Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

A Question for Critics: What Happened to Prophets?

Much of the efforts of our critics focus on attacking the actions and character of our prophets. Sadly, like the prophets of the Bible, modern prophets have been fallible mortals who apparently have made some mistakes, in addition to leaving us with some puzzling statements and actions that we just don't understand well. Regarding such puzzlements, these men had the audacity to up and die before we had a chance to interrogate them as to what they meant or what really happened. So yes, there are a number of things subject to all sorts of contradictory opinions and interpretations, offering plenty of opportunities for the railing of critics.

But in spite of evidences of mortality among the prophets, we still maintained that they, like mortal and fallible Peter of old, were called of God, and that God does indeed speak in these days. This claim of a Restoration involving living prophets makes the Latter-day Saints stand out among Christian religions of our day. Our critics, on the other hand, almost universally insist that there is no need for prophets or a Restoration, that God has finished His work, that there was no Apostasy or loss of authority, that all we need is the Bible (mingled with their own diverse interpretations and extrapolations of its meaning to give us authoritative guidance from God), and that the Church of Jesus Christ has always been here on earth since New Testament times (just diffused in several thousand different forms, but most truly defined by that version that began in a corner of northern Europe during the sixteenth century).

So, for those critics who deny the need for a Restoration, here's a question I'd like to pose: If there was no apostasy in the Church of Jesus Christ, then what happened to prophets? They were a crucial part of the original Church. Why do we not have them today?

Some Christians claim that there was no need for prophets after the coming of Jesus Christ. This is a terribly misinformed belief, for the New Testament clearly and repeatedly reports that prophets and prophecy were integral parts of the original Church of Jesus Christ after Christ had ascended to heaven. For example, consider Acts 13:1-3:
1 Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

2 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.

3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
Using the gift of prophecy, leaders in the original Church received revelation through the gift of the Holy Ghost - praying and fasting to be in tune with the Spirit - and received guidance about which people to put into certain callings in the Church. Those who were called were "separated" or set apart (that's the modern LDS term) through the laying on of hands. This little episode is characteristic of the restored Church of Jesus Christ, as it was characteristic of the original Church, and points to the importance of prophets and prophecy in the operations of the Church. Why don't we have anything like this in the other churches of the world that claim to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ? (Note: Some groups, such as Catholic and Orthodox churches, do have a form of laying on of hands for ordination, and a faithful Catholic writer explained to me that "prophets" in a sense still exist in that faith, though not as people who receive revelation from God, but as faithful people who "prophecy" by making statements of faith. I don't accept that definition as consistent with the Bible, but it is a factor to consider.)

Other Christians, being familiar with the obvious fact that prophets were present and active in the original Church, admit that they were needed then, but argue that we no longer need them nor new revelation of any kind now that the Bible is "complete" (see my Mormon Answers (LDSFAQ) page on the Bible for some tough questions on that issue). Observing that there churches no longer have prophets and apostles, or the gift of revelation, it's understandable that they would take this rather self-serving position. Any other position would imply that their form of Christianity was missing something -- that maybe there had been an apostasy or corruption of some kind in the past. But this is not a doctrine one can logically extract from the Bible, but a man-made doctrine to explain away an annoying problem.

Ironically, the belief that prophets and revelation aren't needed anymore now that we have the Bible is utterly unbiblical. Look at Ephesians 4:11-13:
11 And he gave some, apostles [i.e., some were ordained to be apostles]; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
Paul in Ephesians 4 explains that prophets and apostles are an integral part of the Church for the work of the ministry, and are needed until they succeed in bringing all the Church to a unity of the faith--something that clearly has not yet been achieved. Therefore, they are still needed, and in this day of lies and corruption and confusion, they are needed more than ever! (See also Amos 3:7.)

