Mormonism and church leadership/Independent thought

FAIR Answers Wiki Table of Contents

Latter-day Saints and independent thought

Summary: It is claimed that the Church teaches that we should not exercise independent thought. "When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done."

Jump to Subtopic:

Question: In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, when our leaders speak, has the thinking been done?

Question: Why did President Tanner say: "When the prophet speaks the debate is over"?

President Tanner's statement was referring to several specific moral issues

N. Eldon Tanner once said, "When the prophet speaks the debate is over." One critic of the Church even goes so far to state, "Some things that are true are not very useful + It is wrong to criticize leaders of the Church, even if the criticism is true + Spying and monitoring on members + Intellectuals are dangerous + When the prophet speaks the debate is over + Obedience is the First Law of Heaven = Policies and practices you’d expect to find in a totalitarian system such as North Korea or 1984; not from the gospel of Jesus Christ." [1]

President Tanner is speaking about several specific moral issues, which he outlines in his talk. He is not advocating that one should not think for themselves:

Why should there be any debate over the moral issues which are confounding the world today? From the beginning God has made his position very clear in regard to marriage, divorce, family life and love of children, immorality, chastity, virtue, and the high and holy role of women. Through his prophet today he reiterates the Old and New Testament teachings which are clear on these matters.
To gain these riches many engage in the debates on moral issues. The alcohol and tobacco industries and dealers in pornography are accumulating great wealth at the expense of the people and to the detriment of their health. With all the evidence of child pornography, it is deplorable that any parent would allow any child to be so exploited. Some children are being neglected and abused because their mothers are seeking worldly pleasures and careers outside the home. Many fathers are more concerned with their financial success than with the welfare of their wives and children.

We must turn all this about. We cannot serve God and mammon. Whose side are we on? When the prophet speaks the debate is over.

LDS Newsroom: "Belief in prophets and apostles at the head of the Church does not mean that members blindly follow their leaders"

Belief in prophets and apostles at the head of the Church does not mean that members blindly follow their leaders. While the prophet of God receives revelation and inspiration to guide the Church as a whole, revelation flows at every level, including to the leaders of congregations and to individual families and members. In fact, individual members are expected to seek that kind of divine guidance to help them in their own lives, in their responsibilities in the Church and even in temporal pursuits, including their occupations. Members are also expected to prayerfully seek their own “testimony” or conviction of the principles their leaders teach them.[2]

To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here


  1. Jeremy Runnells, "Letter to a CES Director" (2013)
  2. "Prophets," LDS Newsroom