Prophecy and Stewardship

Q: will we be caught up before the mark of the beast. I have the gift of prophesy I’ve been having dreams just wondering, something is going to happen in 5 years they told me, and were going to have over the next 5 years alot of calamities,or whatever.

The prophet Joel saw that prophecies and dreams would happen in the last days when he said, “I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions. (Joel 2:28)” It’s the scope of such revelations that I’d like to talk about.

It’s true that the gift of prophesy can be given to any worthy individual, one must be careful giving these propehecies as doctrine to other people. The Lord does not run His kingdom based on revelations to one man, telling his neighbor to do something. The kingdom of God is a house of order and everything is done in order. Commandments and divine guidance are recieved and given under the proper stewardship. An individual may recieve revelation for him or herself. A husband and wife may receive revelation for their family. Bishops for their wards, stake presidents for their stakes, and the prophet is chosen to receive revelation for all the world.

At each of these levels, the revelation is given to someone who has the responsibility to care for someone else. Even then, it must be given righteously, as spoken in D&C 121:41-42.

No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—

For example, if a person were visit with his or her bishop concerning a personal problem, the bishop is authorized to receive revelation to counsel that individual. A bishop of another ward or a former bishop cannot recieve such revelation. That person can then receive personal witness that the bishop’s counsel is of God by praying to Him.

So concerning your dreams, I cannot judge how it may affect others but I can encourage you to study out the matter in scripture and in prayer and find what is required of you to prepare for these calamities.

My Favorite Book of Mormon Story

My favorite Book of Mormon Story begins in Helaman, chapter 7. I just started reading it again tonight, it is the story of a lone prophet among an influx of unrighteous, proud, and dangerous people. Nephi (the son of Helaman) was praying aloud in his garden about the deplorable state of the people when a crowd noticed and gathered around him. He called them to repentance, warning them that they will be destroyed unless they heed the word of the Lord.

At the end of his preaching, he told the people to go to the judgment seat and there they would find the Chief Judge dead by the hand of his brother. He reveals that these brothers were both members of the infamous Gadianton Robbers.

Immediately, 5 men run from where Nephi is preaching to the judgment seat to verify Nephi’s words, they agreed that if it were true, they would then believe in Nephi as a prophet. Sure enough, when they arrived, they found the Chief Judge lying in a pool of blood.

Meanwhile, the servants who discovered the murdered Chief Judge had gone out and told others about the murder. When a crowd of onlookers arrived, they found these 5 men and assumed they were the ones who had killed him and they were thrown into prison.

Later, at the burial of the Chief Judge, those who had been gathered at Nephi’s garden wondered what happened to the 5 who went to check – when it was discovered that they were the same 5, they were set free. But the people were now suspicious of Nephi, claiming that he was in league with the murderers and Nephi was a false prophet trying to gain power. So they brought him in for questioning. But Nephi was firm, and testified to his accusers that the Lord will destroy this people if they will not repent. Then Nephi gives them further proof, he tells them that if they go to the brother of the Chief Judge and accuse him, they will find blood on his cloak and he would confess.

And they did.

And he did.

And many believed that Nephi was a prophet of God.

I love how dramatic this story is, it reads just as shocking as any blockbuster movie or thriller novel. It shows how powerful prophets can be, when the situation demands it and the trust God gives his prophets. It shows how fickle groups of people can be and warns against governments run by evil and corrupt men/women.

What has the Prophet said Lately?

Two of our meetings at church today focused on the same issue: What Has the Prophet Said Lately?

The first speaker in sacrament meeting related a story from her mission where a person they were teaching about the gospel got very excited about the idea of a living prophet and asked the two missionaries, “Well, what has the prophet said lately?” Unfortunately, the sisters were caught unaware and could not think of anything the prophet had said in recent months. It is a remarkable claim that we are able to make, that we have a Living Prophet who speaks to us as a mouthpiece for God; as such, we should be thirsty for any messages or information that comes from him.

I found myself unable to recollect anything the prophet has said recently. Fortunately I know where to look to find this information and will relay to you what I have found in links and brief summaries.
There are a few different avenues where we are able to hear from the Prophet. Most notably is the semi-Annual General Conferences of the church, held in the first weekend of April and October. (it’s coming up!) The church also publishes a monthly magazine (The Ensign) wherein the opening article comes from one of the three members of the First Presidency. The Ensign also publishes all the addresses from General Conference in the May and November issues.
In General Conference the Prophet generally addresses the church 4-5 times, usually the opening and/or closing remarks come from the prophet as well as other more instructive talks throughout the two day event. So in the past year (two conferences) here is what our Prophet, Thomas S. Monson, has had to say to us:
April 2010 Conference
  • Welcome to Conference
    • Recent humanitarian aid, 25 years since humanitarian aid program began. Listing of Temples recently announced or built.
  • Preparation Brings Blessings
    • This message was given to the priesthood brethren (men ages 12+). Good choices in youth will lead to blessings later in life. Stay away from destructive thoughts, influences and environments. Blessings will result if faithful.
  • He Is Risen!
    • “Our Savior lived again. The most glorious, comforting, and reassuring of all events of human history had taken place—the victory over death. The pain and agony of Gethsemane and Calvary had been wiped away. The salvation of mankind had been secured. The Fall of Adam had been reclaimed.”
  • A Word At Closing
    • Study the words which have been spoken at this conference. Look to the lighthouse of the Lord to direct your paths.

