Detecting False Prophets
“But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth—and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet. Yea, ye will lift him up, and ye will give unto him of your substance; ye will give unto him of your gold, and of your silver, and ye will clothe him with costly apparel; and because he speaketh flattering words unto you, and he saith that all is well, then ye will not find fault with him.” – Helaman 13:27-28
I was listening to this chapter and what stood out to me first was “gold”, “silver” and “costly apparel.” I was immediately taken back to the vision of the tree of life and the parallel themes:
“And the angel spake unto me, saying: Behold the gold, and the silver, and the silks, and the scarlets, and the fine-twined linen, and the precious clothing, and the harlots, are the desires of this great and abominable church.” – 1 Nephi 13:8
Wealth and fine clothing seem to go hand in hand. If we look at the clothing as a symbol, it can represent any physical display we put on to reveal our desires and ideologies to others. We can clothe not just our bodies, but our language and our actions to publicize our allegiances.
Some may try on an ideology of the world and find that they like seeing themselves in it. They find something of value in parroting around their new ideology and enjoy the social status that comes from possessing it. I am reminded of the tragic words spoken by Korihor the anti-Christ:
“And I have taught his words; and I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind; and I taught them, even until I had much success, insomuch that I verily believed that they were true;” – Alma 30:53
Returning again to the words of Samuel the Lamanite in Helaman 13, we read of the principles the false prophet teaches to the people:
do this, and there is no iniquity;
A false prophet will teach that there is no such thing as sin or iniquity and that you can do whatever you want to without feeling guilty. Those who oppose the false prophet will be silenced and branded with negative labels to diminish their influence.
do that and ye shall not suffer;
A false prophet will promise the impossible by saying that people will not have to suffer the consequences of their actions, neither in this life or in the life to come. There is nothing to fear, do whatever you want and you will never have to suffer because of it. Unfortunately for those that buy these lies, the law of the harvest is an eternal constant; we will reap what we sow.
walk after the pride of your own hearts;
A false prophet will encourage people to “follow their heart” instead of following the commandments of God and his Holy Spirit. The individual’s will is superior to everyone else, even God.
walk after the pride of your eyes
A false prophet will encourage people to turn their eyes toward those things that validate their lusts. The great and spacious building is filled with enticing and colorful alternatives to the God of Israel and his “difficult” ways. Much like the expensive clothing, the outward appearance is valued over what something actually is deep down. It requires a great deal of ignorance and self-deception to see and judge things in such a superficial way.
do whatsoever your heart desireth
To a false prophet, the ultimate standard that governs your actions is whatever your heart desires, period. The core flaw of this principle can easily be demonstrated by making a list of the most horrible things a person can do to another and then applying the principle. If you desire to kill, then go right ahead if your heart desires it. If you desire to rape, then go right ahead if your heart desires it. If you desire to steam, then go right ahead if your heart desires it. Doing whatever your heart desires may sound cute, but it is a bad principle.
The truth is that the false prophet doesn’t care about the individual and their desires. The false prophet only wants the gold, silver, fine clothing, social status, and attention to feed their own ego. They will destroy the physical and spiritual lives of others by selling their lies to get the attention they crave.
Isaiah summed it up well:
Woe to those who suppose what is evil to be good
and what is good, evil!
They put darkness for light
and light for darkness;
they make bitterness sweet and the sweet bitter.
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes
and clever in their own view!
– Isaiah 5:20-21
Judge every idea against the doctrine and principles that God has revealed and that which is good will be apparent and that which is evil can be detected.