Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Prophets, Part 1:
Mommy, Where do Prophets Come From?

And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream.
—Numbers 12:6

It's not a comfortable question to be asked, and it can be equally uncomfortable to explain:

Mommy, where do babies come from? 

Different explanations are offered for different levels of understanding: The stork, the baby store, the hospital, mommy's tummy, and eventually the biological realities of reproduction are explained when there is sufficient maturity to understand and use such knowledge properly. 

Religion works in much the same way. We teach children simple truths, which they accept in simple faith, and as they mature, we increase the depth and breadth of teaching so they can gain a fuller understanding and exercise greater faith. 

In the process, sometimes uncomfortable topics come up, requiring us to grapple with questions, doubts and fears. But this struggle is worthwhile, because, properly pursued, it produces a more informed, mature and powerful faith. This is the necessary process of spiritual growth. Said Paul:

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. (1 Corinthians 13:11)
Putting away childish things in our gospel understanding is absolutely necessary, though often uncomfortable. Ironically, receiving greater light and knowledge requires us to become more childlike; the more open we are, the more our hearts are soft and willing, the greater our capacity to understand truth. Being childlike in our openness is not the same as being childish in our understanding.

And so, we come to the topic of prophets. As Mormons, we unequivocally believe in prophets and prophecy, so it's worthwhile to study the topic. In doing so, we must let go of our preconceived ideas and biases so we can be soft hearted and open to truth, even when it's uncomfortable. The path to Christ's redemption was never designed to be comfortable, popular or easy. 

No matter the stories we may tell our children, neither babies nor prophets are delivered by storks. 

Do you Sustain the Prophet?

If you've ever had a temple recommend or priesthood interview, you've been asked the following questions:

Do you sustain the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the prophet, seer, and revelator and as the only person on the earth who possesses and is authorized to exercise all priesthood keys? Do you sustain members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators? 
These are interesting questions to ponder, particularly if you don't just answer with a knee-jerk "Yes!" reaction. It's worth considering what it means to "sustain" a man as a "prophet, seer and revelator." As with all questions affecting our salvation, we ought to take this question seriously.

Let's start with those three titles--Prophet, Seer, Revelator. They are first listed together in D&C 107, as follows:

And again, the duty of the President of the office of the High Priesthood is to preside over the whole church, and to be like unto Moses—Behold, here is wisdom; yea, to be a seer, a revelator, a translator, and a prophet, having all the gifts of God which he bestows upon the head of the church. (D&C 107:91-92)
Now the first thing we have to get straight is this: The titles "prophet, seer, and revelator" do not refer to priesthood offices. You CANNOT ordain someone "prophet" or "seer" or "revelator." I've heard people talk about the President of the church being "ordained to be the prophet." This may be the colloquial usage among us Latter-day Saints, but it is not correct. The President of the church is ordained to be the President, which is an administrative office—not the Prophet, which is a spiritual gift.

The titles of prophet, seer and revelator all refer to spiritual gifts. And according to D&C 107, it is the duty of the President of the church to obtain and exercise these gifts

There is no scriptural provision automatically bestowing these gifts on a man by virtue of the office he holds. But since so many people automatically associate the gifts with the office, it's worth looking at the process by which a man ascends to the office of President of the church. In our current practice, it happens in the following way:

  1. Upon the death of the current President, the next-most-senior apostle is automatically installed as the legal president of the corporation. There is no provision for discussion, dissent, or direction from God. It's written in the corporate charter and is legally automatic and instant upon death as part of the corporation's contract with the state, not God.
  2. Shortly thereafter, the new President is ordained to the office of President by the combined quorum of the Twelve Apostles (though in the past the ordination has also been performed by the Presiding Patriarch. And in some cases, there was never an ordination at all.)
  3. Sometime later, the new President is sustained by the vote of the church membership in General Conference. Being that the man is already legally installed, and ordained, the vote is merely symbolic. There is, in reality, zero chance that the vote would ever choose anything different than what has already been done, nor is there any procedure in place to change anything even if the vote did come out against what had been done.
  4. Having thus been legally installed, ordained and sustained in precisely backwards order from what it should be, the President is now obligated to seek and obtain the gifts of Prophecy, Seership and Revelation. It is his duty (D&C 107:91). He can be sustained by our vote, and ordained to an office, but this does not obligate the Lord to bestow any specific spiritual gift on that man. An office is no guarantee of any spiritual gifts at all. We cannot vote the gifts to descend upon the man. Only God can bestow the spiritual gifts the President is obligated to seek.
To better understand these gifts, let's examine them one at a time.

The Gift of Prophecy

It's a simple concept. By definition, a "prophet" or "prophetess" is one who has the gift of prophecy. (D&C 46:22). Such a person receives and delivers a message given them by God. Our common usage implies such a message will deal with future events, but the timing is not the defining characteristic of prophecy. Rather it is the source. Prophecy MUST originate with God.

There is no scriptural mandate that there be only one person with this gift at any given time, or that there only be specific leadership offices that enjoy this gift. 

Rather, the gift is available to all, and at times, there have been many prophets simultaneously issuing prophecy. (1 Nephi 1:4, Enos 1:22) Moses desired that ALL the Lord's people would be prophets. (Numbers 11:29) We should all be prophets because "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." (Revelation 19:10, Alma 6:8)

Jesus taught us to expect prophets, and discern false prophets from true prophets by their fruits. (Matthew 7:15-20) If the fruit of a prophet is his prophecy, then we ought to judge the prophet by the message he delivers. 

Note that Jesus DID NOT say we could recognize a prophet by office, title, position, credentials, family, education, wealth, power, achievements, honors of men, success, accolades, or even common consent. These are all false standards, valued by this fallen world, but completely irrelevant to heaven. God chooses whom He will, and teaches that person. This is the only credential a prophet needs. The message is both the credential and the fruit of that prophet. If someone delivers a message from God, the message is all the authority needed. Such a messenger is, in delivering that message, a prophet.

Therefore, if we are to judge by fruits, we must examine the prophecy of the prophet to discern a true prophet from a pretender. If a man has never issued prophecy, there is nothing by which to judge. 

In that case, it's much like claiming to be a dentist, without ever having actually looked in someone's mouth. If you can't do it, you can't claim it. And it doesn't matter how many people may call you a dentist and testify that with every fiber of their being they KNOW you are God's chosen dentist and his mouth-doctor on earth. Until you fill the cavities, you haven't demonstrated you're anything but a title.

A prophet, then, has the obligation to make it clear when he is prophesying, or delivering a message given him by God so we will know it is prophecy and not just a good talk. "Thus saith the Lord" is a common scriptural marker. Or "the word of the Lord came unto me saying..." Others express it in other ways. King Benjamin made it known that he received his message from an angel. Jacob said he obtained his errand from the Lord. The key to remember here is that prophets clearly identify their prophecy as originating with God. We are never left to guess or make claims on their behalf that they do not make.

Joseph Smith said a prophet is only a prophet when he is acting as such (DHC 5:265). This means that everything coming out of the prophet's mouth is NOT prophecy, and may also include opinions, teachings, and administrative pronouncements. In fact, the majority of what such a person speaks will NOT be prophecy. 

An example would be when Joseph Fielding Smith, at the time President of the Quorum of the Twelve, stated over the pulpit in 1961 that man would never go into space or reach the moon. Obviously, he was expressing his own opinion, later proven to be erroneous. The fact that he said it "in the name of Jesus Christ" and over the pulpit did not change the fact that it was mere opinion. And it's OK—he, like all men, is entitled to hold opinions and make mistakes. He did not say the Lord said it; he was not issuing prophecy.

And yet, if everything coming out of a prophet's mouth were prophecy, such errors would be hugely problematic and faith destroying. Therefore the prophet must identify clearly that which is, indeed, a message coming from the Lord. Unless a statement is identified as prophecy, the only safe course is to assume it is not.

Ask yourself, then: When is the last time you heard such a message identified and delivered by a living prophet (or heard it read to you from a teleprompter)? Who is the last man you know of who openly claimed to have met the Lord or an angel and to subsequently deliver a message from God? Or have you ever heard of such a message in your lifetime? Joseph Smith made it clear when he was delivering God's word. He was unquestionably a prophet. Do we hear such a voice today?

Or have we changed the definition of "prophet" and "prophecy" to conform to our current situation?

