Are LDS Prophets = ECF's?


It is very often asserted, both here and on other forums, that the prophets of the CoJCoLDS should be treated in the same manner as the RCC treats the ECF’s of its own past.

This assertion is made to show why we should ignore the more sensational or embarassing statements of past LDS prophets (such as from Brigham Young), as the RCC does not follow after every personal belief of the ECF’s. While a great thing for LDS apologists, it seems clear to me that it is a false premise.

The ECFs were not individual authorities within the RCC who were hailed as having direct revelations from God giving them the plain and simple “skinny” on what He wants the Church to do. Even today, with such dogma as Papal Infallibility, the RCC does not present the Pope as being the sole authority of the Church. Even those ECFs, such as Thomas Aquinas, who are widely revered by the RCC, did not have claim to specific power or delegation to reveal doctrine to the Church. And so when the Church politely ignores an obvious error on the ECFs personal belief or teaching, it is free to do so, because the ECF does not have an individual binding authority on the Church. The Doctrine of the Church has always been maintained through the collective inspiration of all the authorities of the church, so that the error of a few does not corrupt the Church corporate.

The “prophets, seers, and revelators” of the LDS Church, however, maintain their personal calling to having the exclusive rights to pronounce revelation regarding the church entire; and their claim as “revelators” steps well beyond “inspirational guidance”, but into the realm of manifest angels, and personal bodily visitation by God Himself. A perousal of the writings of the LDS prophets indicates a level of certainty borne from a claimed speaking with God, face to Face, not through inspired reasoning as utilized by ECFs. The Prophet of the LDS church is the sole place for an lds member to look for direction regarding doctrine; yes, the quorum of Twelve who also hold the same “preisthood keys”, however they are only allowed to exersize them in ordaning the next prophet. It is suggested that unless the church membership sustain a teaching of a prophet as being binding, then it is only the prophet’s opinion; but this assertion is in direct contradictoin to its historical useage, such as in the case of JS’s introduction of polygamy. Here is a practice introduced privately and secretly under the sole authority of the Prophet, in a matter that became “essential” to the salvation (exhaltation) of the church’s members (and was not sustained until many years later, under BY’s rule). The temple practices are another example of prophet directed, but unsustained, teachings that are critical to the mormon plan of salvation.

Compare Augustine’s (or any ECF, including any Pope of your choice) writings to the writings of JS recorded in the D&C. It will become clear that the the role and position of the LDS prophet is not a mere honorific or delegation, but the source, sole, and central player of the LDS faith; quite unlike any ECF or Pope (even the uppity ones).

So, I contend that it is quite a different matter to compare any RCC “authority” or respected father, with those who were the prophets of the lds faith; similar to comparing Apples to Cabbage.

The RCC never recognized or granted any authority to anyone comparable to the claims of the LDS prophets. As such, the RCC is perfectly within its rights, based on the roles played by them, to follow the biblical injunction to “test everything, and hold fast to what is good” while rejecting the rest. The nature of the authority, role, and claim of the LDS prophet, however, does not allow a TBM (true believing mormon) the flexibility to pick and choose which pronouncements they wish to hold on to; nor ignore the pulpit teachings of their prophet, while in that calling, under the false/contradictory premise that they are just a preacher in the church, respected to be sure, but otherwise negligable.

If one were to really compare apples to apples, or ECFs to appropriate LDs equivalents, then one should be looking at comparing Aquinas to Nibley; Augustine to Haight; or even Innocent III to Monson. This is a more accurate comparison of religious authority, and level of ability to effect binding doctrine upon the church, even though it cannot be a fully transparent equivalency, as the autocratic nature of the CoJCoLDS leads to a far different structure than the corprotate nature of the RCC.


You are correct that there is not perfect comparison between ECF, Popes, Catholic Saints, Catholic Scholars, Prophets, General Authorities, and LDS scholars.

Some of the broad stroke similarities are as follows.

The ordinary magisterium and LDS general authorities are not infallible, but they interpret scripture and teaching authoritatively.

Scholars from both camps exist upon a spectrum. Some align very closely with the authoritative interpreters of their religions, and others are very radical.

There is a clear concept of “common consent” within the CoJCoLDS and there seems to be a much forgotten concept of the same within the Catholic Church.

Some broad stroke differences:

By Catholic teaching no Catholic, Pope, Saint (with the exception of the Apostles), or scholar can receive supernatural public revelation. By LDS teaching the prophet may receive supernatural public revelation.

