All the searching, hoping, time spent padding my resume, crafting cover letters, networking, interviewing . . .
. . . and then getting rejected.
(Kind of like dating.)
Anyway, pretend for a moment God has an opening for a Prophet.
In the Celestial Times newspaper, he places an ad in the classifieds:
Help wanted: Prophet. Good boss and benefits. No salary but chance for advancement to ministering angel after probationary period. Qualifications . . .
Hmm, what should we put under "Qualifications?"
Seen God? Does a person have to see God in order to be a prophet? That works if you're Isaiah, who "saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple" (Isaiah 6:1).
Seen Angels? What about angels? "Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: and he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips" (Isaiah 6:6-7).
Willing to Travel? "I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me" (Isaiah 6:8).
Willing to Deal with Angry Customers? "Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not" (Isaiah 6:9).
At least if you get the job you won't have to worry about retirement.
After all, you'll either be translated or martyred; so don't bother contributing to your 401(k).
"A Prophet! A Prophet! We have got a prophet, and there cannot be any more prophets!"
One of the criticisms I hear goes something like, "Tim, I don't like how you talk about prophets. We need prophets. They're called of God and you better sustain them or you're going to be in big fat trouble, brother."
Fair point. I would like to explain.
For the record.
My Defense of Prophets
It may surprise you to know that I love prophets.
I mean, haven't you noticed all the quotes I have included in this blog from prophets, both ancient and modern?
You see, the problem is not that I don't like prophets; it's that I like them too much.
That's why I can't play along with the Emperor's New Clothes, believing a person wearing the title "prophet" is one. I look for fruit, for light and truth, for the voice of the Lord in their words.
Another thing that gets me in trouble is I have a habit of viewing prophethood more expansively than most. My definition of a "prophet" is someone who expresses the gifts of God and speaks with the tongue of angels.
That definition would include both men and women.
What's more, I seem to find prophets among all walks and lifestyles and nationalities and religions. Odds are, the less they fit the mold of what we'd expect, the more likely they are to be prophets, and vice-versa.
In other words, you may find prophets with tattoos; of different faiths; attending Pride parades.
Isn't that what got Jesus into hot water? Associating with . . . everyone?
And the Lord God inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.
(2 Nephi 26:33)
When God speaks, I listen.
And what has God said about prophets?
Ye shall know them by their fruits.
So who am I to judge a vessel bearing the gifts of God?
You won't find me steadying the ark by dictating to God who He can, or can't, speak through.
I mean, don't diss a burning bush.
Setting the Record Straight
I want to put a twist on a famous scripture. I think it sums things up nicely.
Know ye not that there are more [prophets] than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?
Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word?
Know ye not that the testimony of two [prophets] is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another?
Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one [prophet] like unto another.
And because I have spoken [through] one [prophet] ye need not suppose that I cannot speak [through] another; for my work is not yet finished.
(2 Nephi 29:7-9)
We all know God imparts his word "liberally" (James 1:5), so why are we stingy with it, thinking that 15 men could possibly have a monopoly?
Isn't it odd how possessive of prophets we are in the Church, as if we never learned to share?
For heaven sakes, we only have to read 4 verses into the Book of Mormon before bumping into this:
There came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city Jerusalem must be destroyed.
(1 Nephi 1:4)
Lehi was one. But he belonged to a community of prophets whom the Lord raised up before the destruction.
Just like He's doing now.
Holy People or Prophets?
In Mormon's abridgement, he makes an interesting point when discussing King Benjamin restoring peace in the land. He said it was done "with the assistance of the holy prophets who were among his people" (Words of Mormon 1:16).
But in the following verse Mormon characterizes them a bit differently:
And there were many holy men in the land, and they did speak the word of God with power and with authority.
(Words of Mormon 1:17)
Did we catch that? Holy prophets are just men (and women) who speak with the power of God's authority.
This reminds me of something said about Jesus, who held no ecclesiastical office in his day:
When Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:
For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
Religions are always run by scribes.
And scribes have no idea what to do with genuine prophets, do they?
Moses to the Rescue
Don't you love Moses? Now there was my kind of guy: slow-of-speech but willing to spar with the best-of-em in God's name.
What I love about Moses is that he wasn't jealous of his authority.
In fact, the Bible shows him complaining to God all the time about how awful it was to be a prophet.
But do you know who was jealous of his authority?
Let that sink in. I mean, if Moses didn't care if others acted like prophets, manifesting God's gifts without his go-ahead, then why should his followers get all hot-and-bothered about it?
In Numbers 11, we read about the time the Spirit of God descended on some low-level nobodies who prophesied.
You might be thinking: that's Moses's job. These two other guys must be false prophets. They're gonna get in trouble, now!
But these fellows kept on prophesying in the camp of Israel (*gasp*).
How dare they, right? Who were these upstarts Eldad and Medad, anyway?
And of course the first reaction was to shut them up. These two guys were out of line. They weren't observing the unwritten, proper order of things.
They absolutely had no keys.
So Joshua (a good guy himself, but we see that everyone has their faults) goes to Moses and complains:
And Joshua said: My lord Moses, forbid them.
There it is: our desire to quench the spirit in others. To persecute those who color outside the lines. To cast out those whom God has gifted for expressing their God-given gifts.
And Moses must have gotten quite a migraine. He turned to Joshua, this dear lad, and said:
Enviest thou for my sake?
I wish our leaders would say that. I wish they responded to their envious followers this way.
Instead, we're encouraged to behave like Joshua; we circle the wagons around leadership and the Brethren, forbidding anyone from speaking the truth about the spiritual abuses, injustices, and iniquities among us ― even had among those in high places.
Well, Moses, whose heart was meek, must have felt compassion for Joshua. In a fatherly way, he said:
Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets.