Women can be Prophets

By: Graceforgrace
October 21, 2012

This article is inspired by an experience I had at my new Ward (congregation) at church a few weeks ago.

In preparing for General Conference, the Bishop (Pastor) of the ward was giving a lesson to the adults in the congregation.  He was asking certain questions and getting feedback from the members.  I can’t remember the exact question he asked, but it was something along the lines of “What is a prophet?”  Some one answered and he replied that the answer was wrong and emphasized that ONLY men are called to be prophets and women do not get that calling.

The way he said it made me cringe as I thought about all the ladies in the room and as my thoughts turned to the public perception that I’ve heard many times that the Mormon Church is male shovanistic.

I came very close to raising my hand and correcting him, but I decided it wasn’t the right time and place to do that.  So, I’m doing it here.

In this article, I will first define what a prophet is, according to LDS, or Mormon, scripture.  I will then identify women prophets in the scriptures and share modern day examples as well.

Definition of a Prophet

In LDS scripture, the Bible Dictionary defines a prophet as follows:

The work of a Hebrew prophet was to act as God’s messenger and make known God’s will. The message was usually prefaced with the words “Thus saith Jehovah.” He taught men about God’s character, showing the full meaning of his dealings with Israel in the past. It was therefore part of the prophetic office to preserve and edit the records of the nation’s history; and such historical books as Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings were known by the Jews as the former Prophets. It was also the prophet’s duty to denounce sin and foretell its punishment, and to redress, so far as he could, both public and private wrongs. He was to be, above all, a preacher of righteousness. When the people had fallen away from a true faith in Jehovah, the prophets had to try to restore that faith and remove false views about the character of God and the nature of the Divine requirement. In certain cases prophets predicted future events, e.g., there are the very important prophecies announcing the coming of Messiah’s kingdom; but as a rule a prophet was a forthteller rather than a foreteller. In a general sense a prophet is anyone who has a testimony of Jesus Christ by the Holy Ghost, as in Num. 11:25–29; Rev. 19:10.

As you can see from the definition, Mormon scripture does not define a prophet as being gender specific and a few key elements on what a prophet is stand out to me:

  1. A prophet is God’s messenger
  2. A prophet denounces sin and fortells of consequences to sin
  3. A prophet can predict future events
  4. A prophet is a preacher of righteousness
  5. Having a testimony of Jesus by the Holy Ghost qualifies as being a prophet

Women Prophets in Scripture

Having defined what a prophet is, the next step is to identify women in scripture who were prophets.  From what I’ve read, the following women were  prophets of varying degrees and are found in Christian Bibles: Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Noadiah, Isaiah’s wife, Anna, and the daughters of Phillip.  In addition to these specifically named ladies, there are other women discussed in scripture as being leaders in the early Christian church.

People who claim that men have a monopoly on being a prophet are not basing their views on scriptural facts.  Clearly, there were women prophets.

Modern Day Women Prophets

I had a hard time coming up with examples of modern-day women prophets.  Perhaps some of you can help me here.  The closest thing I came across (which is another topic) was that in the early Mormon Church, women could give priesthood blessings.

Personally, I have had one example of a woman in a leadership position that prophesied to me.  She was my mission president’s wife.  I wrote about it a few years ago, but the short story is that she prophesied to me that if I worked as hard as I could each day of my mission, that my then rebellious brother would turn things around and go on a mission.  He ended up turning things around and going on a mission.

In conclusion, I’d like to remphasize the scriptural foundation that women can be prophets.  I would like to hear your personal reasons why (or why not) you believe this to be true and if you have any examples to share, even better!

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19 Responses to Women can be Prophets

  1. ji on October 21, 2012 at 5:30 PM

    Every man and woman in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can be a prophet, wherever the gift of prophecy is given by the Holy Ghost. And where it is not given at first, it can be sought after.

    President Monson’s authority comes in his office as President of the Church.

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  2. graceforegrace on October 21, 2012 at 5:38 PM

    ji,

    I agree with you on what you said about the office of the President of the Church and the gift of prophecy for both men and women.

    Do you have any experiences with a woman prophesying?

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  3. ji on October 21, 2012 at 10:01 PM

    Well, to be honest, I don’t have many experiences with either men or women prophesying. In the church today, it seems to me, there is a great deal of teaching and helping and explaining and so forth, and I believe a great deal of inspiration and even some revelation, but very little prophecy. That’s okay with me. Joseph Smith was the great prophet of this dispensation.

