I’m reprising old thoughts and then going to where they take me now.
Moses, Miriam, Elijah, Deborah and Isaiah are often considered the five great prophets of the Old Testament. Miriam is treated in the Bible as second only to Moses. Elijah is revered as unequaled in power and scope. Isaiah is regarded as the pre-eminent witness and Deborah as the greatest of the Judges.
They were all insiders. Moses a son of Pharaoh and the leader of Israel. Miriam as the head of the mid-wives and as second to Moses. Elijah as the head of the school of the prophets. Deborah as a judge. Isaiah as a pre-eminent courtier and member of the Court as well as the religious hierarchy.
And then we have Jerimiah.
As was noted in my ward’s Gospel Doctrine last Sunday, Jerimiah was a complete outsider. His confrontations were as much with the religious hierarchy as they were with the government.
Which led several people to ask, how can you tell the difference between a Jerimiah and Nadab and Abihu or similar challenges to the hierarchy?
Since I wasn’t prepared for that question to come up, and was only in the audience, I didn’t have an answer and just listened to the discussion, but it hit me that it combines some of the core of the Old Testament.
But I’ve thought a lot about it since.
As far as authority and challenges to it, the big points of the Old Testament are:
- Generally, when God speaks to prophets, “he said, “Listen to my words: “When there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams” or in riddles and communications hard to understand (Numbers 12:6, 8). A Moses is unusual – even Miriam wasn’t a Moses, nor was Elijah.
- Prophets and the official hierarchy can be fairly out of line. Consider Eli’s sons, followed by Samuel’s sons.
- Usually, rejecting the hierarchy for their wandering isn’t generally as justifiable as you might think. “for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me” (1 Samuel 8:7).
- Yet, every-so-often there is going to be a Jerimiah – but they are rare. God eventually pulls things back.
As far as a Church goes, the Old Testament reflects just how fluid things are as to form. Abraham didn’t have a home teaching companion (and neither do we these days). Sometimes the priesthood is limited to a family or a tribe, other times it spreads more widely.
Which tells me (making use of New Testament citations that are easier to use in some cases):
- We probably do not know as much as we think we know. “In fact, people who think they know so much don’t know anything at all” 1 Cor. 8:2. 1 John 3:2.
- God wants our trust more than our certainty. Luke 13:27. 1 Samuel 15:22. Luke 18:9-14
- Actions, love and caring for others, are more important than profession (statements of orthodoxy or belief). Matthew 7:23. 1 John 2:4. Isaiah 58:10-11
- We see through a glass, darkly, but that is part of free will and agency. . 1 Corinthians 13:12 and
I think we often stumble because we expect a Moses when we have “just” a “regular” prophet. Given that even Moses had his flaws (and Miriam and Aaron did not get very far when they tried to make a point about those flaws), I think that the underlying lesson is that there is a great deal of room for humility and patience.
As for Jerimiah, while I admire him, I also remembered that he spent most of his ministry imprisoned in wet holes in the ground and finished it being stoned to death in Egypt by people who ignored him except to use him as a talisman or express their frustrations with him after a holocaust destroyed the nation he was in.
Anyway, after looking at this from a couple years ago, I found myself thinking, what prophetic voices would I like to hear?
- I would love to hear Elder Dallin Oaks on how he has calculated and paid tithing for the last twenty years. (He has talked a lot about financial stress in his own life).
- I would love to hear President Nelson talk about his experiences in cleaning his ward’s chapel. (There has been a lot about his leading by example).
- I would like to hear Elder Uchtdorf on “not inhaling”. (His seminal talk on that is so powerful).
- I would like to hear Elder Gong on seeing through a glass darkly. (He has been so humble in the stories I have heard).
For our readers.
What would you like to hear church leaders talk about from there experiences and why?