I ask this question, as a Catholic, because Mormonism is hierarchical in structure and has a lot of similarities with Catholicism, although seemingly they are superficial as in being surface impressions but I digress.

This question and the answers will help shed light on a lot of misunderstandings, I think. Most of us are familiar with the Catholic Pope (and these days he is quite popular) but the Mormon leader not so well known which is the Prophet.

The Specific Elements I Expect in the Answers:

On Church Management in General

  1. If the Prophet claims the Petrine Seat(by succession or?). The Petrine Seat is the leadership position given first to St. Peter and has traditionally been passed down from generation to generation by succession. The one who holds it essentially claims to be the main representative of Christ on Earth, the visible unifier of the entire flock(St. Luke 22:31-32 and St. John 21:15-17).

  2. If the Prophet has a College of Bishops/"Highest Teachers" in union with the Prophet which is supposed to aid him in teaching the Church as a whole.

  3. If the Prophet has jurisdiction as universal pastors of all churches. Meaning that he can operate in all churches as if he were the head of those individual churches, no need to appeal to the locals.

  4. If the Prophet is immune from being dethroned from the office of Prophet unless it is his own decision to step down.(Or can't he step down at all?)

  5. If Mormons are encouraged to listen to the Prophet above any other figure in the hierarchy in case of disagreement between the leader and others on none dogmatic issues, as well as disagreements outside of the Church on politics for example.

On Infallibility

  1. If the Prophet can claim to speak infallibly to declare new dogma or end theological discussions infallibly under certain conditions(if so what are they?) by virtue of his office in the eyes of God.

  2. If the Prophet in union with the College can claim to speak infallibly to declare new dogma.

Since this only deals with the Mormon side, as opposed to both the Catholic and the Mormon side in my previous question, I would like official and authoritative quotes for each element. One per element is enough, but if you do more it will be esteemed more exhaustive and that's a good thing.

  • can you clarify what the petrine seat is?
    – depperm
    May 3, 2018 at 14:30
  • Problem solved. May 3, 2018 at 14:46
  • Also thanks for the edit, didn't notice that. May 3, 2018 at 15:11

3 Answers 3


(1) Does the LDS Prophet claim the Petrine Seat?

The simple answer to this quesion is "yes," but that's not quite right. The LDS Church recognizes Peter as an apostle of Jesus Christ and as head of the primitive church by virtue of receiving the keys of the sealing authority (Matt 16:19).

However, we believe that the primitive church came to an end in a general apostasy. Jesus taught, "there needs be a falling away first," (2 Thes 2:3) and that falling away occured soon after the deaths of the apostles.

From an article "Simeon Peter" in the Feb. 1975 LDS publication Ensign we read:

This commission [receiving the sealing keys] did not create the first pope, for Peter never called himself bishop of Rome. ... Peter’s successors were not Bible scholars, ministers, evangelists, bishops of any kind, or even general councils of the church. Peter was an apostle raised to presidency and a prophet and revelator for the church. No one less can perpetuate his office in any Christian organization.

So, we believe the primitive church (the church of the original apostles) came to an end and therefore there is no continuation of it. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a restitution or restoration of something lost (Acts 3:20-22). Part of that restoration process must include (and did include) the keys to the sealing authority as were given to Peter, as well the keys of prophecy and revelation.

Therefore, yes, the LDS prophet claims the "Petrine Seat" from the perspective that he must be a prophet and head of the faith just as Peter was a prophet and head of the faith as were the prophets before him — by restoration following a prophecied general apostacy.

(2) Does the Prophet have a College of Bishops/"Highest Teachers" in union with the Prophet which is supposed to aide him in teaching the Church as a whole?

Again, the simple answer is "yes." When you see official references to the Prophet, you will see him identified as "Prophet and President of...". This is because there are two roles. The Lord calls and sustains His prophet, but the apostles call and the membership sustains the president of the Church. This distinction is important for a later question, too.

  • The Prophet and two counsellors form the First Presidency of the Church (D&C 107:22). For a detailed description of how this happens, see my answer to this other question.

  • The Twelve Apostles are a quorum equal in authority to the First Presidency (D&C 107:23-24). This quorum's purpose (beyond testifying of Jesus Christ) is to officiate and regulate the affairs of the Church under the direction of the First Presidency (D&C 107:33).

  • The Quorum of the Seventy are a quorum equal in authority to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (D&C 107:25-26). This quorum's purpose is specifically missionary work (proselyting) (D&C 107:34).

  • Authority is only equal when the quorums are acting (in each quorum) unanimously (D&C 107:27-29).

These three quorums constitute the group in the LDS Church that has primary responsibility to aid the Prophet. Further...

