Prophets, Prophecy, and Revelation
1. Why did Christ not return in 1891 as Joseph Smith predicted?
2. Why have LDS prophets changed many commandments ?
3. An 1832 prophecy not being fullfilled?
4. How could Elijah (Elias) have appeared to Joseph Smith in the Kirtland Temple as two different people?
5. Why did Joseph Smith fail to realize that "Elias" is the N.T. form of the name "Elijah?"
6. Why did Heber C Kimball's prophecy fail?
7. How can a man be a prophet of God if even one prophecy fails?
8. Is a revelation given by a past prophet any less authoritative even if not authorized by the Mormon church?
9. Why do Mormons vote on what a prophet proposes?
10. Did Joseph Smith say that there are men living on the moon?
11. Why did the Nauvoo House not stand forever and ever as prophesied?
12. Why didn't Jesus return in 1830?
13. The prophecy about the future Great Tribulation
14. Are all of Brigham Young's sermons considered scripture and official LDS doctrine?
15. What is the purpose for having a living prophet and modern-day apostles?
16. A Joseph Smith prophecy not fulfilled?
17. No prophecy is a matter of one's own interpretation.
18. The Bible says there would be no more prophets after Jesus?
19. If Gordon B. Hinkley is a prophet, how could he have been deceived by Mark Hoffman ?
20. Wasn't Joseph Smith fooled by the Kinderhook Plates hoax
Note: Many critics' questions relate to quotations from the Journal of Discourses(J. of D.), which was a sixteen-page semimonthly subscription publication privately printed in Liverpool, England, in 1854-1886. It included articles written by twelve different authors who recorded the speeches, mostly in shorthand, as they were delivered from the pulpit. It has never served in the past as a source for official Church teachings or scripture. It reflects the personal feelings, opinions, and speculations of the writers and/or speakers of the time. Because of modern revelation and because of "line-upon-line, precept-upon-precept" progression, we now have information on some of the subjects that was not yet known when the Journal of Discourses was published.
Though the First Presidency endorsed the publication of the Journal there was no endorsement as to the accuracy or reliability of the contents. There were occasions when the accuracy was questionable. The accounts were not always cleared by the speakers because of problems of time and distance.
It was not an official Church publication nor has it ever been a source for official Church doctrine.
1. Why did Christ not return in 1891 as Joseph Smith predicted? (History of the Church, Vol. 2, page 182)
A: Joseph Smith did consider 1890 as a possible date for the return of the Lord, but he did not consider this to be infallible. As a matter of fact he was quite confused about the date, as he relates. Joseph Smith received the revelation pertaining to the 56 years, or 1890, in the following manner:
"I was once praying very earnestly to know the time of the coming
of the Son of Man, when I heard a voice repeat the following:
'Joseph, my son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years
old, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man; therefore let
this suffice, and trouble me no more on this matter.'
I was left thus, without being able to decide whether this coming
referred to the beginning of the millennium or to some previous
appearing, or whether I should die and thus see his face.
I believe the coming of the Son of Man will not be any sooner
than that time."
Doctrine & Covenants 130:14-17
The History of the Church provides the account of a meeting held on Feb. 14, 1835. The specific reference to Joseph Smith's sermon states:
...and it was the will of God that those who went to Zion, with a determination to lay down their lives, if necessary, should be ordained to the ministry, and go forth to prune the vineyard for the last time, or the coming of the Lord, which was nigh--even fifty-six years should wind up the scene.
This statement does not quote Smith verbatim, nor does it say that he prophesied the time of the second coming. Instead, it states:
...even fifty-six years should wind up the scene. (Italics added)
We have no way of knowing whether the word should is Joseph Smith's or that of one or more of those who remembered the sermon in their diaries or journals. In either case, the use of should instead of would or will suggests that instead of prophesying, either Joseph Smith was expressing a personal opinion, or many of those who heard him considered him to be expressing a personal opinion.
2. God does not change, but LDS prophets have changed many commandments(including the D&C). Doesn't this prove that they are false prophets?
A: God's nature does not change, and absolute truth does not change, but the rules and instructions God gives to man are adapted for our time and circumstances, and DO change. This is part of the reason why we need continuing revelation and living prophets.
