Saved by grace

I was reading in 2 Nephi this week and came across the much-abused scripture: “it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do”. I can’t help but notice how happy mainstream Christians are that believe they are saved by grace. Conversely, many LDS seem weighed down by believing they have to work for their salvation, and they use this fragment of the verse as the foundation for that belief.

Many say this means that we have to do everything within our power, down to the  last calorie, and then and only then will Christ step in to help us make up the difference. Analogies have been made comparing our salvation to a child wanting to buy a bicycle he can’t afford to show us how Christ will help us, but only after we have completely emptied our personal piggy-bank. So much for his yoke being easy and his burden being light!

One technique I was taught to understand scripture is to avoid using my own definitions and interpretations, but to use the definitions the writers used. If you look around the scriptures, usually you will find that the definition or interpretation is in there. It’s best when the definition is provided by the same author. If it’s a different author, chances are the second author will use the terms consistently, but is isn’t always guaranteed.

Let’s take a look at our “after all we can do” verse in context:

2 Nephi 25:23
For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children and also our brethren to believe in Christ and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

The primary point of the verse is that they labor diligently to persuade people to believe in Christ and be reconciled to God. Why are they laboring so hard to persuade people to be reconciled to God? Notice that Nephi doesn’t labor diligently to persuade people to perform a checklist of righteous activities. Being reconciled to God doesn’t give you a list of things to do, but it does give you grace. And grace is what saves us. Let’s look at other places that Nephi talks about grace.

2 Nephi 2:6-8
Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth. Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered. Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh, and taketh it again by the power of the Spirit, that he may bring to pass the resurrection of the dead, being the first that should rise.

Notice Nephi again states the importance of teaching people to believe in Christ and that it is through his merits, mercy, and grace that anyone is saved. Without that, no matter how much we work, we’re doomed. Christ offers his sacrifice to those with a broken heart and contrite spirit, not those who do a lot of good works. But what about that “after all we can do” phrase?

2 Nephi 10:24
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved.

Whoa! Nephi says after we are reconciled to God, it is only in and through grace that we are saved. No other works after we are reconciled to God will save us. “All we can do” is to reconcile ourselves to the will of God. We are saved by grace, after we have reconciled ourselves to God.

Nephi repeats this later on:

2 Nephi 33:9
I have charity for my people, and great faith in Christ that I shall meet many souls spotless at his judgment-seat. I have charity for the Jew—I say Jew, because I mean them from whence I came. I also have charity for the Gentiles. But behold, for none of these can I hope except they shall be reconciled unto Christ, and enter into the narrow gate, and walk in the strait path which leads to life, and continue in the path until the end of the day of probation.

Why can’t he hope for them except they be reconciled unto Christ? If we don’t reconcile ourselves to Christ, nothing else matters. All we can do is reconcile ourselves to Christ and have faith in him.

This doesn’t mean that once we reconcile ourselves to God that we can do whatever we want with no consequences. What it does mean is that we don’t have to worry about someone else’s lists of tasks that we must do for salvation, nor should we worry if we are doing enough, or if we will ever be good enough.

Now some will accuse me of glossing over the rest of verse 9 in 2 Nephi 33. They may even argue that walking in the strait path does indeed require lists of things we should be doing and if we don’t exert all our energy on all those activities we won’t have done everything we can and we won’t be saved. But that isn’t how Nephi viewed walking in the strait path.

2 Nephi 31:18-20
And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive. And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save. Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.

What are the things Nephi says we must do after we enter the strait and narrow path? Have hope, love God and all men, feast upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end. That’s it! Those things are the foundation of our daily walk with God.

Notice what Nephi doesn’t write? He doesn’t write a checklist of activities we must do to be acceptable to God. He doesn’t talk about attending meetings, home teaching, family history, gardening, emergency preparedness, or anything else. If Nephi the prophet won’t tell us what we are supposed to do after we have reconciled ourselves to God, who will?

2 Nephi 32:3,5,6
Feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do. Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye knock; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark. For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do. Behold, this is the doctrine of Christ.

