Perhaps the most important doctrine found in all of Mormon Fundamentalism is the idea that, at some point after 1830 (when the Church was organized), leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have guided the Church into apostasy. This notion, when fully embraced, seems to justify the opposition and criticism launched from "Mormon Fundamentalist" camps against the Church.
God Controls Church Leadership
Regardless of what critics believe about Church leaders, it should be obvious that the Lord controls who is presiding as Church President. The Church President is always the "senior apostle" living upon the earth. Seniority is determined by the timing of their ordination as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (not upon the date they are ordained an apostle). Calls to be members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles come through the Church President.
Church Presidents are released from their callings through death.
Clearly, Heavenly Father controls both the calling and releasing of men who serve as Church President.
Would God Ever Permit His Prophet to Lead the Church Astray?
Since God is in control, is it possible that He would ever permit His Prophet to lead His Church astray? President Brigham Young gave an answer:
"The Lord Almighty leads this Church, and he will never suffer you to be led astray if you are found doing your duty. You may go home and sleep as sweetly as a babe in its mother's arms, as to any danger of your leaders leading you astray, for if they should try to do so the Lord would quickly sweep them from the earth." (JD 9:289, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 137.)
Wilford Woodruff also echoed this plain teaching:
"[T]he Latter-day Saints throughout Israel should understand that the First Presidency of the Church and the Twelve Apostles are led and guided by the inspiration of the Lord, and the Lord will not permit me, nor any other man, to lead the people astray." (given October 25, 1891, Collected Discourses 2:281-282.)
God Already Knows How His Prophets Will Lead
It makes no sense to believe that God would purposefully call a man to be an apostle and member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who would later as Church President lead Church members astray. Heavenly Father knows each of us intimately including any man called to lead His Church. He knows how each of us will respond to challenges and Church responsibilities. How does He know?
Prior to our mortal births, we lived with Heavenly Father for a very long time. Elder John Taylor, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explained, "although we came into corporal existence here, we existed thousands of ages before we came here" (The Gospel Kingdom, p. 12; italics added). It is difficult to know how long "thousand of ages" is referring to, but it might equate to millions or even billions of years (see Times and Seasons, 5:758). Elder Orson Pratt, a member of the Twelve Apostles, believed it might have continued for "unnumbered millions of years" (JD 18:290). During this time, the Lord was able to observe our spirituality and inclinations to accomplish righteousness.
In addition, God is not ignorant of the future: "all things are present before mine eyes" (D&C 38:2, see also Moses 1:6). The Lord knows "the end from the beginning" (Abr. 2:8). In ways we currently cannot understand, everything is an eternal "now" before the Lord.
In calling men to lead His Church on earth, the Lord was never choosing individuals He was unfamiliar with. No surprises were awaiting Him (or are awaiting Him) as He watches and prompts His prophets on earth. We might ask critics of the Church: "Why would our loving Heavenly Father ever call someone to be President of His Church who would subsequently lead sincere Church members down the wrong path?" The answer: He wouldn’t and He didn’t.
Members are Righteous, but not Perfect
It is true that the Latter-day Saints are not perfect. Church members could be more righteous. However, their imperfections have never been so severe as to cause Heavenly Father to jettison His Church by giving His Saints uninspired leaders. Divine gifts and inspiration are for individuals who "seek" to keep the commandments (D&C 46:9), to those who "sincerely strive" to do His will (D&C 109:68) and to be "followers of righteousness" (Abr. 1:2). This level of obedience has always been present within the Church, thus permitting God to keep true prophets at the helm of His earthly kingdom. And He has.
Through the Church, the Gospel "Rolls Forth to Fill the Whole Earth"
In 1831 the Lord revealed:
"The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth, and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth." (D&C 65:2.)
Here Heavenly Father compares the gospel to a stone which is destined to "roll forth until it has filled the whole earth." The Lord in 1831 could make that prophesy because He knew every man who would be called to lead His Church until the millennium would be ushered in. God knew how readily every one of His prophets, each serving as Church President in his respective time, would receive revelation to guide His Church.
God could also see current missionary efforts bringing to pass the final gathering, now occurring at an astonishing rate. He could also see these days when temples would dot the earth bringing sacred ordinances to Church members in distant lands. The destiny of this Church was plain before the eyes of the Lord.
A simply review of the position of all Mormon Fundamentalist groups today shows that their ideas and "gospel" are not "rolling forth to fill the whole earth." Plainly they are not.
Jesus Christ Leads this Church
Any person who now criticizes the leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will, in some future day, come to know that his or her criticisms were actually directed at guidance given by our Savior, Jesus Christ.