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Tacit Notions/Expectations of Prophetic Infallibility: A Key Ingredient in Faith Crises?

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Posted (edited)
22 minutes ago, cinepro said:

If we aren't willing to say "I believe President Nelson is a Prophet of God, but he's wrong about x, y and z", then there's the answer to your question about why people get unrealistic expectations about Church leaders and their fallibility and reliability.

Not really.  I'm not willing to publicly air my disagreements with my wife, either.  That doesn't mean I believe she is infallible.

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I'll ask another question.  Suppose President Nelson stood up in Conference in October and said "As you know, the Church is lead by a Prophet who receives revelation.  This means everything I do or say should be considered as coming from God and infallible."

What would change? 

Quite a bit.  A claim of infallibility contravenes the tenets of the Gospel.  I have previously explained my position on this issue at some length here.

Here are perhaps the key bits:

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We do not unthinkingly accept just any statement.  We are supposed to analyze and evluation and determine for ourselfs the inspiration of our leaders.  I think we should operate from a position of faith.  I also think we should give the Brethren the benefit of the doubt.  That is, I think we should generally "decide that you will believe someone, even though you are not sure that what the person is saying is true."  I think such a presumption would be a healthy thing.  I also think such a presumption would be subsequently vindicated almost all of the time. 

...

So my rule of thumb is to give a presumption of good faith to the Brethren.  To give them the benefit of the doubt.  To assume that what they are saying is in accordance with the Standard Works, and with the Spirit.  Again, I think such a presumption would be subsequently vindicated almost all of the time.  

However, although I give the Brethren the benefit of the doubt, this is - in legal vernacular - a rebuttable presumption.  That is, I leave open the possibility that a leader in the Church may, in the words of President Smith above, issue remarks which "do not square with the revelations."  That he may say "something that goes beyond anything that you can find in the standard church works."  That he may say "something that contradicts what is found in the standard works."  We must leave that possibility open, because our leaders have told us that it is a possibility.  So if a leader in the Church says something that I feel may be problematic, I feel obligated to test it.  To think about it.  To study it.  To discuss it with those whom I find trustworthy.  To weight it against the Standard Works.  And most of all, to pray about it. 

That is how I would approach Pres. Nelson saying "This means everything I do or say should be considered as coming from God and infallible."

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In other words, what's the difference between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints today (where we say we believe in fallible leadership but are afraid to actually say how they're fallible)

I reject the charge.  I am not "afraid" of anything here.  In abstaining from public criticism of the leaders of the Church, I am not acting out of fear.  I am acting on my convictions and principles.

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and a theoretical The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in another universe that absolutely believes the leaders are infallible?  How would the members and leaders behave differently?

Meh.  I'm not interested in absurd hypotheticals.

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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2 minutes ago, smac97 said:

Not really.  I'm not willing to publicly air my disagreements with my wife.  That doesn't mean I believe she is infallible.

But what about privately?  

If a member isn’t publicly criticizing the Prophet, is it ok to privately disagree?  Can’t we still sustain him as a Prophet, but disagree at times with what he states or teaches?

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5 minutes ago, rockpond said:

This is, for me, a big problem with modern Mormonism:  As you correctly describe, we (speaking generally of church members) have a theoretical belief that the prophet is fallible.  But, in practice we treat the current prophet as infallible.

You're mixing up terms which I think is why you are so confused about this.

Let's try this.  Let's refer to the man who is the presiding high priest of the Church, otherwise known as the President of the Church, as just that and NOT say he is (ALSO) a prophet of God unless we know for a fact that he is.  And when we do refer to him as the President of the Church as well as a prophet of God let's keep those distinctions in tact, so that we say both when we say he is acting as both.  Otherwise, if or when we're not sure he's speaking as a prophet of God, let's just say he is speaking as the President of the Church, and just that.

