Saturday, November 24, 2007

Prophets Are Not Always Church Leaders

Prophets Are Not Always Church Leaders
excerpt from "Thus Saith the Lord" by Duane Crowther

One important theme which is repeatedly set forth in the scriptures is that the gift of prophecy is not related to Church position, but is rather a blessing received by many lay members of the Church. By the same token, whether .or not a person holds a high calling in the Church is in no way a valid test of the veracity of his prophecy.

Scriptural examples to demonstrate these points are many and varied. Typical is the account of prophecies made by other individuals to Eli, the priest, who lived in the final days of the judges of Israel. Eli was, presum­ably, the head of the Church for he was the priest and keeper of the taber­nacle and "had judged Israel forty years."9 His sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were also priests, though they were wicked.'10 Eli held power and authority from God, and was able to grant blessings in the name of diety."11 Yet others prophesied to Eli, the Church leader.

An unidentified "man of God" came and rebuked Eli for failing to chastize his errant sons. He prophesied judgments upon the house of Eli, the death of both his sons, and that the Lord would raise up priests from another lineage to lead his people.12 The man of God's identity is unknown, but he did not stand as the leader of the Church, for that presumably was Eli's calling. A short time later, the Lord spoke to another individual, the young child Samuel, who repeated the prophecy he received to Eli:

Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle.
In that day I will perform against Eli all things which I have spoken con­cerning his house; when I begin, I will also make an end.
For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.
And therefore I have sworn unto the house of Eli, that the iniquity of Eli's house shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering for ever."13

In this instance, God used both an unidentified man and a small child as the spokesmen for prophecies which ultimately affected both a leader of the Church and the people at large. It should be noted that the Lord used the law of witnesses in this instance. Two separate individuals prophesied the same message to Eli.14

Later, while Samuel ruled as the head of the Church and as judge of Israel, a young man, Saul, was chosen to be a future king of Israel. As Saul journeyed with his servant,

A company of prophets met him, and the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them.
And it came to pass, when all that knew him before time saw that, behold, he prophesied among the prophets, then the people said one to another, What is this that is come unto the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?"15

In this instance Saul was able to prophesy, though he wasn't the leader of the Church.

Another prophetic incident of significance occurred during David's reign as king of Israel. After David's sin with Bathsheba and Uriah the Hittite, the Lord rebuked him through the prophet Nathan. Among other prophecies, Nathan warned David of the Lord's promise, "I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house. ..."16 A second witness also prophesied against David. The man was Shimei, a descendant of Saul. Shimei challenged David on the road, and prophesied that "the Lord hath delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom thy son; and, behold thou art taken in thy mischief, because thou art a bloody man."17 Again the Lord supported his word according to the law of witnesses; again men who were not the leaders of the Church18 made prophecies of events which ultimately affected the entire nation.

An assumption frequently made is that the authors of the prophetic books of the Old Testament were the constituted authorities of the Church in their eras. This, however, was not always the case. Some of them were even considered rebels by the religious leaders of Israel in their days. Jeremiah was one such prophet who stood outside of the Church. The established Church, through its priests, even attempted to put Jeremiah to death. 19 Micah, Amos, Hosea and Zephaniah were also prophets who were critical of corruption within the Church.

These Old Testament prophets did not speak as representing the church, but as representing the Lord. Though the prophets may have held the higher priesthood authority,20 there is no Biblical indication that the general church membership of that time was aware of it.

Many times the Lord spoke through the prophets to rebuke the estab­lished church which was still conveying the Priesthood authority.21 They were regarded as spokesmen of God by the righteous, but as enemies and nuisances by the wicked priestly officials. Hireling prophets were engaged to counter their words. Many times the people of Israel were unable to discern which prophets were foretelling the truth."22
Jeremiah spoke in strong words against the corrupt church and its hireling prophets, giving this warning to the people:
Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord.23

Hosea also spoke out against the false prophets entrenched within the Church, saying,
The days of visitation are come, the days of recompence are come; Israel shall know it: the prophet is a fool, the spiritual man is mad, for the multitude of thine iniquity, and the great hatred.
The watchman of Ephraim was with my God: but the prophet is a snare of a fowler in all his ways, and hatred in the house of his God.
They have deeply corrupted themselves, ... 24

Micah commented on the low caliber of the church officials in his day, and how they, though being evil, still insisted that God was with them:

The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the Lord, and say, Is not the Lord among us? none evil can come upon us."25

And Zephaniah observed, concerning the church in Jerusalem, that
Her prophets are light and treacherous persons: her priests have polluted the sanctuary, they have done violence to the law."26

These passages are cited in this context only to show that in some periods of Old Testament history, the prophets we recognize and study today were not the church leaders, but instead were outspoken critics of corrupt practices and officials within the church."27

These prophets represented the avenue of communication with God, while the priests within the church represented the ritualistic elements of daily living to the people and continued the line of priesthood authority. The prophets were regarded with varying degrees of respect as the right­eousness of the church membership fluctuated.

