Who is your Favorite Prophet?

Another question from the Mailbag!  This one’s from Ren over at The Waiting Line:

Who’s your favorite prophet, living or dead, and why? (Why are they your favorite, not why are they dead.)

Interesting question!  I’m going to assume we’re talking about Presidents of the LDS church (as opposed to ancient prophets like Moses, or prophets from outside traditional Christianity).

Ok, so who’s my favorite Mormon Prophet?  Well, let me admit that I’ a little ill-equipped to answer this question, mostly because I have the worst memory in the history of humanity.  If the current President of the church did something I really liked or disliked today, I’d forget it ever happened by tomorrow.

Also, I can’t tell you a single thing about half of them.  Can I name a single thing Heber J. Grant did as President of the Church?  No. I can not (other than that he made compliance with the Word of Wisdom a requirement for temple attendance).   How about Harold B. Lee?  I associate him with Correlation, that’s about it.  Joseph Fielding Smith?  Nope. No idea what he did while President of the Church.  There have been 16 Presidents of the Church, only the most recent three of whom I have any memories of and feel like I have an adequate understanding of their personalities and mannerisms (that would be Howard W. HunterGordon B. Hinckley and Thomas S. Monson for anyone out there who has an even worse memory than I do).

To answer this question, I’m going to have to draw a clear distinction between the Presidents of the Church while acting as Prophets, and the Presidents of the Church while acting as Administrators.  It’s a key distinction – the President of the church is both the spiritual and administrative leader in the LDS church.  I have no idea who the best administrator of the church was – so that will have to be a question for someone else to answer.

Ok, so to finally answer the question:
Joseph Smith is definitely my favorite prophet – no question about it.  He built Mormonism out of nothing – and Mormonism has produced very few doctrinal innovations that didn’t originate with him.  No other Prophet has even attempted to rival his prophetic prowess.  No other LDS Prophet has produced 130+ sections of the Doctrine and Covenants.  No other LDS Prophet attempted to revise the entire Bible using no resources other than inspiration.  No other LDS Prophet has produced a text as substantial as the Book of Mormon.  No other LDS Prophet has produced extrabiblical texts like the Book of Abraham.  No other LDS Prophet has had the hubris to run for President of the United States.  While most LDS Prophets appear to try their hardest to not rock-the-boat so to speak, Joseph thrived on boat-rocking.  Josephs striking and tragic flaws are just as spectacular as his prophesies, which just makes him that much more interesting.  I’ll even go out on a limb and say that Joseph Smith might be a good candidate for the worst administrator the church has ever seen – but also, clearly, the best Prophet.

Ok, Now it’s your turn:  Who is your favorite Prophet?

I love your questions!  Keep them coming!
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13 comments to Who is your Favorite Prophet?

  • The politically correct answer was, "Why, the living prophet today, of course!" πŸ™‚

    Just teasing! I too am in awe of Joseph Smith, Jr. So who would be your second favorite?

  • @J G-W: Really? I thought I was just supposed to believe that the living prophet was the most correct! I didn't know he had to be my favorite, too!

    Second Favorite? Jeez – that's tough. In terms of the impact on the spiritual development of the church… none of them even approach JS, do they? I wish I knew more about David O. McKay, I have a feeling I might choose him, but that's just a guess since I can't actually name any spiritual developments that occurred during his Presidency.

    Can I say Uchtdorf? He's not President of the church (yet), but I'm generally a really big fan.

    Who is your favorite?

  • Well, I'd have to say David O. McKay would probably be my favorite after Joseph Smith. I love his love of intellectual pursuits and his ecumenical impulses. And of course, he really laid the groundwork for Mormonism becoming a world religion as opposed to a Utah sect. I am a product of his efforts to expand Mormon missionary work overseas after World War II… My Finnish mom converted to Mormonism during his administration. David O. McKay also began the process of questioning the ban on African American ordination. In many ways, he laid the groundwork for the lifting of the ban under Spencer Kimball.

