Friday, June 15, 2007

can there be a modern day samuel the lamanite? (and would he be shot off the wall?)

"and it came to pass that in this year there was one samuel, a lamanite, came into the land of zarahemla, and began to preach unto the people." - helaman 13:2

something that has been of interest to me as i read the scriptures has been the prevalence of non-ecclesiastical prophets - prophets called of god that had no apparent role in the governing leadership of the church (or organization of believers). in fact, most prophets in the scriptures fit this very model. this was one of the reasons why they were so rejected by their own. they had no identifiable authority, just regular joes (and janes) called to prophecy and cry repentance.

samuel the lamanite seems to also fit this model. during his ministry, it seems that it was nephi, the son of helaman, that was the priesthood authority over the church at that time. it was nephi who god had given the sealing authority to (helaman 10:7) and it was nephi who baptized those who believed samuel's words (helaman 16:1,5). nephi was also the curator of the nephite sacred relics (3 nephi 1:2) .furthermore, while most of the nephites did not like what nephi had to say (and a few tried to imprison him (helaman 10:14-5)), he did not seem to get the violent rejection that samuel received.

so what about samuel? we know very little of him, other than that he was called of god, visited by an angel, and climbed a wall to preach against the nephites - those who were supposed to be the church of god. he wasn't preaching to the gentiles. rather, he was preaching against the saints of his day. furthermore, there is no indication that he had any ecclesiastical authority over the nephites. he made no appeal to priesthood authority, his only claim to authority were his own revelations and experiences.

and of course, like most of the ancient (and early-latter-day) prophets, his message of repentance was primarily centered around the nephites accumulation of wealth and neglect of the poor.

so my question today is can there be a modern day samuel the lamanite? (and would he be shot off the wall?). is there room in the church today for the scriptural model of prophets? can prophets of god exist outside of the priesthood hierarchical chain? can other's receive and preach revelations for the church and for the world who are not the presiding authority of the melchizedek priesthood? or is this an outdated model that god has replaced with a hierarchical model tied to the presiding priesthood authority (a model that at times seems to conflict with d&c 121:39-41).

and if such prophets were still possible today, how would they be received? would those who are supposed to be the saints of god give heed to their words, or would they, like the 'righteous' nephites, try to shoot them of their walls with the a priori judgement that they are not prophets of god?

and finally, what would the modern day wall around zarahemla be? must a latter-day samuel preach to the saints from the walls of temple square, or are books, blogs, journals, the internet, and other venues ample walls for extra-ecclesiastical revelators?


  1. Maybe these guys are already operating in places we can't get - China and the like... ?

  2. Awesome post. I never thought of Samuel the Lamanite as a "non-ecclesiastical prophet." Growing up and on my mission, I kind of assumed that he must have had some place in the church hierarchy (this reaction had probably been conditioned by the Correlation Dept.).

    I fear that such prophets would be received by many members of the Church in the same way that Christ was received by the Pharisees. Most LDS would likely consider hierarchical authority a must before they would seriously listen to any so-called prophet, even though this is not always the case with scriptural prophets. Joseph Smith canonized this idea: "Again I say unto you, that it shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church" (D&C 42:11).

  3. Sorry, I didn't really complete my thoughts in that last comment.

    I believe that there are those who are called upon to preach a particular message to their people, and they may justly be called "prophets." I believe that there are such "non-ecclesiastical prophets" among us, and their work is extremely valuable. However, if they want to retain any kind of credibility (or standing in the Church), I'd be careful about using the term "prophet," as it is intricately tied to the hierarchy in modern LDS culture.

  4. Interesting thoughts. I would imagine that Samuel's heritage as a Lamanite played a role in the contrasting degree of rejection as compared to Nephi. The Nephites could more or less tolerate one of their own hating on their wickedness, but for an outsider to do it was unforgivable.

    I suppose extra-heirarchal prophets are not outside the realm of possibilities, and I don't think that they would get the violent rejection that Samuel the Lamanite received, either. Look how many Latter-day Saints love C.S. Lewis or M. Scott Peck's "The Road Less Travelled."

    The heart of the issue is probably the source of the revelation. A contrasting example to Samuel the Lamanite could be found in Acts 16:17-18, where a soothsaying girl testifies that the Apostles are servants of God. But rather than just agreeing with her or telling people to listen to her, Peter casts the devil out of her and they move on.

