Elder Ballard in 1999: Beware of false prophets and false teachers

M* would like to bring to your attention this talk from Elder Ballard at General Conference in 1999. Given many recent events, this warning is especially timely. Here are some key excerpts:

When we think of false prophets and false teachers, we tend to think of those who espouse an obviously false doctrine or presume to have authority to teach the true gospel of Christ according to their own interpretation. We often assume that such individuals are associated with small radical groups on the fringes of society. However, I reiterate: there are false prophets and false teachers who have or at least claim to have membership in the Church. There are those who, without authority, claim Church endorsement to their products and practices. Beware of such.

Therefore, let us beware of false prophets and false teachers, both men and women, who are self-appointed declarers of the doctrines of the Church and who seek to spread their false gospel and attract followers by sponsoring symposia, books, and journals whose contents challenge fundamental doctrines of the Church. Beware of those who speak and publish in opposition to God’s true prophets and who actively proselyte others with reckless disregard for the eternal well-being of those whom they seduce. Like Nehor and Korihor in the Book of Mormon, they rely on sophistry to deceive and entice others to their views. They “set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion” (2 Ne. 26:29).

Of such President Joseph F. Smith warned when he spoke of the “proud and self-vaunting ones, who read by the lamps of their own conceit; who interpret by rules of their own contriving; who have become a law unto themselves, and so pose as the sole judges of their own doings” (Gospel Doctrine, 381).

Now let me give you a few examples of the false teachings of those who read by the lamps of their own conceit, who, though “ever learning,” are “never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7).

False prophets and false teachers are those who declare that the Prophet Joseph Smith was a duplicitous deceiver; they challenge the First Vision as an authentic experience. They declare that the Book of Mormon and other canonical works are not ancient records of scripture. They also attempt to redefine the nature of the Godhead, and they deny that God has given and continues to give revelation today to His ordained and sustained prophets.

False prophets and false teachers are those who arrogantly attempt to fashion new interpretations of the scriptures to demonstrate that these sacred texts should not be read as God’s words to His children but merely as the utterances of uninspired men, limited by their own prejudices and cultural biases. They argue, therefore, that the scriptures require new interpretation and that they are uniquely qualified to offer that interpretation.

Perhaps most damningly, they deny Christ’s Resurrection and Atonement, arguing that no God can save us. They reject the need for a Savior. In short, these detractors attempt to reinterpret the doctrines of the Church to fit their own preconceived views, and in the process deny Christ and His messianic role.

False prophets and false teachers are also those who attempt to change the God-given and scripturally based doctrines that protect the sanctity of marriage, the divine nature of the family, and the essential doctrine of personal morality. They advocate a redefinition of morality to justify fornication, adultery, and homosexual relationships. Some openly champion the legalization of so-called same-gender marriages. To justify their rejection of God’s immutable laws that protect the family, these false prophets and false teachers even attack the inspired proclamation on the family issued to the world in 1995 by the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles.

Regardless of which particular false doctrines they teach, false prophets and false teachers are an inevitable part of the last days. “False prophets,” according to the Prophet Joseph Smith, “always arise to oppose the true prophets” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 365).

However, in the Lord’s Church there is no such thing as a “loyal opposition.” One is either for the kingdom of God and stands in defense of God’s prophets and apostles, or one stands opposed.

(h/t to Michael Davidson for bringing this talk to our attention).

10 thoughts on “Elder Ballard in 1999: Beware of false prophets and false teachers

  1. That’s certainly an unequivocal message, isn’t it? Thanks for posting this talk. I’m again so grateful for prophets and apostles. I really liked the sober counsel Elder Ballard went on to give:

    “Let us reach out in friendship and love to our neighbors, including those of other faiths, thus helping to build better family-to-family relationships and greater harmony in our neighborhoods. Remember, too often our behavior is a bigger deterrent to others than is our doctrine. In the spirit of love for all men, women, and children, help them to understand and to feel accepted and appreciated.”

    The best thing we can do in response to false prophets is to point people to the true prophets by reaching out in love. I do have a few questions now, though: How do we best engage with or reply to false prophets (if at all)–especially those who are members of the church? What happens when false prophets don’t know that’s what they are? And how do we avoid slipping into false prophecy ourselves?

  2. I’m reminded of a time when my missionary companion told me that a bus driver had lied to her. She claimed the bus driver had told her about a bus stop that my companion was certain didn’t exist.

    Turned out, the bus driver had told her the truth about the bus stop. But she preferred to think the driver had lied for some unknown reason.

    In a similar manner, there are those who think that there is some aspect of the gospel that can’t possibly be as represented by the Church. Like my companion, they are happy to run around proclaiming that they’ve been lied to. But they haven’t been lied to. They are simply uninformed and have closed their minds.

    As for me, I don’t follow the prophets merely because “authorities” make me do so if I want to hope for salvation. I follow the prophets because God has persistently (and patiently) invited me to do so. As I’ve grown, I’ve realized that God is right, but that realization is based not just on “faith” but on having proved God and found data that confirms what “authorities” have told me, even when those “authorities” didn’t know about the data that confirms what they have asked us to believe.

  3. Tom S., the false prophets/false teachers that Elder Ballard described in this talk fall into different categories based on their knowledge of the gospel, their history in the Church (i.e. should they know better than what they are doing/teaching?) and their motivations for engaging in their false teaching/false prophesying. However, for most of us it may be difficult or impossible to discern whether, for example, the teacher in question is making a knowing and calculated attempt to lead people astray despite their own clear and unambiguous knowledge of right and wrong or if such teachers have been deceived by another and is perhaps a bit more innocent of the original falsehood, though still in error for perpetuating it.

    In all cases, we can and should remain an example and bear testimony of truth, as much for the benefit of the false teacher and those in the vicinity that might otherwise be persuaded.

  4. More than a few times I have been reading or listening to someone with the thought “where have I heard that before?” After the first couple times I no longer needed to look in the index for “Korihor:” it is Alma 30. If indeed the Book of Mormon was written in a somewhat post-Elizabethan English, what I find fascinating is how “the enemies of the Church” (as President Benson might call them) often use almost the exact same phrasing found in the Book of Mormon. Eliminate the verse numbering and archaic punctuation and well, there you have it: the arguments of Korihor. If the Book of Mormon was only five pages long and it was this chapter my major conclusion would be: how did such an ancient record happen to get…us…so right? If I believed, as some of our more liberal friends do, that the Book of Mormon is not an ancient record but sprang from the mind of Joseph Smith my conclusion would be: how did he get it so right? It is obviously not lifted from the Bible. It doesn’t fit well, as best I can tell, from antebellum religious arguments swirling about Joseph. It is what it is and it stands on its own. Try this: open Alma 30 (or better yet, cut and paste Alma 30 somewhere and then cut out everything that is not a direct quote by Korihor, or a description of what he was asserting) and just follow along, side by side, with someone’s “anti…” argument. Notice any similarities?

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