Consider a few examples:
Should modern Christians keep the feast of the Passover, the feast of unleavened bread, and offer animal sacrifices? Yet
the Old Testament tells us that these rites should be kept FOREVER (Exodus 12:14-24). Should we keep the Feast of Firstfruits, which was to be a "statute for ever throughout your generations" (Lev. 23:9-14), or the wave offerings of sacrificed animals, another "statute forever" (Lev. 23:15-21), or the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:33-44, esp. v. 41) or offerings of flour and frankincense (Lev. 24:5-9), also said to be everlasting and perpetual? Do modern Protestants and Catholics strictly observe the Sabbath day as taught in the Old Testament (absolutely no work or shopping and observing the Sabbath on Saturday)? Yet the Old Testament practices were said to be given as "a perpetual covenant" and a sign between God and Israel forever (Exodus 31:16-17). Many of these Old Testament ordinances and observances were changed in the original Church of Jesus Christ - not by men, but by revelation from God.
Further examples include circumcision, which was said to be "an everlasting covenant" in Genesis 17:13, yet this commandment was later changed, making circumcision of no importance at all (1 Corinthians 7:19, Galatians 5:6). The change was made through revelation to living apostles and prophets. A dramatic example of revealed change occurred in the revelation to Peter that showed him the Gospel was now to be preached to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. That revelation in Acts 10:9-18 occurred with the help of a vision in which Peter was commanded to eat "unclean" things. This revelation directly contradicted two previous Biblical revelations. One was the instruction from Christ that the Apostles were sent to preach to the house of Israel, not to the Gentiles (Matthew 10:5; see also Matthew 15:24); the other was the prior strict prohibitions against eating the very things that Peter was commanded to eat (Leviticus 11:2-47). Those changes may have been hard for Peter to accept, but they were from God and he obeyed. (Speaking of food, are Christians today allowed to eat fat? Yet a prohibition against eating fat in Leviticus 3:17 is said to be a perpetual statute.)
How can we account for the changes that occurred in laws and ordinances that were said to be perpetual or forever? God can give a set of laws that are to be ongoing until He issues a change - but He must do it, not man. The changes that took us away from many aspects of the Mosaic law, as with the changes away from the still older rules of Sabbath observance and circumcision, were made under divine inspiration after the Atonement of Christ had been completed, which fulfilled the Mosaic law and required or permitted change of other practices. God did not change, but the rules that we needed were changed. The changes were revealed by those having authority, not by committees.
Doctrine and Covenants:
If one compares the 1833 Book of Commandments with the current edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, one will discover various textual differences. Along with the doctrinally insignificant spelling, grammatical and punctuation changes, one will encounter places where words, or even whole paragraphs, have been added. These additions sometimes required deletions and alterations for the added material to mesh properly with the previously existing material. Can a true prophet of God add to a God-given revelation? if the answer is "yes," then the fact that Joseph Smith expanded some of the revelations he received is evidence for, not against his prophetic calling. Since we don't have the original manuscripts used for the books of the Bible, nor do we have records of their writing processes, critics cannot claim that Biblical prophets never revised nor added to their revelations--they have no proof.
The reason for the D&C changes were thus explained:
" In the first 14 numbers, in the Revelations, are many errors,
typographical, and others, occasioned by transcribing manuscript;
but as we shall have access to originals, we shall endeavor to
make proper corrections." (Evening and Morning Star, Vol. II, No. 24,
Sept. 1834, p.199).
While discussing the substitution of "code names" for people and places in some of the revelations, Orson Pratt remarked:
But what the Prophet did in relation to this thing, was not of
himself: he was dictated by the Holy Ghost to make these
substitutions. That he was thus inspired is certain from
the fact, that at the very time that he made these substitutions,
he also received much additional light; and by revelation line
was added upon line to several of the sections and paragraphs
about to be published. But some may inquire, are not the
Almighty's revelations perfect when they are first given? And if
so, where was the propriety of the Lord's adding anything to
them, when they were already perfect? We reply that every word of
God is perfect; but He does not reveal all things at once but
adds 'line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, and
there a little,'(Isa 28:10) revealing as the people are able to bear(John 16:12), or as
circumstances require (The Seer, Vol.11, No. 3, March 1854, p.228).
The Bible contains an example of the prophet Jeremiah adding to a previously written revelation:
And Baruch wrote from the mouth of Jeremiah all the words of the
Lord, which he had spoken unto him, upon a roll of a book (Jer.
