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Mormonism and prophets/Revelation after Joseph Smith
Revelation after Joseph Smith
Summary: If every President of the Church is a prophet, seer, and revelator, why have so few revelations after Joseph Smith been added to the Doctrine and Covenants? Revelations used to be printed in Church periodicals such as the Times and Seasons and the Evening and Morning Star. Why are revelations no longer published on an ongoing basis?
Jump to Subtopic:
- Do modern prophets prophesy, or are they simply "men of their time?"
- Apostles as personal witnesses of Christ
- Divine manifestations since the time of Joseph Smith
- Prophecy fulfillment
- Blessings given by Oliver Cowdery
- Brigham Young ordination blessing
- President Monson bearing witness of foundational doctrines of Mormonism
- Joseph F. Smith at the Reed Smoot hearings
Summary: Is they anything special about prophets that set them apart from others, or are they simply "men of their time?" Do modern day prophets actually prophesy of anything?
Jump to Subtopic:
- Question: Are prophets simply "men of their time," without any special ability to guide the Church?
- Question: Why are revelations no longer published on an ongoing basis?
- Question: If every President of the Church is a prophet, seer, and revelator, why have so few revelations after Joseph Smith been added to the Doctrine and Covenants?
- Question: Are Latter-day Saint prophets not really "prophets" because they don't foretell unknown events?
- Brigham Young (1859): "have I yet lived to the state of perfection that I can commune in person with the Father and the Son at my will and pleasure? No, though I hold myself in readiness that he can wield me at his will and pleasure"
- Wilford Woodruff (1869): "We had the privilege of beholding the face of the prophet...and seeing the workings of the Spirit of God with him, and the revelations of Jesus Christ unto him and the fulfilment of those revelations"
- Heber C. Kimball (1865): "I know it by revelation by the Spirit of God, for in this way my Heavenly Father communes with me"
- Orson Pratt (1878): "I have been blessed with some revelations and prophecies, and with dreams of things that have come to pass"
- Orson F. Whitney (1926): "One night I dreamed … that I was in the Garden of Gethsemane, a witness of the Savior’s agony"
- George Q. Cannon (1896): "I know that God lives. I know that Jesus lives; for I have seen him"
- Henry B. Eyring (1996): "I know as surely as did the Apostles Peter, James, and John that Jesus is the Christ, our risen Lord"
- James E. Faust (1995): "Jesus is our divine Savior, Redeemer, and the son of God the Father. I know of his reality by a sure perception so sacred I cannot give utterance to it"
- Harold B. Lee: "I have received a witness that I cannot or dare not deny. When I see Jesus, I cannot mistake His identity. I know that He lives!"
- Oaks (2000): "it is usually inappropriate to recite miraculous circumstances to a general audience that includes people with very different levels of spiritual maturity"
- Oaks (1997): "rarely speak of them publicly because...because we understand that the channels of revelation will be closed if we show these things before the world"
- Boyd K. Packer (1980): "We do not talk of those sacred interviews that qualify the servants of the Lord to bear a special witness of Him, for we have been commanded not to do so"
- George F. Richards: "The Lord has given me dreams which to me are just as real and as much from God as was the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar"
- Marion G. Romney: "I have never told anybody some of the experiences I have had, not even my wife. I know that God lives. I not only know that he lives, but I know him"
- David B. Haight: "I was there with the outpouring of the Spirit in that room so strong that none of us could speak afterwards"
Characteristics of Church Leaders
Succession of the President of the Church
Criticisms related to Church leaders
Mormonism and prophets/Revelation after Joseph Smith
1835 Apostolic Charge
In 1829, the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that twelve disciples were to be called to "go into all the world to preach my gospel unto every creature." In 1835, twelve men were chosen to be the twelve apostles in fulfillment of this commandment. They were called to be "special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world" and given responsibility, "under the direction of the Presidency of the Church, agreeable to the institution of heaven; to build up the church, and regulate all the affairs of the same in all nations." After the twelve apostles were blessed, Oliver Cowdery (then serving in the First Presidency), gave them a charge. Part of that included the injunction:
But it is necessary that you receive a testimony from Heaven for yourselves, so that you can bear testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon. And that you have seen the face of God: that is more than the testimony of an Angel. When the proper time arrives, you shall be able to bear this testimony to the world. When you bear testimony that you have seen God. This testimony God will never suffer to fall, but will bear you out. although many will not give heed, yet others will. You will, therefore, see the necessity of getting this testimony from Heaven. Never cease striving until you have seen God, face to face. Strengthen your faith, cast off your doubts, your sins and all your unbelief and nothing can prevent you from coming to God. your ordination is not full and complete till God has laid his hand upon you. We require as much to qualify us as did those who have gone before us. God is the same. If the Saviour in former days laid his hands on his deciples. Why not in the latter Days.
