Because of time limitations, I can only give a condensed or abbreviated synopsis of the three-hour conversation that followed. I began by asking, "May I proceed, sir, on the assumption that you are a Christian?"The two then discussed the characteristics that one might expect a modern prophet to have, and Elder Brown then explained how those apply to Joseph Smith. Concluding, Elder Brown wrote:
"I assume that you believe in the Bible -- the Old and New Testaments?"
"Do you believe in prayer?"
"You say that my belief that God spoke to a man in this age is fantastic and absurd?"
"To me it is."
"Do you believe that God ever did speak to anyone?"
"Certainly, all through the Bible we have evidence of that."
"Did he speak to Adam?"
"To Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jacob, and to others of the prophets?"
"I believe he spoke to each of them."
"Do you believe that contact between God and man ceased when Jesus appeared on the earth?"
"Certainly not. Such communication reached its climax, its apex at that time."
"Do you believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God?"
"Do you believe, sir, that after the resurrection of Christ, God ever spoke to any man?"
He thought for a moment and then said, "I remember one Saul of Tarsus who was going down to Damascus to persecute the saints and who had a vision, was stricken blind, in fact, and heard a voice."
"Whose voice did he hear?"
"Well," he said, "the voice said 'I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.'"
"Do you believe that actually took place?"
"Then, my Lord" -- that is the way we address judges in the British commonwealth -- "my Lord, I am submitting to you in all seriousness that it was standard procedure in Bible times for God to talk to men."
"I think I will admit that, but it stopped shortly after the first century of the Christian era."
"Why do you think it stopped?"
"I can't say."
"You think that God hasn't spoken since then?"
"Not to my knowledge."
"May I suggest some possible reasons why he has not spoken. Perhaps it is because he cannot. He has lost the power."
He said, "Of course that would be blasphemous."
"Well, then, if you don't accept that, perhaps he doesn't speak to men because he doesn't love us anymore. He is no longer interested in the affairs of men."
"No," he said, "God loves all men, and he is no respecter of persons."
"Well, then, if you don't accept that he loves us, then the only other possible answer as I see it is that we don't need him. We have made such rapid strides in education and science that we don't need God any more."
And then he said, and his voice trembled as he thought of impending war, "Mr. Brown, there never was a time in the history of the world when the voice of God was needed as it is needed now. Perhaps you can tell me why he doesn't speak."
My answer was, "He does speak, he has spoken; but men need faith to hear him."
I said to my friend, "My Lord, I cannot understand your saying to me that my claims are fantastic. Nor can I understand why Christians who claim to believe in Christ would persecute and put to death a man whose whole purpose was to prove the truth of the things they themselves were teaching, namely, that Jesus is the Christ. I could understand their persecuting Joseph if he had said, 'I am Christ,' or if he had said, 'There is no Christ,' or if he had said someone else is Christ; then Christians believing in Christ would be justified in opposing him. . . . Joseph said to the Christians of his day, 'You claim to believe in Jesus Christ. I testify that I saw him and I talked with him. He is the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world. Why persecute me for that?'The role of prophets and apostles was clearly meant to endure in the Church of Jesus Christ (see Ephesians 4:11-14), as well as prophetic gifts. When mainstream churches today declare that there is no longer a need for prophets, I can understand their desire to justify themselves, but such a statement flies in the face of the Bible and utterly defies logic. How great is our need to hear the voice of the Lord, to receive divine counsel through His prophets in our day. Prophets have been called, God does speak, but as in days of old, faith is required on our part to hear the word of the Lord. Ignore it if you will, but God's work has not stopped, His means of speaking has not changed, and His words have not ceased. How grateful I am for the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, including the ancient offices of prophets and apostles appointed by God and divinely authorized to lead His Church.
"When Joseph came out of the woods where he had this vision, he had learned at least four fundamental truths, and he announced them to the world: first, that the Father and the Son are separate and distinct individuals; second, that the canon of scripture is not complete; third, that man was actually created in the image of God; and fourth, that the channel of communication between earth and heaven is open, and revelation is continuous."
The judge sat and listened intently. He asked some very pointed and searching questions, and at the end of the interview he said, "Mr. Brown, I wonder if your people appreciate the import of your message. Do you?" He said, "If what you have told me is true, it is the greatest message that has come to earth since the angels announced the birth of Christ."
This was a learned judge speaking, a great statesman, an intelligent man. He threw out the challenge, "Do you appreciate the import of what you say?" He added: "I wish it were true. I hope it may be true. God knows it ought to be true. I would to God," he said, his voice trembling, "that some man would appear on the earth and authoritatively say, 'Thus saith the Lord.'"