I stumbled across a number of good posts on this subject over at Jesus Creed. I don't really like the blog title (mormons use Christ, evangelicals Jesus, but the posts are nicely balanced and mature. Return of the Pharisees 3 seems like the best post.
From this post it seems as if the pharisees were acting like prophets without a divine mandate. By focusing in on prophetic tradition they validated themselves and their reasoning more than they should have. One could almost say they felt it was their job to guide the people in the little things in life, after all prophets are supposed to provide modern day guidance, aren't they? From a mormon perspective one would say things went wrong when pharisees starting taking prophetic roles upon themselves, instead of responding to divine direction. The problem with this mimics the problems many of the Church of LDS have with Christian creeds and non-denominational preachers - there is no control, and hence no way pragmatic way to limit self appointed abuse.
Of course Christian creeds had the voice of majority, tradition and reason to temper their decisions. Also hundreds of years of acceptance makes it easy to view their decisions as divinely inspired. "Calls to the ministry", which can turn into pseudo prophethood (a seemingly well intentioned priestcraft), have little in the way of limits. Hence a possible explanation for biblical authoritarianism. In essence, they seem to follow the phariseutical role, authority is via tradition, the tradition we have is right, I am right because I feel I have been authorized by God. God authorizes by the Spirit.
Ignoring the circularity issues, the problem with this approach is, it didn't pan out. It lead to direct conflict with God (Christ). Indeed, one could say that the more a self selected group uses context and history as justifications of their position, the more out of whack they are. Prophets usually don't try to gently guide people in this sense. Things come across much more stark and confrontational (at least when versed against tradition).