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Hugh B. Brown — Profile of a Prophet

Profile of a Prophet

By Elder Hugh B. Brown

A — Take the Witness Stand (To Give some Reasons for the Hope I Have)
I should like to expense with all formality, if I may, and simply say to faculty members and student body alike, my brothers and sisters. I adopt that form of salutation, for several reasons, among them being, the fact, that all, or practically all who are here are members of the Church which is sponsoring and maintaining this school.  And secondly, I say brothers and sisters, because in my more mature years I am coming to realize, I think, a little better than I did, the eternal fact of the fatherhood of God, and the brotherhood of men. I say brothers and sisters, too, because I do not intend to undertake a sermon, a lecture, certainly not an oration, but I would like for just a few minutes, to bare my testimony to you people. 

I’d like to take the witness stand in defense of the proposition that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth in our day, and that this is the Church of Jesus Christ. Now, I say I would like to take the witness stand. I’d like to be able, if I could, for in just a minute, to give some reasons for the hope I have and for my allegiance to the Church. 

B — Prepare a Brief on Mormonism (This Great Judge, One of the Most Intellectual)
Perhaps I can bring it to you most quickly by referring to an incident which happened in London, England, in 1939, in September, just before the outbreak of the war. I had come to know very intimately a very prominent English gentleman, a member of the House of Commons, a member of the Cabinet, formerly, one of the Justices of the Supreme Court of Britain — the author of many of the books which we, in Canada, studied while we were preparing for law. And in my conversations with this man on various vexations of the soul, as he called them, we talked frequently of religion. Just before the outbreak of the war he called me on the phone and asked if I would come to his office and discuss with him, finally, some phases of the Gospel. Because he said, “I’ve been intrigued by what you’ve told me. I think there’s going to be a war. If there is, you’ll have to return to America, and we may not meet again.” The later statement proved to be prophetic. I went to his office, and he said this, in effect, “I’m not only intrigued, but a bit troubled by some things you’ve told me. And I– I wonder if you’d be so good as to prepare for me a brief on Mormonism.” I may say to you students, that brief is something that men like President Wilkinson prepare when they are going into a court with the intention of presenting their case and giving their reasons for their position on any given question. He said, “Would you prepare a brief on Mormonism and come and let me be the judge, as you discuss Mormonism before me as you would discuss a legal problem?” 

He said, “First, I’d like to say to you, that you have said to me, a time or two, that you believe that Joseph Smith was a Prophet. You have said to me that you think that Jesus of Nazareth and God the Father appeared to Joseph Smith. Now,” he said, “to me that’s fantastic.” He said, “The thing I’m troubled about is, to think that a barrister and solicitor from Canada, a man trained in logic and evidence, could give himself over, to such palpably absurd ideas.” 

Now, this man, brothers and sisters, this– this great judge is one of the– one of the most intellectual men I ever met. I think he had the most incisive mind. His mind– his– his mind seemed to me to be almost like a steel trap. And when he said, “What you tell me about Joseph Smith is fantastic,” I was bold enough to suggest to him that we, perhaps, should prepare– or go forward right then with our discussion. I said, “I’d like to present my brief right now.” He had intimated that I’d probably take three days, at least, to prepare for it, because, he said, “I’m going to give you three hours in which to present it.” 

C — An Examination for Discovery (“Can you tell me why he doesn’t speak?” He does.)
When I told him I was ready at the moment, I suggested to him that we have, what, in Canadian and English law, and to some extent in this country, is called, an examination for discovery. An examination for discovery is, briefly, the getting together of the opposing sides, the attorneys and the plaintiff and the defendant, and seeing if they can find some area of agreement, and thus save the time of the court later on. I said, “Perhaps we could have an examination for discovery, here, and see whether there is some area of agreement, and from there we can start to discuss my fantastic ideas.” 

He agreed to that quite readily and I said, “Of course, I am proceeding on the assumption that you are a Christian.” “Certainly.” 

“I assume you believe the Bible, Old Testament, New Testament, to be the word of God.” “I do.” 

“You believe what’s written in the book.” “Certainly, yes.” 

“You say that my statement that God spoke to a man, in this age, is fantastic and absurd.” “To me, it is.” 

“Do you believe that God ever did speak to anyone?” “Well, certainly, all through the Bible, we have evidence of that.” 

“Did he speak to Adam?” “Yes.” 

“Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jacob, Joseph, and on through the prophets?” “I believe he spoke to every one of them.” 

