Explaining: a prophet speaking as a prophet


Jane_Doe
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Hi guys.

 

I'm chatting with a non-member, and I'm failing to properly explain the idea of when a prophet is speaking *as a prophet* (rather than a man).   Yes, this does involve explaining that not every word that came out of Joseph Smith's mouth was "thus saith the Lord".

 

Do you know any good resources for explaining this?

 

Thanks!

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Hi guys.

 

I'm chatting with a non-member, and I'm failing to properly explain the idea of when a prophet is speaking *as a prophet* (rather than a man).   Yes, this does involve explaining that not every word that came out of Joseph Smith's mouth was "thus saith the Lord".

 

Do you know any good resources for explaining this?

 

Thanks!

Elijah, clearly a prophet,spoke his opinion in scripture, that opinion was cited in scripture, and God's correction to Elijah's mistaken assumption is provided in scripture. https://www.lds.org/scriptures/ot/1-kgs/19.14,18?lang=eng#13

 

(Romans 11 also refers to this event in a broader context.)

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If the person you're talking to is legally minded, the concept of dicta may be a useful analogue.

Or, more colloquially--the guy answering phones at the DMV. I *expect* to be able to rely on his advice if I want to qualify for a driver's license. I *might* be able to rely on his advice if I ask for driving directions to the nearest branch office, and I will at least consider his advice if I am seeking to renew my car registration even though technically that's a different state agency involved. But if he weighs in on how to record a land deed, or the best way to barbecue ribs--well, the perspective is nice; but I'm not going to get twisted up in knots if he turns out to be wrong on those issues; because that's not his job.

Edited by Just_A_Guy
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The Lord calls prophets to lead His church. They are imperfect, and will always be imperfect. But I've been led by many imperfect leaders who have learned through experience as the Lord guided them in their leadership. Even prophets are to bring about much righteousness of their own free will. Many times it is clear that the prophet is providing guidance for the church, but at other times it is difficult to parse the personal person from the calling as prophet.

 

I believe the Holy Spirit is given to us as individuals so that we may know when a prophet is speaking for the Lord, and to also know when the Lord would have us heed the personal counsel of a person whether they are a prophet or not.

 

Now, sometimes we may have issues or concerns where we don't quite agree with church leaders but the Holy Spirit constrains us to follow their counsel anyway. This is not an unbearable burden. I believe that patience is required at these times to allow these leaders to direct as they see fit. The Lord stands by His imperfect leaders, and who knows - that imperfect leader may one day be ourselves and we will also need the support of people who don't quite agree with us.

 

My job as a member/follower is to heed all my leaders ask of me, even if it is a "mistake" or not quite right. And God has promised that my obedience to their counsel will be accorded to me as righteousness.

 

Have views on issues of our time changed as the people of the church and leaders have changed? Absolutely. And they always will. But may God grant us the patience to love, comfort, and follow the Simon Peters of our day rather than criticize them for their weaknesses and mistakes as we see them.

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Thanks everyone, great responses.

 

Does anyone have any resources explaining how to recknogize a prophet speaking as a prophet?  Something more elaborate than "ask the Holy Spirit" (I'm trying to explain this to a non-member whom doesn't really think that way).

 

The trouble is that there is no hard-and-fast set of rules for this sort of thing.  Fundamentally it does boil down to the Holy Spirit.  See, e.g., D&C 68:4, D&C 21:4; D&C 50:21-22.  That, to my mind, is at least part of what Joseph Smith meant when he explained to President Van Buren that Mormonism "differed [from other religions of the day] in mode of baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. We considered that all other considerations were contained in the gift of the Holy Ghost."

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Thanks everyone, great responses.

 

Does anyone have any resources explaining how to recknogize a prophet speaking as a prophet?  Something more elaborate than "ask the Holy Spirit" (I'm trying to explain this to a non-member whom doesn't really think that way).

 

I don't believe there is another way. This is the reason that the very first gift we are given upon entering God's kingdom is the Holy Ghost; without it, we are lost.

 

I also think that those who preach most vociferously on the importance of gaining your own testimony before following prophetic adivce are mostly just looking for reasons to ignore prophetic counsel and do their own thing. These will drink the dregs of a bitter cup if they don't repent, and sadly may lead others along that path.

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Thanks everyone, great responses.

