“It is an easy thing to believe in the dead prophets, but it is a greater thing to believe in the living prophets.” – President Marion G. Romney, “Nurture a Testimony,” General Conference, April, 1953.
From the Garden of Eden to the present, God has spoken to mankind through prophets. Whenever our Eternal Father has something significant to convey to His children, He speaks through prophets. Whenever the Lord wants to establish His Church and expound the points of His Gospel, He does so exclusively through prophets. The intention of this article is to explain the signature role of prophets in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to share my personal witness that the Lord speaks to us today through prophets.
The Bible uncategorically affirms the importance and necessity of prophets. The prophet Amos recorded this wonderful statement:
“Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).
Amos taught that the Lord speaks through prophets. That is His eternal pattern. He uses mediators to deliver His words, to warn of impending judgments, to instruct, and to officiate in essential saving ordinances and covenants like baptism.
Before we go any farther, let’s define what a prophet is. The word prophet comes from the Greek work meaning spokesman, or one who speaks in behalf of. In this case, prophets speak for God. When a prophet is inspired by the Holy Spirit to do so, his words are the equivalent of God’s own words; they are what the Lord wants people to know at that precise moment and are as equally binding upon the hearers as if God Himself was speaking. A true prophet, therefore, is the Lord’s spokesman or mouthpiece.
The Bible Dictionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gives us this insight:
“The work of a Hebrew prophet was to act as God’s messenger and make known God’s will . . . He taught men about God’s character . . . He was to be, above all, a preacher of righteousness. When the people had fallen away from a true faith in Jehovah, the prophets had to try to restore that faith and remove false views about the character of God and the nature of the Divine requirement. In certain cases prophets predicted future events, e.g., there are the very important prophecies announcing the coming of the Messiah’s kingdom; but as a rule a prophet was a forthteller rather than a foreteller. In a general sense a prophet is anyone who has a testimony of Jesus Christ by the Holy Ghost.” (Bible Dictionary, “Prophet”).
A prophet reveals God to his fellows. He reveals the true character and nature of the Being we worship. He helps us know our Father and His Son Jesus Christ – and really knowing Them is “eternal life” (John 17:3). A prophet, like any true friend, helps bring us to Jesus Christ (though ultimately the individual is responsible for receiving his own personal witness, through the Holy Spirit, of the Lord’s divinity). A prophet is also a seer and a revelator and, when it is the Lord’s will, he can reveal future events and authoritatively warn of coming judgments.
What’s more, a prophet is a legal administrator of the essential saving ordinances of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He is one who possesses authority from the source of all power and authority – God Himself. God’s authority is called the Holy Priesthood. There is a higher (Melchizedek) and a lower (Aaronic or Levitical) Priesthood, but I will refer to them both in a collective sense.
At any given time, the Lord’s prophet is the man chosen and ordained to exercise all the authorities and powers of the Holy Priesthood for all people on earth. He, and he alone, presides over saving ordinances. He can delegate this power to local authorities such as bishops, elders, and priests, just as Jesus delegated His authority to His apostles, but the ultimate presiding authority resides in the man who at any given time is the president of the Holy Priesthood on earth.
It is through the Priesthood channel that revelation for mankind is given. Private individuals are not entitled to receive revelation for mankind (though they can of course receive personal revelation for themselves and their family); but a prophet can receive universal revelation by virtue of his office. In a helpful sermon on the two lines of communication God uses to speak to mankind, the personal and private lines, President Dallin H. Oaks, one of the Lord’s chosen apostolic witnesses in our day, explained:
“The priesthood line is the channel by which God has spoken to His children through the scriptures in times past. And it is this line through which He currently speaks through the teachings and counsel of living prophets and apostles and other inspired leaders. This is the way we receive the required ordinances. This is the way we receive calls to service in His Church. His Church is the way and His priesthood is the power through which we are privileged to participate in those cooperative activities that are essential to accomplishing the Lord’s work. These include preaching the gospel, building temples and chapels, and helping the poor.
“In respect to this priesthood line, our belief and practice is similar to the insistence of some Christians that authoritative ordinances (sacraments) are essential and must be performed by one authorized and empowered by Jesus Christ (see John 15:16). We believe the same but of course differ with other Christians on how we trace that authority.
“Some members or former members of our church fail to recognize the importance of the priesthood line. They underestimate the importance of the Church and its leaders and its programs. Relying entirely on the personal line, they go their own way, purporting to define doctrine and to direct competing organizations contrary to the teachings of prophet-leaders. In this they mirror the modern hostility to what is disparagingly called “organized religion.” Those who reject the need for organized religion reject the work of the Master, who established His Church and its officers in the meridian of time and who reestablished them in modern times” (President Dallin H. Oaks, “Two Lines of Communication,” General Conference, October, 2010).
There have always been those who reject the prophets and the Lord’s organized Church with its formal officers, leaders, ordinances, and doctrines. Yet, in spite of objections throughout the Protestant world, God has always led His people through prophets. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8).
It should be understood that there is no salvation without ordinances. Yes, it is Jesus Christ who saves us through the mercy which He is capable of extending because of His atoning sacrifice, but He has appointed a pattern which includes ordinances. The ordinance of baptism, for instance, is so essential that the Lord taught:
“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. . . .
“. . . Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. . . .
“. . . Ye must be born again” (John 3:3, 5, 7).