This revelation was read to King Jehoiakim, who didn't like what he heard:
And it came to pass, that when Jehudi had read three or four
leaves, he [King Jehoiakim) cut it with the penknife, and cast it
into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was
consumed in the fire . . . (Jer. 36:23).
Jeremiah was then instructed by the Lord to rewrite the revelation, which
he did. But he did more than simply recreate what Jehoiakim had destroyed:
Then took Jeremiah another roll, and gave it to Baruch the
scribe, the son of Neriah; who wrote therein from the mouth of
Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah
had burned in the fire: and there were added besides unto them
many like words (Jer. 36:32).
There are several ways of disclosing information from God to man:
visions, dreams, the still small voice, visitation of angels, etc.
God rarely communicates revelation to a prophet in a "word for word" fashion. He reveals the concept or truth and man is responsible for
writing the concept down in the language he understands and uses.
The recipient of the new ideas and thoughts is left upon his own
resourcefulness and language ability in revealing to others what he himself
had received. His method of expression would be limited to his command of the language he used.
When the communication of revelation to others is left to mortal imperfect men, the opportunity exists for the introduction of mistakes, omissions and a lack of clarity in explaining God's will.
When these things are corrected there is no change of doctrine or concept, but merely an enlargement or clarification of that which is already written. Joseph Smith did not change the doctrines he taught. That he changed words and phrases in his written revelations will not be denied, but he made changes to establish the doctrine he intended to teach from the beginning.
Another reason for changes relates to the growth of the Church. Throughout the history of the church, as the organization grew, the addition of new offices or callings and the enlarging upon their duties needed to be included in the Doctrine and Covenants.
3. Do you know any human being living today who was alive in 1832 (see prophecy in D & C 84:4).
A: D&C 84:4 says, "Verily this is the word of the Lord, that the city New Jerusalem shall be built by the gathering of the saints, beginning at this place, even the place of the temple, which temple shall be reared in this generation."
The assertion that this prophecy was not fulfilled within the proper time, depends entirely on the definition of the word "generation." Though the length of a literal generation has occasionally been discussed by scholars and has been described as between 25 years to 120 years, in the larger sense, "generation" is often used to describe a gospel dispensation or era. Therefore, no one can be certain how long it will be before the temple is to be completed. However, the prophecy in (D & C 84:5-6) came to pass less than four years after Joseph Smith received it. Verse 5 states that "this generation shall not all pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord." The use of words "an house" indicate that the Lord is not necessarily referring to "the temple" mentioned in verse 4. The "house" mentioned in verse 5 was dedicated in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1836. "A bright light like a pillar of fire" rested upon it, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple, manifested by the abundant presence of the Spirit (History of the Church, vol. 2, p.428) and many journals of the Saints who were in the Kirtland area during the weeks surrounding the temple dedication show that this prophecy was fulfilled in every sense with repeated visitations of the Savior and of angelic beings, and the receipt of numerous visions and other spiritual gifts.
Concerning the prophecy of the temple, critics almost always overlook the related revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 124:49-51, in which the Lord explains why the task is on hold and not required of his servants at the moment. The critics also overlook Matthew 24:34, Mark 13:30, and Luke 21:32, where Christ makes prophecies that are still not fulfilled which involved "this generation" - very similar to the wording that critics condemn in Doctrine and Covenants 84:2-5. The standard used to make a false prophet out of Joseph Smith would also reject Jesus Christ.
4. How could Elijah (Elias) have appeared to Joseph Smith in the
Kirtland Temple as two different people? (see D & C 110:12, 13 and
compare 1 Kings 17:1 and James 5:17).
A: Elias is both a name and a title and has four meanings:
(1) Elias was a man, presumably of Abraham's time, who
"committed the dispensation of Abraham" which included the blessings of God's covenant with Abraham to the Prophet
Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery on April 3, 1836, in the Kirtland Temple (D&C 110:12 ); nothing more is known about
(2) "Elias" appears in the New Testament as the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name Elijah (e.g., Matt. 17:3
; James 5:17-18 ).
(3 ) A forerunner in building God's kingdom is called "an Elias" (Teachings of the Prophet J. S.), pp. 335-36).
