How often have we heard the admonition that we must follow the prophet because whenever he speaks, it is as if God’s speaking, because “it is the same“? I hear this very frequently, and every time I do, I am saddened at how we repeat the words of others without bothering to read the scriptures for ourselves.
D&C 1:38 in no way says that the words of the prophets are equivalent to the words of God. Here’s what it actually does say:
What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.
Let’s take this apart and see what the Lord is saying to us.
What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself;
The Lord takes ownership of His words. He means what He says, and He does not try to make excuses for past words (or future words). He does not “excuse himself” over His words. They are His and He is responsible for them.
and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away,
His words are eternal. His words will outlast the heat death of the universe. Even after everything has ended, His words will still be in force. His prophecies will still apply. His commandments and love will still matter.
but shall all be fulfilled,
Everything that He has prophesied will happen, will happen. Everything that He has cautioned about will still apply. Everything that He has promised will be given.
whether by mine own voice
God is allowed to fulfill His own prophecies. He will provide the blessings He promised.
or by the voice of my servants,
God’s servants (not necessarily just prophets!) are also allowed to fulfill His prophecies. They are also allowed to be the source of the blessing He has promised.
it is the same.
If His servants do happen to fulfill His words, it’s still valid. It counts as having fulfilled His word. God is not required to do everything Himself. His servants help bring to pass His purposes as well, and it all counts towards the same end goal.
As we can see, there is absolutely nothing in here about the servants speaking for God, and God validating their words. Instead, we have almost the exact opposite. Instead of words, we have actions. Instead of servants, we have God.
God has made promises to His children, and He keeps all of His promises. If it so happens that one of His servants fulfills the terms of His promise for Him, then great. If not, He’ll fulfill it Himself.
But this verse does not represent God’s endorsement of the actions and words of His servants. It says nothing of the sort. All you need to do is read and see.