Is that doctrine? The Power of the Standard Works
It makes no difference,” stated President Joseph Fielding Smith, “what is written or what anyone has said, if what has been said is in conflict with what the Lord has revealed, we can set it aside. My words, and the teachings of any other member of the Church, high or low, if they do not square with the revelations, we need not accept them. Let us have this matter clear. We have accepted the four standard works as the measuring yardsticks, or balances, by which we measure every man’s doctrine. “You cannot accept the books written by the authorities of the Church as standards in doctrine, only in so far as they accord with the revealed word in the standard works. “Every man who writes is responsible, not the Church, for what he writes. If Joseph Fielding Smith writes something which is out of harmony with the revelations, then every member of the Church is duty bound to reject it. If he writes that which is in perfect harmony with the revealed word of the Lord, then it should be accepted” (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:203-4).
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. 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. (Mormon Newsroom, Approaching Mormon Doctrine)
Teaching the same principle, President Harold B. Lee said: “It is not to be thought that every word spoken by the General Authorities is inspired, or that they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost in everything they [speak] and write. Now you keep that in mind. I don’t care what his position is, if he writes something or speaks something that goes beyond anything that you can find in the standard church works, unless that one be the prophet, seer, and revelator—please note that one exception—you may immediately say, `Well, that is his own idea.’ And if he says something that contradicts what is found in the standard church works (I think that is why we call them `standard’—it is the standard measure of all that men teach), you may know by that same token that it is false, regardless of the position of the man who says it” (“Place of the Living Prophet, Seer and Revelator,” 14).(Joseph Fielding McConkie, Answers: Straightforward Answers to Tough Gospel Questions [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1998], 221.)