  5. First - do some research. Helaman 13:1 talks about "...the Nephites did still remain in wickedness, yea, in great wickedness, while the Lamanites did observe strictly to keep the commandments of God..." That's how the chapter starts. Within the first dozen +/- versus it talks a lot about how the city would be destroyed b/c of it's great wickedness except God was sparring the righteous. - Helaman 13:13.

    Second - This chapter (Helaman 13) readily proves my point about riches from our earlier conversations. How many times were they cursed for having riches? -0- verse 21 when taken in context with verse 22 & 23 it's obvious they were cursed b/c they used their riches for sinning, not simply b/c they had them. Now, how many times did Samuel mention the curse was b/c their heart was set on their riches, not on God who GAVE THEM THE RICHES? -6- (verses 19-23,33). It is abundently clear that God gave them their welath. Now, if it's a sin to have wealth - why did God give it to them? And why did God give them a chance to keep it by hiding it up to him? It wasn't their riches that was the problem, it was "...because ye have set your hearts upon them, and have not hearkened unto the words of him who gave them unto you." (verse 21) I'm not exactly sure how you drew the conclusion of "neglect to the poor" but I can see a couple places you might get that from - please elaborate.

    Third - I think you have the prophesying of Samuel and the role of the church Hierarchy a little confused. ANYONE and I mean ANYONE can prophesy. General Conference, Stake Conference, Sacrament Mtg., Sunday School, etc. Anyone can do it. What they can't do is lead and direct "the church." They don't set new policy, they don't get up in Sacrament Mtg and say "God told me we need a new bishop." That's the role of the "hierarchy." No where did Samuel go around, under, over, etc. Nephi. He didn't change anything Nephi had ever said. He simply gave one good sermon on a subject matter that had been preached to them many times. Yes, he "prophesied" about the 400 more years and about the "curse" that would come b/c of their iniquities. For that I would say he was 1 - a VERY righteous and devout man. 2 - had some form of ordination in the hierarchy. This is drawn from personal experience. Elder Scott told my mission to make promises to our investigators both good and bad in the name of the Lord. ie "If you do abc, xyz will happen. If you do not mno will happen." and do it in the name of the Lord - and he will uphold us b/c we are his servents. I wasn't in the leadership portion of the hierarchy, but I was an ordained minister from the hierarchy. I received revelation on what my investigators (and branch memebers to an extent) needed b/c I was whom God had chosen to preach to them. Samuel did NOTHING I wouldn't expect a good missionary / bishop / stake president / home teacher to do for their "flock".

    As a whole I think the church is to used to "feel good" sermons. It would be out of the norm for "Bro. Smith" to give his Sacrament talk and really hold our feet to the fire about the whole church sinning b/c we are still in debt and don't have food storage after decades of being told to get out of debt and get food storage. It wouldn't be wrong, but it would be a bit different and probably taken the wrong way.

    I think it's a great point raised - what if someone, outside the norm, got up and gave a talk REALLY coming down on areas that we are sinning in? How would we take it? And then on top of it - what if they laid out some blessings / consequencies for complying much like Samuel did? I'm not so sure the church as a whole would respond well, at least at first. I can almost here now the "What Bro. Smith said was right but he should have said it nicer..." Maybe not, maybe we needed a gut check. Very interesting points / questions.


  6. I forgot:

    "or consequencies for not complying"

    in the last paragraph ... sorry


  7. Loyd, good post, and some good questions. I've been meaning to comment on this since you wrote it, but instead I've just been mulling it over in my head. So, I guess I've got a few thoughts on the subject by now. (So sorry in advance for how long this might end up.)

    For starters, it seems that everyone here (except for Ryan) assumes that Samuel's being a "non-ecclesiastical prophet" means that he wasn't what we would call a "member". I don't think that assumption is justified. On the contrary (and as Ryan pointed out), by the time Samuel prophesied most of the Lamanites did belong to the Church.

    (Besides Hel. 13, that Ryan referenced, see Hel. 5-6, where Nephi and his brother preach to the Lamanites and most of them are converted. Some of them, in ch. 6, even come to Zarahemla and preach to the Nephites, much like Samuel. Also, in Hel. 15, Samuel describes how the Lamanites strive to keep the law of Moses. In 15:9, he also says that they bury their weapons. Since we recognize this as a tradition of the Ammonites, it's possible that the Lamanites now have a multi-generational heritage of "membership" in the Church.)