(4) A prophet who
helps restore something of particular importance is also referred to as an "Elias" (cf. JST Matt. 17:13-14 ). In scripture,
therefore, the name Elias may refer to a preparer, a forerunner, a restorer, to Elias himself, or to Elijah.
Individuals who have acted as forerunners or restorers include Jesus Christ (JST John 1:21-28 ); Noah as Gabriel (D&C
27:6-7 ; TPJS, p. 157); John the Baptist (Luke 1:17 ); John the Revelator (D&C 77:9, 14 ); Adam as Michael, Moroni2, and
Peter, James, and John (D&C 27:5-13 ; 128:20-21 ); and Joseph Smith (D&C 1:17-18 ; TPJS, p. 335). Each of these may be considered an
Therefore Elias(#1) and Elias #2(Elijah) both appeared to Joseph Smith.
5. IF Joseph Smith was a true prophet, why did he fail to realize that "Elias" is the N.T. form of the name "Elijah?"
A: See #4 above
6. Heber C. Kimball stated, "We are the people of Deseret, she shall be no more Utah: we will have our own name." Why did this prophecy fail? (see J. of D. Vol, 5, page 161).
A: This was not a prophecy. It was simply a desire he had that was not realized.
(See Note above on the J. of D.)
7. How can a man be a prophet of God if even one prophecy fails or one revelation is wrong? (see Deuteronomy 18:20-22. Compare D & C 84:4; 7:1-3).
A: For D&C 84:4 See # 3 above. For D&C 7:1-3 see #3 in Miscellaneous questions.
When a prophet is acting as an inspired prophet of God none of his prophesies will fail and no revelations will be wrong. However, we may not recognize how or when the prophecy is fulfilled nor understand the full meaning of a revelation until at a later time. We also must remember that God has the final say, and can change how things come about to suit His purposes. There are instances throughout the Bible where prophesies of Moses, Jeremiah, Jonah, Jesus, and Paul appeared to be unfulfilled.
A few examples:
Moses in Gen. 17:1-14 states that God gave Abraham an everlasting covenant and that the token of that covenant was circumcision; which was also to be everlasting. Verse 14 indicates that any "man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant." This is perfectly clear, but Paul rejects the everlasting quality of this covenant and indicates in Romans, chapter four and Galatians, chapter five, that circumcision availeth nothing. The covenant was not to be everlasting as predicted by Moses in his writings about Abraham. Moses said it was an everlasting covenant, Paul said it was not. Who was right?
Another example is found in the story of Jonah, who was told by God to prophecy to the people of Ninevah. Jonah prophesied that the people would be destroyed in 40 days (Jonah 3:4) - no loopholes were offered, just imminent doom. God changed things, however, when the people repented and He chose to spare them - much to the chagrin of that imperfect (yet still divinely called) prophet, Jonah. Jonah, in fact, was "displeased ... exceedingly" and "very angry" (John 4:1) about this change from God, perhaps because it made Jonah look bad. In spite of an "incorrect" prophecy and in spite of the obvious shortcomings of Jonah, he was a prophet of God and the Book of Jonah in the Bible is part of the Word of God.
Jesus prophesied that the only sign he would give the Pharisees concerning his resurrection would be the sign of Jonah, "for as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (Matt. 12:39-40). If Christians can make this prophecy work, the Good Friday has to be changed to Good Thursday, however, since the Jewish day begins at sundown, make that Good Wednesday Evening.
Joseph Smith made some amazingly correct prophecies: predicting in 1832 that a civil war would erupt, beginning in South Carolina, with Great Britain to be involved(D&C 87); prophesying that tobacco is harmful to human health and giving a dietary code with nutritional principles much like the modern "food pyramid"(D&C 89); predicting his own martyrdom; prophesying of the global success that the restored Church would experience, with persecutions; predicting that the Saints would become established in the Rockies(History of the Church 5:85); and predicting other important events relative to Native Americans, the United States of America, the Church, future calamities, many details related to specific individuals, etc.
In one particular prophecy, Joseph Smith said to a young judge named Stephen A. Douglas, in the presence of several others:
“Judge, you will aspire to the presidency of the United States; and if ever you turn your hand against me or the Latter-day Saints, you will feel the weight of the hand of Almighty upon you; and you will live to see and know that I have testified the truth to you; for the conversation of this day will stick to you through life” (History of the Church, 5:394).