  • @J G-W – Yea, I've been meaning to read that Gregory Prince biography of DOM… but before I can get to that I've got about a zillion other books to read: American Moses, Armand Mauss, Todd Compton, Juanita Brooks, Dean Jessee, etc., etc., etc….

  • Ren

    Actually, any prophet would have been acceptable. When I came up the the question, I was thinking about Moses and would I have really believed he was a prophet had I been around at the time or just thought he was high. πŸ™‚

  • +1 for Brother Joseph.

    Second for me is Hinckley, because following his counsel changed my life. It would be difficult for any prophet to compare for me because of this. Although it is aside from academic/intellectual pursuits or other factors that intrigue me about some prophets, it is what it is.

    I'd have to think about who number 3 would be, which is probably closest to the heart of the question.

  • President Hinckley, because of his work on temples.

  • Ren

    I have a soft spot for Woodruff only due to the inordinate number of times I've watched "The Mountain of the Lord" dvd. LOL (Srsly, I watch it prolly a few times a month. I can't explain why.)

    @Katie I hear ya on the temples thing. Having a temple put in my hometown in '01 was life changing for me. Also, I got to work at the Nauvoo one during the open house and that was pretty dang cool.

  • I think our favorite Prophets are usually the ones who are "there" for us during our formative years. I love President Monson, but President Hinckley still feels like "my" prophet. πŸ™‚

    Ditto on Joseph Smith being awesome. I just have to be nit-picky about your verbiage. Joseph Smith did not "build Morminsim", Heavenly Father & Jesus Christ restored the Gospel that Jesus established while he was on the Earth. Joseph Smith was the person prepared from before time to carry out that huge undertaking to establish the church again on the Earth. I always feel the need to clarify because I have met so many people who think we worship Joseph Smith.

  • @Ren – Woodruff, huh? I don't know much about him, but my general impression is that he spent most of his Presidency running from the law and hiding from federal authorities!

    @Hizzeather – fair enough, but I'll say this: One of the biggest lies ever told about Joseph is that he was some half-wit rube that couldn't possibly have ever done anything on his own if he hadn't been inspired. Joseph's fingerprints are all over Mormonism – most notably on the many texts he produced while he was President of the Church. God may be responsible for the beginnings of Mormonism, but he gave Joseph plenty of freedom to guide the Church as he saw fit. He was no robot, and as history has shown, he was not replaceable, either.

  • Be honest I don't not have one but I do respect them all.As I am still getting used the fact of having one. I enjoying hearing the words spoke during G.C but after that I don't think of it much.

  • Hizzeather has a point … As a historian I love McKay, but there will always be a soft spot in my heart for Spencer Kimball. He was prophet during my formative years. I was a "Kimball Scholar" at BYU! (I also love him for ending the priesthood ban.)

    I wouldn't write off Woodruff. In a way, he laid the groundwork for McKay. It took courage to end polygamy; that was probably the single most difficult period in the Church's history. Woodruff also began the process of ending immigration to Utah and encouraging the Saints to stay where they were and build up Zion in their own countries. (Though it took another 60 years or so before that policy really began to be emphasized, under McKay.)

    I think it's valid to point out that prophets are human beings who bring their own ideas and talents to their callings, just as anybody else does. But do we love prophets because of their humanness or because of their "prophet-ness"? I think Emile Durkheim would say because of their prophet-ness!

    J.S.J. was unique. In fact, Brigham Young was very hesitant to claim the mantle of "prophet." He stressed his role as "President," as administrator of the Church, carrying on what Joseph had revealed and restored. So did his successors. It really wasn't until McKay — who was probably the single most charismatic leader the Church has ever had since Joseph Smith — that the Saints began to stress the LDS President's role as prophet. (For example, that's when the hymn "We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet" became really popular.)

  • well if brigham young didnt want to think of himself as being a prophet and hes the one who took over from joseph smith, i dont know maybe my faith is low but that seams to be a bit of a prob to me. i loved benson and joseph but i must confess i can not stand pres. monson.