(1) We play at the Emperor's New Clothes when we teach that those who wear the title of "prophet" are prophets regardless of whether they produce the fruit of a prophet (remember "you cannot gather figs from thistles").
(2) Are we heeding Christ's admonition, "Ye shall know them by their fruits" (Matt. 7:15-16), asking ourselves whether those we look to as prophets are producing the fruits of prophethood?
(3) The Lord's pattern is always to call "many prophets" (1 Nephi 1:4) among the people (not just from the ranks of leadership) to call us to repent. There are lots of voices out there. Which ones should we listen to? Normally we're told to stick with "authorized sources." But the side effect of being authority-focused (rather than truth-focused) is that our discernment-bone atrophies.
(4) Mormon characterizes prophets as "holy men . . . [who] did speak the word of God with power and with authority" (Words of Morm. 1:17).
(5) The example of Eldad and Medad show that prophets do not need "administrative keys." Their authority came from God, not men, as Moses taught.
(6) Prophets point to Christ and not to themselves. Beware the lupine precept to 'follow the prophet' (I'm always baffled by the way leadership boasts in General Conference of the prophet's authority and special status when the greatest prophet ever born, John the Baptist, confessed he wasn't worthy to even tie Jesus's shoelaces).
(7) The most important role of a prophet is to testify of Christ and teach the people the words of Christ (see, 3 Nephi 20:24 and 2 Nephi 32:3).
(8) Prophets possess the "testimony of Jesus" (using that as a term of art).
(9) A prophet does not always speak as a prophet; they're only a prophet when they speak "by the power of the Holy Ghost."
(10) When prophets speak by the power of the Holy Ghost, they become messengers of God ― a.k.a. angels.
(11) We do a great disservice when we teach that "authority" is severable from "power" (if authority persisted in the absence of power, then we would all still be Catholic). In reality, whenever authority is bestowed from heaven, it is always accompanied by the power of God, enabling the person to perform the work God commissions them to do.
(12) Here's the imporant thing to remember: divine authority is a spiritual endowment, a gift; it does not come from an institutional office. I cannot emphasize this enough. For example, Jesus's authority came from the Father and not from the Jewish leadership.
(13) A prophet's call comes from God (naturally). It is not complicated: God gives someone a job to do (their "commission" or "calling"), and that commission is accompanied by divine permission (i.e. authority) to do it, and with divine grace (i.e. power) to accomplish the thing the Lord's asked them to do.
(14) The call comes from God and is issued by the calling of the Lord's own voice (1 Sam. 3:3-4).
(15) My favorite example of how God calls a prophet is Amos, who defended himself before the High Priest Amaziah (who was challenging Amos's authority since he was outside the ranks of leadership); Amos said, "I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son. I was an herdman, and a gatherer of sycomore fruit. And the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel" (Amos 7:14-15). That's all it took.
(16) Prophets are rarely impressive by worldly standards; David was chosen by Samuel but not based on his appearance. If you think you're weak; if you think you're simple; if you think you're unworthy ― I have good news for you! You're exactly the kind of person the Lord is looking for (see D&C 4:3-4).
(17) Elijah was just one of 7,000 prophets in Israel; we are not alone, even if it feels like it.
(18) Interested in a side-gig doing the Lord's work? When the Lord calls a prophet, he doesn't hold a news conference (sorry, Deseret News). No bleached-teeth smiles for the flashing cameras. The call comes without pay (except for the Lord's blessings) and without praise; there's no pension plan because you'll likely be matyred or translated.
(19) The word of the Lord is often found in the "still small voice." Nine times out of ten, the voice tells us to "Go" ― to press forward in faith, trusting in the word we have received from God, and to fearlessly "open our mouths," not fearing what man can do ― even if those men are our bishops and stake presidents.
(20) I try to practice what I preach. Owl of the Desert is my attempt to publicly share the word of God that I have received, as one of His witnesses; the poems I have written are the fire in my bones (see, e.g., the poem Elijah).
