The spirit of discernment is considered a “gift of the spirit” which allows individuals to discern the spirit in others and themselves. It “includes perceiving the true character of people.”

From the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, a quasi-official representation of LDS doctrine:

… Every Latter-day Saint has spiritual leaders who, by virtue of their callings, are entitled to the gift of discernment to enable them to lead and counsel correctly. “The gift of discernment is essential to the leadership of the Church [of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints]. I never ordain a bishop or set apart a president of a stake without invoking upon him this divine blessing, that he may read the lives and hearts of his people and call forth the best within them. The gift and power of discernment [are] essential equipment for every son and daughter of God. The true gift of discernment is often premonitory. A sense of danger should be heeded to be of value” (Richards, p. 371)

From the 2018 Liahona:

What is the gift of discernment?

The scriptures talk about the “discerning of spirits” as a gift of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:10; D&C 46:23). It means “to understand or know something through the power of the Spirit. … It includes perceiving the true character of people and the source and meaning of spiritual manifestations” (Guide to the Scriptures, “Discernment, Gift of,”

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has taught that the gift of discernment can help us (1) “detect hidden error and evil in others,” (2) “detect hidden errors and evil in ourselves,” (3) “find and bring forth the good that may be concealed in others,” and (4) “find and bring forth the good that may be concealed in us” (“Quick to Observe,” Liahona, Dec. 2006, 19).

For many more sources, search for Spirit of Discernment on

Potential Failures

Some individuals who are clearly antagonistic to the LDS Church or otherwise possessed of blatantly evil natures (like forgers and serial killers) appear to have gone undetected through worthiness interviews and/or in close association with members or leaders in various situations.

Extreme examples

  1. Ted Bundy, the serial killer, joined the LDS Church during the time he was murdering innocent women.
  2. Mark Hoffman was a disillusioned Latter-day Saint who made forgeries and sold them to the LDS Church and murdered others during the course of these activities. The most famous image depicts Hoffman showing a forgery to Latter-day Saint leaders.
  3. Mike Norton (aka “New Name Noah”) adopted a fake persona and attended an LDS ward for an extended period of time. He passed both his Bishop and Stake Presidency member temple recommend interviews (the former which he recorded). He then used that recommend to record various temple ceremonies over a long period of time.1
  4. In the early and mid 1930s, the Church News praised Adolf Hitler and appeared to align itself somewhat with Nazi-ism. See Adolf Hitler & The Mormon Church.

Other examples

[list out Bishops who were pedophiles who were called.]

One of our family friends and neighbors was on the High Council of the stake. It turns out that he was also producing child pornography during that time, and he is now serving time in jail for his activities.

  1. Mike Norton’s videos may be found here - warning: these are likely to be highly offensive to members since they contain video recordings of temple ceremonies, mockery, and documentation of his inflitration and reveal in an LDS ward.

    Mention of Mike Norton’s activities is not meant to imply that I condone them. I am highly uncomfortable with the use of deception to accomplish any end, and with few exceptions I don’t believe that the sacred space or faith of others should be mocked or violated if at all possible. Because the Church does not give ample and adequate fore-warning of the nature of the activities and covenants made in the temple, and because the nature of those covenants is not fully disclosed with regards to political candidates and how that might influence their political actions then some justification may exist for documenting temple ceremonies. I believe that Mike views his activities as a means to an end of helping and protecting the unwary and innocent. Regardless, I’m uncomfortable with the general mode and manner these activities were carried out under and flatly condemn aspects.