Jacob 7:7 — LeGrand Baker — the authority of a prophet
7 And now behold, I, Sherem, declare unto you that this is blasphemy; for no man knoweth of such things; for he cannot tell of things tocome. And after this manner did Sherem contend against me.
I never read this passage without it recalling an experience I had when I was in 10th grade. The previous summer I had been reading some of Orson Pratt’s writings, and had looked forward to my first experience in seminary, because I wanted to talk about Elder Pratt’s ideas with someone and I expected my seminary teacher would be a that someone. One day, a couple weeks after school began, when I had been making comments in class and asking questions afterward, my seminary teacher said to me, “LeGrand, I can’t understand Orson Pratt, THEREFORE you cannot understand Orson Pratt. So stop reading that stuff and read something written for people your own age.”
I remember the situation, partly because of my disappointment, but more because of my shock at the utter absurdity of his argument: “I can’t understand Orson Pratt, THEREFORE you cannot understand Orson Pratt.” That amazed me. I thought Orson Pratt had the most brilliant mind I had ever discovered and was grateful that he could address himself to someone my age. (Now, as an old man, I have a photo of Orson Pratt hanging on the wall of my study. I look at and I still marvel at the intellect of that great man.) As a boy, I thought that my teacher had just used what must be the lowest form of logical reasoning. Since then, I have found that same reasoning is often used by people who admire themselves for their own remarkable intellect. Sherem is using it here. He argues, “I do not know the future THEREFORE you cannot know the future. ”
The scriptures testify that his logic is fallacious, and his collusion is false. There is a way one can not only know the future, but also the past—and the present as well. The medium through which that happens is the Holy Ghost, and there is a specific gift of the Holy Ghost which is called the “spirit of prophecy.” One must have the spirit of prophecy to know the truth of the past, as Alma explains,
47 And moreover, I say unto you that it has thus been revealed unto me, that the words which have been spoken by our fathers are true, even so according to the spirit of prophecy which is in me, which is also by the manifestation of the spirit of God (Alma 5:47).
John Taylor further explained,
In reality, this act of the atonement was the fulfillment of the sacrifices, of the prophesying, of the Passover, and of all the leading, prominent acts of the patriarchs and prophets relating thereto; and having performed this, the past and the future both centered in him. Did these worthies offer sacrifices? They prefigured his appearing, and atonement. Did they prophecy? It was of him, for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Did they keep the Passover? He himself was the great expiatory offering. Were the people called upon afterwards to commemorate this event? They did it in remembrance of him, as a great memorial among all of his disciples in all nations, throughout all time; of the sacrifice of his broken body and spilt blood; the antitype of the sacrificial lamb slain at the time of the Passover; of him; as being the Mediator, the Messiah, the Christ, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End: the Son of the living God.
These scriptures evidently show that the testimony of Jesus was the very principle, essence, and power of the spirit of prophecy whereby the ancient prophets were inspired.(John Taylor, The Gospel Kingdom, 115-16, 120)
The Prophet Joseph placed himself in that same category of “prophet” as the ancient prophets, and explained why he had a valid claim to such a title.
If any person should ask me if I were a prophet, I should not deny it, as that would give me the lie; for, according to John, the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy; therefore, if I profess to be a witness or teacher, and have not the spirit of prophecy, which is the testimony of Jesus, I must be a false witness; but if I be a true teacher and witness, I must possess the spirit of prophecy, and that constitutes a prophet; and any man who says he is a teacher or a preacher of righteousness, and denies the spirit of prophecy, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; and by this key false teachers and impostors may be detected. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 269 and DHC 5:215-16)
To the question, “Do you [the Mormons] believe Joseph Smith, Jun., to be a Prophet?” Joseph responded,
Yes, and every other man who has the testimony of Jesus. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Then he quoted Revelation 19:10, which reads, “And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See that thou do it not; I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus; worship God; for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. ” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 119.)
The Prophet Joseph’s statement that “every other man who has the testimony of Jesus” is a prophet, is not only consistent with the teachings of the scriptures, it is the key to happiness in this world and to eternal life in the world to come. What follows are the statements of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow, and Joseph F. Smith which say Latter-day Saints not only have the right to be prophets in their own lives — in the conduct of their daily affairs, but, indeed, they must be. In these statements the men whom we revere as prophets indicate that an important purpose of the spirit of prophecy is to teach us how to live in the present. Two statements by the Prophet Joseph explain why that is so.
