And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not: (Mark 13:21)
We have an obsession with titles, and it can be a dangerous thing. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about prophets and their missions, and every time I talk with someone about this, the same phrase is invariably used:
“So-and-so is/is not a prophet”.
This is a very dangerous statement. By using the copular verb “to be”, we express an idea about the nature of the person, as if describing a characteristic of that person. However, when it comes to prophets, we should not do this. When we declare a person to be a prophet, we enter a perilous road of implications. If we say that a person is a prophet, then we are implying that anything that person says or does falls under the purview of his/her prophetic mantle. This, in turn, implies that everything this person does is the will of God. And if that’s the case, then anything this person says we should immediately obey, no questions asked. Essentially, to declare that someone is a prophet is to declare that they are infallible.
This language is how we end up with such heresy as:
- “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray.” – Wilford Woodruff
- “Follow the prophet; he knows the way.” (Follow the Prophet, Children’s Songbook)
- The 14 Fundamentals in Following the Prophet
- “My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church, and if he tells you to do something wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.” – Heber J. Grant, as quoted by Marion G. Romney; The Covenant of the Priesthood, Ensign, July 1972, p. 98
Instead, we should remember the words of Joseph Smith, when he declared: “A prophet is a prophet only when he is acting as such.” (emphasis added)
It is fallacious to declare that someone is a prophet; the person is irrelevant and does not matter. What matters is the message they bring. Judge the message. If the message persuades you to “believe in Christ”, then “it is of God“. Otherwise, reject it and continue to seek the face of God.