  • The First Presidency has authority to organize the Church as necessary (D&C 88:74-75; 117-120). Over the decades presidencies have been formed to support our youth organizations, women's organization, children's organization, sunday school, and welfare efforts. These presidencies, too, council with and aid the Prophet.

  • Additional information about these offices may be found on the LDS Church's website.

(3) Does the Prophet have jurisdiction as universal pastor of all churches.

Yes. Only the Prophet holds all the keys of authority in the Church and it is within his authority to reorganize any council or congregation within the Church. (D&C 107:65-67; 132:7)


The Prophet is not a dictator. All things are done in the Church according to the Law of Common Consent (D&C 26:2 and see the question I posted about it).

The only example I can remember of Church members voting against a proposal from the First Presidency was when the Provo, UT Tabernacle burned down. The building was destroyed and the First Presidency's initial decision was to demolish the remains and sell the land. When this was presented to Church members in Provo, they refused the decision. This led to President Monson's later announcement that the building would be rebuilt as a temple.

(4) Is the Prophet immune from being dethroned from the office of Prophet unless it is his own decision to step down (Or can't he step down at all)?

The call of Prophet is a lifetime call. Certainly, he can refuse that call should he choose at any time (though none has). Though we hold people to standards for advancement in the Church (such as minimum worthiness requirements to enter our Temples), no one is compelled to anything in the LDS Church.

However, the Lord has provided for His people should a day ever come that the President chooses iniquity. Bishops are called as judges, and the presiding Bishopric has one judicial duty: to try the President of the Church. This is discussed in D&C 107:73-84. Specifically quoting from verse 84:

Thus, none shall be exempted from the justice and the laws of God....

  • You'll note I shifted from "Prophet" to "President." As I mentioned earlier, there are two roles. The congregation of the Church can reject their president, but only the Lord can reject His prophet.

  • Technically this process can happen in either of two ways: either the president is tried by the Presiding Bishopric or the general membership vote to disapprove his call (Common Consent). Given that today's membership is about 16 million, getting 8 million +1 to vote against is fairly unlikely.

  • If I remember correctly, no president other than Joseph Smith has been tried for his membership. Joseph was tried three times — all during the Zion's Camp march — and was exonerated all three times.

(5) Are Mormons encouraged to listen to the Prophet above any other figure in the hierarchy?

Yes. Frankly, this is an odd question. It's like suggesting a U.S. citizen should listen to a senator above the President... The last time any sizable group in the U.S. did that it led to our Civil War.

Nevertheless, remember what I said above about the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the Quorum of the Seventy having to act unanimously to be equal in authority to the Quorum of the First Presidency. Individual members may have their opinions, but the quorums do not act contrary to one another.

It should be remembered that the concept of command doesn't exist in the LDS Church. No Bishop can command his ward, nor can the Prophet command the Church. D&C 121:41-44 teaches that the Priesthood is to be used:

by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile...

People are people and will upon occasion disagree, but by definition, if a disagreement cannot be politely resolved, something went very, very wrong. Ours is not a church of command.

Therefore, yes, we invite people to hear the Prophet's voice and obey, but we're not looking for slaves, or robots, or people who follow blindly. "...Men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will..." (D&C 58:26-29).

Like I said, kindof an odd question. Let's assume (as I obviously believe) that our current Prophet is, indeed, a living prophet of the living Jesus Christ. Why wouldn't you listen to him? Curious....

It should be noted that the primary purpose of the Law of Common Consent is to help people come to Christ. In rare occasions that's an expectation of clarification from the Prophet. In most cases, it's the member who needs to pray, study, ponder, and then pray to receive the testimony of the Spirit themselves. The LDS Church is not a democracy. We cannot tell the Lord what to do. The general membership does not have the right nor the authority to force, for example, social change upon the Church. Dictating to the Lord is a fast way to earn His wrath. the Lord's response to Habbakuk is a good example.

(6) If the Prophet can claim to speak infallibly...

The one and only person who is infallible is Jesus Christ. This is why we have the Law of Common Consent, so that issues can be brought before the Church (and, ultimately, the Lord) and resolved. We, as regular Church members, are invited to balance two teachings:

  1. "Whether by my voice or the voice of my servant, it is the same" (D&C 1:38). When the Prophet speaks the word of the Lord, we are expected to listen.

  2. "Study it out in your mind..." (D&C 9:8-9). We are expected to learn about and know the truth for ourselves.

Joseph Smith understood this basic balance when he taught that "a prophet [is] a prophet only when he [is] acting as such" (History of the Church, 5:265). And how do we know when he is "acting as such"? We study it, ponder it, review scripture, and then get on our knees and pray.

(7) Can the Prophet in union with the College claim to speak infallibly to declare new dogma?

"Infallible" is a big word. We believe the only infallible person is Jesus Christ, therefore the answer is specifically "no." This does not mean the doctrine isn't perfect and from the Lord. It only recognizes that imperfect Man is, indeed, imperfect. As I mentioned, this is why the Law of Common Consent exists. However, when the Prophet of the Lord in union with the Quorum of the Twelve and Quorum of the Seventy stand together to declare new dogma... maybe you should listen, study, review scripture, and get on your knees and pray.

  • An example of this was the acceptance by the Church of D&C sections 137 and 138 as doctrine of the Church and Declarations #1 and #2. In all these cases, the Prophet didn't simply declare and we listen. The Church was invited to accept the additional scripture and changes in Church policy by vote in Solemn Assemblies. It's a big deal.

As a contrasting example, consider the unaffiliated "FLDS" (Fundamentalist LDS) church run by Warren Jeffs. He believes himself to be infallible, as does his congregation. The mess they're in is a very good reflection of what happens when you believe a mere mortal is equal with God, which is what an infallible person must be.

The Priesthood is the authority to act in the name of God — but only at the level of God if the bearer is clean and purified of all sin (D&C 50:26-28). And even then, we do not command. The true followers of Christ pursuade through patience and long-suffering because there has ever only been one perfect person: Jesus Christ.

  • 1
    very nice answer, addressing parts of the question that I missed
    – depperm
    May 3, 2018 at 16:49
  • @depperm, like The Man said... "in the mouth of two or three witnesses...." Between the two of us, the OP has a lot to think about.
    – JBH
    May 3, 2018 at 16:53
  1. The LDS believe the prophet holds the same keys and authority that Peter held.

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are blessed to be led by living prophets—inspired men called to speak for the Lord, as did Moses, Isaiah, Peter, Paul, Nephi, Mormon, and other prophets of the scriptures. We sustain the President of the Church as prophet, seer, and revelator—the only person on the earth who receives revelation to guide the entire Church.1

  1. The prophet is assisted by two counselors and a Quorum of Twelve Apostles.

We also sustain the counselors in the First Presidency and the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators.1

There are other General Authorities and General Auxiliary groups that help lead and teach the church:

The General Authorities consist of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, the Presidency of the Seventy, the First and Second Quorums of the Seventy, and the Presiding Bishopric. (View General Authorities for more information on the roles of these leaders.)

The General Auxiliary presidencies consist of the Primary, Relief Society, Sunday School, Young Men, and Young Women General Presidencies.2

  1. In a sense yes. If a General Authority visits a ward(local congregation) he presides(meaning to occupy the leading position of authority) and will often be given an opportunity to address the congregation:

The bishop oversees ward meetings. He presides at these meetings unless a member of the stake presidency, an Area Seventy, or a General Authority attends...Presiding authorities and visiting high councilors should be invited to sit on the stand.3

  1. The prophet doesn't hold a throne and isn't king so there is no dethroning. The call to apostle or prophet is a life calling. Ezra Taft Benson said:

God knows all things, the end from the beginning, and no man becomes president of the church of Jesus Christ by accident, or remains there by chance, or is called home by happenstance4

Even prophets who become incapacitated with age or disease remain in their position, only those in the 70 or below will be released because of age or sickness. 5

  1. The LDS church takes a political neutral stance (It is too long to quote here, read for details)

  2. Mormonnewsroom lets us know that:

Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church.

Or more cleary put by James E Faust:

We make no claim of infallibility or perfection in the prophets, seers, and revelators

However, members are encouraged to trust the living prophet and heed his counsel:

We can always trust the living prophets. Their teachings reflect the will of the Lord, who declared: “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38).

Our greatest safety lies in strictly following the word of the Lord given through His prophets, particularly the current President of the Church. The Lord warns that those who ignore the words of the living prophets will fall (see D&C 1:14–16). He promises great blessings to those who follow the President of the Church:

“Thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;

“For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.

“For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory” (D&C 21:4–6).1

  1. Yes the prophet in union with the Twelve can declare new doctrine (though you won't find the word infallible used to describe any LDS doctrine). Mormonnewsroom continues:

With divine inspiration, the First Presidency (the prophet and his two counselors) and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (the second-highest governing body of the Church) counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture (the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price), official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith. Isolated statements are often taken out of context, leaving their original meaning distorted.

In quick answer on why you don't see the word infallible used to describe anything the LDS church teaches can be summarized from the Book of Mormon title page:

And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.

