The following article is a reply to Joel J. Miller’s article on WorldNetDaily, Prophets wanted. Although I appreciate the sentiments expressed by Mr. Miller, that America’s preachers should be more engaged in preaching righteousness and opposing corruption among the nation’s power-brokers, as a Mormon, I find his premise somewhat ironic. You see, God called a prophet in 1820 and we’ve had one ever since. It seems the world doesn’t know what prophet is or what one is supposed to do. Most religions teach that there were prophets but that there won’t be any more of them.
A few years ago, I wrote the following for the Society of the Prevention of Anti-Mormonism web site. I hope it will lead some readers to consider the possibility that God has spoken and continues to speak to chosen servants in our day.
If you ask a modern Christian about the existence of prophets in ancient times, he will probably tell you that they were common. He will readily admit that God worked through prophets in the past. When you ask him if he could believe that God would call a prophet in our day, his reaction will probably range from disbelief to outright alarm.
The question bears asking, “Why would God establish a pattern that persisted all throughout the Bible and then change it arbitrarily? Christian denominations based in the uninspired creeds of men have developed sophisticated rationalizations to this question. The most common answer to this query is to quote Hebrews 1:1-2.
“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds. . .”
The problem with this answer is that it doesn’t address the question posed. The scripture never implies that God would cease to speak through prophets once the promised Messiah had appeared. Paul’s purpose in this introduction to his letter to the Hebrews, the Jews, is to establish the pattern.
Paul’s intent is to convince Jews that God the Father had followed an established, historical pattern in the manner in which he sent his Son to be the Messiah. This passage, along with the rest of the epistle, is intended to illustrate the constant, unchanging pattern God uses reveal truth to his children. To use this verse to claim that God changed the pattern is not in harmony with the rest of Paul’s epistle to the Hebrews.
This is the unvarying pattern you will see throughout the entire Bible:
“Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7)
Ministers of varying denominations will tell you that, according to their interpretations of Hebrews 1:1-2, that prophets were unnecessary after the advent of Christ. This is again, inconsistent with the teachings of the Bible.
“How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: “(Ephesians 3:3-5)
Note that Paul uses the present tense when he states that the mystery of Christ “as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.” Some Christian ministers have told me that they believe that, after the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Ghost was poured out upon the apostles, there was no further need for prophets. This argument is untenable, seeking to make some distinction in the definition of apostles and prophets.
Clearly, the testimony of the Bible contains prophecies, visions, revelations, and inspired teachings from the apostles. The apostles not only held special authority from Christ, they were also prophets in the same way as Elijah, Isaiah, Moses, or any other Old Testament seer.
As we have discussed earlier, Mormons believe that an apostasy, or falling away from Christ’s teachings took place after the death of the ancient apostles. In biblical times, prophets were an essential facet of the Jewish religion. However, ancient Israel often rejected, persecuted, and killed the prophets that God sent among them. (See Matthew 23:31,34; Luke 11:47; 1 Thessalonians 2:15)
As the previous scripture included, the ancient people of the New Testament also persecuted the apostles and eventually killed almost all of them. The chief symptom of apostasy is the rejection of God’s servants, the prophets and the apostles.
Prophets unite the faithful
A man once asked me why Mormons believed there should be prophets in our day. I asked him if he thought that there was unity among the churches and denominations of Christendom. He was not ignorant of the diversity of beliefs proclaimed by the various churches who claim to be Christ’s. When he had acknowledged that there was indeed disunity and contradiction among Christian churches and their members, I asked him if he felt that such a condition was pleasing to God. He answered back with the following scripture:
For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. (1 Corinthians 14:33)
I was pleased to hear him state that description of God’s kingdom and I agreed that the scriptures say there is “One Lord, one faith, one baptism. (Ephesian 4:5) I then asked him, if he were in the Lord’s place and he saw his children running around on Earth, professing his name, yet arguing and contending with one another over doctrines that affect the eternal salvation of the soul, how would he send a message to get them to come together in unity?
The fellow considered this for a few moments, then he gave up with a shrug. I asked him, “Well, how did God do it in the past?” He thought for a moment and then he said, “In the olden times, God always sent prophets.”
My question to you today is, if the God of the Bible, whom James describes as having no “variableness neither shadow of turning” called prophets to lead, correct, and instruct his people, why would he not do so today?
What is a prophet?
What is a prophet anyways? A typical response is that a prophet predicts the future. Indeed, some prophets have prophesied future events, but not all. Moses, one of the greatest of the prophets gave us revelations of important events of the past: namely the book of Genesis and the account of the Creation.
One might claim that a prophet performs miracles. Many prophets did, but the prophet whom Jesus proclaimed the greatest, John the Baptist, did no miracles. (see John 10:41) The Baptist’s greatest mission was to prepare the way for and bear witness of Jesus Christ. A prophet, first and foremost, is a witness of God.
Another description one might advance is that God talks to or through a prophet. This is a good starting point for deeper discussion. God spoke first to Adam, shortly after the creation of man. Adam was given commandments for his happiness and safety. Thus, Adam was the first prophet.
“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)
In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were in God’s presence. After their transgression, the Lord still spoke to Adam even though he was cast out of Eden and out of God’s presence.
It is notable that God also spoke to Cain and warned him, “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.” So we see that God sometimes speaks to those who are not prophets. (Genesis 4:7)
Noah’s story comes to us in Genesis chapters 6 through 9. The Apostle Peter referred to Noah as a preacher of righteousness. (2 Pet. 2: 5) God spoke to Noah to preserve the life of those who would believe his message. The great flood was coming and those who obeyed the voice of warning were spared. All the rest drowned.
Jesus said that our time, in the latter-days, the world would be like the days of Noah. (Matthew 24:37) If we, in modern times, face a calamity that is as dire as that of Noah’s time, why would he not send a prophet to warn and save us?
Moses was a great prophet, sent by God to deliver Abraham’s posterity from bondage in Egypt. Exodus tells us “And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.” (Exodus 33:11)
Nevertheless, seeing God is not all that is required to be a prophet. Moses took 70 elders of Israel into the mount and they “saw the God of Israel.” (Exodus 24:10)
All the prophets were “modern” prophets to those in their day
It is important to consider Moses as a prophet contemporary in his day. Though he may have transcribed or written the revealed account of the book of Genesis, the written revelations God gave to Noah in that book were not sufficient to help Moses get the Israelites out of Egypt. Current challenges require current revelation.
Likewise, the word of the Lord to Moses did not suffice to help Joshua topple the walls of Jericho. The word of the Lord to Joshua did not guide Elijah or Elisha through their times. David, Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah and a host of others received revelations unique for their times and circumstances. There is a principle involved here.
“And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” (1 Corinthians 14:32)
The source of revelation to man is the Spirit of God, or as it is referred to in the New Testament, the Holy Ghost. The source of truth will always be consistent with itself. God may add to his revelations to adapt them to modern needs and exigencies. He has always done so. It is his pattern.
(Continue reading part 2)