Faith comes by hearing the word of God, through the testimony of the servants of God; that testimony is always attended by the spirit of prophecy and revelation. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 148)
Salvation cannot come without revelation; it is in vain for anyone to minister without it.
No man is a minister of Jesus Christ without being a Prophet. No man can be a minister of Jesus Christ except he has the testimony of Jesus; and this is the spirit of prophecy. Whenever salvation has been administered, it has been by testimony. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.160)
But the Lord has so ordained that no man shall receive the benefits of the everlasting Priesthood without humbling himself before him, and giving him the glory for teaching him, that he may be able to witness to every man of the truth, and not depend upon the words of any individual on the earth, but know for himself, live by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God, love the Lord Jesus Christ and the institutions of his Kingdom, and finally enter into his glory. Every man and woman may be a revelator, and have the testimony of Jesus, which is the spirit of prophecy, and foresee the mind and will of God concerning them, eschew evil, and choose that which is good. (Discourses of Brigham Young, 131 — JD 2:189)
…the whole Church and kingdom of God, men and women, should have, each for himself and herself, the testimony of Jesus Christ which is the spirit of prophecy. This should be in the possession of every man and woman in the Church, for their own government and guidance, and this has always been the teaching to us of President Brigham Young. And this is backed up by the revelations which the Lord has given in these last days, as you will find if you read the twentysecond section of the book of Doctrine and Covenants. (Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, 58-59 — JD 18:125126 )
It is the privilege of every man and woman in this kingdom to enjoy the spirit of prophecy, which is the spirit of God; and to the faithful it reveals such things as are necessary for their comfort and consolation, and to guide them in their daily duties. (Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, 61 — JD 9:324)
He [Brigham Young] is a prophet, I am a prophet, you are, and anybody is a prophet who has the testimony of Jesus Christ, for that is the spirit of prophecy. The elders of Israel are prophets. A prophet is not so great as an apostle. Christ has set in his Church, first, apostles; they hold the keys of the kingdom of God. (Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, 90 — JD 13:165)
Men must administer salvation to continue in the priesthood. Men who wish to retain their standing before God in the holy priesthood must have the spirit of prophecy, and be qualified to administer life and salvation to the people; and if they cannot do it to the world, they must do it at home, in their families, in their shops, and in the streets, that their hearts may be inspired with words of life at their firesides, in teaching the gospel to their children and to their neighbors.(Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, 7576 — JD 4:157)
Joseph Smith is accused of being a false prophet. It is, however, beyond the power of the world to prove that he was a false prophet. They may so charge him, but you who have received the testimony of Jesus Christ, by the spirit of prophecy, through his administrations, are my witnesses that they have not the power to prove him false, and that is why they are so vexed about it. (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 485 — JD 24: 816)
Not only, as President Woodruff and the others said, is it the privilege of every man and woman in this kingdom to enjoy the spirit of prophecy, it is, as the Prophet Joseph taught, necessary to one’s salvation. Josephsaid,
No wonder Paul had to arise and be baptized and wash away his sins: No wonder the angel told good old Cornelius that he must send for Peter to learn how to be saved: Peter could baptize, and angels could not, so long as there were legal officers in the flesh holding the keys of the kingdom, or the authority of the priesthood. There is one evidence still further on this point, and that is that Jesus himself when he appeared to Paul on his way to Damascus, did not inform him how he could be saved. He had set in the church first Apostles, and secondly prophets, for the work of the ministry, perfecting of the saints, etc.; and as the grand rule of heaven was that nothing should ever be done on earth without revealing the secret to his servants the prophets, agreeably to Amos 3:7, so Paul could not learn so much from the Lord relative to his duty in the common salvation of man, as he could from one of Christ’s ambassadors called with the same heavenly calling of the lord, and endowed with the same power from on high-so that what they loosed on earth, should be loosed in heaven; and what they bound on earth should be bound in heaven: He, the Lord being a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek, and the anointed Son of God, from before the foundation of the world, and they be begotten sons of Jesus though the gospel, to teach all nations-and lo I am with you always to the end of the world-that is-by the other comforter which the world cannot receive-for ye are the witnesses-having the testimony of Jesus which is the spirit of prophecy.(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 264)