In Matthew 23:34, Christ also prophesied that he would send prophets to the people, but that these prophets would be rejected and killed (something all too familiar in LDS history):
Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city...
To clarify the time frame over which prophets would be on the earth, Revelation 11:10 also prophesies of two prophets in particular who, in the last days, will be killed in Jerusalem and be revived miraculously. If there are yet to be two prophets who will be killed in Jerusalem before the Second Coming of the Lord, who can anyone maintain that God would not have prophets on the earth after the time of Christ or after the "completion" of the Bible? How can anyone say that Latter-day Saints are unbiblical for believing that God would have prophets on the earth in these last days, when that's perfectly consistent with prophecy in the Book of Revelation?

One of the earliest Christian documents after the New Testament, The Didache, also known as The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (available in The Apostolic Fathers, 2nd ed., translated by J.B. Lightfoot and J.R. Harmer, ed. and rev. by M.W. Holmes, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1989, pp. 149-158), shows that early Christians after the time of the New Testament still understood the significance of apostles and prophets. This document tells its readers to deal with "the apostles and prophets . . . in accordance with the rule of the gospel" (11:3, p. 155). It also speaks of prophets as "high priests" (13:3, p. 157), and contains other LDS concepts such as striving to become perfect (1:4; 6:2), reviewing basic doctrines with those about to be baptized (7:1), bishops and deacons who carry out the ministry of prophets of teachers (15:1), and enduring in faith to be saved (15:5). Apostles and prophets were a real influence in the original Church of Jesus Christ. Why should it not be the same today? Does any other Church offer this great blessing from the original Church, now restored on earth?

For more information, see my LDSFAQ page on prophets and prophecy. Also see my page on the Restoration.

Here are a couple of related bonus questions:

  • Just where in the Bible does it say that there would be no more prophets after the Bible was complete?

  • Just where in the Bible does it say that the Bible was complete? (And if you do point to a verse about the goodness and power of the scriptures, hoping to make it mean that the Bible was complete, why did God's servants keep writing additional verses, chapters, and books after writing a verse allegedly implying that the text was complete?)

  • Where in the Bible does it say that God would cease following His ancient and well established pattern of speaking to man through His chosen prophets?

40 comments:

Kim said...

Prophets prophesy. What are Pres. Hinckley's prophesies?

Walker said...

It is important to recognize that not all prophets are fore-tellers all the time, but forth tellers, in that they teach the doctrine of Christ clearly and with authority. I may well ask about Peter's prophecies--where are they? I can find one, and that's not a clear one at that, which speaks of the restitution of all things and that those who would not listen to Jesus would be cut off. However, it's unclear as to whether Peter is referring to his days or ours (probably both--in some form of dual fulfillment). And Paul, where are his prophecies? He has but few. Most of his time is spent teaching the doctrine of Christ as it should have been lived.

Pres. Hinckley is similar to this, in my opinion. He has established programs that help the Church come out of obscurity, such as the small temple program, the Perp. Education FUnd. Has he declared X will happen on Y day? Not to my knowledge. But prophecy need not be a mere telling of the future--esp. if the Lord does not see fit that we know it. Pres. Hinckley approach has been to prepare us for the long haul rather than simply naming events of the future that would probably send us into a frenzy anyway.

Brad Haas said...

Jeff, would you kindly define what a prophet is? What must a man do to be considered a prophet?

Also, regarding your third bonus question, I'm sure you've heard people cite Hebrews 1:1-2, which reads, "In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world."

Kim said...

Walker said:

"He has established programs that help the Church come out of obscurity, such as the small temple program, the Perp. Education FUnd."

This sounds to me more like a CEO than a Prophet. If this is the standard then we should be saying Prophet Bill Gates when discussing Microsoft.

John said...

Kim,

Reading Walker's response, I felt that he answered your query rather well, but you seem to be not as satisfied. So please, explain to all of us what, specifically, you are expecting a prophet to do. By your expectations, would you consider either Peter or Paul a prophet? Neither one, to my knowledge, ever told someone the next day's lottery numbers. Are you expecting magic?

Mormanity said...