So with that understand, I hope, yes, the President of the Church is infallible when speaking as a prophet of God when he is truly speaking as such.  But he isn't always speaking as a prophet of God.  Sometimes he is only speaking as the President/presiding high priest of the Church.

 

5 minutes ago, rockpond said:

The idea that the prophet can err in teachings, doctrine, policy is acknowledged. 

 

 

No, not when speaking as a prophet it's not.  A prophet of God, meaning a man who is truly speaking as a prophet of God, is never wrong about anything he says while he speaks as a prophet of God.  But when speaking as only a man,  yes, he can be wrong on some issues.

 

5 minutes ago, rockpond said:

Past prophets' fallibility is also fair game.  But to suggest that the current prophet could be wrong about a teaching or policy regarding same gender marriage can get your temple recommend taken away (yes, I've witnessed it happen).

As it should.  Someone who doesn't know what a prophet of God really is and that a prophet of God always tells the truth in accordance with God's will when teaching or giving policy has no business going to the temple of the Lord in such ignorance.

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Posted (edited)
21 minutes ago, rockpond said:

Fundamental #14:  The prophet and the presidency—the living prophet and the first presidency—follow them and be blessed; reject them and suffer.

Are you having trouble understanding something about this statement?  People who reject the prophet of the Lord and the first presidency of the Lord's church do suffer in some way by rejecting what they have to offer in regards to salvation, both temporally and spiritually.

 

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These statements from you seem contradictory to me.

Am I to avoid being led entirely by another person.  Or am I to be led by living prophet and first presidency with the warning that if I reject them I will suffer?

You are to avoid being led entirely by any person other than God... and anyone who God may be speaking or acting through by the power of the priesthood of God who is essentially the same as God himself in that regard.  D&C 1.  Remember?  Whether  God speaks through his own mouth or through inspiration to those he has ordained with his priesthood, it is all the same God who is doing God's work.

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If the answer is that I am supposed to seek confirmation from the Spirit regarding each teaching and that I am free to reject those which the Spirit does not confirm, than I agree.  But that isn't the impression that the Fourteen Fundamentals gives.

It is the impression I got and still get when reading that discourse.  You just need to understand some basics here, I think.  Men who act through the power of God's priesthood, really truly, are acting as God himself would act and in fact how he is acting through them.

And the word "prophet" isn't just a label when used in this Church.  We don't or at least we're not supposed to refer to a man as a prophet of God unless we know through our own personal revelation from God that in fact he truly is.

Edited by Ahab

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2 hours ago, cinepro said:

I like what you say.  Of course, there's an easy test to see if it's actually true.

Can you list for me all the ways in which current LDS leaders are mistaken about stuff?  Since they're fallible, there must be things that President Nelson has taught, or policies that he's implemented, that are wrong according to what God wants.

What do you think some of them are?

 

Is that really how a belief in fallibility works though, or is it a misconception of how it works?  Sincere question.

For example, I know that my son can get bad grades.  It's possible and in some subjects maybe even probable.  And that's still true even if I can't produce a report card with bad grades on it or give a list of the classes he's gotten bad grades in in the pass.  Just because someone can get a D, it doesn't mean they have in the past, have one right now, or will get one in the future.  It just means it's possible.  

Is part of our problem, as a church, with this concept that we don't actually understand what a fallible prophet looks like?  

I mean, saying that someone can be wrong is different than saying that they have been wrong, are wrong, or will definitely be wrong sometime in the future.  Likewise, we can believe that Pres. Nelson is capable of being wrong without having examples of where he has been wrong, is currently wrong, or will be wrong, can't we?

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17 minutes ago, Ahab said:

You're mixing up terms which I think is why you are so confused about this.

I'm not confused.

