Have you ever finished reading the Bible and sighed in disappointment because there was nothing else? God’s words are so important, so wonderful, you wish you had more of them to read. Have you ever searched the Bible for an answer to a modern problem that simply wasn’t covered by the Bible, and wondered what God would want you to do about it?
When we study the Bible, we see that the needs of God’s people changed often. Noah needed to build an ark, but Moses didn’t. He needed to lead people through the wilderness safely. Each prophet had specific challenges he faced, based on political and social conditions and the specific behaviors of people in that time. New challenges arose, new temptations, and new ways of thinking. In the New Testament, when Jesus died, his apostles struggled to keep people from adapting false or slightly false beliefs based on their cultures, the rise of Greek philosophy, or simply a misinterpretation of teachings. Sometimes the new Christians simply had questions that hadn’t been answered, so they guessed, and often they guessed wrong. The apostles struggled to keep these from arising, but often without success. For instance, in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul is found chastising members for believing there would be no resurrection of the dead. He also scolded the Galatians for their lapse into false teachings. (See Galatians 1.) Paul spoke strongly to the Colossians about their rising faith in Gnosticism, a false belief that was invading early Christianity.
Read more about early signs of the Apostasy.
After the apostles were gone, no one else had the authority to receive revelation from God. Most Christians today accept that prophecy ended either with Christ’s death or after the death of the apostles. Mormons (a nickname informally used to describe those who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) believe the apostles were called as prophets, entitled to seek truth from God and to proclaim it officially. Acts 15:32 says, “And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them.” Judas and Silas, of course, were apostles ,demonstrating that apostles are also prophets.
During the long years in which there were not prophets, times changed dramatically. Issues that were not a concern—or not even invented yet—became challenges for Christians world-wide. Although the early church struggled, brave men and women worked hard to keep it alive and growing. However, they often struggled to know what was true. Although they studied the Bible, they often disagreed over essential doctrines. When this happened, it often led to the creation of new religions.
During the reformation, courageous men spoke out, boldly proclaiming that Christianity no longer existed in a pure form that matched what was taught by Jesus Christ. They believed corruption and false doctrine had crept in over the years. Many died for their courage. These leaders did the best they could to resolve what they considered to be incorrect doctrine, but even within the Protestant movement, there was not always agreement about what was wrong, and today there are many different Protestant sects, all teaching conflicting doctrine, even on subjects that are eternally critical.
Many people today, anxious to find the truth, look at these many churches and their conflicting doctrines, and then turn to the Bible. They note that in Amos 3:7, we are promised, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” They wonder if this means God is doing nothing important today, and yet, the last days are here and the Second Coming is approaching. Surely God is doing important things to prepare for that time. How can they know what those things are and what their own responsibility is in these last days?
Thinking people yearn for a prophet. They ask, “Does God speak today? Does He love us enough to guide us through the complexities of a world that is entirely different than the one in which the Bible was written? Is there a way to know what is true in an ever-growing complexity of competing ideas?”
Mormons say yes, God does speak today. He does love us enough to help us work through these last days knowing exactly what is true. Mormons do not believe that when Jesus died, God retreated and now refuses to speak to us, or that He is disinterested in helping us find the truth. Mormons do not believe God doesn’t want us to pray to Him to find out what is true.
In 1830, a fourteen-year-old boy named Joseph Smith had many of the same questions with which people today struggle. In view of the contradictions taught by the various Protestant churches in his area, he wondered how he could possibly know which church to join. While reading the Bible, he came across James 1:5:
5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
He decided this was the obvious solution to his problem. God was really the only sure source of truth—anyone else could be wrong. He went into the woods to pray and received his first vision—a visit from God and Jesus Christ. Jesus instructed him not to join any of the currently existing churches. The lack of prophecy had caused too many errors to slip into the doctrine.
Once he was an adult, God sent an angel named Moroni to train him for his future role as the first prophet of modern times. In Biblical times, God often took the prophets from the earth, but He always returned them in time, and He had done so once again.
Today, our complex world holds many challenges for those who want to obey God’s word. Essential doctrines on family, the road to salvation, baptism, and other doctrine are being debated with fervor and sometimes even described as unimportant or subject to modern fads. Since Joseph Smith assumed his place as the first prophet of the restoration, there has continued to be a prophet at the head of the Church. Today’s prophet is Thomas S. Monson.
Does God speak today? He does. Through his prophets and apostles, He helps us to understand the choices available to us and the consequences for each choice. When new situations arise, God can help us know how to approach them. Instead of having to pray individually about every possible doctrine—a time consuming and complicated process that essentially involves creating your own religion—you are able to pray to know if President Monson really is a prophet. God will tell you—He has promised to do so. Then, having that assurance from God, you will know you can trust him. However, if at any time he were to say something you were not sure about, you would again be free to pray to know for yourself.
Mormons believe in personal revelation. They believe God speaks to the entire church through the prophets, but they also believe God speaks to us individually if we ask Him to do so. We may not hear actual words, but our hearts will assure us the answer really is from God. Although there are some who warn people not to pray about truth, the Bible tells us we should and that God will answer—Mormons believe the promise of James 1:5. Satan cannot fill our hearts with peace and joy, so it is very easy to tell who is answering your prayers.
Do you want to know more about Thomas S. Monson? Try these websites to learn about him:
Thomasmonson.com: An unofficial website by ordinary Mormons
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.