A few months ago I made a post where I examined the claim that Thomas Spencer Monson was a prophet. Foolishly I hadn’t realized how much of a hot button this would be. But regardless(and perhaps foolishly), I’m going to examine this topic again. However I’m going to look at it in a more general fashion.
There were a few things that happened after I wrote my Thomas S. Monson post that made me think about the stance I had taken. The biggest one was a member of the previous ward that I attended spoke of an instance where a General Authority of the Church was organizing a new stake in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, in Canada. Instead of organizing just one stake this leader was inspired to organize two stakes. Years later having both of those stakes allowed for growth of the Church in that area.
So was I wrong to have stated that Thomas S. Monson and other general authorities are not Prophets, Seers, and Revelators? If yes, then why do they not produce written revelations? If no, then how can they still receive inspiration, as demonstrated above? One thing is for sure is that I overlooked one importance facet of prophethood. In this write up I intend to examine this facet, and again re-examine the prophetic claims of leadership within the corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
We learn some important information in the Book of Revelation.
10 And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
Any person who has the testimony of Jesus has the spirit of prophecy. Joseph Smith confirmed this when writing a Question and Answer about the church.
The question was, “Do you believe Joseph Smith, Jun., to be a Prophet?”
The answer Joseph Smith wrote was, “Yes, and every other man who has the testimony of Jesus. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.–Revelation, 19:10th verse.”
So does President Thomas S. Monson have a testimony of Jesus Christ? If so, then, Yes, he is prophet. Do other General Authorities have a testimony of Jesus? If so, then, Yes, they are prophets too. Does your bishop or other local leader have testimony of Christ? If so, then they are also prophets. Do you have a testimony of Christ? If so, then YOU are also prophet in the exact same fashion as any leader.
The problem is the prophet worship we have in the world today. Perhaps, “Prophet worship” might be too harsh of words. Regardless, there are many people today teaching that there is only one prophet on the earth at any time. This is incorrect as we have seen through Joseph Smith’s teachings and Revelation 19:10.
People are also taught to believe that THE prophet can never lead us astray. First of all there is never only one prophet at a time to thus qualify as “THE” prophet. Second, the prophet never leading the Church astray idea originated with Wilford Woodruff, in his pretentious rejection of Plural Marriage*.
Joseph Smith rejected the notion that a man could never lead the church astray. Even Brigham Young, surprisingly, rejected the same notion. The scriptures all together reject this apostate idea as false(1 Kings 22:21-23; Deuteronomy 13:1-4). I call this idea apostate because it is the exact same one that exists in the Catholic Church. Human beings are imperfect and fallible. Just because somebody gains a high corporate title does not mean that their decisions and statements are suddenly impervious to imperfection and error.
So we have learned two things thus far: First, that anyone who has a testimony of Christ is a prophet. And second prophets(since anyone with a testimony of Christ is one) are not perfect and can in fact lead people astray. We will come back to this second point later.
One of the biggest problems people have, including myself at one point, with the idea that there can be many prophets, is the thought of the disorder that must surely come with such an arrangement. If you are reading this and a faithful member of the L-DS Church, then probably this thought has already crossed your mind. Come on be honest.
And it’s true, this idea is ingrained into every L-DS members since their youth or conversion. There can only be one prophet leading. If there were more than one it would create disorder. I can witness that this is the case. Just last Sunday our Sunday School teacher spoke about he knows that the Church is true because there is only one prophet leading the Church. This is because God is a God of order, thus inferring that if there were more than one prophet then it would create disorder.
However, this concept is NOT what we are taught in the scriptures.
24 And Moses went out, and told the people the words of the Lord, and gathered the seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the tabernacle.
25 And the Lord came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the Spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders; and it came to pass, that, when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease.
26 But there remained two of the men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad; and the Spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were written, but went not out unto the tabernacle; and they prophesied in the camp.
27 And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp.
28 And Joshua, the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them.
Here we read an interesting occurrence. Moses had gathered men to the tabernacle. They began prophesying. But low and behold what happened. There were these two ordinary guys in the camp, they were not part of those seventy leaders, yet they started going around “prophesying.” Aren’t the leaders of the Church the only ones who can do that? The Israelites seems to have had a similar idea, since one of the men named Joshua told Moses that he should forbid these two guys from prophesying.
I’m going to be honest too, it does make sense. Rationally if more than one person claims to speak for God it would be confusing. It would seem to make much more sense to only have one person speak for God. Then everything that one person says would be in harmony(we would hope).
So if Brother Joe B. Low gets up in sacrament meeting and starts prophesying he should be forbidden. After all, only the leaders of the Church can prophesy or give revelations.