Stephen A. Douglas did aspire to the presidency of the United States. He did have opportunity to defend the Church. But in a political speech in 1857, he viciously attacked the Church as “a loathsome, disgusting ulcer in the body politic” and recommended that Congress cut it out.
Some have asserted that no one had better prospects for the presidency than did Douglas, but when the results of the election were tallied, he received only twelve electoral votes. The election victory went to an obscure backwoodsman by the name of Abraham Lincoln.
8. Is a revelation given by a past prophet any less authoritative even if not authorized by the Mormon church?
A: Revelation is given by a prophet for the people he presides over. Modern day prophets tell us what we need to know today. Biblical prophets were more important to the people living in biblical times than they are to us today.
FOURTEEN FUNDAMENTALS IN FOLLOWING THE PROPHET
ELDER Ezra Taft Benson
February 26, 1980
First: The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.
Second: The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.
Third: The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.
Fourth: The prophet will never lead the Church astray.
Fifth: The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to
speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.
Sixth: The prophet does not have to say "Thus saith the Lord" to give us scripture.
Seventh: The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.
Eighth: The prophet is not limited by men's reasoning.
Ninth: The prophet can receive revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual.
Tenth: The prophet may be involved in civic matters.
Eleventh: The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the
proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.
Twelfth: The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.
Thirteenth: The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency--the highest quorum in the Church.
Fourteenth: The prophet and the presidency--the living prophet and the First Presidency--
follow them and be blessed; reject them and suffer.
9. If God speaks through a prophet, what are Mormons doing voting on whether or not to receive and authorize it?
A: Our "voting" is not done in the same sense as in an election or as in voting on measures or proposed laws. We raise our hands to acknowledge that we heard, agree with, accept and will support whatever has been presented.
10. Joseph Smith said that there are men living on the moon who dress like Quakers and live to be nearly 1000 years old. Since he was wrong about the moon, is it safe to trust him regarding the way to Heaven? (see The Young Woman's Journal, vol. 3, pages 263, 264. See reprint in Mormonism -- Shadow or Reality? by Jerald and Sandra Tanner, page 4).
A: Maybe they were there, but they all left before we got there.
The real issue is, can a prophet believe something which is found to be in error by the science of a later age? If the Bible is true, the answer is yes. Leviticus 11 and Deut. 14 list the hare as an animal that chews the cud, which science has disproved. And Gen.30:35--43 says that placing striped sticks in view of mating animals results in striped offspring.
A prophet sometimes speaks for the Lord. This occurs on certain occasions when the Lord wills it. On other occasions, he speaks for himself, and one of the wonderful doctrines of this Church is that we don't believe in the infallibility of any mortal. Although it is not known for sure if Joseph believed in moonmen, several close to him did. These include his brother Hyrum and Brigham Young. At the time, this idea that people were living on the moon was being propagated by many of the contemporary scientists. In 1976 Patrick Moore, Director of the Lunar Section of the British Astronomical Association, wrote of William Herschel: "As an observer it is possible that he has never been equaled, and between 1781 and his death, in 1822, every honor that the scientific world could bestow came is way. His views about life in the Solar System were, then, rather surprising. He thought it possible that there was a region below the Sun's fiery surface where men might live, and he regarded the existence of life on the Moon as 'an absolute certainty.'"
Also in 1822, the German astronomer Gruithuisen announced that he had discovered a lunar city with a collection of gigantic ramparts extending 23 miles in either direction. It was not until 1838, with the publication of the writings of Beer and Madler, that the scientific world concluded that the moon is definitely unable to support higher life forms. Whether or not Joseph Smith believed in the popular notion of the day that there were men on the moon has nothing to do with his suitability as a prophet. The whole subject has no importance or relevancy anyway when it comes to religious matters.
11. Why did the Nauvoo House not stand forever and ever? (D & C 124:56-60).
A: The scripture says "let my servant Joseph and his seed after him have place in that house, from generation to generation, forever and ever." God did not say that it "would" last forever, he is telling the people to "let" it last forever. As a matter of fact the original Nauvoo House is still standing and can be seen by visitors to that city. It is the Mansion House, Joseph Smith's residence, that had to be reconstructed.
