Prophet, Seer, and Revelator

The church website has recently put up a video interview of Steve Veazey conducted by Linda Booth.  The link to the video is on the bottom of the main page, www.CofChrist.org

Among other things, Steve discusses his experiences in bringing the Words of Counsel to the church.  He relates some of the revelatory process as he experienced it and personal insights into the decisions surrounding the document.

I was fortunate enough to be in the Independence area during the last weekend in January, two weeks after the document was presented to the church.  At a last minute decision, I went with my wife and brother-in-law to attend the January 31st Temple Event.  I had no clue what to expect as we went, but it was a very enjoyable and beneficial afternoon.  At the close of the event, the First Presidency held a short worship service to wrap the activities up and send us on our way.  My brother-in-law is quite a bit younger than both my wife and I and had never really been in the Temple before, though a life-long Independence resident.  As we sat in the closing worship service, he was very inquisitive about exactly what was going on and who different people were.  We tried to explain to him about the First Presidency and what they do, and who Steve Veazey was.  He really struggled with these concepts, but ultimately came away with a conclusion along the lines that Steve talks to God on behalf of the Church.  The question asked: “What is a prophet?” really got me thinking and scrambling to try and find a way to answer satisfactorily–but also quietly while the service continued.

After the service was over, the First Presidency vanished quickly as they often do through back doors and the like.  The three of us, after cleaning up spilled trail-mix from the sanctuary floor (not sure who’s idea it was to distribute that right before the worship), headed out into the lobby en route to the parking lot.  Exiting the worshipper’s path in reverse from its typical direction we popped out into the foyer and I noticed Steve, Dave and Becky (the First Presidency) were standing around chatting with people.  I’d met them each before, some more than others, but the thought crossed my mind that my brother-in-law should.  I asked him if he wanted to meet Steve, since he mainly asking questions about Steve.  He blurted out an immediate ‘No’ and tried to take off for the doors.  I grabbed him and did my best to convince him he should atleast shake Steve’s hand, which he really didn’t want to do.  I suspected he was just nervous and/or really shy about strangers in general.  We took him over to Steve, and had to stand in line for a short while waiting our turn.  Every time it seemed we got next in line, the line somehow randomly shifted another way as somebody jumped in on the other side…funny how that seems to happen a lot.

While we waited, my brother-in-law kept leaning back into me, away from Steve.  I held him to keep from sprinting off, but he was lightly pulling away.  Finally when we got up to Steve, I introduced them to each other and Steve held out his hand which he took lightly, gave a brief shake–but remained silent as a tomb.  After a few brief words, just a few seconds, Steve thanked us all for coming and we went on our way.

On the way to the car, he was very, very concerned about what had just happened.  He met Steve Veazey, but now he was really worried.  “He read my mind,” we were informed.  “He’s a mindreader and now he’s going to know I don’t pay attention in church and he’ll tell me to go more.”  Now we understood his hesitancy.  Somehow from our conversation, he believed Steve Veazey – The Prophet – could read minds and that was why he had that position.  It took a while to convince him that wasn’t one of Steve’s “powers,” something I suspect he still wonders if I’m lying to him about to keep him relaxed.  It brings up a couple questions, particularly relevant as we consider a possible new D&C Section revolving around (among other things) the question of revelation and prophets.

What is a prophet?  What is entailed by being the Prophet?  Does the Community of Christ need a prophet, or is it a relic of our past we’re unwilling to trash?  Is Steve Veazey a prophet, by your definition?  How does one become prophet, or how does one (Wally B./Grant) continue living but stop functioning as such?  What defines a “true” prophet vs. a “false” prophet?

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44 comments on “Prophet, Seer, and Revelator

  1. Those that know me, know that I am very critical of Brother Veazey and leadership in general. However, I think Steve has the best understanding of all CofC presidents, as to what the role of the Prophet is.

    I don’t think he considers himself more holy, more in tune or more able to discern the direction of the Church than anyone else. I think he sees himself as truly a servant minister who has the administrative duty to guide the church as he feels lead.

    This is demonstrated by the humility and humanity with which he delivers the words of counsel.