“Do you believe that that kind of contact between God and man ceased at the meridian of time, or when Jesus appeared?” “No,” he said, “It reached its climax, its apex, on that occasion.” 

“Do you believe that God spoke through Jesus?” “Yes.” 

“Was he the Son of God?” “He was.” 

“Do you believe, sir, that…” and I’m going to have to shorten this considerably because I said it took me three hours to tell it to him and I must tell it to you in less than thirty minutes. “Do you believe, sir, that after Jesus was resurrected, and after he ascended into heaven, and I assume you think he did ascend into heaven.” “I do.” 

“Do you believe that a certain lawyer, sometimes referred to a tent maker, by the name of Saul, of Tarsus, on his way to Damascus, contacted that very individual, namely, Jesus of Nazareth, who had been crucified, and had ascended into heaven, do you believe that Saul saw a light and heard a voice.” “I do.” 

“Whose voice was it?” “It was the voice of Jesus Christ, for he so introduced himself.” “Then, my Lord,” and that’s the way we speak to Justices in the British Empire, “My Lord, I am submitting to you, in all seriousness, that it is– has been standard procedure, throughout all recorded time, for God to talk to men.” He said, “I think I’ll have to admit that. Except that it stopped shortly after the first century of the Christian Era.” 

“Why did it stop?” “I can’t say.” 

“You think God hasn’t spoken since then?” “I’m sure he hasn’t.” 

“There must be a reason, can you give me a reason?” “I– do not know.” 

“May I suggest a reason, or several.” 

“Perhaps God does not speak to man anymore because he can’t. He’s lost the power.” He said, “Of course, that would be blasphemous.” 

“Well then– if you don’t accept that, perhaps he doesn’t speak to men anymore because he doesn’t love us anymore. He’s gone off and left us to– find our own way in the dark.” Well, he said, “God loves all men of all ages, and is no respecter of persons.” 

“Well, then, if he could speak, if he loves us, then the only other possible answer, as I see it, is that– we don’t need him. We’ve made such rapid strides, we’re so well educated, we have such great science– we don’t need God anymore.” And then he said, and his eyes were moist when he said it, “Mr. Brown, there never was an age in the history of the world, there never was a people or a time, when the voice of God was needed as is needed now.” And then he said, “Can you tell me why he doesn’t speak?” My answer was, “My Lord, he does. He has spoken. He is now speaking. And all we need is the faith to hear him.” 

D — Profile of a Prophet
And then we proceeded to, rather quickly, and I must not refer to very much of what we proceeded to do, but, we proceeded to prepare what I have been pleased to call a Profile of a Prophet. And I wonder if you students would like to fill in the various things that I am now going to mention and add to them as you will and then see whether Joseph Smith measures up. Stand him up against that profile and see where he comes in. 

We agreed between us in this– in pursuit of our examination for discovery of ground on which we could both stand. First, we agreed that any man who claimed to be a Prophet of God, also claimed to have been spoken to by God. 

We agreed that any man so claiming would be a dignified man– no table jumping, no whisperings from the dead, no clairvoyance– but a dignified, clear statement of truth. 

We agreed that any man claiming to be a Prophet of God would declare his message without any fear, courageously, and without making any weak concessions to public opinion. 

We agreed that if he were speaking for God, he could not make concessions. And we agreed that ordinarily what he taught was not in harmony with the generally accepted teachings of the day. 

We agreed that such a man would speak in the name of the Lord and say, “Thus sayeth the Lord,” as Moses, Jeremiah, and others. 

We agreed that such a man would predict future events and predict them in the name of God and that they would come to pass, as Isaiah and Ezekiel. 

We agreed that he would have not only an important message before his time, but ordinarily, a message for all future time, such as Noah and Malachi and others. 

We agreed that his courage in supporting his statement of truth would be such that would enable him, not only to endure persecution, but to give his life, if need be, for the cause he had espoused, such as Daniel, Hosea, David, and others. 

We agreed that such a man would denounce wickedness fearlessly. That he would generally be rejected by the people of his time, but that as time went on, he’d grow in stature. And that they who put him to death, would find if they could live on that their descendants would build monuments to his honor. 

We agreed that he would do many super-human things, things that no man could do without God’s help. 

We agreed that as he grows in stature, the consequence of his work would be among the most convincing evidences of his calling. “By their fruits, ye shall know them.”

We agreed that his teachings would be in strict conformity with scripture. 

We agreed that his words and his writings would become scripture. 