As a corollary to the no new revelation, the Catholic Church asserts that it hold to tradition. Things like extending the priesthood to women are strictly impossible in the opinion of the vast majority of educated Catholics. No such restriction exists within the CoJCoLDS. The church could extend the priesthood to woman even though LDS history has no evidence that this was done (and there is little to suggest this in the Early Church).

No LDS is infallible in any judgment (with the possible exception of the impossibility of leading the church into apostasy). The Pope under very specific circumstances is infallible and unable to teach error.

I would link Aquinas to Maxwell. Very scholarly and very spiritual.
I would link Newman to Nibley. Very scholarly but not known for their spiritual dimension.
St. John of the Cross to perhaps Joseph Smith or Elder Grohberg. Certainly spiritual, and no slouch with respect to scholarly writings, but known much more for their spiritual sides.

Anyway, I very much disagree with you as to what the intersection of history and doctrine with respect to the teaching authority have to say regarding the truth claims of the CoJCoLDS and the Catholic Church.

Charity, TOm


Naturally you will disagree. That is unavoidable, considering that we are now both on very different teams.

The specific names used for an example of more apt comparisons was purely arbitrary, so I will deferr to your assessment of more closely parallel capacities of the thinkers, save in the case of Smith.

The point is that the authoirty claimed by Smith (and therefore the rest of his prophets) is substantially different than that of anyone, pope included, has in the RCC; and therefore an equivalency cannot be drawn between an LDS prophet and any of the Church Fathers, as modern mormon apologia maintains.

That Smith, and others, relied on their own limited mindsets to develop their theologies is not refuted by me, but then I deny their status as prophets, as defined by themselves. This position is not open to the LDS church, unless they deny the nature of the revelations claimed by Smith, wherein they would be calling him a liar, something they cannot do without jepardizing the truth claims of the church. Smith did not rely on past scholars or theologians to make his pronouncements, and clearly did not admit to using reason, but only upon his supposed revelation direct from God; such is not arguable or supportable by other’s conclusions or opinions, either you believe they are real or not. Smith did not reveiw his revelations with a body of church scholars to check them for doctrinal soundness; you were forced to accept them, or become apostate.

The middle ground sought by the modern apologists does not exist, except in apostacy.

Finally, if you think that the dogma of Infallibility means that the pope cannot err, then you are truly mistaken as to what it teaches.


I hate Acronyms that have no definition.

What the heck is an ECF?


Early (or sometimes Eucemenical) Church Fathers


[quote=BJRumph]Naturally you will disagree. That is unavoidable, considering that we are now both on very different teams.

I suspect this is partially just semantics, but I have really not looked at us as being on different teams. At the end of the day in my world view our teams are much closer than you might think. In any case, I do desire for the CoJCoLDS to not be painted in a bad light. Part of this is done for the LDS and lurkers who come here. As is often the case, I have more that I could say to these people, but this is a Catholic board and I do not feel the need to always present the best LDS apologetic position.

[quote=BJRumph]The specific names used for an example of more apt comparisons was purely arbitrary, so I will deferr to your assessment of more closely parallel capacities of the thinkers, save in the case of Smith.

I realized that I did in fact err when I included Smith. It was my intention to compare his very spiritual side in the absence of a radically scholarly side with St. John of the Cross who I consider very spiritual. I realized after I posted that Joseph Smith’s prophethood placed him in a different place than St. John of the Cross. I hope my similarities and differences did however highlight my understanding of this.

[quote=BJRumph]The point is that the authoirty claimed by Smith (and therefore the rest of his prophets) is substantially different than that of anyone, pope included, has in the RCC; and therefore an equivalency cannot be drawn between an LDS prophet and any of the Church Fathers, as modern mormon apologia maintains.

I have very seldom seen any LDS apologists other than myself suggest that when Catholics excise quotes from past LDS prophets and draw conclusions they should recognize that similar quotes can be excised from their past leaders. So I guess you are speaking of me. I have demonstrated (IMO) in the past why the Catholic apologetic associated with the way that Vatican I defined infallibility is more problematic than is the LDS apologetic associated with what Joseph Smith claimed and the D&C teaches from the beginnings of the CoJCoLDS. For LDS who are really interested in this I can explain. But what I believe is important for Catholics to recognize is that the CoJCoLDS has procedures and practices associated with the elevating of the words of past prophets to binding doctrinal positions. If Catholics expect us recognize their procedures and practices associated with elevating the words of Popes to infallible positions (the making of dogma) then those same Catholic should allow for LDS to define ours.

