Terms prophets, seers, revelators

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Terms prophets, seers, revelators

The President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is sustained as prophet, seer, and revelator. The the counselors in the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are also sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators.[1]

What do these terms mean, and how long have they been used in the Church?

Meanings of the Terms

The Church has published definitions of each of these terms.[2] A short summary is provided here, with links for further reading.


A prophet is “a person who has been called by and speaks for God. As a messenger of God, a prophet receives commandments, prophecies, and revelations from God. . . . On occasion, prophets may be inspired to foretell the future for the benefit of mankind. His primary responsibility, however, is to bear witness of Christ.


A seer is “a person authorized of God to see with spiritual eyes things which God has hidden from the world . . . A seer knows the past, present, and future. Anciently, a prophet was often called a seer.


[They] make known the will of the Lord for the Church and for mankind in general. They reveal His will in both spiritual and temporal affairs, though all things are spiritual to the Lord.

For further reading:

When were the terms used for Church leaders?

Joseph Smith

The first recorded use of these terms (in part) was on April 6, 1830, when the Lord announced to Joseph Smith: "Thou shalt be called a seer & Translater & Prop[h]et an Apostle of Jesus Christ an Elder of the Church."[3] This calling was reaffirmed (and included the term revelator) on November 11, 1831, when the Lord announced that "the president of the office of the High Priesthood is to preside over the whole church & to be like unto Moses behold here is wisdom yea to be a Seer a revelator a translator & a prophet having all the gifts of God which he bestoweth upon the head of the chuch."[4]

These terms in part were extended to members of the First Presidency and the Twelve Apostles on March 27, 1836. Joseph Smith's journal records:

I then made a short address and called upon the several quorums, and all the congregation of saints to acknowledge the Presidency as Prophets and Seers, and uphold them by their prayers, they all covenanted to do so by rising; I then called upon the quorums and congregation of saints to acknowledge the 12 Apostles who were present as Prophets and Seers and special witnesses to all the nations of the earth, holding the keys of the kingdom, to unlock it or cause it to be done among all nations them; and uphold them by their prayers, which they assented to by rising.[5]

Up to 1841, the terms were not used frequently. The terms came into regular use beginning in 1841, though they almost always applied only to Joseph Smith.[6]

Brigham Young

After the martyrdom of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young spoke of these terms specifically as pertaining to the President of the Church:

[Here are] the Twelve, an independent body, who have the keys of the priesthood, the keys of the kingdom of God to deliver to all the world: this is true, so help me God. They stand next to Joseph and are as the First Presidency of the Church. I do not know whether my enemies will take my life or not, and I do not care, for I want to be with the man I love. You cannot fill the office of a Prophet, Seer and Revelator: God must do this.[7]

While Brigham Young led the Church, the terms were used infrequently, and almost always applied only to the President of the Church. For example, most sustainings of Church officers did not use those terms, and when those terms were used they applied only Brigham Young.[8] An exception occurred during the "Mormon Reformation"[9] in 1856 when the counselors in the First Presidency were rebaptized (a common practice at that time) and reconfirmed, and at that time their role as "Prophet seer & Revelator in the Church & kingdom of God" was reconfirmed upon them.[10]

Brigham Young and other Church leaders may have been a reticent to use those terms out of respect for Joseph Smith and his place as the first prophet and seer of the last dispensation. For example, throughout his journals, Wilford Woodruff almost always employed those terms in reference to Joseph Smith, and only occasionally to Brigham Young.[11] Also, in a discourse in 1852, Brigham Young explained that the role of prophet, seer, and revelator was part of the office of an Apostle (implying that sustaining someone as an Apostle was to sustain them as prophet, seer, and revelator):

A person was mentioned today who did not believe that Brigham Young was a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator. I wish to ask every member of this whole community, if they ever heard him profess to be a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, as Joseph Smith was? He professed to be an Apostle of Jesus Christ, called and sent of God to save Israel. If you know what the calling of an Apostle is, and if there were ten thousand of them on the earth at the same time, you must know that the words of an Apostle who magnifies his calling are the words of the Almighty to the people all the time. He never need be called in question whether he revealed the mind of the Lord or not. Although brothers Willard Richards, Heber C. Kimball, and myself are out of the Quorum of the Twelve, our Apostleship has not been taken from us. Who ordained me to be First President of this Church on earth? I answer, It is the choice of this people, and that is sufficient. If the Lord designates a plan how his cause and kingdom can be best advanced, whose business is it, if it is the mind of the people to follow it? It is ours and the Lord's; but it is certainly not the business of those who are enemies to his cause. I preached considerably upon this point in Nauvoo, to give the people the understanding of the different callings of men. Joseph Smith was a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator before he had power to build up the kingdom of God, or take the first step towards it. When did he obtain that power? Not until the angel had ordained him to be an Apostle.[12]

John Taylor and Standardized Usage

In the general conference after Brigham Young's death, the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles were sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators:

