An excerpt from an internet discussion.  Interesting stuff.  It is all someone else's opinion, but interesting, still the same.

Thanks for relating the talk of the good brother in your ward! Although I continually try to be more understanding of people and the feelings they express in testimony meetings and sacrament talks, I think that he was right on target.

I was a little negligent getting back to some of you with the reference for President Clark's address on when a prophet (and other general authorities) speaks authoritatively.

Clark, J. Reuben, Jr. "When Are Church Leaders' Words Entitled to Claim of Scripture?" _Church News_, (July 31, 1954), 9-11. It is a little hard for most of us to access since the Church News is not on CD ROM. You can also find a reprint in _Dialogue_ 12.2 (Summer 1979), 68ff.

In the meantime, I thought that you would find this excerpt from Elder Widtsoe interesting:

Chapter 3. When Does A Prophet Speak As A Prophet?

John A. Widtsoe, _Evidences and Reconciliations_, p.236–39

"This is an old question. It was asked of the Prophet Joseph Smith and answered by him. He writes in his journal, "This morning . . . I visited with a brother and sister from Michigan, who thought that ‘a prophet is always a prophet'; but I told them that a prophet is a prophet only when he was acting as such" (Joseph Smith, _History of the Church_, 5:265).

"That statement makes a clear distinction between official and unofficial actions and utterances of officers of the Church. In this recorded statement the Prophet Joseph Smith recognizes his special right and duty, as the President and Prophet of the Church, under the inspiration of the Lord, to speak authoritatively and officially for the enlightenment and guidance of the Church. But he claims also the right, as other men, to labor and rest, to work and play, to visit and discuss, to present his opinions and hear the opinion of others, to counsel and bless as a member of the Church.

"Whenever moved upon by the Spirit of the Lord, the man called to the Prophet's office assumes the prophetic mantle and speaks as a mouthpiece of the Lord. He may then interpret the word of God, apply it to the conditions of the day, governmental, social, or economic, warn against impending evil, point out the better way, bring to light new truth, or bless the righteous in their endeavors. Such inspired deliverances are binding upon all who believe that the latter-day work came and is directed by revelation. There is no appeal from them; no need for debate concerning their validity. They must either be accepted or be subjected to the dangers of private interpretation This has been made plain in modern revelation: "Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his (Joseph's) words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;

"'For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith' (D. & C. 21:4, 5). In this commandment there is no limitation upon the prophet, as to subject, time, or place.

"Such official prophetic utterances to the Church are usually made in the great general conferences of the Church, or in signed statements circulated among the people. The phrase "Thus sayeth the Lord" may at times be used; but is not necessary. When the prophet speaks to the people in an official gathering or over his signature, he speaks as the Lord directs him. If a new doctrine or practice be involved in the revelation, it is presented to the people for acceptance, in recognition of the free agency of the Church itself, but once accepted, it is thereafter binding upon every member.

"Though the prophet may step out of his official role in dealing with the daily affairs of life, he can never divest himself of the spirit and influence which belong to the sacred office which the Lord has placed upon him. . . .

". . . How may the rank and file of the Church recognize the prophetic voice, whether official or unofficial, when it speaks? The answer is simple enough. A person who is in harmony in his life, in thought and practice, with the gospel and its requirements, who loves truth so well that he is willing to surrender to it, will recognize a message from the Lord. My sheep know my voice, said the Savior in the Meridian of Time. In this day, the Lord has given the key for our guidance."

Notice the emphasis on speaking in conference or in a letter/statement over his signature. Now whether this applies ONLY to the president of the Church or to the 15 men we currently sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators (poor Patriarch to the Church . . . but that is another story, for part of which you can see Bates and Smith, _Lost Legacy: The Mormon Office of Presiding Patriarch_), is another issue.

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