The Book of Mormon also depicts some of the prophets as being individuals who were not church leaders. For instance, the following is recorded concerning Gidgiddoni, a Nephite general who utilized the gift of prophecy during the era when Nephi was the head of the Church:
Now it was the custom among all the Nephites to appoint for their chief captains, (save it were in their times of wickedness) some one that had the spirit of revelation and also prophecy; therefore, this Gidgiddoni was a great prophet among them, as also was the chief judge.
Now the people said unto Gidgiddoni: Pray unto the Lord, and let us go up upon the mountains and into the wilderness, that we may fall upon the robbers and destroy them in their own lands.
But Gidgiddoni saith unto them: The Lord forbid; for if we should go up against them the Lord would deliver us into their hands; therefore we will prepare ourselves in the center of our lands, and we will gather all our armies together, and we will not go against them, but we will wait till they shall come against us; therefore as the Lord liveth, if we do this he will deliver them into our hands.28

Many more examples could be cited from the scriptures to show that prophets, in ancient times, were not always Church leaders. These, presum­ably, are sufficient to make the point. Church position is not the test by which the validity of prophecy is measured.


8. One of the inevitable results of being an author of several books on LDS themes is that telephone calls are frequently received in which questions are asked on various doctrinal subjects. Those who call are often seeking insights to resolve questions that have arisen in various Church classes, or are attempting to resolve difficulties on doctrine which have arisen in their area. This author has used the utmost care to avoid any involvement in those doctrinal disagreements, all of which are beyond his area of jurisdiction and personal responsibility. Yet the frequency of calls on questions related to matters of revelation clearly indicates that many Church members have questions and misunderstandings in this area, and that counsel given by various individuals is sometimes in direct conflict with the scriptures.
9. I Sam. 5:18. The actual existence of the Church among the Old Testament Israelites must be acknowledged. They had a definite, clearly-defined form of worship which they had received by revelation through a prophet, religious law to which they rendered obedience and by which they were governed and judged, and a covenant relationship with their God, Jehovah. The Abrahamic covenant, under which the Church still functions today, promised that "they shall bear this ministry and priesthood" (Abra. 2:9), that those who received the Gospel would be adopted into their race and be accounted the seed of Abraham (Abra. 2:10), and that through the Israelite lineage all the families of the earth would receive "the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal." (Abra. 2:11.)
10. They were "sons of Belial," or "worthless, lawless fellows." (I Sam. 2:12.) Among their sins was the committing of whoredoms with the harlots of Israel (I Sam. 2:22).
11. See I Sam. 1:17-20, in which Eli promised the barren mother of Samuel a son by the power of God.
12. I Sam. 2:27-36. Eli was a descendant of Ithamar, Aaron's youngest son. Years later, in fulfillment of this prophecy, the right to be high priest was taken from his line and restored to the line of Eleazar, the elder son of Aaron, through Zadok's appointment by King Solomon (I Ki. 2:35).
13. I Sam. 3:11-14. See verses 1-20.
14. See Jn. 8:17; Deut. 19:15; Mt. 18:16; II Cor. 13:1; D&C 6:28; D&C 128:3; Deut. 17:6; Num. 35:30; Heb. 10:28; I Tim. 5:19; D&C 42:80.
15. 1 Sam. 10:10-11.
16. II Sam. 12:11. See verses 1-14.
17. II Sam. 16:8. See verses 5-12.
18. Nathan was not the high priest; Zadok was the high priest. See II Sam. 8:15-17. Abiathar also served as high priest in the early days of David's reign, but he allied himself with rebels during the rebellion of Adonijah while Zadok remained faithful (I Ki. 1:7-8, 24-26).
In fulfillment of their prophecies, Absalom captured Jerusalem and David was an outcast for a short time until Absalom fell in battle (II Sam. 17, 18).
19. Jer.26:8-11.
20. Joseph Smith, on one occasion, is reported to have given this answer to the question, "Was the Priesthood of Melchizedek taken away when Moses died?":

All Priesthood is Melchizedek, but there are different portions or degrees of it. That portion which brought Moses to speak with God face to face was taken away; but that which brought the ministry of angels re­mained. All the prophets had the Melchizedek priesthood and were or­dained by God himself. (Smith, Joseph Fielding, comp., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City, Utah: The Deseret News Press, 1938), pp. 180-181. No original source is given.)
21. Joseph Smith taught, for instance, that "the Levitical Priesthood is forever hereditary-fixed on the head of Aaron and his sons forever, and,was in active operation down to Zachariah the father of John." Smith, Teachings (Ibid., p. 319. Original source listed only as "MSS. Historian's Office.")
22. See, for instance, Jer. 28.
23. Jer.23:16.
24. Hos. 9:7-9.
25. Mi. 3:11.
26. Zeph.3:4.
27. Their messages concerning the danger of prophets leading people astray will be considered in detail later in this book. See chapter 9.

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