The prophet Amos asked the people in the kingdom of Israel a series of rhetorical questions to illustrate their lack of awareness:
- “Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?”
- “Does a lion ever roar in a thicket without first finding a victim?”
- “Does a young lion growl in its den without first catching its prey?”
- “Does a bird ever get caught in a trap that has no bait?”
- “Does a trap spring shut when there’s nothing to catch?”
- “When the ram’s horn blows a warning, shouldn’t the people be alarmed?”
He asks one more question which is a little tricky: “Does disaster come to a city unless the LORD has planned it?” Joseph Smith actually corrected that one. He said that the Lord has “known” it, not “planned” or caused it. (See Amos 3:6, footnote b.)
Then, Amos gives us the punchline, the moral of the story:
Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.Amos 3:7
Each of the examples above has something in common. You don’t have all the information about the situation, but you have enough to make some reasonable inferences. The two people walking together likely know each other; they may be friends. The lion who is roaring has probably caught something. The trap containing the bird almost certainly had some enticing bait. And so on. You don’t know everything, but you know enough to have a pretty good idea what’s going on.
God’s words to prophets are similar. Alma said that some people demand to see specific signs. Then he asked, “Is this faith? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for if a man knoweth a thing he hath no cause to believe, for he knoweth it.” (Alma 32:18). We don’t get to dictate what the prophets will tell us. But we trust that, by following their guidance, we will be prepared to face whatever storms come our way.
In 1998, President Gordon B. Hinckley warned church members to be careful with their financial decisions. He pointed out worrisome facts about the state of the United States economy: consumer installment debt totalling $1.2 trillion (a 7% increase from the prior year), a dramatic increase in the number of bankruptcies (up 50% from 5 years earlier), and unreasonable advertising, with banks offering loans totaling up to 125% of the value of the borrower’s home. President Hinckley said, “I am not predicting years of famine in the future. But I am suggesting that the time has come to get our houses in order.” He added, “There is a portent of stormy weather ahead to which we had better give heed” (“To the Boys and to the Men,” General Conference, October 1998).
About nine years later, a massive financial crisis struck. 8.8 million people in the United States lost their jobs. (See “The 2007–09 Recession: Overview,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011.) 12.8 million people lost their homes. (See “2014 Foreclosure Filings Hit Lowest Level Since 2006,” Forbes Magazine, Jan 15, 2015).
Could the Lord have revealed to President Hinckley that there would be a global recession beginning in December 2007? Of course He could have. But how much more powerful was it for the Lord’s prophet to point out warning signs which were readily available to all of us and encourage us to heed those signs and act appropriately?
Today, I will follow the warning voice of prophets. I will strive to learn from them in order to recognize warning signs and take appropriate action. I will be grateful that God does not reveal everything to me, that He allows me to walk by faith. But I will also be grateful for the guidance He does provide in order to help me make wise decisions.