Prophets often speak of the future, but their main role is to be a chosen and authorized mouthpiece for the Lord to lead people in the ways of the Lord. Teaching, guiding the people, organizing the work of the Lord, serving as the authorized leader and judge that the people can look to - these are all roles of prophets and apostles anciently, all of whom were witnesses for the Messiah/Christ. Sure, many people can teach, but who teaches in the role of a called prophet of the Lord? At a minimum, if there is a prophet today, we would expect that person to at least claim to be prophet and to have some claim to authority in that role. So why have prophets disappeared among Christians? (Until the Restoration, that is.)

Kim said...

Mormanity said:

"At a minimum, if there is a prophet today, we would expect that person to at least claim to be prophet and to have some claim to authority in that role."

Huh? Talk about setting the bar low. If I understand you correctly, the fact that the leader of the Mormon church claims himself to be a Prophet is evidence of the church's divinity and its restoration of biblical practices?

Please give me an example of the prophesies or prophetic wisdom of Pres. Hinckley.

Thanks - Prophet Kim

John said...

Prophet Kim,

If you are looking for specific examples of Pres. Hinckley's prophetic wisdom, then visit the church's online archive of conference talks and Ensign articles, pick one of his at random, and read it.

www.lds.org

You dodged my question, allowing yourself the continued ability to deride the "mormon" position with immunity. Are you afraid to take a real position of your own?

I will ask my questions again--What, specifically, are your expectations of a prophet? Judging from your expectations, were either Peter or Paul prophets?

Anonymous said...

I have to go with Kim on this one. Even as an active member of the LDS church, I don't quite see what our leaders do that is so different from other leaders. So we call them "prophet". So what? Why isn't Billy Graham a prophet? Or the Pope? Many claim to be specifically called of God, and some of them even claim to be prophets. I think it all pretty much just comes down to "because we say so." What revelation has President Hinckley received and passed on to us that is so much more insightful and novel than other modern religious leaders? I believe Pres. Hinckley to be a great man, and called of God, but I don't think there is nearly as much reason to brag about our modern revelation as we so often do.

Walker said...

Anon

Bragging, of course, is never appropriate. However, I would have to disagree with your claim that our leaders are like any of the other leaders.

If President Hinckley REALLY were like any other leader, I would at the very least go inactive if not join another church entirely. And it would also mean that Joseph Smith were "just another Second Awakening preacher." We separate Pres. Hinckley from his church's unique teachings at our peril.

Other churches are certainly more entertaining and arguably just as "spiritual" (defining the word as enthusiasm for its doctrines--not in a metaphysical sense). However, Billy Graham does not hold the keys to the gathering of Israel nor does he claim to be like Moses. The Pope does not hold the sealing power.

And if Pres. Hinckley is a prophet "just because we say so," then I would have to think that you believe revelation is finished, that God does not or cannot tell his children that he has a prophet on the earth. If you do not know Pres. Hinckley to be a prophet from your own inquiries, I would encourage you to do so.

Yes, there is a world of difference between Pres. Hinckley's authority and other religions.

Kim said...

Walker said:

"However, Billy Graham does not hold the keys to the gathering of Israel nor does he claim to be like Moses. The Pope does not hold the sealing power."

Okay, so you're saying that Pres. Hinckley has special powers and "keys", that are unique to his special "authority," that clearly differentiate him from the Pope or Billy Graham in his power.

So to answer John in one of his responses, where's the magic if he has been endowed with this divine authority? Shouldn't there be some revelation, or some prophesies? What I've read on the lds.org site seem to be more like admonitions for organizational conformity.

ltbugaf said...

Kim, it appears you're seeking a sign or a miracle--some kind of "magic"--before you'll consider exercising faith or seeking a testimony. You may want to consider the implications of that before you continue.

As you do so, here are some references to ponder:

Exodus 7:9
Matthew 12:39
Matthew 16:4
Luke 11:29
John 2:18
John 4:48
1 Corinthians 1:22
Jacob 7:13
Alma 30:43
Alma 32:17
Ether 12:6
Doctrine & Covenants 24:13
Doctrine & Covenants 63:7

Anonymous said...