The Gift of Seership

The best way to think about a Seer is as a "see-er," or one who "sees." A seer is shown visions by God. Ammon gives an excellent summary:
But a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them, and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known. 
Thus God has provided a means that man, through faith, might work mighty miracles; therefore he becometh a great benefit to his fellow beings. (Mosiah 8:17-18)
Therefore, it's a fairly simple proposition for us rank-and-file church members to recognize a seer. He or she will have visions that reveal things that otherwise could not be known, and will make those things known unto us. Joseph Smith is a great example: His First Vision opened this dispensation, and he had, and revealed, other visions throughout his life, up to and including the night before he died. Joseph Smith was unquestionably a seer.

If we are looking for modern seers, we should identify them by the visions they receive and make known. And so we're right back to our dental analogy: Calling someone a seer who has never looked into heaven is like calling someone a dentist who has never looked into a mouth. If you can't do it, you can't claim it. Calling someone a seer doesn't make him one.

Who is it today that looks into heaven and tells us what he sees? What visions of Heaven have been delivered to the LDS people? When was the last such vision given?

The Gift of Revelation

The word "revelation" is based on the word "reveal," which means to make known what was previously unknown. Or, as Noah Webster put it in 1828, "The act of disclosing or discovering to others what was before unknown to them."

Therefore a revelator, by definition, reveals unknown truths, given by God. Here's how God put it:

If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal. (D&C 42:61)
And what "bringeth life eternal?" Knowledge upon knowledge, the mysteries, the peaceable things: ultimately the knowledge of God.
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. (John 17:3)
Therefore, if there is a revelator among us, he will reveal unknown knowledge. Mysteries. The truths of God. This is not the same thing as giving a good sermon by telling stories, quoting poets, or even teaching from the scriptures. You and I can do that. General authorities do that. TV evangelists do that. 

Many preachers of many different faiths teach great truths and give good advice. This is NOT revelation, even when it is based on scripture, because this is only expounding on principles that are already known and sitting in front of us in scripture.

However, from Joseph Smith's first vision to his last, he revealed NEW truths from God. Joseph most certainly had the gift of revelation.

The Gift of Translation

D&C 107:92, quoted above, also requires the President of the church to be a translator. In fact the title “translator” appears every time this list is applied to Joseph Smith (D&C 107:91-92, 124:125), though for some reason we choose to ignore that particular gift when referencing the current President of the church. 

Why is that? I suspect it’s because nobody has translated anything since Joseph, and it feels ridiculous for us to call our leaders translators when they clearly don’t translate. 

For example, when the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants have been translated from English into other languages, it has been by committees and scholars, not by “prophets, seers, revelators and translators.” Similarly, when various groups have approached the First Presidency with purported ancient records to be translated, the First Presidency has declined to do so.

This is food for thought. In our day, the church either doesn’t believe in the gift of translation, or doesn’t have it. It’s one or the other. Either way, when the church needs translation, it's the scholars, not the prophets, who do the work.

Who has These Gifts?

The scriptural references to prophet, seer, revelator and translator all applied to Joseph Smith, who had, and amply demonstrated, those gifts. It was Joseph, specifically, who was to speak for the Lord (D&C 5:9-10, D&C 21:4-5). There is no mention of a successor in that capacity. In fact, the Lord specifically declares that no other man can act in this capacity (D&C 28:2
D&C 43:1-5) unless Joseph appoints him. Incidentally, Joseph did in fact appoint his successor by revelation while he was alive. It was Hyrum.

But the question of succession necessarily brings up the question of gifts. Remember, you cannot "ordain" someone to these gifts. You cannot vote them these gifts by common consent. Rather, these gifts must be obtained by the individual, directly from God.

Nevertheless, we now apply these titles to the current President of the church, and cite section 107 as the reason. Let's look again at the verses in question:

And again, the duty of the President of the office of the High Priesthood is to preside over the whole church, and to be like unto Moses—Behold, here is wisdom; yea, to be a seer, a revelator, a translator, and a prophet, having all the gifts of God which he bestows upon the head of the church. (D&C 107:91-92)
So the President of the church is to:
  1. Preside over the whole church. Simple enough. He’s the highest authority.
  2. Be like unto Moses. This is a discussion of several hours, but here are some of the highlights:
  • Moses spoke with God face to face (Moses 1:2)
  • Moses met and resisted the devil (Moses 1:12-22)
  • Moses was in similitude of the only Begotten Son (Moses 1:6)
  • Moses delivered his people by working many, mighty miracles
  • Moses sought diligently to sanctify his people so they could behold the face of God as Moses had (D&C 84:23)
  • But the people hardened their hearts and refused, so they were given a lesser law and they lost the fulness of the priesthood (84:24-26; see also D&C 124:28)
This President of the high priesthood is beginning to sound a lot like Joseph Smith again, isn’t he?

