05 January 2006

I Don't Expect My Prophets to Be Perfect

I've mentioned before that the Old Testament is my favorite book of scripture. I love each book equally for different reasons, but the OT is special to me for many reasons.

I first really studied the OT in Jerusalem when I was there there first time. We slung stones in the Valley of Elat, read about the fires of Lachish going out, and sat atop Bethel. We were also studying ancient Near Eastern history at the time and the two went together perfectly. I particuarly like the OT because of the memories it brings back and because of its historical context. In no other book is history so clearly visible.

But there are other reasons I love the OT. It is by far the most diverse book of scripture we have. I remember reading a quote by Victor Ludlow (that I can't find) that said something to the effect that the OT is a collection of family histories, tax records, censuses, General Conference reports, fatherly advice, and more. I imagine it's quite a bit like what Mormon worked with to produce the Book of Mormon.

The Old Testament is also fascinating because it has so much about women. I find many inspiring stories about women in its pages, and (hopefully) I'll write more about some of those women through the year.

But one of the most important lessons I learned from the Old Testament (one I didn't even realize I'd learned till a few years ago) is that I don't expect my prophets to be perfect. Simply reading Genesis and Exodus carefully should cure anyone of that misconception.

Two of our greatest prophets in the Old Testament are Abraham and Moses. They were great leaders in many ways. They were blessed with tremendous revelations. Yet both did things that make me cringe. Abraham forced his wife and son to leave his house and sent them into the desert. Moses killed a man. Abraham married a young girl when he was more than 100 years old. Moses had no qualms about hacking down thousands of people. Abraham was ready to sacrifice his son.

Were all of these things commanded by the Lord? I don't know. Some clearly were. Others it isn't at all clear that they were commanded. Certainly their actions need to be seen in the context of their own cultural and historical settings. It is very important to remember that we don't have the whole story. We don't have anyone's entire story. I also believe that even prophets can make mistakes, and some of these things (and others I didn't list) could well have been mistakes or sins.

So when things like this come up about modern-day prophets, it doesn't bother me. Again, I don't have the whole story. But what I really need is the same faith that I have that the Lord didn't make a mistake with Abraham and Moses. I believe He's the only one who doesn't make mistakes. And if I can believe that, I can also believe he didn't make a mistake with Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, or any of the others. Because I have faith that the Lord called those men just as he called Abraham and Moses.

(However, I can understand why some people are uncomfortable with the idea of a prophet making mistakes and committing sins or simply doing things that just don't seem right. Shouldn't the Lord call people who are a bit better? Or make sure those whom he calls do better? I think this question is similar to those who believe in Biblical inerrancy- of course the Lord could have kept the Bible inerrant. But I don't believe he chose to. And I don't believe that the Lord chooses his prophets based solely on things that make sense to us.)


  1. You need to keep in mind, yes they did make mistakes, they weren't perfect, no one was perfect eccsept Jesus Christ. They were the same as you and me, just a little more intuned to the Spirit.

  2. Which to this day astounds me... having come out of Churchianity after 30 years of deeply ingrained teachings. I was always told that if a prophet isn't 100% right, they're not a real prophet. Which always grated me. Especially since I've received prophetic messages... because I'm not always right. Not everything I say comes from Y-H-V-H. People are still fallible.