Would God that all the Lord's people were Prophets: Part 7 (21) It is stunning how consistent the Lord is in calling prophets, as we see in the examples of Samuel, Moses, Amos, Abraham, Samuel the Lamanite, Joseph Smith, Nephi III, and Abinadi. These guys weren't chosen by seniority; they weren't in the running of Church leadership; they didn't choose to become prophets, but were chosen by the Lord.
(22)(a) In Part 8, I used Brigham Young as an example of how prophets are imperfect people who can lead us astray unless we are careful to discern when they are speaking as a man versus speaking the word of God (which is when their words are given by the power of the Holy Ghost, see D&C 68:4).
(22)(b) I think we'd be better off if we stopped quoting General Conference like it was the greatest thing since sliced bread, and instead shared what is given by the Spirit of the Lord, no matter its source. Don't get me wrong: we can hear the word of God at times preached in General Conference, which is wonderful; and other times we have heard the doctrines of men that have made me sick to my stomach. But I've also heard the word of God among the Methodists and Calvinists and Jews and Episcopalians, too. So.
(23) Look, nobody likes being a Negative-Nelly, so I'm sure Alma took no delight in telling Nehor, "Were priestcraft to be enforced among this people it would prove their entire destruction" (Alma 1:12). Some of the practices of the Church today fall into the category of "priestcraft." So we either get to repent and change, or . . . you know.
(24) The gift of prophecy allows us to see forward; the gift of history allows us to see backwards. We can witness the hand of the Lord in His dealings with the children of men over millennia. We are uniquely situated in this dispensation to have the greatest amount of history than anyone before. And so it is alarming to see us repeating many of the mistakes of our ancestors (one example is the way we gravitate towards the law over the light; to keeping carnal commandments and captivity rather than claiming our freedom in Christ; to creating religious rules like Latter-day Pharisees rather than Saints).
(25) According to scripture, we are poised to see the greatest amount of prophecy that has ever been unleashed on earth as God reveals things that have been hidden since before the foundation of the world. Let's get excited!
a. Prophets make intercession for the iniquities of the people.
b. Prophets declare repentance and invite people to turn to the Lord.
c. Prophets take care of the poor. For real.
d. Prophets perform the works of Christ.
Would God that all the Lord's people were Prophets: Part 11 (27)(a) Why do we sometimes reject the Lord's true messengers, since that goes against our self-interest? Is it because we don't really think they're "true" prophets? Probably; I mean, the Nephites shot arrows at Samuel the Lamanite because they thought he was an imposter, too.
(27)(b) But flip it around: why do we embrace false prophets? It must be because we actually think they're the real McCoy. Why are we easily tricked? Satan knows how to make his messengers appear respectable and appealing.
(28) False prophets are described by Peter as "wells without water" (2 Pet. 2:17). Instead of sating our thirst with the living water of Christ's word, they offer us a saline solution of flattery and feigned words.
(29) According to Peter, a false shepherd is one who "makes merchandise of you" (2 Pet. 2:3); so we should pause when someone, even (especially) the Church, wants to take our time, talents and treasure.
(30) Ezekiel compares false prophets to "foxes in the desert" (Ezek. 13:4) because they are sly and can't stand the heat of the day (they're nocturnal). What's worse, these leaders have "not gone up into the gaps." Picture a wall of defense; instead of their words filling the gaps, providing inspired counsel and direction, their words actually cause the wall to erode further; or another way to look at it is they plaster over the holes with pablums and platitudes, leaving us exposed and vulnerable to the devil's darts. It reminds me of what Nephi said, "They have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men" (2 Nephi 28:14).
(31) This might hit close to home, but false prophets preach a gospel of carnal security (2 Nephi 28:21). If you're wondering what carnal security means, I like the way these two people describe it:
a. Elisa: "Our Church teaches that we earn our way back to God through obeying the rules. It is that fundamental understanding of God and the atonement and the plan of salvation that leads to misguided and harmful ideas."
b. L.H.: "We like to feel special, chosen, better-than, saved. We like to construct realities that preserve our ... culture of certainty. Faith and humility – the kind of humility that admits we might not have the answers – is a ton harder; wrestling and choosing for ourselves [is harder than just obeying an authority figure]. So we attach to ideas, frameworks, people, leaders, rules to take away the fear and uncertainty and hard work. And because those things (including leaders) make us feel safe, we idolize them. Eventually, we worship them because it feels good and safe to do so."