When Jesus Christ walked and taught on the earth he was the master at answering questions with another questions. I would like to ask everyone to asks themselves what excately they expect a prophet or an apostle to act like or to look like. Everyone, Mo and also non Mo, needs to realize and understand that prophets and apostles are human just like the rest os us. Everyone of us on earth has an individual personality and the divine right to choose how to act and lead others. The supposed crisis that people run into, is recognizing the truths that are being taught. As I recall, even the leaders in Christ's time didn't realize who he was and what his mission was on earth.

Kim said...

ltbugaf:

no, no, no...the original post tries to make the case that Prophets are evidence of a restored church, and are just as necessary as in biblical times; and that only the Mormon church offers this great blessing.

We then heard about "authority" and "keys." So please, how is Hinckley differentiated from others, thru revelation, prophesies, or something else, who are not prophets in your eyes?

Ryan said...

The issue here is authority. Christ had a very interesting exchange about this with the Pharisees in Matt. 21:23-27.

25. The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men?

And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?

26. But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet.


Based on this, maybe we need to start with a different question: what is the nature of the authority of past, widely accepted prophets?

Miracles and prophecies aren't it by themselves. The New Testament tells us that people -- including the pharisees -- worked miracles and prophesied without having the apostolic or prophetic authority we're talking about here.

If you don't accept those past prophets and apostles as being different than the Billy Grahams of their day then no living person could possibly do better.

Otherwise, knowing what made a past prophet a prophet will go a long way toward recognizing it (or its absence).

Ryan said...

One thought on prophecies: most recorded prophecies seem to be the ones God doesn't want fulfilled; by telling the people He is giving them a chance to change. The modern prophets have continued that pattern, if not with dates and times attached.

To answer your question, my reasons for accepting modern prophets are simple, though probably unconvincing:

1. I believe in personal revelation, and have asked God if the leaders of the Church hold His authority. The answer was "yes."

2. Every Priesthood holder in the Church received it through a line of authority extending back to a modern prophet, and from there to Christ. I have unmistakably felt the power of the Priesthood in my life and those around me.

3. Warnings from Church leaders on topics like food storage, debt, morality and the destruction of the family have proven invaluable to me. I have yet to see those kinds warnings given with the same urgency or directness elsewhere.

Kim said...

Ryan said:

"Warnings from Church leaders on topics like food storage, debt, morality and the destruction of the family have proven invaluable to me. I have yet to see those kinds warnings given with the same urgency or directness elsewhere."

You really should get out more often. With the exception of food storage, I can't think of one mainstream religion that doesn't espouse morality, family life, and being free of debt.

But I'd go a step further. Saying that you hold a special line of "authority" sets you up for the self-righteousness (and its attendant immorality) that you display, and allows you to brush off others who try to live the teachings of Christ,like the Pope and Billy Graham, and who actually have some spiritual accomplishments to show for it.

Walker said...

Kim:

I really do understand where you're coming from. However, I am quite wary about telling the Lord how to run his business of revelation. It smacks of when the Pharisees asked Christ to show them a sign. Instead of asking the Lord to prove himself to us, we ought to prove ourselves to him. In the process, he will make manifest whether Pres. Hinckley is his prophet. If he's not, trust me--he will make it known unto you if you truly seek the answer. He's not going to let a wolf in sheep's clothing, or even a nice old man in sheep's clothing lead you astray.

Furthermore, I consider many aspects of this church to be miraculous. The fastest growing religion in America? Temples finally beginning to dot the globe, 100 strong? Of course, for me, the miracle is the blessing of having an eternal familiy which is the result of having the sealing power on the earth.

And if by "organizational conformity" you mean an attempt to obey what I believe God has said concerning his commandments, I suppose I am guilty as charged. I would encourage you, as I did, Anon to find out yourself. Provided we aren't looking for a crystal-ball looker rather than a prophet, then I am fully convinced that Father will make his servants known unto us. That is as Mormon of a doctrine that I know of--that Father will reveal his will to those who seek him.

Ariel said...

Some evangelicals think of "prophet" as a calling that God gives some people, like "missionary" or "pastor" or "speaker of tongues." At any given time, there are lots of these sorts of "prophets." The difference is one of definition: we believe that there are 15 prophets at a time, and others can't claim that title, because it has to do with keys. They don't believe in keys, so the title can be thrown around more easily.