Now, I’ve gone quickly and left out a lot. But, you can fill in. But, I ask you, in all seriousness, to stand the Prophet Joseph Smith up against that profile of prophets and see whether he measures up. And as a student of the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith, for more than fifty years, I say to you young men and women, there is no claim which any prophet has made, in connection with his prophetic calling, which Joseph Smith cannot qualify under. 

Think it through. 

E — John on the Isle of Patmos, ‘The Testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy’ (Joseph — Bringing Convincing Evidences)
I said to this friend of mine, “I believe that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God, because he talked like a prophet, he taught like a prophet, he lived and died like a prophet. I believe he was a prophet of God because he gave to this world some of the greatest of all revelation. I believe that he was a prophet of God because he predicted many things in the future which have come to pass since the prediction, things which only God could bring to pass.” 

I said to him and I say to you, “I believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God because John on the Isle of Patmos, the beloved disciple of Jesus, declared that ‘The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.'” 

And I submit to you and I submitted to him, that if any man whoever lived had a testimony of Jesus and gave his life for that testimony, and was effective in spreading the testimony, and bringing convincing evidences of the truth of the statement that Jesus is the Christ– among all the men that have lived, I challenge any man to show one who has given us more real evidences of the divine calling of Jesus Christ than did the Prophet Joseph Smith.   

F — Translating the Book of Mormon, The Ministry of Christ (Persecute and put to Death)
I believe the Prophet Joseph Smith was a prophet because he did do many super-human things. One of them was translating the Book of Mormon. Some people will not agree on that. But, I submit to you, and I shall refer, I think, to some substantiation of my statement– I submit to you, that the Prophet Joseph Smith, in translating the Book of Mormon, did a super-human task. 

I ask you students to go out and write a Book of Mormon. I ask you to write one chapter of a Book of Mormon. I ask you to write, if you can, any kind of a story of the ancient inhabitants of America. And I ask you to write it without any source material. And I ask you to include in your statements, with respect to the ancient inhabitants of America, some of the things which the prophet Joseph included in the Book of Mormon. 

I ask you to write for instance, 54 chapters dealing with wars, 21 historical chapters, 55 on visions and prophecies. And remember, when you begin to write on visions and prophecies you must have you record agree meticulously with the scriptures. 

You will write 71 chapters on doctrine and exhortation, and here, too, you must check every statement with the scriptures or you’ll be proven to be a fraud. 

You must write 21 chapters on the ministry of Christ. And every thing you claim he said and did, and every testimony you write in your book about him, must agree absolutely with the New Testament. 

I ask you, would you like to undertake such a task? I would suggest to you, too, what you’re up against in connection with this book you’re going to write or the chapters– you’re going to have to introduce here, figures of speech, similes, metaphor, narration, exposition, description, oratory, epic, lyric, logic, and parables. 

Undertake that, will you. 

I ask those of you who are under 20 to undertake it. I ask you to remember that the man that translated the Book of Mormon was a young man. And he hadn’t had the opportunity of schooling that you have had. And yet, he dictated that book in just a little over two months and made very few, if any, corrections. 

And for over a hundred years, some of the best students and scholars of the world have been trying to prove that the Book of Mormon was not the word of God and they’ve taken the Bible to try to prove it and not one of them has been able to prove that anything he wrote was not in strict harmony with the scriptures, with the Bible, with the word of God. The Book of Mormon not only declares in its title page that its purpose is to bring the knowledge of Christ to the people, but the whole of the subject matter has that as its central theme. And there is no chapter in all literature, sacred or profane, which I say to you as a lawyer, has greater evidential value, than the chapters in Third Nephi where multitudes of people said, we saw him, we felt of his hands and his side, we know he is the Christ. 

I said to my friend, My Lord, I cannot understand you saying to me that my claims are fantastic. Nor can I understand why Christians, who claim to believe in Christ, would persecute and put to death, a man whose whole purpose was to prove the truth of the thing they themselves were declaring– namely, that Jesus was the Christ. I can understand them persecuting Joseph, and the rest of us, if he had said, “I am Christ,” or if he had said, “There is no Christ,” or if he had said, “Someone else is Christ.” Then Christians, believing in Christ, would– might– would be justified to some extent, at least, in persecuting, or disputing with him at least.   

E’ — Paul, in Athens, ‘He, whom ye ignorantly worship, declare I unto you’  (Joseph – ‘I say to you that I saw him, and I talked with him.’)
But what he said was, “He, whom ye ignorantly serve, declare I unto you,” paraphrasing what Paul said, in Athens, “He, whom ye ignorantly worship, declare I unto you.” 

