Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, 2003, Excerpts
The official title of the supreme leader of the LDS Church is “President, Prophet, Seer, and Revelator.” This is because from its inception, Mormonism was a faith in which religious truth and ecclesiastical authority were supposed to be derived from a never-ending string of divine revelations.
In the beginning, Joseph Smith had emphasized the importance of personal revelation for everyone. Denigrating the established churches of the day, which were more inclined to filter the word of God through institutional hierarchies, he instructed Mormons to seek direct “impressions from the Lord,” which would guide them in every aspect of their lives. Quickly, however, Joseph saw a major drawback to such a policy: if God spoke directly to all Mormons, who was to say that the truths He revealed to Joseph had greater validity than contradictory truths He might reveal to somebody else? With everyone receiving revelations, the prophet stood to lose control of his followers.
This goes a long ways toward explaining why, since 1830, some two hundred schismatic Mormon sects have splintered off from Joseph’s original religion; in fact, sects continue to splinter off on an ongoing basis.