Sunday, February 4, 2024

Five Fruit Flavors

For in those days there shall also arise false christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that if possible, they shall deceive the very elect, who are the elect according to the covenant. Behold, I speak these things unto you for the elect’s sake.

—Mark 6:4 RE



A few years back, someone asked me to perform their wedding ceremony. I looked into what was required, and found out that for about thirty-five bucks on a website, I could become a credentialed, “ordained” minister, complete with a fancy certificate I could download and print, giving me the legal right to officiate weddings. As soon as the website got my money, they started emailing me as “Reverend Larsen” and offering to sell me all the accoutrements I would need to start a church. I found the whole thing hilarious. It took only a few minutes and a few dollars to have a completely new title, profession, legal authority, and supposed spiritual standing. With these in hand, I was urged to start a church. 


But I got ripped off. I should have just claimed to be a prophet. That’s even faster, cheaper, and easier. Maybe that’s why there are so many. 


Our day is likely the most prophetic age in history because the bar to being a prophet has never been lower. We’re positively lousy with prophets almost everywhere you look, and the infestation seems to be growing.


The astute and scripturally adept among us will of course recognize the prior paragraph as a lot of nonsense. Prophets have always been rare, rejected, and when possible, eliminated from polite society. Why should our day be any different? 


Here’s why: Because we live in a day of changing definitions. Words with stable, standard, well-understood meanings lasting hundreds of years are now being redefined at a whim to mean very different things—and in such actions are becoming weaponized.


One such word with a fluid definition is “prophet.” I’ve written extensively on the topic in the past (here) but today I’m approaching from a slightly different angle. Back then I was specifically focused on those called prophets in the LDS church, but today I’m focusing more broadly on any and all claiming so to be, or allowing themselves to be regarded as such.


This all started the other day when I ran across a guy in my FaceBook feed who claims to be the only prophet in existence on the earth today. This made me think about a different guy on YouTube awhile back who didn’t claim to be the only prophet, but did claim to be a prophet. Comparing these two led me to consider all the others I’ve encountered in the last few years, claiming callings, titles, special authority, visitations, and divine connection, but for the most part proving to be liars and scoundrels.


So back to my point about becoming a prophet—it’s really easy. All you need to do is claim to be one—and social media facilitates that. No money to pay, no forms to fill out, just make the claim and you’re there. Something tells me this could all get confusing. 


Now, bear in mind, in this post I’ve not yet made the distinction between TRUE prophets and FALSE prophets. Thus far, I’ve just lumped them all together. But as we all know, the devil is in the details, and certainly no more so than in this distinction. Telling true from false is the most important part, and the most necessary. It’s also, for reasons I can’t explain, seemingly the hardest and most confusing when it comes to the topic of those claiming to be prophets. 


Fortunately, our Lord foresaw this particular issue, and gave us, in detail, the information we need to navigate such a confusing time as this. Said he: 


And again, beware of false prophets that come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. You shall know them by their fruits. For do men gather grapes of thorns? Or figs of thistles? Even so, every good tree brings forth good fruit, but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that brings not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire. Wherefore, by their fruits you shall know them.

—Matthew 3:46 RE



As you can see, our Lord makes it clear that prophets, like trees, must be judged by their fruits and in no other way—which leads to the very important question: What are fruits? 


In the interest of helping to sort out this question, I’d like to offer five ideas about the fruits by which we can judge any who claim to be God’s servants. These are just reminders, and though much more could be written about each, I hope these brief mentions will bring to mind the ideas needed for the current discussion.


1. Teachings


I believe above all, a prophet is a teacher—in the sense of delivering God’s word. A prophet who doesn’t teach—who delivers no message—has no fruit by which to judge and therefore can’t be considered a prophet. This is the foundational role of a prophet, and all claims to the role rest first and foremost on the message delivered. No message, no prophet. No question.


But assuming there is a message, the next question to be sorted is whether or not that message comes from God. 


2. Scripture


The first test of the message is whether it’s supported by existing scripture. Naturally, this requires familiarity with scripture and some basic critical thinking skills. It doesn’t have to be hard, and is made easier by the fact that God’s true messengers tend to teach from the scriptures far more than they reveal anything new or unknown. 


It’s important though to realize that scripture can be wrested, twisted, and strained to provide justification for unholy teachings. Brigham Young, for example, was very weak in scriptural knowledge, but very strong in using scriptural snippets to give unholy teachings the facade of scriptural support. So in the end, it’s important that we pay the price to understand scripture as thoroughly as possible. Even those who bring forth new revelations must ground their teachings in scripture, rather than conjecture or simply claiming they know. 


And even then, something more is required. 


Smooth charlatans can (and do) make convincing scriptural arguments that lead people in to strange paths where they become lost. Therefore it’s important that we have a connection with the Holy Spirit to help us discern truth from error. Some find this connection challenging, and rightly so. Learning to discern God’s voice takes time, effort and patience. It is not learned in an instant, nor is it cheaply won. It is vital to put in the effort in advance and on an ongoing basis so the knife is sharp when you must call upon it to rightly divide the word. I’ll talk more about this in a future post (watch for the unicycle post.)