And Joseph came to Christians and said to them, “You’ve been claiming to believe in Jesus Christ, I say to you that I saw him, and I talked with him. He is the Son of God.” 

When Joseph came out of that woods, at least four fundamental truths came out with him, and he announced them to the world. First, that the Father and the Son were separate and distinct individuals. Secondly, that the canon of scripture is not complete. Thirdly, that man was created in the image of God. And fourth, that revelation or the channel between the earth and the heavens is open and is continuous.   

D’ — “He will yet Reveal many Great and Important Things”
I’d like to say to you students, there’s nothing, so far as I’m concerned, in all our claims finer and more challenging to students in any field of activity than the one which says, “We not only believe what God has revealed and does reveal, but we believe that he will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”   

C’ — A Challenge to Research and Check
That is a challenge to research. 

It’s a challenge to check on what you believe. 

It’s a challenge to bring your beliefs, your thoughts, your education, your lives up to date.   

B’ — The Reaction of this Judge, an Intelligent Man (“Do you Appreciate the Import of What you Say?”)
May I just say to you, perhaps some of you were wondering, what was the reaction of this judge, when we finished? He sat and listened, intently. He asked some very pointed and searching questions. And at the end of the period, he said, “Mr. Brown, I wonder if your people appreciate the import of your message. Do you?” He said, “If what you have told me is true, it is the greatest message, that has come to this earth, since the angels announced the birth of Christ.” This was a judge speaking. A great statesman. An intelligent man. He threw out the challenge, “Do you appreciate the import of what you say?” 

He said, “I wish it were true. I hope it may be true. God knows it ought to be true. I would to God,” he said, and he wept as he said it, “That some man could appear on the earth and authoritatively say, ‘Thus sayeth the Lord.'” 

A’ — Two or Three Reasons Why, I say, I Do Know
As I intimated, we did not meet again. But I bring you, just in the briefest form, two or three reasons why I believe that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God. 

But. Under-girding and over-arching all the rest, I say to you from the very center of my heart, I know that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God. And all of these evidences and many others that could be cited, may have the effect of giving me, in a sense, an intellectual conviction. But, by the whisperings of the Holy Spirit one may come to know. And by those whisperings, I say, I do know. 

And I thank God for that knowledge. And pray for his blessings upon all of you. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen. 


Summary outline

A — Take the Witness Stand (To Give some Reasons for the Hope I Have)
 B — Prepare a Brief on Mormonism (This Great Judge, One of the Most Intellectual) 

  C — An Examination for Discovery (“Can you tell me why he doesn’t speak?” He does.)
   D — Profile of a Prophet

    E — John on the Isle of Patmos, ‘The Testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy.’ (Joseph —  Bringing Convincing Evidences)
     F — Translating the Book of Mormon, The Ministry of Christ (Persecute and put to Death)
    E’ — Paul, in Athens, “He, whom ye ignorantly worship, declare I unto you.”  (Joseph – ‘I say to you that I saw him, and I talked with him.’)

   D’ — “He will yet Reveal many Great and Important Things”
  C’ — A Challenge to Research and Check

 B’ — The Reaction of this Judge, an Intelligent Man (“Do you Appreciate the Import of What you Say?”)
A’ — Two or Three Reasons Why, I say, I Do Know 

4 comments to Hugh B. Brown — Profile of a Prophet

  • Michael Pieper

    thank you for a brief review of and different look at the Profile. I had never considered a chiasmic evaluation of it but to a mind trained to look for suck things I am sure it was obvious. May the Lord bless you for sharing this testimony building interpretation with others.

  • Hi Michael. You are very welcome. The implications of this particular chiastic outline is especially sweet to me. I am happy you enjoyed it.

  • A fourth remark relates to the position and function of the pericope in the Gospel of Luke. As form criticism focuses only on the smallest literary units and their function and “Sitz im Leben” in early Christian community life, no attention is accorded to their position and function in the whole of a gospel. As a consequence, the role and the function of verses 32-33 in the context of the Gospel of Luke are not discussed. As I have shown elsewhere (Welzen 2008), these verses play a key role in the way Jesus is characterized as the Davidic king who, as a saviour, brings liberation and salvation to his people. It is possible to understand concepts such as “son of God” and “son of the Most High” against the background of the Old Testament traditions of the Jahvistic king. The characterization of Jesus as this Jahvistic king links up with important thematic threads, or lines, in the spirituality of Luke – lines that may be characterized as a Lucan spirituality of liberation.

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