On liars: We do not have to call Smith or Young or … liars. Clearly they were not infallible in all they did/said, but then never claimed this and LDS do not claim it for them.

[quote=BJRumph]The middle ground sought by the modern apologists does not exist, except in apostacy.

[size=3]Finally, if you think that the dogma of Infallibility means that the pope cannot err, then you are truly mistaken as to what it teaches.[/size]

The middle ground is the only place where one can live with their eyes open be they Catholic or LDS. I hesitate to demonstrate the truth of this, but there is no doubt in my mind that it is the case.

When I said, “The Pope UNDER VERY SPECIFIC CONDITIONS is infallible,” I thought I was pretty clear that I did not errantly believe that “Infallibility means that the pope cannot err.” I allow Catholics to teach me what infallibility is after all (despite the fact that I could declare special knowledge as an ex Catholic if I wished).

Charity, TOm


Hey TOm,

I know we’ve been over this like a gazillion times, but one thing that I have found troubling is that so many past teachings/presentations by past leaders are considered personal speculation. How can the leaders of the LDS church who are to guide God’s people in the restored church, do so much speculating and so little official teaching?

I understand that binding stuff is found in the 4 standard works, but that leaves so much open to each person’s interpretation. Abortion for example…since there is nothing (that I know of) in the 4 standard works regarding abortion, is it safe to assume that there is no official LDS position? That allows the ability for 1 LDS to believe that abortion is completely ok in any circumstance and another LDS to believe it is never acceptable.

I also understand giving due deferrence and respect to the current prophet’s teachings anyway. Which I have to assume is exactly what happened in past times, with past members. Which brings up the problem of people saying “the LDS church has never taught this”. When a prophet’s talk/teaching is brought up, they say “that’s just his personal speculation”. But it wasn’t for those during that time was it? Taking the abortion example from above. Several recent prophets have commented on the negativeness of abortion, and the faithful LDS follow that. If, in 30 years, a prophet begins teaching that abortion is good, the people of that time will believe and follow the prophet. Are they then going to claim that the LDS church never taught that abortion was bad and that all these statements were just personal speculation?


[quote=TOmNossor]The Pope under very specific circumstances is infallible and unable to teach error.


The Pope is NEVER infallible…I believe that his teachings are infallible when they concern morals or matters of faith.



Here is a discussion of the issue:

I agree with Tom on this one. It is under very rare and specific circumstances that the Pope makes such a pronouncement.

Ex Cathedra pronouncements have been made–like twice in the past 500 years. Since doctrine is so consistent and interwoven;) , it is usually fairly easy to address new situations using logical corollaries from previously addressed problems. An ex cathedra announcement is rarely necessary. Thus, an encyclical is already based on established doctrines, and does not specifically have to be declared ex cathedra.

Therefore, if a scientific assumption was part of the logical fabric of an encyclical, and later it is refuted, any resulting problems are not a challenge to the concept of infallability.

At least, that is my understanding. We got some loopholes. :wink:


Sorry TOm, in chasing after three kids while reading your response, I missed the qualifiers regarding the infallibility thing. My apologies.

I agree that yours and my positions are not that different at the end of the day, but that is not representative of the positions of either Church. As you have affirmed, your church claims an authority that mine says does not (and cannot) exist. While our philosophical musings can bring us together, at the end of the day, there can only be one church that is correct according to fact. Our own penchant for pseudo-gnosticism does not alleviate the plain contradiction.

I will here fully recognize that the CoJCoLDS leave sufficient room for individual members to concoct their own theological structures, as I did, and as you do. The point I would make, however, is that that very speculation is contrary to the spirit and purpose of the Restored Gospel presented by the church (or more particularly, Smith). That specualtion which is claimed that prophets like BY engaged in are the same speculations and “philosophies of man” that supposedly caused the Great Apostacy to begin with. If your prophets are only engaging in speculative exersizes, then they do not offer anything that cannot be found elsewhere, except apostacy from their own religious heritage. I would also remind that if such speculation leads to conclusions that are contrary to reveled truth, then they would be, of necessity, apostate.

Also, I was not specifically targeting you, as when I was creating this thread, I was thinking that the quotation of ECFs was wider-spread than you feel is true. As I cannot think of specific names or authors of articles read, I will, again, deferr to your assesment that it is a less than uncommon tactic; though not unique to yourself.