Because of this charge, some have wondered if every member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, including those living in our day, have to see Christ in person to receive this same testimony and bear it to the world.
First, it should be noted that later Apostles have clarified that the witness of Christ required to be an Apostle does not require an in-person visitation from the Savior. Joseph F. Smith explained, "These twelve disciples of Christ are supposed to be eye and ear witnesses of the divine mission of Jesus Christ. It is not permissible for them to say, I believe, simply; I have accepted it simply because I believe it. Read the revelation, the Lord informs us they must know, they must get the knowledge for themselves, it must be with them as though they had seen with their eyes and heard with their ears and they know the truth." Joseph Fielding Smith echoed this by stating, "Every member of the Council of the Twelve Apostles should have, and I feel sure have had, the knowledge of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This does not have to come by direct visitation of the Savior, but it does come from the testimony of the Holy Ghost. . . . The testimony of the Holy Ghost is the strongest testimony that can be given." He also stated, more than 30 years after being called as an apostle:
I did not live in the days of our Savior; he has not come to me in person. I have not beheld him. His Father and he have not felt it necessary to grant me such a great blessing as this. But it is not necessary. I have felt his presence. I know that the Holy Spirit has enlightened my mind and revealed him unto me, so that I do love my Redeemer, I hope, and feel it is true, better than everything else in this life.
Not Before the World
This of course does not preclude modern-day apostles from seeing Christ. Many of the modern-day apostles have spoken of special experiences, although very carefully. That they exercise great care in proclaiming these experiences is not surprising, when one considers that these must be held as most sacred as pearls of their testimonies. We are all familiar with the command from the Master not to cast our pearls before the swine. Thus, it should be no surprise that modern day apostles do not shout from the rooftops or speak to reporters or even refer frequently in general conferences to such experiences. Dallin H. Oaks explained:
Why don't our talks in general conference and local meetings say more about the miracles we have seen? Most of the miracles we experience are not to be shared. Consistent with the teachings of the scriptures, we hold them sacred and share them only when the Spirit prompts us to do so. . . . In bearing testimonies and in our public addresses we rarely mention our most miraculous experiences, and we rarely rely on signs that the gospel is true. We usually just affirm our testimony of the truthfulness of the restored gospel and give few details on how we obtained it.
Marion G. Romney likewise observed, “I don’t know just how to answer people when they ask the question, 'Have you seen the Lord?' I think that the witness that I have and the witness that each [of the apostles] has, and the details of how it came, are too sacred to tell. I have never told anybody some of the experiences I have had, not even my wife. I know that God lives. I not only know that He lives, but I know Him.” Boyd K. Packer also explained the limited sharing of spiritual experiences:
I made a rule for myself a number of years ago with reference to this subject [of keeping spiritual experiences sacred]. When someone relates a spiritual experience to me, personally or in a small, intimate group, I make it a rigid rule not to talk about it thereafter. I assume that it was told to me in a moment of trust and confidence, and therefore I never talk about it. If, however, on some future occasion I hear that individual talk about it in public in a large gathering, or where a number of people are present, then I know that it has been stated publicly and I can feel free under the right circumstances to relate it. But I know many, many sacred and important things that have been related to me by others that I will not discuss unless I am privileged to do so under the rule stated above. I know that others of the Brethren have the same feeling.
However, modern-day Church leaders will obliquely share special experiences that allow them to bear Apostolic testimony, as Boyd K. Packer explained:
Though I have not asked that question of others, I have heard them answer it—but not when they were asked. I have heard one of my Brethren declare, "I know, from experiences too sacred to relate, that Jesus is the Christ." I have heard another testify, "I know that God lives, I know that the Lord lives, and more than that, I know the Lord." I repeat: they have answered this question not when they were asked, but under the prompting of the Spirit, on sacred occasions, when "the Spirit beareth record." (D&C 1:39.) There are some things just too sacred to discuss: not secret, but sacred; not to be discussed, but to be harbored and protected and regarded with the deepest of reverence.
He also reminded us, “Do not mistake our reverent hesitation to speak glibly or too frequently of Him to mean that we do not know Him. Our brethren of Judah knew Him in ancient times, our brethren of Ephraim also. He is no stranger to His Saints, to His prophets and Apostles now.”
