I am going to state what is bound to be a wildly unpopular opinion: I really like the Correlation Committee.
For example, if one is to believe in prophecy, then what is one to make of the vast numbers of prophets that existed at the time of, say, Lehi? Prophethood was hardly monolithic–there were other prophets of the Old Testament wandering the valleys preaching the word. But which word was binding? The one in your vicinity? What if you liked Jeremiah imagery more than Habbakuk’s? Furthermore, which metaphor was more revelatory? As long as we say that they’re all prophets (and equal ones…the minor/major distinction is an artificial one imposed by scholars), then we must reckon with whose word was “the” word.
Then, with more recent LDS history, we have the vexing questions surrounding *insert ominous voice* The Journal of Discourses. When they say “In the Name of the Lord,” or “If the Lord’s Prophet hasn’t spoken it before, I’ll speak it now,” and so forth, how literally must we take such statements? Did God view their words in the same we he views the words of the Conference Report? How could he, given that the J of D only reached a limited circulation? The conference report similarly not distributed widely on anything like the scale of our publications now. Given such limited distribution, can we really view it as representative of doctrine? As a former researcher at the BYU library whose duty was to formulate short abstracts of numerous pioneer diaries, I can say that one thing notably absent from these journal were the high-flung speculations that make up the meat of anti-Mormon pamphlets. I saw one reference to Adam-God, but that was in the Abraham Smoot journal (a fascinating read, incidentally), an apostle who was privy to all manner of meandering doctrinal discussions, discussions that at most seeped into an occasional sermon. Even Brigham Young would later soften the edge on his Adam-God speculations by saying he didn’t “care a thing about it.” Furthermore, these issues (Adam-God, the conception of Jesus, etc.) never made it into the temple recommend interview. Indeed, such speculations never made it into the endowment ceremony for any lasting period of time. Brigham Young began to do so in 1877 but soon passed away in time for John Taylor to refine the endowment more in accordance with our modern understanding of the creation. Whatever the Mormon leadership was saying, Mormon society stayed rather isolated from it. To resort to anecdotal evidence, I might point to my mother who has literally not spent more than a few total months outside of the Mormon corridor. Yet she balks at even the slightest hint of these distinctively Mormon speculations.
Is it possible that our concept of prophecy now might just be more refined and more in-tune with the will of heaven than the concept of prophecy in early church? It’s a tad Whiggish as far as history goes–and that’ far from popular these days amongst historians. Yet I have found that history is far too important to be entrusted to historians 😉
Given how much individuals “prophesied” about various things, I tend to think that we simply cannot impose the traditional “foretelling” model on it. Perhaps it was free-wheeling exhortation through which they anticipated they would eventually come to the truth, Prophecy, it seems, was more of a process than a product. While the free-wheeler in me likes the idea, the adherent in me is grateful for the bureaucracy of translation committees, general conferences, and publications, also known as Correlation. And thank heavens for that…at least when we have a class, we can ask the instructor ‘where we are in the lesson,” rather than just sit back and wait for our nauseating roller-coaster ride towards Kolob to end.