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.