Searcher and MD review the latest General Conference talks, calling out the good, the bad, and the ugly.
You might have answered this question previously, but what do you consider the defining characteristic of a prophet?
I recently found this statement from F.B. Meyer, “We are learning to lay increasing stress on prophecy. What miracles were to a former age, the predictions of the Bible are to this; and, unlike the miracles, the evidence of prophecy becomes stronger with every century that passes between its first utterance and its fulfillment.”
I would argue that one primary purpose of modern prophets is to illustrate the correct interpretation of ancient prophecies and how they are applied in our modern circumstances. Would you say that a correct understanding of scripture will be at least as important sign of the Servants as the performance of miracles? After all, even Christ could not perform miracles when the people had no faith.
I rely on the scriptural definitions of a prophet, among which are:
They prophecy the future:
1 Nephi 22:2 for by the Spirit are all things made known unto the prophets which shall come upon the children of men according to the flesh.
Ether 12:2 Ether was a prophet of the Lord; wherefore Ether came forth in the days of Coriantumr, and began to prophesy unto the people, for he could not be restrained because of the Spirit of the Lord which was in him.
Mosiah 12:1 Thus has the Lord commanded me, saying, “Abinadi, go and prophesy unto this my people, for they have hardened their hearts against my words; they have repented not of their evil doings; therefore, I will visit them in my anger, yea, in my fierce anger will I visit them in their iniquities and abominations.”
They cry repentance and the consequences of not repenting:
1 Nephi 1:4 there came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city Jerusalem must be destroyed.
Ether 9:28 And there came prophets in the land again, crying repentance unto them—that they must prepare the way of the Lord or there should come a curse upon the face of the land; yea, even there should be a great famine, in which they should be destroyed if they did not repent.
Ether 11:20 there also came many prophets, and prophesied of great and marvelous things, and cried repentance unto the people, and except they should repent the Lord God would execute judgment against them to their utter destruction.
They speak the word of the Lord:
2 Nephi 9:2 he has spoken unto the Jews by the mouth of his holy prophets
3 Nephi 29:2 the words of the Lord which have been spoken by the holy prophets, shall all be fulfilled
Jeremiah 23 – they will repeat the words the Lord gives them, rather than creating their own message.
Usually the prophecy they preach is related to the violation of a previous commandment or revelation, thereby necessitating the repentance to avoid the consequences of the disobedience. In that light, it would be imperative for the prophet to have a correct understanding of the previous prophecies in order to correctly warn the people about their current destructive behavior. Because a true prophet is given what to teach by God (either through the spirit or an angel), their interpretation will be correct. If we have a self-proclaimed prophet that contradicts previous revelations and prophecies, that should be all we require to ignore anything and everything he says.
So would you consider anyone to be a prophet who studied the scriptures and knew them well enough to recognize when the people were in danger of God’s judgment and taught repentance to the people on that basis? Or do they need new revelation to teach what God has already made available to be considered a prophet?
That is a general question, but in the context of General Conference, would you consider any speaker who correctly applied the scriptures to current events in order to focus the people’s hearts back on God as a prophet?
My intention in asking is not to find fault with anything you have said, but rather because we have grown up with using the word prophet in a very specific way that might inhibit people from identifying a true prophet when they hear/see one. However, it appears to me that your definition involving direct divine communication might be more limited than what I am thinking about which would be a more natural result of a person immersing themselves in the Word of God and simply speaking what comes into their minds and hearts.
Do you have scriptural examples of people considered to be prophets who didn’t have direct divine communication?
Do you consider the scriptures to be direct divine communication? The problem I have with limiting true prophets to spiritual manifestations is the possibility that they can be deceived.