Imagine, if you will, what President Monson, one of the Twelve, a Seventy, or even a Bishop would do if some people went around the Church prophesying outside of official channels. For me, I imagine that they would have a similar reaction to Joshua. They would want to forbid him, or at least call him into the Bishops office after sacrament meeting.
However pay close attention to what Moses did:
29 And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his Spirit upon them.
Moses basically said, “You’re jealous for me?” He was essentially saying, “Do you think I care if these guys are prophesying?” The fact is, that Moses didn’t care that others besides the leaders were prophesying. Moses even went on to say that God wants ALL the lord’s people to prophesy.
So if we went back in time, and asked Moses if God’s form of order was that only on leader should speak for God, we can assume his answer would be not only, “No,” but, “Heck, NO!” Moses helps us realize that prophecy is not a gift limited to one man who is a leader. Rather it is a gift that can occur in any person when the Spirit comes upon them. And that it is God’s will that this gift come upon ALL His people.
As we can see, this again reinforces the idea of not only more than one prophet, but the common membership being prophets.
Moses understood that the Lord wants ALL His people to be prophets. Not just one leader. God wants a people of prophets. The idea that it is the Lord’s will for one man to sit on top and dictate prophecy and revelation while everyone else follows what that man says is a false one. We must each develop a close personal bond with Jesus Christ. We must be our own prophets. We cannot rely on the words of other men. The iron rod is the Word of God, not the words of some corporate leaders in a, dare I say, Great and Spacious Building.
In 1 Corinthians 14 we again learn the same thing:
1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.
5 I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied; for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.
24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all;
25 And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.
We should be desiring to prophecy. Additionally, the prophesying of the common membership is one way to help bring people to Christ and help convince them of the truthfulness of the gospel.
But again, we are stuck with the mass confusion that such a system would create. If every member of the church is giving different prophecies and revelations then the Church would be thrown into chaos! It appears much more logical, and easy, for us to listen twice a year at general conference to fifteen men who speak for God and whose prophecies and revelations never contradict.
However this is not so. In addition to other resources 1 Corinthians 14 also gives us instruction on how to handle the common prophet system.
26 How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.
Here the same question is asked. Just how is such a thing done?
29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
When the prophets, that is, the average ward member, prophecy there should be one who sits and judges what they say. That might even be applied to say that each member judges for themselves.
30 If anything be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.
31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.
Everyone must take their turn when prophesying in meetings.
32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.
The meaning of the “spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” means that any true prophecy cannot contradict a previous true prophecy given by any other prophet. Joseph Smith likewise confirmed this when he taught that a true revelation will not contradict a previous one.
However, instead of understanding this chapter, people look at verse 33 and think that supports the idea that there is only one prophet at a time. Yet this verse is directly supporting the idea that there can be order even when every member of the church is a prophet.
36 What! came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?
The word of God does not only come to one leader. This verse, to me at least(and I may be interpreting it wrong), seems to be expressing dismay at the idea that the word of God would only come to one person.
37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.
38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.
39 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.
40 Let all things be done decently and in order.
Again we are told in this chapter to “covet prophesy.” When was that last time you actually wanted to be a prophet and give revelations? The scriptures teach us that this is something that we should be doing. I don’t think that God will give us the gift of prophecy if we are unwilling to accept it.
Thus far we have seen two opposing ideas:
|There is only one prophet on the earth at a time.||All, most, or many of God’s people are prophets.|
|God speaks to him and he teaches God’s word.||God speaks to all people according to their gifts.|
|The people listen and obey.||All people listen to the words of others, they use the Spirit to determine what is true.|
|Requires little effort on the part of the listener.||Requires extensive effort on the part of the listener.|
While the “One Prophet” system may sound very logical and easy, those are precisely the reasons why it is not the correct system.
1 Corinthians 1:27
27 For God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
Many prophets at once, sounds illogical, and foolish. It sounds like confusion. Yet, God does not always use what is logical according to men.
God, also, does not want an idle people.
Doctrine and Covenants 58:26-28
26 For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.
27 Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
28 For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.
The “One Prophet” system would have us believe that it is our leaders’ “province to teach to the Church what the doctrine is. It is [our] province to echo what [they] say or to remain silent.”** We must follow all “official church policies” regardless if they align with the scriptures or not.
However the scriptures teach that as long as we do good and work to bring to pass righteousness then we will not lose our reward. It doesn’t matter if we are inline with a Church program or policy so long as we are engaged in a good cause and do it of our own free will.
There are, Sections in the Doctrine and Covenants which state that only Joseph Smith may receive revelations for the whole church. There are a couple ways we can address these scriptures. One way is that they only applied to Joseph Smith, Jr. Another way is that revelations(revelator) are different than prophecies(Prophet). I also find it interesting that Joseph Smith organized the Anointed Quorum to be able to hear revelations from any member and accept them for presentation to the whole church. The Anointed Quorum was an actual quorum of members who had received their Nauvoo Endowment. It was not just a generic group of endowed members. I’d like to hear more thoughts on the idea.
