The root of this is jealousy and envy. But it is completely unfounded. Revelation received by another person has no limiting effect on what personal revelation you can receive. The Lord is willing to share with all. However, it is predicated on the same principle. If the leader were willing to humble himself and seek in the prescribed manner, he would receive the same result. Everyone is invited. No one is excluded.
Nicodemus came to Christ in the dark, and Christ taught him the same way He taught others. There are some sources which suggest Nicodemus was ultimately converted. If he was, there is little doubt that after his conversion, the spiritual life he had as one of the Lord’s disciples was greater than that of a member of the Sanhedrin. The Lord was not unwilling to share with the Sanhedrin, but they were unwilling to receive Him. When one (Nicodemus) changed his heart, the Lord came to him.
This seething distrust and accusation of any who claim to experience the miraculous leads in turn to denouncing the gifts of God. When denounced, such gifts depart from us. We no longer hear about miracles, healings, visions, tongues, visitations, or other gifts experienced by those we read of in scripture. Therefore, when the presence of the gifts end, the record of scriptures ends. There is nothing to add, and so nothing is added.
Eventually the end of this spiritual journey into the dark is to denounce all things coming from the “hand of God.” No “miracle wrought by the hand of God” will be acknowledged, but will be denounced instead. The position becomes unalterable: “God is not a God of miracles anymore.” You must trust leaders and leadership. You will be deceived if you profess revelation or the miraculous. And so the approach into hell is carefully laid by argument, emotion and fear.
Nephi foresaw this. He is warning us against it. We should not be seduced into thinking God has finished His work. He hasn’t. He is in the middle of fulfilling promises made generations ago to the “fathers.” We inherit from the Lord the promises He made to them. Now is a great day of miracles, visits, visitations, dreams, and healings. The heavens are open, if you will ask with a sincere heart having real intent, He will manifest the truth unto you. God remains the same. His blessings remain predicated upon the same conditions.
Seek. Ask. Knock. It will all be unfolded to you. He is no respecter of persons.
There is a great deal of unrest in the church. Oftentimes the result is inactivity. I believe that is a mistake. If all those who continued to care about the Gospel persisted in attending meetings and serving, it would do more to help the church than drifting into inactivity. Those who are sensitive to the troubles which beset the church need to be there, faithfully serving. If only those who are blinded to the troubles remain active, then the organization becomes narrower and narrower, less and less aware of its situation, and prone to continue in a course that will discard yet more of what matters most.
We’re all in this together. This is our dispensation. You are responsible for helping it be preserved and passed along to the rising generation. Do not grow weary in this fight. We share a common enemy, and it is not the leadership of the church. It is the one who stirs people up to anger. (2 Ne. 28: 20.)
“If the first presidency and the twelve really operate much like the lay members do, how then do you reconcile the MEANING of the words: Prophet; Seer; and Revelator. Aren’t these gifts unusual and set apart for the highest positions of the church? Wouldn’t one necessarily receive visions and dreams to qualify as a Prophet, Seer, or Revelator? How else would one SEE into the past, or the future, let alone clearly understanding the present? How do you reconcile the current revelatory state of the leadership with the meaning of the words, prophet, seer, and revelator?”
Inside the Church the current interpretation is that the “office” has associated with it a “title” set out in scripture. The “office” of the President of the High Priesthood (D&C 107: 65-66) , who is the President of the Church, also bears the “title” of “prophet, seer and revelator.” (D&C 107: 91-92.) The current interpretation of these verses is that the possessor of the office is entitled to the title of “prophet, seer and revelator” by virtue of office alone. Therefore, nothing more is needed in current church usage other than possession of the office, which alone gives the possessor of the office the title accorded to the office. So, no, our current terminology does not require something other than office.
It is possible to read the words of the verses differently, of course. First, the words we have adopted as they appear in scripture are not actually “prophet, seer and revelator” but are instead: “a seer, a revelator, a translator, and a prophet.” Those are different words and include in the phrase “a translator” in addition to “seer, revelator and a prophet.” We have dropped the word “translator” from the title we now use.
