Prophetic authority is a distinguishing characteristic of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Indeed, when asked what sets Mormons apart from other Christians, the answer will always go back to a testimony of the Prophet Joseph or one of his modern successors. Whether the question of “why do we need more scripture?” to “why don’t you smoke or drink?” it all goes back to a testimony of the Prophet Joseph, that he was called by God, “to teach the Gospel, and administer in the ordinances thereof.” (Articles of Faith: 5) A true belief in Jesus Christ and His chosen leaders are essential to full and worthy membership in the Church.
But the words of the Lord, as given through the Prophet Joseph can give us a chance to stop and think: what is scripture? I think that this question is a good one. Scripture, as defined by the Bible Dictionary states that: “Latter-day revelation identifies scripture as that which is spoken under the influence of the Holy Ghost (D&C 68: 1-4).”
I think that this clarifies the problem more than is seen at first glance. Scripture is what the Spirit dictates to a specific audience of people, based on the spiritual needs of the people that are being addressed.
In one such example, a Bishop may be interviewing two different individuals for the same sin, such as immorality. Because of the specific circumstances surrounding the sin, the Bishop may require different lengths of time before taking the Sacrament, suspension of temple privileges, or other such injunctions. This would fall directly in line with what the Prophet Joseph Smith taught, when he said:
“That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another. God said, 'Thou shalt not kill'; at another time He said, 'Thou shalt utterly destroy.' This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted—by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire.”
“Scripture” and “cannon” are different words with different meanings, which Latter-day Saints often use interchangeably. Scripture can be given by any child who has been baptized may speak by the Spirit. As Alma has said, “little children do have words given unto them many times, which confound the wise and the learned.” Cannon is something that is accepted by the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency as scripture for the entire Church. Cannon is something that could potentially be added to the scriptures, such as the Family Proclamation, not something that a missionary, Bishop, or little child could say in a meeting, as spoken by the Holy Ghost.
Cannon must apply to all. All the words that compromise the Old and New Testaments, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price are applicable to all. This designation is not afforded to the footnotes, or even the Bible Dictionary, or chapter headings. It seems to me that there is “scripture” for the individual, and “Scripture” for the Church.
Leaders are entitled to individual opinion. Let's forget that they are men, and not perfect, and that if we're allowed to have opinions, so should they.
I'm excited for conference. There is revelation to be had...if we're listening for it :)