  2. FireTag says:

    My machine is too slow to deal with videos, so I’ll have to wait until the printed transcript shows up in the magazine, but I’ll be interested in hearing what differed in the counsel from his pre-conceived notions.

    There is a distinction that must be recognized between “holy indifference” and the process of discernment that has been going on in a person’s life for a long time. Those closest to an issue are likely to be trying to hear the Spirit long before the issue comes to the attention of the entire church.

    • FireTag says:

      Well, the printed Herald’s “interview” is only the Q&A’s posted on the church website immediately after the document itself was posted.

      No staff for a transcript, I guess.

  3. I too am critical of the leadership of the church. My favorite was Grant. And I have known both men for a long time. I knew Grant best, I guess. I think the time for a prophet is long past and should be in the past. Leadership in the church should be forward leaning and dragging the membership along. I feel this has been a struggle for Steve.

    To my way of thinking, fear is their greatest enemy. They are afraid to step up and lead the way into the 2st century. If they wait for the membership to catch up, they will be waiting for another generation.

    I would love to be proven wrong in this. I am a delegate at Conference so we should see how courageous they are at that time. There are issues that need to be faced and so far, their hesitancy has not inspired me.

  4. FireTag says:

    Thanks, BTC. I’ll read it this afternoon. By the way, gay marriage just became recognized in Maryland if performed next door in DC. Whereas, halfway around I-495 to the south of the city, gay marriage is banned. So, in my Mission Center alone, we now have three different civil legal regimes ranging from legal to banned for gay marriage.

    Margie: “dragging the membership along” wasn’t exactly the language I suspected from my most progressive peace and justice sister, but I get what you’re trying to say. :D

    As to the issue of hesitancy, what do you think of the counsel-implementing legislation proposed by the Presidency (published on page 35 of the February printed Herald)? Unless the Presidency and at least one of the Twelve are willing to step up and invoke special conferences to authorize changes in policy in their jurisdictions, the effect of this legislation is EXACTLY the same as if no counsel had been given and the conference had rejected all of the legislation authorizing greater gay inclusion, and then passed the resolutions proposed to refer the issue to the FP indefinitely.

    So, what has changed in the pre-counsel conceptions of the FP?

  5. Rick Collins says:

    A Prophet-President should call people to God, promote Christ-centred peace and justice and be critical of all forces (internal and external) that are obstacles to the Reign of God.
    Steve would become a false prophet if he did not, in his ministry, reflect the will of God.

    I think the biggest problems with the office, as it exists today, is that the membership’s attitude towards the office are becoming more and more one of unquestioning praise.
    I feel that we, as a church, are losing our power (not only in terms of the role of world conference, but as ministers) because we defer too much to the Presidency, and more generally, the World Church.

    Personally, I like the example of the early RLDS church under Joseph Smith III – a band of non-conformists who looked to their Prophet-President for leadership, but understood the power of each member to change lives, and change the world.

    We get so bogged down in World Church issues that we forget that real ministry happens locally. For the most part, that means that what World Church and the First Presidency does actually holds little relevance. What is relevant in Christian ministry is the relationship between God/Jesus and the individual. That’s where we need to focus.

  6. Doug Gregory says:

    Where to begin…

    Allow me to begin with what I see as the two main themes of the recent counsel. The first is that Christ’s church is bigger than CofC, which is a revelation to many. God is in the world working God’s purposes out, with or without us.

    The second main theme – in my opinion – is that each individual member is invited to review their response to the cross and to the kingdom-building task. Many of us talk, but have relied on being on the “right” side, and we are called to task on that.

    Rick, I see the presidency trying to push the membership into prophetic responsibility instead of waiting for “Moses” to come down the mountain every few years. It is we who are hesitating, not them.

    FireTag, one step at a time. The counsel provides an avenue for the church to address issues of importance within a local context. Not doing so would destroy one segment of the church while elevating the other. I don’t see that as befitting a church of peace.

    Margie, every leader has to be aware of those they are leading, or else they wave a flag that no one follows. Having held executive positions where decisions needed to be made for a broad variety of interests, it is not easy. It is principles that must guide, and this has been made clear to us again by Steve – the difference between principles and positions.

    BTC, thanks for your comments. I know both Steve and Dave well, Becky not so well. I trust them to lead the church, and I value their humility.

