Mormon Beliefs About Prophets
When God needed to get a message to His children during Biblical times, He sent it through His prophets. He could, of course, told each one individually, but there were advantages to using prophets. First, everyone who had faith in God and who had prayed to know who the prophet was knew that if the prophet said it while acting as a prophet, it was true. If someone else came along who claimed God told him that a bit of doctrine needed to change, everyone with a testimony would know right away the person was false. There needed to be a single point of authority everyone could turn to.
Unfortunately, there were times when the people weren’t interested in having a prophet. They thought God didn’t need prophets anymore, or they thought He didn’t have any interest in sending them, or they just didn’t like what the prophet had to say. During one such time, God sent a flood that killed the people, leaving only the prophet—Noah—and His family behind. Since He promised Noah He wouldn’t do it again, He instead ushered in periods of apostasy. When the people refused to honor or recognize His prophets, He simply stopped calling prophets for a while.
Despite this, He made sure the people understood that apostasy was not permanent. After the people had an opportunity to see how complex life is without prophets, God always called a new one and He promised He always would:
7 Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets ( Amos 3:7).
In fact, God assured us His church must be built with a foundation of apostles and prophets. It was a sign of the truth church:
19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone (Ephesians 2:19-20).
When Jesus died, the apostles carried on the work of the church and served as prophets of God:
32 And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them. Acts 15:32
As we read the New Testament, we note the apostles, in their role as prophets, taught things not previously taught in the Bible and that when the various church groups disagreed on what doctrines were correct, they stepped in as authoritative voices deciding what was true. They could do this because they had the authority from God as prophets.
Unfortunately, when they died, no new prophets were called. There were too few Christians, too few willing to listen to truth. Already, even before the apostles died, these valiant followers of Jesus Christ mourned that they were already losing entire congregations and even countries to apostasy. The people had once again lost the right to the gift of a prophet.
However, the earlier-cited scriptures show us God always returns the prophets to the Earth. As the last days play out, there is a clear need for a prophet. There are thousands of Christian religions, all teaching conflicting information and setting as doctrine teachings that were voted on, not revealed by prophets. When disagreements arise, churches hold elections or simply break apart and start even more churches. There is no central voice of authority and clearly the Bible is not enough—if it were, everyone would agree on what it teaches.
In the 1800s, Joseph Smith, age fourteen, asked what thousands have asked before and since. Which church is true among all the existing churches. He discovered that while the ministers all answered his questions about important doctrines differently, the Bible offered the solution. James 1:5 said:
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 (James 1:5).
Joseph did just that, asking God in prayer what church to join. That prayer was answered by a personal visit from God and Jesus Christ. Jesus instructed Joseph not to join any of them, because none were completely accurate. When he was an adult, God sent an angelic visitor to prepare Joseph to become the first prophet of the restored gospel. Since that time, there has always been a prophet on Earth and there will be until Jesus returns. God has kept His promise and will not act without first informing His prophets, so we can be informed—and we know in these final days, there is much for God to do.