17 minutes ago, Ahab said:

Let's try this.  Let's refer to the man who is the presiding high priest of the Church, otherwise known as the President of the Church, as just that and NOT say he is (ALSO) a prophet of God unless we know for a fact that he is.  And when we do refer to him as the President of the Church as well as a prophet of God let's keep those distinctions in tact, so that we say both when we say he is acting as both.  Otherwise, if or when we're not sure he's speaking as a prophet of God, let's just say he is speaking as the President of the Church, and just that.

So with that understand, I hope, yes, the President of the Church is infallible when speaking as a prophet of God when he is truly speaking as such.  But he isn't always speaking as a prophet of God.  Sometimes he is only speaking as the President/presiding high priest of the Church.

 

 

No, not when speaking as a prophet it's not.  A prophet of God, meaning a man who is truly speaking as a prophet of God, is never wrong about anything he says while he speaks as a prophet of God.  But when speaking as only a man,  yes, he can be wrong on some issues.

 

As it should.  Someone who doesn't know what a prophet of God really is and that a prophet of God always tells the truth in accordance with God's will when teaching or giving policy has no business going to the temple of the Lord in such ignorance.

Quoting directly from the Fourteen Fundamentals address:

"Sixth: The prophet does not have to say “Thus saith the Lord” to give us scripture.

Sometimes there are those who haggle over words. They might say the prophet gave us counsel but that we are not obligated to follow it unless he says it is a commandment. But the Lord says of the Prophet Joseph, “Thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you” (D&C 21:4; italics added).

And speaking of taking counsel from the prophet, in D&C 108:1, the Lord states: “Verily thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant Lyman: Your sins are forgiven you, because you have obeyed my voice in coming up hither this morning to receive counsel of him whom I have appointed” (italics added).

Said Brigham Young, “I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call scripture” (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot], 13:95)."

 

So it would appear that our presiding High Priest is always speaking as a prophet.

 

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18 minutes ago, JulieM said:

But what about privately?  

If a member isn’t publicly criticizing the Prophet, is it ok to privately disagree?  Can’t we still sustain him as a Prophet, but disagree at times with what he states or teaches?

At times when you don't believe he is speaking as a prophet of God, yes, you can disagree with what he is saying.  Just don't say you don't agree with what the "prophet" said when you don't think he was speaking as a prophet of God.

Just say instead that you disagree with what President so-and-so said, or better yet, just don't mention that you disagree with him.  There is no good reason to say you don't agree.  There is no good reason to tell others about that.   

And who knows, maybe God will help you to know that what he said is what God inspired him to say and you just didn't understand that until later.

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8 minutes ago, Ahab said:

Are you having trouble understanding something about this statement?  People who reject the prophet of the Lord and the first presidency of the Lord's church do suffer in some way by rejecting what they have to offer in regards to salvation, both temporally and spiritually.

 

You are to avoid being led entirely by any person other than God... and anyone who God may be speaking or acting through by the power of the priesthood of God who is essentially the same as God himself in that regard.  D&C 1.  Remember?  Whether  God speaks through his own mouth or through inspiration to those he has ordained with his priesthood, it is all the same God who is doing God's work.

It is the impression I got and still get when reading that discourse.  You just need to understand some basics here, I think.  Men who act through the power of God's priesthood, really truly, are acting as God himself would act and in fact how he is acting through them.

And the word "prophet" isn't just a label when used in this Church.  We don't or at least we're not supposed to refer to a man as a prophet of God unless we know through our own personal revelation from God that in fact he truly is.

The Fourteen Fundamentals doesn't leave room for such discernment.  It teaches that we are to obey every word from the prophet, that he can speak on any subject, and that if we reject him we suffer.  You are offering a different version of the Fourteen Fundamentals... albeit one that I agree with... but not the one that was taught.

And, my experience with the reality of the church is that any disagreement with the prophet ends up in your being marginalized.

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1 minute ago, rockpond said:

Quoting directly from the Fourteen Fundamentals address:

"Sixth: The prophet does not have to say “Thus saith the Lord” to give us scripture.