Notice the dash after “like unto Moses—“ which indicates a continuation of the thought—and a wise one at that. "Here is wisdom; yea, to be a seer, a revelator, a translator, and a prophet."

These are listed as duties of the office. Or alternatively, we could take it to mean that the only person eligible for the office of President is one who has obtained and demonstrates these gifts, and such a person should be sought and installed by common consent. 

Either way, there is no basis to claim from scripture that anyone automatically obtains the gifts of the spirit simply because of office alone.

And now, let's look at the final portion of that passage:

"having all the gifts of God which he bestows upon the head of the church." 
Some have claimed this passage means that God automatically bestows these gifts on the President of the church. But I have a question. Who is the head of the church?

Think carefully. 

Oh yeah—

Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:23)

Therefore, a valid way to read this passage is that we would be wise (hence “wisdom”) to choose men who are prophets, seers, and revelators to be our leaders. In fact, we should choose men like Christ, having all the spiritual gifts, if we can find such men. Such would be "like unto Moses" indeed, who was in similitude of Jesus Christ. This would fit the scriptural pattern the Lord has stipulated.

And such leaders wouldn’t have to rely on public-opinion polling, high-priced marketing firms, lawyers and image consultants to determine doctrine and change ordinances. (oh, I wish I were exaggerating.) But sadly, we’ve established an order of legal succession (not in scripture) and we don’t dare depart from it, all the while telling ourselves we really didn’t lose anything when we lost our prophet, seer, revelator and translator, Joseph Smith.

Other men claim those titles today, and therefore we have the obligation, imposed directly by Jesus Christ, to know them by their fruits. Similarly, such men have the obligation to provide those fruits—revelations and prophecy that can be examined by us, taken to the Lord, ratified by the Holy Ghost, and accepted by the membership.

So in the next part of this series, we'll do as Jesus directed, and examine the fruits. We'll also talk about what it means to "sustain" our leaders.

     Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
     ¶Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits.
—Matthew 7:13-16


  1. Beautiful. Beautiful. Beautiful.

    Joseph's fruits were abundant and plentiful.

    Can someone take me by the hand and show me where ANY statement by Thomas S. Monson can be shown to be prophesy, revelation or an act of seership. What has he revealed? When has he declared that the Lord has given him a message? Has an angel appeared to him to reveal a message from God? What has he translated? Has he peered into the past? Has he seen the Lord's suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane? Has he seen the crucifixion? Has he seen the resurrection?

    I have seen NONE of these fruits from him. If I can't be shown otherwise, I must conclude that he is a false prophet(Hel 13) and that God has not chosen him.

    Gary Gibson

  2. Well said, thanks for the post.

  3. Thank you for this post. The Lord has witnessed to me the truth of this message through the Holy Ghost. He has given me to know that you are teaching the Words of Christ given you through angels who speak by the power of the Holy Ghost and that you are speaking with the tongue of angels. I glory in the Lord that He is able lay down unbelief and teach truth so plainly through any who are willing to hear His voice and give heed to Him. Thank you, my dear brother in Christ, for your (and your wife’s) sacrifice to teach His word and for being a conduit through which He can call out to His sheep. I am excited for and stand ready to receive any and all whom God qualifies to be a prophet, seer, revelator, and translator! Glory be to God!

  4. This is spot on, as usual, Adrian. Thank you for elucidating these things in such a clear way. I appreciate all you teach me, and others! - Jules

  5. Adrian, thanks for starting your blog. Rest assured that you are filling a vital role in the lives of your readers of whom I am one. If you make no other entries you have already been of great service to your brothers and sisters.

    Thanks for emphasizing the word "duty" which I've passed over for 34 years.

  6. Wow! really great post. And you have really summed it up well. Explaining things clearly and easily so anyone could understand.

