Everyone Wants a Prophet… But Not Really

I think there is a pervasive and instinctive need among mankind for a prophet, or seer, one who can “see” into the future to prepare us and warn of impending events. We see evidence for this all around us, particularly today. The politicians, pundits, and pollsters pull out every mathematic equation conceivable to try and determine who will win elections. Economists, governments, and investors try to predict the status of trillions of dollars circulating in free markets. Gamblers lay their bets on the outcome of numbers, games, and races. Astrologists, psychics, palm-readers and the like are being sought in record numbers. Everyone wants to know what will happen in the final episode of Lost, American Idol, and Dancing With the Stars. This predictive exigency is all around us.

I think the problem with these mundane searchings is that they don’t have a true prophet, and they’ll never have one. No one can really tell us who the next president will be. No one can really know if the markets will be up or down tomorrow. Gambling is always tipped in favor of the house. Fortune tellers are in the business of making a buck. And we all know that David Archuleta is clearly going to win Idol, except that he might not. No one knows, but everyone dies trying to figure it out. It is all based on the godless worldly counterfeit of prophet seeking, with the ironic goal of profit seeking.

Of course, the only true prophets are God’s. But who wants those? Proverbs reminds us, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Prov. 29:18). What we are witnessing today is the slow decline of “the people” of the world seeking in vain to find prophets who will make them profit. While the Adversary might put up that fa├žade, he “knows not the mind of God” (Moses 4:6). And of course, God’s prophets don’t work that way. Everything that a true prophet does is for the glory of God, for it is God who called him and gave him that right and privilege (2 Ne. 3:8). A true prophet will reveal what God wants him to reveal, which usually has nothing to do with gaining power, privilege, prestige, or pomp. We too may become prophets in the sense that we pay the price to gain a testimony of Jesus by the witness of the Holy Ghost, “for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10; see also Num. 11:29).

So while the world clamors for false prophets to get gain, God has called true prophets who will guide us to all truth and happiness, even as many as will hearken (D&C 1:1).

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About Bryce Haymond

Bryce grew up in Sandy, Utah, where he attended Jordan High School. He served a mission to the El Salvador San Salvador East mission, including eight months as mission financial secretary. Bryce graduated from Brigham Young University in 2007 in Industrial Design and a minor in Ballroom Dance. He loves all things Nibley and the temple, and is the founder of TempleStudy.com, and also blogs at BlackpoolCreative.com. Recently Bryce joined the Executive Board of The Interpreter Foundation, where he serves as a designer and technologist. Bryce has served in numerous Church callings including ward sunday school president, first counselor in the bishopric, and currently as temple and family history instructor. He is a Product Manager and Design Director at HandStands in Salt Lake City, and lives in Pleasant Grove, Utah, with his beautiful wife, three children, and another on the way!

20 thoughts on “Everyone Wants a Prophet… But Not Really

  1. Bryce, it’s interesting that you posted this, because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how a prophet became a prophet in Old Testament times. We know about Moses and Joshua and Elisa and Elisha. But how about Hosea, who married a prostitute (Hosea 1:1). How did he become a prophet accepted in the eyes of the people enough so that his writings are still read today?

    I think the key thing must be prophecy. You’ll note that when Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were baptized the first thing they did was prophecy. It seems this is something that is necessary for a proof of prophecy.

    Modern-day prophets don’t prophecy about who’s going to win the lottery (and it’s a good thing). But they do spend a lot of time talking about how to find happiness and how to become a better person and grow closer to God, and it seems in these days spiritual preparedness is the most important quality we can have.

  2. I’m going to play advocatus Diaboli here for a moment.

    It seems that people have forgotten what a prophet is and why one is called. For many of us, "prophet" is tied with "prophecy" which means prognostication or (especially with "fortune-tellers") divination. But Biblical trends do not bear this out.

    There are a few trends:
    1. Prophets are called by God.
    2. Prophets do not choose to become prophets.
    3. Prophets are purified.
    4. Prophets receive the word of God.
    5. Prophets deliver the word of God to God’s people.
    6. Prophets represent the people before God; they intercede on behalf of the people before God.

    For most prophets, talking about the future comprised a very small part of their mission: their major focus was the present, to tell the people what God commands them to do.

    I think what you wrote is very perceptive. But I would submit that rather than looking for a prophet, people are looking for foreknowledge, for insight on the future so they may act accordingly. But God’s prophets prepare God’s people by telling them about what they should do so they may be spiritually and temporally prepared for any exigency — but those exigencies are rarely revealed — and to secure our own spiritual and temporal salvation.

    But no one wants to hear God’s prophets because their words are sharp and hard. (See 2 Nephi 1:26; 1 Nephi 16:2; D&C 121:43.)

  3. Interesting post, Bryce.

    I do have to disagree with you on David Archuleta winning American Idol and call you a false prophet! :-)

    Of course, I am not sure that everyone is looking for a biblical prophet so much as they would love to know what is going to happen in the future. I know I would love to have the winning powerball numbers!

  4. I disagree that talking about the future comprises a “very small part” of the mission of a prophet. On the contrary, I believe it is the whole part. You said that instead of people looking for a prophet they are “looking for foreknowledge, for insight on the future so they may act accordingly.” That is precisely what prophets do. Prophets teach us about the end times, about the Judgment, about heaven and the degrees of glory, about Christ and his mission and sacrifice. Prophets teach us how to act now, in the present, because they can see that the future depends on how we act in the present. Everything a prophet preaches is related to prognostication or prophecy of future times and judgments depending on present behavior. Whenever a prophet cries repentance and faith on Jesus Christ, it is because they know what will happen if the people don’t repent, have faith, and obey God. Perhaps that is why a possessing a testimony of Jesus is prophetic (Rev. 19:10); it tells us what will happen to us and others in the Judgment day – what will happen to those who’ve obeyed Christ and accepted his atonement, versus those who haven’t.