October 2009 Conference

  • Welcome to Conference
    • Temples recently built, temple work is important. Members should embrace new converts.
  • School Thy Feelings, O My Brother
    • This message given to the Priesthood Brethren (Men ages 12+). Refrain from anger and angry actions. “To be angry is to yield to the influence of Satan. No one can make us angry. It is our choice. If we desire to have a proper spirit with us at all times, we must choose to refrain from becoming angry. I testify that such is possible.”
  • What Have I Done For Someone Today?
    • “My brothers and sisters, we are surrounded by those in need of our attention, our encouragement, our support, our comfort, our kindness—be they family members, friends, acquaintances, or strangers. We are the Lord’s hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift His children. He is dependent upon each of us.” Focus on helping someone else everyday.
  • Closing Remarks
    • “We live at a time when many in the world have slipped from the moorings of safety found in compliance with the commandments. It is a time of permissiveness, with society in general routinely disregarding and breaking the laws of God. We often find ourselves swimming against the current, and sometimes it seems as though the current could carry us away…He is ever mindful of us. He loves us and will bless us as we do what is right.”
Ensign Articles since September 2009 written by President Monson:
  • Canaries With Gray on their Wings June 2010
    • To live greatly, we must develop the capacity to face trouble with courage, disappointment with cheerfulness, and triumph with humility. You ask, “How might we achieve these goals?” I answer, i“By gaining a true perspective of who we really are!” We are sons and daughters of a living God, in whose image we have been created. Think of that: created in the image of God. We cannot sincerely hold this conviction without experiencing a profound new sense of strength and power.
  • On Being Spiritually Prepared February 2010
    • “In the search for our best selves, several questions will guide our thinking: Am I what I want to be? Am I closer to the Savior today than I was yesterday? Will I be closer yet tomorrow? Do I have the courage to change for the better? …”
  • Finding Strength Through Obedience October 2009
    • The best examples of Obedience can be found in the scriptures. “Obedience is a hallmark of prophets, but it should be realized that this source of strength is available to us today.”
These are the messages we have been given most recently. In the first weekend of October, we will be given some more. We believe as Amos taught, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secrets unto his servants the prophets.”
We are privileged to get such access to the prophet and what the Lord wants for us through his messages.

How do we ‘know’?

Today at church we had a testimony meeting.  This is a somewhat unique sermon style where the bishop invites the people in the congregation to come to the microphone and share their testimonies or personal witness stories.  They simply go up to the front if they feel like they should, and it is usually very uplifting and enlightening.  You can learn how the gospel impacts a person directly.

You’ll often hear phrases like, “I know that God lives,” and “I know Jesus died for my sins,” and “I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.”  Sometimes visitors come away from these meetings non-plussed by our uber-confident ‘knowledge’ of things.  It got me thinking.

Whenever someone says they know something, they are saying they have high confidence that their belief coincides with objective truth.  We do this all the time.  You say, “I just know the dentist is going to lecture me on flossing” because 1) he’s done it before and 2) you still haven’t been flossing.  Your previous experience and the evidence of your behavior lead you to this prediction.  There are many ways we gather knowledge; I’ll list a few here for illustration:

  • Personal experience (five physical senses,  sense of balance, pain, hunger, etc.)
  • Emotion and intuition (love, fear, instinct, etc.)
  • Experiences of others (advice, anecdotes, biographies, etc.)
  • Logical and mathematical proofs (a priori)
  • Found evidence (archeology, historical documents, paleontology, forensics, etc.)
  • Robust scientific experimentation that controls for all variables (physics, chemistry, etc.)
  • Scientific experimentation/observation that controls for variables where possible (sociology, political science, economics, etc.)

We all tend to have some level of confidence in these methods, some more than others, depending on many factors, but each of these can lead a person to say “I know…” if the learning method is compelling enough.  Even so, many would argue that none of the methods I listed above are capable of producing reliable knowledge of things as transcendent as God.  Archeological digs might lend credence to a religious belief, but surely not firm knowledge.  These critics have a point, so I would add one more item to the list:

  • Revelation from God

God speaks to His children in various ways.  He gave Joseph prophetic dreams that came true; He spoke to Moses from a burning bush (and also face-to-face).  He sent an angel to Mary to announce the birth of Jesus.  Joseph Smith saw and listened to the Father and the Son in a grove of trees.

To Joseph of Egypt, Moses, Mary, Smith and many others, those experiences were indisputable.  They had every right to declare, “I know” instead of “I believe,” and they did.

For most of us, though, the glorious visions and visitations of heavenly beings haven’t yet happened.  For us, God has promised another form of revelation: a personal witness of spiritual truths through the power of the Holy Spirit.  He is available to bear witness of the Father and the Son.  “By the power of the Holy Ghost, ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5).  This witness may be less dramatic or conspicuous than an angelic visitor, but its convincing power may be even more sure than a vision (see Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 2:151; 1 Nephi 17:45-46).  Because of His subtlety, it may take many prompts for you to hear the Holy Ghost and again many more before you trust them enough to say “I know.”  But it can happen.  This is how I know God lives and that Jesus is the Christ.

You can know, too.  Like other modes of learning, it won’t necessarily come in an afternoon of mild curiosity, but it will with dedicated seeking, knocking, and asking over the course of weeks and months and years.  Begin now and you will taste the deliciousness that is the knowledge of God.