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Prophet, Seer, Revelator

I was asked this question:

“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.

Be of good cheer

 In Luke 22: 54-62 there is this account of the night when Christ was taken captive:
 
Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest’s house. And Peter followed afar off. And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them. But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him. And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not. And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not. And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean. And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.

 
President Kimball cautioned about “judging” Peter’s motives and even suggested that no cowardice was involved when he denied Christ three times.  (See Peter, My Brother.) http://emp.byui.edu/marrottr/GenlAuthorities/PeterMyBrother.pdf
 
I’m not interested in judging Peter.  But I am quite interested in this incident, the Lord’s actions, and the implications for us.
 
The hall in which this took place was large enough to have separate groups and conversations in it.  But it was still intimate enough that Peter’s raised voice in the third denial could be heard across the hall where Jesus was being held.  Matthew added that Peter not only denied Christ, but also cursed as he did so. (Matt. 26: 74; see also Mark 14: 71.)  When, therefore, the Lord heard this loud outburst accompanying Peter’s final cursing denial in that raised voice, “the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter.”
 
It was that “look upon Peter” that provoked Peter’s response.  Peter did not remember the Lord’s earlier comments until His “look upon” him.  Then promptly “Peter went out, and wept bitterly.” 
 
Now consider this – Here you have Christ’s chief apostle and leader whose entire demeanor changes from gruff, loud cursing and denial of the Lord into bitter weeping, because the Lord “looked upon” him.
 
If you can get this picture firmly in your mind, then you may understand this scripture: 
 
Then will ye longer deny the Christ, or can ye behold the Lamb of God? Do ye suppose that ye shall dwell with him under a consciousness of your guilt? Do ye suppose that ye could be happy to dwell with that holy Being, when your souls are racked with a consciousness of guilt that ye have ever abused his laws?  Behold, I say unto you that ye would be more miserable to dwell with a holy and just God, under a consciousness of your filthiness before him, than ye would to dwell with the damned souls in hell.  For behold, when ye shall be brought to see your nakedness before God, and also the glory of God, and the holiness of Jesus Christ, it will kindle a flame of unquenchable fire upon you.”  (Mormon 9: 3-5.)
 
Peter literally experienced the bitterness of hell in that disappointed glance from the Lord.  It came from recognizing of how great a disappointment he was to the Lord.  It was produced by a mere glance from Christ.  He who loved all of us the most was the One whom Peter in return cursed and denied.  When he saw himself through the Lord’s disappointment, it made Peter bitter, filled with remorse, and caused him to retreat to weep alone.
 
We do not want to disappoint the Lord.   None of us want to see that same look from the Lord that He showed Peter.  We have opportunities to do what He asks us every day.  All of us do.  Little things, moment to moment, particularly if you look for them.  They matter.  Every thought, every word, every deed.  They matter.  Let them reflect credit upon your faith in Him.
 
I’m not saying be dour, long-faced or stoic.  Quite the contrary.  “Be of good cheer” was His oft repeated expression, even using it as a greeting on many occasions.  (See Matt. 14: 27; Mark 6: 50; John 16: 33; Acts 23: 11; 3 Ne. 1: 13; D&C 68: 6, among others.)  Cheerfully go about doing good, and trust in Him.  He will guide you.  He was happy.  He was cheerful.  So are those who know Him best.  (See, e.g., JS-H 1: 28.) 
 
There isn’t a single thing you do for His sake which He will forget or fail to credit to you.  Nor is there a single mistake which He will remember and hold against you, if you repent.  (D&C 58: 42.)
 
You should let your thoughts be such that you will be confident in His presence.  (D&C 121: 45.)  Be of good cheer.