    The point is that Samuel was most likely a baptized, confirmed member of the Church of God. I don't mean to make it sound like there aren't inspired people outside of the Church, but simply that Samuel isn't an example of that.

    As far as Ryan's idea that Samuel "had some form of ordination in the hierarchy", it's a possibility, but we don't really know that for sure (so it's just as possible that he was not ordained as any type of minister). What we do know about his authority is the kind he didn't have: Samuel was not the high priest. As Loyd points out, that was Nephi.

    I think one of the biggest reasons why we would be more likely to reject a modern-day equivalent of Samuel is that we tend to view prophecy differently than did "most of the ancient (and early-latter-day)" people.

    One misconception (that isn't unique to mormon-culture) is that a prophet tells the future. This isn't a requirement of prophecy, and I think it isn't even the case for the majority of scriptural prophecies. Instead, a prophet a says "whatsoever things should come into his heart" (Hel. 13:3, about Samuel). Basically, a prophet speaks the Lord's will. (The Bible Dictionary explains this well, in my opinion.)

    I think that realizing what it really means (in the scriptural sense) to be a prophet helps to explain one of my favorite passages on the subject: Numbers 11:24-30. Here there are two men prophesying in the camp, and Joshua suggests that Moses stop them. Moses doesn't stop them, saying that God would have all of his people be prophets, and speak by the Spirit.

    So, I mention that example specifically because I think it leads into the second misconception, which is probably the one that gets in our way more than the first. I think in the (modern) Church, we have a tendency to take on the same attitude as Joshua had at the time: we view the president of the Church as the Prophet, as though he's the only one. We've completely mixed up the presidency of the Priesthood with the gift of prophecy. Prophecy isn't even a gift that requires the Priesthood at all, but just the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Men, women and children that are not priests of any type can have the gift/spirit of prophecy (see Alma 32:23; 3 Ne 26:14).

    I realize that the difference between a prophet and the high priest might seem like a semantic one, and maybe a good move for a person that wanted to be taken seriously would be to avoid using the word "prophet", as Steve suggests. Certainly they can still deliver inspired words even if others don't call it a "prophecy". The only concern that I'd have with abandoning the scriptural usage of the word in favor of our contemporary usage is that I think we still value the word "prophet". If we allow ourselves to call someone that speaks the words of God by another title, then we may just end up viewing it as a "good sermon", or "good talk", and not take it as seriously as we would if we realized that it was a prophecy stating the mind of the Lord.

    And if we do that, if we fail to recognize a prophecy as the word of God because it doesn't come from a source for whom we're more accustomed to using that word, then aren't we kind of shooting arrows at that prophet?

    So, maybe, what we should really be asking ourselves, is if we recognize messages given to us in the spirit of prophecy and if we take it as seriously as if the Lord himself were speaking it (D&C 1:38), even if the servant isn't the one we're expecting.

  8. Loyd~

    I poised this 'scenrio' to my Dad last night and he brought up an excellent point. Thus far I think Bryant has come the closest to pointing this out. --> Just what was the hierarchy of the church like during Samuels time?

    You have to remember that the church as we know it didn't exist until 38 years +/- after Samuel. They were still living under the Mosaic law as pointed out in Helaman 13:1. Even with the resources we have we don't know a whole lot about how they ran the church. Did they meet in small congregations every sabath? Were sacrifices part of these services or was it more of a "after dinner" activity in the back yard? The thing is, we just don't know. The idea of a "prophet" at the head of the church with a working quorum of the 12 didn't appear until after the resurection in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

    I think the best thing my father pointed out was in the form an anology. If you take water and change it's container you haven't changed the water. It's the same water - just a new container. Why do we see MUCH more prophettesses in the old testament and basicly zero in the new testament? Is it that they have become useless? No, it's just a new way of presenting the water. For whatever reason, God has chosen a method for church governing that doesn't utilize women in that roll. During the time of Samuel we don't know what God's method of delivery was. We don't know hardly anything about the structure of his church either. So to say Samuel is ecclesiastical or non-ecclesiastical is almost impossible. We have no record one way or the other. For all we know Samuel and Nephi were best friends, maybe they had never meet. We just don't know.