This teaching ought to dispel the incorrect notion that salvation can come without ordinances because, naturally, there is no salvation outside of the Kingdom of God. This doctrine should cause us to seriously search for the Lord’s legal administrators endowed with the authority to perform such saving ordinances. Again, common sense dictates that no ordinance is recognized by God unless it is performed by His authentic authority.
There are many who say “Lord, Lord,” but not all are in the path of righteousness (Matthew 7:21). Those who hold the Lord’s legitimate authority are members of His Holy Priesthood. They are legal administrators of salvific Gospel ordinances. And only at their hands can saving ordinances be received. This should cement in our minds forever the necessity of prophets.
Prophets are engaged in the work of salvation. They are the laborers in the vineyard of whom the Lord spoke in His parable in Matthew chapter twenty. As such, they are on the Lord’s errand and must work in the Lord’s approved manner and by His authority. Among other things, prophets, as well as all other Priesthood holders in their various offices, were never intended to labor for money. Their time was to be an offering to God. It was to be selfless service with no monetary or worldly reward; only the reward of helping others, doing the right thing, and serving in the mode of the Savior.
Peter instructed his fellow elders in the Priesthood:
“Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
“Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2-3).
Those in the Church who worked for money (i.e. “filthy lucre”) or who worked to make themselves popular like the Jewish Pharisees, were then, and are today, guilty of priestcraft. Priestcraft is not a word used much among most Christians, but it is a perfect description of Christian churches throughout the world – especially the so-called “mega” churches. Additionally, those who sell saving ordinances, or offer forgiveness, in exchange for money are also guilty of priestcraft and are in direct violation of Peter’s words.
In the book of Acts, the Apostle Philip was ministering to the people in Samaria. A magician named Simon saw Philip’s legitimate miracles, such as casting out evil spirits and healing the sick, and temporarily believed the Gospel message. Some of those who had been previously bewitched by Simon were converted and were baptized. Hearing the good news, Peter and John traveled to Samaria and began conferring the gift of the Holy Ghost on the newly baptized members in the correct “laying on of hands” fashion. We then find this exchange between Simon and Peter:
“And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,
“Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.
“But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.
“. . . thy heart is not right in the sight of God.
“Repent therefore of this, thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.
“For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:5-23).
As an interesting note of history, this very Simon, Simon Magus or Simon the Sorcerer, later apostatized and became the founder of Gnosticism. The same sin of which he was guilty, which is thinking that God’s ordinances, blessings, gifts, authority, or power can be bought with money, is rampant in Christendom. Forgiveness, let alone the gift of the Holy Ghost or the Holy Priesthood, cannot be purchased with money. Also, the Holy Ghost cannot be conferred on people in any other manner but through the laying on of hands (Acts 8:17).
Similarly, no one can claim, of themselves, the right and authority to preach the Gospel or perform ordinances. No true prophet in history has ever called himself to that position. Not one. Not Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Elijah, Malachi, Jonah, or Peter. A prophet is, rather, called by revelation from God through approved Priesthood channels or by direct manifestation or visitation of God.
This means that every self-appointed pastor, bishop, priest, evangelist, chaplain, reverend, cleric, or minister who created his own church, who invented his own “ministry,” or who was hired the same as any other worker is, rather than being called by revelation through a Priesthood authority, holds no legitimate authority or calling. While there are numerous sincere pastors who work for money, despite the Bible decrying paid a clergy who labor for “filthy lucre,” ultimately these are not called of God and hold no lawful Priesthood administrative authority.
Furthermore, earning a degree in theology does not qualify one for any ministry or calling in Christ’s legitimate Church. Were any of the Savior’s apostles theologians? Not a one of them. They were fishermen and laborers – average folks from the poorest parts of Palestine. For them, preaching the Gospel was not a profession; it was a sacred calling. They did not choose it; the Lord chose them. He said as much:
“I am the vine, ye are the branches. . . .
“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you” (John 15:5, 16).
This is the pattern for all time and for all prophets. Not one true prophet or legitimate priest/pastor/bishop calls himself to the work. It has simply never happened. Rather he is chosen, through revelation via the proper channels, by the Lord Jesus Christ. He is ordained to his special calling through the Lord’s Priesthood. In the case of the original twelve apostles, the Lord – the true vine – ordained them. Later, these same apostles, via the same Priesthood authority given to them by Jesus Christ, selected and ordained others to fill vacancies in their quorum.
When the apostles needed to fill the void left by Judas Iscariot’s betrayal and gory suicide, they chose two possible candidates. They then “prayed and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen” (Acts 1:20-26). What were the apostles doing? They were, of course, seeking revelation. They did not merely vote and use their flawed human wisdom to select the next apostle. They understood that the Church of Jesus Christ was not their Church – it was the Lord’s and that the Lord alone has the right to call and appoint its leaders. The same is true in our day.
Some believe that in order to be a prophet or apostle, one must have lived in the days of Christ and have personally witnessed His resurrection. They quote Acts 1:22 for this false belief. That verse, in part, states that a new apostle had to be taken from among the Christian brethren and must be “ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.” To believe that prophets and apostles had to have lived only 2,000 years ago is to misunderstand this verse or to deny other relevant scriptures.
The verse in question simply means that the office of an apostle is to bear witness of Jesus Christ. An apostle’s official capacity is as a special witness of the Savior’s life, resurrection, and divinity. It is His Church, after all. Can individuals learn these glorious truths today? Can we, through the Holy Spirit, gain personal testimonies and witnesses of the Savior just as the early Christians did? Yes, we can!
Peter, who walked and talked with the Savior, gained his personal witness through the Spirit and not because of His firsthand knowledge. He did not gain a witness by literally viewing Jesus with his own eyeballs. Speaking of Peter’s witness, Jesus clarified that “flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:15-17). And since we can today receive a spiritual confirmation of the truth as easily as the apostles could in Christ’s own day, men can presently be ordained to be legitimate apostolic witnesses.
This notion is further verified by a correct understanding of another verse of scripture. It was in the context of Heavenly revelation to Peter that Jesus said “and upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). The verse does not refer to Peter as the rock, though Peter was the first president of the Lord’s Church and the man authorized by the Lord to receive revelation for the ancient Saints. Rather, revelation from the Lord is the rock upon which the Church of Jesus Christ must be built. And the apostles were sent out as messengers to declare to the world the truths they had learned through personal revelation.
Dr. Hugh Nibley, a brilliant scriptorian, scholar, and professor who mastered fourteen languages and penned numerous books, spoke of the unique station of prophets, and the general antipathy towards their holy work, in his book The World and the Prophets. He wrote:
“A prophet is no ordinary person; he makes no ordinary claim; and he does not ask people to believe him, but to test him. God is not authoritarian: He asks no on to believe; but invites the world, as his prophets do, “Prove me herewith.”
“When the Lord was upon his earthly mission, he greatly angered and upset men by forcing them to decide whether he was a true prophet or not . . . The Lord insists that we make up our minds one way or another regarding is calling.
“. . . a prophet is a witness, not a reformer. Criticism of the world is always implicit in a prophet’s message of repentance, but he is not sent for the purpose of criticizing the world. Men know the world is wicked, and the wickedest often know it best . . . It was not the Sermon on the Mount that drove men to crucify the Lord. It was not for their moral tirades that the prophets of old and the Apostles were stoned . . .
“What, then, did Christ and the Apostles do and say that drove men into paroxysms of rage? They performed tangible miracles such as could not be denied, and they reported what they had seen and heart. That was all. It was as witnesses endowed with power form on high that they earned the hatred of the world, of which John speaks so much: “We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness” (John 3:11). . . .
“And as soon as the Apostles said, “We are his witnesses of these things,” the council of the high priests “were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them (Acts 5:32-33; italics added). Again, we are told that the multitude “were cut to the heart” when Stephen accused them of rejecting what had brought “by the dispensation of angels” (Acts 7:53-54). But the last straw was when he had the effrontery to say, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him” (Acts 7:56-58). If Stephen had spent his life, as innumerable philosophers have, denouncing the vices and follies of the age, he might have died peacefully in bed. But those fatal words, “I see,” were his death warrant. And what did Paul say to make the Jews cry out in utter horror: “Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live,” as “they . . . cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air?” (Acts 22:22-23). What indeed? These were the unforgivable words that made him unfit to live: “Suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest” (Acts 22:6-8). Paul could have won his audience over by speaking as a scholar, but when he bore witness to what he had seen and heard, he was asking for trouble” (Hugh Nibley, The World and the Prophets, 12-15).
The key thing to draw from this excerpt is that a prophet is a man with personal, firsthand knowledge of God – a bold witness who bears his simple testimony of the truth which he personally knows and which he has had confirmed to him by the Holy Spirit. Prophets do not speak from theoretical knowledge or scholarly learning. Rather, they speak from their firsthand experience with their Savior Jesus Christ.
Oftentimes, prophets have face-to-face or visionary encounters with the Lord, as did Paul, Moses, Abraham, Jacob, Enoch, Adam, Jeremiah, and others. They frequently hear the voice of the Lord. They see Him in dreams and manifestations. And, more importantly, they all receive spiritual confirmation of the truth through the power of the Holy Ghost. No matter how God is revealed to them, they know of His reality, His divine mission, and of the true points of His Gospel. Their task, when called by the Lord to do so, is to share their witness of Jesus Christ.
The book of Acts gives us a wonderful description of a prophet’s role. Peter testified:
“God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing. . . .
“And we are witnesses of all things which he did. . . .
“Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly. . . .
“And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.
“To him give all the prophets witness, that through is name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:38-40, 42-43).
All of the prophets who have ever ministered or who ever will minister have testified of Jesus Christ. At times they referred to Him as Jehovah, the Lord, or the Messiah, but it was the Man Jesus, the Son of the Living God, of whom they preached, taught, and bore special witness. As Dr. Nibley observed above, prophets are so hated precisely because they give personal witness and don’t speak theoretically. They force us to make a judgment, either for or against, regarding the veracity of their testimony. And as the scriptures show, correctly discerning the truth of a prophet’s words and aligning ourselves with them makes all the differences.
The existence of prophets in Old Testament times cannot be disputed. But what of the New Testament era and our own modern day? Some claim that prophets were done away with after the resurrected Christ’s Ascension. This is false. I again cite the scripture: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8).
The Lord very clearly intended that His Church should be guided, as it always had been in former times, by a duly called prophet wielding Priesthood authority. He also established apostles. The word apostle means “one who is sent” or, in other words, a messenger or emissary. A prophet is an apostle as well, just as an apostle is a prophet, but the prophet at any given time heads the body of apostles and presides in the Lord’s Priesthood.
Before His Atonement, the Lord chose Peter, James, and John to be the governing body within the large quorum of twelve apostles. Peter was the ranking and presiding authority among the apostles, or, in other words, the prophet and president of the Church of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul gave us a glimpse into the structure of the Lord’s Church. He wrote:
“[Y]e are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
“And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:19-20).