The Sealing Power

I’ve explained the sealing authority in the last three chapters of Beloved Enos.  An example of the Lord and His servant Enoch conversing, and the Lord requiring the sealing authority to be used is found in Moses 7: 6-7, which read as follows:
And again the Lord said unto me: Look; and I looked towards the north, and I beheld the people of Canaan, which dwelt in tents.  And the Lord said unto me: Prophesy; and I prophesied, saying: Behold the people of Canaan, which are numerous, shall go forth in battle array against the people of Shum, and shall slay them that they shall utterly be destroyed; and the people of Canaan shall divide themselves in the land, and the land shall be barren and unfruitful, and none other people shall dwell there but the people of Canaan;
Enoch was shown the events, but the Lord required the voice of Enoch to speak and “prophesy” what was to happen.  The voice of one holding this authority is the same as the Lord’s own voice.  (D&C 1: 38.)  The “Word” needed to be employed, because it is by the “Word” that all things are established.
The “Word” comes through Christ, who has in Him all power and authority.  It was and is through Him that others are called upon from heaven, given authority, and commissioned to speak and make the Word of God live again on the earth.
Therefore, in the beginning the Word was, for he was the Word, even the messenger of salvation— The light and the Redeemer of the world; the Spirit of truth, who came into the world, because the world was made by him, and in him was the life of men and the light of men.”  (D&C 93: 8-9.)
It was by employing the “Word” that the creation of this earth rolled into order at the direction of the “noble and great” souls who were the “Gods” or the “Elohim” in the beginning.  As Abraham recorded:

And they (the Gods) said: Let there be light; and there was light. And they (the Gods) comprehended the light, for it was bright; and they divided the light, or caused it to be divided, from the darkness. And the Gods called the light Day, and the darkness they called Night. And it came to pass that from the evening until morning they called night; and from the morning until the evening they called day; and this was the first, or the beginning, of that which they called day and night.  And the Gods also said” (Abr. 4: 3-6.)

It is through the Word, or sealing authority, spoken by one sent from God, that salvation and exaltation are made available to mankind.  It was intended that this authority to speak in His name might belong to every man in this dispensation:  “But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world; That faith also might increase in the earth; That mine everlasting covenant might be established;”  (D&C 1: 20-22.)   This was not to be a time when there would be a famine in hearing the Word of the Lord.  (cf. Amos 8: 11.)  Rather it was to be a time of great abundance, when every man would know the Lord.  (Heb. 8: 11; D&C 84: 98.)  This was to be the day when all would see visions and dream dreams, beholding the Lord.  (JS-H 1: 41; Joel 2: 28.)
For some, this IS a day of great plenty.  For others it remains a time of famine.  The Lord spoke truly that in our day two shall be together, and the one taken but the other left.  (Luke 17: 34-36; Matt. 24: 40-41; JS-M 1: 44-45.)  And why are they not taken? 
Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson— That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.  That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.” (D&C 121: 35-37.)
Whenever men possess the “word” from God, they necessarily speak it in plainness.  When men do not, history tells us they will assert the right to control, dominate and exercise authority over others to prevent the “word” from being spoken by anyone.  This is the consistent pattern found among the Jews at the time of Christ; among the Catholics when they obtain political dominance; and it is the pattern that we must not repeat in our own dispensation.  For we all share responsibility for how this turns out.  Nephi’s view of how we would perform was quite pessimistic.  (2 Ne. 28: 20-29.)  However, the group outcome needn’t ever be the individual’s outcome, even in Nephi’s prophetic “word” about our day.  (2 Ne. 28: 14.)

Books for sale – used

A friend of mine brought to my attention that there are “used” copies of my books available on the web for sometimes hundreds of dollars.  I was surprised.  Let me give some warning to people so no-one takes advantage of you.
 
First, there is absolutely no reason to pay anything more than what the Amazon.com book charges are to anyone anywhere.  The books are all still in print and you do not need to resort to buying them used.  Buy them new from Amazon and you’ll get a newly printed copy at the lowest price, other than shipping which they add on to the cost.
 
Second, if you live in Utah, you can buy copies at the same reasonable prices from either Benchmark Books on about 3300 South Main Street, or from a place called Confetti Books in Spanish Fork (whose address I do not have at the moment).  Neither of these stores mark the books up, and they don’t charge you shipping.  But you have to drive there to buy them.
 
Third, I am not trying to make money from book sales.  I work as an attorney for a living and writing is not a commercial endeavor.  Whatever royalties I earn are donated to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  So you buying a book I’ve written does nothing financial for me.

