Many persons excuse themselves from searching the scriptures by asserting that the “dead prophets” are less relevant than the “living prophets.” They forget that the ancient prophets are still very much alive, which those know who “commune with the Church of the Firstborn” (Doctrine & Covenants 107:19). As Isaiah reminds us, “The word of our God endures forever” (Isaiah 40:8), while Peter cites “a more sure word of prophecy to which you do well to give heed. . . . Prophecy came not in ancient times by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as moved upon by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:19, 21). No word of God a living prophet utters can contradict the word of God by an earlier prophet. If so, that prophet is not of God. The same objectors to God’s cumulative word, moreover, seem to draw no distinction between prophecy and inspirational talks. Where ancient prophets predict endtime events when speaking by the Spirit of God, those events will assuredly come to pass (Isaiah 44:26).
When Jesus appears to the Nephites, he quotes at length the words of Isaiah and also takes care to explain them. Mormon emphasizes how Jesus “expounded all the scriptures unto them” until he had “expounded all the scriptures in one”—those they had received and those he gave them “both great and small” (3 Nephi 23:6, 14; 26:1). That puts to rest the view that we needn’t pay much attention to “dead prophets” when the living prophets will tell us all we need to know. Doesn’t Jesus’ considering it his responsibility to teach from the prophets and to encourage his followers to search their writings set an example for his servants to do likewise? By searching the scriptures, the people of Jacob’s day could discern the deception of Sherem, an antichrist (Jacob 7:23), and the repentant Zoramites could distinguish truth from error (Alma 33:2). What is it that causes us to so easily recuse ourselves from this requirement if not a prideful Zoramitish notion of our chosenness that flies in the face of all truth?
There is an incalculable difference between searching the scriptures and not doing so, between having a firm foundation in Israel’s prophets and not having one (cf. 2 Nephi 32:3–7). In the New Testament, as in the Book of Mormon, Jesus similarly counsels the people to “search the scriptures” (John 5:39), which in that day consisted of the Law and the Prophets. Those who believed in him, Jew and Gentile, were those who “received the word with all readiness of mind” and “searched the scriptures daily whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11–12). Because ours is the time of which the prophets speak, how much greater is our need to search them so we will not be deceived but rather believe and know how to act on what they say? If almost “the very elect” will be deceived (Matthew 24:24), doesn’t that imply everyone else? Refusing to search the prophecies, on the other hand, makes people “willingly ignorant” of what will transpire when Jesus comes again and catches them unprepared (2 Peter 3:2–10).
The sons of Mosiah and their companions, who served a fourteen-year mission to the Lamanites, are described as having “waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God. But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God” (Alma 17:2–3; 23:6). The scriptural pattern those men exemplified—that enabled them to perform the “great and marvelous work” of converting the Lamanites to the truth and dissuading them from the traditions of their fathers (Alma 17:9; 26:3, 15)—succeeded gloriously for the very reason that they first “searched the scriptures diligently” to know the truth, in that way conditioning themselves to develop the spirit of prophecy and revelation of which they became the vehicle even to their enemies.
The spiritual breakthrough and divine promise they and other scriptural heroes realized in their lives God offers to all who would gain the “sound understanding” and “knowledge of the truth” they acquired, including the ability to “teach with power and authority of God.” Once one follows the principle of searching the scriptures diligently—persisting with fasting and prayer until he gains a full understanding—God opens the heavens to him and is able to use him to perform miracles like those the sons of Mosiah performed. If not, God is a respecter of persons who will not do for one what he does for another. If those past glorious accomplishments are a far cry from present-day realities, is it because times have changed and there is no need to convert today’s Lamanites and other house of Israel lineages to the gospel of Messiah? Or is it because we say that “this day he is not a God of miracles” for “he hath done his work” (2 Nephi 28:6). He has restored his gospel and all we need to do is “follow the prophet”?
(Taken from Endtime Prophecy: a Judeo-Mormon Analysis, 333–335.)