Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Prophets in their Place

Introduction to the Author
           My name is Lynden Jensen. I was born in Lethbridge Alberta Canada but have moved around Canada considerable since then. Subsequently I have lived in Lloydminster AB/SK, Cornwall Prince Edward Island, Saskatoon Saskatchewan, Maple Ridge British Columbia, Las Vegas Nevada, Carlin Nevada, and now Rexburg Idaho. (Map of the Above)

           When I was born both of my parents where members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My father had converted when he was in his late teens and had served a mission to Chile. My mother, a Lethbridge native, had been a member of the church her whole life, however her mother had been a convert and subsequent immigrant from Australia after she got kicked out of her home for joining the church.

           Although I was born in a condition of church and some of my most basic memories are related to church I did not receive a testimony of belief of the church until I was 14 years old and in 10th grade. It was at that point that I seriously questioned remaining in activity as I did not believe in the validity of the church.  I ultimately asked in prayer to know if it was true and it was at that point that everything in my life changed.  Since that point I have been rather obsessed with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I started researching about the church in my free time. I knew it was true, but I didn’t know what it was. Most of my friends at the time were atheist and had a great influence on my search both positively and negatively. Positively because they were all intelligent about their beliefs which caused me to apply critical thinking to the gospel, but negatively this was the very reason why I finally asked God if it was true, because I really didn’t logically or spiritually think so.

           As a newly converted member I strove to justify my beliefs to my friends, to logically assert the gospel, this had me running through dozens of anti-Mormon site, talking with hundreds of Anti-Mormons, viewing their claims and seeking out the answers. Although I did not find all the answers or definitive proof for God or my religion I came to a much deeper understanding of what my religion really was. As I continued to branch out I sought to understand other religions, their beliefs, their unique beneficial contributions to religion and philosophy on the idea that if my religion was then the viewing of others beliefs would only strengthen my own. I engaged in sincere interfaith dialogue with representatives or faithful member of most of the major world religions.

           When I was 19 years old I served two years as a full time Missionary in Las Vegas, and Carlin, Nevada teaching people about the gospel of Jesus Christ. I Am now 21 years and attending Brigham Young University – Idaho.

           I am also the primary founder of this blog which is designed for conceptual religious exposition. I will personally be posting a blog article every month or so; I have chosen to focus on "Questions About Church History" focusing on historical issues relative to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you have any suggestions feel free to comment on this post, E-mail us, E-mail me, or join our forum.

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The Role and Importance of The Prophets
           In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a paramount theme and doctrine is the doctrine of the prophets. Christ’s church has always been founded on the prophets, and always will.  In the New Testament Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ taught this to the newly baptized members of the Church in the city of Ephesus:

“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone”
(KJV Holy Bible, Ephesians 2:19-20, emphasis added)

           Paul told these people that the foundation of the church that they had just joined, this “household of God” was made of three parts: Apostles, Prophets, and Jesus Christ. Having worked construction in high-rises I can appreciate better the need of a sure foundation; my grandfather died when my mother was sixteen on a construction site because the building was not structurally sound and it collapsed on him, killing him and others. Christ is the master architect and has placed at the foundation of his church Prophet and Apostles with himself, Christ, being the cornerstone or most important piece. This foundation was given, as Paul explains two chapters later for:

“the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ”
(KJV, Holy Bible, Ephesians 4:12-15, Emphasis Added)

           The whole purpose of Prophets and apostles is to lead the church towards Christ in unity, to correct errors creeping in, so that the people would not be left on their own to be tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine. Or going back to the analogy of a building, it is the foundation, the basis, the piece that ensures the changing earth will not destroy the building. This was not a new concept; it has been since the beginning of man. In the Old Testament book of "Amos" it speaks of the importance of the role of the Prophets:
“Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.”
(KJV, Holy Bible, Amos 3:7)

           God has always through prophets and always will, it is the foundation of His gospel in the past, in the present, and in the future. As we look through many religious texts in all the periods of time we see a pattern of prophets:

  1. A man is called of God
  2. The people accept him
  3. The people become prosperous
  4. The people become prideful
  5. The people reject and cast out of the prophets
  6. The people lose their prosperity
  7. The People are humbled 
  8. The People turn to God

           History has shown us that there will always be a time when prophets are rejected and taken away; when the people reject the very stones that support them. When a structure does not have a foundation it is subject to the changes of the world, it will shift with the world, and will eventually fall.