WWJD

Stopped shaving a few weeks ago, except for the neck.  Now I’ve got a bit of face hair, which feels like spiders are crawling all over my face.  I took a poll, figuring I’d get a vote to return to the orthodox visage.  To my surprise all the kids said “keep it.”  Even my wife says to leave it for a while.  So I’m going to keep the spiders for a while.
I’ve done this before, back when I made the annual trip to Sturgis.  I know that eventually there isn’t any feeling to a beard.  In fact, when you shave it off then you can feel the air movement on your face and that’s quite weird for a few days.  But I haven’t been to Sturgis for about 5 years or more, and so I hadn’t grown a beard for that long.
As an aside, when you go to Sturgis you ought to look the part.  The “brethren” there expect some effort to blend in.  Consequently, I have managed a fairly true ‘scooter-trash’ look when I make the effort.
As long as I have the chin-hair I need to dust off the Harley, get it inspected and licensed, and start riding again this summer.  It is, of course, the answer to the question: “WWJD?”  (What would Jesus drive?)  It’s environmentally friendly, leaves a small carbon footprint, quick, high-mileage, ….fun as hell, and pretty badass, too.  All the ingredients needed for transcendental transportation.
Steppenwolf sang the theme song to it all:

Get your motor runnin’

Head out on the highway;
look’in for adventure
and whatever comes our way……
I like smoke and lightning
Heavy metal thunder
Racin’ with the wind
And the feelin’ that I’m under…..
It’s a biker thing.  Can’t be explained.  Can be shared, though.  You start with face hair;  … then let it take you to its logical extreme.
Hmmmm……no wonder missionaries are clean-shaven.

Presiding Authority

When Joseph Smith died, the crisis in succession produced arguments from various contenders who claimed it their right to lead the Church.  Although no one argued that Section 107: 22-24 controlled the decision, ultimately the decision was that the Twelve Apostles held keys to lead the Church.  A few years later the verses in Section 107 just cited became the rationale for why the Twelve would lead.


This decision was further clarified by adoption of the rule that the senior (one who held office longest) Apostle would be the presiding authority and by virtue of that seniority would be the President.  Initially he was President of the Twelve.  Then when Brigham Young reformed the First Presidency after a few years, he became President of the Church.  Then in 1955 he became the living “prophet” as well.

Since the system has now reached a stable, orderly manner of choosing and recognizing whose right it is to preside over the church, what happens if another,  more senior Apostle happens along?  Whose right is it to preside if you are required to choose between direction that comes from the presiding authority of the church or direction that comes from John (who tarries in the flesh), (D&C 7: 1-4.) or Peter, James and John?  (D&C 27: 12)  Everyone presumes the messages from those who preside over the church on the earth and those who “tarry in the flesh” will be congruent, and that there is no conflict between the messages. But query what choice should be made if there is at least some inconsistency?  Upon whom does the seniority rest?  

A simpler question is what choice should be made between the Lord and those who preside in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I think all would agree that all church authorities are inferior to the Lord.  However, we also presume that there will be no conflict between the two.  What if there is at least some inconsistency?  

It is an interesting question to ponder.  Not that I have anything to add to your reflection on the matter.  Sometimes it is just interesting to consider a question.  Like I’ve said elsewhere, answers are less important than a good question to ponder from time to time.  In the pondering, new and important ideas can occur to you.

Debate is not necessary

I am not trying to make my mind up about Mormonism or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I have long ago sorted out my views.  They are not going to change.

Although my views are explained in this blog, I do not debate them.  You are welcome to have contrary views, to disagree and to think I am altogether incorrect.  But you shouldn’t waste the effort to try and persuade me to change my own view.

My testimony of Christ is informed both by what I have studied and what I have witnessed.  It has taken decades of devotion in study and living to obtain a stable, firm view of the Lord and His role in my life.  No one should expect to acquire an unchanging view of the Lord without paying a significant price in their time and effort.  I can try to help, give advice and make suggestions.   I can explain my views.  But, in the end, every person must determine for themselves what Christ means and how they intend to relate to Him.