 

Does anyone have any resources explaining how to recknogize a prophet speaking as a prophet?  Something more elaborate than "ask the Holy Spirit" (I'm trying to explain this to a non-member whom doesn't really think that way).

 

Is your friend religious? If they are religious and Christian, perhaps some thought exercises may help. Have your friend put him or her self in a few of the situations described in the scriptures and then ponder the question "How would I have known if this person was a prophet and if I should listen?".

 

Situation 1: An old guy in your village starts building a boat claiming that God is going to send a flood.

 

Situation 2: Pharaoh's discredited son returns years later and says he talked to God in a bush and he is here to lead the children of Israel out of your home.

 

Situation 3: You hear about a man from a city in the boondocks called Nazareth who begins teaching principles that are completely contrary to everything you have ever known and been taught at church and in the scriptures. Your parents, teachers, leaders and friends tell you he is crazy and advise you to stay completely away from his cult.

 

Many Christians believe in the Bible and in Jesus the Christ because that is what they have always been taught. But they rarely consider the process to actually gain a testimony and believe. How would a person have discerned that Jesus was actually the Son of God and not a madman? And if we had walked and talked with Jesus daily, would everything He said be considered a commandment or an official declaration from God? 

 

Unfortunately, it is easy to believe in Bible prophets and leaders because we have no record of their casual conversations and daily discussions. I'm sure they pondered many of the big questions and had some strange ideas that would be considered crazy to us.

 

In our day, we have intimate details of many of the prophets statements on a variety of subjects and unfortunately there are many who still like to build "hedges" about the law by taking some of those statements beyond their legitimate application and meaning. In other cases, they were just plain wrong. All that means is that the old prophets and the new prophets were human and that God has not yet endowed any prophet with His Omniscience. I can live with that.

 

So the process, tools, and resources to distinguish whether a prophet is speaking for the Lord as I see them are:

 

1. A spiritual confirmation of the Holy Spirit.

2. The context of the discussion or pronouncement.

3. The concurrence of the governing bodies of the church.

4. How widely the principle is taught as part of the doctrines of the church.

5. The testimony we gain from our patient experience with the subject.

 

But of all of these I say weight number 1 the most. The only way people could have known that Jesus was the Son of God in His day was through the Holy Spirit, and through their own testimonies gained from their own experience. The Rabbi's certainly didn't support Him so numbers 3 & 4 would not have worked. it's no different for truth seekers today.

Edited by clwnuke
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We discern who and who is not a prophet by the Spirit. Having a testimony of Jesus means you are a prophet or prophetess. Anyone can fill this role.

 

 

Revelations 19:10-

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.

 

 

To know who is speaking by the Spirit of prophecy or as is stated otherwise in the scriptures, the Spirit of truth, does not depend on who is speaking, where they are speaking, when they are speaking, how they are speaking, or even what they are saying. To know requires that one have the Spirit of prophecy or Spirit of truth themselves. So, the only way we can know when a prophet is speaking as a prophet is when we also have the Spirit of truth:

 

 

D&C 50:17-22-

17 Verily I say unto you, he that is ordained of me and sent forth to apreach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the Spirit of truth, doth he bpreach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?

18 And if it be by some other way it is not of God.

19 And again, he that receiveth the word of truth, doth he receive it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?

20 If it be some other way it is not of God.

21 Therefore, why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the aSpirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth?

22 Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are aedified and brejoice together.

 

Prophets preach the word of truth by the Spirit of truth and if they don't preach it by the Spirit of truth, I don't care what it is, it is not of God! Conversely, those who receive the preaching must receive the preaching also by the Spirit of truth. If they don't receive it by the Spirit of truth, it is not of God, I don't care what it is!

 

-Finrock

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One fast way to tell if something is or isn't official is, believe it or not, to check the copyright information. 

 

If something is officially sanctioned by the church, then the copyright will list either "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" or "Intellectual Reserve" as the copyright holder.

 

If you see any other name listed, then it's not sanctioned.

 

I've had to explain this to many, many people because of how often critics of the church go straight for unofficial sources and then wield them like clubs.  

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Is your friend religious? If they are religious and Christian, perhaps some thought exercises may help. Have your friend put him or her self in a few of the situations described in the scriptures and then ponder the question "How would I have known if this person was a prophet and if I should listen?".

 

Situation 1: An old guy in your village starts building a boat claiming that God is going to send a flood.

 

Situation 2: Pharaoh's discredited son returns years later and says he talked to God in a bush and he is here to lead the children of Israel out of your home.