Both sets of prophets teach morality, avoidance of debt, etc. They preach the Gospel and draw people to Christ. We're less special than we'd like to think

Walker said...

Question: Provided one has the chance to hear our church's message and understand it, and receive a witness of its truth (something we can't know, but God can so I feel justified in stating this situation), can that person then continue attending their other church and still live in Father's presence?

Are we special? In that we, like everyone, are children. But is the gospel special? You bet. Unless these members of other churches are able to receive temple ordinances (which they're not), then they're not just the same.

Yeah, they don't believe in keys, but some people don't believe in God. This logic would thus eliminate God just because some people don't believe in him. Does that make God non-existent? Perhaps in the minds of the doubters, but in the absolute sense, as Enoch said, "Yet Thou art there."

As I've said, there are churches that are far more entertaining than this one. But the ultimate purpose of life isn't just entertainment. I want to go back home. Another church may take me to the doorstep of my Father's mansion, but only the sealing ordinance will take me there. No one else claims that, yet I know (through personal witnesses) that it is real. So I'm going to the church that can give me those blessings.

ltbugaf said...

Kim, to refine my earlier comment, I think the references most applicable to what you're doing are these:

Matthew 26:68
Mark 14:65
Luke 22:64

Anonymous said...

11 And he gave some, apostles [i.e., some were ordained to be apostles]; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

I'm active LDS, but I was just wondering why our church doesn't have pastors and evangelists, as mentioned in this scripture. Do we, but they're just called something different?

ltbugaf said...

As a matter of fact, yes:

Pastors = Bishops
Evangelists = Patriarchs

Anonymous said...

It just goes round and round. They don't have apostles and prophets, so there is apostasy. They can't have apostles and prophets because the LDS church says they can't. LDS folks define the terms according to their church, and use those terms to declare apostasy. It's ridiculous. (Much like evangelical hijacking the term Christian and defining Mormons out of the equation.) If other churches say it, perhaps it is inspiration, but if the LDS church says the same thing, it is called revelation. Walker, the only thing that makes Hinckley uniquely a prophet by your definition is because you say so. The Pope doesn't have the keys. Why not? Because you say so. What about the Catholics around the world that have had spiritual experiences confirming the divine calling of the Pope? Remind me again what the "world of difference" is? (And, for the record, the LDS church is NOT the fastest growing church in America. In fact, growth appears to be relatively stagnant over the past few years.)

Walker said...

Looks like I stand corrected. I did some more research into the "fastest-growing" claim. I had based my findings on the Glenmary study back in 2000, on the MSNBC article, and the Time article--all outdated (and even the Glenmary study noted that the Church grew the fastest among churchs with one million+ adherents). My bad.

In any case, simply declaring that the "because you say so" argument doesn't make it so. My argument, though partly based on "personal revelation" also rests on what other churches claim. Does the pope even claim to have the sealing power? No, he does not. Marriages end at death. Does Billy Graham even claim to be God's official spokesperson, a Moses-figure? No, he does not. He, like thousands of other pastors, was called through individual experiences. Whether they believe that "keys" exist is a moot point. The question is whether the bible supports their existence and more importantly, whether personal revelation tells of their existence.

In the end equation though, what will be asked at the judgment is not "What thinks Walker of Christ" (and by extension, his servants), but what think you of Christ? If someone, for some reason or another, has not had a fair shot at learning about this church, then s/he will have another opportunity when mortal factors will have left.

Barnabas said...

Who in the New Testament (besides Christ) claims to be God's official spokesperson, a Moses-figure?

Why are there only twelve apostles in the LDS church when there are more than that in the New Testament, if one is to follow the model of the early church (the original eleven, then Matthias (Acts 1:25-26), Paul (Romans 1:1), Barnabas (Acts 14:14), James, the Lord's brother (Galatians 1:19), and possibly Andronicus and Junia (Romans 16:7)?

