If anyone, regardless of his position in the Church, were to advance a doctrine that is not substantiated by the standard Church works, meaning the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price, you may know that his statement is merely his private opinion. The only one authorized to bring forth any new doctrine is the President of the Church, who, when he does, will declare it as revelation from God, and it will be so accepted by the Council of the Twelve and sustained by the body of the Church. And if any man speak a doctrine which contradicts what is in the standard Church works, you may know by that same token that it is false and you are not bound to accept it as truth.
I hold in my hand the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and also the book, The Pearl of Great Price, which books contain revelations of God. In Kirtland, the Doctrine and Covenants in its original form, as first printed, was submitted to the officers of the Church and the members of the Church to vote upon. As there have been additions made to it by the publishing of revelations which were not contained in the original edition, it has been deemed wise to submit these books with their contents to the conference, to see whether the conference will vote to accept the books and their contents as from God, and binding upon us as a people and as a Church.
There is only one safety; there is only one cure; and that is to take the pure and unadulterated word of God and set that up as our standard of measurement, and measure every creed and doctrine and dogma by that yardstick. That which will not square with the declarations of Almighty God we can lay aside as unsuited for the need of man. . . .
The Standard Works of the Church are the measuring rods the Lord has given us by which we are to measure every doctrine, every theory and teaching, and if there is anything that does not conform to that which is given to us in the revelations, we do not have to accept it. Whether I say it or anyone else says it, whether it comes through the philosophy of men, or whenever a statement is made, that is in conflict with what the Lord has revealed, you should know what course to take. So far as I am concerned, I will just put it aside. And I don't care how many men may believe it. I don't care how much backing it has in the world of so-called science or philosophy. If it does not harmonize with what the Lord has revealed, to me it is not worth anything.
May I just read to you from the Prophet Joseph what I assume is the responsibility for the living as well as for the dead. You all know the language for the dead. You all understand our obligation to seal our families back through every generation. What I'm not sure we have understood--in those revelations about work for the dead and baptism for the dead and sealings and why temples are built--is the language from the lips of the Prophet Joseph Smith himself about what we're obligated to do for the living, indeed the living in our own households, indeed, the children at our knee who eat at our table and pray at our beside. Let me give you that language from section 128: Quoting Malachi, the Prophet Joseph Smith said (I'm in verse 17 if anybody wants to follow):
Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
Now, I think everyone understands, especially in terms of the work for the dead, the idea of turning the heart of the children to their fathers, but what is the meaning for your family in turning the heart of the fathers to the children? I think he goes on to talk about that.
I might have rendered a plainer translation to this, but it is sufficiently plain to suit my purpose as it stands. It is sufficient to know, in this case, that the earth will be smitten with a curse unless there is a welding link of some kind.... It is necessary in the ushering in of the dispensation of the fulness of times, which dispensation is now beginning to usher in, that a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories should take place, and be revealed from the days of Adam even to the present time. And not only this. . . [not only the dispensational ties, but in our time in 1981 on this campus, in your home] . . . not only this, but those things which never have been revealed from the foundation of the world, but have been kept hid from the wise and prudent, shall be revealed unto babes and sucklings in this, the dispensation of the fulness of times.
As I understand it, that latter portion of the scripture just read has nothing to do with work for the dead or sealing back through generations to Adam. No, it has to do with things that have been hidden from the wise and prudent and they are to be revealed unto babes and sucklings in this, the dispensation of the fullness of times, in this, your home and mine, today.
The thing that all of us should strive for is to so live, keeping the commandments of the Lord, that He can answer our prayers. If we will live worthy, then the Lord will guide us—by a personal appearance, or by His actual voice, or by His voice coming into our mind, or by impressions upon our heart and our soul. And oh, how grateful we ought to be if the Lord sends us a dream in which is revealed to us the beauties of the eternity or a warning and direction for our special comfort. Yes, if we so live, the Lord will guide us for our salvation and for our benefit.
You and I have within our souls something like what might be said to be a counterpart of those radio tubes. We might have what we call a ‘go-to-sacrament-meeting’ tube, a ‘keep-the-Word-of-Wisdom’ tube, a ‘pay-your-tithing’ tube, a ‘have-your-family-prayers’ tube, a ‘read-the-scriptures’ tube, and, as one of the most important—one that might be said to be the master tube of our whole soul—we have what we might call the ‘keep-yourselves-morally-clean’ tube. If one of these becomes worn out by disuse or inactivity—if we fail to keep the commandments of God—it has the same effect upon our spiritual selves that a worn-out tube has in a radio.
(General Conference Sessions) declare eagerly and unequivocally that there is again a living prophet on the earth speaking in the name of the Lord. And how we need such guidance! Our times are turbulent and difficult. We see wars internationally and distress domestically. Neighbors all around us face personal heartaches and family sorrows. Legions know fear and troubles of a hundred kinds. This reminds us that when those mists of darkness enveloped the travelers in Lehi's vision of the tree of life, it enveloped all of the participants—the righteous as well as the unrighteous, the young along with the elderly, the new convert and seasoned member alike. In that allegory all face opposition and travail, and only the rod of iron—the declared word of God—can bring them safely through. We all need that rod. We all need that word. No one is safe without it, for in its absence any can "[fall] away into forbidden paths and [be] lost," as the record says. How grateful we are to have heard God's voice and felt the strength of that iron rod in this conference these past two days.
Nearly 70 years ago President David O. McKay, then serving as a counselor in the First Presidency of the Church, asked this question to a congregation gathered for general conference: "If at this moment each one [of you] were asked to state in one sentence . . . the most distinguishing feature of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, what would be your answer?"
"My answer," he replied, "would be . . . divine authority by direct revelation."
That divine authority is, of course, the holy priesthood.
President Gordon B. Hinckley has added his testimony when he said: "[The priesthood] is a delegation of divine authority, different from all other powers and authorities on the face of the earth. . . . It is the only power on the earth that reaches beyond the veil of death. . . . Without it there could be a church in name only, [a church] lacking authority to administer in the things of God."
Just four weeks ago President James E. Faust said to BYU students in their devotional: "[The priesthood] activates and governs all activities of the Church. Without priesthood keys and authority, there would be no church."
I begin tonight with these three brief citations (to which scores of others could be added) to stress emphatically just one point: that the priesthood of God, with its keys, its ordinances, its divine origin and ability to bind in heaven what is bound on earth, is as indispensable to the true Church of God as it is unique to it and that without it there would be no Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Continuing revelation does not demean or discredit existing revelation. The Old Testament does not lose its value in our eyes when we are introduced to the New Testament, and the New Testament is only enhanced when we read the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. In considering the additional scripture accepted by Latter-day Saints, we might ask: Were those early Christians who for decades had access only to the primitive Gospel of Mark (generally considered the first of the New Testament Gospels to be written)—were they offended to receive the more detailed accounts set forth later by Matthew and Luke, to say nothing of the unprecedented passages and revelatory emphasis offered later yet by John? Surely they must have rejoiced that ever more convincing evidence of the divinity of Christ kept coming. And so do we rejoice.