Sunday, May 30, 2021

What is a Prophet of God?

This week I was watching a video of a panel of active LDS women discussing their feelings about Heavenly Mother and the need for Her to take a more prominent role in the church. They were giving the listeners tips to help women also have a more equal role in the church. I watched with confusion and I decided to make a comment on their feed. Here is what I said:

"So the question that runs through my mind as I was watching some of these speakers is that if they believe the church is lead by a prophet of God who speaks with God and is lead by God and they sustain him as a Seer....A Prophet...and a Revelator...Why try to help "change the culture of the church"? The prophet hasn't received revelation to make women equal to men. Period. 

Can you imagine a general conference where all of the Elder's on the stand sat not with other men, but side by side with their wife? Can you imagine a general conference where for every husband that spoke, their wife spoke along with their husband? Can you imagine a bishopric sitting on the stand with their wives by their side?

To try to enact change in their respective wards only shows that they believe the President of the Church isn't receiving revelation. They don't truly believe in their heart that he is fully lead by God. But rather, he's "just a man who makes mistakes like all of us". 

Why say that the prophet will never lead you astray if he's also "just a man who makes mistakes just like all of us?"

There's a lot to talk about here. 

Recently I had three different conversations about President Nelson's twitter and Facebook post of him receiving the vaccine. He said that the vaccine was literally sent from God and the answer to what we prayed for and miraculous (link here). The answer from all three who were hesitant about getting the vaccine was that President Nelson was giving his opinion only. That he was not the Prophet of the church in that moment when he used words like "literal godsend", "miracle", and "prayed often for this". 

I have pondered on that many times, imagining what I would say and do if I had 16 million members of the church watching to see what I had to say about important things, like a "life saving vaccine". Would I casually put out my opinions on social media or would I be very cautious about what I wrote and said, knowing that people view the prophetic mantle as one step away from Christ?

I had to wonder, what is the role of a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator? Is he someone who can never lead us astray or someone who is just a man like us and makes mistakes? Is he someone who can tweet out opinions and then in other times speak revelation? What are his revelations as a Revelator? What has he seen as a Seer? What has he Prophesied as a prophet? 

The question that seems the simplest to ask: 

What is a Prophet of God?


Joseph Smith explained:

“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.“ (TPJS, p. 180)
Oliver Cowdery gave another answer in the charge he gave the Twelve which included the following:
"You have been ordained to this holy Priesthood...when you bear testimony that you have seen God, this testimony God will never suffer to fall, but will bear you out....You will therefore see the necessity of getting this testimony from heaven. Never cease striving until you have seen God face to face. Strengthen your faith; cast off your doubts, your sins, and all your unbelief; and nothing can prevent you from coming to God. Your ordination is not full and complete till God has laid His hands upon you. We require as much to qualify us as did those who have gone before us. God is the same. If the Savior in former days laid His hands upon His disciples, why not in latter days?" (DHC 2:195-196)
In Numbers 12: 5-6 it says:
“Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream."
If the Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever - what is His ancient pattern of calling Prophets? Are the Prophet's called by God Himself, or do the scriptures show they are assigned via seniority, or in other words, assigned to be Prophet because you are the person who has been serving in the 12 the longest? 

If we look at the ancient patterns in scripture, prophet's are always called by God directly and never because of age. 

When Joseph and Hyrum were killed, the church then went not by the will of God, but by the will of the people to vote in Brigham Young as President. 

The traditional LDS story is that after the death of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, the Church was left leaderless. All the members wanted to know who the new leader would be, so a meeting was called. Sidney Rigdon got up first and campaigned for himself to be the next leader. Then it was Brigham Young's turn, and as he spoke, the members witnessed a miracle. It looked to them as if Brigham Young transformed into Joseph Smith before their very eyes. Young looked like Joseph, he sounded like Joseph, and his mannerisms were like Joseph. Clearly this was a miracle to show the members who the next prophet should be.