    What is a prophet? Remember that JSJr was called a prophet, seer, and revelator, which covers just about everything. Prophetic insight to me is seeing relevant parts of God’s personality, and conveying it to a people requiring its guidance. It is, as Steve told me many years ago, comfort to the afflicted, and affliction to the comfortable. It is a bearing against which to measure our own selves, a sounding that tolls in the night to guide us, a light to give us hope in a world of despair. That insight comes from each of you, it comes from me, it comes from Steve. It is sharing of Godself that speaks in universal principles and to individual voids.

    A prophet is a willing vessel that has learned to empty themselves so that God can fill them up in order to call his people into kingdom living, and so I quiet myself in respect at all those who offer themselves into this service to their fellow.

    My understanding was that Grant did not want to be called a prophet, and although I am sure it is more complex than that, that troubled me. I do not think that any seek to become prophet, but there is an anointing that takes place, and a head bowed to receive it indicates a willingness to be less about self than about kingdom. That willingness I both honor and respect.

    • FireTag says:

      Doug:

      Please don’t misunderstand what I’m actually saying. I KNOW I can not ask my brothers and sisters in another part of the world, or conservatives in the West to bear the pain of the gays in the West. I ALSO KNOW I can not ask gays in the West to bear pain my brothers and sisters in another part of the world, or conservatives in the West will bear if we fully end the marginalization of gays in the church.

      Let me point instead to the first major theme you point out and suggest an implication: if the work of Christ is NOT limited to the CofChrist, and if (as in the experience Steve discusses on page 8 of the transcript) God directs some Christians into the CofChrist and some Christians to stay in their original Christian traditions, why do we limit our solutions to those that assume keeping OUR denomination together is primary?

      Might the best way of expressing love for people be to help them find their BEST home? Maybe God is focusing SOME Christians inside the CofChrist on ministry OUTSIDE of the CofChrist, too. Maybe THAT’s the solution that minimizes pain for all groups of the church, because when you leave the denomination, you do NOT leave the Community of Christ, and Christ, not the church is where the community is supposed to be centered.

    • Rick Collins says:

      I agree that it is “we” that do the waiting. However, I do believe that World Church doesn’t help us get beyond that waiting all that much.

  7. Doug Gregory says:

    Friends, I long ago gave up the idea of trying to figure God out and all of the ways God works in the world. It is not necessarily for me to understand how the Spirit moves in and through each person, or it would not be the Spirit. If one feels called into CofC and another feels called to fellowship somewhere else, the only way for me to “judge” that is to hope that the decision is not from a spirit of fear or escape, and to try to discern the movement of the Holy Spirit in those decisions.

  8. Doug – it’s too bad you’ve given up trying to understand how God works. It’s really a wonderful journey.

    • Doug Gregory says:

      BTC, I keep searching for God, but have accepted the Psalm that His ways and thoughts are so far above mine, I cannot always understand. The journey now is to try to see how God sees, to love how God loves, to try to remove the limitations I put on God and on myself.

      For instance, I don’t know if the story of Joshua is real or not, or what God told him. I can’t conceive of how the God I believe in would order the slaughter of a people just because they were in the way. But then again, I don’t know what all it took to shape a people and whether that was necessary for the journey mankind is on. I can reach my own conclusions, but I have no certainty that those are God’s conclusions.

      So, I do not understand how God works, and I am not willing to limit how God works to my ability to comprehend and understand. My hands are full of trying to love the way I know I am called to love.

      • FireTag says:

        I would at least like to think that, with God’s foreknowledge, any other option for Joshua might result in the death of a GREATER number of innocent people, and that is at least arguable, but one can NEVER be sure in ANY choice whether one hears everything correctly.

  9. I really don’t think any of us have a clue as to how God works. We are all just trying to find a path that seems right for us.

  10. I guess I don’t claim to know “how God works” but I can logically deduce when God is relevant. If God cannot be understood and God’s methods are incapable of being discerned, then God is of no consequence to me or my life.

    If God “just does things” and I can’t determine why or predict when or how God will act in the future, then what’s the point?