(32) An example of how carnal security pops up at Church is when the lesson is on "Valiant Discipleship" and instead of discussing our discipleship to the Lord ("by this shall all men know if ye are my disciples, if ye have love, one to another") the comments instead center around obedience and allegiance to the living prophet (and, like Highlander, there can be only one at a time; so the fact that Christ is not dead, means we already have a Living Prophet).
(33) I am biased, sure, but I think the LDS people are terrific. They're "my tribe," so-to-speak. I mean, we try; we serve, we sacrifice, we read the scriptures; we're sincere. But I have to say, in many ways we are a loveless people because we have been taught to love authority above all else. (Our obsession shows itself in the way we address our leaders: General Authorities and Area Authority 70s; we love to sit at the feet of The Middle Initial).
(34) But I'm wondering why we haven't learned this one lesson, from the Lord Jesus Himself, that authority does not (!) come from a person's priesthood office or title, but from the bonds of love unfeigned? It is sort of tragic when we think about it, the way we subject ourselves to unrighteous dominion and feel blessed for it.
(35) I must have been overly caffeinated when I wrote this post, because I had forgotten saying, "This is NOT the same Church my mother joined over 50 years ago when President David O. McKay was prophet. Since then the Church has radically changed. In fact, I would argue it's been radicalized. In the last generation, the Church has radicalized us into becoming acolytes of the PROPHET." All stand.
(36) We looked at several of Judas's attributes (the guy who betrayed Jesus) and learned to beware of those who control the coin purse. Mammon has a way of corrupting us with "the wages of unrighteousness." Maybe that's why Christ told his disciples to travel without purse or scrip.
(37) If I can be blunt for a moment, who can argue against the fact that we have "ran greedily after the error of Balaam" (Jude 1:11) when we've stashed hundreds of billions of dollars and own enough land to make a feudal lord look like a serf? Constantine himself would blush at the extent we have profited from Christianity. General Authorities should not be full-time, paid clergy. Come on, guys!
(38) The "folly of the prophets" that Jeremiah speaks about is the way that false prophets get the people of God "to err" (Jeremiah 23:13). Far from what we are told in Church about the prophet "never leading the Church astray," we find in the scriptures that it is sorta common. Just sayin'!
(39) One of the biggest "follies" of our times is the idea that "all is well in Zion," when in fact the axe is laid at the root of the tree.
(40) This next one is perhaps my favorite: the way false prophets act like "lords over God's heritage" (1 Pet. 5:2-4). It occurs to me that Peter would have a lot to say about the way his successors are behaving, like entitled Earls and Dukes in the kingdom of God. Sheesh. So much for the greatest among us being the least of all.
(41) Christ is our only Master. We have no obligation to do anything other than what our Master wants. Let me shout this part: no man can serve two masters. So whenever the counsel from the Prophet conflicts with the word of Christ, the debate is over: we follow Christ. When we're told that we'll be blessed for following the prophet, even if his counsel is wrong, we're substituting the prophet for our master. Yikes. I wish we would just sustain Christ.
(42) I don't like using the word idolatry, but I think it is safe to do so here: we turn the prophet into a Golden Calf when we teach he can't lead us astray, or that he's doctrinally inerrant.
(43) Perhaps the best evidence for how crazy things have become are all of the mental gymnastics we do in the Church: we are fed husks in our meetings and conferences and count our bellies full; we call vanity faith; we have put off the yoke of Christ for the vainglory of "we thank thee O God for a prophet."
(44) Over the past 40 years I've watched what's going on inside and outside of the Church; I've tried to be "quick to observe" and to not be hasty in judgment. As I've pondered on our situation, I've concluded there's something wrong in the Church when it acts like the West Wing of the Great and Spacious Building.