The Iron Rod Podcast
The Iron Rod Podcast
Iron Rod 023 - Can our leaders lead us astray?

One modern doctrine that is repeated quite often is that the leaders of the LDS Church cannot lead the people astray. Even if they wanted to, God would take away their agency and end their lives before allowing them to lead the people astray. While this doctrine is taught from the pulpit as an absolute promise from God, the scriptures have something different to say about the leaders in the last days. We review what God has spoken through his ancient prophets about the latter-day shepherds and leaders of the house of Israel.

2 Nephi 28:14
2 Nephi 13:12
2 Nephi 19:14-16
D&C 33:4
2 Nephi 26:29-31
Isaiah 28:7
3 Nephi 23:1-3
Jeremiah 50:6
Amos 2:4
Jeremiah 16:19
D&C 123:7-8
D&C 109:32, 62
Isaiah 28:14-15
Micah 3:5-7
Isaiah 5:5-6
2 Nephi 28:20-21
Isaiah 30:9-11
Ezekiel 14
Isaiah 56:9-12
Jeremiah 23
D&C 84:54-58
Mark 12:24
Alma 33:2
D&C 10:63
Hosea 4:6
2 Nephi 27:35
3 Nephi 16:10-12
Jeremiah 5:30-31
D&C 64:38

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17 comments on “Iron Rod 023 – Can our leaders lead us astray?

  1. Hey good stuff guys. I finally got caught up. Can you list the scriptural references as well as the quotes from modern leaders, including the Elder Oaks one about never questioning leaders? Thanks!

    • Here are some of the scriptures:
      2 Nephi 28:14
      2 Nephi 13:12
      2 Nephi 19:14-16
      Isaiah 28:7
      Jeremiah 50:6
      D&C 123:7,8
      1 Nephi 13: 5-6
      D&C 109
      Jeremiah 16:19
      Amos 2:4
      Isaiah 56:10-12
      2 Nephi 28:21
      Micah 3:5-7
      Jeremiah 23
      Hosea 4:6
      2 Nephi 27:35
      D&C 64:39
      Jeremiah 5:30-31

      Here is the link to the Elder Oaks video clip:

      • The scriptures provided by Searcher and MD stand together and for themselves. For those interested in more context around the statements made by Dallin H. Oaks and the video clip provided by Searcher, I have some URLS and thoughts from my own study below.

        Elder Oaks is quoted and seen in a video clip as saying
        ” It’s wrong to criticize leaders of the church, even if the criticism is true. ”

        As we know: context is important to fully understand quotes, scriptures, history, etc. I am a big proponent of allowing people to defend their views. In that light, I see it as important to capture the source of this quote and the related discussion around it.

        The statement referenced in the video clip was included in a 2007 PBS publication called “The Mormons” (Documentary transcript:
        * More detail and discussion around that statement can be found at in an article titled “Elder Oaks Interview transcript from PBS Documentary 20 July 2007” (Interview transcript:
        * Helen Whitney (the interviewer) asks for clarification about a statement made by Elder Oaks where he said: “Not everything that’s true is useful.”
        * He declares that this statement hails back to an address he made at a CES Symposium on the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History, 16 August 1985 titled “Reading Church History” (Link to audio and text:,%20Dallin%20H/OaksDH_ReadingChurchHistory.html)
        * In that address Elder Oaks also states: “Criticism is particularly objectionable when it is directed toward Church authorities, general or local. Jude condemns those who “speak evil of dignities” (Jude 1:8). Evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed is in a class by itself. It is one thing to depreciate a person who exercises corporate power or even government power. It is quite another thing to criticize or depreciate a person for the performance of an office to which he or she has been called of God. It does not matter that the criticism is true. As President George F. Richards of the Council of the Twelve said in a conference address in April 1947, “When we say anything bad about the leaders of the Church, whether true or false, we tend to impair their influence and their usefulness and are thus working against the Lord and his cause” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1947, p. 24). …The Holy Ghost will not guide or confirm criticism of the Lord’s anointed, or of Church leaders, local or general.”

        Another article/address by Elder Oaks echos his beliefs captured in the articles above:
        * ‘Criticism’
        * Published in the Feb 1987 Ensign as ‘An edited version of a talk delivered at a Latter-day Saint Student Association fireside in the Salt Lake Tabernacle on 4 May 1986’ (Link:
        * In this talk he seems to equate disagreement with or criticism of doctrine taught by church leaders with attacking the church leader personally. The first 4 paragraphs of his talk seem to identify this clearly; he equates it with fault-finding, evil speaking, and back-biting.
        * He seems to be promoting the idea that authoritative doctrine is taught simply by virtue of a position held rather than requiring the doctrine to stand for itself and the individual to defend it. In the scope of the rest of his context, he puts questioning the proposed ‘authoritative doctrine’ firmly in the realm of fault-finding, evil speaking, and back-biting.

