FAQ: Prophets

HawkgrrrlMormon 16 Comments

We’ve explored some of the answers members have posted on the site in the church’s new profiles campaign.  So far, we’ve discussed member answers to questions about polygamypriesthood, politics, and parenting.  Today, let’s see what members had to say about prophets.

Here’s the question:  Do you really believe there is a prophet like Moses alive today?

My initial reaction is that this is a weird way to word this question, but I suppose it was done because “Moses” is probably the only Biblical prophet most people know by name (who does not know the story of Moses leading the animals onto the ark?).

First, the “official” answer given on the site:

Throughout history, God has chosen prophets, such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, and others, to teach the gospel and direct His Church (Amos 3:7). It is no different today. We all need God’s guidance in a world that is sometimes confusing. Because God loves His children, He continues to send living prophets. Joseph Smith (1805–44) was the first prophet of our time. Thomas S. Monson is God’s chosen prophet today.

Just as God led the Israelites out of slavery and to a better place through His prophet Moses, He leads His children today into happier, more peaceful lives when they choose to follow His living prophet. We invite you to listen to the words of living prophets and consider how knowing God’s will can benefit your life.

Answers I generally liked:

  • Moses as an allegory for a prophet.  It’s such a stretch to compare someone as highly mythologized as Moses with someone who is as contemporary as Pres. Monson.  To do so, you have to point to the man in the Moses myth or the myth in the mantle.  It can be tough to pull off, but many here do it pretty well.
    • “Who was Moses… a righteous man, not a perfect man.”
    • “Just as Moses’ people needed guidance in his day, we need guidance in ours as well.”
    • “You must remember that although Moses was a great prophet, he was a man. God calls men to be prophets.”
    • “Without Moses to lead them as a living prophet, would the Children of Israel have been led out of Egypt? They followed the prophet.”  This was a nice twist on the meaning of “follow the prophet” implying following a person’s example and doing what they do rather than doing what they say.
    • “He has been taught the teachings of God, like Moses. He has embraced God, like Moses. He’s committed himself, his life, his abilities, his heart, to God, like Moses.”
    • “Well, I’m not sure how much like Moses he is, but we certainly do have a living prophet today.”  Hear, hear.  Stupid question.
    • “In 1831, a Methodist preacher named Ezra Booth asked Joseph Smith Jr., “Do you believe that you are a prophet, like Moses or Abraham?” The Prophet replied, “I don’t think that what you believe and what I believe are all that different. You believe that God used to talk to man. I believe that he still does.””  So, apparently someone else asked this same stupid question 160 years ago.
  • Practical & personal.  Those that shared personal thoughts about the benefits of having a prophet were generally on point, IMO.  Generally, I was OK with testimony bearing here under that same umbrella, although I’m not sure how well that works in this medium and for a non-Mormon audience.  My favorites were those who linked the topic to their own conversion story.
    • “I know as I have followed God’s living prophet it has brought peace and hope into my life.”
    • “That is probably one of the first things I marveled at, the knowledge that a wise and loving Heavenly Father could show His love by this simple act. What parent would not want to guide their children back and what better way to show His love than to still speak to His children today. The heavens are still open and in my mind it would be odd to think otherwise.”
    • “He receives revelation directly from God. Revelation that has guided my life on a personal level.”
    • “Yes! This was something I was so excited to learn about when I was investigating the church and being taught by the missionaries. Growing up while attending a religious school, I was always taught about the prophets of the Old Testament and amazed at what incredible men they must have been.”
    • “Yep. This is one of the things that I understood and looked for in a church. I grew up reading the Bible and loved reading how regularly and consistently God spoke through his prophets so his people received clarity and direction, as a people, when they chose to listen. People say that God stopped talking to men as a group after Jesus’ death, but that’s not so.”
    • “I have had the privilege of meeting in person President Thomas S. Monson, current Prophet. He is a joyful person. He makes everyone feel like they are his friend.”
    • “Before I joined the church in college, I didn’t think prophets would still be used by God in this day. No other church I had studied had this belief.  In my process of joining the church, I prayed to know if there was actually a prophet, like Moses, on the earth today. Not surprisingly, I received direct revelation from God that there was, in fact, a prophet, and he was at the head of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
  • Personal revelation caveat.  I liked those few who remembered to mention the fact that all members of the church are entitled to their own revelation for themselves, and to be able to discern truth through the spirit, not just blindly follow others.
    • “My personal prayers guide my own personal life, but the prophet’s counsel guides the whole membership.”
    • “When God wants YOU to know something, he’ll tell you personally if you’re listening. When God wants THE WORLD, collectively, to know something, he’ll pick someone, and tell him–simple as that.”  I thought this was the most straightforward answer.
    • “This does NOT mean that God doesn’t talk to me. The Holy Ghost still gives personal revelation to everyone who remains worthy since their baptism and who does the work to pay attention.”  Another favorite.
    • “That is not to say that I am exempt from working on my own relationship with God. Just as the prophet receives direction from God regarding the doctrines of the church, the organization of the church, and instruction related to the church and priesthood, I too must seek inspiration and instruction from God.”