  5. You’re welcome. :)

    I would add that the only true foreknowledge of future events will come through a prophet of God. There might be smart people out there that have crunched the numbers and have “predictions” based on past trends and statistics, but prophets have actually seen the future (or have had it told to them by God or angels) and have a sure knowledge.

  6. By future, are we talking about general tendencies — wars and rumors of wars and the like — or actual events (like in the third month of 2010, such and such event will take place)?

  7. I think both. You can be sure that when Christ comes, the prophet will have been foretold. Indeed, the Second Coming will be “as a thief in the night” to the world, but the to the “children of light, … that day shall not overtake you as a thief” (D&C 106:4-5).

  8. Alma 43 always makes me wonder about certain prophetic duties. In that chapter Moroni seeks strategic military advice from Alma. Alma receives specific revelation and conveys it to Moroni, who uses it to defeat the Lamanites.

    I always wonder what might happen should President Bush were to sincerely seek revelation from President Monson in regards to our wars in the Middle East. (yeah, yeah, this war’s not for a righteous cause, blah blah blah)

    Would/Could President Monson tell the president specifically how he should direct these efforts? Even if President Monson isn’t principally concerned about U.S. interests, he is surely concerned about the general human aspects of these conflicts. Is he obligated to offer his help?

    On another note, somebody above mentioned the need (valid or not) for a prophet to “prove” himself by specifically foretelling things. The scriptural record shows that prophets have historically complied to this need.

    I can’t remember the last time I heard an actual “prophecy” from a latter day prophet. Sure, they tell us how to live righteously and vaguely warn of troubling times ahead, but- and this is purely devil’s advocate here- where are the prophecies?

  9. I’m very uncomfortable with the expectation that prophets must tell us about future events as a test of their prophethood. This detracts from the spiritual purposes by focusing on temporal issues, valid though such a focus may be.

    As it is, enough has been said. The Lord does not want us to know of every event. That takes away the whole purpose of being prepared, which is to be ready for unseen eventualities. What test of our faith would there be if we could see or know everything beforehand?

    If the President of the United States consulted the prophet, the obligation of the prophet to give advice rests completely with the Lord. If the Lord wants to counsel him, the prophet will speak. If the Lord desires not to get involved, there is nothing the prophet or President of the United States can do. The prophet is obligated insofar as he is obligated by the Lord.

  10. Muslihoon, I understand that the Lord is pulling the strings, but how can we explain why prophets prophesied (in the classical sense) in the past and pretty much don’t now?

    Mind you, it’s not something I expect or even worry about, but the question has been posed to me numerous times and I cannot answer it.

    If fortelling detracts, as you say, from the spiritual purposes by focusing on temporal issues, why was it done at all in the past? What’s different today?

  11. Well, things have changed.

    If we recall, the prophets’ guidance in the early history of the Church were quite physical and temporal. Physical and temporal challenges were what preoccupied the Saints and were the ones they struggled with. As the world modernized and physical and temporal challenges began to recede in their level of difficulty and even importance, spiritual matters began to become much more vexing. Hence the increasing focus on spiritual matters because physical and temporal matters have receded in the hierarchy of what difficulties the Saints are now facing and will have to face. Simply put, the disintegration of the family, immorality, and pride destroy us far more than temporal events or issues can.

    While the Lord is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, the specifics of His message change all the time. At one point, He told His people what animals to eat. That is not what concerns Him or us today. Today, He is more concerned about far more difficult and spiritual matters.

  12. Well said, Muslihoon. Your explanation makes sense and is good enough for me personally.

    But were I an outsider reading your last post, I’d say it’s a very convenient way of explaining away the absence of a historically important prophetic duty in modern times. In fact, when somebody from another faith gives me an answer like that, my initial mental response is “cop-out.”

    Be that as it is. I guess it’s kind of like the “why don’t we still have the plates” question. It makes perfect sense to us in terms of faith, but we may never be able to provide a satisfactory answer to that question for outsiders.

  13. Thank you, Tossman!

    I used to be an anti-Mormon, and at that time no answer given by a Latter-day Saint would have been acceptable. All answers were convenient and rote, or so I believed.

    That’s why we depend on and need so badly the Holy Spirit. It tells us the difference between convenient answers and those that truly explain reality as God has ordained it.

  14. I haven’t seen many comments by you on this blog, but I would be really interested in hearing the story of your conversion from anti to pro. I wouldn’t want to threadjack this thread, but you should look into submitting a guest post.

  15. I just recently discovered this site, thanks to Bryce. (I just recently discovered his Temple Study for that matter.)

    I really like this blog. I’m very picky which LDS blogs I follow. This one is faithful and scholarly.

  16. Muslihoon, we’d welcome a guest post on your conversion story or any other topic you’d like to submit. It would be read by several members of the blog, and if approved would be published.

    I’m glad you like our blog — we try to be a bit different than some of the other ones out there.

  17. I thought I’d point out one what could be considered recent fulfilled prophecy- over the last year or so we have seen an increase in messages about personal food storage. There was a statement from the first presidency read in all congregations last March and a special section in the Ensign back in August. What has been on the front pages of newspapers the last two weeks–riots around the world because of spiking food prices. What some are calling a silent tsunami, a crisis of enormous scale threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands.

  18. Nice discussion everyone!

    If you check out the Bible Dictionary under “Prophet” it states that in certain cases prophets predicted the future, but their primary role is to denounce sin here’s the link: http://scriptures.lds.org/en/bd/p/61

    That answers the question about whether a prophet’s main role is to prophecy or tell of future events…that’s only a small part of the role.

    And the food storage idea is awesome, David!

    http://www.graceforgrace.com

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