    One of our problems with prophecy, it seems to me, is that we only want to hear prophecy from certain people in certain positions, or in other words, we definitely don’t want to hear prophecy from certain other people among us. We seem to have some fear of the gifts of the Spirit among us, unless very closely controlled. I understand the reasons for this, I suppose. Another problem is that we seem to think that prophecy necessarily means foretelling the future.

    I have certainly heard women speak with the power of inspiration from our God, and bear vibrant testimony of Jesus Christ. Indeed, some of the most meaningful testimonies I have ever heard were from women. These women weren’t foretelling the future, but they were sharing their testimonies of Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost was joining them in their witness — if we can call this prophecy, then yes, I have heard women prophesy. To have the power to speak and testify in such a way that the Holy Ghost bears witness to the souls of those who hear is a wonderful gift.

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  4. DB on October 22, 2012 at 6:22 AM

    It seems that very few people in the church understand what prophet means. There are those like your bishop and R. Gary who think that prophet is a priesthood office like apostle or seventy. It’s not a priesthood office and never has been. They believe this because they completely misunderstand what a prophet is and they believe that who can be a prophet must be limited to a select few in order to sustain their erroneous definition of prophet. When you mention that the scriptures teach that anyone can be a prophet, they’ll give you the extremely watered down definition that anyone with a testimony can be a prophet. I think someone came up with that definition in order to completely discredit the notion that anyone can be a prophet because it makes the idea meaningless and non-threatening. The idea that someone who isn’t an apostle or who doesn’t have the priesthood can be a prophet is very threatening to them.

    A prophet is someone with the gift of prophecy. That’s it – no more, no less. Being a prophet doesn’t give someone any authority; it’s simply an ability. The problem is that within our church, most members will accept the concept of the gifts of the spirit but deny the power thereof. They’ll believe the theory that anyone can have the gift of prophecy but they’ll only accept that certain people who hold certain priesthood offices can actually have the gift of prophecy. The same being true for most gifts of the spirit. Except for benign gifts such as the gift of faith and the gift of believing the testimony of others which they believe everyone in the church must have.

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  5. Howard on October 22, 2012 at 8:14 AM

    Every man and woman in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can be a prophet… Actually men and women who are not LDS can be and are prophets. We are often confused by the LDS brands of God’s power, the “Priesthood” and the “Gift” of the Holy Ghost and members often go to great lengths to rationalize and differentiate these brands and their benefits over non name brand divine power but the truth is being LDS is not required to be a Prophet great or small or to walk in the Spirit day in and day out. I know many female Prophets.

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  6. Mike S on October 22, 2012 at 9:00 AM

    Before talking about women and prophets, it is perhaps useful to talk about what we mean by the word “prophet”. In the LDS Church, Thomas S Monson has a number of titles. He is a Prophet, Seer and Revelator. He is a Presiding High Priest. He is the President of the Church. Which title is most applicable depends on what he does.

    The most common title we use for President Monson is just that – President. This makes the most sense as his primary role today is to be president of the Church hierarchy. Administratively, the buck stops with him and his word is the ultimate decision.

    As far as his other titles, and specifically prophet, it is certainly an attribute which is resting in him. A prophet is someone who prophesies. It is within his office to prophesy, to tell the Church of things that will come to pass. In this role, however, I haven’t heard any specific prophecies. The biggest “miracle” that I have seen described as such since President Monson has been in charge has been an administrative change in the age of missionaries – “one miracle at a time”.

    So, with regards to women being prophets – I think they certainly can be. Again, a prophet is someone who prophesies. Women can do this. People outside the official hierarchy can do this – and in the scriptures, it seems that many/most prophets were NOT a part of the hierarchy (Lehi, Nephi, Daniel, John the Baptist, Moses, etc).

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  7. SilverRain on October 22, 2012 at 9:29 AM

    Even though some people didn’t like what she had to say, I think Sis. Beck is undoubtedly a prophet.

    I have also been called to prophesy, many times while on a mission, but also many times since. It is a time when the words coming out of your mouth teach you as much as they teach the person listening to you.

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  8. graceforgrace on October 22, 2012 at 10:52 AM

    SilverRain,

    I have had similar experiences on my mission and also on a couple occasions since my mission.

    The most distinct one I remember was while talking to a random guy on the street in Germany I felt the Spirit come over me and I told him some events in his life that were happening and what would happen if he continued on that path. It actually freaked him out that I would know that (it wasn’t me, but the Spirit) and he started to shake and turned and ran.