The Israelites were commanded “And these words with I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deut. 6:6-7) The kings were supposed to write themselves a copy of the law of Moses copied from the Levites, “and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them”. (Deut. 17:18-19)
I suppose there would be no need for prophets at all if everyone did this, but since they don’t, it seems likely that prophets are those whom God calls from among those who do take seriously His word, who do have it written in their hearts because they often read and live it. These people are then called in some way to preach repentance. Whether that call comes from an angel, or the still small voice that won’t let them shut up about a topic no one seems to want to hear about is not clear. Some prophets cannot be restrained from talking (2 Ne. 1:26; Ether 12:2), and others are much more reluctant about their missions (Jonah, for example).
Now I doubt the scriptures alone would be of much use without the Spirit to enlighten their meaning. The eunuch in Acts 8 was reading Isaiah but had no understanding until Philip used the passage from Isaiah to explain about Jesus. However, if the baptized eunuch were to return home and teach from the scriptures to his own people, he would probably be considered a prophet without any particular calling or vision.
As for examples of people who were called prophets without direct divine communication, what about Eldad and Medad?
“And the Lord came down in a cloud and spoke unto [Moses], and took of the spirit that was upon [Moses], and gave it unto the seventy elders: 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.
“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.
“And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said, Eldad and Medad do prophesy in the camp.
“And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of Moses, one of his young men, answered and said, My lord Moses, forbid them.
“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.” (Numbers 11:25-29)
I picked that account because it specifically calls Eldad and Medad prophets with no other qualification than they received of the same spirit that the other men gathered to the tabernacle received. They were chosen but were not physically present at the time. The key element seems to be the presence of the Spirit, not a personal appearance of Jesus or some other heavenly messenger. Deuteronomy 18:15 tells us that there would be a future prophet like unto Moses, which implies that most prophets will not have that same relationship. Aaron and Miriam were prophets at the same time as Moses, but not in the same way – most prophets knew the Lord through visions and dreams but Moses spoke to God directly (Numbers 12:6-8) However, visions and dreams alone might lead someone to become a false prophet.
The account of Eldad and Medad does not say that they didn’t have direct divine communication, it doesn’t say one way or the other. So to draw the conclusion that they must not have had direct divine communication because the account is silent about their calling isn’t a good approach. Especially when you consider what God himself has said of prophets without direct divine communication:
Jeremiah 14:14 Then the LORD said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart.
Jeremiah 23:21-22 21 I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds.
Jeremiah 27:14 Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are saying to you, ‘You shall not serve the king of Babylon,’ for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you. I have not sent them, declares the LORD, but they are prophesying falsely in my name, with the result that I will drive you out and you will perish, you and the prophets who are prophesying to you.”
Jeremiah 29:30-32 Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: “Send to all the exiles, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD concerning Shemaiah of Nehelam: Because Shemaiah had prophesied to you when I did not send him, and has made you trust in a lie, therefore thus says the LORD: Behold, I will punish Shemaiah of Nehelam and his descendants. He shall not have anyone living among this people, and he shall not see the good that I will do to my people, declares the LORD, for he has spoken rebellion against the LORD.’”
Deuteronomy 18:20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’
God consistently says that he calls true prophets and gives them the words to preach. Anyone who has not stood in his council is not a prophet, no matter how righteous or well-versed in the scriptures. A great teacher, a skilled preacher, an insightful student of the scriptures, yes…but not a prophet.
As for Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, your interpretation isn’t consistent with the scriptural record. You reference Numbers 12, but skipped verse 5.
The Lord came down in a pillar of cloud, stood before them, and spoke to Aaron and Miriam.
That sounds like direct divine communication to me! What is different is that Moses spoke to God face to face, he beheld God’s form in person, versus a vision like Isaiah, Ezekiel, and others had. Even Elijah only got to see God from the back.
You also didn’t account for Numbers 12:6 And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream.
That seems pretty clear that any prophet needs to have direct divine communication for God to consider him a prophet.
Exodus 4:27 Now the LORD said to Aaron, “Go to meet Moses in the wilderness.”
There’s one instance of direct divine communication for Aaron.