        • Watcher May 14, 2019

          Evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed is in a class by itself. It is one thing to depreciate a person who exercises corporate power or even government power. It is quite another thing to criticize or depreciate a person for the performance of an office to which he or she has been called of God. It does not matter that the criticism is true. As President George F. Richards of the Council of the Twelve said in a conference address in April 1947, “When we say anything bad about the leaders of the Church, whether true or false, we tend to impair their influence and their usefulness and are thus working against the Lord and his cause” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1947, p. 24). …The Holy Ghost will not guide or confirm criticism of the Lord’s anointed, or of Church leaders, local or general.”

          I think the above statements are problematic, and not congruent with scripture and lead to idolatry. They imply infallibility based on priesthood calling.

          If it is categorically “wrong to criticize or depreciate a person for the performance of an office to which he or she has been called of God” why did the Lord provide a protocol for bringing the president of the church to a disciplinary council?

          According to scripture, it may be necessary to bring forth a criticism of how a leader is performing in their calling in order to bring them before a disciplinary council. Using priesthood authority in an inappropriate way, including the teaching of false doctrine can potentially even result in excommunication.

          It is just as important if not more so for leaders to be held accountable for their actions as the rest of the saints. The scriptures seem to indicate this.

          High Council member Sylvester Smith once brought charges against Joseph Smith for “criminal conduct” during Zion’s Camp. Although the high council ultimately found Joseph to be innocent, it nevertheless investigated the charges that were brought forth.

          Over the years there have been about 13 apostles of the church that have been excommunicated. 11 for apostasy. 2 for violating the law of chastity.

          How could these excommunications take place if nobody is ever allowed to be critical about how a person is performing their calling or even how they are conducting their personal lives while serving in their callings?

          • If that quotation is true, we have a serious problem with a good portion of the New Testament.

            Galatians 2:11-21 describes a confrontation between Peter and Paul. “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.” How dare Paul pass judgment on the President of the Church? Paul wasn’t even one of the Twelve Apostles! He is in no position to assign blame to his priesthood superior! Then he goes on in his impudence: “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin?” Is he suggesting that Peter is a sinner? Look at his criticism of one who was called of God in person, “But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel…” He’s saying that Peter, who walked with Jesus during his ministry, was not walking uprightly according to the gospel. And lastly, “I said unto Peter before them all” – he criticized the Lord’s anointed in public!

            If Oaks’ statement “The Holy Ghost will not guide or confirm criticism of the Lord’s anointed, or of Church leaders, local or general” is true, we must throw out the epistles of Paul and denounce Paul as an apostate.

            • Watcher May 15, 2019

              Great point!

              Another interesting account of a confrontation between two apostles questioning the appropriateness of how faithful another evangelist had acted in his stewardship is the confrontation between Paul and Barnabas regarding John.

              Barnabas wanted to take John the evangelist (Mark) with them on their missionary travels but Paul was critical of John for having previously not faithfully fulfilled a missionary assignment. Apparently John left an assignment early for personal reasons. The confrontation between Paul and Barnabas became so sharp that they parted ways.

              36 ¶ And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do.
              37 And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark.
              38 But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work.
              39 And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;
              40 And Paul chose Silas, and departed, being recommended by the brethren unto the grace of God.
              41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches.

              It isn’t really clear who was in the right in this multi-layered dispute. Leaders of the church are human and imperfect. It is clear that these priesthood brethren all held each other accountable in their various stewardships and were not afraid to call each other out and disagree with each other.

              Apparently John felt justified in leaving an assignment early despite Paul’s disapproval. Barnabas apparently felt John was justified or at least was willing to forgive him for his shortcomings.

              A disaffected Mormon recently posted a humorous but critical commentary about the idolatry of having members of the church stand up when an apostle enters the room.

              This kind of over the top reverence towards priesthood authority is very unhealthy and unscriptural and it is the kind of thinking that leads to the belief that nobody should ever question the actions of a priesthood leader or hold them accountable in their stewardship. I feel quite certain that the saints did not stand up in humble reverence when Peter or Paul or Alma entered the room. The Gospel of Christ encourages everyone to be treated with equality and respect for each other and everyone is to be equally held accountable in their various gospel stewardships.

    • Thanks! Since we know prophets can be fallible, do you make room for the scriptures, being written by prophets, to be fallible also? I’m not necessarily talking just translation or scribe related errors, but doctrinal misunderstandings too.