  11. The only thing I really know about God from my experience, is that God is always there “with” me. No matter how bad things get…or how good. I don’t really think God “does things”. I think God expects us to “do things”. God just tries to influence us to do the right things and perhaps the best thing for us and for others.

    I’m not even sure God knows the future since the future hasn’t yet happened. And our decisions and actions somehow influence the outcome of the future.

    • FireTag says:

      I beg to differ on the physics: what’s past, present, or future depends on where you are and where you’re going. There can be no single answer to the question “what time is it?” for an omnipresent God.

  12. Who says God is omnipresent?

  13. Doug Gregory says:

    I too, appreciate being able to “sense” God, even though by definition there is no way I can fully comprehend or understand God (otherwise, God would not be god). We cannot even do more than theorize about parallel universes, so I do not expect to know how God thinks, operates, exists.

    My testimony is that God is, and that goes back to Moses and the burning bush – “I am that I am”. The lifelong struggle for me is to learn to be at one with God, a struggle with which I am more painfully aware of my “apartness”, even as I endeavor to draw closer.

  14. Isn’t it oxymoronic to say that we cannot understand what God is by the very definition of what God is?

  15. Doug Gregory says:

    Moronic perhaps… I know what the definition of “eternal” is, but I cannot understand it or convey to another person any real sense of what it is. But if God is God, it seems to me then that the definition of god is some sort of being beyond my ability to comprehend, understand, predict, or control. If I could do any of those things, we would be similar to God (which is where I love the verses in the OT and NT – “Know ye not that ye are gods?”, because it has never been clear to me what they mean.)

  16. I’m just saying – if you define God in any way (eternal, omnipotent, even incomprehensible) then you have put God in a very comprehensible human box. When you say “if God is God” then you are defining God by your own human understanding of what God is (ie. eternal). There’s nothing wrong with that, I was just pointing out that by limiting God to a definition (“by definition”) you are purporting a certain understanding of God in the same breath as you are saying God is incomprehensible.

    If you don’t understand God – then there is no way to “define” God and therefore “if God is God” has no meaning.

    Me – I believe for God to matter, God must be comprehensible. Otherwise, God is just a random actor with which/whom I have no ability to predict, appease, or learn from.

  17. FireTag says:

    BTC:

    That may be a little overstated. In talking about the physical universe, Haldane said (to paraphrase) “the universe may not only be stranger than we suppose, but stranger than we can suppose.” That doesn’t mean that our theories of reality can’t get better over time, or that we assume we can learn nothing, does it?

    • If one says – I don’t understand God and can’t imagine at what God is like – is different than saying that an element of God is that we CANNOT comprehend him.

      Astrophysicist Jerome Brainerd disagreed with Haldane saying that “a limitation in our ability to understand nature is not necessarily the same as stating that the universe is stranger than we can suppose.” He argues it is the complexity of nature, coupled with our inability to adequately study it (ie. we can’t go to the Venus and look around) that makes it difficult or even impossible to understand – but not incomprehensible.

      If something were incomprehensible, then there can be no learning from studying it.

  18. Doug Gregory says:

    Mankind operates under the assumption that we can learn anything and everything, when perhaps we cannot, at least when wrapped in these physical barriers.

    • I don’t have that assumption. But if there is something that, by its nature, we cannot understand, then there is no point in studying it.

      If I told you that 2+2 only equaled 4 sometime, but there was no way to tell when it did and when it didn’t – then what would be the point of teaching math to children? It would serve no purpose.

      Same with God.

  19. Doug – I’m not saying I can understand God – I’m saying that if I can’t understand God, then God is irrelevant.

    Many believe God rewards good behaviour and punishes poor behaviour. As such, one my try to do good things in order to curry God’s favor. But this characteristic is understandable and reasonable, as is the response. If it turns out that God cannot be understood and occasionally rewards good behaviour but also randomly punishes it and reward poor behaviour, then there’s no point in trying to be good, for you never know what God will do.

    If God is not understand-able – then there’s no point in trying to understand or modify one’s behaviour or thinking due to our ideas of God, for God would merely be a random actor.

  20. None of us really understand God 100% especially if we believe that God is a rewarder and punisher. That’s not the way I understand God. I believe God is found within each of us and tries in influence us through persuasion and without coercion to do the right thing both for ourselves and for others. In other words we are God’s only hands in the world.

    I don’t believe God causes the catastrophes we see in the world or even those in our own lives but I see God standing with us and supporting us in both our worst moments and our best ones. I believe God weeps when we weep and celebrates when we celebrate. God is more a friend then a force and I believe we should understand God best as a distributor of power instead of a possessor of power.

    • Doug Gregory says:

      Margie, I am more with you on this one. I don’t even really think of God in the rewarder/punisher sense at all. I do pray for favor, I pray for blessing, and I pray for wisdom. I believe the earth acts as it will according to the laws under which it functions, but I also sense God working in the world to bless it.

      • I agree with you as well Margie. It makes more sense to think of God in this manner than in the traditional “magic being” sense where God can control physical acts.

  21. Well, it works for me. I don’t blame God for the bad things and I simply appreciate knowing that God is right with me all the time.I also believe God is with all others, trying God’s best to influence them toward the very best for them as well as others. I just believe some have stopped listening or do not recognize the still small voice from within themselves or pay any attention to it.

    I once got some criticism from a Lutheran pastor for stating that in my Minister’s Message in the newspaper. He did not believe God was to be found within evil people.

    • FireTag says:

      “I don’t blame God for the bad things and I simply appreciate knowing that God is right with me all the time.I also believe God is with all others, trying God’s best to influence them toward the very best for them as well as others.”

      I can agree with that as stated, but I don’t think God is particularly paying attention to human notions of “good” and “bad” when He tries to influence us or any other aspect of the physical world.

      • To what, do you suppose, He is paying attention to?

      • FireTag says:

        The smallest microbe and the largest supercluster and everything in between and beyond. He loves the sparrow, but that doesn’t mean He ignores the needs of the hawk.

        I think we tend to mistake a God who is “loving” for a God who is “cuddly”. Creation and destruction are part of the same whole. That’s what I mean when I say He’s not paying attention to our concepts of good and bad.

  22. So FT, do you think that God does control things – but he has a different concept of good and bad than do we humans? This seems to fall into the “incomprehensible” realm.

  23. I think the “good” and “bad” have to affect people and be done by people. A catastrophe like an earthquake is not caused by God. God laments the damage done to us in such an earthquake but does not cause it.

    I think God would be very sad, upset and disappointed in us when one human kills another or steps on a kitten because of “intent”. To my way of thinking “intent” is everything. If we unintentionally hurt someone, we should not be felt to be accountable for that although we may be led to apologize anyhow. But if we intentionally hurt someone or something…that is “intent”.

  24. FireTag says:

    BTC:

    Since I’m a pantheist, I don’t think that God is separable from “things”, so I view it more as He’s experiencing all things and maximizing that experience. He guides us toward maximizing the experience of our spirits as part of that “goal” (Process theology, which I think Margie is favorable toward, would call that maximizing complexity and beauty, from my reviews of the subject.)

    I have no reason to think that there is any limit to His “self-control”, but should there be one, I’d be very surprised that the limit was correlated with anything we humans consider good or bad.

    Margie:

    “A catastrophe like an earthquake is not caused by God. God laments the damage done to us in such an earthquake but does not cause it.”

    But the earth itself was created through such catastrophies, and all life (including human) exists because of it. If He does not cause the catastrophies that kill, He does not cause the catastrophies that give birth. And if He does cause the catastrophies that give life, He does cause the catastrophies that kill.

    I think there are other world religions (like Hinduism) that grasp this balance in the Godhead better than we in Christianity do.

    So I’m not quite agreeing with BTC that there is no hope of comprehending a lot more about God than we do, but to comprehend more, we do need a reorientation, IMO, on this point.

    I do agree that God is disappointed with us when we intentionally snuff out the possibilities of another to make ourselves something we have no hope of being. That’s a pretty good operational definition of sin.

  25. FireTag says:

    BTC:

    Sorry. I took a rhetorical comment as a statement of your own position during the conversational wandering.

    You are correct that pantheists don’t view God as “him”, but I feel it’s jarring to refer to God as “it”. Maybe we need additional English pronouns.

    Doug:

    I don’t know what it takes, but it’s not a nom de guerre.

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