Ezra Taft Benson as president of the Quorum of the Twelve gives a controversial speech at Brigham Young University titled, "Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophets," including: ". The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything. 2. The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works. 3. The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet. 4. The prophet will never lead the church astray. 5. The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time. 6. The prophet does not have to say `Thus Saith the Lord' to give us scripture. . . . 11. The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich."
J. D. Williams, a professor in the University of Utah political science department, calls "Benson's speech `a plea in anticipation' of his becoming church president." Don LeFevre, public communications spokesman, responding to press inquiries, agrees that "Benson's speech accurately portrayed the church's position that a prophet can receive revelations from God on any matter--temporal or spiritual" and that "the prophet's word is scripture, as far as the church is concerned, and the living prophet's words take precedence in interpreting the written scripture as it applies to the present." However, he denies as "simply not true" a newspaper report which says the president of the church "is God's prophet and his word is law on all issues-- including politics."
The First Presidency immediately issued a statement that Benson was misquoted. However, it was difficult to finesse his words for the capacity BYU audience in the 25,000-seat Marriott Center or for the thousands of other Utahns who listened to the broadcast on radio and television of Benson's "Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophets." To most observers, Benson's 1980 talk at BYU was a defiant announcement of his own future intentions as church president.
[Anderson, Lavina Fielding, "The LDS Intellectual Community and Church Leadership: A Contemporary Chronology," Dialogue, Vol.26, No.1;Benson, "Fourteen Fundamentals In Following the Prophets," transcript of his talk to BYU's devotional, 26 Feb. 1980, folder 24, box 5, Buerger Papers; Devotional Speeches of the Year (Provo, UT: Brigham Young University Press, 1981); "Prophet's Word 'Law' Benson Tells Group," Ogden Standard-Examiner, 26 Feb. 1980, A-2; "Benson Backs Prophet on Politics," Salt Lake Tribune, 27 Feb. 1980, B-3; "Mormon Leader's Word Is Law—Benson," San Jose Mercury News, 27 Feb. 1980, A-2; "Interpretation of Speech Not Correct, Church Says," Ogden Standard-Examiner, 27 Feb. 1980, C-l; "Mormon Professor Says Benson Speech Was Plea Anticipating Rise to LDS Presidency," Idaho State Journal, 28 Feb. 1980, A-2; "U. Teacher Replies To Benson" and "Savant Hits 'Theocracy' He Says Benson Wants," Salt Lake Tribune, 28 Feb. 1980, B-l, B-3; "Pres. Benson Outlines Way to Follow Prophet," Deseret News "Church News," 1 Mar. 1980, 14; "No. 2 Mormon Says Leader's Word is Law," Los Angeles Times, 1 Mar. 1980, Pt. I, 35; "Benson Speech Stirs Speculation on LDS Changes," Ogden Standard-Examiner, 2 Mar. 1980, A-l, A-5; Sterling M. McMurrin, "Case for Vigilance," Salt Lake Tribune, 18 Mar. 1980, A-9; Dew, Ezra Taft Benson, 468-69. From D. Michael Quinn, Ezra Taft Benson and Mormon Political Conflicts, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 26:2 (Summer 1992), also in Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power Salt Lake City (Signature Books, 1994), Chapter 3.]