Second, it is possible that the following words may be viewed to mean something different than the way we currently read them, “to be like unto Moses— Behold, here is wisdom; yea, to be a seer, a revelator, a translator, and a prophet,” (D&C 107: 91-92). They could be read to mean that before you fill the office of President of the High Priesthood you must first locate “a seer” who is also, by definition, “a revelator” and “a translator” who is undoubtedly therefore “a prophet” and, having found such a person, you are to sustain him into the office. The office doesn’t make the man, but the Lord makes a man into such an instrument, and having done so then the church is to put him into the office. There are of course those who have these gifts. Many of them have no church office involving priesthood, because they are female. They may possess gifts, but they are disqualified for office. Then there are men who possess such gifts, but they may be living in South America, serving in a small branch, and completely unnoticed by the leadership, and therefore, never called.
The problem with the second point is that it invites near chaos. You would have dozens, hundreds or perhaps thousands of people who would step forward and make the claim that they are entitled to the office. Ambitious men who are either deceived or, worse still, cunning and dishonest, would seek to gain the office to further their ambitions. Such a parade of the deluded or the dishonest would be foisted upon the Saints every time the President died. Therefore, no matter how much merit you may think the second interpretation holds, it would be far more problematic to implement than the current interpretation and method.
The advantage of the current system is that the man who fills the vacancy is distinguished by how long he has held the church’s office of Apostle. Generally that means an elderly man, often suffering from the decline of advanced years and poor health. That means you are likely to have a man whose ambitions and exuberance are tempered by the maturity of age and the wisdom that comes from long life’s experience. It gives stability to the decision, as well as the person chosen.
If the second approach were to be adopted, then the choice would need to be made by the serving President before he left office (died), by making the choice of his successor as part of his official service. This is the method that the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith. (D&C 43: 3-4.) Joseph attempted this, but the one he chose to succeed him died with him (his brother Hyrum). So the office was left vacant and we had to sort it out.
There is another method that we haven’t tried, so far as I know. That would be to use “lots” to choose from every male in the church. This method was used to fill Judas’ vacancy in the original Twelve in Jerusalem. (Acts 1: 21-26.) The description there is ambiguous, but was intended to be random, unpredictable and not just a vote. It was a recognized way to choose someone. (See, e.g., 1 Ne. 3: 11.) It has been used to sort through the entire nation of Israel when all twelve tribes were assembled. Someone had stolen an idol, resulting in the withdrawal of the Lord’s Spirit from them in battle. The result was defeat for Israel and the death of many men. They needed to find the one who committed the offense. So they had to choose from the entire gathering of all twelve tribes. Beginning at the tribe level, they sorted through to find the right tribe (Judah). Then proceeded to sort through the tribe to locate the larger family involved (Zarhites). Then went through the family to find the individual involved (Achan). The whole thing is in the scriptures. (Joshua 7: 13-23.)
Such a system was uncontrolled by man, done by lot, completely random, but produced the right person. Left to God, it obtained God’s answer. Did with the sons of Lehi, and with the vacancy in the Twelve in the Book of Acts, too. There is no reason why such a system wouldn’t generate the Lord’s choice today.
If the President died without a successor having been designated, then random choosing using a lot system would put the choice in the Lord’s hands. But I suppose we don’t have the stomach to try it, particularly when we already have a system that seems to work for us.
Your question raises the issue of “authority” or office on the one hand, and “power” or gifts of the Spirit on the other hand. You should read President Packer’s talk in last General Conference for a recent statement by a respected church leader on that subject. I think I’ve commented on that talk enough already. As I re-read it this week I was again stirred by President Packer’s sagacity. I believe he is being candid, honest and giving the Saints the absolute best advice and counsel he can at this time.
Interesting subject. Something worth contemplating. Perhaps there will come a time when we are able to implement the system in D&C 43. Or when we put the Lord’s hand to work by using lots to choose a President. Though I do not expect to see any change made during my life.