Would God That All the Lord’s People Were Prophets
Updated: May 3, 2020
When the Israelites wandered the wilderness, people in the camp began to prophesy. Concerned, Joshua and others came to Moses and asked him to command the people to stop. Moses, with what I assume was a mixture of bemusement and exasperation replied, “Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!”
Moses’ response here feels relevant to my ever-evolving thoughts and experiences with General Conference.
I’ve always watched all the sessions of General Conference—we would gather as a family when I was a kid and share treats and crosswords and other games, with coffee cake, sausage, and hot chocolate for breakfast on Sunday morning (a tradition I’ve participated in every conference except for the handful on my mission). GenConf was never better than when I was a missionary—an experience that seems to not be unique to me. After my mission, I failed to feel that spiritual rush and excitement that GenConf once brought to me. I’ve written about that elsewhere and the ways that I found new spiritual meaning and insight by live-tweeting in a somewhat snarky manner. While that largely gave me new spiritual access to GenConf, those post-mission years were also filled with pain and heartache with addresses that seemed geared towards me or friends, but that didn’t feel like they actually understood what I was experiencing.
Finding a new community of believing doubters served as a balm for those wounds.
Eventually, what had once been a community and practice of healing and comfort became something else—I don’t know whether the community changed or I did or more likely some combination of both. The strategies that once brought me spiritual insight and joy were now weighing me down. My twitter during GenConf was painful and unproductive and GenConf was mostly boring and bland.
Recently I’ve severely limited my social media usage during GenConf and that seems to be useful (by no means do I think that everyone needs to do what I currently do, since I know first-hand the power of a community that can be created through social media). Still, GenConf is still largely forgettable. I find myself disappointed that there aren’t bigger, more exciting and transformative insights and revelations. That more of the talks aren’t like the best, most fiery ones. And yet, even when I hear a rousing talk that I find particularly moving or insightful, I rarely if ever engage with it again, unless it happens to be the material for an EQ lesson at some point in the next six months.
The idea that revelation is withheld until the church members are ready for it has often rubbed me the wrong way. It seems to blame the powerless for the decisions and actions of those in power. However, when I think of the recipient of the revelation as the entire Body of Christ, rather than Church leadership, this idea is transformed. I love the idea of revelation being received by the Body of Christ and working its way through each of us as individuals to enact change in the Church. Revelation, then, is inherently withheld until the members are ready. For how can the Body of Christ receive revelation if the members are not ready or open to receiving it? More precisely, how can I receive revelation as a part of the Body of Christ, if I’m not ready and open to receiving it? How can I be a part of that revelatory process and not a hindrance to it? These are the questions that have been on my mind recently and are coloring my engagement with GenConf, which brings us back to Moses.
“Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets…”
For Moses’ hope to be fulfilled, we all must be prophets. But what does that mean? I think that means that we must receive revelation as a people, as the Body of Christ. That we too have an obligation to seek revelation. I believe this is part of what the Lord intended in His words found in Doctrine & Covenants 58:
26 For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.
27 Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
28 For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.
29 But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.
God wants us to do more. To stop waiting for direct commands. I must live up to my responsibilities outlined here, I must live up to my divine birthright and become a prophet. I must receive revelation with all of you, my friends, my family.
I must be a prophet for Moses’ hope to be fulfilled. You must be a prophet. That weird guy who always makes folk-doctrine-tinged comments in Sunday School must be a prophet. The young mom with three kids running up and down the chapel must be a prophet.
I feel that GenConf may help us fulfill this. I don’t think I’ll stop finding most of the talks largely forgettable any time soon, but perhaps I can find some morsels of truth to feast upon and ponder with friends, family, and the rest of the Body of Christ and in that feasting and pondering I and you and all of us may be made prophets.