It is one of my favorite topics as of late and it came up again in the extended debate that has been going on in my last several posts about revelation: God and his prophets want the church to be a Nation of Prophets.
Now it is true that the term “prophet” can be used to mean different things, so let me define how I am using it. I believe God wants all of us to be regularly and even routinely engaged in real dialogue with him; that when we ask him about future events he often gives us insights into them; that when we need any of the gifts of the spirit we are granted them. He wants us all to be so good at dialogic revelation that we have a testimony of him that is truly independent of any other person on earth.
I have talked about most of this before of course – how we all should be prophets, seers and revelators, on how to get started down that path, on actually seeking the gifts of the Spirit that are rightfully ours, on wasting our Mormonism if we don’t do that.
I am becoming convinced that Joseph Smith had specific tasks to accomplish as the opener of this great last dispensation and that as one of those tasks he consciously laid the foundation for the formation of a nation of prophets. Through him was restored the necessary authority, ordinances and covenants, gifts (especially the Gift of the Holy Ghost), and the necessary instructions for each of us to become prophets (in the sense I am using it). The task now is entirely left in our hands. If we fail to become mini-prophets I fear it will be to our own condemnation.
Sadly, many Latter Day Saints seems to be looking to church leaders to get their revelation for them. I believe that looking to leaders for this revelation is really defeating the entire purpose of our church membership. Attaining Eternal Life requires that we know God personally, not just follow someone who knows him. That means we must make the effort to communicate with Him and do what we must to hear back from him clearly and unequivocally. If that means we need to work even harder than Enos did then we should do it. I cannot think of a more important thing to do in life. How can we expect to sit down with Abraham, Moses, Joseph, or other great prophets if we never bothered to become good at getting revelation after all the tools have been provided for us?
Joseph and the early brethren seemed to know that nothing short becoming such prophets was sufficient truly know God. Consider this quote from the (formerly canonized) Lectures on Faith:
How do men obtain a knowledge of the glory of God, his perfections and attributes? By devoting themselves to his service, through prayer and supplication incessantly strengthening their faith in him, until, like Enoch, the brother of Jared, and Moses, they obtain a manifestation of God to themselves. (Q&A 2:147)
But on the other hand, in recent comments the idea was brought up that perhaps some church leaders have gone as far as to discourage us from becoming this nation of prophets I believe we are supposed to be. Roasted Tomatoes said:
It is my feeling that the church leadership has long decided not to encourage us to become a nation of prophets. We have been told to avoid inquiring about issues that are not already part of our well-known gospel package. Furthermore, those who do inquire and, why not, seek revelation that illuminates still-obscure issues about God are asked not to discuss their ideas in public and, if they persist, they are sometimes asked to leave. (See how understated I can be?)
He then suggested that if there has been a conscious decision to discourage us from becoming a nation of prophets it might have been a good one to stave off chaos.
It is a provocative question. I suspect a few misguided leaders have indeed discouraged our becoming a nation of prophets (though I haven’t searched for any hard evidence to support that suspicion). But I think that primarily we are reminded to not overstep our authority and stewardships with our revelations. But what do you think? Does God really want us to become a nation of prophets as I have suggested or not? Are we encouraged to become such by current leaders or not?