I've recently come to some surprising and perhaps even blasphemous conclusions regarding church as an institution and my personal access to God.
I Don't Believe
1. Other people have more right to God's inspiration than I do.
2. One church is the sole recipient of all God's truth.
3. One sex has been chosen to receive more revelation than the other.
4. One race has been chosen to receive more revelation than other races.
5. One culture is more in tune with God's will than other cultures.
6. God speaks in one language more than any other.
7. Anyone gets divine revelation right all the time.
I Do Believe
1. God loves all people on earth equally.
2. God speaks to us in proportion to our willingness to listen.
3. God wants us all to have access to divine power, knowledge, and love.
4. We all have sparks of the divine in us and these sparks teach us what is right and wrong from a young age.
5. We are on a journey to greater understanding and love and part of this journey is encountering others who are different.
6. Some people will be struck by more truths than others in the same place at the same time.
7. We are ready to hear different things at different times.
Growing up Mormon is an interesting contradiction in individual vs. institutional access to God. The founding story of Mormonism is about a fourteen year-old boy reading scriptures on his own (James 1:5: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God), then going to the woods to pray and being visited by God the Father and Jesus Christ and told not to join any of the current churches because they were all wrong. Over many years, the young Joseph Smith was given guidance in how to build the proper church with real priesthood authority from God.
In modern times, Mormons are frequently told that they can have access to God through their own prayers and that they will be given individual direction for their own areas of stewardship, including their families and their callings in the church. However, Mormons are also told frequently that the current apostles and the prophet are given special revelation from God that applies to the whole church and that if we as members are "in tune" with God, when we pray to know if these revelations are true, we will be told that they are. If we don't receive that confirmation, then we're told that we aren't "in tune" with God and should try again.
And Wilford Woodruff famously promised,
"The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray."
But there have been some notable instances when Mormon prophets have led the church astray, including on the issue of race and the priesthood. I love the Mormon church and I find it more appealing than other churches personally, but that doesn't mean I'm blind when it comes to problems within.
I'm not saying that I think I'm more right than anyone else is. I'm terribly likely to mix up inspiration with wishful thinking or with anger or another emotion. That's what it means to be human. I just don't think anyone is immune from this. No, not even the prophets of God. And perhaps ironically, it is the Mormon church that has taught me that I have access to God through the spirit that all humans have been granted.
What this means now is that I follow the Thirteenth Article of Faith:
If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.
Moroni 7: 16
16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
Moroni 10: 5
5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
D&C 130: 18
Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.
D&C 93: 36 The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.