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Radio Free Mormon: 173: The Fourteen Fundamentals of Following the Prophet

RFM takes a deep dive into Ezra Taft Benson’s classic talk.  And comes up with a pearl or two for listeners!


32 thoughts on “Radio Free Mormon: 173: The Fourteen Fundamentals of Following the Prophet”

  1. My father always taught me as a child that Heavenly Father would never allow Ezra Taft Benson to become prophet, seer, and revelator. He would strike him dead first. I think that my dad’s burial plot has moved slightly when he rolled over in his grave.

    1. FYI RFM MY Dad was the assistant Sec. of Agriculture under Benson and get this 👍 he told me a decade later that he would leave the church if Benson ever became the prophet! ( obviously he didn’t because he was once a Bishop, three times a Stake President and a mission president )😂. I Love your posts so much. Please don’t use my name. Thanks for just being YOU!

      1. I remember back in the 1980s there was a lot of hubbub and consternation over Ezra Taft Benson becoming president of the church.

        The fear was he would take his Bircher activism into the office along with him.

        But everybody was pleasantly surprised when he became pretty much the standard type of church president, focusing on the Book of Mormon instead of communism.

        I do remember a priesthood general conference session, where he started ad libbing at the pulpit about how he had visited the saints in Europe after WW II.

        He talked about how poor they were. To the best of my recollection, he said they were so poor, “all they had to use for the sacrament were communist potato peelings!”

        It was at this point that Thomas Monson and Gordon Hinckley quickly moved to his sides and carefully moved him back to his seat.

        Does anybody else remember this?

        I don’t think it made the Director’s Cut on the church website.

  2. Great and mighty rfm. Praise be. Thank you for making my covid time something to look forward to. I have posted before but mormonism is far more interesting now, than the 40 years of me being in the church before I discovered you and bill.

    I am not sure where else to put this so you see it even though it has nothing to do with the episode. I have not had the honor of hearing your latest. I save them so I can have some on Sundays as well so they are delayed.

    Anyway I would love to hear your thoughts on any of the “now you know” utube series. I call correlated material now whitewashed whitewashed whitewashed material, the saints books and the utube know you know series whitewashed whitewashed material, the essays whitewashed material and ldsdiscussions Dan vogal, Todd Compton, mormonstories, mormondiscussionspodcast, and rfm etc the truth. My reason for saying this is with each level started from correlated material you see more of the truth it’s spun but small pieces show up. The other thing I am noticing is the church’s history is being rewritten and the church is not admitting they have changed their story. has done some good analysis on a few of the videos but I am wondering what other insights you may have that people have missed. Plus it’s great material for you to show how the church is aiming their new story admitting what used to be anti mormon lies.

    Thanks again.


    1. Dear Matt,

      I have watched a couple of the “Now you Know” Youtube vids put out by the church.

      They seem to be so short and so devoid of substantive content that I am not sure there is much grist for the RFM mill.

      I am interested if you have any particular thoughts about some of those videos.

      Thanks for commenting!


  3. I always thought this was Benson setting his future presidency up for unquestioned infallibility. I agree that it’s circular logic – trust me because I said you could always trust me.

    1. I have heard that speculation, as well; about ETB setting himself up by means of his laudatory comments regarding President Kimball.

      There may be some truth in that . . .

  4. Superb as always! How do you do it?

    The habit of prophets telling off apostles in private was a major shelf breaker for me. Back on somebody had transcripts from President McKay’s meetings. How he hated McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine, but decided not to ban it as that would make people no longer trust apostles. Like I said, major shelf breaker.

    Keep up the good work. Hope your day job hasn’t suffered too badly from these amazing nine weeks. Hmm… Another half week and you could have given Kim Basinger a run for her money.

    1. How do I do it? Magic, of course!

      Seriously, though, the example of the book Mormon Doctrine by BRM is another classic instance of just this sort of thing happening.

      President McKay was furious at RFM for presuming to publish a book titled Mormon Doctrine!

      I mean, isn’t that the bailey wick of the church president? Not some lowly seventy, which I believe is what BRM was at the time.

      But, of course, BRM had his father-in-law Joseph Fielding Smith in the Q12 and I’m sure he ran some interference for him, so President McKay let it be with a good tongue-lashing, and a promise he extracted from BRM that he would not publish a second edition without first running it by President McKay for his approval.

      Of course, BRM published his second edition with no more notice to President McKay than the first edition!

      If memory serves, BRM said he didn’t quite understand what it was President McKay had expected of him.

      Anyway, Mormon Doctrine became the most popular book in the LDS Church for decades, and was almost always taken to the pulpit by every speaker in every sacrament meeting.

      Once the speakers announced the subject on which they had been assigned to talk, they would open up Mormon Doctrine and read what BRM had written on the subject.

      That is why I at one time refereed to Mormon Doctrine as the fifth standard work. ;^)

  5. RFM — fascinating episode as always. The things I never knew!

    One quick point on the “Tambuli” references. It looks like Tambuli was one prior name of the LDS international language magazine (which is now called Liahona). See this link:

    According to the wikipedia article, Tambuli was the name of the English language version of the international magazine prior to 1995. So it would have been in English not tagalog or another native language.