Exodus 15:20 refers to Miriam as prophetess at the time they crossed the Red Sea. Our current record doesn’t give the details to her calling, but if God is consistent then she also had direct divine communication. If God isn’t consistent, then let’s eat, drink and be merry!
Micah 6:4 For I brought you up from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.
God is under the impression that he himself sent Aaron and Miriam. they didn’t send themselves.
Your concern about false prophets being deceived is valid. We are warned continually to be on guard for such. But we’re also told in the scriptures how to test them. A prophet needs to have stood in the council of the Lord, he needs to share the word the Lord has given him, and he needs to describe any dream he has had. Then we test those things against the scriptures. Test everything. If the prophet refuses to discuss when he stood in God’s council because it’s “too sacred”, or his prophecy contradicts established scripture, we need not give him any heed.
“the spirit rested upon them” That is what happened before Eldad and Medad prophesied.
You are right that I didn’t quote from the verses that talk about dreams and visions because that’s not what you asked me to find. I think the difficulty is that very few scriptures actually describe the call of prophets or how much of what they say is via direct command versus speaking by inspiration as led by the Spirit.
I happen to believe that God can command, speak to, and send people without actually appearing in a vision, dream, or personally. Without claiming to be a prophet, I have said things to people that I later found to be an answer to very urgent prayers. Did I know at the time that was the case? No. I didn’t even know they needed what I was saying. I just spoke what came into my heart about topics I had some knowledge about and the Spirit did the rest.
I have been reading the Old Testament that so clearly lays out what would happen to the house of Israel when they neglect God, break His commandments, and worship other gods. It just seems that any person who was actually reading the law as they were told to could have seen trouble coming and warned the people without needing an angel to point out the obvious. Wouldn’t the Spirit of God moving them to warn the people have been a sufficient calling to be a prophet in that circumstance, or at least sufficient that others would attribute their words to prophecy when they came to pass? That is different from someone who just has a pet gospel peeve who goes around telling others they need to have food storage or some other arbitrary gauge of righteousness.
I guess that is why I have a hard time with the idea that the working of God has to be somewhat tangible to be real. I expect that for people who are immersed in the word of God, they can be sent without a formal calling as well. They just “speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost. And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.” (D&C 68:3-4)
Here is another example: “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1:21) So, I again ask- Do you consider the scriptures to be direct divine communication through which prophecy can occur?
I pretty much agree with everything you say about people studying the scriptures, receiving inspiration, and using that to help others. My objection is to calling such a person a prophet. The scriptures have a specific criteria for who God considers a prophet, and most of us don’t meet that criteria. Just use a different word like “disciple”. A disciple is a learner or follower, which does describe a lot of people. As disciples we are eager to study God’s word, share it with others, and even receive and share inspired guidance. But just because I was inspired to share something with a friend and it turned out to be exactly what they needed to hear, that doesn’t make me a prophet. The LDS has cheapened the word prophet in a way that no other Christian sect has. We should try to realign our usage with the scriptural definition.
The scriptures are a record of someone else’s direct divine communication. As we study the scriptures and implement the teachings found therein, we can each receive inspiration from the holy spirit, and that voice of the spirit is our own direct divine communication.
I believe one have the gift of prophecy, a gift of the spirit, (1 Cor. 12:10: D&C 46:22) and yet not be called of God as a Prophet. It is possible that Eldad and Medad were evidencing the spiritual gift of prophecy as they prophesied. But, the scriptural accounts of Prophets do seem quite consistent that the calling of a Prophet is something more. That is, being brought into the Lord’s presence or given some type of divine communication from the Lord where they are given an assignment from Him (e.g. Enoch, Noah, Moses, Isaiah, Lehi, Nephi, Jacob etc.). I agree that the culture of the Church has caused confusion about what a prophet is and it’s not consistent with the scriptural record. There seems to be the notion that only a “Prophet” (i.e. President of the Church) can prophesy, and that there is only one person on the earth today that is authorized to do so. But there are numerous accounts, especially in the Book of Mormon of multiple prophets prophesying at the same time (1 Ne. 1:4; Enos 1:22; Words of Mor. 1:16; 3 Ne. 6:20-25; Ether 11: 1, 12, 20). Were all those men “inspired from heaven” (3 Ne. 6:20), “Prophets” in the official sense or prophets in the sense that they were blessed with the spiritual gift of prophecy and speaking the words they were inspired to say? Really can’t say without more information. Could be either.