True, the prophet doesn't have to say that.  We can know through the inspiration of God when he is, and when we don't know he is then maybe he isn't. Or then again, maybe he is and we just do not know that, yet.

 

1 minute ago, rockpond said:

Sometimes there are those who haggle over words. They might say the prophet gave us counsel but that we are not obligated to follow it unless he says it is a commandment. But the Lord says of the Prophet Joseph, “Thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you” (D&C 21:4; italics added).

And speaking of taking counsel from the prophet, in D&C 108:1, the Lord states: “Verily thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant Lyman: Your sins are forgiven you, because you have obeyed my voice in coming up hither this morning to receive counsel of him whom I have appointed” (italics added).

Notice here that all that matters is whether or not a man is speaking as a prophet of  God.

 

1 minute ago, rockpond said:

Said Brigham Young, “I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call scripture” (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot], 13:95)."

Notice the 2 steps Brigham was talking about.  Preaching a sermon, and then sending it out.  If he sent it out then we may call it scripture.  But if he didn't send it out?  That would make a difference, I think.

1 minute ago, rockpond said:

So it would appear that our presiding High Priest is always speaking as a prophet.

Appear that way to who?  You?  And others who think like you do?  I'd be more careful if I were someone who thought like you do.  Appearances can be deceiving.

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9 minutes ago, rockpond said:

The Fourteen Fundamentals doesn't leave room for such discernment.  It teaches that we are to obey every word from the prophet, that he can speak on any subject, and that if we reject him we suffer.  You are offering a different version of the Fourteen Fundamentals... albeit one that I agree with... but not the one that was taught.

And, my experience with the reality of the church is that any disagreement with the prophet ends up in your being marginalized.

See what you're still doing?  Do you believe he was speaking as a true prophet of God, or not?  You do understand that a true prophet of God is someone who shares the mind and will of God with us, don't you?  So do you call him a prophet while knowing he is a prophet or are you just using that term, "prophet", because you think you are supposed to even when you don't really believe he is or was speaking as a prophet of God?

I already told you being marginalized was okay, based on what you said you meant by "being marginalized".  The blessings of God are predicated upon obedience to whatever laws we must obey to obtain those blessings, including receiving the glory of God.

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Posted (edited)
24 minutes ago, bluebell said:

Is that really how a belief in fallibility works though, or is it a misconception of how it works?  Sincere question.

For example, I know that my son can get bad grades.  It's possible and in some subjects maybe even probable.  And that's still true even if I can't produce a report card with bad grades on it or give a list of the classes he's gotten bad grades in in the pass.  Just because someone can get a D, it doesn't mean they have in the past, have one right now, or will get one in the future.  It just means it's possible.  

Is part of our problem, as a church, with this concept that we don't actually understand what a fallible prophet looks like?  

I mean, saying that someone can be wrong is different than saying that they have been wrong, are wrong, or will definitely be wrong sometime in the future.  Likewise, we can believe that Pres. Nelson is capable of being wrong without having examples of where he has been wrong, is currently wrong, or will be wrong, can't we?

Just so I'm clear, what's the difference between believing someone can't make mistakes and believing someone can but just never does?

Edited by cinepro
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Just now, cinepro said:

Just so I'm clear, what's the difference between believing someone can't makes mistakes and believing someone can but just never does?

There isn’t any difference, but that’s not what I’m asking about. 

What I’m asking about is believing that someone can make a mistake (in a specific job or calling—we’re not talking about just being human in normal everyday life), but that it’s not a usual occurrence or necessarily something that we can point out when it has/does happen.

Does that still count as believing the person is fallible?

 

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49 minutes ago, JulieM said:

But what about privately?  

That's rather a different issue, I think.

49 minutes ago, JulieM said:

If a member isn’t publicly criticizing the Prophet, is it ok to privately disagree?

Yes.

49 minutes ago, JulieM said:

Can’t we still sustain him as a Prophet, but disagree at times with what he states or teaches?