If one is following the model of the early church, then why are deacons described as those who are adult men rather than young boys (1 Timothy 3:8-13...not being drunk with wine, huband of one wife, etc.)?

ltbugaf said...

Is anyone else still wondering, as I am, when Kim is going to come out and tell us something he/she DOES believe in? I wonder if Kim's own beliefs are as assailable as the ones he/she's attacking.

How does it look from the cheap seats? Having fun dumping on the beliefs of others while refusing to disclose your own?

Kim said...

Ltbugaf:

"How does it look from the cheap seats? Having fun dumping on the beliefs of others while refusing to disclose your own?"

The original post tries to take on "critics" who question modern prophets and revelation, and the Mormon church's claim to uniqueness...

...the inability to articulate this position by those commenting on the thread tells more about the commenters, and the Church's claims, than the original post.

You know, in the end, if all of your faith is based on faith, then fine. No issues. Religious faith is honorable. People like me don't begrudge this.

But this blog consistently attempts to introduce science, historical evidences, claims of uniqueness, social proof, special authorities, etc. that never hold up to scrutiny.

It's best if you just keep it in the faith realm and leave it at that. But the author and readers should be prepared to be challenged when it proclaims otherwise.

ltbugaf said...

Kim, why preface your last remarks with a quote from me, if you aren't going to answer my questions? What's YOUR belief about prophets? What do you stand FOR?

Walker said...

As to our NT model, Christ designated Peter as a the holder of the keys of the sealing power (Matt. 16:15-19--and while this may sound Catholic to some, it's fully in accord with the idea of the apostasy; another post for another time). Additionally, even Joseph did not claim that all authority resided with him but with the twelve.

Also worth noting is that the New Testament is our basic model; not our exact model. Christ didn't have 8 quorums of 70, he had one. There was no PEF nor was there a very sophisticated form of welfare. Deacons were appointed since young boys in those days were viewed as ill-equipped to carry out any element of the ministry. Increased needs call for increased resources.

And Kim, on our use of evidence, what do you expect an intelligent believing person to do? Ignoring evidence is low grade scholarship. Indeed, if we ignored evidence, eventually secularists would call us ignorant knaves (though most do that already--damned if you do, damned if you don't). It's alright for a religious belief to have intellectual bite.

Tigersue said...

"Some Christians claim that there was no need for prophets after the coming of Jesus Christ."

" Our critics, on the other hand, almost universally insist that there is no need for prophets or a Restoration, that God has finished His work,"

I find this very interesting, that if God finished his work, why then hasn't the second coming happened? Yes Christ lived, but after he left the Gift of the Holy Ghost was granted, if that is the case then prophets are definetly needed. Prophets do much more than prophesy, to me much of what I see are prophesies, just because someone else can't accept them, because they are looking for that psychic, Does it not matter that he says prepare?
Don't tell me that anyone could say that because have they in the past? I still find people critical of food storage, of prepardness kits, of gardens, and here we are already seeing trouble in the world that it makes sense to follow these counsels.

John said...

Kim,

"So to answer John in one of his responses, where's the magic if he has been endowed with this divine authority? Shouldn't there be some revelation, or some prophesies? What I've read on the lds.org site seem to be more like admonitions for organizational conformity."

I wish to first address the expectations you have of prophets. Then, following, I will try to address some of your main arguments.

Your expectations that a prophet would have revelations and/or prophesies are partly supported by the practices recorded of the apostles in the New Testament. I believe your interpretation is slightly off (which I will get to later), but one shouldn't be surprised to find prophecies or revelation coming from one called of God in such a manner.

If you were being serious about your magic comment, then we have more discussing to do. I'm almost sure you were being facetious (and please tell me if I'm wrong), so I wont address this expectation further.

In order to have realistic expectations of living prophets, there are some important matters to consider, especially when drawing parallels between New Testamant prophets and the current prophet of the LDS church--

1) Peter, John, Andrew, James, ect., were called on to lead and establish a very young, essentially unorganized, and altogether new religion/church. Their members were in close proximity, both geographically and too often philosophically, to pagans, Jews, and others. Fundamental doctrines and principles still needed to be revealed and proclaimed. Also, the church as a structural entity needed to be built. These types of situations required those called of God to act in His name to find out and proclaim His will concerning these vital matters. Essentially, the revelations came out of necessity.

