The 14 Fundamentals in Following the Prophet of Mormonism April 8, 2011

The 14 Fundamentals in Following the Prophet of Mormonism

I’m not the Mormon expert here.

But here’s an aspect of Mormonism I’ve never heard before: The 14 Fundamentals in Following the Prophet, the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (as stated by Elder Ezra Taft Benson in 1980):

  1. The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.
  2. The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.
  3. The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.
  4. The prophet will never lead the Church astray.
  5. The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.
  6. The prophet does not have to say “Thus saith the Lord” to give us scripture.
  7. The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.
  8. The prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning.
  9. The prophet can receive revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual.
  10. The prophet may be involved in civic matters.
  11. The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.
  12. The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.
  13. The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency — the highest quorum in the Church.
  14. The prophet and the presidency — the living prophet and the First Presidency — follow them and be blessed; reject them and suffer.

YouTuber FlackerMan has an informative video explaining these rules in more detail:

I have so many questions about this…

Did Mormons ever take this list seriously? Do they still abide by it?

Is this one of those things all Mormons know of but no one ever talks about?

Is this just one crazy person’s list of rules to follow?

This person obviously takes it seriously… but is she the exception or the norm?

Help me understand what this is all about.

(via Reddit — Thanks to M.H. for the link!)

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I always called these the 14 “catch-all’s” meaning, there was always an explanation for anyone that asked questions about the above.

  • Someone You Know

    8. The prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning.

    That’s the killer, right there. The Mysterious Ways Clause. That gives the prophet license to do anything he wants, no matter how little sense it makes, and not have to explain it to anyone.

    And you thought it hard to make the U.S. Government accountable…

  • “#10 – The prophet may be involved in civic matters.” Let’s have the IRS check this one out…

  • My understanding (limited as it is) is that they still follow pretty at least pretty close to those. At least on the bit that a new Prophet can over-rule a previous Prophet because I know that’s been the case with polygamy. Older prophets allowed it but newer prophets overruled so in mainstream LDS it isn’t allowed right now. But then it could be again if a new prophet says it’s ok again.

  • Mortimer B. Jones

    I particularly enjoy #5 and #8. Doesn’t matter if you have can’t read and you make no sense…you’re a prophet! 😀

  • 11. The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.

    Hmmm. Me not noze y?

  • Jon

    Yup, the list is still considered relevant and was referenced within the last year in General Conference. (The bi-annual “This is what God wants you to know” worldwide broadcast.) I wouldn’t say Mormons are beat over the head with this, but I’d be very surprised to find a faithful member who would disagree with any of it.

  • asonge

    Mormonism has just achieved papal infallibility. Pity.

  • Val

    The list itself is not commonly known, but the doctrine in it is. As Jon says, you’d be hard pressed to find a faithful Mormon who would dispute any of it.

  • Anya

    From my experience, this is well-known and currently accepted doctrine. Not secret or obscure information. They really do believe this. Yeah, gotta love the “if you don’t get it, your reasoning is beneath us/you are too proud” angle. Guarantees you’ll win every argument when you set the wackadoo rules (“your earth-bound logic does not apply!”).

  • Steve

    Prophet = cult leader

    That’s what it boils down to. It’s a cult and their leader can theoretically dictate anything to the followers.

    Whether they actually obey or not is another matter, but the leadership could use the individual churches to coerce them. That’s what happened during Prop 8 when they trolled for “donations”

  • “The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.”

    Perhaps this is the reason why the LDS space program never got off the ground.

  • Claudia

    The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.

    The prophet knows what’s best, even when it’s abundantly clear he knows fuck all about the subject.

    The prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning

    It doesn’t matter if the prophet is obviously, demonstrably wrong, or incoherent, or completely illogical. The prophet is right because the prophet has special insight you don’t have. This is a neat trick, because it instantly means the prophet can declare literally anything to be true, and you’re required to accept that.

  • MaybeMormon

    I think you could DEFINITELY find faithful members who disagreed with some of those statements … but I can’t imagine a faithful member ever voicing said disagreement in front of other faithful members.

    The problem with the list is that anyone in the church who tries to disagree with the list then appears to be proud. (SEE the list.) If the people listening already know the person’s net wealth and know that money ain’t the problem, then the accusations of intellectualism will soon be lobbed at this poor fool.

    It was referenced in recent general meetings. However, there were plenty of people, including myself, who had never heard of it nor worried about it. But obviously some people thought the fundamentals needed to be revived. The author of the list, Ezra Taft Benson, is widely respected in the church, but as widely, though not by the same people, considered to be a fundie dinosaur. Some of those people would agree with #3, then conclude that since Benson is dead, the list no longer applies.

