General Conference, ‘A Message to the Rising Generation,’ October 1977; “I want to talk to you, the young people of the Church, frankly and honestly. … You are choice spirits, many of you having been held back in reserve for almost 6,000 years to come forth in this day, at this time, when the temptations, responsibilities, and opportunities are the very greatest. … You cannot do wrong and feel right. It is impossible!” – Ezra Taft Benson
Acts 23:12; “And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.”
Way back when in ’72, R&B recording artist Luther Ingram, topped the charts at Billboard with his recording ‘If Loving You is Wrong, I Don’t Want to be Right’. The song transformed itself into the common catchphrase people were using then, and still use today.
Who knows if Benson had this song in mind when he wrote his speech for General Conference a few years later. What is clear, however, is the statement isn’t true, and proof can be found in Bible. Making matters worse, Benson contradicted LDS canon. Consider the following –
Doctrine and Covenants 9:8-9; “But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. 9 But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought…” [emp. mine]
Moroni 10:4-6; “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. 5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. 6 And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is.” [emp. mine]
It’s well known that missionaries use those two pieces of LDS canon to tell would-be members this is how they can test for the truth of the Mormon gospel. Of course, neither verse is based on subjective reasoning. Rather, if the inquirer didn’t feel a ‘burning in the bosom’, it’s simply because they prayed for the wrong thing, or their prayers weren’t sincere enough. It serves as a no-fail litmus test, resulting in a 100% accuracy in the Mormon’s favor.
Another problem with Mr. Benson’s statement is found in Mormon history itself. His ‘promise’ completely contradicts what happened when Smith and friends tried to sell the copyright of the Book of Mormon up north in Canada.
We’ve listed a fair amount of the event to give context to what happened, but the last paragraph is the most important. Check out what David Whitmer had to say –
“…Brother Hyrum said it had been suggested to him that some of the brethren might go to Toronto, Canada, and sell the copy-right of the Book of Mormon for considerable money: and he persuaded Joseph to inquire of the Lord about it. Joseph concluded to do so. He had not yet given up the stone.
Joseph looked into the hat in which he placed the stone, and received a revelation that some of the brethren should go to Toronto, Canada, and that they would sell the copy-right of the Book of Mormon. Hiram Page and Oliver Cowdery went to Toronto on this mission, but they failed entirely to sell the copy-right, returning without any money.
…we were all in great trouble; and we asked Joseph how it was that he had received a revelation from the Lord for some brethren to go to Toronto and sell the copy-right, and the brethren had utterly failed in their undertaking. Joseph did not know how it was, so he enquired of the Lord about it, and behold the following revelation came through the stone:
“Some revelations are of God: some revelations are of man: and some revelations are of the devil.”
So we see that the revelation to go to Toronto and sell the copy-right was not of God, but was of the devil or of the heart of man. When a man enquires of the Lord concerning a matter, if he is deceived by his own carnal desires, and is in error, he will receive an answer according to his erring heart, but it will not be a revelation from the Lord.” – David Whitmer
How does Benson explain this one? If the revelation was given directly to none other than the prophet himself, and he was wrong, what hope is there for the ordinary member of the Church?
Like the Jews mentioned in our biblical passage above, you may think you’re ‘helping’ God, but if you’re not following His word you’re acting impetuously. We should all remember the wise counsel of Jeremiah 17:9 –
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?