Furthermore, how do we square the multiple prophet system with the principle of having a President of the Church? Well let’s looks at a scripture pertaining to the duties of the President of the Church.
Doctrine and Covenants 107:91
91 And again, the duty of the President of the office of the High Priesthood is to preside over the whole church, and to be like unto Moses
Yes, the President of the church does play an important role. They are to preside over the church, which in God’s terms means to serve the whole church. Their duty is not to be supreme infallible dictator. Additionally according to section 107 the First Presidency, Quorum of the Twelve, Quorum of the Seventy, High Council of Zion, and the combined High Councils of all of the Stakes of Zion, all are equal in authority.
Additionally you’ll notice it said the President’s duty is to be like unto Moses. As we read earlier it was Moses who didn’t reject the general membership from prophesying. It was also Moses who said that God wanted all His people to be prophets.
I don’t want you to think that I advocate rejecting Thomas S. Monson as a prophet. If Thomas Monson has a testimony of Christ then he is a prophet. It would be wrong to reject the words of a prophet. However just as with any prophet, we must examine their words and determine if they square with what is taught in the Scriptures. Those words they speak that do align with scripture then we accept them. Those words that don’t we are duty bound as children of God to reject them. As discussed earlier this is were he must be weary of a fallible human leading people astray.
According to Their Idols
One problem we may encounter is when true revelation given to someone regarding incorrect ideas. As in the example I gave at the beginning a General Authority received real revelation about organizing stakes. However the problem is that the organization of stakes in the L-DS Church today runs contrary to how they are supposed to be established in scripture. How then, can real revelation be received?
The reason is given to us in Ezekiel 14:1-6
1 Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me.
2 And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,
3 Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumbling block of their iniquity before their face; should I be inquired of at all by them?
4 Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the Lord will answer him that cometh, according to the multitude of his idols;
5 That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols.
6 Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations.
When we set idols up before ourselves, God will answer us according to those idol. While a stake may be organized by revelation, that does not mean that the organization of the stake has been done as God wants it. It just means that God is speaking to that person through their idols.
Another example could be the Church Handbook of Instruction. I’m sure there are many Bishops and even regular members out there who have received true revelation from God regarding something concerning the Church Handbook of Instruction. This is real revelation. The problem is that instead of following God’s Word in the scriptures, we have set up the Church Handbook of Instruction as an idol in our hearts. Therefor God will inspire us according to that idol.
However, even though the CHI may have some good instruction, it may even have some wise council, and people probably have had positive experiences with it; we have been commanded to turn from our idols. When we obey teachings, books, manuals, magazines, and cultural practices that run contrary to scripture and the words of the prophets, we are setting those things up as idols before us. We are commanded by God to reject them.
As we begin ridding our lives of idols(and for me this is quite a task) the Spirit can teach us more freely. One week we maybe be quietly enjoying the Spirit, while partaking of a sacrament administered by priests while elders are present. But the next, the Lord might withdraw His Spirit from that same sacrament because now we understand that the sacrament cannot be properly administered by priests if elders are present.
There’s one example of something taught today that is not correct the, administration of the Sacrament. Let’s look at some others(the problem is most messages today are not specifically declared as revelation or prophecy):
The Gospel Principles manual teaches that Tithing is paying one-tenth of our income. However Doctrine and Covenants Section 119 gives us a different story. Only after we consecrate all of our property to the Bishop can we begin to pay tithing. Tithing itself being ten percent of our excess property after one year. This means that after one year everything that is left over after our expenditures is consecrated to the Bishop. Ten percent of THAT, our interest, is given as tithing.
However tithing has an additional definition. Prior to Section 119 tithing referred to any offering. So you can still pay tithing as an offering but there is no requirement of ten percent. The ten percent definition of tithing can ONLY be lived as part of the Law of Consecration. Think of that next time you fill out a tithing slip; or go for a temple recommend and you are asked if you pay a full and honest tithe. The answer is you can’t because we are not living the Law of Consecration.
Word of Wisdom
Gospel Principles Chapter 29 teaches that “We must obey the Word of Wisdom to be worthy to enter the temple. If we do not obey the Word of Wisdom, the Lord’s Spirit withdraws from us.”
However in Doctrine and Covenants 89 teaches us something different. Verse 2 states that the revelation is, “to be sent greeting; not by commandment or constraint, but by revelation and the word of wisdom.” The Word of Wisdom cannot be a commandment because in the original revelation is says it is not to be sent by commandment. Anyone who teaches that the Word of Wisdom is a commandment is not in harmony with the scriptures and is preaching false teachings.