  • Julien

    Hemant, the prophet is still an integral part of the Mormon church – this isn’t just an ephemeral, feel good thing. I remember when I was Mormon, once a month or couple months we’d all go down to the local stake building for the world broadcast from headquarters of all the new revelation, and they would respond to world events, etc.

  • Val

    P.S. If anyone’s curious, “standard works” refers to the Bible, Book of Mormon, and a few other Joseph Smith-authored books.

    So the prophet trumps all those too.

  • David

    I spent several years teaching Seminary in the Mormon church, and these concepts are absolutely at the heart of their belief system. I like commentor Jon’s level headed analysis, but unfortunately I would have to disagree. These concepts (though not necessarily the list itself) are the most oft repeated and stressed doctrines in the mormon oeuvre. Anyone who doesn’t EMPHATICALLY believe them (or at least say they do) would be unable to attend the temple or progress in any way within the church. “Ryan” is absolutely right, in that this idea-that the current prophet trumps everything and everyone preceding him-gives them a get out of jail free card when it comes to any possible contradictions, unfulfilled prophecies or the like.

  • Anthony

    Based on 7. The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.

    I’m guessing rule 15 also exists but we don’t know it:

    15. The Prophet is full of shit.

  • Evan

    Having once been married to someone from a Mormon family a lot of those points sound familiar. I don’t think I ever heard them spelled out so clearly, nor all in one sitting, but I’ve heard most of them before.

  • Thegoodman

    I am beginning to think that the Mormon church is actually the craziest of the lot. It seems to be a dead heat between Mormonism and Scientology.

  • 4oz of reason

    Growing up Mormon, I never had all 14 points explicitly spelled out like that, but a lot of them were constantly present.
    @Thegoodman- I’ve seen it as the Christian Scientists inherited the crazy stick from the Mormons, then passed it on to the Scientologists.

  • These are actually more current at the moment than at any other time in the past 20 years that I can recall. In October they were quoted in two separate addresses at the semi-annual world broadcast from Salt Lake City. Last week (6 months later) they were referenced again. There is an active and lively discussion about them at the StayLDS.com forums.

    Tom

  • Ubi Dubium

    There’s something else I am hearing here too. The narrator who is objecting to the 14 points is apparently a serious Mormon, and has started using his brain. He is thinking about some of what he is being told, and is willing to discard it as hogwash if it doesn’t make sense.

    I hope he keeps that up. He won’t stay a Mormon for long if he does. I hope he talks to a lot of other Mormons on his way out.

  • @Ubi Dubium. It depends on what you mean by staying a Mormon. There’s always the option of staying without buying the party line. Staying for the fun of it. Staying because that’s where your folks are. Staying and using only the good parts.

  • Kamaka

    Hemant, read this harrowing tale for some insight into the mormon “I am the Alpha Male!!” bully-boy insanity.

    Fair warning: It ain’t pretty.

  • Karl

    Yup, it’s legit. This exact list isn’t codified as scripture (yet), but the various precepts are hammered into Mormons’ heads constantly. This is one of the primary reasons for my having quit the Mormon church: “follow the brethren” became more important than “follow Christ”. It was a while after leaving that I decided that the latter was bogus as well.

  • Karl

    @Kamaka: Warren Jeffs isn’t Mormon. Different church, though same heritage.

  • Kali

    From my experience that woman is the norm. Scary isn’t it?

    Growing up in the Mormon church I was constantly indoctrinated with those 14 points. “Watch general conference, it is scripture” “the living prophet speaks for god” etc, etc.

  • Kamaka

    @ Karl

    FLDS is a fundamentalist splinter sect of the mormon church. And there’s lots of mormon splinter sects, all started by some elder who had a “revelation”. (The “revelation” being HE wants the power.)

    FLDS isn’t a part of mormonism like your right hand isn’t a part of you.

  • I actually wrote a big post on Benson’s 14 Fundamentals not too long ago covering some of what you ask here: http://lifeasareader.blogspot.com/2010/11/function-var-s-document.html

  • Another ex-Mormon here. The “14 Fundamentals” aren’t canonized scripture, but they’re fairly well-known in the LDS church. One might hear about them in Sunday School every couple of years or so.

    My sense has always been that they’re considered “hard to follow but true” in the church. In other words, the reason Mormons discuss it every now and then is because they don’t do a great job of following them all the time. So individual Mormons who know about them don’t necessarily adhere to them rigorously, but most are probably unlikely to dispute the idea that they should.

  • Yes, the Mormons still follow that. Mormons know about it and talk about it, but they often don’t know the reference (this isn’t the first place this kind of thing is outlined). If you defy the prophet, to the Mormons, that’s a pretty serious offense. The prophet is the word of God. The Mormons sing praises to him and his position is one that is treated with much reverence. And everything the prophet says is considered better than the scriptures.

