Posts Tagged ‘prophets

14
Mar
12

The Living Prophet

Chapter 6 in the Teachings of George Albert Smith deals with the responsibility LDS members have to sustain their leaders.  Incidentally this is also emphasized in the March issue of the LDS church magazine, the Ensign.  Leaders are sustained at conferences by the members raising their right hands.  As both this chapter and the Ensign articles emphasize, the more important aspect of sustaining the leaders is by following their counsel, accepting the calls the leaders call them to, and by praying for them.

Most of chapter 6 deals with sustaining the president of the church, who is also their living prophet.  The following quote from that chapter gives the flavor of its advice.  Note how it ties in salvation with following LDS leadership.

“There is only one pathway of safety for me in this day and that is to follow those whom the Lord has appointed to lead.  I may have my own ideas and opinions, I may set up my own judgment with reference to things, but I know that when my judgment conflicts with the teachings of those that the Lord has given to us to point the way, I should change my course.  If I desire salvation I will follow the leaders that our Heavenly Father has given to us, as long as he sustains them.” (p. 60)

A number of years ago, Ezra Taft Benson, who was one of Mormonism’s living prophets, gave a speech entitled, “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet”.  Over the years, numerous Mormons have not entirely embraced these fundamentals.  But they remain a good summary of Mormonism’s teachings about the living prophet especially because they have been quoted in their entirety twice in recent General Conferences.  Here they are as given by Elder Kevin R. Duncan of the Seventy in the October, 2010 General Conference.

“First: The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.

“Second: The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.

“Third: The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.

“Fourth: The prophet will never lead the Church astray.

“Fifth: The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.

“Sixth: The prophet does not have to say ‘Thus saith the Lord’ to give us scripture.

“Seventh: The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.

“Eighth: The prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning.

“Ninth: The prophet can receive revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual.

“Tenth: The prophet may be involved in civic matters.

“Eleventh: The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.

“Twelfth: The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.

“Thirteenth: The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency—the highest quorum in the Church.

“Fourteenth: [Follow] … the living prophet and the First Presidency … and be blessed; reject them and suffer.” 

The second and third points are especially enlightening.  The standard works are the books the LDS Church views as Scripture including the Bible.  The living prophet, it states, is more vital than Scripture.  Or consider point 3.  Who are the dead prophets?  Included in that list would be all the biblical prophets.  In light of statements like these, who is reflecting the teachings of official Mormonism more consistently:  the person who says that the highest authority in Mormonism is the Bible or the one who says that the highest authority in Mormonism is the living prophet?  And if the claim is made that there is no conflict between the two, than what is the purpose of the second and third fundamental listed above?

When Mormons sustain their living prophet, something they will do again in a couple of weeks at General Conference, they are saying that his words are the most important words in the entire world – more vital than Scripture – more important than those of Moses, Isaiah, and all the biblical prophets.

A LDS leader one time told me that he felt sorry for me because the only thing I had to follow were the words of the Bible.  Today I want to express my sorrow that Mormons, by their sustaining of the living prophet, are declaring that he is more vital than the Bible, that he is more important than all the prophets in the Bible. That not only does dishonor to the Bible; that also puts their eternity into jeopardy.

15
Mar
11

The Living Prophet

Ever since last fall’s General Conference, the LDS Church has been emphasizing the authority of the living prophet.  Twice in that General Conference, President Ezra Taft Benson’s 1980 speech, “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet”, was not just referred to but cited quite heavily.  In fact, two different speakers listed all fourteen fundamentals.  This is striking because this was and has remained a controversial speech even among Mormons.  Numerous active LDS members have told me how they take that speech with a large grain of salt.  That critical attitude was also evident in numerous posts made by Mormon bloggers after General Conference.

It’s not difficult to see why this speech causes discomfort among some Mormons.  Here are the 14 fundamentals.  Elder Kevin R. Duncan of the Seventy listed them with this introduction: “Because they are of such great importance to our very salvation, I will repeat them again.” (my emphasis)

“First: The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.

“Second: The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.

“Third: The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.

“Fourth: The prophet will never lead the Church astray.

“Fifth: The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.

“Sixth: The prophet does not have to say ‘Thus saith the Lord’ to give us scripture.