Matthew 15:11 teaches that “Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.” This is why section 89 is not a commandments but a word of wisdom.
Additionally the Word of Wisdom allows for drinking wine for the sacrament*** and also for drinking beer****.
Gospel Principles Chapter 42 says, “The Israelites are to be gathered spiritually first and then physically. They are gathered spiritually as they join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and make and keep sacred covenants. This spiritual gathering began during the time of the Prophet Joseph Smith and continues today all over the world. Converts to the Church are Israelites either by blood or adoption.”
This is not correct. There is no such thing as being gathered spiritually first. Saying that the spiritual gathering began with Joseph Smith is, to be frank, an outright lie! Joseph Smith firmly believed in a literal physical gathering. That is why converts from all over the world got on boats and came here to North America. To say it was a Spiritual gathering is an insult to the sacrifices of those ho came before us. They were literally gathering Israel. That is why the Saints as a whole moved from place to place establishing cities.
Doctrine and Covenants 133:12, 13 says:
12 Let them, therefore, who are among the Gentiles flee unto Zion.
13 And let them who be of Judah flee unto Jerusalem, unto the mountains of the Lord’s house.
In the gathering the gentiles are to be gathered to Zion and the Jews are to be gathered to Jerusalem. If the gathering is spiritual, and Zion symbolically means becoming a member of the Church, then what does Jerusalem symbolically mean for the Jews? The Jewish religion? Are we really to believe that our missionaries to be recruiting for the Jewish religion as well?
The gathering is very literal. It has never been revoked by God. Anyone who preaches otherwise is not teaching in line with the scriptures.
The leaders of the Church do teach many correct things as well. They teach us to love our families. They teach us to be Charitable to our fellow beings.
President Monson gave a message for August 2011 it included this:
“To you who are parents, I say, show love to your children. You know you love them, but make certain they know it as well. They are so precious. Let them know. Call upon our Heavenly Father for help as you care for their needs each day and as you deal with the challenges which inevitably come with parenthood. You need more than your own wisdom in rearing them.”
There are many other good teachings in the Church. But at the same time there are many things the we should be cautious of. As we make the scriptures part of our lives we must use them to determine correct principles. We must reject those teachings that run contrary to the scriptures and the words of the prophets.
Conclusion and Invitation
I hope this write up was helpful in expounding upon the multiple prophet system. God truly does want a people of prophets. We must overcome the temptation to be thankful for “our living prophet,” rather we should be thankful for “living prophets.” We need to look around and find those who prophecy for God. And believe me there are many. We must examine the claims of the prophets and reject that which is false, but also accept that which is true.
There is no such thing as “official channels” for God. If God wants to give a prophecy through your next door neighbor He will. We become a lazy, slothful, idle, and idolatrous people when we think we can listen to the words of fifteen men and be assured that what they say is God’s will. It is idleness! It is laziness! Have any of you read the revelations of James Strang? What about Joseph Smith III, the Prophet’s son? Have you read the Second Book of Commandments? What about Christopher Nemelka? There’s even the Mentinah archives, a record of the descendants of Hagoth. Have you even bothered to search and examine these things? Some may be true some may be not.
Do you only have time to listen to General Conference or read the Ensign? Or will you “treasure up in your minds continually the words of life” and SEEK after everything that is virtuous, lovely, of good report, and/or praiseworthy? Seek doesn’t mean wait for it to be handed to you over the television, or in a magazine twice a year. It means to go out and search these things out.
I want to invite everyone who reads this, yes even you people who may be reading this offline, to come here to my blog. I want to hear your comments and ideas. I’m an imperfect person, my ideas and write ups are not perfect. There is a comment section underneath every post, it is very easy to use. The address you will need to go to is https://zomarah.wordpress.com/2011/08/10/prophecy-and-paradigm. I don’t censor anybody’s comments(unless it’s spam). Even if you are in complete opposition to what I wrote feel free to make your voice heard. Rest assured you will probably bring up something I hadn’t considered before or give me something to think about.
Let’s examine the teachings of not only the Church, but of anybody. Let’s find out what is being taught that is in line with the scriptures. Please, I want to hear your opinions I really do.
I hope this post hasn’t been as hot button pushing as my previous one. But at the same time I hope it has given you something to consider. Something to research, and ponder, and pray about. If you ask me, if I believe that Thomas Monson is a Prophet, my answer will be, “’Yes, and every other man who has the testimony of Jesus. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.’”
References for Offline Readers
* Official Declaration 1 (http://lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/od/1?lang=eng )
** Bruce R. McConkie
*** D&C 89:5
5 That inasmuch as any man drinketh wine or strong drink among you, behold it is not good, neither meet in the sight of your Father, only in assembling yourselves together to offer up your sacraments before him.
**** D&C 89:17
17 Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain.