We’ve explored some of the answers members have posted on the mormon.org site in the church’s new profiles campaign.  So far, we’ve discussed member answers to questions about polygamypriesthood, politics, and parenting.  Today, let’s see what members had to say about prophets.

Here’s the question:  Do you really believe there is a prophet like Moses alive today?

My initial reaction is that this is a weird way to word this question, but I suppose it was done because “Moses” is probably the only Biblical prophet most people know by name (who does not know the story of Moses leading the animals onto the ark?).

First, the “official” answer given on the site:

Throughout history, God has chosen prophets, such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, and others, to teach the gospel and direct His Church (Amos 3:7). It is no different today. We all need God’s guidance in a world that is sometimes confusing. Because God loves His children, He continues to send living prophets. Joseph Smith (1805–44) was the first prophet of our time. Thomas S. Monson is God’s chosen prophet today.

Just as God led the Israelites out of slavery and to a better place through His prophet Moses, He leads His children today into happier, more peaceful lives when they choose to follow His living prophet. We invite you to listen to the words of living prophets and consider how knowing God’s will can benefit your life.

Answers I generally liked:

  • Moses as an allegory for a prophet.  It’s such a stretch to compare someone as highly mythologized as Moses with someone who is as contemporary as Pres. Monson.  To do so, you have to point to the man in the Moses myth or the myth in the mantle.  It can be tough to pull off, but many here do it pretty well.
    • “Who was Moses… a righteous man, not a perfect man.”
    • “Just as Moses’ people needed guidance in his day, we need guidance in ours as well.”
    • “You must remember that although Moses was a great prophet, he was a man. God calls men to be prophets.”
    • “Without Moses to lead them as a living prophet, would the Children of Israel have been led out of Egypt? They followed the prophet.”  This was a nice twist on the meaning of “follow the prophet” implying following a person’s example and doing what they do rather than doing what they say.
    • “He has been taught the teachings of God, like Moses. He has embraced God, like Moses. He’s committed himself, his life, his abilities, his heart, to God, like Moses.”
    • “Well, I’m not sure how much like Moses he is, but we certainly do have a living prophet today.”  Hear, hear.  Stupid question.
    • “In 1831, a Methodist preacher named Ezra Booth asked Joseph Smith Jr., “Do you believe that you are a prophet, like Moses or Abraham?” The Prophet replied, “I don’t think that what you believe and what I believe are all that different. You believe that God used to talk to man. I believe that he still does.””  So, apparently someone else asked this same stupid question 160 years ago.
  • Practical & personal.  Those that shared personal thoughts about the benefits of having a prophet were generally on point, IMO.  Generally, I was OK with testimony bearing here under that same umbrella, although I’m not sure how well that works in this medium and for a non-Mormon audience.  My favorites were those who linked the topic to their own conversion story.
    • “I know as I have followed God’s living prophet it has brought peace and hope into my life.”
    • “That is probably one of the first things I marveled at, the knowledge that a wise and loving Heavenly Father could show His love by this simple act. What parent would not want to guide their children back and what better way to show His love than to still speak to His children today. The heavens are still open and in my mind it would be odd to think otherwise.”
    • “He receives revelation directly from God. Revelation that has guided my life on a personal level.”
    • “Yes! This was something I was so excited to learn about when I was investigating the church and being taught by the missionaries. Growing up while attending a religious school, I was always taught about the prophets of the Old Testament and amazed at what incredible men they must have been.”
    • “Yep. This is one of the things that I understood and looked for in a church. I grew up reading the Bible and loved reading how regularly and consistently God spoke through his prophets so his people received clarity and direction, as a people, when they chose to listen. People say that God stopped talking to men as a group after Jesus’ death, but that’s not so.”
    • “I have had the privilege of meeting in person President Thomas S. Monson, current Prophet. He is a joyful person. He makes everyone feel like they are his friend.”
    • “Before I joined the church in college, I didn’t think prophets would still be used by God in this day. No other church I had studied had this belief.  In my process of joining the church, I prayed to know if there was actually a prophet, like Moses, on the earth today. Not surprisingly, I received direct revelation from God that there was, in fact, a prophet, and he was at the head of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
  • Personal revelation caveat.  I liked those few who remembered to mention the fact that all members of the church are entitled to their own revelation for themselves, and to be able to discern truth through the spirit, not just blindly follow others.
    • “My personal prayers guide my own personal life, but the prophet’s counsel guides the whole membership.”
    • “When God wants YOU to know something, he’ll tell you personally if you’re listening. When God wants THE WORLD, collectively, to know something, he’ll pick someone, and tell him–simple as that.”  I thought this was the most straightforward answer.
    • “This does NOT mean that God doesn’t talk to me. The Holy Ghost still gives personal revelation to everyone who remains worthy since their baptism and who does the work to pay attention.”  Another favorite.
    • “That is not to say that I am exempt from working on my own relationship with God. Just as the prophet receives direction from God regarding the doctrines of the church, the organization of the church, and instruction related to the church and priesthood, I too must seek inspiration and instruction from God.”

Answers I didn’t like so much, or that might sound strange to non-Mormons:

  • Culty-sounding stuff.  Even just saying the prophet speaks for God can sound a little nutty to those not of our faith without some level of caveat attached.  Any sort of prophet-worship also falls into this camp.
    • “Follow the prophet. He knows the way!”  Cue the spooky music.
  • Apocalyptic answers.  These are answers that sound like “crazy uncle” talk about the world ending.  Why is it that we think Evangelicals are nuts for raving about the Rapture, but we hear similar things at church sometimes without raising an eyebrow?
    • “I believe that as we near the end of the world that there is no greater time for us to have spiritual direction from a chosen servant of the Lord then (sic) right now.”
  • “The world is bad.”  These answers sound like fear-mongering and tribalism.  Inside the tribe, they sound OK.  Outside the tribe, they don’t ring true because those outside the tribe don’t generally think the world is full of invisible dangers.
    • “It gives me great comfort in this troubled world that I can look to the leaders of the LDS Church and know that I can hear the mind and will of Jesus Christ.”  Implying you can’t get your own revelation, of course.
    • “today’s world is a vast maze of concerns that could be very confusing without a prophet to see ahead and warn us of impending danger.”  This sentence got more and more alarming as it went.
    • “There is a constant attack against the commandments God has given to us. Immorality, violence, swearing, and an obsession with wealth are hugely common. There are wars and natural disasters like no other time on this earth. God’s commandments have not changed, but an increasing amount of people are fighting against them. The prophet today helps to protect the faithful members of the church from the influence of those fighting against God’s commandments.”  This one sounds a bit on the culty side to me.  Also, I suggest this person needs to crack open a history book based on some of these claims.
    • “Prophets were around in the Old Testament to lead people, to guide them, and to protect them from the evils of the world. Great prophets like Moses, Abraham, and so on all provided the people of the time with valuable knowledge that was tailored for them to combat the temptations of a wicked world. How much more wicked is our world today?”  I don’t know.  How much?
  • Unintentional doctrinal mistakes.  I didn’t see any biggies here, which is good.
    • “Our prophet is a wonderful man.  I have met one of his apostles, and the spirit around them is incredible.”  Wait, the prophet has apostles?  I thought they were Jesus’ apostles.  Also, if you’ve only met one, how do you know what the spirit around “them” is like?
  • Mormon-speak alert!  Many of these FAQs have highlighted some words we hear a lot at church but almost nowhere else.
    • MouthpieceDoes anyone else on the planet use this word?  What is a mouthpiece anyway?  It sounds like dentures.

What I might say:

  • The likeness between our current prophet and Moses is best taken allegorically as the challenges faced in our day differ from those faced in a mythologized historical tradition.
  • Prophets are people too.  We don’t believe they are infallible.  Unlike Moses, TSM has not killed any Egyptians (so far as I know), but he is also not perfect.
  • Everyone is entitled to the guidance of the holy spirit and direct personal revelation.
  • While prophets lead the church, they sometimes speak as a man, and sometimes inspired.  It’s up to us to discern the difference through our own personal revelation.
  • Prophets provide advice, guidance and inspired insight.  A prophet doesn’t absolve anyone from responsibility for their own choices and actions.

What did you think?  Do you agree it’s weirdly worded?  How would you answer this question?  Discuss.