“Seventh: The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.

“Eighth: The prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning.

“Ninth: The prophet can receive revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual.

“Tenth: The prophet may be involved in civic matters.

“Eleventh: The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.

“Twelfth: The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.

“Thirteenth: The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency—the highest quorum in the Church.

“Fourteenth: [Follow] … the living prophet and the First Presidency … and be blessed; reject them and suffer.”

Those are quite lofty claims!

But this emphasis on the living prophet hasn’t ended there.  In subsequent months, statements about the importance of following the living prophet have been appearing on the pages of the official LDS magazine, Ensign.  In fact, March’s edition spotlights this again in its column, “What We Believe”.

I, for one, am happy to see this emphasis.  I say that because it has been an ongoing frustration to quote a living prophet only to have it downplayed by Mormons as not binding.  But that is not what Benson said above.  It’s obvious that, by twice quoting those fundamentals at General Conference, the present Church agrees with Benson.  As the January edition of the Ensign states, “God continues to reveal truths to living prophets through the revelation of the Holy Ghost.  These truths are considered scripture (see D&C 68:4).  They come to us primarily through general conference, held the first weekend in April and October, when members throughout the world hear addresses from our prophet and other Church leaders.”

With statements like the above, the proper method for seeing what Mormonism truly teaches is looking at what its prophets and leaders have said rather than what individual members say.  And when a individual member’s position differ from that of the prophet, doesn’t honesty demand that, on the specific topic under discussion, that the member is not representing official Mormon teaching?

 

10
Aug
10

Living Prophets

     I have found it interesting, and I must also admit frustrating, to hear the different values different Mormons place on the words of the living prophets.  More and more when I quote one of their sayings, some Mormons respond by saying that they don’t accept all their words as true – that they are only human and thus also make mistakes.  Other Mormons respond more traditionally and place quite a high value on them.

     But there is really no question how the LDS Church values its living prophets.  The Church manuals consistently hold them up as authoritative and trustworthy sources.  Those manuals even label their words as scripture.  Take, for example, the following quote from the teacher’s manual for the course “Preparing for Exaltation” – the course being taught this year to 12 and 13 year olds.  It says, “Explain that the scriptures (including the teachings of latter-day prophets, which are considered scripture) contain the word of God to his people.” (p. 87)

     Who then is more fairly representing official Mormonism?  Those Mormons who downplay the words of their own living prophets or Christians who use them to show what Mormonism truly teaches?  After all, Mormonism itself says that their words are scripture.

16
Aug
08

Judging a Prophet’s Words

      This is a continuation of my last post.  There I talked about how the fruit of a prophet – the fruit by which we recognize whether a prophet is true or false – is not his character or even his success, but his words.  But how do we go about looking at his words?

     The LDS church cites James 1:5 and tells people to pray about it.  But nowhere in the context does James apply this to judging a prophet’s words.  No, when the subject is judging whether or not a prophet is true the Bible is consistent in its approach.  You judge his words by comparing them with the Bible. 

      Isaiah 8:19-20: “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?  20To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”  The law and the testimony were terms for Old Testament Scripture.  That was the standard to be used.  They were not told to pray about it.

     We see the same thing in the New Testament.  In Acts 16 Paul comes to the Greek city of Berea.  In regard to his visit we read:  “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether these things were so.” (v.11)  They examined Paul’s word in light of scripture to determine the truthfulness of them.  Searching the Scriptures rather than praying about it was their method of discerning truth.  For a fuller discussion of this see http://www.thecityofzion.com/postoffice/DiscerningTruth/GodsWay/359p3.htm

     When one compares Joseph Smith’s teachings and subsequent LDS teaching to the Bible, there are major conflicts.  The Bible says we are saved without works, the Book of Mormon says we are saved by grace after all we can do.  Mormonism teaches that God was once a man – the Bible teaches that God has always been God.  The Bible says that there is only one God – Mormonism teaches that there are countless gods.  On and on it goes.

     One can’t help but think that Joseph Smith saw these conflicts and that is why he taught that many plain and precious things were taken from the Bible.  Or why Mormonism teaches that “we believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly.” 