  7. Excellent as usual Adrian.

    Another question that should be asked is why the titles of Prophet, Seer, and Revelator are extended to the 12 apostles as well? The one place where the connection should most likely be found (but is not) is D&C 20:38-45. I know the usual argument is stated such that apostles have those "keys" but they're "inactive". That involves some pretty serious mental gymnastics and isn't really backed up by anything. Why then ask us to sustain them as such? Is it for their own egos? I don't know much about keys but if they're real then you either have them or don't.

    They've turned these heavenly gifts into unofficial church offices and I sustain them according to their own definition. I'd really really like the chief priest to be another Moses but, like you, I've seen no evidence of the required gifts.

  8. Thank you very much for this post and thanks for explaining that verse in 107. It makes a lot more sense to me now. The scripture in Matthew that you use at the end is an interesting one. I asked the question once: sometimes those who are inwardly ravening wolves, it's hard to tell even by their fruits (or works) that they are evil. So how can we tell even if their works appear to be so good? I felt like I was taught that fruits also refers to intentions as well. The why behind the what.
    That takes a closeness to the Spirit to be able to discern.
    Erin West

    1. Great question, Erin. It comes down to the definition of fruits. If it only refers to works, then there are many great prophets in the world. Mother Teresa would certainly have been a prophet. So is the local guy who runs the homeless shelter. I don't think it's about works. Anyone can do good, even Godly works. How would this help us discern a prophet?

      I believe the fruit of a prophet is his prophecy. It's about the message he delivers. We are to study it out and then ask God, just like we tell those investigating the LDS church. We don't tell them about Joseph Smiths good works. We tell them about his message.

  9. "And now, my brethren, I have spoken plainly that ye cannot err..." : "For my soul delighteth in plainness; for after this manner doth the Lord God work among the children of men..." ; "...for I have spoken plainly unto you that ye might understand, I pray that ye should awake to a remembrance of the awful situation of those that have fallen into transgression." ; "And they were also angry with Alma and Amulek; and because they had testified so plainly against their wickedness, they sought to put them away privily." ...... and there are more!! Thank you for sorting the matter out using scriptures "plainly" and calling out tradition to stand for or against itself. As one has said - paraphrasing +- "your salvation hangs in the balance for you to decide what is true, and it ought to" Thanks for the post

    John Webster

  10. Excellent work Adrian! Simplicity is truly the "ultimate sophistication". The truth you share here is immutable.

  11. Didn't you listen to Elder Nelson. He said Pres. Monson was a prophet in EVERY sense of the word. So I guess he's seen a lot more than we have. Perhaps our unworthiness prevents the sharing...

    1. I must have missed the part where the scriptures state that the job of an apostle is to witness for anyone other than Christ.

    2. Hi Anonymous,
      You are right, Elder Nelson did say that about Pres. Monson. But could you help me understand what you are saying about unworthiness? From what I have read prophets are to serve as a voice of warning to the unworthy, so at minimum should Pres. Monson be delivering messages from God as to how we may best repent? Joseph Smith was constantly declaring the word of God to the saints and admonishing them saying that in speaking with God the message to the saints is repentance. Wouldn't that be at least the minimum of what Pres. Monson should be doing?

  12. I felt some Spirit when the past prophets were called, but never felt that for President Monson. Totally correct post. When I joined the Church decades ago, I was taught, we should seek to be prophets over our areas of stewardship. But then too, we were taught to ask God for revelation and a witness for our leaders, to verify if they are the ones. Need I say more. A calling never makes one anything, just like the Gift of the Holy Ghost, does not give you the companionship of the the Holy Ghost, it has to be earned and acquired.

  13. I certainly agree with this post. Those that claim specific spiritual gifts without any evidence should not be accepted.

    Here is a list of 140 claims to Mormon related Scripture level revelation: http://ldsmovement.pbworks.com/w/browse/#view=ViewFolder&param=Scriptures

    Are any of these truly the Word of the Lord, and a continuation of the gift that was restored through the Prophet Joseph? Or has this gift been taken from the earth after it was restored as part of the restoration of all things?

  14. I simply cannot comprehend how any reader or church leader can conclude that such logic and spiritual insight, backed by scripture, is apostate. God bless you Adrian.