      • Hi Matt:
        This is one of those questions you are going to have to determine for yourself. I can just tell you that when you actually search you will see that true doctrine is taught consistently across the various books of Scripture.

  2. Brother Mike May 15, 2019

    Sounds like a certain masonic polygamist self-exalting western colonizer I’ve studied:

    “30 ¶ For the ships of כִּתִּים֙ [Cyprus] shall come against him: therefore he shall be grieved, and return, and have indignation against the holy covenant: so shall he do; he shall even return, and have intelligence with them that forsake the holy covenant.
    31 And arms shall stand on his part, and they shall pollute the sanctuary of strength, and shall take away the daily sacrifice, and they shall place the abomination that maketh desolate.
    32 And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and וְעָשֽׂוּ׃ [take action].
    33 And they that understand among the people shall instruct many: yet they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days.
    34 Now when they shall fall, they shall be holpen with a little help: but many shall cleave to them with flatteries.
    35 And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end: because it is yet for a time appointed.
    36 And the king shall do according to his will; and HE SHALL EXALT HIMSELF, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done.
    37 Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all.
    38 But in his estate shall he honour the God of forces: and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honour with gold, and silver, and with precious stones, and pleasant things.
    39 Thus shall he do in the most strong holds with a strange god, whom he shall acknowledge and increase with glory: and he shall cause them to rule over many, and shall divide the land for gain.”

    ~ Daniel 11:30-39 (Prophecy of a “king” preceeding the Second Coming of Christ)

  3. Thank you. Your work is deeply appreciated here. President Benson called us all to repentance for taking the Book of Mormon lightly.

    • President Benson promised “blessings hitherto unknown” for those who search and apply the Book of Mormon. If you search the internet with the words ” letter from H. Verlan Andersen to Ezra Taft Benson” you will see that Verlan was wondering if the apostasy foretold among the Lord’s people in the Book of Mormon might possibly apply to the LDS. That letter was written in 1968 and it was posted later on a site called Mormon Chronicles. I found it most interesting and evidence that at least one church leader was seriously considering the words of The Book of Mormon and “likening” them to us.

      • Brother Mike May 17, 2019

        Pres. Benson was also the greatest champion in recent memory for the entrenched position of presidential infallibility and inerrancy with his “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet” speech.

        We’ve been getting a mixed bag from the conference pulpits since 1844–the doctrines of Christ mingled with Brigham.

        • Thanks for the reminder. I followed your link and refreshed my memory. You are certainly right.

          • The “Follow the Prophet” mentality began with the June 1945 issue of the Improvement Era. The ward teaching message for priesthood holders was to relate the phrase, “When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done.” This message stirred up ripples among members of the Church as well as outsiders. Dr. J. Raymond Cope, the leader of the First Unitarian Society in Salt Lake, voiced his disdain: “This cannot be the position of the true leaders.” President Smith responded: …“it was not prepared by one of our leaders. However, one or more of them inadvertently permitted the paragraph to pass uncensored. By their doing so, not a few members of the Church have been upset in their feelings, and General Authorities have been embarrassed.”

            However, President Smith did not publicly contradict and clarify the false doctrine published in The Improvement Era. It gained momentum in the Church and the concept was repeated later by other leaders, including Young Women President Elaine Cannon who paraphrased it in October 1978 General Women’s Meeting as, “When the prophet speaks, sisters, the debate is over. Later in 1979, the First Presidency Message in the Era, N. Eldon Tanner, First Counselor in the First Presidency quoted sister Cannon (while dropping the “sisters” and capitalizing “Prophet) “When the Prophet speaks, the debate is over”. Because these statements have stood unchallenged, they have been repeated by other Church leaders and become established as doctrine.

            Fast forward to Ezra Taft Benson’s February 26th, 1980’s BYU devotional. In a packed house, Benson delivered his famous speech: “The Fourteen Fundamentals In Following the Prophet.”

            According to the book, Spencer W. Kimball, the authors, Andrew, and Edward Kimball wrote that a bomb went off in President Kimball’s office at Church headquarters when he heard of it. President Kimball was “concerned about Elder Benson’s February 1980 talk at BYU” and wanted “to protect the Church against being misunderstood as espousing . . . an unthinking ‘follow the leader’ mentality.” “President Kimball required Elder Benson to explain himself to a combined meeting of all general authorities the following week. Additionally, President Kimball asked Elder Benson to apologize to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, but they “were dissatisfied with his response.”

            Other than his private vetting of concerns and complaints, President Kimball apparently took no action to publicly repudiate, clarify, or distance the Church from Elder Benson’s fallacious statements.

