Wednesday, February 14, 2018

087. Heaven & Hell

"You cannot take all luggage with you on all journeys; on one journey even your right hand and your right eye may be among the things you have to leave behind. We are not living in a world where all roads are radii of a circle and where all, if followed long enough, will therefore draw gradually nearer and finally meet at the centre: rather in a world where every road, after a few miles, forks into two, and each of those into two again, and at each fork you must make a decision. Even on the biological level life is not like a pool but like a tree.

"I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road. A wrong sum can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on. Evil can be undone, but it cannot "develop" into good. Time does not heal it. The spell must be unwound, bit by bit, "with backward mutters of dissevering power"-or else not. It is still "either-or." If we insist on keeping Hell (or even earth) we shall not see Heaven: if we accept Heaven we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of Hell. I believe, to be sure, that any man who reaches Heaven will find that what he abandoned (even in plucking out his right eye) was precisely nothing: that the kernel of what he was really seeking even in his most depraved wishes will be there, beyond expectation, waiting for him in "the High Countries." In that sense it will be true for those who have completed the journey (and for no others) to say that good is everything and Heaven everywhere. But we, at this end of the road, must not try to anticipate that retrospective vision. If we do, we are likely to embrace the false and disastrous converse and fancy that everything is good and everywhere is Heaven.

"But what, you ask, of earth? Earth, I think, will not be found by anyone to be in the end a very distinct place. I think earth, if chosen instead of Heaven, will turn out to have been, all along, only a region in Hell: and earth, if put second to Heaven, to have been from the beginning a part of Heaven itself."

C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (preface), April, 1945

Monday, February 12, 2018

086. Profile of a Prophet

In 1967, Elder Hugh B. Brown of the LDS Church delivered a talk in General Conference entitled "The Profile of a Prophet." In this talk Elder Brown shared several characteristics of a true prophet of God as derived from the Bible, which he developed as part of a conversation he had with a non-Mormon friend. His intent was to demonstrate how the prophet Joseph Smith, jr. also embodied all of these characteristics:

  1. Any man claiming to be a prophet of God would also claim that he had been spoken to by God.
  2. He would be a dignified man, with a dignified and clear statement of truth.
  3. He would declare his message without any fear, and do so courageously, without making any weak concessions to public opinion. 
  4. If he were speaking for God he would not make concessions, and what he taught would not be in harmony with the accepted teachings of the day. 
  5. He would speak in the name of the Lord and say "Thus saith the Lord" as did Moses, Jeremiah, and others.
  6. He would predict future events and predict them in the name of God, and that they would come to pass, as did Isaiah, Ezekiel, and others.
  7. He would have not only an important message for his time, but also a message for all future time, such as Noah, Malachi, and others. 
  8. His courage in supporting his statement of truth would be such that would enable him not only to endure persecution, but to give his life if need be for the cause he had espoused, such as Daniel, Hosea, and others. 
  9. Such a man would denounce wickedness fearlessly. He would generally be rejected by the people of his time, but as time went on he would grow in stature and descendants would build monuments to his honor. 
  10. He would do superhuman things that no man could do without God’s help. As he grew in stature the consequences of his work would be among the most convincing evidences of his calling: “By their fruits ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:20). 
  11. His teachings would be in strict conformity with scripture, and that his words and his writings would become scripture.

Although not a high-ranking leader in the LDS church, BYU scholar Truman Madsen also developed a list of the qualities of a prophet of God:

  1. A foreteller, meaning he has prophetic access to the future. 
  2. A forth-teller, meaning he speaks forth boldly in judgment and in teaching.
  3. Has authority, who speaks with more than human sanction.
  4. A recoverer or discovered of truth.
  5. An advocate of social righteousness. 
  6. A charismatic, who's personality attracts in a spiritual sense.
  7. Endures suffering. 
  8. Embodies love of others.
  9. A seer, who can understand and reveal truth.
  10. Often a martyr.  

Joseph Smith embodied all of these qualities and many others. I believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God because his teachings enlighten the mind and heart of the hearer, which fills them with a knowledge that seems to have always been a part of them, laying dormant, but has now suddenly been switched on. God spoke with him. God appeared to him. His message was the same from the 1st to the last...that the first principle of the gospel is to know the character of God and that we can speak with Him face-to-face as one person speaks to another.

Do the characteristics outlined above match with what people call prophets today? It seems like prophets of old sacrificed everything they valued for their knowledge of Christ. But today, prophets seem to be people who have achieved great worldly success, obtained advanced scholarly degrees, and are well-regarded in their professions. Perhaps God is a changeable God, or at least many hope and want Him to be, and He now prefers to call prophets who measure their connection to God through worldly accomplishments and a willingness to speak soothing and flattering words to others.

More information about prophets of God can be found here.