    I was Mormon and I taught this kind of thing. The Mormons don’t print the prophet’s words out all the time in scripture, but his speeches usually get printed, regularly, in their magazine called the Ensign. The prophet’s words are the only words in that magazine that are considered scripture.

    I did notice that some other exmormons in your comments seem to have a different perspective. I think that is because this list is taught to everybody, but it is never listed and presented as the list. Instead, it is incorporated into various lessons and talks and is not discussed from the source.

  • ff42

    As a Mormon for 49 years of my life (I stopped last June) I can definitely ‘testify’ Mormons do indeed take this list seriously and abide by it. This list is well known by believing and practicing Mormons (It was discussed twice in the last October ‘General Conference’).

  • Twilly Spree

    Not all Mormon experiences are equal. I’ve been active in the LDS Church since a teenager, served a mission and remain mostly active to this day. I first heard of this list when serving a mission in 1990, and maybe a dozen times since (most frequently, it is mentioned among disaffected believers on the Internet, at least in my experience.)

    As to the points, I believe most who consider themselves active, believing Mormons would agree to some more readily than others. Numbers 1, 3, 7, 8 and 12 would not raise much dispute; 13 is simply a statement of structure, and the last is harsher than many would speak outright.

    More would quibble with the others, but would do so carefully. Thus is the bigger problem in LDS culture. Living prophets may trump dead ones, but dead ones are never directly refuted, even when the modern-day Church goes directly against some rather explicit teachings (extending the priesthood to black males in 1978 was a shock to many, given that past leaders had predicted such a move would not take place before the Second Coming, for instance.) The “cafeteria” approach that Apostle Russell Nelson decried in his address to the LDS General Conference this past weekend is actually alive and well in mainstream Mormonism. Consider that Mormons are exhorted in their canonized scriptures to only eat meat “sparingly” – a visit to any LDS social function will put that notion to rest pretty quickly.

    So yes, Benson’s “14 Points” remain a teaching in today’s LDS Church – largely because LDS culture has not yet evolved a useful mechanism for discarding old teachings long after they’ve grown fuzz….

  • @porlob

    Did Mormons ever take this list seriously?

    Oh yes. The importance of the prophet is the thing that sets Mormonism apart from mainline Christianity more than any other.

    Do they still abide by it?

    Definitely. I don’t know any Mormons who will cite “Oh, that is a violation of the 12th fundamental,” but the ideas behind the 14 Fundamentals are very much instilled in members. While the list originated in 1980, it has been reiterated by church leaders many times since, including at General Conference in 2010.

    Is this one of those things all Mormons know of but no one ever talks about?

    While most Mormons are unlikely to cite the list directly (either because they don’t know it, or becuase they’re embarrassed by it), the principles laid out therein are at the forefront of mainstream Mormon thought and doctrine. For instance, one of most popular kids’ hymns when I was growing up in the church was called “Follow the Prophet,” all about blind allegiance to the words of church leaders.

    Is this just one crazy person’s list of rules to follow?

    The list was written by Ezra Taft Benson. 5 years after writing the list, he became President of the LDS church. Years earlier, he was US Secretary of Agriculture under Eisenhower. While he was certianly one of the most… paranoid… of modern LDS church leaders, I’ll leave it up to others to call him crazy. 😉

  • DavidH

    Yes, culturally, among the rank and file, the 14 fundamentals represent the common understanding of absolute loyalty and obedience to a human hierarchy. Moreover, it is considered impolite (perhaps apostate) openly to disagree with them. There are, however, counter strains to absolute obedience to a human leader in Mormonism, although they are typically not emphasized. Such as Joseph Smith’s stating that a prophet is a prophet only when speaking as such. Institutionally, the status of leaders technically depends upon the “common consent” of members, although the only practical way to deny consent for a practicing member is to politely de-prioritize (or even not notice) counsel with which one disagrees. Further, the authority of the President of the Church is in fact limited by scripture and practicality by required consensus of councils, in particular the First President and Council of the 12. In this, the modern Church differs in practice from the early Church when Joseph (or Brigham) led or made decisions often without regard to (and sometimes even in opposition to) opinions of the councils. Had the principle of unity of councils been observed in Joseph’s time, I doubt that polygamy would ever have become an approved practice at that time.

  • Does anyone know what film is shown admidst the video? it looks like it’d be really funny to watch, with the “prophet” saying to pet the animals

  • Flackerman

    Ashley,
    The movie clips come from a satirical film called “The Return of the Lost Skeleton”. It is a sequel to “The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra”.

    They are silly films that are dumb on purpose. But, if you are in the right mood, they are really funny.

    Thanks so much for sharing my video here. This is exactly the kind of discussion that I was hoping to kickstart.

  • martha

    IIRC, Mitt Romney did a fancy dance of rationalization around this issue when he was running for President. As Kennedy did with the pope when he ran for President.