Here is a video I found today of a person who seems to meet your criteria for a true prophet, including standing in the council of God, HIs name is Sadhu Sundar Selvaraj. (He even looks like what someone might imagine a prophet to look like!) This video is the second day of preaching, and the specific prophetic word regarding the USA starts at 1:10:15. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4o184YQBzg
If you want to see the entire story and prophecy from the previous day, including the call to attend the council and what he was specifically directed to show and do when he gave the message, this is the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4pVBeWWlfo
The video is 1 1/2 hours long, but that is only a fraction of the time spent watching General Conference for considerably more prophecy.
There seem to be many people nowadays sharing dreams and visions, some of which are very specific. However, what is different about this video is that there is a strong word of command, concerning the will of the Lord for our country at this time, but it is not laced with fear. The warning is definitely clear, but so is the reminder of God’s grace that has kept us from judgment many times so far.
I guess this leads me back to the question of how do you recognize a prophet and in our circumstances, how would you even know if one were speaking? You won’t hear him at General Conference, nor will he be covered in the nightly news.
Do you believe that God’s house is a house of order? Do you believe that a house divided cannot stand?
The Book of Mormon teaches that Melchizedek was a man who held the priesthood and taught his people to repent and live righteously. JST Genesis 14 gives more details about this man that support the Book of Mormon account. The D&C also refers to Melchizedek as a man, and even that the priesthood was named after him to avoid using the name of God too frequently. We have three scriptural witnesses that agree.
In this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrHqLZ7vgHQ) Sadhu teaches that Melchizedek was not a man, but another earthly manifestation of the Son of God (that’s at the 22:00 mark).
Joseph Smith taught that one way to detect a false messenger was that they would contradict a former revelation. Sadhu contradicts the Book of Mormon, the JST, and the Doctrine and Covenants. How could a prophet holding the Melchizedek Priesthood (required to stand in the presence of God) teach falsehoods about the Son of God? Why is this “prophet” so unclear about the nature of God contained in God’s holy scriptures? Why would God entrust such a person with true prophecies about the future when he distorts and contradicts former prophecies and revelations? You either have to believe Joseph Smith was a prophet, or Sadhu is a prophet, but you cannot believe both are prophets. I’m going to keep my money on Joseph.
Your comment doesn’t make much sense to me. What do you mean by God’s house? Do you mean heaven? Do you mean organized religion? The body of Christians living upon the earth? Based on what I have heard on the podcasts, no one is a true prophet, unless his name is Joseph Smith and then all kinds of contradictions can be explained away. Time and time again we have been told to judge the LDS church leaders by their failure to say “thus saith the Lord, to give exact messages, and to describe the circumstances under which the message was received. All I did was say – here is someone who seems to meet your description, is this what you are looking for? and you reply with a criticism of something that wasn’t even talked about in his message.
By your standard, other Christians reject Joseph Smith as a prophet because he changed the Bible. Couldn’t that be seen as rejecting a former revelation? His accounts of the first vision do not agree in every aspect. Is the name of the angel he saw Moroni, or Nephi? Are these the kinds of details we use to determine whether everything he ever said is true or false? God’s standard for detecting false prophets is not whether or not they agree with Joseph Smith, it is “When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously; thou shalt not be afraid of him.” (Deut. 18:22) Didn’t someone say a prophet is only a prophet when he is speaking as a prophet? He is a man when he speaks as a man. If that is the case, I can’t fault Sadhu for contradicting a description of Melchizedek that he has never heard before.
