What Is a Seer?
As it says in 1 Samuel 9:9, “(Beforetime in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, thus he spake, Come, and let us go to the seer: for he that is now called a Prophet was beforetime called a Seer.)”
The doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which is frequently mistakenly called the “Mormon Church”) teaches that all seers are prophets, but not all prophets are seers. There is a story in the Book of Mormon (a book of scripture that is a companion to the Bible) where seers are discussed in more detail. A record was found by a group of people, but it was in a language they could not understand. They brought the record to their king, but no one in their kingdom could translate the record.
Book of Mormon Seers
A man named Ammon, who held the priesthood (the power and authority to act in God’s name), came among their people and the king asked if Ammon could translate the record. Ammon said he could not translate the record, but he knew of someone in his own kingdom who could. These are Ammon’s words:
Now Ammon said unto him: I can assuredly tell thee, O king, of a man that can translate the records; for he has wherewith that he can look, and translate all records that are of ancient date; and it is a gift from God. And the things are called interpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commanded, lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish. And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called seer.
And behold, the king of the people who are in the land of Zarahemla is the man that is commanded to do these things, and who has this high gift from God.
And the king said that a seer is greater than a prophet.
And Ammon said that a seer is a revelator and a prophet also; and a gift which is greater can no man have, except he should possess the power of God, which no man can; yet a man may have great power given him from God.
But a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them, and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known.
Thus God has provided a means that man, through faith, might work mighty miracles; therefore he becometh a great benefit to his fellow beings (Mosiah 8:13–18).
From this scripture, we learn that a seer may be given power from God to use these interpreters (also called a Urim and Thummim) to learn from God anything which God wishes him to know. In addition, a seer can have things revealed to him by God about the past, the present, and the future.
Living Seers Today
General authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ are sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators. General authorities of the Church include the president of the Church and his two counselors, as well as the men who comprise the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. This structure is the same as it was immediately following Jesus’ resurrection, when he made Peter, James, and John the head of the Church and more men were called to fill up the Quorum of the Twelve. Sustaining these leaders means that the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recognize these men have been called of God and have been given the authority to lead His church on the earth. By sustaining these men, members promise to follow their counsel as they would God’s, recognizing that their words come from God.
Joseph Smith as a Seer
Joseph Smith was called as the first prophet, seer, and revelator of this last dispensation of time. A dispensation is a period of time in which the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ is on the earth and a prophet is leading God’s people. However, due to wickedness and apostasy (a turning away from the truth), the fulness of the gospel has been lost periodically. Each time the fulness has been restored, it has begun a new dispensation. Modern scripture teaches that our day is the last dispensation before Jesus Christ will come again to the earth.
The Book of Mormon contains a marvelous prophecy about Joseph Smith being called as a seer in our day. This prophecy says the prophet would be named Joseph and would come through the line of Joseph of Egypt; that this prophet would be a seer and would restore the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the descendants of Israel and to the whole earth; and that those who tried to destroy him would be confounded. (See2 Nephi 3:6–14.)
It is a testimony of God’s love for His children that He will never leave them without His spokesperson for long, even when they turn away from Him. There are living prophets, seers, and revelators today. They are the general authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. What a wonderful blessing to have men who act as the mouthpieces of God to reveal His will for His children today. Study for yourself the words of these living seers by reading the words of the semi-annual General Conferences of the Mormon Church.