By Eric Johnson
Note: The following was originally printed in the September/October 2023 edition of Mormonism Researched. To request a free subscription, please visit here.
If only I had that proverbial nickel for every time a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints asked, “So who’s your living prophet?”
The question is certainly a tongue-in-cheek reference to the Great Apostasy, which Mormonism says took place soon after the death of Christ’s apostles. This doctrine teaches that all biblical authority was lost soon after the death of Jesus’s apostles sometime after AD 100; it wasn’t restored to its former-day glory until Joseph Smith organized his church in 1830. The question is meant to confound the Bible-believing Christian and show how biblical Christianity has no living leaders who can compare to those leading the LDS Church.
The way I have dealt with the question is usually not considered sarcastic or snarky by the Latter-day Saint. I merely ask, “Tell me who your living prophet is?” Every time, the Latter-day Saint will proudly point to 17th President Russell M. Nelson as the man they believe hears directly from God.
I then respond, “I do have a living prophet as well.” I want them to try to guess who this is, so I wait long enough to allow them to guess before I reveal the answer. The mike drop moment comes when I say, “It is Jesus Himself.”
Usually there is a rolling of eyes with a “yeah, of course” response from the Mormon. I insist that I’m serious and can reference a particular book of the Bible to show how Jesus fulfills the role of prophet, apostle, and priest—terms that the Latter-day Saint knows.
First, I say, Jesus is the Christian’s living prophet. I take the person to Hebrews 1:1-2. It says, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.”
Human prophets, I explain, were vital in “times past” as described in the Bible. They helped guide people to truth and explained God’s will for their lives. Today, though, Jesus is appointed to that office.
In fact, 1 Timothy 2:5 is an excellent verse to bring up at this point. It says, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” Mormonism stresses how the prophet is the mediator between God and man. Yet notice how this verse says it is the “man” Jesus who mediates for us. The next verse then says He “gave himself as a ransom for all.”
Mormons have a leader who, as a sinful man, is not qualified to be our mediator with the Father. Fifteenth President Gordon B. Hinckley once said, “Some express concern that the President of the Church is likely always to be a rather elderly man” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley, 261). I would agree, I’m concerned. Not only is the prophet elderly but he continues to struggle with sin like I do and cannot mediate on my behalf. Thus, I would choose Jesus as my prophet over the 98-year-old Russell M. Nelson any day of the week!
I also like to describe how the first chapter of Hebrews emphasizes the unique deity of Jesus as the second member of the Trinity. He is:
· The forgiver of our sins who sits at the right hand of God—and only God can forgive sins (vv. 3, 13; see Luke 5:21)
· Lifted higher than the angels with an even better name (vv. 4-5)
· Worshiped by angels (v. 6, only God should be worshiped)
· Considered God (v. 8, it can’t get clearer than this)
· The creator of the heavens and the earth (v. 10, see John 1:3; Col. 1:15-17)
· Never changes His being from God (v. 12, see Mal. 3:6)
Next, I say that Jesus is my living Apostle as well as my living High Priest. Hebrews 3:1 says, “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the apostle and high priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.”
That is a powerful statement. While there are 15 apostles in Mormonism (the number includes the three members of the First Presidency), Jesus is the only Apostle whom Christians need. Wouldn’t you agree that one perfect Apostle trumps 15 sinful apostles? This Apostle continues to live even after He died on a cross! Meanwhile, Mormon apostles get replaced by other men after they die and get lowered in their final resting spots.
As far as being the Christian’s living high priest, the Book of Hebrews (9:12) shows how Jesus shed His blood on the mercy seat in heaven to forgive sins, once for all. In Mormonism, any number of male members can be called “high priests,” an office of the Melchizedek priesthood. These include stake presidents, mission presidents, high counselors, and bishops. Again, Jesus trumps these human leaders.
His priesthood is considered “unchangeable” in Hebrews 7:24. In the note for this verse given in one older LDS Bible, it says, “Or passes not from one to another.” Jesus was, as verse 26 puts it, “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.”
The next verse explains that this perfect Priest did not have to offer a sacrifice for His sins before He offered the sacrifice for the people.
By this time, the Latter-day Saint may hedge and want to claim that Jesus is also his prophet, apostle, and priest. This is a different tune than the point originally made. Notice how the Mormon came my direction and I didn’t go in his.
Often the Latter-day Saint realizes the better position is held by the Christian. I encourage you to make sure the person knows that the view of Jesus being prophet, apostle and priest has never been encouraged in Mormonism—otherwise, why did the person naturally reference the LDS prophet earlier? Church leaders have been clear that their living prophet cannot mislead the people and should be trusted even when he contradicts the Bible.
In just three minutes, this tactic can allow you to make a clear point while doing it in a very biblically sound manner. Maybe you will want to try this tactic the next time you are asked about who your living leader is.