1 https://www.lds.org/topics/prophets?lang=eng

2 https://www.lds.org/topics/church-organization/how-the-church-is-organized?lang=eng&old=true and a list of the current leadership see https://www.lds.org/church/leaders?lang=eng

3 https://www.lds.org/handbook/handbook-2-administering-the-church/meetings-in-the-church/18.2?lang=eng&_r=1#182

4 https://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-of-the-living-prophets-student-manual/chapter-3?lang=eng

5 article with examples http://www.mrm.org/lds-prophet-incapacitated

  • If I understand this correctly, does this mean that the LDS Church's highest authorities attempt to teach infallibly sometimes yet never guarantee that what is taught is in fact infallible and is never to be changed? May 3, 2018 at 16:29
  • The LDS Church's highest authorities teach us what the Lord has told them. There is a potential for mistakes, misspoken word, or misunderstanding because we are all imperfect. The LDS believe though that if anyone has any doubt or wants to know for sure they can receive personal revelation and know from God if what the prophet has spoken is true.
    – depperm
    May 3, 2018 at 16:42
  • 1
    A great example is your previous question about blacks and the priesthood, Church leaders believed that a revelation from God was needed to alter this practice and prayerfully sought guidance. The revelation came to Church President Spencer W. Kimball and was affirmed to other Church leaders in the Salt Lake Temple on June 1, 1978. Even previous church leaders had formed untrue opinions and taught them as doctrine. Revelation resolved any questions
    – depperm
    May 3, 2018 at 16:43
  • @DestynationY, What's the basis of that question? Do you believe, for example, that if the Lord reveals how to organize something that He can't change his mind or react to changing circumstances? "Infallible" is a dangerous word, because it's usually used to absolve oneself of responsibility.
    – JBH
    May 3, 2018 at 16:44
  • 1
    @DestynationY Mormon system leaves room for agency and personal revelation. Hesitation/doubt is the opposite of faith. The prophet leads the Church, yes he can make mistakes, but it is not often that they do. If a person does have doubts, concerns, or questions they can get personal revelation from God. Usually, this results in a confirmation of what Church leaders have stated.
    – depperm
    May 3, 2018 at 17:52

With regard to your Element (1), it does not appear that the Petrine Seat is a Latter Day Saints [LDS] concept that concerns them. They have no respect for the Catholic Priesthood or papal claims of authority, as they say the early Church soon became corrupted. They believe the only legitimate spiritual authority on earth today lies with the LDS and is God-given. They claim that there are no legitimate Prophets or Priests of God outwith their religion.

With regard to your other Elements, they seem to show an assumption that the LDS view of prophethood might have parallels with the Catholic system. Or perhaps you are hoping they do, so that you can spot similarities and differences. This will hardly be possible unless you first grasp fundamental differences between the Catholic and the LDS systems of Church governance.

This is what the LDS Doctrine & Covenants states in 43.1-7, apparently a revelation given through Joseph Smith in February 1831 –

“1 O hearken, ye elders of my church, and give ear to the words which I shall speak unto you. 2 For behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye have received a commandment for a law unto my church, through him whom I have appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations from my hand. 3 And this ye shall know assuredly—that there is none other appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations until he be taken, if he abide in me. 4 But verily, verily, I say unto you, that none else shall be appointed unto this gift except it be through him; for if it be taken from him he shall not have power except to appoint another in his stead. 5 And this shall be a law unto you, that ye receive not the teachings of any that shall come before you as revelations or commandments; 6 And this I give unto you that you may not be deceived, that you may know they are not of me. 7 For verily I say unto you, that he that is ordained of me shall come in at the gate and be ordained as I have told you before, to teach those revelations which you have received and shall receive through him whom I have appointed. Quoted from https://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/43.1-7?lang=eng#p1

For the office of Prophet, see this official LDS link, https://www.lds.org/scriptures/gs/prophet?lang=eng&letter=P

This is a claimed revelation given through Joseph Smith on November 11, 1831. This section was associated with the organization of the Quorum of the Twelve in February and March 1835. The Prophet likely delivered it in the presence of those who were preparing to depart May 3, 1835, on their first quorum mission. The verses refer to the aforesaid Doctrine & Covenants, section 107.

