Recently, I was studying the words of King Benjamin, and was struck by his opening remarks. I feel as if he touches on issues that concern many members of the Church today, about the nature of prophets and apostles.
We Treat the Words of Prophets with Weight
King Benjamin starts, “My brethren, all ye that have assembled yourselves together, you that can hear my words which I shall speak unto you this day; for I have not commanded you to come up hither to trifle with the words which I shall speak, but that you should hearken unto me, and open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view.”
In other words, we should not trifle with the words of prophets. We should not treat them as silly, ridiculous, backwards, bigoted, irrelevant, or anything else along that spectrum. We should take them seriously, examine them, treat them as having weight in our decisions. We should seek to learn from them, open our hearts to their wisdom, and open our minds to their insights. We should see the words of prophets as conduits for revelation, and occasions to have the “mysteries of God unfolded to [our] view.”
But not Because They Are Perfect
He then goes on to say, “I have not commanded you to come up hither that ye should fear me, or that ye should think that I of myself am more than a mortal man. But I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind.”
In other words, we should do none of this because prophets are perfect, or anything more than mortal men. They have limitations, biases, weaknesses, just as we do. They have infirmities in both body and mind. They do not know everything, and they sometimes get things wrong. We should not fear them as we would God — we fear God not man, and prophets are men.
But Because They Are Called of God
He goes on: “Yet I have been chosen by this people, and consecrated by my father, and was suffered by the hand of the Lord that I should be a ruler and a king over this people; and have been kept and preserved by his matchless power, to serve you with all the might, mind and strength which the Lord hath granted unto me.”
In other words, we should not trifle with the words of prophets, but treat them with weight — not because they are perfect or anything more than mortal men, but because they are called of God and sustained by us as His servants. They have been consecrated, set apart, ordained to a holy calling, and we have sustained them to this holy calling. This is why we treat their words with weight. Treating their words as having authority does not imply that they are perfect, simply that they are called of God.
In other words, in the first few sentences of King Benjamin’s speech, we are rather directly instructed on the nature of prophetic teaching, and shown the path to walk between the false assumption of prophetic infallibility and the recklessness of treating their words with frivolousness of callousness. If we treat prophetic teaching with weight because they are without flaw, we will be sorely disappointed. If we ignore their teachings because they are imperfect, we will damn ourselves. But if we heed their teachings because they are called of God, we will have the mysteries of God unfolded to our view.