He again explained:
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12).
Yet another time, to a different group of Saints, he likewise testified of the different callings and stations in the Church:
“For the body is not one member, but many. . . .
“But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. . . .
“And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:14, 18, 28).
Paul is clear – the Lord established a Church with a set hierarchy and a neatly organized structure that includes prophets, apostles, elders, priests, teachers, patriarchs, members with spiritual gifts, and so forth. The presiding authority was Peter and, with him, the apostles.
If Paul’s writings are not authoritative enough, the record shows that the mortal Messiah plainly called twelve apostles, endowing them with Priesthood authority, and established groups of seventy elders to hold office beneath the apostles (Matthew 10:1; Luke 9:1; Luke 10:1). If apostles and prophets were necessary for the Gospel ministry and for the edifying and perfecting of the members of the Lord’s Church two-thousand years ago, are they not also necessary today?
And if they are no longer necessary, as most Christians now believe, when did this start? Where is the formal revelation abolishing the quorum of twelve apostles set up by Christ? Where is the prophetic declaration announcing that the carefully designed structure of the Lord’s Church no longer applies or has been superseded with a better divinely-approved construct? Surely, if the Lord personally set up a Church with apostles and prophets, He intended the system to continue. It appears obvious on the face of it that without these governing bodies and the Priesthood which gave them authority to minister, heal, preach, baptize, and speak in the Lord’s name, there simply is no Church of Christ.
Since history bears out that the quorum of the twelve apostles did not continue past the First Century after Christ, and since the Catholic Church and Protestant organizations deny that prophets and apostles lead Christ’s Church today, we have to ask why. The scriptures have the answer. The Old and New Testaments both warn of an apostasy. Paul predicted a great “falling away” that would occur (2 Thessalonians 2:3). He warned:
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
“And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
He spoke of Christian apostates as “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
Paul in fact said that this apostasy was already beginning during his day. He wrote to the Galatian Church members: “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel” (Galatians 1:6). He also noted:
“[A]fter my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.
“Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30).
Peter, the chief apostle of his day, also foretold of apostasy:
“[T]here were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.
“And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of” (2 Peter 2:1-2).
Finally, the Apostle John castigated false teachers and apostate churches in the book of Revelation, naming many of them. He was also given a revelation that condemned “them which say they are apostles, and are not” (Revelation 2:2).
Other New Testament witnesses, including the Lord Himself who talked about a coming age of false prophets (Matthew 24:24), could be appealed to. Even Old Testament prophets like Isaiah who prophesied of a time when “darkness shall cover the earth” (Isaiah 60:2) and the Lord’s followers would “draw near [to the Lord] with their mouth, and with their lips do honour [Him], but have removed their heart far from [Him]” (Isaiah 29:10, 13), could be noted. However, these are sufficient to show that the Bible foretells, quite unmistakably and frequently, of an apostasy. Those who honestly study the history of Christendom are also struck by the palpable reality of this great apostasy and the many changes made to Christ’s Church structure and to His doctrine.
T. Edgar Lyon wrote of these tragic changes to the Lord’s organization in his book Apostasy to Restoration. I excise a passage about the apostleship and what it meant that the apostles were eventually martyred:
“As long as the original apostles of Jesus Christ were alive they gave church-wide supervision to His Church. By the close of the first century, however, there appears to be no apostolic leadership in the church. Furthermore, there is no recorded evidence that any plan had been adopted to perpetuate the apostleship or any other type of general church leadership. The Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11 and 12, stated that the apostles and prophets had been placed in the Church of Jesus Christ by Christ Himself, to be His leaders on earth. When they disappeared, the leadership was gone. Without the authority from Christ to lead His Church, no organization could then rightfully be called the Church of Jesus Christ. That an organization survived, is self evident. That it perpetuated for some years some of the fundamental teachings such as faith in God, immersion baptism and belief in the resurrection of true Christianity, no one can deny. That there were sincere believers and dedicated leaders, history testifies. That they considered themselves to be the Church of Jesus Christ, the members affirmed through their faith and suffering. But that it was Christ’s Church, when it was without divine authority, is not in keeping with early Christian understanding” (T. Edgar Lyon, Apostasy to Restoration, 3).
As I have been attempting to convey, prophets and apostles are absolutely essential to the Church of Jesus Christ. Without them, there is no Church of Christ. Without the Priesthood authority held by correctly called and appointed leaders, no saving ordinances can be properly and lawfully performed. Without a prophet to receive direction for the entire Church, such as when Peter received the revelation that the Gospel was to be taken to the Gentiles (Acts 10), there could be no Church. Without a prophet to speak in Christ’s name, an organization simply cannot be considered His Church.
It is also crystal clear from any honest reading of history that many innovations were made in Church organization and doctrine that did not harmonize with what the Lord had personally made known and which His apostles had expounded in their ministry. In fact, these changes harmonized with popular paganism at the time, such as Mithraism. A modern prophet of the Lord put it this way:
“Notwithstanding, the disciples of Jesus, excepting John the Revelator, suffered ignominious deaths, they sowed the seed of the Gospel among, and conferred the Priesthood upon men, which remained for several generations upon the earth, but the time came when Paganism was engrafted into Christianity, and at last Christianity was converted into Paganism rather than converting the Pagans. And subsequently the Priesthood was taken from among men, this authority was recalled into the heavens, and the world was left without the Priesthood—without the power of God—without the Church and Kingdom of God” (President Joseph F. Smith, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 22, 44, February 6, 1881).
