Updated on September 20, 2021
Doug Tales 32: A Young Prophet
Who is stronger spiritually, the person who follows what someone else tells them is coming from God for them to do (but does not confirm the directions from God), or the person who follows what they know personally is coming from God for them to do? Doug Mendenhall talks about a young prophet in the Bible who did some things because God wanted him to, and other things because he trusted in the “arm of flesh,” in Possibilities: Lessons From the Spirit (2002), on pages 35-40:
“It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.” (Psalm 118:8)
In the Old Testament there is a story in 1 Kings chapter 13 about a young prophet that was to deliver a message to King Jeroboam. He delivered that message of warning and Jeroboam “put forth his hand” against the prophet. His hand then “dried up, so that he could not pull it out again to him.” Jeroboam then entreated the prophet to have the Lord heal him. The prophet did so and “the king’s hand was restored him again, and became as it was before.”
Then King Jeroboam told the prophet: “Come home with me, and refresh thyself, and I will give thee a reward.”
“And the man of God said unto the king, if thou wilt give me half of thine house, I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread nor drink water in this place: For so was it charged me by the word of the LORD, saying, Eat no bread, nor drink water, nor turn again by the same way that thou camest. So he went another way, and returned not the same way that he came to Beth-el.”
Upon first reading this part of the story I was very impressed by this prophet. He had received an assignment from the Lord. He evidently was told to fulfill it and to not eat, drink or go home the same way. The king offered him food, drink and wanted to reward him, but the prophet refused, citing what the Lord had told him.
It seems that there was “an old prophet in Beth-el” whose sons had heard all this young prophet had done. They reported to their father, the old prophet, what had happened and “the words which he had spoken unto the king.” The old prophet asked his sons which way the young prophet had gone, then had them saddle his donkey and rode after “the man of God.”
He “found him sitting under an oak: and said unto him, Art thou the man of God that camest from Judah? And he said, I am.”
Then the old prophet “said unto him, Come home with me, and eat bread.”
The young prophet answered and said, “I may not return with thee, nor go in with thee: neither will I eat bread nor drink water with thee in this place: For it was said to me by the word of the LORD, Thou shalt eat no bread nor drink water there, nor turn again to go by the way that thou camest.”
This is the most amazing part. The old prophet then said, “I am a prophet also as thou art: and an angel spake unto me by the word of the LORD, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water, that I may prove him.”
So the young prophet “went back with him, and did eat bread in his house, and drank water.” Oops.
This would be a tough conundrum for anyone to face. On one hand the Lord has told you what to do and you have just about accomplished your task. You just need to get home. Then an old prophet shows up and tells you that an angel has appeared to him and told him he is to bring you back with him in order to feed you. That would be a hard choice. The young prophet had several options. First, he could have asked the Lord if what the old prophet said was true and see if the will of the Lord had changed. Second, he could have told the old prophet no and gone on his way. Third, he could have done what he did, follow the old prophet to his house and eat. Evidently the purpose of the Lord was to “prove” the young prophet, to see if he would follow the “arm of flesh” or the Lord.
“And it came to pass, as they sat at the table, that the word of the LORD came unto the prophet that brought him back: And he cried unto the man of God that came from Judah, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the LORD, and hast not kept the commandment which the LORD thy God commanded thee, But camest back, and hast eaten bread and drunk water in the place, of which the LORD did say to thee, Eat no bread, and drink no water; thy carcase shall not come unto the sepulchre of thy fathers.”
The young prophet then left for his home and was killed by a lion. The old prophet then buried him in his own grave.
This is an incredible story about following what the Lord has told you to do rather than the arm of flesh, even if that “flesh” is another prophet that declares words contrary to what the Lord has told you. The deeper meaning for me is the importance of getting our own witness of what others tell us, even a prophet.
I received an e-mail that told me that the center verse in all the Bible is the one quoted at the start of this chapter. “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.” There are many scriptures that tell us not to put our trust in the “arm of flesh.” I believe we are to trust in the Lord and do what he has told us to do. If we put our trust in any man, we give a portion of our allegiance to that man. I also believe in living prophets that receive revelation from the Lord, but I have never believed that we should follow someone blindly. I feel we should get our own testimony and confirmation of what has been presented to us.
It would have been good for this young prophet from Judah to get confirmation from the Lord about what the old prophet was saying. By relying on what the old prophet told him, without getting a confirmation from the Lord, he was giving allegiance to the old prophet. By doing so he brought evil to himself because the spirit of the Lord left him when he gave allegiance to the arm of flesh and not to God only.
Many times I believe we seek the easy way and perhaps listen to the wrong voice, deciding to give blind obeisance to another, be he a leader or whatever. Yet I feel if we place any man above God, which we do if we blindly follow, then Satan has gained a foothold and will enter in. I know it is the Lord’s law to honor and obey God and to gain my own witness that our leaders speak by His voice. By so doing we become stronger servants of God and our leaders.
While sitting on one of my favorite “chairs” in our home these thoughts came to me quite strongly:
Brigham Young spoke on the subject of getting your own witness of whatever is presented to us, even by our leaders. I believe he expresses some important reasons for doing so.
“What a pity it would be if we were led by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken the influence they could give their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led the right way. Let every man and woman know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not. This has been my exhortation continually.” (Journal of Discourses 9:151)
Not for a minute do I believe Brigham Young felt that the leaders would lead the church to destruction. In my opinion he was trying to teach a principle that when properly understood, empowers the individual, the church and its leaders. It is the same principle that Nephi applied to his own life; to seek the witness of God in all things and know that our leaders speak by His voice.
If we “settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting (our) eternal destiny in the hands of (our) leader” or anyone for that matter, have we not just given our agency or our will over to them? Wasn’t a war fought in heaven over this? Brigham Young states that this “reckless confidence . . . would thwart the purposes of God in (our) salvation.” Could it be that as we give up our agency to others, it might let Satan or darkness in? He also states that it would “weaken that influence (we) could give our leaders” if we didn’t have our own personal testimony or witness.
A good example of this might be Nephi’s brothers, Laman and Lemuel. These are two individuals that had angels appear to them, had their father speak to them with such power “that their frames did shake before him.” They were “shocked” by Nephi and had many other “witnesses” of God’s power. Yet it did not help them in their personal salvation. They apparently never sought and received a personal witness or testimony of their father’s revelations, dreams, and visions. Therefore they had become individuals that could not be relied upon. When it got tough in the wilderness, they continually murmured and on several occasions sought the life of Lehi and Nephi.
If Laman and Lemuel had sought and received a personal witness or testimony of what their father, who also happened to be their leader and prophet, had told them, might they have been more like Nephi? Would that have given them the strength to do what the Lord had asked them to do?