Director of Present Policy

How does the Lord define what it means to be a prophet?

“And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream…With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold…” (Numbers 12:6&8)

Because God knows the end from the beginning, He sometimes discloses future events through His spokesmen, the prophets.  The Greek roots of the word, “pro” meaning before, and “phanai” meaning to speak indicate a prophet is one that correctly predicts the future by telling us about things before they happen.

What would happen if the Lord had not made Himself known in a vision, spoken in a dream, or appeared face-to-face with somebody that was supposed to be a prophet?  God could solve the problem by appearing to the man.  Man might try to solve the problem by changing the definition of what it means to be a prophet.

The LDS Bible Dictionary provides the following definition of a prophet:

Prophet. The work of a Hebrew prophet was to act as God’s messenger and make known God’s will. The message was usually prefaced with the words “Thus saith Jehovah.” He taught men about God’s character, showing the full meaning of his dealings with Israel in the past…It was also the prophet’s duty to denounce sin and foretell its punishment, and to redress, so far as he could, both public and private wrongs. He was to be, above all, a preacher of righteousness. When the people had fallen away from a true faith in Jehovah, the prophets had to try to restore that faith and remove false views about the character of God and the nature of the Divine requirement. In certain cases prophets predicted future events, e.g., there are the very important prophecies announcing the coming of Messiah’s kingdom; but as a rule a prophet was a forthteller rather than a foreteller…

I couldn’t recall having seen the term “forthteller” before, so I looked it up.  I couldn’t find it in my Webster’s dictionary.  It appears to have its origins, in this context, in a General Conference talk given by President Anthony Ivins, first counselor in the First Presidency, back in 1925.  He indicated that a prophet’s “direct, and most important calling is to be a forth-teller, or director of present policy, rather than a foreteller of what is to come.”

A prophet as “director of present policy” feels administrative and managerial.  It seems quite different from the unruly view the scriptures paint of the social outcasts, vagabonds, and wild men we recognize as true prophets.

President Ivins was the First Counselor to President Heber J. Grant (they also happened to be first cousins).  President Grant had the following to say about direct, face-to-face interaction with the Lord:

I have never prayed to see the Savior, I know of men–Apostles–who have seen the Savior more than once.  I have prayed to the Lord for the inspiration of His Spirit to guide me, and I have told him that I have seen so many men fall because of some great manifestation to them, they felt their importance, their greatness.” (click here for more information on that quote)

The same year Elder Ivins gave his “prophet as director of public policy” talk, Charles W. Nibley, who had been the Presiding Bishop of the Church since 1907, was called to be the Second Counselor in the First Presidency.  Just prior to his death President Nibley told his grandson “If an angel were to come through that door, I would jump right out that window.  I wouldn’t hesitate.”  The window he referred to looked out from his suite on the top floor of the Hotel Utah.  He would rather die than face an angel.  President Ivins was literally surrounded in the First Presidency by men who were both openly afraid of interaction with heavenly beings. (click here for more information on that quote)

This makes the Lord’s declaration of what it means to be a prophet that much more meaningful:

“And he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dreamWith him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold…” (Numbers 12:6&8)

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