What Is the Spirit of Prophecy?

While the children of Israel traveled in the wilderness toward the promised land, an incident happened which demonstrated Moses’s understanding of prophecy. Moses held a council at the tabernacle with the seventy elders who had been selected to govern the people. All who participated in that meeting were filled with the Spirit of the Lord and began to prophesy. But two men who did not attend the meeting, Eldad and Medad, were also filled with the Spirit and began to prophesy in the camp. A young man ran to tell Moses what was happening, and Joshua advised Moses to stop these men from prophesying. Moses responded, “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!” (Numbers 11:24-29).

Many years later, the apostle John saw an expansive vision narrated by multiple angels. When he fell at the feet of one of them, the angel said, “See thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10).

The Title Page of the Book of Mormon states that it was written “by the spirit of prophecy and of revelation.”

Jacob explained the relationship between the words of prophets, the spirit of prophecy, and personal faith:

  1. We search the prophets,” — We read the words of other people who had the spirit of prophecy.
  2. And we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy;” — We invite the Lord’s Spirit into our hearts.
  3. And having all these witnesses, we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken.” — We base our faith not only on the knowledge shared by others but on the knowledge we have gained by direct experience.

Alma told the people of Zarahemla that he knew for himself that the things he was teaching were true: “I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself,” he said.

And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.
And moreover, I say unto you that it has thus been revealed unto me, that the words which have been spoken by our fathers are true, even so according to the spirit of prophecy which is in me, which is also by the manifestation of the Spirit of God (Alma 5:46-47).

Years later, Alma experienced a joyful reunion with the sons of Mosiah. He was thrilled to see them, and even more thrilled to see their spiritual maturity:

They had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.
But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God (Alma 17:2).

The word “prophecy” comes from the Greek word propheteia (προφητεία), which means literally “to enlighten in advance.” It’s a compound word: pro (πρό) means “before,” and phemi (φημί) means “to bring to light or to illuminate.”

When we are receptive to the Spirit of the Lord, we know for ourselves things which we can learn in no other way, and we can know not only things which are, but also things which will happen in the future. (See for example 2 Nephi 6:4, Words of Mormon 1:7, Mosiah 8:17.)

Like prophets in ancient times, modern prophets strive to help all of God’s children receive the spirit of prophecy. President Russell M. Nelson has said:

Whatever our Church calling, we can pray to our Heavenly Father and receive guidance and direction, be warned about dangers and distractions, and be enabled to accomplish things we simply could not do on our own. If we will truly receive the Holy Ghost and learn to discern and understand His promptings, we will be guided in matters large and small….
My beloved brothers and sisters, I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation…. Choose to do the spiritual work required to enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost and hear the voice of the Spirit more frequently and more clearly (“Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” General Conference, April 2018).

Today, I will strive to do the work required to receive the Spirit of the Lord in my life. I will remember that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy,” and that the Lord can enlighten me in advance.

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