As sad as this idea is, and as offensive as it may be to some sincere Christians, it is nevertheless an historically and scripturally substantiated truth. The Great Apostasy did occur and most of the world is still covered by darkness. Key doctrines were changed, such as the mode of baptism, how the gift of the Holy Ghost is conferred, the importance of marriage, how Church leaders are called, the nature of God, and so forth. In particular, the Nicene Creed and other church counsels presided over by uninspired men transformed the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit into a monstrous three-in-one creation not found in the Bible.
On the essential doctrine of the nature of God, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland explained the apostate idea compare to the scriptural truth:
“In the year A.D. 325 the Roman emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea to address—among other things—the growing issue of God’s alleged “trinity in unity.” What emerged from the heated contentions of churchmen, philosophers, and ecclesiastical dignitaries came to be known (after another 125 years and three more major councils) as the Nicene Creed, with later reformulations such as the Athanasian Creed. These various evolutions and iterations of creeds—and others to come over the centuries—declared the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to be abstract, absolute, transcendent, immanent, consubstantial, coeternal, and unknowable, without body, parts, or passions and dwelling outside space and time. In such creeds all three members are separate persons, but they are a single being, the oft-noted “mystery of the trinity.” They are three distinct persons, yet not three Gods but one. All three persons are incomprehensible, yet it is one God who is incomprehensible.
“We agree with our critics on at least that point—that such a formulation for divinity is truly incomprehensible. With such a confusing definition of God being imposed upon the church, little wonder that a fourth-century monk cried out, “Woe is me! They have taken my God away from me, … and I know not whom to adore or to address.” How are we to trust, love, worship, to say nothing of strive to be like, One who is incomprehensible and unknowable? What of Jesus’s prayer to His Father in Heaven that “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”?
“It is not our purpose to demean any person’s belief nor the doctrine of any religion. We extend to all the same respect for their doctrine that we are asking for ours. (That, too, is an article of our faith.) But if one says we are not Christians because we do not hold a fourth- or fifth-century view of the Godhead, then what of those first Christian Saints, many of whom were eyewitnesses of the living Christ, who did not hold such a view either?
“We declare it is self-evident from the scriptures that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are separate persons, three divine beings, noting such unequivocal illustrations as the Savior’s great Intercessory Prayer just mentioned, His baptism at the hands of John, the experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, and the martyrdom of Stephen—to name just four” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent,” General Conference, October, 2007).
I quote this seeming aside for two reasons. First, the fact that the early Christians could not understand the nature of God and had so much contention on the issue illustrates their fallen condition. As sincere as they no doubt were, they lacked prophetic guidance and did not have the benefit of the Priesthood line of communication.
Second, the confusion regarding the nature of our Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ could never have happened in a Church where a living prophet presided and spoke on behalf of the Lord. Again, the fact that this issue literally shattered Christendom into pieces, with each side excommunicating, excoriating, and persecuting the other, demonstrates their lack of prophetic leadership and proves the reality of the Great Apostasy foretold in the New Testament.
The careful Bible reader will readily acknowledge that the Old Testament records numerous periods of time – sometimes spanning hundreds of years apiece – when the Lord’s ancient people devolved into a state of apostasy in which He revoked His Priesthood authority and ceased calling prophets to lead them. After each period of darkness, however, the Lord called new prophets. He always appeared to the first new prophet in a personal visitation to inaugurate the new Gospel dispensation. There are at least six Gospel dispensations recorded in the Bible. The founding prophets of each dispensation are: Adam; Enoch; Noah; Abraham; Moses; and Jesus Christ.
Each of these men is extraordinary, even among prophets. The Lord is the ultimate Prophet. It was He, as Jehovah, who personally called Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses to head up new dispensations. He gave these wonderful men Priesthood authority to officiate in saving ordinances, additional revelations to add to past revelations from former dispensations, and new instructions adapted to their specific circumstances. This is the pattern for opening a new Gospel dispensation. The Lord followed this identical pattern in modern times when He initiated what is the final Gospel dispensation, the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times (Ephesians 1:10).
One of the hopeful messages of the Holy Bible is that the night of dark apostasy long foreseen would be shattered by the revelation of further Gospel light at a future day. The ancient prophet Ezekiel, peering prophetically through time, spoke of a day when the scriptural record of the Jews would be joined with another scriptural record written by Israelites from the tribes of Joseph. Together, these equally true records would constitute the holy scriptures and be “one” in the Lord’s hands:
“[T]ake one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions:
“And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand. . . .
“Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand” (Ezekiel 37:16-17, 19).
Isaiah referred to a future day in which “the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it” (Isaiah 2:2).
Micah similarly prophesied of the future establishment of the Lord’s Kingdom, or Zion:
“[I]n the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it.
“And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the claw shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Micah 4:1-2).
Isaiah specifically spoke of the Great Apostasy and followed it up by foretelling of a latter-day Restoration of the Lord’s Church, which he called a “marvellous work and a wonder” (Isaiah 29:14).
Peter spoke of “the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21).
The Savior also said that before His Second Coming in glory: “Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things” (Matthew 17:11).
And, perhaps most convincingly of all, the Apostle John prophesied of an angel who would once more bring the Gospel to mankind:
“And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” (Revelation 14:6).
Isn’t it curious that the Apostle John foretold of a day when there would be a need for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be delivered to mankind once again by angels? Most Christians believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been on the earth for two-thousand years and does not stand in need of being restored, yet this contradicts John’s prophesy. There would simply be no need of an angelic minister to give the Gospel to those who already had it. When we factor in the reality of the Great Apostasy, however, we understand the significance of John’s prophesy.
