In the summer of 1830 there was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints named Hyrum Page who claimed he had found a stone through which he was receiving revelations from God. While it may seem strange to us today, many members of the church believed his story and started listening to what he had to say. What made his story so believable to them was that Joseph Smith also claimed to have received revelations from God the same way. Since these people had accepted the fact that God did indeed speak to Joseph Smith it was easy for them to accept the same kind of story when told by someone else.
The problem this created was that the revelations Hyrum Page claimed to have received were not in harmony with what Joseph Smith claimed God had told him. As a result of these conflicting doctrines, the church which Joseph Smith had organized and started less than six months earlier in April, 1830 was in danger of being torn apart. Worse yet, what weighed heavily on young Joseph's mind was what he could tell the members of the church that would help them know what they should believe - his revelations or those of Hyrum Page.
As he had always done in the past, Joseph took his problem to the Lord and, in answer to his prayer, God gave the following revelation. He said, "behold, verily, verily, I say unto thee, no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church excepting my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., for he receiveth them even as Moses" (D&C 28:2). And a little later, in February 1831 the Lord further stated, "For behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye have received a commandment for a law unto my church, through him whom I have appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations from my hand" (D&C 43:2).
The Lord Himself has designated the pattern by which He gives revelation which is that the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only person who is authorized to give commandments and laws for the Church.
Unfortunately, this knowledge has not completely resolved the problem. Even in our day, there are members of the LDS Church who have reservations about accepting its president as speaking for God. This lack of acceptance ranges all the way from those who fully disagree with this statement of the Lord to those who merely have a difference of opinion with the president of the Church on certain select topics.
There are those who claim they believe in the teachings of Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants but who also proclaim that the leadership of today's LDS Church have strayed from the original teachings of Joseph Smith. It is their contention that the men who now lead and direct the LDS Church have become corrupted and are now as bad or worse than the other Protestant churches which God told Joseph Smith were an abomination in His sight (JS 1:19). They cite as evidence that Joseph Smith received direct revelations from God where he could say, "Thus saith the Lord," and that those written revelations have become canonized scriptures for the Church. However, these critics argue that today no Church leader even claims to have such revelations, nor do they claim to give us the direct words of God, nor do they give us anymore canonized scriptures. Hence, these critics of the Church contend that God has left the LDS Church and therefore its leaders are as devoid of God's Spirit as are all the other churches. Some of these critics even claim to have received revelations from God where He has told them this and they have started their own church complete with their own modern-day scriptures.
Then there are those who do accept the premise that the president of the LDS Church does speak for God, but they put limits on what he can speak about. They might limit him to speaking only about spiritual matters, but whenever he supposes to tell us how to govern the temporal affairs of our life they claim he is not speaking for God. Some limit their acceptance of what the president teaches to those things that are supported by the scriptures. That is to say, they don't accept as revelation anything that is not already expressly found in the scriptures, which might include such things as the Family Home Evening program or the Welfare program of the Church.
There are still others who accept all that the president teaches as long as they agree with it. They contend that God does not want us to blindly follow the words of any man but instead God has given each of us the divine right or agency to freely decide for ourselves what is truth and what isn't. Some even go so far as to say that blindly following the president of the Church is the same plan Satan presented before the creation of the earth where he proposed to force all men to follow him. Thus, these critics contend that we should be "led of the Spirit" rather than relying on the "arm of flesh" meaning should follow the promptings of the Spirit more than the preaching of our Church leaders.
All of these arguments are not much different in substance than that advanced by Hyrum Page. At its core, the message of each of these philosophies is that God does not speak to the world exclusively through one man but He can and does reveal His will to many others. This idea is further strengthened by the fact that the LDS Church teaches that each of us are entitled to receive revelation for ourselves, meaning that God can speak to and reveal things to each person individually if they are in tune with His Spirit. Some further reason that since the LDS Church teaches that all of us are children of God, it does not seem natural that God would speak to His children only through one person. That is to say, if God is truly our Father, then all of us have the right to commune with Him, which communication includes receiving revelations.
So the question becomes: How does God communicate His will to His children? Is it through one person who acts as God's spokesman or does He reveal His will to all who ask of Him (James 1:5)?
The answer is found in understanding the order of God.
The Lord has told us; "Behold, mine house is a house of order, saith the Lord God, and not a house of confusion" (D&C 132:8). Throughout the scriptures, the word "order" is used in two different but related ways. One way means to organize or have things done in a certain prescribed manner. For example, when the Lord gave Moses the design of how to build the tent of the tabernacle there were not only certain things that He required to be placed in it but there was a certain order in which these items were to be place (Exodus 39:37; 40:4, 23). In fact, everything that was done in this portable temple was to be done in a certain, prescribed manner or order (Lev. 1:8).
The second meaning of the word "order" is "to give a command, directive, or instruction" that is expected to be carried out. For example, military officers give orders to their troops and doctors write orders for prescriptions for their patients. In the same way, God gives orders to us that He expects to be followed. However, rather than calling them "orders" we refer to them as commandments. But when God does give us a commandment (i.e., an order) He also tells us exactly how He wants that commandment carried out. So when we talk about the order of God it has reference to both what He wants us to do as well as how He wants us to do it.
We see this most clearly in the commandment to be baptized. We are not only ordered to be baptized in order to enter the kingdom of God but in that directive God has also prescribed the manner or order in which the baptism is to be performed. And the same is true when it comes to being ordained to the priesthood or keeping the Sabbath day holy or any other commandment of God. It isn't enough merely to keep the commandments but we must also keep them according to the pattern or order which God has given us. So, what we see is that in all that God does, there is a proper order that must be followed. If that were not the case, then there would be confusion.
And the same applies to the way God communicates with his children. There is an order to the way He does this. And there is a good reason why. As the apostle Paul explained, "For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?" (1 Cor: 14:8). The scriptures often refer to us as being engaged in a spiritual warfare against Satan and his legion of followers. Since there are so many voices crying out in an effort to persuade us to follow their way of thinking, the only way we can properly prepare ourselves to be victorious in that deadly conflict is if we are certain of which voice to listen to for guidance and direction. Therefore God not only has to be consistent in how He reveals His word to us but more importantly He also has to reveal the manner in which He makes His will know to us. That way if we fail to recognize and follow God's instructions then it's not His fault when we go astray.
Throughout all the scriptures the clear pattern is that God speaks to mankind through the use of divinely appointed prophets. God spoke directly to Adam and Adam then conveyed the word of the Lord to his children and that has been the same way God has communicated His will in every dispensation. However, in every dispensation Satan's pattern has consistently been to send forth a multitude of his own messengers, each claiming to speak for God but each saying something different than the other.
From the very beginning Satan came to Eve and then to Cain, saying he was a son God and sought to persuade them to listen to his voice. He came before Moses demanding to be worshipped (Moses 1:12,13). Later, when Moses was seeking to lead his people through the Egyptian desert his brother Aaron and his sister Miriam rose up against him saying, "Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us?" (Number 12:2). All throughout the history of Israel there were false prophets who sought to lead God's chosen people astray by claiming they were speaking for God and, unfortunately very often they were successful in getting people to accept their claim.
In the early Christian church there many false prophets who went about teaching the saints doctrines that were not of God. The most prevalent of these false teachings was that the Gentiles had to be circumcised. But there were others who taught that there would be no resurrection (1 Cor. 15:12 ), or that the resurrection had already come (2 Timothy 2:18). There were those who taught that we should worship angels (Col. 2:18) and there were even those who denied that Jesus was the Christ (Jude 1:4). So numerous were these false prophets that Paul lamented that after his death these "grievous wolves" would attack the flock without mercy (Act 20:29). Throughout the entire Book of Mormon we find this same pattern being constantly repeated from the days of Lehi with his two sons Laman and Lemuel failing to heed the words of their prophet father all the way to Mormon whose his entire nation failed to follow his prophetic warnings.
In all these cases the pattern was clear and consistent. Those who listened to those whom God called and sent to declare His word prospered spiritually while those who chose to follow false prophets were led into spiritual darkness. The question then becomes: Since so many people come forth claiming to be sent of God, how do we know for certain who is a true spokesman for God and who isn't?
As we have already seen, Paul asked the question, "if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?" In the military, there are certain sounds or tunes that are played on a trumpet to notify the soldiers of what they are supposed to do. These tunes are referred to as bugle calls. For example, to alert a soldier that is it time to turn out the lights and go to sleep, a trumpeter plays the song "Taps." To wake the soldiers, the trumpeter plays the song "Reveille." But in order for a soldier to know what they need to do when they hear the trumpet play they first have to be instructed and become familiar with each song and its associated meaning. If a soldier were to hear a trumpet play a tune they didn't recognize they wouldn't know what was required of them.
