No man is defeated without until he has first been defeated within. - Eleanor Roosevelt
Question #41266 posted on 12/14/2007 3:01 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I hear lots of people say that General Conference is only opinion, not scripture, unless they say "thus saith the Lord." I disagree. I have found that the scriptures themselves (especially the Book of Mormon) appear to be a compilation of sermons and journal entries, with very few "thus saith the
Lords." I think that we should accept, pending confirmation from the Holy Ghost, of course, the words spoken in General Conference as scripture.

What do you think? (I am seeking your opinions on the subject, not a definitive statement by which I should live)

- Pray for Gillian Gibbons! She needs it!

A: Dear Gillian's Friend:

First, what exactly does "thus saith the Lord" mean? From the FARMS website:
"Messenger Formula—"Thus saith the Lord" (found thirty-nine times in the Book of Mormon, e.g., 1 Nephi 20:17; Mosiah 3:24; Alma 8:17). Samuel twice used the expression, "therefore, thus saith the Lord" (Helaman 13:8, 11). The formula introduces oracular language, and hence is often found at the beginning of a pericope or section. Either God or a prophet is the speaker of the messenger formula. Its purpose is to indicate the origin and authority of the revelation."
Here are some statements of others from the Bloggernacle for your consideration, coupled with my thoughts.

From Times & Seasons:

Wade, playing the devil's advocate: "After all, I haveń’t heard too many 'thus saith the Lord' statements lately-couldń’t one assume that all modern day workings are just 'policy' and therefore okay to disagree with?"

I don't think people who draw a line between practice and policy are claiming that they need a "thus saith the Lord" to believe something is the will of the Lord.

Curtis: "Whether a thing a prophet states is a revelation from the Lord or not, I think it is entirely up in the air unless the person receiving the revelation states that it is from the Lord. Everything else is opinion. If Pres. Hinckley says, 'thus saith the Lord' I could be convinced. Other than that, what comes from the Lord and what comes from his own opinion are pretty much up for grabs."

Okay, maybe not.

From By Common Consent:

Jeffrey Gilliam: "The voice of the Lord would seem, under some versions of the expansion theory, to be concepts given from the Lord to Joseph́’s mind and then given in his voice. This would certianly seem to challenge the thesis that those 'thus saith the Lord' passages are really God́’s actual words. This reminds me of the passage in D&C 1:24."

Here is the scripture, for reference: "Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding."

I think this is an important point to remember. Commandments ultimately come from God, but they are put through the filter of our individual understanding.

Geoff J.: "'Thus saith the Lord' is just verbiage to me. Slapping a 'thus saith the Lord' in front of a revelation does not make it more true or more reliable and omitting the 'thus saith the Lord' does not make it more suspect. The revelation either reflects God́’s opinion and truth or it doesń’t — regardless of the language used. Our responsibility to receive personal revelation (à la Nephí’s example) on it is paramount. Í’ve also argued in several places that it is that personal revelation that changes us anyway — not Joseph́’s or any other prophet́’s revelations."

I like the bolded statement. "Thus saith the Lord," of its own accord, can neither prove nor disprove the veracity of a revelation.

It's a scripture mastery, but true, nevertheless: "What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same" (D&C 1:38).

I think mandating that those exact words come from our prophets and apostles is awfully prescriptivist and nit-picky to the point of ignoring the content of their message.

Our leaders definitely do testify that they have the authority to tell us the mind of the Lord: "If you are discouraged, if you are puzzled, if you are seeking for greater light, greater joy and happiness, investigate these revealed truths. Find out for yourself. Come and listen to a prophet́’s voice. I bear you my sacred witness that God lives, that Jesus Christ is his living Son—our Savior, our Lord, our king. I testify to you that Jesus Christ now speaks to the inhabitants of this world in this day and age through living prophets. I testify that true apostles and prophets now live who can and do say, 'Thus saith the Lord!'" ("Thus Saith the Lord," Elder Theodore M. Burton, Ensign, December 1971.)

If that's not a pretty clear indicator that both General Conference and our own inspiration include true revelation, I don't know what is. You are on the right track in your thinking. Keep up the good work.

A: Dear Pray-er,

President Ezra Taft Benson declared in a 1980 BYU Devotional Address that "The prophet does not have to say "Thus saith the Lord" to give us scripture."

Of course, at the time he was "only" the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and since furthermore he didn't preface his statement with a "Thus saith the Lord", I'm sure that some out there will question it anyway.

Personally, I agree with you. We sustain the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators. While it is important to receive our own spiritual confirmation of their words, I think it's a bit hypocritical to assume a "Guilty (of not being true revelation) until proven innocent" attitude toward their words.