How to Tell a True Prophet from a False One

Doctrine: Trust your Christlike feelings. Understand the difference between guilt and shame. Understand the formula the Holy Ghost uses and how false prophets try to mimick it. Remember that true prophets uphold agency, accountability, personal responsibility, and personal testimony.

Feelings. We all have them. And, if we understand them and listen to them, they can teach us a lot. And, as I’ve been pondering about how to tell the difference between a false prophet and a true one, I have noted that feelings play a significantly large part.

Obviously, Christ has taught us how to judge (see scriptures in previous blog The Very Elect are Being Deceived). But, sometimes, when feelings come into play, all that quick and accessible logic gets blurred by our feelings. As I pondered which feelings blurred our minds and which cleared our minds, I came upon something which to me is rather interesting and telling.

Trust Your Christlike Feelings

Feelings that have their foundation in Satan make it difficult to think, obscure truth, cause confusion, increase depression, despair, and exacerbate passionate emotions like anger, vengeance, entitlement, arrogance, ingratitude, fear, distrust, and resentment (Alma 12:9-11). On the other hand, feelings that have their foundation in Christ make us think and ponder more deeply, reveal truth, clarify our thoughts, make certain memories and experiences more poignant, increase hope, faith, and strengthen emotions like forgiveness, a righteous sense of justice, gratitude, humility, courage, trust, and charity (Doctrine and Covenants 84:45; 50:23-24).

So, as I got to evaluating the false prophets and anti-Christs in the scriptures, I began to note quite clearly and accurately, that ALL of them, when they preach, excite feelings that have their foundation in Satan—which in consequence lead us to act unwisely, narrowly, foolishly, and too quickly. False prophets and anti-Christs cry for justice but motivate us with satanic emotions to act in un-Christ-like ways. By using such satanically motivated excitement, they actually dull our ability to think rationally, think long-term, use reason and logic, and to consider the end result of our actions.

On the other hand, true prophets in the scriptures (and presently), when they preach excite feelings that have their foundation in Christ—which in consequence lead us to act slower, wiser, with the long-term in mind, and more carefully. True prophets and true advocates for Christ cry for mercy and also justice but motivate us with Christlike emotions. By using such Christ-centered tactics to properly motivate, they increase our ability to think rationally, use reason and logic, to consider the end result of our actions, and to take the time to ponder, research, and seek personal revelation.

True Prophets Will Increase Our Feelings of Guilt NOT Shame

Unlike shame, which comes from Satan and fundamentally makes us feel worthless, useless, unworthy, and miserable; guilt comes from God and is in place because of His love for us. Guilt reminds us that we are better, that we can be better, and that we should be better; all of which are fundamentally trying to draw us upward toward God. Guilt incites us to feel sorry for giving offense to God (and others) and includes sort of a spiritual pressure to repent and change. (2 Corinthians 7:9-10)

Shame, or worldly sorrow, is not guilt. It drives us toward the feelings of pride, resentment, entitlement, and fundamentally leads us to try to hide our sins and nurture them in the dark.

It’s important that we understand the difference between guilt and shame. And, a true prophet will incite guilt, not shame. A False prophet will incite shame, not guilt.

Now, let’s talk about anger. Can a true prophet make us angry? Sure. Defensive? Yes. However, I would suggest that when we get defensive and angry at something they’ve said it’s because of the following reasons:

  • We see clearly that we need to repent and we aren’t ready, don’t believe it’s necessary, or simply don’t want to (1 Nephi 16:2-3)
  • We haven’t paid the price to “know God” and how He works like we should, so we don’t recognize His hand in commandments, prophetic counsel, and church organization and policy (Mosiah 5:13, St. John 17:3, 1 Nephi 2:12, St. John 10:14, Exodus 5:2)
  • We think we know better than God and His servants (Exodus 5:2, Doctrine and Covenants 121:37-40)
  • We want God to give us His glory, power, and blessings on our terms, not His; we don’t like conditions placed on what we want (Doctrine and Covenants 121:36-40) or think we deserve

False Prophets Attempt to Mimick How the Spirit Works

In Doctrine and Covenants 8:2-3 we read:

Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation…

I point out a few key words: mind, heart, dwell, revelation

Often people ask the question, how do I tell the Holy Ghost from my own thoughts and feelings. Here, I suggest is the answer. Note the formula: God will tell us in our mind and our heart. Not just mind. Not just heart. But, heart and mind. The heart, I would suggest is our feelings. The mind, I would suggest is our reason, logic, and current knowledge and understanding.