In the same way, when God calls us to action He must have a clear and consistent way of letting us know what He wants us to do. If He were to send one spokesman to tell us to do one thing, another spokesman to tell us to do another thing, and yet a third spokesman to tell us to do something else then we could not be certain what He expects of us. Since God is not a God of confusion but of God of order then there has to be a certain order to the way God speaks to us.
The apostle Paul explained that order when he wrote, "And he gave some apostles; and some, prophets and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive" (Ephesians 4:11-14).
There are two important things these verses tell us. The first is that God established an organization known as the church and it is within that organization that He does all of His work. It is through the church that God perfects the saints. It is through the church that He edifies, teaches, instructs and strengthens the saints. It is through the church that the work of salvation in all of its many different facets is carried out.
In the days of Noah, eight people were saved from the flood because they obeyed God and entered an ark that was built according to the manner or order which God had shown His spokesman, Noah. (1 Peter 3:20). At that time the Lord did not provide the people with any other means of salvation from drowning. Only those who entered into the structure that Noah built were saved. All others perished. And the same is true of the church which Christ built. It is the only means given to man by which they can be saved from their sins and be kept from perishing spiritually. Those who refuse to enter Christ's church are left outside of its protection and must face the storms of the devil on their own.
Just like the winds of a storm can toss a boat about and blow it off course, the purpose of the church is to be like an anchor that keeps us from being tossed about and being carried away by every different doctrine that someone teaches as truth. The purpose of the church is to bring us to a unity of the faith and protect us from becoming scattered by our differences in beliefs. It's meant to bring us to a true knowledge of the Son of God and His plan of salvation. That is why salvation can only come to us within the organizational framework of the church. When people leave the church and seek for their salvation somewhere else they are forsaking the very means by which God has given us to become saved. More than that, they are rejecting the order that God has instituted to help keep us safely on the path to salvation. When that happens those people are in effect substituting their own order in place of that which God has established.
The second thing this scripture tells us is the order or organizational form of Christ's church. At its head are apostles and prophets. In the day when Paul wrote these words he was referring to the living apostles and prophets who currently were guiding the church, not the ancient words of the dead prophets. Next in order come the positions of evangelists, pastors, and teachers. But this list is not arbitrary in its order. What this list shows is an organizational structure, with one position being higher in authority than another. If this were not so, then there would be no order, in which case there would be confusion and chaos within Christ's church. (for more on this subject see "The Church That Christ Built" at http://14lds.com/church.htm)
And the same applies in business. In order to be successful, every company has to have one man who acts as its president. And the reason for that is because a company cannot succeed in business or at any other endeavor if there are two or more people who have equal power to decide what that company or organization should do. For the employees to have a clear understanding of what is expected of them there has to be one person at the head of the company who sets the policies and to whom the entire company looks to for direction. And the same is true of Christ's church.
Imagine what would happen in a manufacturing company if one of the workers on the production floor started telling their co-workers that the board of directors had told him that they should listen to him instead of to the president of the company. In all likelihood, most people wouldn't put much faith in that person's word.
In a military conflict there has to be one person who is in charge of the entire fighting unit because if anyone could start telling the soldiers what they should or shouldn't do, confusion would abound and the unit would lose the battle. This concept is very familiar and well understood by most people and yet there are many people outside of the LDS church and, unfortunately, even some inside the church who willingly accept the premise that God can and does speak through many different people and that they therefore are under no obligation to listen to what any man says, even the president of Christ's Church. And it is because of this very kind of thinking that has lead to there being tens of thousands of different Christian denominations in the world today.
However, the clear pattern the Lord has established is that there is only one person at a time whom God has appointed to preside over His church and he is known by the title of The President of the Church. Although he presides with two counselors who assist him and there are twelve other apostles who serve with him, God has nonetheless placed upon the president of the Church the duty and responsibility to make sure that the gospel is correctly taught and preached to every nation in the world, that the saints are perfected, and that the dead are redeemed. First and foremost, it is the president of the Church whom the members look to for guidance and direction. As such, there should never be any doubt or uncertainty as to who we should listen to, especially since there always have been and always will be those who will trumpet their own ideas. To keep us from being led astray by these pied pipers of religion is precisely why the Lord organized His Church in this manner. But whenever anyone, whether inside or outside of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints looks to any one else for their understanding of God's word, they are deviating from the order of God.