12. If Acts 3:20, 21 is a prophecy about the restoration of Mormonism, why didn't Jesus return in 1830?
A: He didn't have to. He already did come in the spring of 1820. This marked the beginning of "the restitution of all things" as stated in verse 21, because of what Joseph Smith learned while speaking to Jesus. For the next 10 years the gospel was restored through the translation of the Book of Mormon, instructions from the angel Moroni and the return of the priesthood to the earth by John the Baptist and Peter, James and John. After the church was officially organized in 1830, Jesus appeared to Joseph Smith again in he Kirtland temple in 1836(D&C 110).
By the way, it is impossible to restore "Mormonism". However, The Gospel and Church of Jesus Christ was restored.
13. Revelation 14:6, 7 is part of the body of prophecy about the future Great Tribulation. How could that passage have been fulfilled by Moroni in 1830?
A: The prophecy of the "Great Tribulation" doesn't come until later after Chapter 14. Chapter 12 portrays the Church of Christ and the kingdom of God.
In Chapter 13, Satan's kingdoms oppose the Saints and the work of God. Chapter 14 then shows the triumph of Christ's kingdom and what leads to that victory. Christ comes to mount Zion with his servants(14:1-5), and an angel(Moroni) having the everlasting gospel to preach to the earth, flies through the heavens. Then the fall of Babylon is announced(14:8-11).
14. Brigham Young said, "I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call scripture." (Journal of Discourses 13:95). Are all of Brigham Young's sermons considered scripture and official LDS doctrine?
A: No, neither the Church nor Brigham Young himself considered all of his sermons scripture. To understand the context of the quote we must look at the entire paragraph where this statement is found. In other parts of this sermon he states: "Let me have the privilege of correcting a sermon, and it is as good Scripture as they deserve. " He also states: " I say now, when they (discourses)are copied and approved by me they are as good Scripture."
President Young had two prerequisites for calling a sermon scripture. First, he needed to review the sermon and make any necessary corrections. Second, it had to be identified as scripture.
(See Note above on the J. of D.)
15. Many Latter-day Saints maintain that Mormonism should be defined only by that which is contained
in the four Standard Works of the Church. If LDS doctrine is confined to the specific teachings in the Standard Works alone, what is the purpose for having a living prophet and modern-day apostles?
A: The fundamental gospel and doctrine of Jesus Christ are contained in
the four standard works of the church. However, the Lord has said
that His word comes to man "precept upon precept; line upon line; here
a little, and there a little; (Isaiah 28:13) and that He "will do
nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets."
(Amos 3:7) Therefore, we know that He dosen't give His children
everything all at once, but a little at a time; and when He knows we
are ready to receive additional doctrinal information, there would
need to be a prophet here on earth with whom He could communicate.
In John 16:12 Jesus said this to His apostles, " I have yet many things to
say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." Jesus had something important
to tell his apostles but they were not yet ready to receive it. He was crucified
shortly after this and never got the chance to tell them about these other "many things".
Wouldn't it be nice and perhaps important to know what these things were that Jesus wanted
to tell them? With a prophet here on the earth we can find out what they were.
Also, the modern day prophet and apostles are mostly needed to help
us make modern day application of the gospel principles to the
problems and challenges we face today. Paul said that the church
should be "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;"(Eph 2:20).
Without this foundation the church would not be able to stand firm
16. If a "prophet" makes a false prophesy, he must be considered a false
prophet. Joseph Smith prophesied that David W. Patten would serve a mission in
the spring, but he died before then. His prophecy was not fulfilled.(D&C 114)
A. This scripture was not a prophecy, it was a revelation instructing David Patten what God wanted him to do. A prophecy is a means by which a prophet can either reveal unknown things about the past or present or tell what is going to happen in the future. A good example of a prophecy is found in D&C 87 where Joseph Smith prophesied about the coming of the Civil War decades before it happened. A revelation can be a prophecy but it is usually used as a means of instruction or giving commandments as in the case of David Patten. Even though Patten died before he could fulfill his assigned earthly mission, he no doubt was used to perform a heavenly mission to preach to the spirits who were waiting to hear the gospel in the next life.
17. In II Peter 1:20 says that no prophecy is a matter of one's own
interpretation. Then, in I John 2:27, John is writing concerning those
who might deceive us, and says that we have no need for anyone to teach
us once we have the received the anointing of the Holy Ghost.
