Ever since I started networking online with other Latter-day Saints in the summer of 1992, I have been dismayed by the number of seemingly active saints who are in various stages of personal apostasy. Apparently, there are many who actively attend Church but do not feel it is necessary to follow the prophets, or at least they do not feel a need to hold the same “personal opinions.” When a Church leader says something in General Conference that they agree with, they call it revelation. But when they hear something they disagree with, they call it “personal opinion.” This feeling that we do not need to follow our prophet-leaders in matters of opinion and ideas is a form of personal apostasy, in my view. But that is just my opinion. What does the Church actually teach on the subject?
In True to the Faith we read:
When individuals or groups of people turn away from the principles of the gospel, they are in a state of apostasy….We now live in a time when the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored. But unlike the Church in times past, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will not be overcome by general apostasy. The scriptures teach that the Church will never again be destroyed (see D&C 138:44; see also Daniel 2:44).
Although there will not be another general apostasy from the truth, we must each guard against personal apostasy. You can safeguard yourself against personal apostasy by keeping your covenants, obeying the commandments, following Church leaders, partaking of the sacrament, and constantly strengthening your testimony through daily scripture study, prayer, and service.
The Church also teaches the following about personal apostasy from it’s Relief Society and Melchizedek Priesthood manual on the teachings of Brigham Young. In fact, it devotes a whole lesson on the subject. Among other things, Brigham Young taught:
When a man begins to find fault, inquiring in regard to this, that, and the other, saying, “Does this or that look as though the Lord dictated it?” you may know that that person has more or less of the spirit of apostasy. Every man in this Kingdom, or upon the face of the earth, who is seeking with all his heart to save himself, has as much to do as he can conveniently attend to, without calling in question that which does not belong to him. If he succeeds in saving himself, it has well occupied his time and attention. See to it that you are right yourselves; see that sins and folly do not manifest themselves with the rising sun (DBY, 83).[…]
One of the first steps to apostasy is to find fault with your Bishop; and when that is done, unless repented of a second step is soon taken, and by and by the person is cut off from the Church, and that is the end of it. Will you allow yourselves to find fault with your Bishop? (DBY, 86).
It is part of my testimony that we should daily strive not only to follow the Brethren in our actions, but also in our speech, writing, and even our thoughts and opinions. When we hear something that we disagree with, we ought to wonder what is wrong with our own opinion, how we should adjust our own thinking. Certainly our prophet-leaders are not infallible. They make mistakes. They have incorrect or untrue opinions from time to time. But with it all, they are very wise men. And their opinions are informed ones. Informed by what? Informed by the Holy Ghost, just as ours should be, and informed by constant conversation with other prophets of God. Therefore, when they are wrong, it is the exception rather than the rule. And when we disagree with them, we had better have a very good reason, or we will likely discover some day that the error was with us and not with them. Our default position should be one of agreement with the Brethren.