This may seem like a silly question with an obvious answer, but nevertheless many members of the LDS church find it a trial of their faith to discover that leaders of the church have been deceived (e.g., Mark Hofmann selling forged historical documents to the church) or that LDS leaders engage in what seem like typical business meetings to discuss church affairs (e.g., MormonLeaks releasing video of the twelve apostles discussing church affairs via PowerPoint). If the leaders of the church have the spirit of prophecy and revelation, how come there are instances where they don’t have all the answers?
The following is a list of examples in the Book of Mormon that suggest the prophets of God are not omnipresent beings who know what any given member of the church ate for breakfast two weeks ago. While they do receive revelation from the Lord when he sees fit, the prophets, like any other human beings, face the same challenges of mortality:
- Alma, the high priest of the church, had to send men to spy on the camp of the rebellious Amlicites, and were surprised to know that they had joined forces with the Lamanites. This is interesting because at a future date Alma was able to predict where the Lamanites were headed when Captain Moroni asked him for help.
- “And Alma sent spies to follow the remnant of the Amlicites, that he might know of their plans and their plots, whereby he might guard himself against them, that he might preserve his people from being destroyed” (Alma 2:21)
- “Moroni sent spies into the wilderness to watch their camp; and Moroni, also, knowing of the prophecies of Alma, sent certain men unto him desiring him that he should inquire of the Lord whither the armies of the Nephites should go to defend themselves against the Lamanites. And it came to pass that the word of the Lord came unto Alma, and Alma informed the messengers of Moroni, that the armies of the Lamanites were marching round about in the wilderness, that they might come over into the land of Manti” (Alma 43:23-24)
- There are some mysteries which no human knows. For example, no one knows when the second coming and the final resurrection will happen.
- “Now, I unfold unto you a mystery; nevertheless, there are many mysteries which are kept, that no one knoweth them save God himself. But I show unto you one thing which I have inquired diligently of God that I might know—that is concerning the resurrection. Behold, there is a time appointed that all shall come forth from the dead. Now when this time cometh no one knows; but God knoweth the time which is appointed” (Alma 40:3-4)
- Alma does not know whether the resurrection will happen all at once. He is therefore left to theorize that he believes that many righteous people will be resurrected at the time Jesus is resurrected.
- “Now, whether the souls and the bodies of those of whom has been spoken shall all be reunited at once, the wicked as well as the righteous, I do not say; let it suffice, that I say that they all come forth; or in other words, their resurrection cometh to pass before the resurrection of those who die after the resurrection of Christ. Now, my son, I do not say that their resurrection cometh at the resurrection of Christ; but behold, I give it as my opinion, that the souls and the bodies are reunited, of the righteous, at the resurrection of Christ, and his ascension into heaven” (Alma 40:19-20)
- King Mosiah, Alma, and the priests consulted with each other over the affairs of the church.
- “And now it came to pass that the persecutions which were inflicted on the church by the unbelievers became so great that the church began to murmur, and complain to their leaders concerning the matter; and they did complain to Alma. And Alma laid the case before their king, Mosiah. And Mosiah consulted with his priests.” (Mosiah 27:1)
- Nephi and Mormon did not know why they should include the small plates of Nephi into the Book of Mormon record. They only knew that the Lord commanded them.
- “But behold, I shall take these plates, which contain these prophesyings and revelations, and put them with the remainder of my record, for they are choice unto me; and I know they will be choice unto my brethren. And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me. And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will” (Words of Mormon 1:6-7)
- “And I knew not at the time when I made them that I should be commanded of the Lord to make these plates…and that the things which were written should be kept for the instruction of my people, who should possess the land, and also for other wise purposes, which purposes are known unto the Lord” (1 Nephi 19:2-3)
- The Brother of Jared, who had conversed with the Lord many times before, did not know that the Lord had a spiritual body.
- “And he saith unto the Lord: I saw the finger of the Lord, and I feared lest he should smite me; for I knew not that the Lord had flesh and blood” (Ether 3:8)
- Nephi forgot to write about the dead rising from the grave after Christ’s resurrection.
- “And when Nephi had brought forth the records, and laid them before him, he cast his eyes upon them and said: Verily I say unto you, I commanded my servant Samuel, the Lamanite, that he should testify…that there were many saints who should arise from the dead, and should appear unto many…And Jesus said unto them: How be it that ye have not written this thing, that many saints did arise and appear unto many and did minister unto them? And it came to pass that Nephi remembered that this thing had not been written” (3 Nephi 23:8-9, 11-12)
- Mosiah did not know the location or the status of those who went to repossess the land of Lehi-Nephi.
- “And now, it came to pass that after king Mosiah had had continual peace for the space of three years, he was desirous to know concerning the people who went up to dwell in the land of Lehi-Nephi, or in the city of Lehi-Nephi; for his people had heard nothing from them…And now, they knew not the course they should travel in the wilderness to go up to the land of Lehi-Nephi; therefore they wandered many days in the wilderness, even forty days did they wander” (Mosiah 7:1, 3)
- Moroni and Helaman did not know the fate of Pahoran, the governor of Zarahemla during the war with the Lamanites. Moroni assumed that the government was lazy and run by sinners.
- “Now we do not know the cause that the government does not grant us more strength; neither do those men who came up unto us know why we have not received greater strength…And it came to pass that Moroni was angry with the government, because of their indifference concerning the freedom of their country…I, Pahoran…say unto you, Moroni, that I do not joy in your great afflictions, yea, it grieves my soul. But behold, there are those who do joy in your afflictions, yea, insomuch that they have risen up in rebellion against me, and also those of my people who are freemen” (Alma 58:34/59:13/61:2-3)
- Nobody knows where the ten tribes of Israel are.
- “And behold, there are many who are already lost from the knowledge of those who are at Jerusalem. Yea, the more part of all the tribes have been led away; and they are scattered to and fro upon the isles of the sea; and whither they are none of us knoweth, save that we know that they have been led away” (1 Nephi 22:4)
11. Lehi, and presumably other prophets that existed before, did not know the that “Jesus Christ” would be the name of the Messiah. The name of the Messiah was not known until it was revealed to Jacob by an angel.
- “Wherefore, as I said unto you, it must needs be expedient that Christ—for in the last night the angel spake unto me that this should be his name–should come among the Jews, among those who are the more wicked part of the world; and they shall crucify him—for thus it behooveth our God, and there is none other nation on earth that would crucify their God” (2 Nephi 10:3)