I believe the truth exists independent of your view or my view.  Just because someone believes a false notion does not make it so.  Eventually we will all come into agreement by the things which we experience.  For most of the world, that will be some time after they are dead.

Debate is not necessary.  And I am just a lay member of the Church, without any reason for you to consider what I have to say.  Therefore, you ought to measure my views against the scriptures and the Spirit, and let the truth be the single standard for deciding to accept something.
I quoted a few ideas from Mark Twain in a post a while back.  You ought to re-read them if you don’t remember them.  They were chosen with some care.  They summarize ideas which I believe to be important.

Debate is not necessary

I am not trying to make my mind up about Mormonism or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I have long ago sorted out my views.  They are not going to change.

Although my views are explained in this blog, I do not debate them.  You are welcome to have contrary views, to disagree and to think I am altogether incorrect.  But you shouldn’t waste the effort to try and persuade me to change my own view.

My testimony of Christ is informed both by what I have studied and what I have witnessed.  It has taken decades of devotion in study and living to obtain a stable, firm view of the Lord and His role in my life.  No one should expect to acquire an unchanging view of the Lord without paying a significant price in their time and effort.  I can try to help, give advice and make suggestions.   I can explain my views.  But, in the end, every person must determine for themselves what Christ means and how they intend to relate to Him.

I believe the truth exists independent of your view or my view.  Just because someone believes a false notion does not make it so.  Eventually we will all come into agreement by the things which we experience.  For most of the world, that will be some time after they are dead.

Debate is not necessary.  And I am just a lay member of the Church, without any reason for you to consider what I have to say.  Therefore, you ought to measure my views against the scriptures and the Spirit, and let the truth be the single standard for deciding to accept something.
I quoted a few ideas from Mark Twain in a post a while back.  You ought to re-read them if you don’t remember them.  They were chosen with some care.  They summarize ideas which I believe to be important.

Most answers are in the scriptures

I’ve been reflecting upon a conversation I had with a  self-described “tax protester” who has not paid income taxes and is now facing legal issues as a result.  After a couple of days of reflection I had this considered response to this dilemma:
 
I use a particular method in determining what issues I need Divine direction to resolve and what issues I need no direction from the Lord to resolve.  If there is an answer in the scriptures, contained in the teachings of Christ, then I simply do not ask the question.  Instead I assume Christ’s teachings are intended to govern my conduct and I comply.  On the tax issue, for example, Christ did not resist paying taxes.  (Matt. 17: 24-27.)  Nor did Christ teach anything other than to pay taxes.  (Matt. 22: 15-22.)  Therefore, it would not occur to me to even ask the Lord about whether or not to pay taxes.
 
When it comes to asking the Lord about something on which His teachings are already clear, a person risks receiving permission to do what will ultimately instruct them by sad example that they ought to have followed His earlier teachings.  The best example of this is when Joseph requested he be allowed to let Martin Harris take the 116 pages and was told “no.”  He persisted, and despite having been told “no,” he asked again and was then told “yes.”  The “yes” was not because God had changed His mind, but because Joseph simply refused to learn by anything other than sad experience to respect God’s counsel.  (D&C 3; D&C 10: 1-30.)
 
Therefore, when there is already an instruction on point from the Lord, and we ignore it, the answer we receive may be for our benefit.  We may need to learn by sad experience what we might have learned instead by precept and wisdom from the Lord.
 
It is this kind of experience men repeat by failing to follow God’s counsel.  Then, when they might have avoided the sting which follows, they choose instead to suffer.  Oftentimes they will blame the Lord for the hardships they brought upon themselves, when, if they had hearkened to the Lord’s counsel in the first place, they would never have had to suffer.
 
This is why it is so important to study the scriptures.  If the answer is in there (and almost everything IS in there) and we do not choose to find it, but to inquire for a new revelation instead, we oftentimes doom ourselves to a sad experience.  His counsel should be heeded.  When we don’t heed, and ask instead for new or different guidance, we may be given permission to do what He has already told us to avoid.  This is one of the great lessons from the lost 116 pages.