In 1820, almost two-hundred years ago to the month, the prophesied Restoration of the “everlasting gospel” commenced in New York state when a fourteen-year-old man named Joseph Smith went into a small thicket of trees to pray to God to know which of all the competing churches was His one true Church. I invite you to read my article “Joseph Smith – Praise to the Man” for more about this wonderful servant of the Lord. Suffice it to say that because of his simple faith and sincere prayer, he received a divine manifestation of the Father and the Son. Brother Joseph later recounted:
“I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
“. . . When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!
“. . . I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.
“I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof”” (Joseph Smith – History 1:16-19).
This marvelous manifestation, eclipsing even Abraham’s and Moses’ manifestations in its grandeur, inaugurated what we call the Restoration of the Gospel. Joseph Smith was told by the Lord that he was to be an instrument in His hands to bring the truth back to the world. In due time, in direct fulfillment of John’s writings, an angel named Moroni appeared to tutor Joseph Smith in Heavenly things and inform him of the record of the tribes of Joseph which Ezekiel spoke of. With the power of God, Joseph Smith translated this divine record. It is today called The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ and is used in conjunction with the Bible to bring people to the Savior.
John the Baptist, as well as Peter, James, and John, appeared to Joseph Smith and others to restore the Holy Priesthood. Other angelic ministers, Moses and Elijah to name only two, appeared to give their Priesthood authorities and keys to Joseph Smith. Eventually, the Lord’s house – that is, His holy temple – was built once again. Not surprisingly, the chief of these modern temples sits today in the top of the mountains as foreseen by the Biblical prophets.
On April 6, 1830, the Lord’s Church was formally restored to the earth again as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Saints suffered extreme persecution. They were driven from state to state, murdered by mobs, and had an extermination order placed upon them by Governor Boggs of Missouri. In 1844, Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were shot to death by a ravenous mob while unjustly imprisoned in Illinois. Their spilled blood served as their final testimony of the truthfulness of the Restoration.
Yet, because it was not Joseph Smith’s church, but in actual fact the Church of Jesus Christ, it survived and has flourished and expanded throughout the globe at a miraculous pace. It is still led today by a prophet and a council of twelve apostles. It contains within it not only prophets and apostles, but also the quorums of seventy established by Jesus, the teachers and elders spoken of by Paul, and the gifts, authorities, and powers that always accompany the legitimate Priesthood authority of the Master. On every point of comparison in doctrine, structure, and origin between the Lord’s Church established in the Bible and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there is a beautiful harmony that powerfully touches the honest seeker of truth.
To these claims of new revelations, new scripture, new prophets, and a divinely-restored Church of Jesus Christ, the world is emphatically opposed. I bear my personal witness, given to me by the Holy Spirit, however, that it is the truth. These events fulfill the prophecies of Biblical prophets. The Everlasting Gospel has indeed been restored to the earth!
Whenever the Lord gives new light, Satan intensifies his disinformation campaign. He sends false prophets to oppose the real ones. He disperses false dogmas to compete with revealed truth. He establishes counterfeit priesthoods to the real Priesthood. He erects alluring churches to draw people away from the true Church of Jesus Christ. And he inspires wicked people to persecute the Lord’s prophets.
President Brigham Young, the successor prophet to Joseph Smith, warned of Satan’s counterfeits to the restored Church of Jesus Christ:
“If true principles are revealed from heaven to men, and if there are angels, and there is a possibility of their communicating to the human family, always look for an opposite power, an evil power, to give manifestations also: look out for the counterfeit.
“There is evil in the world, and there is also good. Was there ever a counterfeit without a true coin? No. Is there communication from God? Yes. From holy angels? Yes; and we have been proclaiming these facts during nearly thirty years. Are there any communications from evil spirits? Yes; and the Devil is making the people believe very strongly in revelations from the spirit world. This is called spiritualism” (President Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 7, 240, September 1, 1859).
Another modern apostle, the brilliant Bruce R. McConkie, wrote of those who reject the Lord’s light:
“In the very nature of things, persecution of true prophets includes the acceptance of false prophets. It is a philosophical impossibility to reject truth without accepting error, to depart from true teachers without cleaving to false ones, to reject the Lord’s ministers without giving allegiance to those who follow the other Master” (Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah, 37).
It is the Lord’s modern prophets, however, which Christendom declares “false.” They cite Paul’s warning: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any bother gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8). This claim falls flat, however, when you honestly study the Biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ and that revealed in modern times and realize how stunningly consistent they are. It is also out of harmony with John’s prophesy that an angel will restore the Everlasting Gospel to mankind.
We should at least have one thing clear in our minds: “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33). He therefore cannot be the God of the various religions of the world, including Protestantism. For all its merits, two of the fundamental Protestant creeds are: 1) That it doesn’t matter which church a person belongs to because one’s personal relationship with Christ is all that matters; and 2) there can be no prophets or hierarchy because each individual can commune directly with God and needs no mediator. As I have demonstrated earlier, these notions are unBiblical, wrong, and are contradicted by the words of Peter, John, Paul, and other New Testament writers.
The Apostle Paul also noted that universal revelation is not subject to private interpretation. There must be an interpreter who proclaims the will of the Almighty. Imagine if there was no hierarchy and no order. It would be mass confusion with everyone claiming to speak for God, yet offering different interpretations of doctrine and proposing differing policies.
