Sunday, 17 January 2010

Testing a Mormon Prophet

“A living prophet directs the Church today”

We have looked at the claims and promises of Mormonism. We considered the Mormon teaching on apostasy (the wholesale falling away from truth) and restoration of that truth and considered how exciting this message can seem and asked, “Does God really speak today through living prophets?” Last time we looked at the Mormon canon (collection of official scripture) and the claim that theirs is an open canon to which revelation is added regularly by Mormon prophets. We have tested those prophets, found them wanting, and found this “open canon” mysteriously closed for at least a hundred years. This time and next we will look at the track record of a recent prophet.

The most recent prophet of the Mormon Church whose track record may be tested is Gordon B Hinckley. He was prophet from March 1995 until his death in January 2008. In that time he led the saints through a remarkable period of activity and growth, visiting members all over the world, more than doubling the number of temples, and raising the profile of the church. He was the busiest and most productive prophet the church had had for years. How does his record stand as prophet?


We are told that a key role of the prophet is teacher. What can president Hinckley teach us about LDS doctrine?

“Brigham Young said if you went to Heaven and saw God it would be Adam and Eve. I don't know what he meant by that.” Pointing to a grim-faced portrait of the Lion of the Lord, as Young was called, Hinckley said, “There he is, right there. I'm not going to worry about what he said about those things.” I asked whether Mormon theology was a form of polytheism. “I don't have the remotest idea what you mean,” Hinckley said impatiently. - Hinckley Interview in "Lives of the Saint", New Yorker, January 2002

Question: “There are some significant differences in your beliefs [and other Christian churches]. For instance, don't Mormons believe that God was once a man?”

Hinckley: “I wouldn't say that. There was a little couplet coined, ‘As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become.’ Now that's more of a couplet than anything else. That gets into some pretty deep theology that we don't know very much about.Interviewing Gordon B. Hinckley, San Francisco Chronicle, April 13, 1997, p 3/Z1

Question: “Is this the teaching of the church today, that God the Father was once a man like we are?”

Hinckley: “I don't know that we teach it. I don't know that we emphasize it. I haven't heard it discussed for a long time in public discourse. I don't know. I don't know all the circumstances under which that statement was made. I understand the philosophical background behind it. But I don't know a lot about it and I don't know that others know a lot about it.” Interviewing Gordon B. Hinckley, Time Magazine, Aug 4, 1997

From a interview Jan 29th, 2002 conducted by reporter Helmut Nemetschek, ZDF television, Germany, at Salt Lake City, Utah, in the Church Administration Building:

Question: “Until 1978 no person of color attained the priesthood in your church. Why it took so long time to overcome the racism?”

Hinckley: “I don’t know. I don’t know. (long pause) I can only say that. (long pause) But it’s here now. We’re carrying on a very substantial work on Africa for instance and in Brazil. We’re working among their people developing them.”

Question: “Now, Mr. President, one question which is a little bit complicated for me to understand but I heard it and one colleague asked me to ask you. What will be your position when DNA analysis will show that in history there never had been an immigration from Israel to North America? It could be that scientists will find out?”

GBH: “It hasn’t happened. That hasn’t been determined yet. All I can say is that’s speculative. No one really knows that, the answer to that. Not at this point.” Interview Jan 29th, 2002 conducted by reporter Helmut Nemetschek, ZDF television, Germany, at Salt Lake City, Utah, in the Church Administration Building.

“Beyond the wonderful and descriptive words found in sections 76 and 137 [D&C 76; D&C 137] we know relatively little concerning the celestial kingdom and those who will be there. At least some of the rules of eligibility for acceptance into that kingdom are clearly set forth, but other than that, we are given little understanding.
“The next question you ask is why Eve was created from Adam. I can only respond that an all-wise Creator did it that way....

“Now, Virginia, you call attention to the statement in the scriptures that Adam should rule over Eve. (See Gen. 3:16.) You ask why this is so. I do not know.The Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, November 1991 Young Womens Conference, “Daughters of God,” (Ensign, Nov. 1991, Page 97)

Prophet, Seer, Revelator

A prophet is also one who “foretells the future”. What is the record of president Hinckley?

“I hope that prayer will take on a new luster in our lives. None of us knows what lies ahead. We may speculate, but we do not know.” The Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, October 2001 General Conference “Till We Meet Again,” (Ensign, Nov. 2001, Page 89)

“Now we are at war. Great forces have been mobilized and will continue to be. Political alliances are being forged. We do not know how long this conflict will last. We do not know what it will cost in lives and treasure. We do not know the manner in which it will be carried out. It could impact the work of the Church in various ways.

No one knows how long it will last. No one knows precisely where it will be fought. No one knows what it may entail before it is over. We have launched an undertaking the size and nature of which we cannot see at this time.

I do not know what the future holds. I do not wish to sound negative, but I wish to remind you of the warnings of scripture and the teachings of the prophets which we have had constantly before us.”
Now, I do not wish to be an alarmist. I do not wish to be a prophet of doom. I am optimistic. I do not believe the time is here when an all-consuming calamity will overtake us. I earnestly pray that it may not. There is so much of the Lord’s work yet to be done. We, and our children after us, must do it. I can assure you that we who are responsible for the management of the affairs of the Church will be prudent and careful as we have tried to be in the past. The tithes of the Church are sacred.” The Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Times in Which We Live,” October 2001 General Conference (Ensign, Nov. 2001, Page 72)

"Months ago I was invited to be interviewed by Mike Wallace, a tough senior reporter for the CBS 60 Minutes program, which is broadcast across America to more than 20 million listeners each week. I recognized that if I were to appear, critics and detractors of the Church would also be invited to participate. I knew we could not expect that the program would be entirely positive for us. ... I concluded that it was better to lean into the stiff wind of opportunity than to simply hunker down and do nothing. It has been an interesting experience..."

"We have no idea what the outcome will be—that is, I don’t. We will discover this this evening when it is aired in this valley. If it turns out to be favorable, I will be grateful. Otherwise, I pledge I’ll never get my foot in that kind of trap again." The Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, “Remember Thy Church, O Lord,” Spring 1996 General Conference, Ensign, May 1996, Page 82

Revelation, or Human Wisdom?

The missionaries teach that, “Without revelation and priesthood authority, people relied on human wisdom.” What is the Mormon Church of today relying upon?

“At the close of one particularly difficult day, I looked up at a portrait of Brigham Young that hangs on my wall. I asked, "Brother Brigham, what should we do?" I thought I saw him smile a little, and then he seemed to say: ‘In my day, I had problems enough of my own. Don't ask me what to do. This is your watch. Ask the Lord, whose work this really is.’ And this, I assure you, is what we do and must always do.”

“As I reflected on these matters that recent difficult day, I opened my Bible to the first chapter of Joshua and read these words: ‘Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee’ (Joshua 1:9). I said to myself: ‘There is never reason to despair. This is the work of God. Notwithstanding the efforts of all who oppose it, it will go forward as the God of heaven has designed it should do.’” The Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley, autumn 2003 General Conference, Sunday Morning Session

But I can open my Bible and read what God has to say. I can comfort myself with biblical assurance. The question is “What has the living prophet got to say to me – today”? More to the point, what does God have to say to me today? Would it surprise you to find that the answer is found in the Bible?

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

(2 Timothy 3:14-17)

Go to the Word and seek God’s wisdom (James 1:1-5).

Previous Posts:

The Mormon Message of prophets

Testing Mormon Prophets

Coming up:

The Hinckley Timeline

The Changing Face of Mormonism

Who Speaks for Mormonism?

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