Yes.

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32 minutes ago, bluebell said:

Is part of our problem, as a church, with this concept that we don't actually understand what a fallible prophet looks like?  

The problem is mostly about not using the correct terms often enough to describe what this would look like if it were to ever happen.

A prophet of God by definition is someone who speaks for God, when speaking for God.   Someone who isn't speaking for God shouldn't be referred to as a prophet of God when he isn't speaking for God.

So what would that look like? A prophet? There would be a man saying something for God, since by definition a prophet is also a man.  A woman would be referred to as a prophetess when speaking for God.

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20 minutes ago, Ahab said:

True, the prophet doesn't have to say that.  We can know through the inspiration of God when he is, and when we don't know he is then maybe he isn't. Or then again, maybe he is and we just do not know that, yet.

I believe that (bolded part) but that isn't what the Fourteen Fundamentals teaches.

20 minutes ago, Ahab said:

Notice here that all that matters is whether or not a man is speaking as a prophet of  God.

Again, not what the Fourteen Fundamentals teaches.

20 minutes ago, Ahab said:

Notice the 2 steps Brigham was talking about.  Preaching a sermon, and then sending it out.  If he sent it out then we may call it scripture.  But if he didn't send it out?  That would make a difference, I think.

I"m speaking of what prophets formally teach, not referring to what President Nelson might tell you if you happened to sit next to him on a ski lift.

20 minutes ago, Ahab said:

Appear that way to who?  You?  And others who think like you do?  I'd be more careful if I were someone who thought like you do.  Appearances can be deceiving.

Fourteen Fundamentals (which qualifies as scripture according to Brigham Young's criteria noted above) teaches that the prophet can speak on any matter at any time and we are bound to follow it.

Your understanding of a prophet is more closely aligned with mine.  But to return to the subject of the thread, as you read Fourteen Fundamentals in Following a Prophet (which is scripture) can you understand how some members might get the idea that the prophet is infallible?

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1 minute ago, Ahab said:

The problem is mostly about not using the correct terms often enough to describe what this would look like if it were to ever happen.

A prophet of God by definition is someone who speaks for God, when speaking for God.   Someone who isn't speaking for God shouldn't be referred to as a prophet of God when he isn't speaking for God.

So what would that look like? A prophet? There would be a man saying something for God, since by definition a prophet is also a man.  A woman would be referred to as a prophetess when speaking for God.

I get what you’re saying but I’m using the term prophet as the church uses it. Given the scope of the discussion, that seems like the best way to approach it. 

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17 minutes ago, Ahab said:

See what you're still doing?  Do you believe he was speaking as a true prophet of God, or not?  You do understand that a true prophet of God is someone who shares the mind and will of God with us, don't you?  So do you call him a prophet while knowing he is a prophet or are you just using that term, "prophet", because you think you are supposed to even when you don't really believe he is or was speaking as a prophet of God?

I already told you being marginalized was okay, based on what you said you meant by "being marginalized".  The blessings of God are predicated upon obedience to whatever laws we must obey to obtain those blessings, including receiving the glory of God.

I don't agree that being marginalized is an okay response from church members toward a fellow member who believes that the prophet wasn't speaking as a prophet at a given time.

If it is okay for me to spiritually discern when the prophet is not speaking as a prophet than I ought not be punished and have my recommend taking away.

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2 minutes ago, rockpond said:

as you read Fourteen Fundamentals in Following a Prophet (which is scripture) can you understand how some members might get the idea that the prophet is infallible?

And what is a prophet, again?  Are you talking about an honest to God prophet, someone who really is speaking for God through the power of God, or are you instead referring to someone who is referred to as a prophet even when he wasn't really speaking for God?

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2 minutes ago, bluebell said:

I get what you’re saying but I’m using the term prophet as the church uses it. Given the scope of the discussion, that seems like the best way to approach it. 