    Do you have any examples? Also, when you have received the gift of prophecy, does it just happen or are you seeking after the gift?

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  9. graceforgrace on October 22, 2012 at 11:00 AM

    DB and Mike S,

    You both talked about the organizational structure of the Church and how that sort of gets in the way of the gift of prophecy for some people in the church.

    Also, Ji mentioned something similar about the structure of the Church and the leaders and feeling that there hasn’t really been prophecy in awhile.

    I would have to agree with all of you. The only time we really see any church leaders is when they are giving a prepared talk over the pulpit at General Conference. While those talks are good and uplifting, I wouldn’t say there is any prophesying going on for either men or women.

    I have seen General Authorities prophesy when they come to a local or regional event and they are speaking in a “non-official” situation.

    I also agree that members of the Church tend to glorify the leaders and discredit a “normal” member without a leadership calling.

    Do you think these things will ever change, or do you even feel they need to?

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  10. graceforgrace on October 22, 2012 at 11:02 AM

    Howard,

    You are absolutely right.

    I remember going to another Christian church’s service for the first time when I was younger and feeling a vibrant energy that I feel when I am “feeling the spirit” as Mormons tend to say.

    I would also say that other Christian churches do not have the hierarchical structure of the LDS church and prophesy comes more freely as a result.

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  11. SilverRain on October 22, 2012 at 1:29 PM

    A little of both. I have sought guidance regarding how to help certain people that resulted in precisely what you describe, the words of the Spirit speaking through me, though I wouldn’t say I specifically sought the gift of prophecy.

    I think that you have to be very careful when seeking specific gifts. It is too easy to let substitutes take their place. For me, spiritual gifts have manifested in answer to prayer when I have been seeking to be an instrument of the Lord in nurturing His children. They are tools, nothing more.

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  12. SilverRain on October 22, 2012 at 1:30 PM

    For what it’s worth, I think the structure of the Church can actually help develop that closeness with God, so long as you realize it is also a tool, not an end of its own.

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  13. not me for the sake of humility on October 22, 2012 at 10:40 PM

    I know a number of women who have been called upon the prophesy at different times, and in different places. Usually, it is a procphecy to a distinct person and the promises given are ones that could not be given without the Holy Ghost taking the lead.

    With that said, telling many specific stories comes with several pitfalls.

    1) I don’t have the authority to be a prphet to the church, and so sharing inspiration that was very personal, sometimes jsut as personal as a patriarchal blessing, I couldn’t share the specifics unless the person gave explicit permission.

    2) Spiritual gifts are at their most powerful when the person with the gifts is humble. If someone is humble, there must be a very good reason to share a prophecy that has been received.

    3) Especially for women, who can’t give priesthood blessings, (priesthood holders have a legit claim to prophecy while giving blessings) trying to explain *why* and how you know something is a prophecy is almost impossible to explain.

    4) Given 1, 2 & 3, unless you are there are feel the power of having a woman who is actively acting as a mouth piece, there are not many ways to know how many prophets (male or female) you may know in your life.

    I had an experiences where my 8 year-old son was a prophet in our home, and I have NO doubt that for 4 minutes he literally taught by the Holy Ghost, the words of God to our family. As the only currently baptized member at the time, HE was the one chosen to bring the Words of God into our home.

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  14. Geoff - A on October 23, 2012 at 12:56 AM

    The official prophet doesn’t seem to claim to recieve revelation. I would like him to give answers I would be happy with about some of the contraversal issues, such as p;hood for all worthy members, and acceptance of gay marriage. If he said “thus sayeth the lord” and then said something I thought was wrong, that could be a problem too.
    As having a Prophet is one of our big claims to being the true church, it would be good to recieve advice in conference from the Lord.

    I believe women are as capable of prophesying as men, but for the church to recognise it, it has to be the holder of the office.

    Last sunday we had a lesson in HP about keeping the sabath, a polynesian brother said his work contract required he work if called to on Sunday. The HP Group leader put on his authoritave voice and intense look and promised the brother that if he were to resign his job, and trust in the Lord, he would get a better job immediately, where he didn’t work on Sunday.

    I was very uncomfortable with this because this HP Group leader is always seeing miracles and revelations where others don’t. He has total unquestioning faith, believes anything from SLC is equal to scripture. And because a number of memebers have had trouble finding work over the years, despite much fasting and prayer.

