Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ministering to Mormons: A Pattern of Prophets

What might the Christian expect from the Mormon missionary at his door? What message will the Latter Day Saint have? Among other things, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints teaches that God's modus operandi, so to speak, has always been, and therefore must continue to be, revelation through prophets. Without a living prophet, the LDS missionary might argue, the Church lacks proper direction.


In their public presence online, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints says this in an introduction to their basic beliefs entitled, "The Restoration of Truth":

As part of His plan, God has followed a simple pattern from the beginning of the world. He chooses a prophet (like Noah or Moses) to teach the gospel and lead the people...Our loving Father in Heaven is the “same yesterday, and to day, and for ever" (see Hebrews 13:8). As in ancient times, He has followed His simple pattern in our day.

In the May, 1978 edition of The Ensign, in an article entitled "Evidence of Things Not Seen," LDS elder Mark E. Peterson wrote:

...some ask us why we have these other scriptures. They do not realize that the Bible...points to a pattern established anciently by the Lord in which He placed prophets on earth to provide that scripture...over the years, the Lord continued to send new prophets who received new revelations which in turn became new and additional scripture. It was a set pattern of the Lord from the days of the patriarchs to the time of John the Revelator. There are some who do not realize that there were prophets in the original Christian church and that it was the intention of the Lord that they should continue in the Church until we all come to a unity of the faith.

At their website on a page titled, "Jesus Christ established His Church", the LDS Church says,

When the Savior began His mortal ministry, He restored His gospel and established His Church again on the earth. He built His Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, He himself being the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20)...From the beginning, God has called special witnesses, known as prophets, and commanded them to keep records of His dealings with His children...Jesus Christ guided His Apostles through revelation, making the Church of Jesus Christ a church led by God and not by men (Acts 10; Revelation 1:1).

So, the missionary will explain to the Christian, God's pattern has always been to lead the Church and guide their understanding of truth through a living mouthpiece called a prophet, without whose ongoing revelation Christendom is not led by God. What is the Christian to make of this doctrine?


In their article the LDS Church pointed to Hebrews 13:8 saying, "Our loving Father in Heaven is the 'same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.'" However, this is not really accurate. The verse actually reads, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." In Mormon doctrine, "Heavenly Father" is a reference to God the Father, not Jesus Christ. So attributing this verse to the Son seems strange.

However, the Bible certainly does teach that God the Father is unchanged throughout all eternity. In the psalms it is said of God, "Like clothing You will change them and they will be changed. But You are the same" (Psalm 102:26-27). God says, concerning Himself, "For I, the LORD, do not change" (Malachi 3:6). James wrote in his epistle, "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow" (James 1:17).

These passages, though, teach that it is God's nature that is unchanging, not the administration of His people. In fact, these passages cast other Mormon doctrine into serious doubt. The Latter Day Saints teach that God the Father was once a man, who worshipped his God faithfully and thus was resurrected unto godhood, and before being a man was once the spiritual child of his god (I will blog about this in the future including references illustrating this doctrine). Thus, rather than demanding that His Church operate the same at all times, that God's nature doesn't change seems to call into question other LDS teachings.


Paul wrote in his epistle to the Ephesians, "you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets" (Ephesians 2:19-20). In the following chapter he wrote, "when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ...as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit" (Ephesians 3:4-5). And in his first letter to the Corinthians he wrote, "God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets" (1 Corinthians 12:28). Where are these prophets now? Without a living prophet, how can Jesus' Church function and be directed properly?

The fact is, these passages simply do not demand that prophets function within the Church today. Both "apostles" and "prophets" are described as comprising the Church's "foundation". Like a house, a foundation is laid first, and what follows is built upon it. In the same way, Jesus used His apostles and prophets to spread His good news and lay the foundation of His Church (Acts 13), and moved them to write of His ministry and teachings, their writings to be regarded as scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16 where Peter calls Paul's letters "scriptures").

Since the foundation has been laid, the apostles and prophets who comprised it are no longer needed. They were needed for a time, their words needed to be recorded. But we are built upon that foundation which needn't be laid again. We take their words to the world, delivering a message that has already been recorded. We needn't record a new one.


So we see that the biblical passages Mormonism points to do not, in fact, dictate that the Church cannot be directed properly without a living prophet. And in comparing the Church to the manner in which the Lord directed His people before Christ, the LDS argument fails to recognize the vital ways in which the New Covenant differs from the Old.

The Bible teaches that the prophets and priests of the Old Testament were merely shadows of the Messiah who was to come:

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son. (Hebrews 1:1-2)
There are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. (Hebrews 8:4-5)

So, whereas in the past God spoke to His people through prophets, in the Church He speaks to His people through His Son. And whereas the ministry of the priests of old were copies and shadows of heavenly things, Jesus' ministry replaces the inferior ministry which preceded it:

But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises...When He said, 'A new covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear. (Hebrews 8:6,13)

The first covenant has been made "obsolete" and at the time these words were written was "ready to disappear." Indeed, the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD when the Romans invaded Jerusalem. The priests of old and their activities have since been out of operation. And the Son, as mediator of this New Covenant and new ministry, replaces the inferior mediators which preceded Him:

The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:23-25)
For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever. (Hebrews 7:28)
He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purifcation of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Hebrews 1:3)

The whole point of the book of Hebrews is to demonstrate the superiority of the New Covenant to the Old Covenant; the superiority of Jesus' ministry to the old ministry; the superiority of Jesus Himself to the prophets and priests who served as part of the old ministry. And because Jesus and His ministry is superior to the old ministry and its ministers, "He has made the first obsolete." The Church has a living prophet: Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God.


The LDS Church claims it, unlike the rest of Christendom, is "a church led by God and not by men" because it has a living prophet. The Bible contradicts this, teachings us that though God's nature is unchanging, His plan was always to replace the old pattern of prophets and priests with a new ministry, a superior covenant, mediated by a superior minister, an everlasting prophet and priest Himself: Jesus Christ the Son of God. The old prophets and priests and the covenant they served have been made obsolete.

Because Jesus returned to His Father and we were sent the Holy Spirit, Christ's Church is a Church led by God and not men. Jesus said, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him" (John 14:23). He promised that "the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things" (John 14:26), that "when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13). We do not need any other prophet than Jesus Christ, because His Holy Spirit is inside the believer, revealing to us the truths of His scriptures.

Why, then, is there at times a lack of unity? Because though indwelt by the living God, we are nonetheless struggling with our sinful nature. We do not always submit completely to the Lord, and thus often read our own biases into the text. Also, learning the things of God does not happen overnight, but is instead a process that takes place over time. Additionally, we are each individuals, and God reaches out to us individually, renewing our minds at different rates, teaching us doctrines in different sequences, as He sees fit in sanctifying us. God promised unity would come, but He didn't say it would be immediate.

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