As He did anciently, God has again called prophets to act as His spokesmen, to teach correct doctrine, to expose falsehoods, to shine light on humanity, and to bring people to Jesus Christ. It is our challenge today to listen to these humble prophets. I say “challenge” because it is generally harder to listen to a living, breathing prophet in your own land than to an ancient Hebrew prophet long since dead. The same Elder McConkie cited above wrote:
“The real test of one’s beliefs is not how much he purports to believe of what the dead prophets have said, but what he accepts from the lips of the living oracles of the same God who inspired those of old. Salvation comes through belief in the doctrines taught by the true disciples sent as legal administrators in our day. Needless to say, their teachings conform to those of their ancient fellowservants; in addition, modern disciples have the present power to perform the ordinances of salvation so they will be binding on earth and in heaven” (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 27-28.
Ezra Taft Benson, whom I’m fond of quoting in my writings, penned a stirring testimony of the revealed Gospel. As one of the Lord’s modern apostolic witnesses, his words take on added meaning. He declared:
“The world has generally revered the ancient dead prophets and rejected the living ones. It was so with Joseph Smith. Truth is often on the scaffold, error on the throne. But time is on the side of truth, for truth is eternal. The message of Mormonism is a world message. It is the truth. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a world organization.
“The message of Joseph Smith – the message of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the message of Mormonism – is the most important message in the world. And Joseph Smith the Prophet, who lives today, continues to have an important part in its direction here on earth.
“The Church is a world organization – the true Church of Jesus Christ restored to the earth in its fulness – and is intended to bless all of our Father’s children. These things I know, and to them I bear humble witness.
“God lives, Jesus is the Christ, the Redeemer of the world, with his latter-day base of operations here in America, and Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of the living God.
“This is my witness and testimony to all the world” (Ezra Taft Benson, God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties, 40-41).
Yes, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is again on the earth in its bright fulness! The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is led by prophets – men called of God by revelation and anointed via the Holy Priesthood to their positions. These prophets have come from many walks of life, yet they are all selected by the same Lord and they all bear witness of His divinity.
One of the Lord’s recent apostles gave us this insight into the type of people called to preside in the Lord’s Church:
“What is a living prophet? His age? He may be young or old. He need not wear a tunic nor carry a shepherd’s staff. His physical features are not important. A prophet need not have advanced educational degrees nor come from any special social class. He may be rich or poor. He needs no credentials from men.
“What is it, then, that qualifies a man to be a prophet?
“Foremost, God must choose him as his prophet! . . . .
“A prophet, then, is the authorized representative of the Lord. While the world may not recognize him, the important requirement is that God speaks through him. A prophet is a teacher. He receives revelations from the Lord. These may be new truths or explanations of truths already received.
“It is an easy thing to believe in the dead prophets. Many people do. For some mysterious reason there is an aura of credibility about them. It is not so with the prophet who lives among us, who must meet life’s everyday challenges. But it is a great thing to believe in the living prophets. Our salvation is contingent upon our belief in a living prophet and adherence to his word. He alone has the right to revelation for the whole Church. His words, above those of any other man, ought to be esteemed and considered by the Church as well as by the world. One day this truth will be understood” (Elder A. Theodore Tuttle, “What Is a Living Prophet?” Ensign, July, 1973).
The man who has been called today by Jesus Christ to lead His Church and to speak on His behalf is Russell M. Nelson. This great servant of the Almighty was recently called “Moses in a business suit” by University of Virginia religious studies professor Kathleen Flake. He has been called by others a “Renaissance Man.” President Nelson is a ninety-five-year-old man of wisdom, experience, and boundless energy. A father of ten children, a world-renowned heart surgeon, a speaker of six languages, an author, and a world traveler who has met with presidents, popes, and kings, he would be a wonderful choice to head any organization. However, far more importantly than his worldly laurels, he has been called of God and he bears emphatic testimony of our Redeemer Jesus Christ. President Nelson is the man of the hour for the world, the chief apostle, the mortal captain of the Church of Jesus Christ.
I bear testimony that the Lord has called prophets in the modern age. From my head to my feet, I know without a doubt, through the Holy Ghost, that prophets walk the earth today and speak for the Lord! I know President Nelson is an inspired man and that the apostles who serve at his side are special witnesses of Jesus who have been endowed with the Holy Priesthood. It is also my testimony that the Church of Jesus Christ will never again fall into apostasy. To bolster this important point, I appeal to a statement by one of the most brilliant of the Lord’s modern prophets:
“Now, brethren, I think there is one thing which we should have exceedingly clear in our minds. Neither the President of the Church, nor the First Presidency, nor the united voice of the First Presidency and the Twelve will ever lead the Saints astray or send forth counsel to the world that is contrary to the mind and will of the Lord.
“An individual may fall by the wayside, or have views, or give counsel which falls short of what the Lord intends. But the voice of the First Presidency and the united voice of those others who hold with them the keys of the kingdom shall always guide the Saints and the world in those paths where the Lord wants them to be. . . .
“Now, brethren, these things are true. The Lord is with his people. The cause of righteousness shall prevail. Our cause is just, and the Lord will guide and direct us and bring us off triumphant in the end.
“I testify that if we shall look to the First Presidency and follow their counsel and direction, no power on earth can stay or change our course as a church, and as individuals we shall gain peace in this life and be inheritors of eternal glory in the world to come. And I say this to you, my good brethren, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” (President Joseph Fielding Smith, “Eternal Keys and the Right to Preside,” General Conference, April, 1974).
