Is The Prophet a Prophet?-Two Interesting Articles

Recently, I participated in a discussion on a message board about whether The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is really led by “living prophets” that function in the same way that the Biblical prophets, that Latter-day Saints tend to compare them to, did.  This topic is always interesting to me, especially because the concept of having “living prophets”, prophets just like Moses, Abraham, Noah, Isaiah, Paul, etc, sounds attractive, and implies a continuity  with the prophetic calling of the various Biblical prophets.  I particularly loved reading the phrase “living oracles”, as the word “oracle” particularly implies that these men are more than just everyday men that receive inspiration from God just like everyone else is able to.

When I would embrace my duties as a “member missionary“, I would almost always bring up the subject of having prophets and apostles, and how these were found in the Bible, and then disappeared, but now, through the Restoration, we have living prophets and apostles that guide God’s people, receiving Divine revelation, just like they did anciently.   I remember one conversation when the person I was talking to asked what the latest revelation was.  I wasn’t sure if I should bring up the issue of the priesthood restriction and how in 1978, the Prophet receive revelation from God to allow all worthy males to be ordained to the priesthood, when previously, blacks were restricted from ordination.  Somehow, being an African American, talking to another African American, it seemed as if bringing that up wouldn’t be conducive to my member missionary work (and indeed, another friend at a later time did his own research, found out about the priesthood restriction, read the various negative and racist statements various leaders made during that time, and was turned off).  So, I thought, and thought, and thought, and wasn’t sure what I should bring up as the latest revelation the Prophet received, that demonstrated his prophetic calling as distinct from the [non-prophet] leaders of other Christian Churches.  I could bring up building more, smaller temples, or the lowering of the missionary ages, or the Family: A Proclamation to the World, yet none of those had a recorded revelation in the same way that we have in the Bible, the Book of Mormon, or the latter day revelations recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants (and even with the priesthood restriction, there is no recorded revelation of the Lord speaking to His prophet, in the same way that we read in the rest of the D&C; there’s only an Official Declaration that says that a revelation was received), and didn’t really seem on par with the Biblical revelations and guidance received by the prophets, nor even on par with the experiences of Joseph Smith, recorded in the D&C.

It was this conversation that really got me thinking about the 15 men we sustained as Prophets, Seers, and Revelators, and whether they really functioned as prophets, seers, and revelators, and were on par with Abraham, Moses, Noah, Malachi, Paul, etc, or whether they were no different than the leaders of other Christian Churches.

Rewinding back to the discussion I was having recently online, I happened upon two articles written at Zomarah’s blog, and found them very well written and expressed the viewpoint I came to hold, and a viewpoint that probably many Latter-day Saints have on their living prophets.  Here are links to them:

Thomas S. Monson: A Seer, A Revelator, a Translator, and a Prophet

Silent Revelations

So, I’m sure that the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are well meaning men, who believe they are inspired in their duties, just like how most Christians believe they can receive inspiration from God to guide them.  I don’t ascribe any ill-will to them, however I really wonder how the “living prophets” claim is really something that provides something different than what can be found in other Churches, something different that resulted from the Restoration.  I believe I have my answer, hence why I reverted back to the Catholic Church, which believes that, although the Pope and the College/Council of Bishops are certainly guided by the Holy Spirit in guiding the Church, preventing doctrinal error and innovation, teaching God’s children by the Spirit, etc, that the Holy Spirit guides the unfolding understanding of the Deposit of Faith given anciently, and that when they gather in Council, the proceedings and conclusions are Spirit-inspired, we don’t necessarily believe that they are prophets, though God has called various men and women throughout Catholic history to be prophets, and prophetesses, who have received visions and visitations from Heaven, some including warnings and prophecies about the future, including the various popular visitations of Mary, and that many of these prophetic events have resulted in miracles, such as Lourdes Water from a spring in France.  These people had and have demonstrable prophetic encounters and abilities, and really are fascinating to me, especially in comparison to the leaders sustained by Latter-day Saints as Prophets, Seers, and Revelators, 15 of them.

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6 Responses to Is The Prophet a Prophet?-Two Interesting Articles

  1. Phillip says:

    I also think it is important to understand that the role of prophet, as it is portrayed in the Bible, is not necessarily an administrative or governing position within the people of God. A prophet reveals prophecies. This does not imply that said prophet is somehow “in charge” of a congregation or a church. I wouldn’t for example consider Peter a prophet even though he was the chief apostle and the leader of the church in his day. A prophet is not a king or a high priest. You don’t need the priesthood to be a prophet.

    Prophets are often outsiders with regards to the official hierarchy, not insiders who eventually achieve prophet status by moving up the ranks. Think John the Baptist in his camel-hair shirt, eating locust in the desert, railing against the scribes and Pharisees, while proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. Prophets are not presidents. They are not CEOs. They are not apostles or bishops (at least in most cases).

    Catholic history is full of prophets: men, women, and children who claimed to receive prophecies and warnings from God, like at Fatima in the early 20th century or to take a current example the reputed messages at locutions.org (these message have not yet been approved by the Church so discernment and caution is warranted). The LDS church has had basically one prophet in its history that made similar claims, Joseph Smith. Current leaders are more administrators than prophets.

  2. Syphax says:

    You’ve read my mind with this one. I wrote a similar post regarding Mormon apostles at my blog (linked under my name). Two years ago I taught the Old Testament in LDS Institute, and one thing that stuck out to me the most was that, as Phillip has mentioned, the Prophets didn’t seem to be the administrative heads of anything. Many times they didn’t even have the priesthood – at least, they were not temple workers. In fact, the scriptural record hints at the fact that the prophets were more often than not in opposition to the Temple administration (calling them out for iniquity, perverting the ways of the Lord, being insincere with their duties, etc.).

    • Indeed (and I’ll check out your blog post).

      The prophets in the Bible were functionally different than the Latter-day Saint Prophets, Seers, and Revelators. This is one thing that always stuck out in my mind, even after reading LDS apologetics attempting to compare the latter day prophets to the ancient ones (including ones in the Book of Mormon). The prophets were not heads of churches or any organizational entity. I could grant that Joseph Smith, if we accept his experiences and the LDS Church accounting of his history as true, seemed to be more in line with what one would expect from a Prophet. However, with Thomas S. Monson (and the other 14 prophets), I’m not so sure.

      • Syphax says:

        That’s a good point; in a sense, Joseph Smith follows the ancient prophet model much more closely (called as a farm boy, instructed to tell the nations they had forgotten their God, etc.). The interesting thing is that I’m not sure Joseph was really that clear on whether his successor would even be a prophet in the same sense that he was – and I think the nature of the Succession Crisis proves this. There were many church bodies that seemingly had the potential to fill Joseph’s void, and not all of them claimed to be prophets (the Presiding Patriarchy, the Nauvoo High Council, the Council of Fifty, etc.).

      • Agreed. I also just re-read D&C 138, the last canonized revelation given to “the Prophet”, in 1918, to President Joseph Fielding Smith. I wonder when there will be a section 139. It was also interesting that he declared that he received “several divine communications” in the prior months in General Conference. Could you imagine if President Monson, in the October GC, opens with something similar?!

  3. Hello,

    I also studied the function of a prophet. I came up with 3 things that they did.
    1. Spent time alone away from society so that any messages they received would be accurate.
    2. Often had to take an unpopular message to the powerful who had the ability to kill them.
    3. They passed on their skills to the next generation.

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