Thursday, November 10, 2011

Becoming a False Prophet

I was reading a post over on How to Be Superwoman about Personal Revelation, and I skimmed over an article she linked to that one of her readers had sent to her. The article was basically arguing that there is no such thing as personal revelation (or “personal words from God” – his words) because we can’t always be 100% accurate 100% of the time, and a prophet has to be 100% accurate 100% of the time.

I think the author of the article made a really good point. I don’t mean to say I agree that there is no personal revelation – of course I believe there is – however, I still think he brought up some valid concerns about personal revelation.

People who believe in personal revelation (especially us Mormons, since we rely so heavily on it) can be very susceptible to become false prophets to ourselves.

How do we avoid become false prophets to ourselves? Here is the (edited) comment I wrote on Amy’s blog. It is mostly my testimony of personal revelation, and maybe some of the scriptures or points I brought up will help us understand and discern between true personal revelation from God, and what we think is from God, but is not.

The Bible tells us to ask God "Ask, and ye shall receive... knock and it shall be opened unto you." (Luke 11:9, Matt 7:7) "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him." (James 1:5) I can tell you right now, I lack wisdom on just about every topic in my life. Especially as a mother. I have no clue what I'm doing - so I ask God, and He helps me. I am so grateful for that knowledge that God will answer my prayers.

I have asked, and I have received answers to many questions - including whether or not the Bible is true, whether or not the Book of Mormon is true, and most importantly, if Christ is my Savior. He is.

Paul said, "for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." So if we have a testimony of Jesus, we have the spirit of prophecy (when we are testifying of Christ).

I would also add that I do not believe I (or anyone) will ever receive revelation from God that will be contrary to His word in scripture and from His prophets. (i.e., the person receiving "revelation" that he should not marry - that isn't from God, IMO). The scriptures make a really good measuring stick for what is revelation from God, and what is not. The Book of Mormon says, "all things which are good cometh of God...(see James 1:17 & 1 John 4:1-6) that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve Him, is inspired of God... for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God." Moroni 7:12-13,16

"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit... Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." (Matt 7:15-20)

I think that the author of the article makes a good point that people can become false prophets to themselves, and quite possibly to others. I see it all the time both in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and out of the Church. You have to be very cautious with personal revelation. It is very easy to become a false prophet if you aren't careful. But I think the author throws the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. If we don't have any revelation, how are we to know anything? How do you know the Bible is true? How do you know Christ is your Savior? If you know these things, how did you come to a knowledge of them? Or are you simply just hoping they are true?

Or did you get that knowledge from God? (knowledge from God = revelation)

I know the gospel of Jesus Christ is true. I know that the fullness of that gospel is found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I know that God loves me and that He speaks to me.

Maybe God doesn't speak to me in a burning bush, but He does speak to me through a burning in my heart. And I am grateful for it.

How do you recognize when personal revelation is from God? How do you avoid becoming a false prophet to yourself? Have you ever had what you thought was a prompting from God, only to realize, upon further inspection, that it was indeed not from God?


  1. Well, I guess I haven't talked about this subject enough lately! I have had a few expereinces when I was determined that certain thoughts must be from God. One memorable example is when I lost the keys to our van. I prayed REALLY hard for days but the key was simply gone. We never found it. During those days of searching I would have sudden ideas of where it might be. I was sure they were inspiration from the Holy Ghost but the key was never there. Looking back, I know that a more constant thought was that the key was gone and I should move to replace it but I refused to accept this. I think the big lesson here is to be open to answers instead of demanding a certain one or stubbornly insisting that our way is best. When we ask in humility we are much more likely to recognize the answer.

  2. EPHESIONS 5:8-11
    8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light
    9 for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth,
    10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.
    11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.