Today's living prophet inherits the church already 170+ years into this dispensation. The church's doctrinal and structural identities have long been established, making the comparison poor and the expectation for similar revelations unrealistic. A far better comparison in this regard would be with Joseph Smith or even Brigham Young, who have revelations, officially recorded or otherwise, a plenty.

2) The Apostles of the New Testament were called, all, at relatively young ages and served in that capacity the duration of their lives. As explained above, they lived this long amount of time during a period of heavy need for revelations to establish the church.

President Hinckley has been the authorized mouthpiece of God on earth now for only a little over 10 years-- during a time when the need for new revelations is outweighed by the need for exhortation to live the ones we have already received. Again, the expectation of similar quantity of revelations is unrealistic.

3) The New Testament as an apostolic record covers some 50 years worth of events, revelations, and prophecies--all condensed into a relatively short book. As we read, it is easy to get the impression that the fantastic occurences were the norm, which was definitely not the case.

Living prophets are with us in boring real time, not in exciting condensed book form. Spectacular events do not happen frequently (or even every 10 years, for that matter).


In summary, while living prophets can make prophesies and receive revelations, requiring them to produce such before considering them prophets is the equivalent of asking for a sign.

Now to one of your main questions, which I understood to be-- what makes President Hinckley a prophet in our eyes? My answer would be the witness of the Holy Ghost. As I see it, that's the only appropriate answer. I would encourage you to seek the same witness many of us have received. If you study it out, have a truly open heart, and ask God with humility, you will receive this witness in His time.

Two final thoughts--

Prophets are rarely regarded as such in their own day. Think through the events of the bible. Can you think of a single man celebrated by the people as a prophet? This general disbelief, however, did not diminish their divine callings in the slightest. Those that humbled themselves and felt the witness of the Holy Ghost reaped the blessings of listening to a living prophet's voice. The responsibility to find and obey God's servants is ours.

And finally, I agree with what I understand to be your main point. While I don't believe that this was Jeff's intent by any means, I agree that we in the church cannot prove to the world that this is Christ's church using our prophet as evidence. To us within the church, we that have the witness from God, we that have been personally blessed by listening to President Hinckley's council-- his presence as the head of the church on earth is evidence of Christ's church. To those without such a witness, he is no different than the Pope or Billy Graham. Any attempt to prove his divine calling through evidence is a waste of time. Please, in all sincerity, seek your own witness.

Mormanity said...

Anon @7:07 AM said "They can't have apostles and prophets because the LDS church says they can't." I am sorry if my post was unclear. The gist of what I was trying to say had little to do with what we say about the leaders of other churches, but more with what they themselves say.

Many of our critics, often speaking as ministers of other Christian religions, vociferously deny that prophets are needed or that there can be any more revelation or scripture. We can assume that they don't have prophets not because of anything Mormons say, but because they clearly and distinctly explain that they do not.

Yes, I have set the bar very low as the first pass test for the presence of prophets in a Christian church: the first thing to check is whether they claim to have prophets or not. That simple test narrows things down quite a lot, and leads to the question behind my post: where are the prophets of Biblical times? Why should we accept the unbiblical assertion that they are not needed and will not be found in the Church, when Christ Himself said that He would send prophets, when Paul and others wrote that God put prophets in the Church, when John prophecied about at least two prophets in the last days, and when the record of the Bible provides abundant evidence that revelation from God is yet to come in the future? Given that, what do we make of the claims of our critics that revelation is finished and prophets are gone forever?

Those looking for truth, in my opinion, would do well to at least entertain the possibility that if there is a Church on earth guided by Jesus Christ, then it may well have apostles and prophets of old. And the first, simplest, low-bar test is to see who at least claims to have such.

Does that help clarify my point? I wasn't offering any evidence to prove Gordon B. Hinckley or anyone else was a true prophet - I was just making a point about the fact that most of our competitors deny the very possibility of modern prophets.

