What the Book of Mormon Says about Prophets

Mormon Prophet and ApostlesThe Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, casually called the Mormon Church, claims to have a living prophet.  This article was written in June, 2010, at which time, the prophet of the Church (and indeed, of all the world) is Thomas S. Monson.  Serving with him are two counselors (Henry B. Eyring, and Dieter Uchtdorf) and twelve apostles, all of whom were called as special witnesses of Christand who are also prophets, seers, and revelators.

Mormon doctrine given from God through prophets has revealed that Christ is the great creator.  Under Heavenly Father’s direction He created all worlds, and the earth upon which we live.  He was foreordained before the foundation of the world to be our Savior and our Mediator with the Father.  It is through His name that we gain salvation; there is no other way.  Laying hold upon the saving power of Christ’s atonement, however, demands more than a belief in Him; it necessitates repentance.  If we repent, then Christ has taken upon Himself the just punishment for our sin, that we might not suffer.  no man or woman who has ever lived is sinless, and all fall short of the purity needed to dwell in God’s heavenly realm.  Only through the atonement, can we be exalted and live with God our Father for eternity.

Mormons testify that the Plan of Salvation was established before the world was, and therefore, all prophets since the beginning have testified of Christ.  Much has been deleted from the Old Testament that foretold of Christ’s coming and the salvation He would bring.  However, the Book of Mormon, which covers a time period from the Tower of Babel to 400 A.D., was translated into English from the original text, so none of the records were tampered with or mistranslated.  So, in the Book of Mormon are many prophesies of the coming Christ by name.  Book of Mormon prophets not only testified of Christ, but helped us understand what a prophet’s role is.

A prophet is a teacher.  His role is to teach his people true doctrine and prepare them for salvation and exaltation.  The Lord gives commandments to His children through prophets, and also the details of how to better live according to His commandments.  Prophets call the people to repentance, so they will avail themselves of the gift of Christ’s atonement for them.  In the Old Testament, we see that there was more than one prophet at a time.  Because there were no methods of disseminating information far and wide very fast, prophets were needed to preach and prophesy to local peoples.

“Individual prophets were raised up at particular times to fill a special need. Obviously the Lord’s hand was in their call. For example, Amos was called at a time when affluence and religious formalism combined to produce a high tide of social decadence and permissiveness. He responded in a style and with a message fitting the times. Hosea addressed the people of an era in which established social forms were dissolving. Ezekiel, fearless in his cry for right, declared, “Then shall they know that a prophet hath been among them” ( Ezekiel 33:33 ), speaking of the time when predicted calamities would befall the people. His were cries of warning while he was in exile with his people. Isaiah preached to a people who, by rejecting his message, would pass the point of no return and condemn themselves. Jeremiah lived amid the final agonies of Jerusalem. He warned a king who chose to ignore the warning and suffered the consequences.”

It should be understood, that a prophet does not see all things that pertain to him personally.  Therefore, a prophet “sees through a glass darkly” in his own personal life and must live by faith, just like all the rest of us.  A prophet might receive an important revelation from God in the morning, and then struggle to understand the feelings of his wife that same evening.  Thus, the ancient prophets, though revelators, did not have perfect families or perfect lives.  Prophets also do not have a complete understanding of science, sociology, or psychology.  They only know what they’ve been shown by the Lord.  They also have human weaknesses like everyone else.

Enoch Zion MormonForetelling future events is only one role of a prophet.  In addition, the Lord may tell a prophet something about the future, and the prophet might still not understand the context completely.  For example, Mormon, who anciently compiled the scriptures nowknown as the Book of Mormon, said the Lord told him which of their writings he should include.  But Mormon never knew why those selections were important, just that we would need them in our day.

“But behold, I shall take these plates, which contain these prophesyings and revelations, and put them with the remainder of my record, for they are choice unto me; and I know they will be choice unto my brethren.

“And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me. And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will” (Mormon 1:6, 7).
A prophet may also be a seer:

“A seer is one who sees with spiritual eyes. He perceives the meaning of that which seems obscure to others; therefore he is an interpreter and clarifier of eternal truth. He foresees the future from the past and the present. This he does by the power of the Lord operating through him directly, or indirectly with the aid of divine instruments such as the Urim and Thummim. In short, he is one who sees, who walks in the Lord’s light with open eyes. (Book of Mormon, Mosiah 8:15–17 )” (Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, p. 258.)

“As Ammon said, ‘A seer is a revelator and a prophet also’ ( Mosiah 8:16 ). When necessary he can use the Urim and Thummim, or holy interpreters” (see Mosiah 8:13 ; 28:13–16 ; 1 Samuel 9:9 ; 2 Samuel 24:11 ; 2 Kings 17:13 ; 1 Chronicles 29:29 ; 2 Chronicles 9:29 ; 33:19 ; Isaiah 29:10 ; 30:10 ; JST, John 1:42 ; 2 Nephi 3:6–14 ; D&C 21:1 ; 107:92 ; 134:94, 125 ; 127:12 ; 135:3 ; Moses 6:36, 38 .)

