The Mormon Church makes much of the claim of being led by modern prophets and apostles. Such Biblical passages as 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 2:20, 4:11, which speak of the existence of apostles and prophets in the Church, are often cited in support of the necessity of modern day prophets and apostles. As the Mormon Church has individuals who are labelled "apostles" and "prophets", it claims that this is evidence that it is Christ’s true Church restored to earth.
It must be remembered though that it is an easy thing to simply 'label' someone as an apostle or prophet. Indeed, many breakaway groups from the Mormon Church also claim to be the "one true Church", and have these leaders with these titles.
Many Mormons may be surprised to know that Christian churches can also be said to have apostles and prophets in them, in a general sense, operating in the life and ministry of the Church. For the Christian, an apostle can refer to anyone who is ‘sent fourth’. This is the meaning of the word in 2 Corinthians 8:23, for example. So in one sense, Christian missionaries can be called "apostles".
Likewise a prophet can refer to anyone who is in close communion with God through the Holy Spirit. As we will see below, this is a gifting that operates in the life of the believer and is given to whoever the Holy Spirit desires to give this gift to. Even the LDS Bible Dictionary, under the entry for "Prophet" states: "in a general sense a prophet is anyone who has a testimony of Jesus Christ by the Holy Ghost."
Many Christians today would see the roles of prophets and apostles as being a gifting rather than an actual office. This seems to be the way in which it is being used in 1 Corinthians 12:28, where it is speaking of apostles and prophets, but also such things as miracles, gifts of healings, tongues, etc. In fact, the wider context 1 Corinthians chapters 12, right through to 14, is talking about spiritual gifts and not offices.
We can see the gift of prophecy at work in the early Church. Contrary to the male dominated role of Mormon prophets, the New Testament speaks of women exercising this gifting. The Bible speaks of men and women prophesying (Acts 2:17-18). Philip the Evangelist had four virgin daughters who prophesied (Acts 21:8-9). Instructions were given to the women who prophesied in the Church (1 Cor. 11:5). The Old Testament also speaks of the role of prophet for woman (Ex.15:20; Judges 4:4; 2 Kings 22:14).
The position that many Christians take on the issue of prophets and apostles, is therefore, that the Old Testament style prophets ceased with the ministry of John the Baptist, who made the way for Jesus and the New Covenant. Luke 16:16 says: "The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it." Nevertheless, even though the office of Old Testament Prophet ceased many Christians believe that the gift of prophecy still functions. Although God spoke through the prophets to communicate His will in the past, His ultimate way of speaking is now through Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1-2). Jesus alone is our true Prophet (Heb. 1:1-2), Apostle (Heb. 3:1), Priest (Heb. 5:9-10, 7:24), Mediator (Heb. 7:25, 9:15; 1 Tim. 2:5), and King (1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 17:14, 19:16). What more could we ever need?
Some final points for Mormons to consider on this whole issue: Even though Mormons often boast of having a "living prophet", in contrast to Christian churches who do not claim to have such an individual to lead them (except Christ), there are various difficulties that arise.
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