The Apostles also bear plain testimony to all the world of the living reality of Jesus Christ. President Packer explained:
We do not talk of those sacred interviews that qualify the servants of the Lord to bear a special witness of Him, for we have been commanded not to do so. But we are free, indeed, we are obliged, to bear that special witness. . . . I am a witness to the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Only Begotten of the Father; that He has a body of flesh and bone; that He knows those who are His servants here and that He is known of them. I know that He directs this Church now, as He established it then, through a prophet of God. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Dallin H. Oaks
"Visions do happen. Voices are heard from beyond the veil. I know this. But these experiences are exceptional. And those who have these great and exceptional experiences rarely speak of them publicly because we are instructed not to do so (see D&C 63:64) and because we understand that the channels of revelation will be closed if we show these things before the world."
Boyd K. Packer
“I feel compelled, on this 150th anniversary of the Church, to certify to you that I know that the day of miracles has not ceased. I know that angels minister unto men. I am a witness to the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Only Begotten of the Father; that He has a body of flesh and bone; that He knows those who are His servants here and that He is known of them.” “The Lord reveals His will through dreams and visions, visitations, through angels, through His own voice, and through the voice of His servants.”
- President W[ilford] Woodruff told some of the Saints that our Saviour had appeared unto him in the East Room in the Holy of Holies, & told him that He had accepted of the [Salt Lake] Temple & of the dedication services, & that the Lord forgave us His Saints who had assisted in any manner towards the erection and completion of the Temple—that our sins were forgiven us by the Lord Jesus Christ.… Pres[iden]t Woodruff said the House had been full of revelation, more so than he had ever witnessed at any dedication of the previous Temples and he had been present at all of them from Kirtland to this present one.
- I feel at liberty to reveal to this assembly this morning what has been revealed to me since we were here yesterday morning. If the veil could be taken from our eyes and we could see into the spirit world, we would see that Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and John Taylor had gathered together every spirit that ever dwelt in the flesh in this Church since its organization. We would also see the faithful apostles and elders of the Nephites who dwelt in the flesh in the days of Jesus Christ. In that assembly we would also see Isaiah and every prophet and apostle that ever prophesied of the great work of God. In the midst of these spirits we would see the Son of God, the Savior, who presides and guides and controls the preparing of the kingdom of God on the earth and in heaven.
- I know what the will of God is concerning this people, and if they will take the counsel we give them, all will be well with them…. Speaking of the administration of angels. I never asked the Lord in my life to send me an angel or to show me any miracle…. I have had the administration of angels in my day and time, though I never prayed for an angel. I have had, in several instances, the administration of holy messengers….The room was filled with light. A messenger came to me. We had a long conversation. He laid before me as if in a panorama, the signs of the last days, and told me what was coming to pass. I saw the sun turned to darkness, the moon to blood, the stars fall from heaven. I saw the resurrection day. I saw armies of men in the first resurrection, clothed with the robes of the Holy Priesthood. I saw the second resurrection. I saw a great many signs that were presented before me, by this personage; and among the rest, there were seven lions, as of burning brass, set in the heavens. He says, "That is one of the signs that will appear in the heavens before the coming of the Son of Man. It is a sign of the various dispensations."…. Now, I have had all these testimonies, and they are true. But with all these, I have never had any testimony since I have been in the flesh, that has been greater than the testimony of the Holy Ghost. That is the strongest testimony that can be given to me or to any man in the flesh. Now, every man has a right to that, and when he obtains it, it is a living witness to him.…I know what awaits this nation. I know what awaits the Latter-day Saints. Many things have been shown to me by vision and by revelation.
George Q. Cannon
- “I know that Jesus lives; for I have seen Him.”
- “I have been greatly favored of the Lord. My mind has been rapt in vision and have saw the beauties and Glory of God. I have saw and conversed with the Savior face to face. God will bestow this upon you.”
From Lorenzo Snow's granddaughter: In the large corridor leading into the celestial room, I was walking several steps ahead of grand-pa when he stopped me and said: "Wait a moment, Allie, I want to tell you something. It was right here that the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to me at the time of the death of President Woodruff. He instructed me to go right ahead and reorganize the First Presidency of the Church at once and not wait as had been done after the death of the previous presidents, and that I was to succeed President Woodruff."
Then grand-pa came a step nearer and held out his left hand and said: "He stood right here, about three feet above the floor. It looked as though He stood on a plate of solid gold."
Grand-pa told me what a glorious personage the Savior is and described His hands, feet, countenance and beautiful white robes, all of which were of such a glory of whiteness and brightness that he could hardly gaze upon Him.