Bookslinger said...

Moses was a CEO too. And his father-in-law had to tell him to delegate.

Bookslinger said...

"What revelation has President Hinckley received and passed on to us that is so much more insightful and novel than other modern religious leaders?"

Priesthood session of Oct 2002 conference:

"And we urge, in the strongest terms possible, that fathers and mothers regard most seriously this opportunity and challenge to make of Monday evening a time sacred to the family."

John said...

Mormanity said:

"Does that help clarify my point? I wasn't offering any evidence to prove Gordon B. Hinckley or anyone else was a true prophet - I was just making a point about the fact that most of our competitors deny the very possibility of modern prophets.

Your explanation was exactly how I took your original post. Both a good and fair point.

Anonymous said...

Hear that? It's the silence of dozens of critics on this issue. What is their response? Why are there no more prophets? Who gave the revelation that prophets and apostles were not to be in the Christian Church any more? They were in the early Church - see Eph. 4, Acts 11:27-29, etc. But not now. WHY???

Anonymous said...

Good heavens, I thought this thread was dead.

Smith and the other founders of Mormonism seem to have constructed their religion in large part by combing the Bible for words and verses that they could put to work in rather unconventional ways. This method underlies such doctrinal oddities as baptism for the dead, polytheism, temple ordinances, etc, and the office of “prophets” are another example of this. This method, which method derives from the protestant tradition of proof-texting, requires an assumption that the author of a text was using a word in a very specific way which may be very different from the way he actually intended it. Many non-liturgical protestants constitute their church by similarly combing the NT for instructions on church governance; the Mormon version is a reduction ad absurdum of this method.

Using this method, we might look at Ephesians 4:11-12 (kai autos edo^ken tous men apostolous tous de porphe^tas tous de euaggelistas tous de poimenas kai didaskalous / pros ton katartismon to^n agio^n eis ergon diakonias) and conclude that Paul was providing a sort of constitution for church government, made up of types of 5 officers (or 4, if we choose to conclude from the lack of another definite article that poimenes were the same as didaskaloi). But of course this isn’t what Paul was doing at all—he was simply describing in rather loose terms the function various individuals served, without meaing to formalise any of them as “offices”. Elsewhere in the NT we here of dianonoi, presbyteroi and epsikopoi; these do seem more like offices (and indeed have been preserved in liturgical churches as deacons, priests and bishops), but there is some controversy as to how distinct their functions really were in the subapostolic age. There certainly never was any formal “office” of prophet at any time during the church—any more than there was an “office” of prophets in pre-Christian Judaism (the OT prophets were outside the official mainstream, remember, unlike the temple priests). Indeed, what was most distinctive about OT prophets was there lack of connexion to the official, approved religion, which is why they got into trouble so often.

So when Jeff says that he has set the bar very low as the first pass test for the presence of prophets in a Christian church and the first thing to check is whether they claim to have prophets or not, he has got the issue backwards. The church never “officially” had prophets; prophecy was understood, with refernece to OT times, as direct inspiration from God, without official sanction.

One thing Mormonism seems to have missed in its restoration is the charism of celibacy—not surprising, given its founder. Jesus spoke quite plainly that there are those who make themselves “eunuchs for the kingdom of God.” Where is this office in Mormonism? Are there no Temple eunuchs in Salt Lake City? They might have been quite useful, bathing and anointing people in those pre-1990 ordinances.

I agree with many other poster that Hinckley’s prophetic life seems particularly uninspiring. His Monday night initiative is about as prophetic as Bisto’s AHH! NIGHT campaign, and more likely seems like an excuse for him to watch American football. I’d rather watch paint dry, myself.

John said...

Anon @ 8:11-

Do we really need to be provoking our own fights? I think we get enough of those as it is.

ltbugaf said...

Radicalfeministpoet (a.k.a. "anonymous" at 1:22 AM, March 31): I ask again, why do you persist in hiding behind an "anonymous" label, when it's about as opaque as a single layer of Saran Wrap? What do you fear from identifying yourself as you formerly did?