    When I was investigating the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I was taught by the missionaries concerning personal revelation. They spoke of warm feelings, etc. I asked if it were anything like déjà vu,because, in my entire life up to that point, I had experienced those things in one form or another. They were not random, and most of the time not called upon by me on purpose. I have had dreams that pertained to my life only. One particular dream I had when I was in the Navy. I had recently reported to a new duty station. I remember reporting to the personnel office with all of my service records, and pay records, etc. I gave them to someone, and they took them and literally threw them in an empty drawer. The person was at lunch so he would take care of it later. Ok, I trusted him, so I went on with my check in and he (unknown to me) forgot. That is until maybe 2 weeks later on payday. But this was happening without my prior knowledge. I remember vividly the night before payday, I dreamed that I went to work, and I stood in formation like always. Later I was at a window waiting to receive my check and after going down the alphabet, no check. So in my dream I walked to the payroll office and they told me that they had lost my pay records. In my dream, I pointed to the empty drawer and told them where it was.
    So I woke up. And I did everything like I did in the dream. The only thing that was different was the person passing out the checks. When I walked into the payroll office, they were waiting for me with all sorts of excuses and plan b’s, one of which was not to get paid. So just like in my dream, I told them where it was, at first they didn’t believe me, but they opened the drawer and there it was, and I had a check in a couple of hours. So was that personal revelation? I think so. I have had many other dreams in the same manner, and I have come to the conclusion that my dreams seem to be a protective or warning device, so that I can make a good decision on the outcome. I have received revelation in the scriptures which to me is like an AHA moment. I have had prayers answered when someone showed up at my door with something I needed. Revelation is light, which is intelligence. Intelligence is treasured up; or rather we gain intelligence by exercising a measure of faith in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
    Anyone can receive a prompting, but I really believe that the fullness of revelation can be experienced by those who have entered into that strait and narrow way. I believe that we cannot enter into that gate without it because it will help us on our way, it is a beacon, and revelation works in tandem with that iron rod.
    Oh yes, sometimes I do have dreams about really close and beloved friends. I had a dream about a couple who were debating on having another baby. I did not know that they were even trying, but I dreamed that I saw them in an embrace and in that embrace was a baby boy, complete with dark hair. I didn’t think much of that dream, but one evening at dinner, I said, congratulations, it’s a boy. The wife nearly dropped a platter, the husband asked, “Who told you”. They told me they had recently lost a baby earlier and were struggling to decide to try again. I said, try again. So they did and they didn’t tell us the sex of the baby until they were 6 months, it’s a boy!!! I know that this may have the potential to be misleading, so I prayed about it, and I had the impression that in this case, this was a tender mercy. I believe that when we pray for one another, I believe that God will allow some personal insight into another’s situation so we can encourage them.

  3. The topic of personal revelation was a pretty difficult one for me to understand when I first joined the church as a 17 year old. I feel as if I am not much better at understanding this topic 11 years later.

    Honestly, as I have prayed for guidance and inspiration when making decisions for my life, I do not feel as if I have ever made a "wrong" decision if my choices were in line with gospel principles. I have rarely been in a situation where I felt that there was only ONE choice that was GOD'S ULTIMATE WILL. I feel as if I choose wisely, praying for guidance, that if it's good and in line with gospel principles, He will be pleased, and that really is His will. His will is for me to follow the Gospel. It's not that hard. I prayed to know whether to be baptized. That one was easy. Of course He wants me to be baptized. I prayed about college. That's the kind of decision where I felt like I received this kind of answer, "Kristi, it is up to you. I will be pleased with whatever decision you make as long as you follow gospel principles." After that it was the decision to get married. I love my husband and I know he is "right" for me. I am sure that Heavenly Father's will for me was to marry a worthy priesthood holder in the temple. That's easy. But who to marry? I don't think He really cared, as long as it was a worthy priesthood holder and in the temple. It was another one of those, "Kristi, it is up to you. This guy is a great guy and your marriage with him will work as long as you are both committed to following me and following gospel principles."

    I suppose I've explained my point enough, I hope. For me, personal revelation isn't some big huge complicated thing. In fact, it is very simple. I was hoping I would hear voices and always feel a burning in the bosom. But mostly I feel a quiet assurance that things will be okay if I go a certain route. That's about it. I feel like as long as I am making decision and doing things that leave me with a feeling that I could face Heavenly Father with a clear conscious, then I am doing His will in my life. I haven't been wrong yet! As long as it was in line with gospel principles.

  4. Thanks for all of your comments and insights!

    @Kristi - I was born and raised as a member of the Church, and sometimes I feel inadequate when it comes to recognizing spiritual promptings. But I think you made a really good point, "But mostly I feel a quiet assurance that things will be okay if I go a certain route."

    Thanks again to everyone for commenting!


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