Saturday, March 31, 2012

Prophets, prophecies, and future-telling

A friend asked me not too long ago if I knew of any prophecies of Joseph Smith that didn't come to fruition. As I taught people on the streets of Ukraine about the living prophet on the earth today, some would ask what prophecies this prophets has made and if any of them had come true. Sometimes, as in the case of my friend, people ask this question in sincerity, and sometimes, as in the case of a lot of the people on the streets of Ukraine, this question was asked with an air of, "oh yeah? Prove this guy is a prophet."

The question of prophecies of future events, whether fulfilled or yet to be, I think is interesting. The scriptures tell of times when prophets did foretell future events and more importantly, they tell of the consequences followed both those who heeded warning and those who did not. Noah foretold a worldwide flood, Joseph warned of seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine, Moses warned Pharaoh of the consequences should he not let the children of Israel free, numerous prophets told of the destruction of Jerusalem, and, most importantly, every prophet from has Adam foretold of the birth of the Messiah, the Savior of the world.

In some instances prophets do tell of very specific, time-sensitive events such as flood, famine, or war. These events are all directly linked to the actions of people on the earth and the people are given plenty of warning to prepare and/or repent. But prophets are not fortune tellers placed on earth simply to see the future. Prophets are placed on earth by God to tell us, His children, of His great plan--a plan that helps us know how to lead happy and successful lives, lives that will lead us back to Him.

Prophets and apostles in our day have warned that we should get out of debt, not live beyond our means, and have plentiful food storage. Taught Elder L Tom Perry, an apostle of the Lord, "Avoid excessive debt. Necessary debt should be incurred only after careful, thoughtful prayer and after obtaining the best possible advice. We need the discipline to stay well within our ability to pay. Wisely we have been counseled to avoid debt as we would avoid the plague" ("If Ye Are Prepared Ye Shall Not Fear," Ensign, Nov. 1995, 36).

And from President J. Reuben Clark, also an apostle, "Live within your means. Get out of debt. Keep out of debt. Lay by for a rainy day which has always come and will come again. Practice and increase your habits of thrift, industry, economy, and frugality." (Conference Report, Oct. 1937, p. 107.) How many people would be so much better off during these past few years if they had been following this counsel from wise servants of the Lord?

Prophets and apostles also warn us about preserving the sacred nature of the family. The Lord teaches through His prophets that "marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children. . . . The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ." With this teaching comes the prophecy, "We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God. Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets." This is a reminder of prophesies made throughout history. As people continue to either fight for or remain silent during the attempt to redefine marriage, and continue in lifestyles that teach "whatever goes," they are disregarding this warning from God and his prophets have prophesied of the consequences that will come.

The prophet Nephi taught this of the role of prophets:

"For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.
"And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins" (2 Nephi 25:23,26).

The role of prophets is not to tell the future and warn us of all the specific trials and events that may come our way, but rather to tell us the mind and will of God in relation to our eternal salvation. The most important thing we could know right now is that we are all children of God, who is our Heavenly Father and that Jesus Christ lives, that He lived on the earth and that through His Atonement all mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. Which laws, ordinances, and gospel are taught us by the prophets.

This weekend, (March 31-April 1), the current, latter-day prophet and each of the apostles will address the world in a general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These holy men, men called and ordained of God to be His mouthpieces and run His church, will speak to us on matters that most concern us in our day. Although he could if God willed it, the prophet probably will not tell us the exact day of the Second Coming, the exact time and location the next earthquake will happen, nor will he tell who will win March Madness or Super Bowl L. The Lord does not concern Himself and His prophets with such things because we have much bigger worries and concerns in this life.

Instead, the prophet and the apostles will reiterate the importance of cultivating faith, remind us of the beautiful cleansing power of the Atonement and of proper repentance. They will teach of the importance of covenants, reminding us and instructing us how to better keep the covenants we made at baptism and in the temple. They will expound the scriptures and help us better understand the power of the Holy Ghost, how we can better invite the Spirit to guide our lives, and why the guidance of the Spirit is absolutely vital. They will explain how we may better endure to the end, deal with trials that will certainly come our way, and love and serve those around us. They will teach us what the Savior taught when He was on the earth and what the Savior would teach us if He were here today in person.

There are living prophets on the earth today. The Lord reveals His plan of happiness for us through them. Check it out.