Tenth LDS President Joseph Fielding Smith believed that new revelation should not be accepted unless it coincided with previous teaching. He wrote, “My words, and the teachings of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them….We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man’s doctrine.” Other LDS leaders, however, did not concur with Smith’s position.
This was probably best illustrated in a story told by fourth LDS President Wilford Woodruff, and it has since been related in several general conference messages. In an 1897 conference speech, Woodruff recounted how he was present at a meeting in Kirtland, Ohio, when a “leading man in the church” had admonished his contemporaries to confine their revelations to the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants. Mormonism’s founder Joseph Smith responded by asking Brigham Young, who later became the second LDS prophet, to give his position on the matter. The story continues:
Brother Brigham took the stand, and he took the Bible, and laid it down; he took the Book of Mormon, and laid it down; and he took the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and laid it down before him, and he said: “There is the written word of God to us, concerning the work of God from the beginning of the world, almost, to our day.” “And now,” said he, “when compared with the living oracles those books are nothing to me; those books do not convey the word of God direct to us now, as do the words of a Prophet or a man bearing the Holy Priesthood in our day and generation. I would rather have the living oracles than all the writing in the books.” When he was through, Brother Joseph said to the congregation: “Brother Brigham has told you the word of the Lord, and he has told you the truth.”
Defining LDS Scripture. Page 55 of the LDS Church manual entitled Gospel Principles reads, “In addition to these four books of scripture, the inspired words of our living prophets become scripture to us. Their words come to us through conferences, Church publications, and instructions to local priesthood leaders.”
Several leaders in the Mormon Church have emphatically stated that the living oracles carry even more weight than the standard works. Speaking in conference in 1916, LDS Apostle Orson Whitney said, “No book presides over this Church, and no book lies 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. That is the constitution of the Church of Christ… There is no book big enough or good enough to preside over this Church.”
According to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, “Neither written scripture, nor natural theology, supercedes the ‘living oracles.’” In his “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet” speech given in 1980, Ezra Taft Benson insisted that the “living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.”
It is no wonder why Mormons are so confused about what their “official” teachings are!