Answers I didn’t like so much, or that might sound strange to non-Mormons:

  • Culty-sounding stuff.  Even just saying the prophet speaks for God can sound a little nutty to those not of our faith without some level of caveat attached.  Any sort of prophet-worship also falls into this camp.
    • “Follow the prophet. He knows the way!”  Cue the spooky music.
  • Apocalyptic answers.  These are answers that sound like “crazy uncle” talk about the world ending.  Why is it that we think Evangelicals are nuts for raving about the Rapture, but we hear similar things at church sometimes without raising an eyebrow?
    • “I believe that as we near the end of the world that there is no greater time for us to have spiritual direction from a chosen servant of the Lord then (sic) right now.”
  • “The world is bad.”  These answers sound like fear-mongering and tribalism.  Inside the tribe, they sound OK.  Outside the tribe, they don’t ring true because those outside the tribe don’t generally think the world is full of invisible dangers.
    • “It gives me great comfort in this troubled world that I can look to the leaders of the LDS Church and know that I can hear the mind and will of Jesus Christ.”  Implying you can’t get your own revelation, of course.
    • “today’s world is a vast maze of concerns that could be very confusing without a prophet to see ahead and warn us of impending danger.”  This sentence got more and more alarming as it went.
    • “There is a constant attack against the commandments God has given to us. Immorality, violence, swearing, and an obsession with wealth are hugely common. There are wars and natural disasters like no other time on this earth. God’s commandments have not changed, but an increasing amount of people are fighting against them. The prophet today helps to protect the faithful members of the church from the influence of those fighting against God’s commandments.”  This one sounds a bit on the culty side to me.  Also, I suggest this person needs to crack open a history book based on some of these claims.
    • “Prophets were around in the Old Testament to lead people, to guide them, and to protect them from the evils of the world. Great prophets like Moses, Abraham, and so on all provided the people of the time with valuable knowledge that was tailored for them to combat the temptations of a wicked world. How much more wicked is our world today?”  I don’t know.  How much?
  • Unintentional doctrinal mistakes.  I didn’t see any biggies here, which is good.
    • “Our prophet is a wonderful man.  I have met one of his apostles, and the spirit around them is incredible.”  Wait, the prophet has apostles?  I thought they were Jesus’ apostles.  Also, if you’ve only met one, how do you know what the spirit around “them” is like?
  • Mormon-speak alert!  Many of these FAQs have highlighted some words we hear a lot at church but almost nowhere else.
    • MouthpieceDoes anyone else on the planet use this word?  What is a mouthpiece anyway?  It sounds like dentures.

What I might say:

  • The likeness between our current prophet and Moses is best taken allegorically as the challenges faced in our day differ from those faced in a mythologized historical tradition.
  • Prophets are people too.  We don’t believe they are infallible.  Unlike Moses, TSM has not killed any Egyptians (so far as I know), but he is also not perfect.
  • Everyone is entitled to the guidance of the holy spirit and direct personal revelation.
  • While prophets lead the church, they sometimes speak as a man, and sometimes inspired.  It’s up to us to discern the difference through our own personal revelation.
  • Prophets provide advice, guidance and inspired insight.  A prophet doesn’t absolve anyone from responsibility for their own choices and actions.

What did you think?  Do you agree it’s weirdly worded?  How would you answer this question?  Discuss.

Comments 16

  1. “Do you really think there is a prophet like Moses alive today?” I don’t think Moses really saw and spoke to God, nor do I think the modern day variant in our church does either. People have been claiming to speak to God, and spread His word, since the beginning of religion around 30,000 years ago. How do we know they really did – other than take their word for it? Usually they are all alone when they get these messages from God (Moses on Mt. Sinai or Joseph in the woods).

    So we have to trust them. But do they deserve to be trusted? I’m not sure that Joseph Smith does. He started off his career as a scryer or money-digger pretending to see buried treasure with magic rocks while burying his face in a hat. This shady business practice was illegal because it was inherently deceptive (he claimed to see things that weren’t there). Joseph never found any treasure, but later used the same rocks to translate the Book of Mormon with. His further claims to have translated the POGP also are clearly false – since afterwords the papyri was translated by Egyptologists (sorry, but no relation to what Joseph claimed was written). Polygamy is another example of Joseph acting as a deceiver. He lied to the church, the general public, and even his own wife Emma about his participation in poylgamy. Emma only knew about a few of the 33 wives Joseph had (a little known fact even in the Church today).

