RS/MP Lesson 9: “Prophets of God” (Gospel Princples Manual)
Posted by NathanG on May 2, 2010
Quick comment on the organization of these lessons. We have just learned about the Holy Ghost and prayer in the last two lessons, will learn about prophets this week, and scriptures next week. This is the nuts and bolts of how we communicate with God and how God communicates with us. Probably some degree of order of importance.
Prophets Are God’s Representatives on the Earth
The manual begins with an interesting question:
“What powers and gifts does a prophet have?”
My very first thought (I’ll admit, slightly odd) when I read this was related to the question asked of Samuel by the elders of the city when he went to Beth-lehem at the time he met David. “Comest thou peaceably?” (1 Sam 16:4) What were they worried about? What was the reputation of the prophet? Were the people afraid of Samuel for some reason?
When we answer this do we automatically think about our experience with modern prophets? Do we think of the stories we read about in the scriptures? Which scriptures? Book of Mormon prophets or Old Testament prophets? We’re finishing up with Moses in Gospel Doctrine. What stories from the modern prophets compare with the miracles performed by Moses leading the children of Israel from Egypt? Do you agree there are differences between the Old Testament prophets and the modern prophets? If you do, why do you agree? Here are a few thoughts.
- We don’t have the faith the ancient Israelites had, and do not get to receive those blessings.
- God has changed his ways.
- We have a more comprehensive priesthood organization. Many miracles that may have been performed by the prophets anciently are done by rank and file members of the church who hold the same Priesthood authority, and these are simply not recorded or published for the general consumption of the church.
- We are more focused on missionary work today than the ancient Israelites were (who had great difficulty staying away from the strange gods of the Canaanites). God can’t go destroying the people that we are trying to convert. Besides, miracles were not often effective in converting people (think of Elijah and the prophets of Baal, and he is still rejected.). The prophet now uses his gifts and powers to direct the worldwide efforts to preach the gospel and bring souls to Christ.
- Satan has changed his attack. We are not contending against strange gods and superstitions anymore. We contend with philosophies driven by science, political correctness, progressivism, etc. God does not need to have his prophet showing mighty miracles, but needs his prophet to make reasonable, philosophical arguments based on eternal truths.
The lesson then quotes the often used verse from Amos 3:7
Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.
This is often used to show that God uses prophets, but what is the extent to which this verse applies? What is God’s secret? The verses preceding this verse seem to be setting up a warning against the Israelites. When God’s people are wicked, his servants will prophesy as to what may come. This pattern is repeated throughout the scriptures and usually the message is a conditional message: If you do not repent, then (fill in the blank).
What secret is being revealed today by the prophets?
The manual then discusses the blessing of having a prophet today to speak the will of God to the church and the world over. Many faiths believe there are no longer prophets. It states “[Many people] believe that the heavens are closed and that people must face the world’s perils alone.” This is an interesting claim and it would be interesting to get perspective from converts on this point. I would imagine people would say something more along the lines of the scriptures are complete and we now must study the scriptures to know God’s will.
A laundry list of what a prophet does is then given.
- God’s mouthpiece
- Special witness of Christ
- Teaches truth and interprets the word of God
- Calls people to repentance
- Receives revelations and directions from the Lord for us
- Foretell the future
There’s a brief comment on terminology that can be confusing. What is meant by a prophet or the prophet as we speak in the church. Joseph Smith taught anyone with the testimony of Jesus is a prophet for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy (See Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, answers to sundry questions. P 119). The quorum of the twelve and the First Presidency are sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators. When we refer to the prophet, though, we refer to the President of the church, the presiding high priest. Scriptures in the D&C relating to there being one prophet apply most appropriately to “the prophet”.
Through the Ages God Has Called Prophets to Lead Mankind
In what ways have the prophets guided God’s children in the past?
What have you learned from the lives and teachings of the prophets?
These questions accompany a sampling of prophets throughout the scriptures.
We Have a Living Prophet on the Earth Today
Why do we need a living prophet today?
I can think of a number of popular stories to accompany this question in other lesson manuals of the church, but this lesson does not have much by way of stories. It would be interesting to hear a discussion relating to this question. Accompanying questions may include:
What would we lose if we no longer had a living prophet?
What would happen to the church if tomorrow we no longer had a prophet? (Not so much what would happen if the prophet died, for this isn’t a question about succession, but if there were no longer prophets.)
What would happen to you if tomorrow we no longer had a prophet?
Perhaps the most important immediate influence the prophet has is from the 4th sentence in this section. ‘He holds “the keys of the kingdom,” meaning that he has the authority to direct the entire Church and kingdom of God on earth, including the administration of priesthood ordinances.’ The right to exercise priesthood by priesthood holders would be disrupted if we no longer had the keys of the priesthood on the earth.
We end this section with President Wilford Woodruff’s statement that the Lord will never permit the man who Stands as President of the Church to lead the church astray.
We Should Sustain the Lord’s Prophet
What can we do to follow and sustain the prophet?
If this question had simply been asked, “What can we do to sustain the prophet?” I think answers would include we can follow him. Is there some difference between following the prophet and sustaining him, or are these essentially the same?
It’s a blurry line to me, but the lesson manual separates follow and sustain this way:
Sustaining includes praying for him. We should study his words through conference and church publications.
We follow his inspired teachings completely. We don’t pick part to follow and discard the rest.
This section opens with the statement “Many people find it easy to believe in the prophets of the past. But it is much greater to believe in and follow the living prophet.” This may be a comment that is easy to externalize. People outside the church don’t want to acknowledge that there may be living prophets “A Bible, a Bible” they may say. How do we do with this statement within the church? Is it easier for us to study and interpret the scriptures on our own? Or do we take to heart one of the roles of the prophet stated above “Teaches truth and interprets the word of God”. If our interpretation of scriptures differs, is it easy or hard to discard an incorrect interpretation of scriptures? Same with counsel on how to live today. Is it easy to say Joseph Smith never mentioned caffeinated beverages in the Word of Wisdom or acknowledge that the counsel is to avoid habit forming practices. Other examples?
Great Blessings Follow Obedience to the Prophet
D&C 21:6 is quoted in the manual. Sounds like a pretty good set of blessings. The church as a whole also benefits greatly as the church is to be built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets.
What experiences have you had when you have obeyed the counsel of the prophet?