In an address titled “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet,” Ezra Taft Benson gave us these accompanying truths:
“The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.
“God’s revelation to Adam did not instruct Noah how to build the Ark. Noah needed his own revelation. Therefore the most important prophet so far as you and I are concerned is the one living in our day and age to whom the Lord is currently revealing His will for us. Therefore the most important reading we can do is any of the words of the prophet contained each month in our Church Magazines. Our instructions about what we should do for each six months are found in the General Conference addresses which are printed in the Church magazine.
“Beware of those who would set up the dead prophets against the living prophets, for the living prophets always take precedence. . . .
“. . . it is the living prophet who really upsets the world. “Even in the Church,” said President Kimball, “many are prone to garnish the sepulchres of yesterdays prophets and mentally stone the living ones.” (Instructor, 95:527.)
“Why? Because the living prophet gets at what we need to know now, and the world prefers that prophets either be dead or worry about their own affairs. Some so-called experts of political science want the prophet to keep still on politics. Some would-be authorities on evolution want the prophet to keep still on evolution. And so the list goes on and on. . . .
“There will be times when you will have to choose between the revelation of God and reasoning of men—between the prophet and the professor.”
President Benson also added this wide counsel which each of us should apply to ourselves:
“How we respond to the words of a living prophet when he tells us what we need to know, but would rather not hear, is a test of our faithfulness. . . .
“If we want to know how well we stand with the Lord then let us ask ourselves how well we stand with His mortal captain—how close do our lives harmonize with the Lord’s anointed—the living Prophet—President of the Church, and with the Quorum of the First Presidency” (President Ezra Taft Benson, “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet,” BYU Address, February 26, 1980).
Each person in the world who hears the proposition that God has again sent prophets to teach and lead mankind must make a decision whether it is true or false. That decision will largely determine his or her standing before God. Remember that prophets, when inspired by the Holy Spirit, speak for God. To reject a true prophet is to reject the true God. To accept a true prophet is to accept the true God.
Every six months, the prophet and apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gather in what is called General Conference to give talks on Gospel doctrine. They speak of the Lord, His Atonement and resurrection, His divinity and perfection, His right of Kingship over the earth, and the reality that He is returning to His earth sooner than later. They speak of the central importance of families and marriage to our Heavenly Father’s great Plan of Salvation. They speak of specific points of doctrine, whether it be baptism, prayer, scripture study, and so forth. I have never gone away from a Conference without feeling uplifted, strengthened, and more committed to follow Jesus Christ.
This April 4 and 5 will be the next General Conference of the Savior’s Church. His prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, will preside and address the world. Living apostles will speak and share their testimonies and instruct the humble Saints of God throughout the earth. I invite you, dear reader, to tune in and prayerfully watch the broadcasts. Listen to the Holy Spirit and see what He prompts you to do about the messages. Investigate the Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-day Saints and read The Book of Mormon. You will be uplifted and inspired if you do so. If you are reading this article after April 4 and 5, fear not, the Church has a massive archive system housing the General Conference addresses of the past fifty years on its website https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/
The Lord Jesus Christ is shining light into the world at an increasing rate. The Devil is also belching out mists of darkness at an unprecedented pace. We must stay close to the Spirit, hold to the commandments, walk on the covenant path the Savior walked, and bind ourselves to God’s will if we are to survive these days. Thankfully, we don’t have to do it alone – the Lord has given us living prophets to show us the way to our Redeemer.
Jesus is the light and life of the world. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the One who presides over the earth and the One who shows His prophets how to direct mankind for their benefit. If we wish to come to Jesus, we must first come to His prophet, who at this time is President Russell M. Nelson. It is he who holds the keys of presidency in the Holy Priesthood. It is at his authorization that local missionaries and authorities can baptize us into the Lord’s Church, confer upon us the gift of the Holy Ghost, and initiate us into higher saving ordinances – such as the ordinance of eternal marriage – in the Lord’s temples. What a blessing!
I close this article with my witness of Jesus Christ and His servants. Jesus Christ died for our sins. He bled and suffered and died so that you and I could repent, improve, and eventually receive exaltation in our Heavenly Father’s Kingdom. We are the literal sons and daughters of our Eternal Father and Jesus is our Elder Brother and Only Begotten Son of God in the flesh. They love us with a familial bond and wish the best for us. They love us more than we can fathom; more than we love ourselves or our dearest relatives. Out of this great love, the Lord has sent prophets into the world in our day. Of this I testify with all my heart and invite you to investigate my claims for yourself.
Go to the Father in prayer and ask Him, in the name of Jesus Christ, whether or not this is true. If you are humble and prepared to act on any revelation you might receive, you will receive it. And then you will know for yourself, independent of all other sources, and in the face of opposition and mockery, that Jesus lives and that prophets also live and speak in His holy name.
I close with a statement from President Russell M. Nelson, the Lord’s prophet, which I encourage everyone to read and heed:
“Our message to the world is simple and sincere: we invite all of God’s children on both sides of the veil to come unto their Savior, receive the blessings of the holy temple, have enduring joy, and qualify for eternal life.
“I bless you to raise your voice in testimony, as I do now, that we are engaged in the work of Almighty God! Jesus is the Christ. This is His Church, which He directs through His anointed servants. I so testify, with my expression of love for each of you, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen” (President Russell M. Nelson, “Let Us All Press On,” General Conference, April, 2018).
March 19, 2020