A couple weeks ago I came across a By Common Consent post that quoted this gem by Lorenzo Snow, taken from George Q. Cannon’s diary (via Leonard Arrington’s book Adventures of a Church Historian):
I saw Joseph Smith the Prophet do things which I did not approve of; and yet…I thanked God that He would put upon a man who had these imperfections the power and authority which He placed upon him…for I knew I myself had weakness and I thought there was a chance for me. These same weaknesses…I knew were in Heber C. Kimball, but my knowing this did not impair them in my estimation. I thanked God I saw these imperfections.
Knowing that our prophets are human and imperfect is really comforting to me. The Lord knows us better than we know ourselves and is very aware of our flaws, and yet miraculously, mercifully, he still sees our potential and gives us responsibilities and assignments that help us grow.
As for what our attitude towards these human prophets ought to be, Arrington’s book goes on to quote Brigham Young in the next paragraph:
Even Brigham Young, who loved Joseph Smith with a constancy that bordered on idolatry, admitted in a discourse on loving-kindness in the Salt Lake Bowery that he sometimes thought that the prophet was not always right in his management of affairs. “It gave me sorrow of heart [to see this],” he said, but “I clearly saw and understood, by the spirit of revelation manifested in me, that if I was to harbor a thought in my heart that Joseph could be wrong in anything, I would begin to lose confidence in him, and that feeling would grow…until at last I would have the same lack of confidence in his being the mouthpiece for the Almighty.” So Young decided to let the Lord deal with Joseph’s failings. “Though I admitted in my feelings and knew all the time that Joseph was a human being and subject to err, still it was none of my business to look after his faults…. He was called of God; God dictated [to] him, and if He had a mind to leave him to himself and let him commit an error, that was no business of mine…. Though he had his weaknesses,” Young continued, “he was all that any people could require a true prophet to be.”
Our Church leaders aren’t going to be perfect. They just aren’t. And that’s okay. Their imperfections don’t void the fact that it was God who called them and that they have real power and authority from the Almighty. God can use imperfect people to do his work. (And thank heavens for that.)