           At the time that Paul wrote the previous letters he was one of the twelve Apostles and was also a Prophet. He fulfilled this calling as was he was supposed to; we have great evidence to that as we look at his epistles or letters, they are combating those philosophies of men that were entering into the church, he was trying to keep the Saints unified without deviation or division so that they would not go the natural way of things and pervert the doctrine of the Lord as had happened with the Jews.

           The Latter-day saints believe that we still do need Apostles and Prophets. Have persecutions and divisions ceased? Have men’s philosophies become less persuasive or prevalent? Has Christ’s church remained the one church that prophets and apostles established in Christ’s day? The answer is a clear ‘no’. We need prophets and apostles more than ever, to bring us back into the unity of faith, to stop our wandering eyes diverting from the image of the fullness of Christ. We need prophets.

           Having established the basic role and importance of the prophets, particularly in Latter-day Saint theology I have found most Latter-day Saints alarmingly, if not surprisingly, ignorant of what a prophet is.

           As a missionary I found many Saints confused in their definitions of what a prophet was. So the first Question is:

What is a Prophet?
           I believe the most common response to this question from a Latter-day Saint perspective would be something like this:

“A prophet is a chosen mouth piece of God to deliver his message to the whole world. He is an authoritative spokesman speaking with will of God and is given proper authority and power to do on earth what God himself would to do if he himself were there.”

           This definition of a prophet is not entirely correct, what the above answer is portraying is the cultural use of the word in relation to the President of the Church, or the presiding prophet.

           The word “Prophet” literally means “Speaker” in the Greek root, it is a person who speaks in behalf of God but it is not nearly as narrow or constricting as many Latter-day Saints may think. Furthermore in relation popular belief that a prophet is a foreteller, or soothsayer figure, a prophet does not need to foretell events or condemn anyone to be classified as such, the role of a foreteller would be that of a seer, which will be discussed later.

           Harold B. Lee, the 11th president of the church taught:
“In a broad sense, a Prophet is one who speaks, who is inspired of God to speak in His name.”
(Lee, Harold. “The Place of the Living, Prophet, Seer, and Revelator,” in Charge to Religious Educators, p. 107)

           Moses lamented for the hardheartedness and individual incapacity Israel saying:
“Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!”
(KJV, Holy Bible, Numbers 11:29, Emphasis Added)

           John the Revelator tells us in his book of Revelation that a messenger of God came to him, as John knelt down to worship him the messenger forbade him and taught him the true meaning of a prophet saying to him:
“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.”
(KJV, Holy Bible, Revelation 19:10, Emphasis Added)

           We all, members and non-members, ought to be prophets. Being a prophet does not give us authority over anyone else; it does not give us power or influence but only is a reflection of our testimony of Jesus, and our relationship with him. You are a prophet inasmuch as you believe and obey Jesus Christ.

           Being a prophet allows us to speak authoritatively from God, but it does not give us authority to speak on behalf of God to others, but only for the jurisdiction that God has given us. If we are a parent, we are a prophet for ourselves and for our children in which we are entitled to receive revelation, or divine guidance, for the family. If we are properly ordained and authorized servants of a group (such as Relief Society Presidency, Deacons Quorum Presidency, Bishop, Stake President, ect) we are entitled to revelation for that group. Thus the president of the Church is often called “The Prophet”, meaning “The Prophet with the authority to receive revelation in behalf of the whole world”.

How is “The Prophet” any different than any of us?
           When we as a cultural church say “The Prophet” we are referring to the current “Prophet of the World” (As discussed above) who is also known as “The President of the Church”. We see him as the chief administrator of Gods kingdom on earth with power and authority delegated to him from Jesus Christ. We sustain him as the president and head on earth of the Prophets Seers and revelators; he being the only one of such that independently holds all the keys and authority to administer all ordinances and rites therein.