Personally (and mostly off-topic), the reason I find the “standard works only” theory of binding doctrine to be false is that the material presented in the D&C was followed as binding even prior to its publication (and therefore its subsequent sustainment). The practice of the church when founded clearly held Smith’s “revelations” to be binding, even without corportate approval. The factor of corporate approval is also less than real when you factor in that those who supported the revelation stayed with Smith, and those who did not, left the church as “apostates” (which was one of the nicer epithets for ex-mormons at the time). Also, as TK pointed out, there are doctrines taught in the church that have the expectation of being binding upon the membership that are not in the SW.

Hmm… if you will indulge me in a little quandary; answer me this:
If (for a commonly used example) BY’s Adam=God “theory” has not been declaired to be false doctrine within the SW (the “only” binding rule of the church), then is not its denial as speculative as the teaching it refutes? How then can you, or any lds, deny its teaching to those lds who have found through their personal “revelation” that it is indeed true? By what authority can you refute this prophetic teaching that does not undermine the refutation as well? Unless the church makes a binding pronouncement or refutation of the doctrine, then it cannot be denied to those members who embrace it, nor to those who point to it as a historical doctrine taught within the church, nor can any of the apologists reject it out of hand, except in your own private belief.

As I am sure you are familliar with, this is one of the historical reasons for the RCC’s creeds (the refutation of heresey). (out of curiosity) Do you think that your church will ever abandon its abhorrance of creedal statements, and actually produce a binding pronouncement of its Faith? The AoF is an early attempt, but since the actual practice and belief of the lds church has moved so far (you might say “deeper”) from the essentially empty articles presented, something new is needed, especially if the church wants the world to accept that what it has to say is what it really has to say (eliminating all but the most lurid particles of the anti-mormon industry) regarding its beliefs.

Otherwise, the current situation of one prophet teaching something, and another prophet saying it isn’t true (both under the same “speculative” authority), is going to continue, and what you end up with are a bunch of philosophers in one hand, and ostriches in the other. Where is the certainty of Truth in that? Where is the House of Order?

Wow, thanks for distracting me enough to articulate that in far less polemical terms than I have been so far. :slight_smile:

Caritas numquam excidit


Okie Dokie.

Unless others want to argue this and continue the subject, I would ask that you just write this entire thread off. While I support my position, the fact is that this thread has exceeded the bounds I had placed upon myself when first posting in this particular forum.

While I see no problem stepping in occasionally to lend my experience as an exmo to the various discussion in order to clarify the truthfulness of various claims (sometimes anti-lds, sometime pro) based upon what I know from my experience is what, if some of the lds here would assert, had to have been a rather apostate ward of the LDS church; I find it another thing together to spend my time and efforts to create new arguments (such as here), or vigorously assert others (as on certain other threads). Here, I have overstepped my self-imposed order.

I spent nine years of my life in the LDS church. At God’s direction, I have left it; so I don’t want to (nor feel I should) spend even more of my life on the LDS church. It is far more critical to my formation as a Christian that I learn about the paths set before me by God, than dwell on those that lay behind. Unless I am issued a calling to refute the LDS faith by my new church (extremely unlikely for a multitude of reasons), then I see no reason to do so as a hobby.

While I categorically deny the claims of the CoJCoLDS as being the true gospel of Jesus Christ; I also know as a matter of personal testimony & experience, that no amount of intellectual wrangling will convince either side to the truth of this, but only by the Grace of God and prayer.

For you RCC who think you can win by history, reason, or fact; I will simply affirm that you cannot. This is a spiritual war, and therefore only spiritual weapons will have any effect. No matter the obviousness of the Truth, it will not sway a committed believer (as would be true in any religion, but even so the more in this case). Only your prayers will be of any effect (an are arguably a more charitable means of warfare anyway).

No one is being enlightened here, so there is no justification for it, given my position. It is simply an effort to contend with someone who, while I generally hold in esteem, I now fundamentally am opposed to (as this thread has evolved into a BJRumph vs. TOm Nosser debate, something I did not wish to create, Sorry TOm).

So, as a matter of personal discipline, I will end my envolvement with this LDS forum here.

Sorry that I have wasted so much of your time. I hope I have helped some, though fear I may have only projected my own shame and anger into the forum, neither of which is called for. I wholly admit to my personal feelings regarding the LDS church to be irrational in regards to betrayal; afterall, I went in willingly enough, and with eyes more open than some I have taught (I think my FIL describes it best as a “mind so open yer brains fell out”).

I will say, however, that I have developed a better articulation (within my own thought) as to some of the more fundamental problems and “issues” I have regarding the church, so it wasn’t all bad; but as the ends do not justify the means, I will just eek out the best “good” of the situation, and abandon my error of discipline.

Caritas numquam excidit.

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