Chatter and laughter wafted throughout the Conference Center as throngs of people entered, eagerly anticipating another General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often inadvertently called the Mormon Church). My husband and I found seats and got comfortable. Suddenly, all noise ceased. I immediately looked up as people around me began to stand. President Thomas S. Monson entered the room. The profound silence indicated deep respect for him. The Holy Spirit confirmed to my soul that he was called of God to be His prophet.
What is a Prophet?
A prophet is God’s authorized mouthpiece to the world to bear witness of Jesus Christ’s divine Sonship and Messiahship, to proclaim God’s commandments to mankind, to call for repentance, and to explain how mankind can keep God’s commandments. God follows a pattern for revealing truth to His children through providing a prophet, scriptures, and the Holy Ghost to confirm truth.
A prophet is a revelator. He receives revelations from the Lord. These revelations have to do with the prophet’s stewardship. An example of prophetic stewardship can be found in the ministry of John the Baptist. He was a revelator, called to serve as a forerunner to the ministering Christ, to lead people to Him. He received his knowledge of Christ mostly through revelation. He preached and served in a very small area of Judea, within the confines of his calling and stewardship. Later, the Apostle Paul was given a stewardship to preach to the Gentiles. This he did, and he received revelation according to that realm of service. Much of what prophets teach is of a practical nature, geared to the current condition of the people they serve. This is why the world always needs prophets, and why God has chosen to send prophets to modern society. Said the ancient prophet Amos: “Surely the Lord will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). 1
Relationship Between the Latter-day Saints and the Modern Prophet
Latter-day Saints (Mormons) believe that God has called and does speak to a prophet today. That man is Thomas S. Monson. Mormons do not worship Thomas S. Monson, but do respect his prophetic calling and honor his life of goodness and service.
In the capacity of prophet, President Monson calls the world to repentance, expounds the commandments, and testifies of Jesus Christ. Every six months, the Church convenes a General Conference where President Monson and others who serve as special witnesses of Jesus Christ give pertinent guidance and reproof. The Church broadcasts General Conference worldwide via satellite and internet and encourages members of the Church, as well as friends of other faiths, to receive the Church leaders’ messages of Mormon belief and doctrine.
Latter-day Saints consider these General Conference messages to be the word of God.
Some people may wonder if Latter-day Saints consider every word spoken by the President of the Church to be the binding word of God.
In 2007 the Church posted the following on www.lds.org:
Not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. A single statement made by a single leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, but is not meant to be officially binding for the whole Church. With divine inspiration, the First Presidency …and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles… counsel together to establish doctrine that is consistently proclaimed in official Church publications. This doctrine resides in the four “standard works” of scripture…, official declarations and proclamations, and the Articles of Faith. Isolated statements are often taken out of context, leaving their original meaning distorted. 2
Are Mormon Prophets Infallible?
Michael R Ash discussed this question in his excellent article “The Problem of Fundamentalism”:
“I make no claim of infallibility,” said President Spencer W. Kimball. 3 “We make no claim of infallibility or perfection in the prophets, seers, and revelators,” said Elder James E. Faust. Elder George Q. Cannon taught, “the First Presidency cannot claim, individually or collectively, infallibility.” 4
Some members have trouble accepting the fact that prophets have human weaknesses and can make mistakes. Prophets are not fax machines for the Word of God. Like all humans they must interpret and convey impressions through imperfect and incomplete human language and understanding. As Brigham Young once explained, there “isn’t a single revelation” given “that is perfect in its fulness.” God speaks “to us in a manner to meet our capacities.” 5
We must realize that prophets are just one of the many tools God utilizes in His plan to lead us back home. Prophets have the keys to the priesthood and can receive revelation and instruction for the entire Church. God’s ultimate plan, however, is that we, individually, come to Him through personal sacrifice, humility, obedience, and prayer, so that we may receive personal communication from on high.
Prophets and apostles—as mortal men—are not exempt from making errors. They are also entitled to their own opinions on areas where we have not received solid revelatory answers, and they are as free as all members to speculate on issues of history and science. The Lord assures us, however, that if we are living lives that allow the Holy Spirit to work within us and speak to us, if we are seeking God’s guidance through our actions, thoughts, and desires, if we pray always, accept Christ’s atonement and conform to His will, then we can receive our own revelation confirming those expedient teachings pertinent to our salvation. 6
Brigham Young, 2nd president of The Church of Jesus Christ declared,
I am … afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates. 7
Personal Responsibility of Each Latter-day Saint
Ultimately, each Latter-day Saint individually approaches the throne of God to plead for the Grace of Jesus Christ’s Atonement to be efficacious in his or her behalf. The way is straight. The path made clear because God provides a prophet, scriptures and the Holy Ghost.
I know that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God. As I prayed and asked God for His confirmation, I felt a peace and joy in my mind and heart. My question dissipated and I felt a surety that President Monson is God’s chosen prophet on the earth today. I have prayed to know how to apply his messages in my life and the Lord has directed me in ways specific to my strengths and weaknesses. For instance, President Monson exhorted everyone to seek out the lonely in effort to love our neighbors as ourselves. As I prayed about how to follow that guidance, I felt impressed to spend more time with several widows in our area. Those visits blessed my life and I felt closer to the Savior as I followed the prophet’s counsel.
Have you wondered if God has called a prophet today as in ancient times? I invite you to contact missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, listen to their message, and pray to God to know for yourself if there is a living prophet on the earth today!