            The famous talk reared its ugly head again in the October 2010 General Conference, passing by the eyes of the “Correlation Committee. Seventy President Claudio R.M. Costa in this talk titled, “Obedience to the Prophets” resurrected the erroneous Benson address. In the same Conference, it was repeated again by Elder Duncan, “because they are of such importance to our salvation”.

            In 2013, Benson’s address was approved by the infallible “Correlation Committee” and was published in its entirety in chapter two of the 2010 Teaching of the Living Prophets Student Manual, as well as the 2013 Doctrine and Covenants and Chruch History Seminary Teacher Manual.

            Because no leader has had the guts to repudiate or clarify these speeches and quotes from the past in a public forum, it seems the concept of infallible Prophets is now doctrine. It appears that God’s commandments have become secondary in the face of a scriptural instruction to do the opposite.

            Apparently, God himself is bound to honor the word of an errant prophet by blessing those who follow His contradictory counsel. (But, that’s another story).

            • Watcher May 21, 2019


              Great detailed research on the “thinking has already been done by the brethen” teaching. This will make a great addition to the blog series I will be doing on false doctrines that have infiltrated the church. I actually have a copy of the letter from Dr. J. Raymond Cope, the leader of the First Unitarian Society in my files somewhere, and also a copy of Pres Smith’s apologetic response to him.

              Thanks for reminding me about this embarrassing event in relatively recent church history!

          • At the end of the discussion, on this subject of being “led astray”, Searcher extensively quoted from Jeremiah 23. When he got to verse ten 10: “For the land is full of adulterers; for because of swearing the land mourneth; the pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up, and their course is evil, and their force is not right” – his added commentary pointed to the practicing of polygamy by the early saints.

            I would like to add to that commentary by pointing to Jeremiah 3. Since Christ is the “Groom” and we are considered the “Bride” I found this chapter very telling. It’s worth the read in its entirety. However, here are a few verses that really stand out to me:


Vs 1: They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man’s, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the Lord.

            This verse tells me that when his people replace Him with other “lovers” such as philosophies, beliefs, paths, or put leaders in front of Him, His people have become harlots and have committed adultery.

            Vs 3 Therefore the showers have been withholden, and there hath been no latter rain; and thou hadst a whore’s forehead, thou refusedst to be ashamed.

            Because of our transgression, latter revelation has been withheld and we have developed a “so what” attitude.

            Vs. 6 The Lord said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot.

            Vs 8: And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.

            Vs 9: And it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that she defiled the land, and committed adultery with stones and with stocks.

            As his people, we commit adultery when we look everywhere else for answers rather than His scriptures. Example, self-help books, councilors, Church and spiritual leaders or world philosophies. Guilty: On a personal note, for a couple of years in my youth I dabbled in “New Age” thinking. I had the candles, and stones and attended several seminars where I listened to Psychic’s channel spirits.

            Thank goodness for forgiveness. There is hope and a promise !!! There is the hope of Zion for those who return to Him.

            12 Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger forever.

            13 Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith the Lord.

            14 Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:

            15 And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.

            However, there is a warning for those who do not place Him first and put others before Him, including the traditions of our leaders and “Fathers” that have led us in the wrong direction.

            23 Truly in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, and from the multitude of mountains: truly in the Lord our God is the salvation of Israel.

            24 For shame hath devoured the labour of our fathers from our youth; their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters.

            25 We lie down in our shame, and our confusion covereth us: for we have sinned against the Lord our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even unto this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God.

            In the four generations since Joseph, so many faults concepts have been taught by leaders and our own fathers that have led us astray. We have been conditioned to put the brethren first in many ways. I can’t help but think about testimonies that are offered from the pulpit that testify that the “Church is true” and don’t mention the “Gospel”. They bear witness and offer love and appreciation for the living Prophet and often leave out Christ completely or mention him last.

            If I am off base in my evaluation and need correction, I welcome it.

            I feel grateful to live in a time where true knowledge and understanding is readily available and there are messengers willing to share insights. Thank you.

  4. KDG:
    Thank you so much for sharing Jeremiah Chapter 3 and relating it to how we commit “adultery” by looking to “harlots” instead of the Lord. Yet He is merciful if we will but acknowledge our faults as a people and return to him. I appreciate your deep thinking on the subject and sharing your findings. As will all Scripture, the more you look the more you find to validate what the Lord wants us to be doing, starting first with repenting of our backsliding ways. Unfortunately, we can’t repent if we think in our pride that we have the fulness. I believe that is why I feel so compelled to podcast with MD and Watcher. Together, it is our hope that we can induce some to awaken to our awful situation.