    Anonymous Bishop

  15. Another fantastic post, Adrian. It steps around and briefly touches on a question I think most LDS assume has already been answered but which I'm not sure has ever even really been asked or adequately discussed: are the successors to Joseph Smith in the office of president of the church equal to him in every way? Does the fact that they sit in his seat mean they can change, add to, or take away from what the Lord gave us through Joseph? What about if we consider it in the different context you already mentioned: Moses' dispensation. Where those who sat in Moses' seat after him authorized to alter, add, or remove even one iota of what was given through Moses? For example, was Caiaphas so authorized? We sure have a lot of considering we ought to be doing as LDSs. Your post here ought to be seriously considered by all of us.

    1. It's interesting that Brigham never considered himself Joseph's equal, and at first, refused to take Joseph's "seat." Of course that changed, but in the beginning there was widespread recognition that nobody would ever take Joseph's place.

      The idea that the current, living prophet is Joseph's equal, or that the President is the Prophet is a very new concept, first arising in the 1950's (NOT 1850's). Prior to that, "the Prophet" always referred to Joseph Smith. Nobody called Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilfred Woodruff, etc. "the Prophet." They were always the President.

      Now we call men "the Prophet" and consider them equal to Joseph, yet they display none of Joseph's gifts. More on this later.

    2. A terrific essay, Adrian. My challenge will be to incorporate something from this into my next Gospel Doctrine lesson on John the Baptist without throwing the class into mass confusion and getting myself run out of town.

      Brigham Young demurred from claiming to be a prophet when he said, ”I am not going to interpret dreams; for I don’t profess to be such a Prophet as were Joseph Smith and Daniel; but I am a Yankee guesser;” (Brigham Young, Sermon, July 26, 1857, JD 5:77.)

      Brigham knew by his association with Joseph Smith what a prophet, seer, revelator and translator was. For one who claimed so much ecclesiastical and political power in early Utah, this is a telling and vital confession and calls into question his teachings about polygamy, Adam-God and blacks not being worthy to hold the priesthood.

  16. Excellent Post. Unfortunately it was Joseph Smith that started the practice of referring to the Twelve as "prophet, seers, and revelators." Here is from the History of the Church, vol. 2, p. 417:

    I then made a short address, and called upon the several quorums, and all the congregation of Saints, to acknowledge the Presidency as Prophets and Seers, and uphold them by their prayers. They all covenanted to do so, by rising.

    I then called upon the quorums and congregation of Saints to acknowledge the Twelve Apostles, who were present, as Prophets, Seers, Revelators, and special witnesses to all the nations of the earth, holding the keys of the kingdom, to unlock it, or cause it to be done, among them, and uphold them by their prayers, which they assented to by rising.

    1. I'm not sure it's unfortunate that Joseph started this practice. I think the members of the twelve ought to be these things. I view it as an aspiration and a hope that they will arise and receive. The original charge to the twelve reflected this goal.

    2. Brother Larsen, when Joseph asked the Church to acknowledge the Twelve, who were present, as prophets, seers, revelators, and special witnesses to all the nations of the earth, holding the keys of the kingdom, that was not an elucidation of a future happenstance but - in straightforward English - to acknowledge a present reality.

    3. Log, I agree. Those men may well have been prophets, seers and revelators. But I'm not aware of Joseph stating that any and all men ever called to the apostleship in the future would also be such. Hence, I view it as an aspiration and hope.

  17. Excellent post Adrian. I think the work of bible translation is instructive when contemplating this subject.

    The Lord specifically tied the knowledge Joseph Smith had of the mysteries of the kingdom to the keys of the kingdom which he (Joseph) held (D&C 28:7 & D&C 35:18-20). The D&C 35 reference relates the "keys of the mysteries" to the work of bible translation. The degree to which a knowledge of the mysteries was necessary for that work can be clearly seen by comparing Genesis in the KJV bible to Moses in the PoGP and in the JST of Genesis 14. Joseph added content because he understood the big picture and could therefore see what was missing. He was truly acting as a prophet, seer, revelator and translator in that task.

    Considering the amount of effort Joseph put towards the work of translation it must have been a priority for the Lord, but Joseph was killed before it was completed. Tradition would have us believe that at least fifteen prophets, seers and revelators have been on the earth at any given point in time since Joseph was taken 170 years ago. If so, why has the work of bible translation never been completed? If none has ever demonstrated sufficient knowledge of the mysteries required to complete that unfinished work, why should anyone believe that a sufficient knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom exists in the LDS church to bring forth Zion? As you stated, titles are empty without bringing forth the fruit.

  18. Brother Larsen,

    Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Your dentist may be able to do all he says - the fact that you haven't witnessed him doing it, but have heard many testimonials that he can do it on top of his publicized credentialing, does not mean he cannot do it. It only means that you don't know he can do it. That's as far as you can go in truth.

    Unless you have additional information you haven't been cluing us in on.

    1. Log, thank you for commenting. I'm afraid in this case, absence of evidence IS evidence of absence because Christ proclaimed we must have evidence to judge. If there is no fruit, there is no prophet. Not a true prophet, not a false prophet. Nothing. Christ's test cannot be applied in the absence of evidence.

      I also think, that in the dental analogy, it doesn't matter how many people testify the man is a dentist if he has never worked on anyone's teeth. It's not a question of my teeth; it's a question of any teeth, anywhere, ever.

      I don't need to meet a man personally to test his fruits. But there must be fruits to test.

    2. You don't know that he hasn't worked on anyone's teeth, do you?

    3. Brother Larsen,

      The citation below from Micah 3 indicates there are prophets without fruit. That Christ's test cannot be applied in the absence of evidence only means you can't apply Christ's test, not that those you would test have presumptively failed Christ's test.

      I ask again - do you know of yourself the dentist has never worked on anyone's teeth? If not, then you would err in proclaiming he has not or cannot.

      Internal logical consistency is, I believe, a necessary feature of a just judgement.

    4. Hi Log,

      I'm afraid we'll simply have to disagree. The essence of the discussion comes down to burden of proof. I hold that the prophet is to issue prophecy, and thus provide evidence of his calling and the truth of his message. In other words, the burden of proof is on him to furnish the fruits Christ commanded us to look for.

      I believe this is a logically consistent position to take.

      You hold that the burden of proof is on me to prove he has not issued prophecy. Must I also systematically prove the dozens or hundreds of pretenders in various offshoots of the restoration are also not prophets? At what point does my burden of proof end? The Pope?

      The burden imposed by Christ is that prophets bear fruit and we know them by judging the fruit.

      Would we call Joseph Smith a prophet if he had never translated the Book of Mormon, experienced visions, and issued revelation? Would it be my responsibility to prove he was not a prophet in the absence of fruit?

      The fruit is the proof.

  19. Indeed, Brother Larsen, you might find this interesting.

    Micha 3:5 ¶Thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets that make my people err, that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him.

    6 Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them.

    7 Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded: yea, they shall all cover their lips; for there is no answer of God.

    1. Log,

      Excellent reference. Thank you very much for sharing!

    2. You're welcome. I trust you see the point of the citation - and for those who don't, the point is prophets nor seers have to bear public fruit to be called as such in the eyes of the Lord.

    3. Log, I agree. D&C 107 tells us the President of the church has a duty to be a prophet. So he is "called" to be such. But until he actually receives the gift and does something with it, it is merely a title.

      The Lord calls them "shepherds" which fail to feed and protect the flock, and actually kill and eat the sheep (Ezekiel 34:1-3). The shepherds had a job to do, and they fail to do it. The Lord yet refers to them as shepherds, as they are called to be such.

    4. I don’t think this understanding of Micah 3 is accurate, and the inaccurate interpretation is being applied to attempt to correct Adrian, incorrectly.

      In verse 5, the Lord does indeed acknowledge a group as “prophets.” But this group is being indicted by the Lord for doing something which does not jive with the calling of a prophet: They are claiming to prophesy “peace” for those who are supporting/sustaining/feeding them, and claiming to prophesy “war” upon those who do not support/sustain/feed them. (The King James verbiage really mucks up the understanding of this verse.)

      Whatever other correct fruits of a prophet these men (and women?) may have displayed, thereby making them recognizable as prophets, they have come to indulge in practices which the Lord condemns: they have become exploiters of the people, slanting their prophesy based on whether their carnal interests are being fulfilled by the people.

      As a result, in verses 6 and 7, the Lord establishes a FUTURE TENSE declaration against these PRESENTLY errant prophets. Meaning that at the time of the declaration, these things had not come to pass yet. The darkness had not been passed over the prophets, the end of visions had not been passed upon the seers, and therefore they could still be justifiably titled such in the Lord’s declarations against them.