Elder Cannon presented the authorities of the Church as follows: John Taylor as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, as one of the Twelve Apostles, and of the Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—[each was listed]. Counselors to the Twelve Apostles—John W. Young, D.H. Wells.[13] The Twelve Apostles as the presiding quorum and authority of the Church, and as Prophets, Seers and Revelators. President John Taylor made a motion that John W. Young and Daniel H. Wells be sustained as Prophets, seers and Revelators, to act with the Twelve as their Counselors, in that capacity.[14]

This general format was followed in subsequent conferences[15] until the First Presidency was reorganized in October 1880. During that general conference, John Taylor was sustained as prophet, seer, and revelator separately from the others:

Elder Orson Pratt then presented the following authorities of the Church to the Conference . . . John Taylor, as Prophet, Seer and Revelator, and President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in all the world. George Q. Cannon, as First Counselor in the First Presidency. Joseph F. Smith, as Second Counselor in the First Presidency. Wilford Woodruff, as President of the Twelve Apostles. As members of the Council of the Apostles—[each was named]. As Counselors to the Twelve—John W. Young and Daniel H. Wells. . . . The Counselors to President John Taylor, the Twelve Apostles and their Counselors as Prophets, Seers and Revelators.[16]

This format has been followed almost verbatim in each general conference since that time, with minor variations over the years. Today, the wording is nearly identical to that used in 1880. For example, in the sustaining of Church officers for the April 2020 general conference:

It is proposed that we sustain Russell Marion Nelson as prophet, seer, and revelator and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Dallin Harris Oaks as First Counselor in the First Presidency; and Henry Bennion Eyring as Second Counselor in the First Presidency. . . . It is proposed that we sustain Dallin H. Oaks as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and M. Russell Ballard as Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. . . . It is proposed that we sustain the following as members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: [each was named]. . . . It is proposed that we sustain the counselors in the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators.[17]


Latter-day Saints are blessed to be led by prophets, seers, and revelators. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught:

The apostolic and prophetic foundation of the Church was to bless in all times, but especially in times of adversity or danger, times when we might feel like children, confused or disoriented, perhaps a little fearful, times in which the devious hand of men or the maliciousness of the devil would attempt to unsettle or mislead. Against such times as come in our modern day, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve are commissioned by God and sustained by you as prophets, seers, and revelators.[18]

President Joseph Fielding Smith taught:

The voice of the First Presidency and the united voice of those others who hold with them the keys of the kingdom shall always guide the Saints and the world in those paths where the Lord wants them to be. . . . I testify that if we shall look to the First Presidency and follow their counsel and direction, no power on earth can stay or change our course as a church, and as individuals we shall gain peace in this life and be inheritors of eternal glory in the world to come."[19]


  1. See Dallin H. Oaks, "Sustaining of General Authorities, Area Seventies, and General Officers," April 2023 general conference.
  2. "1.6 What Are Prophets, Seers, and Revelators?", in Teachings of the Living Prophets Student Manual (2016).
  3. "Revelation, 6 April 1830 (D&C 21)," josephsmithpapers.org.
  4. "Revelation, 11 November 1831–B (D&C 107 (partial))," josephsmithpapers.org.
  5. Entry for 27 March 1836, in Journal, 1835–1836, josephsmithpapers.org.
  6. For some examples, see the following from josephsmithpapers.org: "Revelation, 19 January 1841 (D&C 124)"; "Proclamation, between 19 January and 27 August 1841"; "Times and Seasons, 15 February 1842," page 697. They were also applied to Hyrum Smith in "Revelation, 19 January 1841 (D&C 124)," josephsmithpapers.org.
  7. "History, 1838–1856, volume F-1 (1 May 1844–8 August 1844)," page 298, josephsmithpapers.org.
  8. See sustainings in the April 1855 general conference, in Historical Department journal history of the Church, 1830–2008 (hereafter, Journal History), 6 April 1855, page 1, Church History Library; sustainings in a conference in St. Louis, in Journal History, 6 April 1857, page 11.
  9. "Reformation of 1856–57," Church History Topics, Gospel Library.
  10. Wilford Woodruff Journal (January 1, 1854 – December 31, 1859), 2 October 1856, page 152.
  11. "seer" at wilfordwoodruffpapers.org.
  12. Brigham Young, "The Lord at the Head of His Kingdom—Self-Discipline—Necessity of Cultivating a Knowledge of Science, and Particularly of Theology, Etc," Journal of Discourses 6:319–320.
  13. These two were the First and Second Counselors (respectively) in the First Presidency when Brigham Young died.
  14. Journal History, 6 October 1877, page 2.
  15. For example, see Journal History, 8 April 1878, page 1; 7 April 1879, page 3.
  16. Journal History, 10 October 1880, page 3.
  17. Dallin H. Oaks, "Sustaining of General Authorities, Area Seventies, and General Officers," April 2020 general conference.
  18. Jeffrey R. Holland, "Prophets, Seers, and Revelators," October 2004 general conference.
  19. Joseph Fielding Smith, "Eternal Keys and the Right to Preside," April 1972 general conference.