A. That's right. Prophecy is not a matter of one's own interpretation. But
we believe we have true prophets here on earth today who are in direct
communication with God and know his will. Therefore, their interpretations
are not of their own understanding but are of God's.
In this scripture(1 John 2:27) John is only talking to a few of his followers,
not necessarily to us. In an earlier scripture(1 John 2:21) he acknowledges
that they already know the truth and this is why in verse 27 he tells them that
they need not learn from anyone else. This is not the case with the Christian
18. The Bible says that, while some will
have the gift of prophecy, there would be no more prophets after Jesus.
In Hebrews 1:1 Paul says that God's final word was proclaimed in His
Son, Jesus. You can compare this with John 1:18 which says that no man
has seen the Father, but that Jesus has explained Him. If Jesus
explained the Father, there is no need for more prophets (the only
purpose for prophets was to explain the nature/character of God and His
A. I am sure that Jesus did explain the Father very well to the people of His day.
But we must have lost it somewhere between then and now.
In Eph 2:20 it says that the Church is built on a foundation of apostles and prophets. In Matt. 7:15-20 it talks about how to know false prophets.
If there were to be no more Prophets, it seems that Jesus would have said "all who claim to be a prophet are false prophets," instead of providing us with a way to test a prophet. Why would He provide a formula like this if there were to be no more prophets at all?
It seems to me that today there is great confusion about the nature/character of
God and His will, even though we have the Bible. That is why there are so many
different Christian religions. Sounds to me like we still need a prophet today to
explain it all and help us make modern day application of His gospel to the problems of our day.
19. If Gordon B. Hinkley is a prophet, how could he have been deceived by Mark Hoffman, who sold several counterfeit historical documents to the Church?
A. LDS prophets prefer to conduct their ministries in an attitude of trust and love. Because of this they are subject to being decieved occasionally, especially on matters that are temporal in nature.
Acording to Apostle Dallin Oaks:
"In order to perform their personal ministries, Church leaders cannot be suspicious and questioning of each of the hundreds of people they meet each year. Ministers of the gospel function best in an atmosphere of trust and love. In that kind of atmosphere, they fail to detect a few deceivers, but that is the price they pay to increase their effectiveness in counseling, comforting, and blessing the hundreds of honest and sincere people they see. It is better for a Church leader to be occasionally disappointed than to be constantly suspicious." (October 1987 Ensign)
In the Bible, Joshua was fooled by the men of Gibeon, who came in disguise as if from a distant country when they were locals who normally would have been treated as enemies. In that story, given in Joshua 9:3-27, Joshua was deceived. He was a prophet, but he fell for the trick of the Gibeonites.
President Hinkley was not the only one deceived in the Hoffman case. Other FBI documents experts and historians at the time were also fooled. Even though some of those documents challenged some LDS views about Joseph Smith and Church history, President Hinkley made them available to the public. His explanation that accompanied the printing of the famous "Salamander letter" in the Church News (April 1985) said, "No one, of course, can be certain that Martin Harris wrote the document. However, at this point we accept the judgment of the examiner that there is no indication that it is a forgery. This does not preclude the possibility that it may have been forged at a time when the Church had many enemies. It is, however, an interesting document of the times" (S.L. Dew, The Biography of Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 428).
Hinkley's statement obviously displayed some doubt on his part, which of course later proved to be justified. However, at the time, he had no reason to suspect that the documents received from Hoffman were forgeries, since the experts affirmed of their authenticity. Also, since this was not a matter of Church doctrine and had no bearing on the eternal salvation of man, there was no real reason for Hinckley to seek for any inspired revelation on the matter.
If we reject Gordon B. Hinckley as the Lord's prophet because he allowed the Church to buy documents that were forged, then we must reject Joshua and other Old Testament prophets who were also fooled by less sophisticated frauds.
The best source for a response to the "Salamander Letter" is in a article by Dallin H. Oaks in the October 1987 Ensign called "Recent Events Involving Church History and Forged Documents".