           We have above discussed the role and definition of prophets and “The Prophet” in relation to being a prophet, but what is a Seer or Revelator?

What is a Revelator?
           The world Revelator comes from the root “reveal” meaning the Latin revelare meaning to un-veil, or to make known. This is the role of a revelator of God, to make known a previously unknown truth from God. To be a Revelator you must first be a prophet, or in other words you must first have a Testimony of God and Jesus Christ. This makes a lot of sense as it would be rather bizarre to receive knowledge from a being you neither knew nor believed in.

           From the acclaimed apostle John A. Widtsoe comes the following definition:
“A revelator makes known, with the Lord's help, something before unknown. It may be new or forgotten truth, or a new or forgotten application of known truth to man's need. Always, the revelator deals with truth, certain truth (D&C 100:11) and always it comes with the divine stamp of approval. Revelation may be received in various ways, but it always presupposes that the revelator has so lived and conducted himself as to be in tune or harmony with the divine spirit of revelation, the spirit of truth, and therefore capable of receiving divine messages.”
(Widtsoe, John. Evidences and Reconciliations. Bookcraft, 1997. Print. P. 258)

What is a Seer?
           The word seer come from the root “See” meaning one that does see., in particular one who does see the things of God, things that most men do not. He is a foreseer, and fulfills the role of what many consider prophets to be.

           In the Book of Mormon Ammon teaches us:
“…a seer is greater than a prophet… A seer is a revelator and a prophet also; and a gift which is greater can no man have, except he should possess the power of God, which no man can; yet a man may have great power given him from God.”
(The Book of Mormon, Mosiah 8: 15-16)

           To be a seer is the panicle quality which man can obtain. As was said “A seer is greater than a prophet . . . and a gift which is greater can no man have . . . “.

           John A. Widtsoe defines seers as:
“…one who sees with spiritual eyes. He perceives the meaning of that which seems obscure to others; therefore he is an interpreter and clarifier of eternal truth. He foresees the future from the past and the present. This he does by the power of the Lord operating through him directly, or indirectly with the aid of divine instruments such as the Urim and Thummim. In short, he is one who sees, who walks in the Lord's light with open eyes. (Book of Mormon, Mosiah 8:15-17)
(Widtsoe, John. Evidences and Reconciliations. Bookcraft, 1997. Print. P. 258)

           The role of “The Prophet” or “The President of the Church” is to be the head of Gods organization on earth; to lead and the church in this latter-day. He is the chief Prophet, Seer, and Revelator on earth; the only one such that independently holds all the keys and authority to administer all ordinances and rites therein. Through the power and authority that has been delegated to him from God, it is in turn delegated to us to bless our families.

           Just as Paul defined in his letter to Ephesus it is His job, and the job of those chosen to the holy Apostleship of the Lord to keep the course steady, to warn and forward, that the Children of God may have a banner to follow, that they be no longer children tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine, but be an established nation of God; to be built upon the ancient architectural foundations of Prophet and Apostle, Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone. That when, as Helaman proclaimed to his sons,:

“…the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall. “
(Book of Mormon, Helaman 5:12)

           It is only once we start rejecting the stones upon which we are built that we fall. God is faithful and will not leave us alone, but gives us these righteous men to lead us to receive our own revelation and assurances of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We do not follow any prophet blindly but have a responsibility to be a prophet unto ourselves and receive conformation and revelation in regards to Gods truth.

           God is there and he does care, he never forsakes us, but we may forsake him.
“Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. “
(KJV, Holy Bible, Isaiah 49:15-16)

           "For thousands of years there have been constant broadcasts from heaven of vital messages of guidance and timely warnings, and there has been a certain constancy in the broadcasts from the most powerful station. Throughout all those centuries there have been times when there were prophets who tuned in and rebroadcasted to the people. The messages have never ceased.”
(Spencer W. Kimball, in Conference Report, Apr. 1970, p. 121.)

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