    I’m not sure about revelation any more. It would be nice if I believed it actually came from God but if the official prophet doesn’t recieve revelation?

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  15. SilverRain on October 23, 2012 at 9:08 AM

    Ah, Geoff. Your first paragraph reads, “The prophet doesn’t say he receives revelation. I would love to hear him speak revelation if he said what I wanted him to, but if he didn’t that would be a problem.”

    I can’t tell if you are for real, or being ironic.

    If you are for real, did it ever occur to you that perhaps the 15 prophets seers and revelators ARE prophesying and you just aren’t hearing it? Because I can think of several instances when I have heard them speak the words of the Lord.

    As “not me” mentions above, those who have received the spirit of prophecy don’t generally go about trumpeting it. Those with ears to hear will hear.

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  16. Julia on October 23, 2012 at 9:23 PM

    Silver Rain,

    I think that just as it takes someone being able to interpret someone speaking in tongues, for there to be someone who is speaking in tongues, listening to prophecy is half of prophecy.

    No one can truly be a prophet, or claim to be one, unless there is someone recognizing that prophecy. Men and women can be on both sides of that, and often I think that the listening is harder for some men to do, when it is a woman who the Lord has chosen to speak for him.

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  17. SilverRain on October 24, 2012 at 8:28 AM

    Julia, I sort of agree. Except, I think people can truly prophecy even if no one is listening. In fact, I think people generally DON’T listen to uncomfortable prophecy until after the fact.

    But I agree that men seem to often have a hard time listening to a woman who doesn’t agree with them. Even the ones who think themselves egalitarian.

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  18. Hedgehog on October 24, 2012 at 12:59 PM

    In my experience the bold women are those who were adult converts. Many of us brought up in the system are struggling out from under the layers of the way they’ve been educated within the church programmes (that’s how I feel at the moment anyway, even though I was always pretty outspoken in YW).

    As to whether we hear prophecy from our male leaders… Maybe warnings aren’t phrased in quite the same way as they used to be…, but I do think all that we heard for the decade leading up to the economic crisis about getting out of debt has to come into the catergory of prophetic warning.

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  19. Merry on May 5, 2013 at 5:29 PM

    It is possible to experience a constant presence, communication and love for your God, for God’s perfect will, and for all beings.. Of course. And there are female prophets living in the world today.
    Some of your leaders of the present age are not your prophets and some of your prophets are not your leaders.
    Does a prophet stop being a prophet at the end of a sentence? One who is a prophet has known God since birth regardless of place, gender, or religion…for God is much deeper than religion and deeper than all earthly things. In matters of Earthly organization, leadership is perhaps necessary. In such cases, you put your trust in men. But in matters of prophecy, it is God who must be trusted, not the prophets themselves. It is God who chooses the prophet, not the leaders. And if a true prophet, only the words of God will be uttered. A true prophet will not say: “Let me teach and guide you”, a true prophet will say: “Come, let me guide you only so far as to reach your own connection with God so that you may hear Him as I do”. For in that day when all come to prophesy, just as no word for good shall be required, also there shall also be no need for a word called `prophet`. Let the paperwork be for the `leaders`. Let the truth be for the prophets…..and YOU then decide who you will follow.
    It is interesting that a word is required to describe the natural state of love and union with the parent creator which all people should accept as their true and natural state. The prophet should not stand alone. It is with great sadness that a prophet must speak the words commanded by God and follow every instruction without all of his/her brothers and sisters by their side….for to see all with the same connection would bring the greatest joy. To recognize oneself in the eyes of another is the sacred union for which we were created but today there are so few. The prophet understands that it is the sadness of God which fills the heart of the prophet because of this. And with greatest compassion, the prophet walks for God and for all brothers and sisters even when his/her brothers and sisters show fear and hatred towards the prophet. The prophet recognizes that he/she was not born to please man but to please God for the benefit of man….and to love all regardless. As a prophet, will you be loved or will you be hated? No man/woman works for God without a measure of both.
    Be not deceived into forgetting yourselves in fear…let not the fears of your brothers and sisters be reflected in you. It is your duty only to rise, with no fear, and forever questioning, as little children…for the day will come when all women and men walk as one with the only God there ever was. In this day…..YOU will understand what it is to be a prophet but by the time this occurs, it will no longer seem miraculous. It is simply the function of your creation. It is your perfection. It is your right.
    Blessed be the name of the Lord and all who are entrusted with it.

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