And which way do YOU think the Church uses the term?  As a reference to someone who really is or has spoken for God through the power of God, or as someone who is simply referred to as a prophet even when he really isn't speaking for God?

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4 minutes ago, rockpond said:

I don't agree that being marginalized is an okay response from church members toward a fellow member who believes that the prophet wasn't speaking as a prophet at a given time.

If it is okay for me to spiritually discern when the prophet is not speaking as a prophet than I ought not be punished and have my recommend taking away.

Okay, we disagree.  Not an uncommon thing among Church members. I see blessings as blessings and not privileges we are automatically entitled to by virtue of simply being a member of our Lord's true church.

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2 minutes ago, Ahab said:

And what is a prophet, again?  Are you talking about an honest to God prophet, someone who really is speaking for God through the power of God, or are you instead referring to someone who is referred to as a prophet even when he wasn't really speaking for God?

 

1 minute ago, Ahab said:

And which way do YOU think the Church uses the term?  As a reference to someone who really is or has spoken for God through the power of God, or as someone who is simply referred to as a prophet even when he really isn't speaking for God?

 

The Fourteen Fundamentals talk was originally given in 1980.  It was then reprised in October of 2010 by both Elder Costa and Elder Duncan.

Joseph Smith's dictum was that the "prophet is only a prophet when acting as such".  I'm only referring to the teachings, doctrines, and policies of our prophet when they are acting as prophet.

So I believe that "the Church" uses the term prophet to describe the prophet whenever he is acting in his role.  Which is pretty much all of the time that we see him, hear him, or read his words.

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10 minutes ago, Ahab said:

Okay, we disagree.  Not an uncommon thing among Church members. I see blessings as blessings and not privileges we are automatically entitled to by virtue of simply being a member of our Lord's true church.

Okay... so disagree with the prophet and lose blessings.  Got it.

Still wonder why some church members feel that they are taught that the prophet is infallible?

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34 minutes ago, cinepro said:

Just so I'm clear, what's the difference between believing someone can't make mistakes and believing someone can but just never does?

It is more that I know they can make mistakes, have even seen some made, and just choose not to share those mistakes publicly to avoid undermining the faith of others or violating covenants. What purpose would sharing such a list serve except to sow discord? Our critics would hold the list up as a weapon and church defenders would fight back saying I was wrong and suspecting me of apostasy.

In a secular organization I would be tempted to list out the problems but I trust that the being guiding the Church sees those mistakes too and can be counted on to correct them. He has not asked for my help in this matter.

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Posted (edited)
32 minutes ago, rockpond said:

The Fourteen Fundamentals talk was originally given in 1980.  It was then reprised in October of 2010 by both Elder Costa and Elder Duncan.

Joseph Smith's dictum was that the "prophet is only a prophet when acting as such".  I'm only referring to the teachings, doctrines, and policies of our prophet when they are acting as prophet.

So far so good.  So when is a prophet acting as a prophet doing what prophets do? Or to make it a better phrased question, when is a man acting as a prophet of God doing what prophets do?  And we all know what prophets do, I hope.

Quote

So I believe that "the Church" uses the term prophet to describe the prophet whenever he is acting in his role.  Which is pretty much all of the time that we see him, hear him, or read his words.

And here we hit it, again.  When is a man acting as a prophet of God to reveal the mind and will of the Lord?  Only when that man actually is doing what prophets do, correct?  

And no that is not just anytime that man opens his mouth to say something, or whenever he writes something down.  That is evidence that man has said something but how are you supposed to know when that man is acting as a prophet of God?

I've already told you numerous times and still I hold out some hope that you will finally get it, eventually.

Edited by Ahab

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37 minutes ago, rockpond said:

Still wonder why some church members feel that they are taught that the prophet is infallible?

Because he is, as all prophets are.  But the man who sometimes acts as a prophet is not infallible.  That man is infallible only when he acts as a prophet does.

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