      If anything, the Lord is not recognizing as prophets those who lack fruit. He is declaring that a group who have displayed the fruits of prophesy have gone astray, and as a result He declares He will strip them of their gifts by closing the heavens over them. Then they will not be prophets anymore, having no more fruit from heaven to display to the world.

      Adrian’s logic concerning the examination of fruit is sound.


  20. Nice post Adrian

    If I may I'd like to add a thought about seers. In order to be a seer you must also be in possession of seer stones. If one claims to be a seer (or requires a sustaining of such) and is not in possession of seer stones they are NOT a seer.

    Moroni makes it clear to Joseph that it is the possession of these stones that constitutes a seer.

    35 Also, that there were two stones in silver bows—and these stones, fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim—deposited with the plates; and THE POSSESSION AND USE OF THESE STONES WERE WHAT CONSTITUTED "SEERS" in ancient or former times; and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book.
    Joseph Smith—History 1:35

    Mosiah was a true seer because as Ammon says, "he has wherewith that he can look, and translate all records that are of ancient date." Mosiah was in possession of seer stones.

    Mosiah 8
    13 Now Ammon said unto him: I can assuredly tell thee, O king, of a man that can translate the records; for he HAS wherewith that he can look, and translate all records that are of ancient date; and it is a gift from God. And the things are called interpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commanded, lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish. And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called seer.

    1. Brother Sorenson,

      Your citation establishes that possession of interpreters is sufficient to be called "seer," but what it does not establish is that it is necessary.

      What is needed is a scripture which says, in so many words, "whosoever hath not interpreters is not seer."

  21. Just wanted to say thank you, Adrian, for setting all of this out so clearly. I know others have said it already, but I wanted to add my voice, as well. Thank you for being so thorough, and so painstakingly clear. Much love, Brother Larsen, to you and your family.

  22. This entry (and most of the others to some extent) remind me once again that I NEED to study and thoughtfully consider the gifts of the Spirit, and make this a top priority in my gospel study (D&C 46 in particular). God's been trying to get me to do this for several years now, and I keep starting to... then get sidetracked by other things, both church and secular related. Now that I've distanced myself from the formal church organization, I no longer feel obligated to meet arbitrary study goals set by overzealous priesthood and auxiliary leaders/teachers, so hopefully I won't get distracted this time.

  23. Section 107:21-22 seems to suggest that the First Presidency is chosen "by the body" of Mechizedek priesthood holders in general and not any leadership quorums or presidency specifically:

    21 Of necessity there are presidents, or presiding officers growing out of, or appointed of or from among those who are ordained to the several offices in these two priesthoods.

    22 Of the Melchizedek Priesthood, three Presiding High Priests, chosen by the body, appointed and ordained to that office, and upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayer of the church, form a quorum of the Presidency of the Church.

  24. For an exploration of the same subject from a slightly different angle, Zomorah's blog post, 'Thomas S. Monson: A Seer, a Revelator, a Translator, and a Prophet' is a must. Disarmingly friendly. Delightfully honest.


  25. To be completely fair to the Church, I honestly couldn't find the wording in the charter that made the traditional succession pattern (longest-serving apostle becomes president) automatic. It says that upon the death of the president, the corporation sole will be, pending the installation of a successor president, either the president of the quorum of the twelve, the acting president of the quorum of the twelve, or a designated member of the quorum of the twelve. On top of that, it makes no mention of the who the actual successor president has to be.

    1. Yes, unless someone else is actually appointed by the twelve, then the President of the Quorum of the Twelve is automatically and instantly the new Corporation Sole, and therefore the legal president of the corporation. It takes proactive action by the Quorum to NOT have the most senior apostle become the next legal successor. Barring such action, it is indeed automatic.

  26. Which President of the church was not ordained?

    1. It's my understanding that neither Brigham Young, John Taylor nor Wilford Woodruff were ever ordained as church president. They were simply voted in.

    2. I know that Brigham in 1847 had is 'still small voice' moment at Winter Quarters where there was the claim of legitimacy through Joseph Smith, but I can't find references for Taylor or Woodruff. It is kind of hard to prove a false negative eg "show me where this doesn't exist"...


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