Alma was a Book of Mormon prophet who had a miraculous conversion.  He had fought against the gospel and believers just as Paul would do, but the Lord knew that he could be a great force for good.  After his conversion, he risked everything to preach the gospel to a savage people, and he was also the chief judge as well as the high priest among his own people.  Alma preached around eighty years before the birth of Christ.  In the Book of Mormon is recorded Alma’s counsel to his sons, one of whom was having a hard time understanding the future coming of the Messiah.  Alma said to his son:

“Is not a soul at this time as precious unto God as a soul will be at the time of his coming? Is it not as necessary that the plan of redemption should be made known unto this people as well as unto their children? Is it not as easy at this time for the Lord to send his angel to declare these glad tidings unto us as unto our children, or as after the time of his coming” ( Alma 39:15–19 )?

If the Bible were complete, it would be obvious that all prophets, no matter how ancient, centered their teachings upon the saving power of Jesus Christ.  Here are some of the things Book of Mormon prophets said during the years before Christ.

“Preach unto them repentance, and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ; teach them to humble themselves and to be meek and lowly in heart; teach them to withstand every temptation of the devil, with their faith on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Alma 37: 33).

“And now behold, my people, ye are a stiffnecked people; wherefore, I have spoken plainly unto you, that ye cannot misunderstand. And the words which I have spoken shall stand as a testimony against you; for they are sufficient to teach any man the right way; for the right way is to believe in Christ and deny him not; for by denying him ye also deny the prophets and the law” (2 Nephi 25: 28).

“And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good” (2 Nephi 33: 10).

“And now if Christ had not come into the world, speaking of things to come as though they had already come, there could have been no redemption.  And if Christ had not risen from the dead, or have broken the bands of death that the grave should have no victory, and that death should have no sting, there could have been no resurrection.  But there is a resurrection, therefore the grave hath no victory, and the sting of death is swallowed up in Christ.  He is the light and the life of the world; yea, a light that is endless, that can never be darkened; yea, and also a life which is endless, that there can be no more death” (Mosiah 16:6-9).

“Yea, and they did keep the law of Moses; for it was expedient that they should keep the law of Moses as yet, for it was not all fulfilled. But notwithstanding the law of Moses, they did look forward to the coming of Christ, considering that the law of Moses was a type of his coming, and believing that they must keep those outward performances until the time that he should be revealed unto them” (Alma 25: 15-16).

“And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.  Wherefore, we speak concerning the law that our children may know the deadness of the law; and they, by knowing the deadness of the law, may look forward unto that life which is in Christ, and know for what end the law was given. And after the law is fulfilled in Christ, that they need not harden their hearts against him when the law ought to be done away” (2 Nephi 25:26, 27).

“And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white.  And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou?  And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.  And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?  And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.  And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh” (1 Nephi 11:13-18).

“Behold, I, Samuel, a Lamanite, do speak the words of the Lord which he doth put into my heart; and behold he hath put it into my heart to say unto this people that the sword of justice hangeth over this people; and four hundred years pass not away save the sword of justice falleth upon this people.  Yea, heavy destruction awaiteth this people, and it surely cometh unto this people, and nothing can save this people save it be repentance and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ, who surely shall come into the world, and shall suffer many things and shall be slain for his people.  And behold, an angel of the Lord hath declared it unto me, and he did bring glad tidings to my soul. And behold, I was sent unto you to declare it unto you also, that ye might have glad tidings; but behold ye would not receive me” (Helaman 13:5-7).

“And behold, he said unto them: Behold, I give unto you a sign; for five years more cometh, and behold, then cometh the Son of God to redeem all those who shall believe on his name.  And behold, this will I give unto you for a sign at the time of his coming; for behold, there shall be great lights in heaven, insomuch that in the night before he cometh there shall be no darkness, insomuch that it shall appear unto man as if it was day.  Therefore, there shall be one day and a night and a day, as if it were one day and there were no night; and this shall be unto you for a sign; for ye shall know of the rising of the sun and also of its setting; therefore they shall know of a surety that there shall be two days and a night; nevertheless the night shall not be darkened; and it shall be the night before he is born.

“And behold, there shall a new star arise, such an one as ye never have beheld; and this also shall be a sign unto you.  And behold this is not all, there shall be many signs and wonders in heaven.  And it shall come to pass that ye shall all be amazed, and wonder, insomuch that ye shall fall to the earth.  And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall believe on the Son of God, the same shall have everlasting life” (Helaman 14:2-8).

Elder John A. Widtsoe summarized the role of prophets in these words:

“A prophet is a teacher of known truth; a seer is a perceiver of hidden truth, a revelator is a bearer of new truth. In the widest sense, the one most commonly used, the title, prophet, includes the other titles and makes of the prophet, a teacher, perceiver, and bearer of truth.

“One who bears the title of prophet, and they who sustain him as such, are first of all believers in God, and in a divine plan of salvation for the human family; and, secondly, they commit themselves to the task of bringing to pass the purposes of the Almighty. They believe that the children of men are capable of receiving and obeying truth. Were it not so, the title ‘prophet, seer, and revelator’ would be empty, hollow words. As it is, they are clarion calls of the Church of Christ to a world walking in the dim shadows of misunderstanding.” ( Evidences and Reconciliations, pp. 258–59.)

*This article was adapted from the LDS Institute Old Testament Manual.

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