    That Tambuli would be an English language magazine does not surprise me. The Philippines were a US colony for a while and a very large percentage of the population speaks English — the constitution declares Tagalog (a native dialect) and English the joint national languages. (There has been a national pride movement in the last few decades which has resulted in English being spoken less and native languages spoken more but a lot of Filipinos speak and read English to this day).

    Finally if you go to the following link on the LDS website:

    This is the June 1981 issues. You get a cover page which says “Tambuli” but the link address says Liahona probably because “Tambuli” was the English language predecessor to the Liahona. The Benson talk is shown there, in English.

    This is just a minor point, I still agree with the larger point that if the editors in 2015 wanted people to see the underlying talk they could have found more easily accessible references (including an internet link).

    Also, this raised the question for me as to whether (back in the day, pre-internet) the Commonwealth English speaking nations (UK, Canada, New Zealand, etc.) received the Ensign/New Era but the lower status, non-Commonwealth English speaking nations (i.e., the Philippines) received a different version. Something for further research, but no time to go down that rabbithole this evening.

    1. Hi, Rick!

      Thanks for sleuthing that out for me. So as I understand it, “Tambuli” was the former name of the “Liahona” much like “The Improvement Era” was the former name of “The Ensign.”

      That does make a lot more sense!

      As to your final question, it appears that at least in this one instance, the non-Commonwealth English speaking nations such as the Philippines did, in fact, receive a different magazine than the Commonwealth English speaking nations you mention.

      At least for the June 1981 magazine.

      The Ensign has the First Presidency message written by N. Eldon Tanner titled, “Sacrifice.”

      The Tambuli has the First Presidency message written by Ezra Taft Benson titled, “The Fourteen Fundamentals of Following the Prophet.”

      One would think if everybody knew about ETB’s speech appearing in Tambuli for that month, the same “First Presidency Message” would have appeared in “The Ensign.”

      Curioser and curioser.

      1. I thought Tambouli was the volcano where the heroes emerge at the end of”Journey to the centre of the Earth”. 😉

        1. Here’s the official explanation for the choice of the name, from the church website:

          Why “Tambuli”?

          In the Western world, use of the long-stemmed trumpet is often associated with the ceremony of heralding the arrival of royalty. Symbolically, the statue of Moroni atop the Salt Lake Temple, fitted with this instrument, is an inspiring reminder to the viewer that the King of Kings, Jesus Christ himself, will soon come to reign over mankind. It also symbolizes the preaching of the restored gospel throughout the world.

          Long before the expeditionary forces of Ferdinand Magellan landed on the shores of Mactan island in 1521, the instrument used to summon villagers to a meeting of barangay elders, or to warn of a common danger like fire or pirates, was the tambuli—an instrument fashioned from the horn of a carabao that produced long, melodious sounds. This method of communication persists to this day in some parts of the country.

          The tambuli is indigenous to the Philippines, as inherently Philippine as the balut and the katukong (a sturdy hat made from the round gourd). The tambuli is, therefore, a fitting symbol of the nationwide effort to disseminate the gospel in this country, in lieu of the Western bugle.

          “Tambuli” indeed more than satisfies the criteria for a truly inspiring name for the first magazine of the Latter-Day Saints in the Philippines, a publication designed to advance the work in this part of the Lord’s vineyard in these last days.—Baltazar G. Federico

          1. Radio Free Mormon


            Tambuli is a horn/trumpet indigenous to the Phillipines!

            That’s where I got the idea the magazine itself must be written in Filipino!

            Thanks again so much for tracking this down for me, Rick!

            It makes so much more sense now!


  6. Ah yes, the classic BYU Devotional talk that Spencer W. Kimball said to immediately discard that somehow still ended up as “doctrine” by the time of Hinckley.

    1. I am still wondering exactly what Ezra Taft Benson did behind the back of an admittedly ailing President Kimball to get his BYU Speech published in the Liahona as the First Presidency Message.

  7. The bottom line is: when it comes to Mormonism, the “Follow the Prophet” doctrine is not a false doctrine. In fact, it is the prime doctrine and the prime directive of the church. Even above the doctrine of Christ is the doctrine and the command to blindly follow no matter what. The Mormons do not like to admit that they are commanded to blindly follow their leaders. They apologetically try to cover it up and wiggle around it. Even your 2014 essay contains the apologetic that it is a false doctrine, and the leaders simply err in not correcting it. But the reason they do not publicly correct it is because they are in realty addicted to the control they have over the people. The Book of Mormon is replete with warnings against such (including 1 Nephi 22:23), but the leaders and the members are blind to it.

    1. I hear what you are saying, Matthew!

      What I was attempting to show in this episode, among other things, is that whether something is considered doctrine isn’t so much about whether you are going to “follow the prophet,” but rather which prophet you are going to follow. ;^)

      Thanks for listening!