According to the video you pointed me to, Sadhu is not saying his ideas about Melchizedek are a result of revelation, they are based on piecing together verses from the Bible along with one of the Dead Sea scrolls that refers to Melchizedek as Elohim (a term that is never used for humans). Whether his point (that an unseen God can be manifest to humans in a variety of ways, including human form) is accurate or not, seems independent of whether the message he says he was sent specifically to deliver to Americans is really from the Lord or not.
I am not trying to contradict your point about prophets, I am trying to clarify it. Should we look up everything a person claiming to have a message from the Lord has ever said or done to see if it agrees with Joseph Smith’s additions to the accepted canon of Christian scripture to evaluate whether we should listen to what they claim to be God’s message? What about taking the message itself at face value to decide whether it is true or false? Isn’t that what Lehi did?
God was very specific about modern day prophets:
2 For behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, that ye have received a commandment for a law unto my church, through him whom I have appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations from my hand.
3 And this ye shall know assuredly—that there is none other appointed unto you to receive commandments and revelations until he be taken, if he abide in me.
4 But verily, verily, I say unto you, that none else shall be appointed unto this gift except it be through him; for if it be taken from him he shall not have power except to appoint another in his stead.
5 And this shall be a law unto you, that ye receive not the teachings of any that shall come before you as revelations or commandments;
6 And this I give unto you that you may not be deceived, that you may know they are not of me.
7 For verily I say unto you, that he that is ordained of me shall come in at the gate and be ordained as I have told you before, to teach those revelations which you have received and shall receive through him whom I have appointed.
You asked, “should we look up everything a person claiming to have a message from the Lord has ever said or done to see if it agrees with Joseph Smith’s additions to the accepted canon of Christian scripture…?” God in D&C 43:7 answers, “Yes, it’s a commandment.”
Sadhu was not appointed by Joseph Smith. Sadhu does not teach the revelations which Joseph Smith received. God commands us not to receive the teachings of ANY that are not appointed by Joseph. He specifically commands us not to listen to them so that we won’t be deceived. How much plainer can God say it? I don’t see an exception in God’s language.
I pointed out that specific teaching of Sadhu because it contradicts the very nature of God contained in scripture. How can someone who claims to regularly stand in the presence of God be so wrong about God’s nature? Would God tell a prophet all the details about the upcoming election but forget to tell him that Jesus doesn’t dwell on earth in multiple different manifestations? Revelation 19:10 tells us “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” How can someone have the spirit of prophecy when they have a false testimony of Christ?
In Matthew 24 Jesus teaches about the last days. In verse 11, he teaches that “many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.” The fact that there are so many people having dreams and visions and declaring prophecy on the internet seems to be a fulfillment of Matthew 24:11 more than Joel 2:28-29 (which is after Zion is established). Many will be deceived. D&C 43 tells us how to avoid that.
So how does this fit in with the idea that the church was rejected and the person Joseph appointed was killed at the same time? Are you saying that Christianity as a whole is void of revelation because the Nauvoo saints rejected the Lord’s commandments? I really don’t think that God has tied his own hands in a way that would prevent anyone other than Joseph Smith from ever again being called as a prophet.
“For behold, the Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have; therefore we see that the Lord doth counsel in wisdom according to that which is just and true.” (Alma 29:8)
I am not arguing Sadhu is a true prophet or not, I simply pointed out that he seems to fit the pattern you want the LDS leaders/prophets to be following. He is from India. He talks to people all over the world. He did not come to the Mormons and give them commandments for how to run their church (which is the context for D&C 43). He came to America to share a message from God, and when he gave it he went home again. If God can use a donkey to give a message, he can use anyone he chooses. I don’t think God wants us to respect the messenger more than the message. Learning to discern true and false messages is one of the skills of spiritual growth. It seems too simplistic to reject a message because the messenger doesn’t fit my idea of what he should look and sound like.