 

Situation 3: You hear about a man from a city in the boondocks called Nazareth who begins teaching principles that are completely contrary to everything you have ever known and been taught at church and in the scriptures. Your parents, teachers, leaders and friends tell you he is crazy and advise you to stay completely away from his cult.

 

Many Christians believe in the Bible and in Jesus the Christ because that is what they have always been taught. But they rarely consider the process to actually gain a testimony and believe. How would a person have discerned that Jesus was actually the Son of God and not a madman? And if we had walked and talked with Jesus daily, would everything He said be considered a commandment or an official declaration from God? 

 

Unfortunately, it is easy to believe in Bible prophets and leaders because we have no record of their casual conversations and daily discussions. I'm sure they pondered many of the big questions and had some strange ideas that would be considered crazy to us.

 

In our day, we have intimate details of many of the prophets statements on a variety of subjects and unfortunately there are many who still like to build "hedges" about the law by taking some of those statements beyond their legitimate application and meaning. In other cases, they were just plain wrong. All that means is that the old prophets and the new prophets were human and that God has not yet endowed any prophet with His Omniscience. I can live with that.

 

So the process, tools, and resources to distinguish whether a prophet is speaking for the Lord as I see them are:

 

1. A spiritual confirmation of the Holy Spirit.

2. The context of the discussion or pronouncement.

3. The concurrence of the governing bodies of the church.

4. How widely the principle is taught as part of the doctrines of the church.

5. The testimony we gain from our patient experience with the subject.

 

But of all of these I say weight number 1 the most. The only way people could have known that Jesus was the Son of God in His day was through the Holy Spirit, and through their own testimonies gained from their own experience. The Rabbi's certainly didn't support Him so numbers 3 & 4 would not have worked. it's no different for truth seekers today.

Great answer and to an individual of a christian faith it makes sense. 

 

The hurdle that we have to jump as LDS is the hurdle of faith, and no one do that for someone else. We have had this discussion various times about when are a prophets words scripture etc, bottom line we accept them as prophets so we lean heavily on what they say and take it on faith that they are speaking for the Lord.

 

Physically/proof- canonized scripture and official declarations approved by the first presidency, concurrence of the 12, and sustained by the body of the church. This has happened 6x in our history.

 

  1. 1830, Bible and Book of Mormon were officially accepted with the organization of the Church
  2. 1835, Doctrine and Covenants, first 103 sections were officially accepted
  3. 1880, Doctrine and Covenants additional 32 sections were accepted along with the Pearl of Great Price
  4. 1890, Polygamy was repealed (Official Declaration, p. 291)
  5. 1976, D&C sections 137 & 138 were officially accepted
  6. 1978, The priesthood was made available to all worthy males regardless of race (Official Declaration 2, p. 292)

Last official "scripture" 1978

 

Like I said earlier very cavalierly everything else is just good advice. I say this with my tongue in my cheek because we do believe that they pass Gods will to us, however it is not scripture in the most strict definition of it.

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Thanks everyone, great responses.

 

Does anyone have any resources explaining how to recknogize a prophet speaking as a prophet?  Something more elaborate than "ask the Holy Spirit" (I'm trying to explain this to a non-member whom doesn't really think that way).

How about this: https://www.lds.org/scriptures/nt/john/7.16-17?lang=eng#15

 

Thoughts?

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Does anyone have any resources explaining how to recognize a prophet speaking as a prophet?  Something more elaborate than "ask the Holy Spirit" (I'm trying to explain this to a non-member whom doesn't really think that way).

An additional thought, if there is still some interest...(a passage which is twisted and misconstrued by many Christian commentators):

 

Isaiah taught: "And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."

https://www.lds.org/scriptures/ot/isa/8.18-20?lang=eng#17

 

Suggested translation: if someone claiming to be a messenger isn't teaching people to seek God, (central to the OT writings in the Law and the testimony), that would indicate there is no light in them.

 

https://www.lds.org/scriptures/ot/num/11.25-29?lang=eng#24

https://www.lds.org/scriptures/ot/jer/31.31-34?lang=eng#30

https://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/1.17-20?lang=eng#16

 

More especially:

https://www.lds.org/scriptures/ot/deut/4.29-31?lang=eng#28

https://www.lds.org/scriptures/nt/james/1.5?lang=eng#4

Edited by hagoth
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