  9. As a side note Bryant made a good point. Being a prophet has nothing to do with predicting the future. I believe that would constitue a Seer and/or Revelator. Which goes into why we sustain the First Presidency and quorum of the 12 as "prophets, seers, and revelators."

    I could be wrong but that is my understanding. If someone has more insight please share.


  10. sort of related...there's a samuel the lamanite type guy who comes to almost every Provo City Council meeting. During the public comment time he preaches repentance to the council members and i've found myself wishing i could shoot him with arrows. he's a ron paul revolution guy and he believes God has called him to declare the ron paul truth. and for all i know ron paul may have some excellent ideas. but the way this guy condemns and "cries repentance" IS NOT THE WAY TO AFFECT CHANGE. i've been thinking if Samuel the Lamanite went about things a different way then people may have accepted what he had to say.

  11. If you or anyone for that matter ever thought that lds would not stone their prophets think again. If such a man as STL would exist today, he would be dealt in the very same way that Samuel the Lamanite was or even worst. HE would not have form or comeliness or formal education, etiquette or manners. I would not be surprised that he would be of Lamanitish descent and that he would preach in like manner. And that for doing so, he would be numbered with the infirm and the transgressor o or cast into the pit, that his the hospital for the mentally ill and even to jail or prison for truth's sake. He would come in disguise like Abinadi or like Enoch he would stand in high places and say all whatsoever the LORD will put in his mind and heart. When I mean high places I mean, with intent to be heard such a blog like this or even one of the popular social sites like facebook, the vine, sodahead and what not, for that is the gathering place of the wicked these days. i can even hear the people saying about him as with Enoch

    Moses 6:38

    And they came forth to hear him, upon the high places, saying unto the tent-keepers: Tarry ye here and keep the tents, while we go yonder to behold the seer, for he prophesieth, and there is a strange thing in the land; a wild man hath come among us and he prophesies...

  12. And now when ye talk, ye say: If our days had been in the days of our fathers of old, we would not have slain the prophets; we would not have stoned them, and cast them out.

    Behold ye are worse than they; for as the Lord liveth, if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil. But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth—and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet. Yea, ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance; ye will give unto him of your gold, and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel; and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well, then ye will not find fault with him.

    O ye wicked and ye perverse generation; ye hardened and ye stiffnecked people, how long will ye suppose that the Lord will suffer you? Yea, how long will ye suffer yourselves to be led by foolish and blind guides? Yea, how long will ye choose darkness rather than light?
    Yea, behold, the anger of the Lord is already kindled against you; behold, he hath cursed the land because of your iniquity. And behold, the time cometh that he curseth your riches, that they become slippery, that ye cannot hold them; and in the days of your poverty ye cannot retain them. And in the days of your poverty ye shall cry unto the Lord; and in vain shall ye cry, for your desolation is already come upon you, and your destruction is made sure; and then shall ye weep and howl in that day, saith the Lord of Hosts. And then shall ye lament, and say:

    O that I had repented, and had not killed the prophets, and stoned them, and cast them out. Yea, in that day ye shall say: O that we had remembered the Lord our God in the day that he gave us our riches, and then they would not have become slippery that we should lose them; for behold, our riches are gone from us. Behold, we lay a tool here and on the morrow it is gone; and behold, our swords are taken from us in the day we have sought them for battle. Yea, we have hid up our treasures and they have slipped away from us, because of the curse of the land. O that we had repented in the day that the word of the Lord came unto us; for behold the land is cursed, and all things are become slippery, and we cannot hold them. Behold, we are surrounded by demons, yea, we are encircled about by the angels of him who hath sought to destroy our souls. Behold, our iniquities are great. O Lord, canst thou not turn away thine anger from us? And this shall be your language in those days. But behold, your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head. O ye people of the land, that ye would hear my words! And I pray that the anger of the Lord be turned away from you, and that ye would repent and be saved." Helaman 13

  13. Now if such a man as Samuel the Lamanite would come among us, I think he would have appeared by now, or no latter than the next general conference from the time this question was raised as to prevent the people of the land of the curse that was coming upon it such as the downturn of the world's economy. And it would take him about seven years of hard core preaching to the people at home or abroad before this question that was asked today, as the heading of this blog would be truly answered. Better late than never. TI

  14. Isaiah 52:6

    Therefore my people shall know my name: therefore they shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak: behold, it is I.


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