Recently a friend of mine received counsel from a bishop that he later found to be dead wrong. He wondered how it could be that a man called as God's representative could provide such mistaken advice.
I suggested the following.
As a former bishop, I believe that the Lord has called bishops to provide administrative guidance to the ward, not direct revelation as to how specific ward members should lead their individual lives. We have all been given agency and the Light of Christ (if not the Gift of the Holy Ghost) to act for ourselves. Bishops while typically wise, are much less capable of knowing what the Lord wants of us than we are. While the Lord may provide ecclesiastical leaders general direction and guidance on issues related to their stewardship, most of their direction comes from their own life experience and perspective, values and prejudice, not the Lord.
I find it interesting that in a church and cultural community that places such a premium on self-reliance, members are so willing to relinquish their agency to another person, the home teacher, the bishop, the stake president, or even the president of the church.
This is just not right.
The scriptures are clear on this issue.
When providing direction on discovering the truth of the Book or Mormon, Moroni suggests that we ponder in our hearts and then ask God with real intent, having faith in Christ. Moroni states that God will "manifest the truth of it...by the power of the Holy Ghost."
Moroni then provides a universal key. He writes, "And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things." This is a clear and unequivocal statement that through the Holy Ghost the Lord will guide each of us individually to the truth of all things pertaining to our lives and personal stewardship.
Note that Moroni does not suggest seeking guidance from others in this process of finding truth, not a home teacher, bishop, stake president, or even president of the church. According to Moroni, finding truth is a personal process between oneself and the Lord.
It is important to remember that agency is so central to the Lord's plan that he was willing to lose one third of his family over this singular principle. Would he be pleased that we readily surrender our agency to anyone, particularly a church leader? I think not.
I believe it is incumbent on each of us to pray about issues that impact our lives and follow the inspiration we receive individually. In the end I believe we are going to be held accountable for following our own consciences rather than the opinions of others regardless of how well meaning those individuals might be.
If, in the course of doing what we as God's children believe to be right, we fall short, the Lord's infinite and universal atonement will cover our error.