Then [grand-pa] came another step nearer and put his right hand on my head and said: "Now, grand-daughter, I want you to remember that this is the testimony of your grand-father, that he told you with his own lips that he actually saw the Savior, here in the Temple, and talked with Him face to face.”
David O. McKay
"Brethren, I know as I know I am looking into your faces that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true and that he is my Savior, as real as he was when Thomas said, with bowed head, “My Lord my God!”"
Harold B. Lee
- I know that this is the Lord's work. I know that Jesus Christ lives, and that he is closer to this Church and appears more often in holy places than any of us realize, excepting those to whom he makes personal appearance.
Elsewhere he said:
- I shall never forget my feelings of loneliness the Saturday night after I was told by the President of the Church that I was to be sustained the next day as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. That was a sleepless night….
- And then one of the Brethren, who arranged for Sunday evening radio programs, said, "Now you know that after having been ordained, you are a special witness to the mission of the Lord Jesus Christ. We want you to give the Easter talk next Sunday night."
- The assignment was to bear testimony of the mission of the Lord concerning His resurrection, His life, and His ministry, so I went to a room in the Church Office Building where I could be alone, and I read the Gospels, particularly those that had to do with the closing days and weeks and months of the life of Jesus. And as I read, I realized that I was having a new experience.
- It wasn't any longer just a story; it seemed as though I was actually seeing the events about which I was reading, and when I gave my talk and closed with my testimony, I said, "I am now the least of all my brethren and want to witness to you that I know, as I have never known before this call came, that Jesus is the Savior of this world. He lives and He died for us." Why did I know? Because there had come a witness, that special kind of a witness, that may have been the more sure word of prophecy that one must have if he is to be a special witness. 
- May I bear my own testimony. Some years ago two missionaries came to me with what seemed to them to be a very difficult question. A young Methodist minister had laughed at them when they had said that apostles were necessary today in order for the true church to be upon the earth. They said that the minister said, "Do you realize that when the apostles met to choose one to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Judas, they said it had to be one who companied with them and had been a witness of all things pertaining to the mission and resurrection of the Lord? How can you say you have apostles, if that be the measure of an apostle?"
- And so these young men said, "What shall we answer?"
- I said to them, "Go back and ask your minister friend two questions. First, how did the Apostle Paul gain what was necessary to be called an apostle? He didn't know the Lord, had no personal acquaintance. He hadn't accompanied the apostles. He hadn't been a witness of the ministry nor of the resurrection of the Lord. How did he gain his testimony sufficient to be an apostle? And the second question you ask him is, How does he know that all who are today apostles have not likewise received that witness?"
- I bear witness to you that those who hold the apostolic calling may, and do, know of the reality of the mission of the Lord. To know is to be born and quickened in the inner man.
Spencer W. Kimball
- “I know that God lives. I know that Jesus Christ lives,” said…my predecessor, “for I have seen him.” I bear this testimony to you brethren in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
- Brethren and Sisters, we come now to the close of this great conference. You have heard from most of the Brethren, as I have said and their testimonies have been inspiring. What they have told you is true. It has come from their hearts. They have this same testimony, and they know it is true. They are true servants sent to you from our Heavenly Father. I pray that you will be listening, that you will be remembering, that you will take these many truths with you to your homes and in your lives and to your families. Brethren and Sisters, I want to add to these testimonies of these prophets my testimony that I know that He lives. And I know that we may see him, and that we may be with him, and that we may enjoy his presence always if we will live the commandments of the Lord and do the things which we have been commanded by him to do and reminded by the Brethren to do.
Ezra Taft Benson
- “As one of those called as special witnesses, I add my testimony to those of fellow Apostles: He lives! He lives with resurrected body. There is no truth or fact of which I am more assured, or know better by personal experience, than the truth of the literal resurrection of our Lord.”
- D&C 18:28; cf. 26–39.
- "Record of the Twelve, 14 February–28 August 1835," entry for 14 February 1835, josephsmithpapers.org.
- D&C 107:23,33.
- "Minutes and Blessings, 21 February 1835," in Minute Book 1, pages 159–160, josephsmithpapers.org.
- Joseph F. Smith, April 1916 general conference, in Conference Report, page 6.
- Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation (Bookcraft, 1956), 1:153–154.
- "Chapter 2: Our Savior, Jesus Christ," Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith.
- Matthew 7:6
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Miracles," Ensign, June 2001.
- Marion G. Romney, in F. Burton Howard, Marion G. Romney: His Life and Faith (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1988), 222.
- Boyd K. Packer, Teach Ye Diligently (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1975), 326.