    If prophets could speak in the name of the Lord then (and lie or be very sincerely mistaken) then couldn’t they be wrong today about stuff today?

    Methinks they are just pretending to get revelation (in the Moses or Joseph Smith sense) to perpetuate our expectations of them as “prophets.” Just my opinion though.

  2. One more thing: I like Hawkgrrrl’s answers. I think they are more honest. I just wanted to tease out an issue with one of them though that I hear used a lot.

    She says “Prophets are people too. We don’t believe they are infallible.” Of course, nobody is perfect. It’s clear when reading “Rough Stone Rolling” that JS had many warts. Same goes for modern day examples like Ezra T. Benson and his ideas about communists taking over America via the black Civil Rights movement. But can revelation be just as fallible as the man who speaks it? How many times can they speak as a “mouthpiece” for God on matters that are later shown to be false or misguided, before they lose any credibility as a prophetic “mouthpiece for the Lord?”

  3. What is a mouthpiece anyway?

    Actually, it’s the part of a wind instrument that you blow into. So who, then, are the Lord’s keys/valves/slides? Who is the Lord’s bell?

    Better yet, consider the following from Wikipedia:

    Figuratively and with negative connotations to indicate the role of a spokesperson or mass media venue that is used to perpetuate the views or agenda of another, as in “the newspaper became a mouthpiece for its owner’s political views.”

    (emphasis mine)

  4. Let’s try that again.

    Figuratively and with negative connotations to indicate the role of a spokesperson or mass media venue that is used to perpetuate the views or agenda of another, as in “the newspaper became a mouthpiece for its owner’s political views.”

    (emphasis mine)

  5. HG, I enjoy these posts of yours recently. (Saves my having to cull the comments at…)

    I appreciate the honest comments about the human qualities of the prophets, including Moses.

    As for the appropriateness of the question, it does seem a little odd. It would be awfully easy to answer “Yes” and be done with it.

    Perahps a better question would have been, “Why do you believe…”

    My own answer to that question would be this:

    During my membership in the church, I have known of eight men who served as president of the church, and whom we accept as prophets. As I have heard their teachings, I’ve had personal spiritual experiences that have led me to accept them as the prophets — the spiritual leaders and teachers — we claim them to be. Some have been the source of great change in the church and others seemed to maintain the status quo, but it has been comforting to me to know that God loves His children enough to allow us inspired communication through His prophet.

  6. ” “Moses” is probably the only Biblical prophet most people know by name (who does not know the story of Moses leading the animals onto the ark?)”

    Was that tongue-in-cheek? Noah’s Ark.

    The most problematic part of the question as to whether we have a prophet like Moses is that I don’t think I could say yes and I consider myself a TBM. I definitely accept Pres. Monson as a prophet, but not like Moses. Moses had some serious face-time with God and performed undeniable public miracles at God’s command. Public miracles by the prophet or apostles today are pretty much non-existent (anybody know of one?) and revelations are pretty much limited to church administration these days. You can blame the times or whatever, but if you tell non-Mormons Pres. Monson is a prophet like Moses, there’s going to be a gap between expectations and reality.

    Nice post, by the way.

  7. Josh:

    In some sense I appreciate the honesty of the idea that we don’t have prophets today because nobody had prophets in the past either.

    I guess I have never understood why it’s crazier to follow someone who claims to hear direction from God (a prophet) than to follow someone who STUDIES the people who claimed to hear direction from God (i.e., theologians). It doesn’t get less crazy be being secondhand.

    The Restoration idea that God tries to speak to all people all the time — that the spiritual and the physical are in deep connection everywhere — or the competing idea that the spiritual is completely unrelated to the physical both seem more internally consistent explanations of reality than any approach that said “God did, but He stopped.”

  8. Post

    Martin – yes, that was a joke! Glad someone got it!

    So, if Moses didn’t talk with God face-to-face as it says, then I guess he spent 40 days on a mountain carving a bunch of plates, and then smashed them when he got to the bottom of the mountain. Does the act of smashing the plates point to his own authorship? Would he be more likely to smash plates God personally created than ones he did himself? It didn’t really occur to me to consider Moses the author of the 10 commandments(e.g. most of the story is true, except when no one was looking?). It’s an interesting idea, but my own opinion is that it’s also eye witness accounts that are suspect, not just what we didn’t see.