     When his teachings are compared with the teachings of the Bible, Joseph Smith is revealed as a false prophet.

14
Aug
08

Recognizing False Prophets

     A question that naturally arises when discussing Mormonism is:  was Joseph Smith a true prophet of God?  When answering this question, many Mormons point to his accomplishments and ask how a young teen could do such things if he wasn’t a true prophet.  Others point to the growth of the LDS Church and say that such growth proves its truthfulness.  On the other hand, many critics of Mormonism focus on problems they see in Joseph Smith’s history in an attempt to prove that he wasn’t. 

     But there’s an even more preliminary question that needs to be asked, namely, how should one go about determining if someone is a true or false prophet?  Is that determined by their character. . .by their success?  If, for example, successful growth is the evidence than we would have to say that Mohammed was a great prophet – a statement I don’t think many Christians or Mormons would endorse.

     Jesus talks about false prophets in Matthew 7.  There he gives some vital information.  First of all, he says that they come in sheep’s clothing.  In other words, they will appear harmless and good.  Many false prophets will have exemplary characters.  They will be “good” people.  We see that in Jesus’ day.  The Pharisees were the conservative, moral people of the day.  But Jesus spoke very sternly to and about them.

     A few verses later Jesus gives us more pertinent information.  “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”  (Matthew 7: 22-23)  Note how these false prophets spoke and acted in Jesus’ name.  They even did miracles in Jesus’ name – casting out devils and the like!  In spite of that, however, Jesus didn’t accept them.  Rather he angrily casts them away.  Therefore using Jesus’ name and even doing spectacular works in Jesus name isn’t the mark of a true prophet.

    In verse 20 Jesus tells us what to look for.  “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”  I didn’t begin with this verse because people often hear that and immediately identify fruit with a person’s character, work, or outward success.  But it’s obvious from the context those things aren’t “fruit”.  What then is a prophet’s fruit?  To answer this question, let me ask a couple of other questions first.  What is a plumber’s fruit?  What is a teacher’s fruit?  Isn’t a plumber’s fruit his plumbing and how well he does it?  Isn’t a teacher’s fruit her teaching and how well she does it?  A prophet’s fruit is what he says!  To determine if someone is a true or false prophet, what need to be examined are his words.  That is why when evaluating Joseph Smith, what needs to be put under the microscope is not so much his character or work, but his words – his teachings.  And it’s his teachings that have convinced me that he was a false prophet.

      To be continued.

13
Aug
08

Contending or Contentious

The LDS church commonly warns its members about being contentious.  LDS missionaries sometimes will leave a house because they say its inhabitants have a spirit of contention.  And the Bible indeed warns against being contentious.

 

But the Bible also tells us to contend for the faith.  See, for example, Jude 3.  My dictionary defines contend with words like strive, debate, assert, struggle and even argue.  The root of the Greek word that Jude used is one from which our English word “agonize” is derived.  Obviously contend involves more than having a pleasant, light conversation.  It involves vigor and passion.

 

How then can one contend for the faith without being contentious?  It’s all in the attitude.  A contentious person is belligerent (my dictionary) – he is looking for a fight and enjoys the fight.  On the other hand, a person who is contending for the faith doesn’t really enjoy the battle but engages in it because he is passionate about his beliefs and thinks they are worth fighting for.

 

I will be the first to admit that I have often seen a contentious spirit exhibited by Christians as they talk with Mormons.  It is painfully obvious that they have no concern for the Mormons or even, at times, the faith.  They just want to win the battle.  But this has not been limited to Christians.  Over the years I have received numerous letters, emails, and even pictures from LDS members that are blatantly contentious. 

 

Why do I bring this up?  Because I feel the need to regularly state why I am doing this blog.  My goal is to contend for the faith without being contentious.  I want the differences between Mormonism and historic Christianity to be clearly seen.  My prayer is that many Mormons see the wonderful truth that we are saved without any works on our part.

 

The other reason why I am writing this today is because in the next series of posts I am planning on examining Mormonism’s claims that Joseph Smith and his successors are true prophets of God.  Obviously that is something that I don’t believe.  But up front I want to say that I state that not just to be contentious and get Mormons’ blood boiling but because I think this is a serious issue that needs discussing – that here too we need to contend for the faith.




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