the church has taken strong stands on certain matters of political importance through the years. And they have remained silent (or balanced) on others.

Most interesting to me, though, was that in his talks in this most recent conference, our prophet focused on missionary work, gratitude and agency -- gospel principles of significant importance.

10/04/2010 02:23:00 PM  
Anonymous John Mansfield said...

R. Gary, that link above, to a 1981 Liahona, is not to a First Presidency message. President of the Quorum of the Twelve messages are great to read in the Ensign too.

10/05/2010 06:30:00 AM  
Blogger R. Gary said...

John Mansfield, let me be sure I understand you. In spite of its position in the magazine (page 1) and its title "First Presidency Message," you don't accept it as such. That's your choice. But I think the First Presidency can print whatever they want and call it their message as long as its author is clearly identified. And nobody is bound by any such message anyway, no matter who wrote it. I appreciate your input.

10/05/2010 07:27:00 AM  
Anonymous zo-ma-rah said...

About your "One Additional Point" It is right that iving prophets are more important than the scriptures. But if living prophets contradict the word of God as contained in the scriptures then the living prophets are wrong. Nobody trumps the word of God and if our living oracles wont give us God's word then we have no place to turn but the scriptures.

10/05/2010 06:18:00 PM  

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