Imagine a group of people trying to organize a church and choose the doctrines their church would teach. They continually get bogged down by arguments over important doctrines. Each time, members on opposing sides go to the Bible and pull out verses to support their point of view. However, they often use the same scriptures to prove different things and just as often, they find seemingly conflicting doctrines in the Bible. They begin to wonder how they are supposed to figure out what doctrines are correct.
This scenario has played out in churches throughout history. Councils and meetings have been held to hammer out differences, with the doctrine often put to a vote. Many times the other side leaves and starts a new church.
This happened to the FitzRandolph family in colonial times. They left the Pilgrims over disagreements concerning doctrine. Joining with others who felt as they did, they moved to Barnstable, but soon the small church was trapped in debates over infant baptism. The church split and the Fitzrandolphs moved with others who agreed with them. This happened several times. Each time the FitzRandolphs were part of a group that left and started new churches. In the process they settled a number of towns, but they took many years to find a stable home and a church that believed as they did.
In each case, everyone was using the same Bible to define true doctrine. This family’s experiences illustrate the desperate need the world has for prophets. Throughout history, God made certain people had the opportunity to know what is true by giving the truth to the prophet, who revealed it to the people. Those who took the necessary steps to find out who the prophet was and to develop trust in his role of prophet had the assurance they were following God’s plan. Those who rejected the prophets, such as those in Noah’s time, suffered the consequences of their choices.
The times of apostasy, when there were no prophets, were invariably times of confusion. There was no way to know what was true except to follow the path the FitzRandolphs chose—study the Bible and debate until a decision is made. People could, of course, pray for individual revelation, but the proliferation of Christian faiths makes it clear that either people didn’t do this or they didn’t know how to get answers.
In order to avoid confusion, there can be only one authorized source of truth and that is God. God chooses just one person to receive that truth for the entire church and this has, from the beginning of time, been the prophet. Having a single prophet alleviates confusion and makes it possible for people to know where to turn when they don’t understand the scriptures or when they encounter situations that don’t seem to be covered by the Bible. In addition, there are times when God wants His people to be aware of new situations, such as when Noah needed to build a boat and Moses needed to take his people into the wilderness. At other times, God is prepared to bring his children to a higher level of understanding, as when He introduced the Ten Commandments. Without a prophet, there can be dozens of people all insisting God told them what to do or believe, and no one knows which way to turn.
Mormons believe that if they ask God, He will tell them who the prophet is.
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him (James 1:5).
This prevents them from taking his word for it on blind faith. Mormons pray and receive a testimony of the prophet. At any time, if they feel uncertain of his teachings, they can pray for a confirmation of that teaching. This, which Mormons are taught is not just their right, but their responsibility, prevents a person from being led into danger.
Having a modern prophet is a sign of God’s love for us. It shows us He loves us as much as He loved the ancient Jewish people and that He wants us to know what is true so we can return home to Him.
Learn more about the current Mormon prophet: