Yes, this is a current problem for some active Church members regarding recent General Conference comments as well as being pretty typical for critics of Mormonism who often bring up some statement made by a previous leader and assert that whatever was said was once LDS doctrine. The usual sources for these critics’ statements are the Journal of Discourses (which wasn’t even an official LDS publication) and statements of 19th century General Authorities, particularly Brigham Young. However, we find in more than one source that the power and authority to lead the Church is found in its Presidencies – NOT individuals – and revelation regarding how the Church is to be guided comes from the First Presidency. A couple of quotes, courtesy of Duane Boyce in his article “Sustaining the Brethren” (link below for full article – i.m.o., an excellent read, though long)
“First, from Joseph Smith:
“The Presidents or Presidency are over the Church; and revelations of the mind and will of God to the Church, are to come through the Presidency. This is the order of heaven, and the power and privilege of this Priesthood.” – Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1938), 111.
Then from Joseph Fielding Smith:
“An individual may fall by the wayside, or have views, or give counsel which falls short of what the Lord intends. But the voice of the First Presidency and the united voice of those others who hold with them the keys of the kingdom shall always guide the Saints and the world in those paths where the Lord wants them to be.” – Joseph Fielding Smith, “Eternal Keys and the Right to Preside,” Ensign, July 1972, 88.
We find this reinforced in D&C 107:27-29.
27 And every decision made by either of these quorums must be by the unanimous voice of the same; that is, every member in each quorum must be agreed to its decisions, in order to make their decisions of the same power or validity one with the other—
28 A majority may form a quorum when circumstances render it impossible to be otherwise—
29 Unless this is the case, their decisions are not entitled to the same blessings which the decisions of a quorum of three presidents were anciently, who were ordained after the order of Melchizedek, and were righteous and holy men.
“In short, it has long been LDS doctrine and policy that the utterings of an individual are not, in fact, LDS doctrine unless the claim has been agreed to through the unanimous voice of all involved. A case in point would be the Adam-God theory, first proposed by Brigham Young in the 1850’s. From the beginning it did not have a 100% consensus of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve, so it never made it past the first necessary hurdle to become official LDS doctrine. That is just one example, of course, of things which have been said in the past which were never actually doctrine, in spite of what Mormonism’s critics have long claimed.” (Emphasis added)
Here is the link to Brother Boyce’s full 32 page article. http://www.mormoninterpreter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/boyce-v14-2015-ppvii-xxxii-PDF.pdf
Additionally, not cited by Brother Boyce is the following from President J. Reuben Clark.
“I repeat here some of the elemental rules that, as to certain matters, will enable us always to know when others than the Presiding High Priest, the Prophet, Seer and Revelator, the President of the Church, will not be speaking as “moved upon by the Holy Ghost.”
“When any one except the President of the Church undertakes to proclaim a revelation from God for the guidance of the Church, we may know he is not “moved upon by the Holy Ghost.”
“When any one except the President of the Church undertakes to proclaim that any scripture of the Church has been modified, changed, or abrogated, we may know he is not “moved upon by the Holy Ghost,” unless he is acting under the direct authority and direction of the President.
“When any one except the President of the Church undertakes to proclaim that any doctrine of the Church has been modified, changed, or abrogated, we may know that he is not “moved upon by the Holy Ghost,” unless he is acting under the direction and by the authority of the President.
“When any man, except the President of the Church, undertakes to proclaim one unsettled doctrine, as among two or more doctrines in dispute, as the settled doctrine of the Church, we may know that he is not moved upon by the Holy Ghost,” unless he is acting under the direction and by the authority of the President.
“Of these things we may have a confident assurance without chance for doubt or quibbling.”
(Pres. J. Reuben Clark, Jr., Church News, 31 July 1954, pp. 10-11, emphasis added)
Another very recent example of opinion rather than doctrine comes in the recent October General Conference address of Elder Quentin L. Cook wherein he stated:
“Gospel extremism is when one elevates any gospel principle above other equally important principles and takes a position that is beyond or contrary to the teachings of Church leaders. One example is when one advocates for additions, changes, or primary emphasis to one part of the Word of Wisdom. Another is expensive preparation for end-of-days scenarios. In both examples, others are encouraged to accept private interpretations.”
This is being interpreted by some to mean that we are no longer required to obtain and maintain at least a year’s supply of food because, “It’s expensive preparation for end-of-days scenarios.”
Contrast this attitude with two established facts:
1) The Church has recently gone to great expense to upgrade the Salt Lake Temple, the Salt Lake Tabernacle, and the Idaho Falls Temple to prepare them to withstand a significantly larger earthquake than is forecast for the regions. Why? Aren’t large earthquakes end-of-days scenarios?
2) Every single Prophet of this dispensation as well as many Apostles and other General Authorities have consistently taught of the need, the commandment, to store AT LEAST a year’s supply of food, clothing, fuel (where possible), and “other needful things.” This commandment has never been rescinded or countermanded, and the above statement from Elder Cook, not acting under the direction of the First Presidency to rescind the commandment, does not in any way qualify as such a rescinding.
In order for a commandment to be rescinded, the First Presidency, represented by one of their own members, would have to stand up in Conference, as was done in 1978 when the Priesthood was extended to all worthy male members, and a letter signed by all three members of the First Presidency would be read for the sustaining vote of all members. An Apostle does not now, and never will have, the authority to abolish or change a commandment.
2 Nephi 28:21 speaks directly to those who are now believing in their hearts that there is no longer a need to obtain and maintain at least a year’s supply of food and other things necessary for their family’s survival. “And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.”
Please, don’t let the devil cheat you by lulling you into a position of unpreparedness in violation of a clear, oft repeated commandment from the Lord!
In short, it is my fervent prayer that we:
1) educate ourselves regarding what is truly doctrine versus opinions of our leaders, and,
2) not allow ourselves to be led astray, swept along by the currents of opinion coming from those who claim to know what lies ahead because of spectacular dreams and/or visions but who are not, in fact, the Lord’s chosen prophet, speaking officially and through accepted channels, with the backing of his counselors.