1–6, There are two priesthoods: the Melchizedek and the Aaronic; 7–12, Those who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood have power to officiate in all offices in the Church; 13–17, The bishopric presides over the Aaronic Priesthood, which administers in outward ordinances; 18–20, The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the keys of all spiritual blessings; the Aaronic Priesthood holds the keys of the ministering of angels; 21–38, The First Presidency, the Twelve, and the Seventy constitute the presiding quorums, whose decisions are to be made in unity and righteousness (and this is the highest court in the LDS church.) See https://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/107.91-92?lang=eng#p90

Here is an extract from the book below, in a chapter about the Mormon Priesthood and Joseph Smith's claims about it:

"Smith and Cowdery were not eligible for the Aaronic priesthood. Only Israelites of the tribe of Levi and of the house of Aaron could be ordained to the Aaronic priesthood. Even then, they would have to demonstrate that their genealogy was complete. The Melchizedek priesthood, claimed by the Mormons as their higher priesthood, is mentioned in Smith's story:

'The messenger who visited us on this occasion and conferred this Priesthood upon us, said that his name was John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament, and that he acted under the direction of Peter, James and John, who held the keys of the Priesthood of Melchizedek, which Priesthood, he said, would in due time be conferred on us, and that I should be called the first Elder of the Church, and he (Oliver Cowdery) the second. It was on the fifteenth day of May, 1929, that we were ordained under the hand of this messenger, and baptized.' [Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith, 2:72]

"...There is no date given for the visit of Peter, James, and John to bestow the Melchizedek priesthood... "Peter, James, and John were chosen, in the Mormon scheme of priesthood, to ordain Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to the Melchizedek priesthood. This, they claim, was done sometime between 1830 and 1833, with no place or time stated and with no witnesses present. The episode was written into an 1830 portion of 'The Doctrine and Covenants', Section 27. About 420 words were added to this section, possibly three years after the revelation was given, with no footnote explaining the addition.

"Joseph Smith needed documentation for his adoption of the name 'Melchizedek' for this higher priesthood. Therefore, in his 'Inspired Version' [of the KJV], he augmented the story of Melchizedek by about 470 words, calculated to enlighten us on the personal background of Melchizedek and to explain his priesthood from Adam to the present. Here is a sampling of the material added to the story in Genesis:

'... And thus, having been approved of God, [Melchizedek] was ordained an high priest after the order of the covenant which God made with Enoch [who was 'translated' into heaven without dying]. It being after the order of the Son of God... And men having this faith, coming up unto this order of God, were translated and taken up to heaven. And now, Melchizedek was a priest of this order.' ['Inspired Version', Joseph Smith, re. Genesis 14:25-33]” Quote from the book Is Mormonism Christian? Gordon H. Fraser, chapter 10, The Priesthood (Moody Press, Chicago, 1977 edition) ends.

See also the official LDS link, https://www.lds.org/scriptures/gs/translated-beings?lang=eng

This is the basis of LDS Church governance – the Melchizedek priesthood, with the office of the First Presidency, the Twelve and the Seventy being the highest Court in the LDS church. You may judge for yourself if there are any parallels or even similarities with the Catholic Pope and the LDS Prophet and their supporting officials.

  • 1
    This appears to be more of an anti-Mormon rant than an answer to the OP's question. Your bio says you're not contentious. (A friendly jab), which is good since the site is dedicated to learning about what other denominations believe and avoiding the 1900-year argument. (Please note the apostle Paul first adopted the name "Melchizedek" for the higher priesthood. Hebrews 7. All due respect to Mr. Fraser.)
    – JBH
    May 3, 2018 at 17:05
  • 1
    Thanks JBH, I know that every time I quote from a source a group disagrees with I'm liable to be accused of being anti....[whatever]. However, I have made no comment about the LDS Melchizedek priesthood claims, or about the official LDS sources I have also quoted from. The only comment that is mine is on LDS disdain for Catholic claims re. papal and priesthood authority, with which no LDS person could argue, it's so well documented!
    – Anne
    May 3, 2018 at 17:10
  • I don't argue about it. I'm sure the Catholics are equally disdainful of LDS claims (and everybody else's). My point is you didn't answer the OP's question and what small portion of it you did address does not reflect official LDS policies or teachings. This site is not about expressing your disdain for another church or using unofficial sources to reflect any denomination's beliefs. We're all supposed to be better than that. Perhaps you should focus on helping the OP answer the other side of this question?
    – JBH
    May 3, 2018 at 17:33
  • Once I get some time on my hands I'll read carefully through all the answers and consider. And of course if there are more answers when I come back then that's just better. May 3, 2018 at 17:45
  • @JBG I did not express disdain for any group. I mentioned that the LDS 'have no respect for the Catholic Priesthood or papal claims of authority'. I quoted from the LDS D&C document which is official LDS teaching. The other source is not official LDS material but it gives details about their governance that absolutely adds to the answer, helping understand their stance. I offer info, even if only partial, to build up a knowledge base. I'm not interested in getting my answer chosen as 'best', but in contributing towards dealing with the question.
    – Anne
    May 4, 2018 at 16:37

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