Saturday, August 6, 2011

Follow the Prophet (Kiley, It's a long one, sorry)

Dear Kiley,

So, I've talked about life (and death) with you. I'm sure I've bored you somewhat, lol! But I wanted to shift topics. Death is such a gloomy subject anyway. The next thing that I wanted to talk about with you was what I perceive as inconsistencies with the Mormon prophets.

As always, I'm not some expert on Mormon history or anything. Just a guy that reads a fair amount, ha ha! So, I want to draw a comparison between Joseph Smith and other prophets from things I've noticed.

When I served a mission, I was taught to encourage people to ask questions about why God did certain things in the past but not now to get them to conclude that God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow so there are prophets still on the Earth and that the ancient church is the same as the modern church. This tool of asking questions is what I wish to employ now.

From what I've observed, prophets maintain and have the gift of discernment, prophecy, the ability to decipher and understand languages lost and unknown, to tap into any knowledge they need, and heal the sick. Essentially, a prophet is superhuman. An LDS prophet has the ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound...well, something like that.

Joseph Smith, the prophet of the Restoration, is credited for translating the Book of Mormon from Reformed Egyptian (a language lost and unknown to the modern world...and as far as I know it is still lost and unknown) into Old English with thees and thous. He was able to speak in tongues and did so on multiple occasions in front of witnesses. He cast out devils. Received revelations for countless individuals, saw visions of the afterlife and judgment, spoke with angels, healed the sick, and even saw and conversed with God the Father and God the Son. These certainly could qualify as miracles. We will ignore, for the purpose of this topic, the accuracy or even truthfulness of these events and abilities. He predicted the Civil War and how it would start in South Carolina. That prophecy was about thirty years before the actual event. 

Joseph Smith was the prophet of the Restoration. So why have things changed? In all the Sunday School classes I've had, I have heard all the amazing and wondrous things that Joseph Smith did. He was bad ass. But then Brigham Young comes along and others follow after. Spencer W. Kimball comes along and in 1979 receives a revelation to permit all worthy males the right to the priesthood (prior to that, black men that had ancestry from Africa could not hold the priesthood). Prophets after that just continue on, boring and mundane. The stories that are shared about other prophets pail in comparison to Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith healed people that had malaria when they members of the Mormon community were in Illinois. He was in the presence of Jesus in the Kirtland Temple. Honestly, the miraculous stories of Joseph Smith go on and on. I'll refrain from mentioning them and move on to my next point.

I cannot help but ask the following questions, then, concerning prophets. Why, did the Church not purchase or seek to translate Dead Sea Scrolls once they were discovered or at any point after? Were they not considered sacred? Did they no longer consider it the role or calling of the prophet to translate such ancient texts that are connected to Bible? Why is it that the prophets no longer translate languages? Why is the Book of Mormon translated into different languages by experts and not by the hand of the prophet? Why is it that the Mormon Church does not announce revelations about amazing doctrines? Why is it that Joseph Smith seems to be the only prophet that did this (the exception perhaps being Brigham Young's Adam-God theory. Kimball's revelation was more of a change of policy than new revelation where doctrine is changed so dramatically that it fundamentally alters things). I remember countless times of sitting in the Priesthood Session of General Conference wondering if the Prophet was going to announce some new and wondrous revelation. Why are there no longer stories of prophets administering to the sick, receiving revelations to be published for the saints to feast their eyes on? Why is it that prophets no longer prophecy about things? Prophetic utterances today seem mundane and...well, not prophetic.

I have heard others claim that the reason these things no longer happen is because it's not needed. The prophet doesn't need to translate the Dead Sea Scrolls because people can do it without prophetic assistance. I've also heard the prophet is busy. So what then, does a prophet do? Hold meetings and participate in the rituals of the Church and that's that? I don't recall Elijah attending or holding meetings to discuss church policy. But perhaps the writers of the Bible thought it not faith-promoting to mention that "Verily, Elijah did slumber most peacefully in the meeting on Weights and Measures of Israeli Public Policy. Yea, he did sleep mightily and snore mightily until some servant nudged him. Whereupon, Elijah, servant of God, did wake up mid-snore and listen for a few seconds more before dozing off." I'm sure that's what it was. They decided that such stories would put the readers to sleep as well.

It seems to me that prophets today do very little that is traditionally recognized as prophetic. It seems like the song "Come, Listen to a Prophet's Voice" just means "Listen to this old guy. He's a riot...ok, well, he'll at least put you to sleep with his monotone voice...but come anyway...please?!"

It seems to me that all new religions have a bursting of ideas, revelations, and news to be shared from the divine to its mortal mouthpiece. But then, after that, it's just a steer the course and don't rock the boat with new ideas. The Mormon Church claims to be a Church of Revelation but it seems to be nothing more than a treat of well described policy and PR moments and little else. Is this all God had to say to us in this period of Restoration? All has been restored and that's it? God has no comment no the treatment of women except in polite and rather boring church policy statements? God isn't that concerned with the constant suffering of His children in Africa and throughout the world? Perhaps not since those people are probably not tithe-payers. God cared little for the hundreds and thousands of gay men, prostitutes, and drug users that were killed early on in the AIDS epidemic? God probably hated them since they weren't following Jesus anyway. God just has nothing to say anymore that matters?

So the heavens are closed? The prophets don't care anymore or don't care to ask God anymore? Why is it that there is such a disparity between Joseph Smith and the men that followed after as prophets of the Mormon Church?

Your friend,
That Crazy MoFo


  1. Funny... I just wrote a post about modern prophets. Thanks for your thoughts. I have wondered similar things.

  2. You have not bored me but I do agree that in some ways death was a very gloomy subject. I’m glad to be moving on to men that lie pathologically prophets. Not sure Mormons believe they are superhuman, but they certainly believe that they talk directly to god… (Yes, Book of Mormon Musical reference intended there… )

    I love the question that you pose about what prophets do today. They are definitely not as magical or powerful as they should be… Back in the days when I stilled believed I used to think and hear others say the same thing - those miracles and revelations still occurred but were sacred and no longer shown to the public and the unfaithful… Now a days though Benson moved Books of Mormon. Hinckley built temples. Somewhere in the Kingdom of God I imagine that Monson is administering to widows… (I’m forgetting Hunter in there aren’t I? Well, he was only prophet for like 10 months right?! Clearly not enough time to be remarkable.)

    Seriously though for a church that claims continuing revelation why has there been nothing for decades? In fact why is there actually a dumbing down of the material that is coming out of General Conference...