How often has it been taught that if you depend entirely upon the voice, judgment and sagacity of those appointed to lead you, and neglect to enjoy the Spirit for yourselves, how easily you may be led into error, and finally be cast off to the left hand? (Brigham Young, May 20, 1860 JD 8:59)
Some may say, “Brethren, you who lead the Church, we have all confidence in you, we are not in the least afraid but what everything will go right under your superintendence; all the business matters will be transacted right; and if brother Brigham is satisfied with it, I am.” I do not wish any Latter-day Saint in this world, nor in heaven, to be satisfied with anything I do, unless the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit of revelation, makes them satisfied. — Every man and woman in this kingdom ought to be satisfied with what we do, but they never should be satisfied without asking the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, whether what we do is right. (Brigham Young, October 6, 1855, JD 3:45)
What a pity it would be if we were led by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually. (Brigham Young, January 12, 1862, JD 9:151)
We have heard men who hold the priesthood remark, that they would do anything that they were told to do by those who preside over them, if they knew it was wrong: but such obedience is worse than folly to us; it is slavery in the extreme; and the man who would thus willingly degrade himself, should not claim rank among intelligent beings, until he turns from his folly. A man of God…would despise the idea. Others in the extreme exercise of their almighty authority have taught that such obedience was necessary, and that no matter what the saints were told to do by their presidents, they should do it without asking any questions. When Elders of Israel will so far indulge in these extreme notions of obedience as to teach them to the people, it is generally because they have it in their minds to do wrong themselves. (Samuel Richards, Millennial Star, 14:393-395)
42 And again, if thy foot offend thee, cut it off; for he that is thy standard, by whom thou walkest, if he become a transgressor, he shall be cut off.
43 It is better for thee, to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell; into the fire that never shall be quenched.
44 Therefore, let every man stand or fall, by himself, and not for another; or not trusting another.
45 Seek unto my Father, and it shall be done in that very moment what ye shall ask, if ye ask in faith, believing that ye shall receive.
46 And if thine eye which seeth for thee, him that is appointed to watch over thee to show thee light, become a transgressor and offend thee, pluck him out. (JST Mark 9:42-46)
President Joseph Smith read the 14th chapter of Ezekiel— said the Lord had declared by the Prophet, that the people should each one stand for himself, and depend on no man or men in that state of corruption of the Jewish church—that righteous persons could only deliver their own souls—applied it to the present state of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—said if the people departed from the Lord, they must fall—that they were depending on the Prophet, hence were darkened in their minds. (Joseph Smith, TPJS, 237-238)
I wish to notice this, we read in the bible that there is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon and another glory of the stars. In the book of Doctrine and Covenants the glories are called Telestial, Terrestrial, and Celestial, which is the highest. These are worlds, different departments or mansions in our Father’s House. Now those men or those women who know no more about the power of God or the influence of the Holy Spirit than to be led entirely by another person, suspending their own understanding and pinning their fate upon another’s sleeve will never be capable of entering into the Celestial Glory, to be crowned as they anticipate. They will never be capable of becoming Gods. They cannot rule themselves to say nothing of ruling others but they must be dictated to in every trifle like a child. They never can become Gods nor be crowned as rulers with glory, immortality and eternal lives. They never can hold scepters of glory, majesty and power in the Celestial Kingdom. Who will? Those who are valiant and inspired with the true independence of heaven, who will go forth boldly in the service of their God, leaving others to do as they please, determined to do right, though all mankind besides should take the opposite course. Will this apply to any of you? Your own hearts can answer. (Brigham Young, February 20, 1853, JD 1:312)
In the midst of all that we hear from this stand with regard to counsel and implicit obedience to counsel, you and I must have the testimony of Jesus within us, or it is of but little use for us to pretend to be servants of God. We must have that living witness within us. We need the light of the Holy Spirit continually, day by day, as you have been told hundreds of times. How easy it would be for your leaders to lead you to destruction, unless you actually know the mind and will of the Spirit yourselves. That is your privilege. (Brigham Young, June 28, 1857, JD, 4:368)
We can see now that a few who have relied upon others, who have sought the counsel of their file leaders and have depended upon that counsel when they can no longer reach those leaders, falter and fall by the wayside. I believe that God intends that every man and every woman in His Church and kingdom shall exercise the faculties which He has given them, that in the exercise of their agency He designs to exalt them in eternal glory. So long therefore as the people rely upon their leaders they are not manifesting that degree of faith, they are not in a position to think and reflect for themselves as they should. (Apostle Moses Thatcher, October 8, 1885, JD 26:328)
Conflicting Statements From More Recent Times:
My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it. (President Heber J. Grant, Speaking to Bishop Marian G. Romney, recounted in Conference Report, October 1960, p. 78)
The safe course is to sustain our priesthood leaders and let God judge their decisions. (James E. Faust, Conference discourse, April 1997)
Lucifer…wins a great victory when he can get members of the Church to speak against their leaders and ‘do their own thinking.’… When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan—it is God’s plan. When they point the way, there is no other that is safe. (Improvement Era, June 1945)