Selected Teachings on
The Dangers of Criticizing
the Lord's Prophets

Joseph Smith (President)

I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the Kingdom. It is an eternal principle, that has existed with God from all eternity: That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 156–57)

Brigham Young (President)

I can tell the people that once in my life I felt a want of confidence in brother Joseph Smith, soon after I became acquainted with him. It was not concerning religious matters—it was not about his revelations—but it was in relation to his financiering—to his managing the temporal affairs which he undertook. A feeling came over me that Joseph was not right in his financial management, though I presume the feeling did not last sixty seconds, and perhaps not thirty. But that feeling came on me once and once only, from the time I first knew him to the day of his death. It gave me sorrow of heart, and I clearly saw and understood, by the spirit of revelation manifested to me, that if I was to harbor a thought in my heart that Joseph could be wrong in anything, I would begin to lose confidence in him, and that feeling would grow from step to step, and from one degree to another, until at last I would have the same lack of confidence in his being the mouthpiece for the Almighty, and I would be left, as brother Hooper observed, upon the brink of the precipice, ready to plunge into what we may call the gulf of infidelity, ready to believe neither in God nor His servants, and to say that there is no God, or, if there is, we do not know anything about him; that we are here, and by and bye shall go from here, and that is all we shall know. Such persons are like those whom the Apostle calls "As natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed." Though I admitted in my feelings and knew all the time that Joseph was a human being and subject to err, still it was none of my business to look after his faults.    

I repented of my unbelief, and that too, very suddenly; I repented about as quickly as I committed the error. It was not for me to question whether Joseph was dictated by the Lord at all times and under all circumstances or not. I never had the feeling for one moment, to believe that any man or set of men or beings upon the face of the whole earth had anything to do with him, for he was superior to them all, and held the keys of salvation over them. Had I not thoroughly understood this and believed it, I much doubt whether I should ever have embraced what is called "Mormonism." He was called of God; God dictated him, and if He had a mind to leave him to himself and let him commit an error, that was no business of mine. And it was not for me to question it, if the Lord was disposed to let Joseph lead the people astray, for He had called him and instructed him to gather Israel and restore the Priesthood and kingdom to them.    

It was not my prerogative to call him in question with regard to any act of his life. He was God's servant, and not mine. He did not belong to the people but to the Lord, and was doing the work of the Lord, and if He should suffer him to lead the people astray, it would be because they ought to be led astray. If He should suffer them to be chastised, and some of them destroyed, it would be because they deserved it, or to accomplish some righteous purpose. That was my faith, and it is my faith still. (Journal of Discourses, 4:297-298)

David O. McKay (President)

Murmuring against priesthood and auxiliary leadership is one of the most poisonous things that can be introduced into the home of a Latter-day Saint ("Four Guideposts," Improvement Era, Mar. 1969, p. 3)

Spencer W. Kimball (Quorum of the Twelve)

There is the man who, to satisfy his own egotism, took a stand against the Authorities of the Church. He followed the usual pattern, not apostasy at first, only superiority of knowledge and mild criticism. He loved the brethren, he said, but they failed to see and interpret as he would like. He would still love the Church, he maintained, but his criticism grew and developed into everwidening circles. He was right, he assured himself; he could not yield in good conscience; he had his pride. His children did not accept his philosophy wholly, but their confidence was shaken. In their frustration, they married out of the Church, and he lost them. He later realized his folly and returned to humbleness, but so very late. He had lost his children. (Conference Report, Apr. 1955, p. 94–95)

President [George Q.] Cannon warned...:

“If any of you have indulged in the spirit of murmuring and fault-finding and have allowed your tongues to give utterance to thoughts and words that were wrong and not in accordance with the spirit of the Gospel, … you ought to repent of it with all your hearts and get down into the depths of humility and implore Him for the forgiveness of that sin—for it is a most deadly sin.

The men who hold the Priesthood are but mortal men: they are fallible men. … [No one knows that better than they themselves.] No human being that ever trod this earth was free from sin, excepting the Son of God.…

This is true concerning all of the brethren, I am sure.

“Nevertheless, God has chosen these men. He has singled them out, … but He has selected them, and He has placed upon them the authority of the Holy Priesthood, and they have become His representatives in the earth. He places them as shepherds over the flock of Christ, and as watchmen upon the walls of Zion. And He holds them to a strict accountability … for the authority which He has given to them, and in the day of the Lord Jesus they will have to stand and be judged for the manner in which they have exercised this authority. If they have exercised it wrongfully and against the interests of His work and the salvation of His people, woe unto them in the day of the Lord Jesus! He will judge them.…” (Gospel Truth, p. 276.)

This same early apostle tells us that ... “those who lift their voices … against the authority of the Holy Priesthood … will go down to hell, unless they repent.” (Ibid.)

[He also] wrote: “[T]he officers of this Church … are responsible to God. God chose and nominated [them], and it is for him to straighten [them] out if [they] do wrong.” (George Q. Cannon, in Deseret Weekly, May 21, 1898, p. 708) (“We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet,” Ensign, Jan. 1973, p.33)

Harold B. Lee (Quorum of the Twelve)

I heard President [George Albert] Smith, and you heard him, four years ago from this stand, after there had been some scurrilous articles written about the Prophet Joseph Smith. He said this, and to me it was the ringing voice of a prophet speaking.

Many have belittled Joseph Smith, but those who have will be forgotten in the remains of Mother Earth, and the odor of that infamy will ever be with them; but honor, majesty, and fidelity to God exemplified by Joseph Smith and attached to his name will never die. (April Conference 1946.)

I paraphrase those words today and make them meaningful to us: "Many there are today among us who would belittle George Albert Smith, and J. Reuben Clark, Jr., and David O. McKay, but those who do will be forgotten in the remains of Mother Earth, and the odor of their infamy will ever remain with them: but honor majesty, and fidelity to God exemplified by the First Presidency and attached to their names will never die." (Conference Report, April 1950, p. 96-102)

George Albert Smith (President)

I stand here to plead with you, my brethren and sisters, not to permit words of criticism or of unkindness to pass your lips about those whom the Lord has called to lead us. Do not be found in the companionship of those who would belittle them or weaken their influence among the children of men. If you do, I can say to you that you will find yourselves in the power of the adversary. You will be influenced by him to go as far as possible from the pathway of truth, and if you do not repent you may find when it is too late that you have lost the “pearl of great price.” Because of your selfishness and your blindness you will have been led away, and your loved ones … will be sorrowing on the other side of the veil because of your weakness and your folly. (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith (2011), p. 63)

The adversary is not asleep. He is deceiving many and leading them to sin.… There are some who are teaching false doctrine; and some who are seeking to persuade men and women to violate the commandments of our Heavenly Father.… If the members of this Church who find fault with the leaders of the Church and criticise those who are giving their very lives to bless and benefit us would only pause long enough to ask prayerfully, “Which of these teachers is it safe to follow?” they would have no difficulty in finding their right course and would sustain those whom the Lord sustains. (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith (2011), p. 63-64)