The only problem is that no one talked about this amazing transformation when it happened. There are no journals, letters, or newspaper accounts written at the time of the meeting that would back up this amazing story. It is true that such a meeting took place. And it is true that both Sidney Rigdon and Brigham Young spoke at the meeting. But no account of the transformation was recorded at that time.

Historian Richard Van Wagoner has searched all diaries, journals, newspapers, and church records written shortly after the meeting and has found no evidence to verify the "miracle transformation" story. You can read more about his findings by reading his published report.

Brigham's speech was reported on in detail in both Nauvoo newspapers and recorded by scribes for the official church records. Hundreds of members present wrote about Brigham's persuasive argument in great detail in their private journals. Nowhere was there a mention of the miraculous or divine.

So where does the story come from? There is no recorded account of the transformation until many years later, after the Saints were settled in Utah. In 1857, 13 years after the speech, Albert Carrington is the first to mention the transformation. In a speech before a huge gathering of Saints, he said that he couldn't tell Brigham from Joseph that day when Brigham was speaking. Soon others were making the same claim.

Records even show that it was impossible for several members who made the claim to have witnessed the miracle to have even been in Nauvoo at the time of the meeting.

But not all members got caught up in the new story. Bishop George Miller, present at the gathering, later recalled that nothing supernatural had occurred on that day. Young made a “long and loud harangue,” Miller later wrote, for which I “could not see any point in the course of his remarks than to overturn Sidney Rigdon's pretensions.”

Richard Van Wagoner wrote an essay on this topic published in Dialogue, A Journal of Mormon Thought, Volume 28, No. 4, Winter 1995.

Van Wagoner details the evolving story showing how the myth of Brigham Young transforming into Joseph Smith was created. Van Wagoner uses the original diaries of the people in attendance at the meeting on August 8, 1844 providing evidence that those there neglected to note the miracle that occurred before their eyes, but later in life the Utah Mormons (including many that weren't even in attendance) describe the transfiguration they supposedly witnessed first hand in great detail. This is a wonderful illustration of how many of the religious myths were/are started.

The Church teaches that the power to seal on earth and in heaven is held by the President of the Church. They teach that the "keys of the kingdom" with authority to "bind on earth...and in heaven" (Matthew 16:19) are extended to the rest of the twelve as well (Matthew 18:18). Nephi was also given the sealing authority (Helaman 10:7). The church teaches, "These keys and sealing authority were restored to Joseph Smith and are held today by the President of the Church" (link here). 

Throughout all scripture, the sealing power is established between God and man in the first person; never through another. God Himself confers this power. Although Abraham had a covenant from God, raised Isaac in righteousness, and instructed him in the mysteries of God, Isaac received the power from God directly, and not from his father Abraham (Genesis 26:2-4). Isaac blessed Jacob but could not confer this power upon him. Jacob needed to covenant directly with God to obtain it. Esau sold the birthright to Jacob, but that did not confer the power upon him either. It is the Lord alone who knows a man's heart. It is the Lord alone who can determine when a man has proven he will obey even if the sacrifice of his own life is necessary. It is the Lord alone who knows when a man will never ask, do, or say anything contrary to His will. 

It was the Lord who covenanted with Jacob (Genesis 28: 10-22), despite the covenants with his father, Isaac, and his grandfather, Abraham had with God. Isaac and Jacob had authority conferred upon them by their fathers, but each one of them were individually required to connect with heaven. Only through that personal contact with heaven were their calling and election, sealing power and covenant established (D&C 121: 36-37). It is for this reason it is written "the God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob" and not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God appeared to and covenanted with each of them (Exo. 6:3, Lev. 26:42). The covenant with one did not allow their chosen son and heir to become qualified without also connecting to heaven. Inheritance from a righteous father will not accomplish it. The power is "without father and mother" and comes directly from God:
JST, Hebrews 7:
3 For this Melchizedek was ordained a priest after the order of the Son of God, which order was without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life. And all those who are ordained unto this priesthood are made like unto the Son of God, abiding a priest continually.
The claim made by Brigham Young that Joseph Smith had the capacity to confer such power independent of the Lord's direct involvement is a marvelous, even unprecedented claim. It would be the first time in the history of the workings of the Lord that this heavenly gift came from a man, not heaven. It would also be the first time a man who had not the heavens open to him was given control of sealing keys and the fullness of the priesthood. (i.e. Brigham Young see quotes here