You can find it at this site
20. Wasn't Joseph Smith fooled by the Kinderhook Plates hoax?
A. There was a report in the Times and Seasons paper about 6 brass plates, covered with hieroglyphics, which were found in an Indian mound near Kinderhook. Ill. The report states:
“On the 16th of April last a respectable merchant by the name of Robert Wiley, commenced digging in a large mound near this place: he excavated to the depth of 10 feet and came to rock; about that time the rain began to fall, and he abandoned the work. On the 23d he and quite a number of the citizens with myself, repaired to the mound, and after making ample opening, we found plenty of rock, the most of which appeared as though it had been strongly burned; and after removing full two feet of said rock, we found plenty of charcoal and ashes; also human bones that appeared as though they had been burned; and near the eciphalon [correctly spelled “encephalon,” or head] a bundle was found that consisted of six plates of brass, of a bell shape, each having a hole near the small end, and a ring through them all, and clasped with two clasps, the ring and clasps appeared to be of iron very much oxidated, the plates appeared first to be copper, and had the appearance of being covered with characters. It was agreed by the company that I should cleanse the plates: accordingly I took them to my house, washed them with soap and water, and a woolen cloth; but finding them not yet cleansed I treated them with dilute sulphuric acid which made them perfectly clean, on which it appeared that they were completely covered with hieroglyphics that none as yet have been able to read.”
According to another brief article, the plates were brought to Nauvoo, and supposedly given to Joseph Smith for translation. But nothing more was heard about them for thirteen years
Twelve years after the prophet's death, on September 3 and 10, 1856, the following paragraphs appeared in the Deseret News as part of the serialized “History of Joseph Smith”:
“[May 1, 1843:] I insert fac similes of the six brass plates found near Kinderhook, in Pike county, Illinois, on April 23, by Mr. R. Wiley and others, while excavating a large mound. They found a skeleton about six feet from the surface of the earth, which must have stood nine feet high. The plates were found on the breast of the skeleton, and were covered on both sides with ancient characters.
“I have translated a portion of them, and find they contain the history of the person with whom they were found. He was a descendant of Ham, through the loins of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and that he received his kingdom from the ruler of heaven and earth.”
Although it sounds as if Joseph Smith wrote the above statement it was actually an excerpt from a journal of William Clayton. It has been well known that the serialized “History of Joseph Smith” consists largely of items from other persons’ personal journals and other sources, collected during Joseph Smith’s lifetime and continued after the Saints were in Utah, then edited and pieced together to form a history of the Prophet’s life “in his own words.” It was not uncommon in the nineteenth century for biographers to put the narrative in the first person when compiling a biographical work, even though the subject of the biography did not actually say or write all the words attributed to him; thus the narrative would represent a faithful report of what others felt would be helpful to print. The Clayton journal excerpt was one item used in this way. (James B. Allen and Thomas G. Alexander, eds., Manchester Mormons: The Journal of William Clayton, 1840 to 1842)
By 1920 evidence began to come forth which indicated that the plates were indeed a hoax. Later testing of the metal in 1969 and then again in 1980 provided conclusive evidence that the plates were not of ancient origen, but had been prepared by acid etching rather than by tooling or scratching.
Reports indicate that the plates were in Nauvoo for a total of only 5 days, but there was no indication that the prophet actually had the opportunity to try to translate the writings on them.
In a letter dated April 8, 1878, Wilbur Fugate recalled: “We understood Jo Smith said [the plates] would make a book of 1200 pages but he would not agree to translate them until they were sent to the Antiquarian society at Philadelphia, France, and England.” Furthermore, a review of other entries in Joseph Smith’s history indicate that he was occupied during the following weeks with mayoral duties, Church business, the Nauvoo Legion, and four different trips to neighboring cities; there is no indication of translating activities (History of the Church, 5:384ff).
Then on June 23, just one day before publication of an article that repeated the Saints’ hopeful expectation of an eventual translation, the Prophet was abducted by Missourians who tried to get him to Missouri for prosecution on charges of “treason.”
Then the plates were taken away from Nauvoo and never returned, making it impossible for Joseph Smith to produce a translation of the writings. Therefore what William Clayton wrote, indicating that some amount of translation had occured, may have only been based on hearsay. It is however possible that Joseph Smith did attempt to translate "a portion" of them by non-revelatory means. There is also no evidence that Joseph Smith ever concluded the plates were genuine, other than conflicting statements from members who hoped that a translation would come forth—and in fact no evidence that the Prophet manifested real interest in the “discovery” after his initial viewing of the plates.
( Info from: Stanley B. Kimball, “Kinderhook Plates Brought to Joseph Smith Appear to Be a Nineteenth-Century Hoax,” Ensign, Aug. 1981, 66)