What are prophets?
Prophets receive revelation from God, preach His gospel, and lead His Church on earth. They have guided God’s people toward salvation through all generations of time.
The authority to speak and act in the name of God has been given to prophets since the time of Adam, and it is a vital part of the plan of salvation. The word prophet comes from a Greek word, which means “inspired teacher,” and indeed that is the primary role of the prophet: to teach the gospel. While God’s commandments and principles are constant, the world we live in is not. Different periods throughout time have each brought with them new circumstances and unique challenges. Prophets receive revelation from God in order to help His people navigate through their own distinct times.
Prophets are special witnesses of God; they are revelators; they teach, they perform miracles, and they lead.
Moses is perhaps the most recognized among the ancient prophets. While leading the enslaved Israelites out of Egypt, he spoke with God face-to-face, he parted the Red Sea, and he revealed tablets engraved with the Ten Commandments, given directly from God. Moses’s calling and mission are comparable to other prophets recorded in the Old and New Testaments such as Abraham, Jacob, Noah, Isaiah, Elijah, and John the Baptist. Each of these prophets was called by God and given priesthood authority by Him—the divine right to speak and act in His name.
Faith and repentance were common themes taught by the ancient prophets, and their words and work still resonate with us today, even as we recognize our spiritual or moral landscape to be very different from theirs. Because many of our trials and concerns are different than ancient times, it makes sense that God would call prophets for our day, servants who could further His work among His children.
The first of these latter-day prophets was Joseph Smith, a man God called as a prophet in 1830 in much the same way as He chose the ancient prophets and apostles—from among the most humble and unlikely of candidates.
The farm boy from upstate New York became God’s instrument for the considerable temporal work required to restore the truths, structure, and authority of Jesus Christ’s Church here on the earth after centuries of apostasy. Joseph Smith spoke with God, received revelation from Him, revealed and translated an ancient religious record called the Book of Mormon, and brought back to the earth the Church of Jesus Christ in its fulness. Nearly 200 years have passed since Joseph Smith’s calling, and the restored Church of Jesus Christ has members numbering in the tens of millions around the world. A considerable work has since been done that could not have been accomplished without the restored keys of the priesthood and divine guidance.
Guidance was indeed what Joseph Smith was seeking as a boy when he came across James 1:5 in the New Testament: “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.” Joseph had been searching the scriptures to know which church to join, and by kneeling in prayer, he soon came to understand the power of those words and of personal revelation, for God answered his prayer. This gift of personal revelation is one God makes available to each of His children; He answered Joseph’s prayer and will do likewise for all who sincerely seek to know the truth. We are promised that if we pray about the truthfulness of the Restoration of Jesus Christ’s Church and of the Book of Mormon, we can receive our own personal confirmation that they are true.
A prophet receives revelation for the entire Church.
Joseph Smith’s successors have continued to receive revelation from God, constituting an unbroken line of priesthood authority to this day. President Thomas S. Monson now holds this office as President of the Church, and he is assisted by two counselors and by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who perform a function similar to the Apostles Jesus Christ called in His day. Together, these 15 inspired priesthood holders are sustained as “prophets, seers, and revelators,” though only President Monson receives revelation for the entire Church. Like their ancient predecessors, these men testify of Jesus Christ and they teach His gospel.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is unique in the world today for the priesthood authority it holds and for the leaders who exercise that authority, continuing a tradition as old as humanity itself. God loves His children and has promised blessings to those who listen to His inspired servants, the prophets, whose work it is to help us come to know and become more like God.
Why do we have prophets?
When we were born, we left the presence of our Heavenly Father to live and be tested on this earth. Our Heavenly Father wants nothing more than to see us overcome our challenges, become better people, and return to Him.
Because Heavenly Father wants us to return to His presence, He gives us help. Prayer is one way we communicate with God and receive guidance in life. The scriptures also provide heavenly instruction to steer us along the path our Father would have us go. If you think about it, the scriptures are simply a record of God’s communication with His prophets, faithful men who carry out His will.
What many people do not realize is that there are again prophets on earth—speaking on behalf of God today! Through prophets, Heavenly Father continues to demonstrate His love and attention by sending us the messages we need right now. These men act as mouthpieces for God. Just as Moses spoke for God to all the Israelites, living prophets give instructions and counsel to all people today.
How do prophets impact society?
God is never changing, but our lives are. Heavenly Father sees and understands the pressing issues in our world. He has the eternal foresight to know the challenges society will face.
As a perfect, all-knowing parent, God teaches and warns His children through prophets. This was true in the scriptures when prophets spoke of the scattering of Israel. Prophets gave counsel that saved the faithful from their enemies. And all prophets spoke of great promises that would attend the birth, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In the latter days, prophets continue to caution and advise all people. Recent counsel addresses social issues such as marriage and family relationships, practical matters such as education and financial prudence, and spiritual subjects that help us overcome personal trials and find greater confidence in our faith.
These messages from God are available to all people: President Thomas S. Monson, his counselors, and the Twelve Apostles speak to the world twice a year during a meeting called general conference. Their words are broadcast internationally, appear in print, and are shared online for all to examine.
The true test of a prophet’s words is when we apply them to our personal lives. Those who hear these messages often comment, “It was like they were speaking to me!” Truly, God knows our deepest concerns and wants to help. Whether we know we need them yet or not, our Heavenly Father gives His children divine answers through His prophets.