    I do think the Mormon-prophet model, when applied correctly, is as good as any. You’re entitled to personal revelation. If the prophet says something that contradicts your initial feelings, you’re entitled to personal revelation to know whether it is accurate or not. IOW, no blind followership required, and we have the benefit of giving extra consideration to opinions that differ from our own. The other alternatives are: 1) be uncritical of your own views and do whatever you think best, or 2) be uncritical of the authority’s views and do whatever he thinks best. Frankly, I think both those alternatives are inferior.

  9. I’ve never liked (or used) the “mouthpiece” metaphor, because it pretty clearly isn’t the way the Lord speaks through prophets. “Mouthpiece” makes it sound like the prophet is purely passive, kind of like the ancient Greek oracle at Delphi, and just sort of sits there in a trance while the Lord makes his lips move to pronounce the Word of God and nothing but. It’s pretty much an unofficial article of faith that not everything that comes out of the President of the First Presidency’s mouth is God-breathed, even when any one speech is overall prophetic. There’s always a human component sounding alongside the inspiration.

  10. ” do think the Mormon-prophet model, when applied correctly, is as good as any. You’re entitled to personal revelation. If the prophet says something that contradicts your initial feelings, you’re entitled to personal revelation to know whether it is accurate or not. IOW, no blind followership required, and we have the benefit of giving extra consideration to opinions that differ from our own. The other alternatives are: 1) be uncritical of your own views and do whatever you think best, or 2) be uncritical of the authority’s views and do whatever he thinks best. Frankly, I think both those alternatives are inferior.”

    Well put, especially the bit about the potential flaws with “be uncritical of your own views and do whatever you think best.” Liberal Mormons* (arguably including myself) need reminding of this.

    *Not “Mormon liberals,” which is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish.

  11. Post

    Thanks to Lemming for pointing out the mouthpiece metaphor more clearly. Obviously, I was not in high school band. Did you ever hear someone try to speak through one of those, though? Doesn’t it come out all weird and hard to understand?

  12. My answer:

    Throughout the ages, there have been certain people who have seemed “closer” to the divine and who devoted their lives to helping the people around them get closer to God. This includes traditional prophets in the Bible like Moses and Noah and others, but I would also include people like Buddha, Mohammed, St Francis of Assisi, Mother Theresa, etc. In the LDS Church, we call these people “prophets”. We believe that our church is lead by a prophet today – a man who has been called of God and who has devoted his life to trying to help us. At the end of the day, our relationship with God is a personal one and is ultimately up to each one of us, but I am thankful for people who are willing to offer assistance to me and my family as I continue along my journey.

  13. I posted a comment on another of your articles(it was 2 years old so don’t know when it will be seen)… I probably won’t remember everything I said and won’t try.  I am not a preacher, a priest or a prophet….(?)… but I have the disturbing feeling the Millennium was supposed to go down in April 2009. All of this is open to discussion, I have been tring to do that.  I have tried to do right, sometimes I have…sometimes I haven’t done so good.  Got married to the wrong man, had two children…got divorced..had a decent upbringing and education but had to work a lot of crummy jobs to get by.  Something happened in April 2009 that literally drove me crazy.  I was put in the hospital and spoke with a shrink several times who did nothing to find out what had happened.  That was 2 years ago.  Something has happened this last Easter that was in direct correlation to two years ago. I thought it had to do with me, but apparenty it does bu it doesn’t. (?)And I’m afraid I’m not crazy now.  Hope so, but there you go. There is no number 911 to get in touch wih God.  There are 500 variations of everything anymore.  I need help.  And a shrink won’t do.  I keep trying to reach out to somebody…..

    1. Type your comment here.Hi She-rah, I hope you find my message. I believe we’ve all made bad mistakes so don’t beat yourself up too much. I have definitely made my share. My greatest revelation has been coming to the realization that God’s commandments aren’t suggestions. The wrath is real. Jesus and his prophets teach the same message. Repent, seek God first and sin no more. God will guide and protect. You can be led by bad spirits without your knowledge. Be wise as a serpant and innocent as a dove. The devil tempts and traps. The devil is also the author of confusion and not peace. I once had depression, insomnia, anxiety, high blood pressure and IBS. I prayed for forgiveness, got out of the situation, simplified my life and these problems are now gone.

      God is a living God and holy. Is he a priority? Read the bible for yourself. There is much to say about idols etc. Cut out the television and drama making friends. I’m a loner but very very very happy. God is good. Pray, have faith and hope. 🙂

  14. Yeah, I definately need Moses right now…. we might all need Moses, for as I said, I thought this had to do with ME.  The rain down south at Easter time(2011)… I had a direct “premonition” of a flood but I am not psychic so I thought it was going to be right here, but it was not.  I cannot understand this for I thought this had to do with me…. but I should have know better, somehow…. should have known better.  It all could have been so easy, I guess.  Now it could all be so hard. 

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