Question: How do Biblical prophets compare to modern prophets?

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Question: How do Biblical prophets compare to modern prophets?

Biblical prophets and modern prophets are divinely called, but clearly are not perfect

To get a better idea of how prophets are limited yet still divinely called, it can be helpful to look at some examples of Bible prophets and compare them with modern prophets.

Bible prophets Modern prophets
Moses disobeyed God's instruction to speak to the rock and instead hit it. He then attributed the miracle to himself and Aaron, saying, "Must we fetch you water out of this rock?" He was chastized by the Lord afterward. (Numbers 20:)
Joshua was deceived by Achan, who did so in order to obtain money. Achan's actions even resulted in the death of some people. After investigation, Achan was discovered and sentenced. (Joshua 7:)

Joshua was also deceived by the inhabitants of Gibeon when they claimed to come from a far country so they could get a peace accord with Joshua. Then the Israelites found that instead of living a long distance away, that people from Gibeon lived among them. (Joshua 9:)

Gordon B. Hinckley was deceived by Mark Hofmann, who had done so in order to obtain money. Hofmann was even responsible for the death of some people. After some investigation, he was discovered and sentenced.
Gideon repeatedly asked the Lord for signs even though the Lord has said, "An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign." (Judges 7:; Matthew 12:39)
Nathan told David that the Lord approved of his desire to build a temple, and that he should commence the project. The Lord later told Nathan that such was not His desire, and that he was to tell David that the temple would be built by another. (2 Samuel 7:) Bruce R. McConkie and others advanced explanations for the priesthood restriction such as that blacks would only receive the priesthood in the Millennium. Their explanations turned out to be wrong; the Lord later told His prophets to extend the priesthood to blacks, long before the time period that some prophets had supposed it would happen.
Jonah felt some personal prejudices against Assyrians, to the point of expecting the Lord to give them fewer blessings than to Jews. (Jonah 4:1) Brigham Young felt some personal prejudices against blacks, to the point of expecting the Lord to give them fewer blessings than caucasians.
Jesus' apostles were not always perfectly humble or modest. They once disputed over which of them would be the greatest in heaven. (Mark 9:34) Joseph Smith was not always perfectly humble or modest. He once said he had "more to boast of than ever any man had."[1] (See here, though, to learn how critics misinterpret this event.

A person could spend all day looking for examples of the Lord's chosen servants making mistakes, but such an activity does nothing to edify or strengthen people. In all of these situations, a prophet's weakness or mistakes do not make him any less a prophet, called of God to do His work.


  1. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 6:408–409. Volume 6 link This statement, when understood in its proper context, doesn't appear to be a statement of personal pride at all. Joseph Smith read to the congregation 2 Corinthians 11 and then mimicked Paul in his "boasting." In its proper context, Joseph Smith was not acting in a proud manner at all but was using the rhetoric of Paul to defend his own authority as a prophet against those who were then proclaiming him a "fallen prophet." This statement, however, is used often in anti-Mormon literature as a criticism of the prophet and is used here only to show that even if he were in fact proud, it doesn't damage his authority as a prophet/apostles any more than it damaged Jesus' apostles' authority.