Wednesday, March 30, 2022

President J. Reuben Clark Jr. on feeling the inspiration of instructions from leaders

President J. Reuben Clark, Jr. (September 1, 1871 – October 6, 1961) was a prominent attorney who served as Under Secretary of State during the presidency of Calvin Coolidge, and later as the US Ambassador to Mexico. He was called as a counselor in the First Presidency to Heber J. Grant starting in April 1933, and was ordained an apostle a year and a half later. He went on to serve as counselor to Presidents George Albert Smith and David O. McKay before he passed away in 1961 at age 90.
"The very words of the revelation (D&C 68:2-4) recognize that the Brethren may speak when they are not 'moved upon by the Holy Ghost,' yet only when they do so speak, as so 'moved upon,' is what they say Scripture. No exceptions are given to this rule or principle. It is universal in its application.
"The question is, how shall we know when the things they have spoken were said as they were 'moved upon by the Holy Ghost'?
"I have given some thought to this question, and the answer thereto so far as I can determine, is: We can tell when the speakers are 'moved upon by the Holy Ghost' only when we, ourselves, are 'moved upon by the Holy Ghost.'
"In a way, this completely shifts the responsibility from them to us to determine when they so speak."
- J. Reuben Clark, "When Are the Writings and Sermons of Church Leaders Entitled to the Claim of Being Scripture?", address at BYU on July 7, 1954; see Church News, July 31, 1954
Click here to read the full article

The description of this event indicates that President Clark was asked to respond directly to the question about how we recognize "modern scripture" as delivered by Church leaders. His response is instructive and beneficial to us today.

One of the intriguing insights of modern scripture is the instruction given to early members of the Church through Joseph Smith, as recorded in 1831, where they were told that not only must the person delivering a message "preach it by the Spirit of truth" and by no other way, but also the one receiving must receive in the same manner, in order that the two may be "edified and rejoice together" (D&C 50:17-22). There is a power of communication that occurs when spirit speaks to spirit in this manner.

President Clark applied this same principle to the question of our interaction with Church leaders. They sometimes speak formally and authoritatively, based on inspiration from God; at other times, they may speak only personal opinion or commentary. Those who are in tune and practiced with the Spirit's role in communication will know the difference, and be edified as the Spirit teaches and confirms.

The article by President Clark goes on to consider other aspects of the question and is very worthwhile to review.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2022)
September 29, 2017

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