  • Marianne

    I am Mormon. I do believe there is a prophet. I have personally never heard this talk before till today, but it’s right along with what we were taught growing up.

    We believe in prophets. We believe God would never stop giving direction to us.

    It’s not one of those hush hush we never talk about it things. It’s just an older Speech someone gave. It’s relevant to us, but not referenced that much.

    President Ezra Taft Benson was a general authority so it does hold some pull, and it is respected.

    The Gospel doesn’t change, just the method of teaching it does.

    I have a question…why d so many people hate Mormons?

    I can get being annoyed with us if missionaries came knocking on your door, but other from the occasional annoyance, why?
    Jehovah Witnesses do the same thing, and I hear a lot of more hate generated towards the Mormon direction.

  • Mr. One Two

    Not only do Mormons take this seriously… the 14 fundamentals were give twice during the october 2011 general conference. Scary as hell.

  • Like Mr. One Two said the ideas talk/speech originally given in like 1980 were just reiterated in LDS General Conference in 2011 by at least 2 LDS General Authorities. These ideas are alive and well and, yes, the fact that people buy into them is downright scary.

  • Cabezon

    What I find interesting is that there is absolutely no burden of proof placed on the man who claims the title “prophet”. What burning bush or transcendant experience has Mr. Monson offered up as part of his prophetic call?

    Mormons love to point at the Book of Mormon as proof that J. Smith had the power, but require nothing from any of his successors. Why is that?

  • Trina

    I am an active member of the LDS faith.  I believe strongly in the living prophet.  Since the questions you asked seemed to be sincere, I feel like you deserve answers from an active member of the LDS faith.  Yes, we take this list seriously and try to abide by it.   Most LDS members know of the concepts contained in these 14 fundamentals.  This was an address given at BYU.  It is not something that we memorize, it is simply principles that we tend to understand and be familiar with.  Pres. Benson didn’t formally cannonize them, they are simply principles that have been taught and understood since the restoration of Christ’s church.  In his address he gave a format, or an outline to what was already a part of the principles of the gospel.  It’s not his list, it’s not any specfic prophet’s list, whether you think that prophet or person, is crazy or not.  Parts of the 14 fundamentals, if not all of them can be found throughout all the eras of time where prophets communicated with God  in the Bible.  Hopefully that answers your first 3 questions. 

    I didn’t watch the video so I can’t answer the question about the individual. 

    But your last question or request:  “Help me understand what this is all about.”  I would like to give you my perspective.  To me it comes down to having faith or trust.  If you’ve ever had faith or trust in anything or anyone you know that it comes down to having experience with that person.  You know them by their works, what they produce and share with you and the rest of the world.  There seems to be a lot of fear in the comments that you have already received.  People that may think that think that the living prophet is giving us direction to do things that are cult-like and harmful.  It may surpize people to really learn what a living prophet has to say.  For the last few conferences (times where he delivers messages to the church) these are the topics I’ve heard President Monson talk about:  Love  your family.  Be true to your spouse.   Look for ways to serve others.  Don’t judge  others.  Be grateful.  Avoid pornography.  Take responsibility for your choices.  Be kind to those who are in need.  Stay out of debt and live within your means.
     
    The proof to me in in the living of these principles.  I find that if I try to follow what the prophet teaches I tend to be happier, my family tends to be happier.  I invite anyone to try it, the proof is in the experience.  The last fundamental says “follow them and be blessed, reject them and suffer.”  I believe this fundamental can be misunderstood.  It may appear to some that in that there is some sort “lightning will strike” punishment.  I take it to mean in my personal experience that the prophet has insight given from God who sees all things and knows all things.  And like a parent who warns a child that the stove top is hot gives us warnings that if followed will keep them from unnecessary suffering.  No matter how much that parent loves that child he cannot keep that child from the pain he or she will suffer if he or she touches the hot stove.  These principles that a living prophet gives to me are the same:  if I make choices to be unfaithful to my husband or I am ungrateful I will be opening myself and probably many people around me to pain and suffering. 

    This weekend October 1st and 2nd, is our semi-annual General Conference.  It is streamed live at lds.org.   You can hear a living prophet speak.  You can hear what he has to say and judge by his message what you believe.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity to respond. 

  • Clark Denson

    You should not be hated, however we non Mormons think you belief system is whaky and cannot understand why anyone wold espouse or believe whatvyou do. Frankly speaking it is weird. I believe the Bible and nothing but the Bible, Mormondom and living phrophets is being naive in my view. I see Mormondom as a genuine fake through and through and feel badly for those of you who have been indoctrinated over the last 175 years.

    Clark

  • Craig

    E.T. Benson: “Romney/Huntsman Won’t Save Constitution!” http://www.moneyteachers.org/Ezra+Taft+Benson+Mit+Romney+Jon+Huntsman.htm