3. Behavior


Anyone claiming to be a messenger for God needs to conform to a basic pattern of obedience to God’s commandments. Far, far too many come along claiming to be prophets or servants of God, using the veneer of importance to cover unholy behavior. How many self-proclaimed prophets have turned out to in fact be abusers? Thieves? Sexual deviants? Liars? Dictators? Adulterers? Power mongers? Predators? Greedy? Ignorant? Lazy?


Meanwhile can any of the above descriptions be rightly applied to true prophets we encounter in scripture? The difference is stark and ought not be confusing.


The fruit of a prophet is demonstrated in their daily walk and interaction with others just as much as it is evident in the message they declare. This is not to say prophets are well liked, popular, permissive, friendly, or appreciated by the world. But they are invariably loyal to God, even when such loyalty is unpopular, and they are unfailingly obedient to God’s commandments, including the commandments that control behavior. 


The idea that there is a calling, position, keys or ordinance that conveys special status on a man, makes him immune to sin, gives rubber-stamp approval to his every act, or invalidates God’s laws in his special case is both absurd and evil. And yet many make such claims as justification for their unacceptable behavior. Rules for thee and not for me, as the saying goes. 


Brigham Young, for example, claimed to have “keys” that sanctioned his adulterous accumulation of over 60 wives. Here’s a thought about such claimed “keys.” 

What then is the distinction between the conduct of Brigham Young on the one hand, and the exact same conduct of Parley Pratt on the other hand in the religion of Brigham Young? The difference lies in the fact that Brigham Young claimed to have the keys. If keys allow adultery, I want no such keys. If keys allow adultery, then I say damn me now because I want nothing of it, or of your pretended keys. I don’t think that the pretenders in all of the various “Strongman” models have any clue what it would take to bring again Zion. They do not kneel down to serve and elevate others through their teachings in the least. They have no glory of God within them, and therefore cannot instill light and truth upon those who will hear them speak. 

—Denver Snuffer, “Zion” 2014, p. 7

4. Money


It’s such a common trope in the world that it doesn’t even raise an eyebrow anymore. Religious leaders, as soon as they gather some listeners, immediately start asking for money. “For the ministry” of course. Every sleaze bag TV preacher continually seeks donations to the “ministry” so he can be supported without laboring for his living. Some live in immense luxury, some don’t. But all seek to have someone else pay their way, while justifying it by claiming the need to devote their “full-time” efforts to “the ministry.”


This is not to say there aren’t worthy causes to which money can and should be donated. Building a temple, producing scripture, helping the poor, holding conferences—there are many worthy ways to spend money in the Lord’s service. But no true messenger will ever ask to be continually supported by believers while refusing to labor for his own support. 


Nehor provides the textbook example of this failing:

And he had gone about among the people, preaching to them that which he termed to be the word of God, bearing down against the church, declaring unto the people that every priest and teacher ought to become popular and they ought not to labor with their own hands, but that they ought to be supported by the people…And it came to pass that he did teach these things so much that many did believe on his words, even so many that they began to support him and give him money. 

—Alma 1:1 RE

Alma also gives critical instruction:

And it came to pass that Alma, having authority from God, ordained priests…And he also commanded them that the priests whom he had ordained should labor with their own hands for their support…And the priests were not to depend upon the people for their support, but for their labor they were to receive the grace of God, that they might wax strong in the spirit, having the knowledge of God, that they might teach with power and authority from God. 

—Mosiah 9:9-10 RE

The commandment to impart of our substance to those in need does not mean an able-bodied man should neglect his duty to support his family with the expectation that others will provide the needed substance for him and his family. As Paul wrote: “But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Tim. 1:13 

—Denver Snuffer, “Priests are not Paid” July 11, 2021

5. Claims


And finally, true messengers don’t make claims to titles, positions or special status. A true servant of God will point to his Master as the source of the message and the authority to deliver it, but never to himself. I find it strange that so many step up to claim titles, offices, authority and status without actually having accomplished anything at all. I’ve literally seen online claims that amount in essence to, “I’m that guy. Give me money.” And people fall for it!


A messenger who highlights a status, title, office or calling to give himself prominence is often using title claims as a thin veneer to cover pride and laziness. A true messenger will do the work required by God, and in so doing may, perhaps, bring notice that the Lord’s work is being done. But even in that case the true messenger will deflect attention to the Lord rather than himself. 


Look, someones going to do the work. When the work is done then youll know. Until the work is done no one can be identified with the role, period. It is arrogance, it is pretentiousness it is foolishness for anyone to step forward and say; “I, I am that man!” Do the work, finish the course, fulfill the covenant. When you do that you can take the name. Until you do the work, its just noise. 

—Denver Snuffer, Be of Good Cheer, Be of Good Courage

 September 10, 2013, p. 20


It is a given that true messengers will be criticized by unbelievers. Our Lord was and is criticized continually, and he showed an example of patience in not reviling again against the revilers. He certainly could have claimed that as Messiah he was above reproach, and cursed all who dared speak against him, but he did not. Those he sends will follow his example in accepting criticism, rather than claiming that as God’s servants, they must not be criticized. No status makes anyone immune to correction. 


One (or three) More Thoughts



Money, sex and power
are the universal desires of the natural man. None of these things are inherently evil of themselves, and all are available when sought properly. All are likewise controlled by strict commandments and instructions from God about how each is to be obtained, held, and used, and upon what terms. 


For example, money is to be honestly earned by one’s own labor (unless physically unable)—not stolen, not coveted, not loved. It is to be used in the support of one’s self, one’s family, the truly poor, and in furthering the sorts of God’s work that require money to accomplish. 


Sex is controlled by the law of chastity, to be employed between husband and wife in honorable, monogamous marriage—and in no other way.


Power is available to God’s servants through the Holy Spirit on terms that include faith, humility, obedience, and recognition that any power received is God’s and God’s alone, to be employed only as God directs. 


A quick analysis of these three—money, sex and power—will very often point out a false prophet immediately, for false prophets will invariably seek for or use one or more of these things in unsanctioned ways.


Earlier in this post I mentioned a man on facebook claiming to be the only true prophet on the earth. He says he has met the Father and the Son. It took me literally seconds of investigation to see that he teaches polygamy and asks for money for his support. Therefore, no matter what he claims, what else he teaches, or who he says he is, there is no further need to listen to him. He is a deceiver.


Summary


As I’ve thought about all the pretenders, and especially pretended prophets in and around the restoration of the gospel that started with Joseph Smith, I believe the ideas discussed here will go a long way in helping discern truth from error, true servants from pretenders. We can, and we MUST know them by their fruits.



And again, he that trembles under my power shall be made strong, and shall bring forth fruits of praise and wisdom, according to the revelations and truths which I have given you. And again, he that is overcome and brings not forth fruits, even according to this pattern, is not of me. Wherefore, by this pattern you shall know the spirits in all cases under the whole heavens. 

—T&C 39:4


10 comments:

  1. Dude! You did get ripped off. I became an ordained minister at no charge! Sure, if I wanted a certificate to hang on my wall, I had to give them money for it (I think it was $13 or $15 at the time).

    Anyway, back to reading what your post is really about.
    Toni

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think one example of the fruit is what grows and is harvested within us, the audience. Good fruit leads us to repent, come closer to Christ, love more, humble ourselves, etc. Bad fruit is of course the opposite.

    ReplyDelete
  3. From what you've written here, if there is a prophet in our day it's clearly only David or Rock. I guess the next installment will give us the final clue. My money's on David but I've an open mind until you blog again.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Lijphart,

      My goal isn't to point to someone specific. I'm just trying to provide some reminders to help people judge the matter for themselves. Also, I'm not intending this as a series. This is just a one-off.

      Delete
  4. Some questions I've received privately have reminded me that I need to make the following statement: I'm not making any claims about myself here. I do not claim to be a prophet, or anything special about myself at all. I'm just a guy sharing what I understand, in the hopes of helping those who are confused. I hope that much is obvious, but in case it's not, I'm stating it openly here.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Adrian, how about prophecy? Do prophets prophesy? Requirement? Can you have a prophet who does not?

    How about "rocking the boat"? Do prophets go against the established order of things? Can a prophet just go with the flow?

    Translating works? Seer stones?

    Appreciate your post. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Andrew,

      Yes, prophets prophesy. That’s their job—but it doesn’t necessarily mean predicting future events. Prophecy simply means delivering a message from God. Here’s what I wrote in my previous “Prophets” blog series:

      It's a simple concept. By definition, a "prophet" or "prophetess" is one who has the gift of prophecy. 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.

      Certainly prophets go against the established order of things. So do pretenders, so I didn’t list that as necessarily a fruit. As for translating, scripture seems to make a distinction between gifts of prophecy, seership and translation. They are related but not equal. A prophet doesn’t have to be a translator as well.

      Delete
  6. Adrian, having read everything you have written on this blog, I am amazed at your gift for expounding the scriptures. I am grateful for the way you make them so relatable and accessible. Thank you.

    In regards to the Facebook fellow who claimed he was the One and Only prophet on earth, that made me chuckle; I mean, Elijah was just one of 7,000 prophets in Israel.

    Foxes in the desert there are aplenty; thanks again for reminding us to not draw from wells without water. May the Lord bless you.

    THE BAPTIST

    Among them that are born
    of women there hath not risen
    a greater than John the Baptist:

    notwithstanding he that is least
    in the kingdom of heaven
    is greater than he.

    ― Jesus of Nazareth

    At sentencing
    I stood.

    A dispensation is a fragile
    potential. We live

    as Caesar decreed―
    taxed

    with coin
    the cloth covets:

    a king’s garment
    bespotted by flame

    a lust for baptisms
    performed by the dead

    a blasphemy of prophets
    offering flattering speech.

    The king
    required beheading―

    let it be
    a two-edged sword.

    ReplyDelete
  7. If you're going to censor /remove comments you should probably remove your reply also.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Anonymous. I have not censored or removed any comments, though I see that a commenter has removed his own comment to which the reply still appears. I had not realized that he removed his comment, and I appreciate you pointing it out. I'm removing my reply, which no longer applies. Thanks!

      Delete

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