We deceive ourselves into believing we are Zion, or at least on track towards establishing it. The truth is we are far from it. And getting farther away every day. We worship a false image rather than the living God. Our secret abominations are the conspiracies that run among us to manipulate, get gain, use religion to promote a cause, obtain commercial advantage, and wield political influence. We idolize men, rather than Christ. We have priestcrafts (the definition of priestcraft is to set yourself up for a light). We have those that set themselves up for a light rather than to bring again Zion. Any voice crying repentance (turn to Jesus Christ as the Author of your Salvation) is labeled as a dissenter and their words are condemned and attacked. We close our minds and become deaf and blind (2 Ne. 9: 31-32). Christ’s words must take precedent over the philosophies of men mingled with scripture, but they do not. We again mirror the ancient pattern Isaiah warned about (Isaiah 30): 
9 That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord: 

10 Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits:

11 Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.
It is a common occurrence for the Latter-day saints to put our hope and trust in the church instead of personal diligence in obtaining personal revelation. We assume that because the Brethren aren’t talking about certain topics then perhaps the Lord wants us to know very little about that particular doctrine. This can lead to being satisfied that we are a good-looking bunch, that we are the special, loved, and elect followers. This approach fails to offer a careful analysis of Joseph’s teachings. It avoids unpleasant information about the history of the church, and conceals all the dire warnings from the scriptures.

No matter how we view differing perspectives in history, two things remain constant. The first is that salvation has always been individual, and never collective. And second, any individual can approach God on the same terms as any other saved soul.

As Christ’s mortal ministry was closing, He promised it would not be the end. In one of His final sermons, He adopted the image of the “vine” used by Isaiah, Ezekiel and Jeremiah. Those prophets had condemned Israel for failing to bear fruit. His teaching explained how living “fruit” could return: (John 15: 1-8)
1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.

4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. 


Of course we all logically understand that exaltation doesn’t come merely because of membership, but we tend to act as if such were the case. This gospel does give us a special invitation to deeply study scripture, ask the Lord our questions, and bring forth fruit meet for repentance/righteous conduct. Additionally, it gives us all of the tools necessary to accomplish this grand task. As soon as we connect to the “true vine” we begin to“live” in Him, taking full advantage of His atoning sacrifice. Apart from Him, all of us are just “withered branches,” which will be “cast into the fire”. Even if we belong to a church He claims as His and have received all its ordinances, we are nothing apart from Him. Ancient Israel was His, but they were condemned for failing to bear fruit.

Christ commanded us to “abide” in Him, promising He in turn will abide in us. This is something more than the gift of the Holy Ghost. The Lord promised He intends to be personally involved in our lives. He is not a distant personality we learn about from scripture or testimony from others. He will directly and immediately abide in us. He said any branch claiming salvation cannot bear fruit of itself. The only way for fruit to appear is for you to abide in the vine. You must let Him take up His abode with you. He will come to you, as He has promised:
23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. (John 14:23) 

I sustain President Nelson as the one with authority to direct the church. It is only in the absence of prophesy, revelation, and seer-ship that I have been unable to sustain him as one possessing such. In the past I have sustained Church Presidents, "in the hope" that they would prophesy, see, and reveal. Each person must follow the Lord in the way He guides and directs them and this is part of my journey. 

In Christ Alone / Cornerstone / The Solid Rock


Caleb and Kelsey


  1. Anonymous31.5.21

    This is one of the best summaries of the church's supposed "authority" I've ever read! Thanks so much for the time and effort in publishing this post. Many blessings to you and your family.

  2. This was wonderful. In the past I might have been offended hearing things that are not in exact alignment with what the church teaches. However, my experiences over the past years have lead me to really delve into the scriptures and pray more earnestly. These thoughts and feelings have already been entering my mind, so it’s good to hear it explained so eloquently. Thank you!