Next, note the word dwell. The information will dwell with us. It is not a temporary thing. It will persist. Then, the word revelation, which doesn’t denote a mere feeling, but an understanding, an enlightened thought, etc.

Now, let’s put it all together. 1) it sits well in our mind because it jives with our accumulated knowledge and understanding or sense of reason and logic, 2) it ALSO sits well in our heart or is accompanied by a Christ-like feeling, 3) it is not a fleeting thought that disappears or becomes a stupor (Doctrine and Covenants 9:7-9), it persists, and 4) it contributes to our understanding and enlightens us.

So, to feel excited or temporarily happy and elated about something that we know from our memory we’ve been taught is counterproductive or likely unwise, then we should see a big X and hear an uncomfortable buzzing sound. To be presented with something that seems to have lots of logic and sense and is accompanied by apparent facts, but doesn’t sit right in our hearts, then we should see another big X and hear another uncomfortable buzzing sound. If an idea is fleeting and doesn’t enlighten us or contribute to our overall understanding of life and God, then big X and the buzzer.

False prophets somehow understand this fundamental formula. So, when they preach to us they try to mimick it. They try to present logic and reason, they present that data using emotional events or tactics, they try to show us how the knowledge they are giving us will impact our lives, and they try to convince us that they are enlightening us because we are currently “in the dark” or being fooled.

Thus, we return to the step: trust your Christlike feelings.

True Prophets Uphold Agency, Accountability, Responsibility, Personal Revelation and Testimony

In my study, it seems that false prophets and Anti-Christs talk about individuality and independence and then attempt to convince you of such independence through the use of GroupThink (the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility) or crowd mentality. They are masters of peer pressure using others who have already come over to their philosophy. They will tell you that you are pursuing your own needs but then will instruct you to do so by following their crowd followers. They will say something to the effect of, “Abandon this crowd you are following and stop being fooled by this tradition and be your own person. Do what makes you happy. Stop being deceived” (Alma 30). And, then, they will say, “Go do what everyone else is doing. Find your individuality by doing what my followers are doing instead of following this one closed-minded group.”

False prophets are incredibly persuasive and it is so easy to get swept up. Take the time to examine the logic and reason a person/self-proclaimed prophet is presenting. Examine the emotions they are trying to invoke. What do their tactics lead you to do? Do they use fear and shame? Do they try to make you feel deceived and stupid and that they are saving you? Do they fire up your sense of justice on a topic you barely know anything about and then give you the facts you think you are lacking to increase your trust? Do the emotions they invoke lead you to act rashly, angrily, foolishly, or too quickly? Do they tell you to “experiment upon their word” but then promise you that if you do you’ll find out what they’ve already discovered so you can save yourself the trouble? Hence, actually discouraging you from looking deeper. Do they invoke GroupThink?

True prophets will teach truth and that truth will not be easy or popular. True prophets point us away from a worldly majority toward God. God is their majority. True prophets encourage repentance and hope in Christ. True prophets preserve God’s laws and ways despite the fact that the world disagrees with such ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). True prophets will not force truth on us but will expect that we “experiment upon the word” for ourselves (Alma 32:27, St. John 7:17). They will not tell us that doing so is a waste of time because they understand that personal testimony is the only kind of testimony that matters (Moroni 10:4-5) and the only sure way for us to know godly truth through the Holy Spirit. True prophets will teach us to do what’s right despite the crowd, or group (1 Timothy 4:12). True prophets will not set aside individual accountability. They will uphold agency by upholding law, consequences, conditions, and so forth—as God does (Alma 42:17-22).

Conclusion

We can tell the difference between true and false prophets. ALL the guidelines, examples, and facts are in the scriptures. Ponder God’s instructions on how to get truth from Him. Then, stick to those instructions. Get to know God better than you know anything or anyone else. Then, you’ll be able to recognize with clarity those things that come from Him or from false prophets and anti-Christs.

BT

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