- Packer, Teach Ye Diligently, 86–87.
- Boyd K. Packer, “Scriptures,” October 1982 general conference.
- Boyd K. Packer, "A Tribute to the Rank and File of the Church," April 1980 general conference.
- Dallin H. Oaks, "Teaching and Learning by the Spirit," Ensign, March 1997.
- Boyd K. Packer, "A Tribute to the Rank and File of the Church," April 1980 general conference.
- Boyd K. Packer, “Personal Revelation: The Gift, the Test, and the Promise,” October 1994 general conference.
- Wilford Woodruff, in Collected Discourses Delivered by: President Wilford Woodruff, His Two Counselors, the Twelve Apostles, and Others, edited by Brian H. Stuy, 5 vol. (BHS Publishing, 1987–1992), 5:225.; citing John Lee Jones biography (no date) and Minutes of Salt Lake Temple dedication on 6–24 April 1893, 16th session, 13 April 1893.
- Woodruff in Stuy, Collected Discourses 3:274; citing third dedicatory session and Archibald Bennett, Saviors on Mount Zion, 142–143.
- Wilford Woodruff, “Administration of Angels,” (3 March 1889); in Stuy, Collected Discourses 1:216–218.
- George Q. Cannon, “Supporting Church Leaders,” (6 October 1896), reported in The Deseret Weekly 53 (31 October 1896): 610; reproduced in Stuy, Collected Discourses 5:225.
- Cannon, in Stuy, Collected Discourses, 3:285, citing Francis Asbury Hammond, Journal, 20 April 1893.
- "Chapter 20: The Kingdom of God Moves Forward," Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow.
- David O. McKay, Conference Report (April 1949): 182.
- Harold B. Lee, “Everlasting Covenant,” MIA conference address, 29 June 1969, 9–10; cited in Living Prophets for a Living Church (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1973), 119; also in Teachings of Harold B. Lee, 11 and portion in Ye Are the Light of the World (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1974), 10.
- Harold B. Lee, Joint Nottingham and Leicester Conference Nottingham Stake, England, 2 September 1973; cited in “Speaking for Himself—President Lee’s Stories,” Ensign (February 1974): 18; also in Hartshorn, 337.
- Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye in Holy Places (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 1974), 64–65.
- Spencer W. Kimball, “Strengthening the Family—the Basic Unit of the Church,” general conference, April 1978. President Kimball attributed this quote to John Taylor. The actual quote is from George Q. Cannon (see here). See discussion in Dennis C. Davis, Letter to the editor, Sunstone 15:5/8 (November 1991).
- Spencer W. Kimball, “The Cause is Just and Worthy,” Ensign (May 1974): 119.
- Ezra Taft Benson, “Five Marks of the Divinity of Jesus Christ,” University of Utah fireside, 9 December 1979. Published in New Era 10 (December 1980): 48 and Ensign (December 2001).
Jump to Subtopic:
- Question: Did any nineteenth century leader after Joseph Smith report divine visions?
- Question: Did any twentieth century leader after Joseph Smith report divine visions?
Summary: The fulfillment of prophecy does not end with death--blessings, promises, and fulfillment extend into the Millennial years of the Lord.
Jump to Subtopic:
- Question: Can prophecy fulfillment or promises made in a patriarchal blessing extend into the Millennium?
- Question: Does the ordination blessing given to Heber C. Kimball contain a false prophecy that he may "stand unto the coming of our Lord"?
- Question: Did Parley P. Pratt make a prophecy in 1838 to La Roy Sutherland about the latter being struck dumb and coming to an untimely end?
- Question: Is Joseph Smith Sr.'s promise in a father's blessing to Joseph Smith Jr. that he would continue in the Priest's office until Christ comes a false prophecy?
- Question: Did Wilford Woodruff prophesy that New York would be destroyed by earthquake, Boston by flood, and Albany by fire?
Jump to Subtopic:
- Question: Does Oliver Cowdery's blessing and promise to Orson Hyde contain a false prophecy, which was then altered before being printed in History of the Church?
- Question: Is a blessing given to Lyman Johnson that he would live until the gathering accomplished a false prophecy?
- Question: Was William Smith promised in a blessing that he would remain on the earth until Christ comes?
Summary: It has been claimed that President Thomas S. Monson does not bear testimony of such foundational concepts as the truth of the Book of Mormon, the reality of Joseph Smith's First Vision, and so forth. Some have wondered if this means that he intends to downplay such doctrines, or if he does not believe strongly in them.
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Summary: It is claimed that at the Smoot hearings, Joseph F. Smith said that he never received revelation.