  8. I love the removal of President Benson’s reference to “The White Horse Prophecy” about the constitution hanging by a thread.

    My understanding is that there are some questions about the reliability of that prophecy. But clearly President Benson loved himself some apocalyptic prophecies.

    1. Yes, as I recall, the provenance of the White Horse prophecy is a bit late and third-hand.

      Of course, those who don’t like it tend to focus on the iffy provenance to discredit it.

      But it is generally quoted for that bit about the Constitution hanging by a thread.

      And that particular idea can be found in other Joseph Smith sources where the provenance is a lot more sure. ;^)

  9. That was really interesting. I LOVE those fly on the wall perspectives ‘behind closed doors’ peeks at how it really went down. Can’t get enough!

    Can’t help thinking that president Kimball ‘protesteth too much’. I think what Benson did had a net affect that he may have secretly approved of or at least benefitted from. It’s sure fun to speculate..great essay!

    1. We have D. Michael Quinn’s incredible research to thank for the fly on the wall perspective as to what went on behind closed doors!

      Glad you liked the episode, Angie!

    1. If you want to PM me at my Facebook page, I could probably help you out with that!

      Thanks for your interest!

  10. Enjoyed the podcast. I wanted to add two things. First, this is an example of mormon prophets failing to perform the job they say they have. As I understood it, the number one item on the job description for modern prophets is to keep the flock from going astray, as the did the ancient flock, once the original apostles had perished. This is a case where a modern prophet apparently knew that error was creeping in and yet did nothing to prevent it. And second, this doesn’t seem to be the only time that prophets have failed to prevent error they knew was creeping into the flock. It seems that the way that David O.McKay allowed Bruce R. McConkie’s book Mormon Doctrine to go unpublicly challenged in order to save McConkie’s career as a leader is another.

  11. Priceless, RFM. I was chatting with a counselor in the bishopric once and referred to Benson’s nonsense that made its way with an obscure footnote into the priesthood and Relief Society lesson manual as ‘egregious’ just like you did. That’s kind of cool. The poor guy was alarmed that I would call anything in the lesson manual ‘egregious’.

    You do the world a service in pursuing the underlying pattern of heresy uttered by what are in effect false teachers that eventually metasticizes into doctrine by the lack of public correction from the president of the church.

  12. Great podcast RFM! I’m a new listener and have really been enjoying your work.

    I have some questions and comments about this episode:

    First, do you have a reference for how we know that Pre. Kimball reprimanded Benson for giving this talk? If you gave one I missed it.

    Second, I’d like to challenge some of your conclusions.

    You state that the kind of thinking represented by Benson’s talk and the earlier article from 1945 are a departure from the opinions of prophets like Kimball and George A. Smith, and seem to suggest that this thinking is a relatively recent phenomenon that has become inculcated in church culture due to those prophet’s failure to nip it in the bud.

    The last of those points is the one that I most want to push back on. A number of years back I wrote an essay that uses the 1945 article as a launch point to talk about the ways that the church controls the thinking of the members (here’s the link – the points I’m about to refer to are most relevant to the second half of the essay after the quote “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say” – In that essay I take each of the objectionable statements made in the 1945 article and give several quotes from church leaders throughout history that amount to the same message. In the end I conclude:

    “Many of the specific quotes listed above, and certainly all of the concepts, should be familiar to most Mormons, at least in their piecemeal form, because they are regularly referenced in every venue of the church. From General Conference talks, to Sunday School lessons, to Family Home Evening sessions – all of these messages are in circulation _today_.

    It seems to me that the only reason that the 1945 article raised eyebrows was because it gathered together in _one place_ the sum and substance of teachings like these that, together, constitute one of the pillars of control over the thoughts of church members. That, and because it crossed a superficial line in the sand when it used the word “thinking” where one would normally find a substantively equivalent but less alarming turn of phrase.”

    I think most of the quotes that I included in this essay to demonstrate that these messages are regularly taught by other means are post 1945 (I was especially interested in demonstrating that these ideas are still in circulation today) but a number of them are pre 1945 from notables like Brigham Young and Joseph Smith, plus the Bible and other LDS scriptures, and I’m sure I could find many more. The ultimate point being that I believe the attitude present in Benson’s 14 fundamentals talk have strong roots in the earliest teachers and doctrines of the church.

    I can’t speak strongly to what the true opinion’s of Kimball and G.A.Smith were, but I would suggest that what we have heard of their opinion’s on the matter are either inconsistent with the teachings of the church (as per my points above) or they are being disingenous (in G.A. Smith’s case), or objecting for reason’s other than an objection to the doctrine expressed by Benson and the author of the 1945 article. It may well be that the real problem with the Benson/1945 messages was simply that they committed the faux pas of stating the actual doctrine so clearly that people couldn’t help but see there is a problem with it. Alright, that’s a bit tongue in cheek… but only a bit, and it would go a long way to explaining just why those two never publicly repudiated those messages.

    Anyway, I’d love to know what you think of these conclusions.

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