Sunday, September 28, 2014

Follow the prophet, for he is in the Lord's Sôd.

I'll try to make this brief. Today in Sunday School our lesson was entitled "God Reveals His Secrets to His Prophets" which dealt with the role of prophets. This is a topic that I have been thinking about a lot recently partially due to the fact that someone whose blog I read regularly has decided to leave the Church and follow after someone he considers to be a prophet of God. Part of the discussion in our Sunday School lesson centered around what it meant to be a prophet and I decided to share something that I had learned over a year ago.

One of the central scriptures in the lesson was Amos 3:7 which reads:
"Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets."
The entire discussion focused on other parts of the scripture until I share something I had learned from an article in the Mormon Interpreter by William Hamblin. The Hebrew word for secret in that verse is sôd (סוד). As Hamblin explains in his article,
"In its broader sense the Hebrew term sôd (סוד) means a confidential discussion, a secret or plan, a circle of confidants, or council. Nearly all scholars now agree that sôd, when used in relationship to God, refers to the heavenly council/sôd of God, which humans may sometimes visit to learn divine mysteries or obtain a prophetic message to deliver to humankind. The celestial members of this council are variously called the “host of heaven” (1 Kings 22:19), “gods” or “sons of God” (Ps. 82:1, 6), or “Holy Ones.” Sôd can refer to either the divine council itself or to the deliberative secret results of that council—that is the secret plans of the council—which a prophet is sometimes permitted to learn or to reveal to humankind. Only those who are part of the divine sôd/council know the sôd/secret plan, and only those who are given explicit permission may reveal that sôd to humankind."
I mentioned this idea to the class (in a much abbreviated form) and said that what sets prophets apart from everyone else, especially from false prophets, is that true prophets are part of the council and counsel of the Lord. Only true prophets can stand in the sôd and know what the Lord has planned for mankind. The prophet Jeremiah mentions the sôd when he denounces the false prophets of Judah who prophesied that Jerusalem would not be destroyed.
"16 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Do not listen to what the [false] prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. 17 They keep saying to those who despise me, ‘The Lord says: You will have peace.’ And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, ‘No harm will come to you.’ 18 But which of them has stood in the council [sôd] of the Lord to see or to hear his word? Who has listened and heard his word?" (Jeremiah 23:16-18 NIV)
Jeremiah could say this because he had stood in the sôd of the Lord and had heard the Lord's sôd, and had been authorized to reveal the sôd to the people. When a prophet is called and allowed into the sôd he and only he is authorized to reveal the sôd to the people of God. There are some who are uncomfortable with the idea that a man will act as the intermediary between God and man, but that is the pattern that has been followed since Adam and will continue until the end of the earth. Not everyone in invited into the sôd of God, but everyone can receive a knowledge of the sôd.

Part of what brought this about and made me mention this in Sunday School (and now on my blog) was something written by the now former LDS blogger I mentioned at the beginning. He was convinced that there should be no intermediary between us and God when it comes to revelation, the priesthood, and our salvation. He felt that we should not be taught to "Follow the Prophet" since that placed a barrier between us and God and turned the prophet into a kind of idol that we were being commanded to worship.

His attitude and conclusions greatly saddened me because he was essentially turning away from the truth due to a misunderstanding. A misunderstanding that is not supported by anything the prophets themselves have said or done. It is like coming to the conclusion that Moses was not a prophet because the children of Israel were worshiping a golden calf. In the Church the counsel we receive from the prophets does not detract from our Christ centered lives, but rather it strengthens it and deepens it because the prophets have stood in the sôd of the Lord and know His sôd. In the Church when we say follow the prophet, we do not mean to follow a man and not follow Christ, but only to give heed to their counsel and teaching of the prophet because they have stood in the sôd of the Lord and can lead us in the way light and salvation.

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