Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson once famously remarked, “We are not final because we are infallible, but we are infallible only because we are final.” Does this adage apply to the church as well?
That is, do we believe that Gordon B. Hinckley is final because he is infallible? Is he the last word, the final arbiter of church policy, because he has direct access to the mind of God, and with it the mantle of infallibility? And do we believe the same of the other members of the First Presidency, the Quorum of the Twelve, and so forth?
Or is it possible that they are infallible because they are final? The buck has to stop somewhere, after all — this applies to both the church and the judiciary.
Prophets and Apostles are righteous, committed, intelligent people who have shown a knowledge of and dedication to the community — so why not let the buck stop with them? Under this approach, church leaders acquire infallibility not by virtue of a special connection to divinity, but rather in the same manner as Supreme Court Justices. They are not final because they are infallible; rather, they are infallible because they are final.