If God wants us to do something, he’ll tell us. He will likely tell you do to something different than what he tells me, so comparing your answers to my answers is pointless. His yoke is easy and his burden is light…if we really accept it. If you instead put on the yoke of man and rely on the arm of flesh, your mileage will vary. Jesus didn’t think highly of men who “bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders.” God does not require that we run faster than we have strength – and he knows perfectly how much strength we each have personally. He will tell each of us personally what we wants us to do – we just need to ask and listen.

When we revert to a checklist of things to, and compare our activities to the activities of others, we aren’t relying upon the merits of Christ. We aren’t putting our faith in him. We’re putting our faith in our own works and the arm of flesh that created the checklist.

Once you look at the totality of what Nephi wrote about grace, you realize he and Paul were preaching the same gospel.

Ephesians 2:8-9
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Leaders vs. Followers

As Nephi is wrapping up his writings, he gives some detailed descriptions of the last days and the state of churches at that time.

2 Nephi 28:11-14
Yea, they have all gone out of the way; they have become corrupted. Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrine, their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up. They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up. They wear stiff necks and high heads; yea, and because of pride, and wickedness, and abominations, and whoredoms, they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.

How Nephi distinguishes the followers from the leaders is significant. All have gone astray except for a few who are humble followers of Christ. These people are a small minority. Yet their leaders teach by the precepts of men, and cause these humble followers of Christ to err.

Let’s see what the rest of the scriptures have to say about these leaders that cause people to err.

2 Nephi 13:12
O my people, they who lead thee cause thee to err and destroy the way of thy paths.

Notice the Lord is speaking to his people, the House of Israel.

2 Nephi 19:13-16
For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the Lord of Hosts. Therefore will the Lord cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and rush in one day. The ancient [elder], he is the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he is the tail. For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed.

The leaders of Israel cause the people to err. And those that follow these leaders are destroyed, not blessed.

Isaiah 28:7
But they also have erred through wine, and through strong drink are out of the way; the priest and the prophet have erred through strong drink, they are swallowed up of wine, they are out of the way through strong drink; they err in vision, they stumble in judgment.

Although this verse talks about wine and strong drink, it is a metaphor, and cannot be misread to say that leaders who don’t drink alcohol won’t do this. We say leaders can be drunk with power, and we know that doesn’t require alcohol. One chapter earlier the Lord explained what he means when he says leaders are drunk.

2 Nephi 27:4-5
For behold, all ye that doeth iniquity, stay yourselves and wonder, for ye shall cry out, and cry; yea, ye shall be drunken but not with wine, ye shall stagger but not with strong drink. For behold, the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep. For behold, ye have closed your eyes, and ye have rejected the prophets; and your rulers, and the seers hath he covered because of your iniquity.

Micah 3:5-7
Thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets that make my people err, that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him. Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them. Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded: yea, they shall all cover their lips; for there is no answer of God.

Again, the Lord says these prophets make his people err. After the people give heed to these false prophets, the Lord withdraws. Refer to my post on the decline of revelation to see the data showing that the sun did set on the church and there has been no answer from God for quite some time.

Notice how the message these false prophets preach is “Peace”, whereas the true prophets teach repentance and consequences. Here’s an example:

Jeremiah 14:13-16
Then said I, Ah, Lord God! behold, the prophets say unto them, Ye shall not see the sword, neither shall ye have famine; but I will give you assured peace in this place. Then the Lord said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart. Therefore thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land; By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed. And the people to whom they prophesy shall be cast out in the streets of Jerusalem because of the famine and the sword; and they shall have none to bury them, them, their wives, nor their sons, nor their daughters: for I will pour their wickedness upon them.

How many Christian churches in these days have men they sustain as prophets? How many of these modern churches believe they are the modern day Zion? It is to those churches that think of themselves as modern Zion that Nephi warned:

2 Nephi 28:21
And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.

Heck, a church like that might even sing a song about how all is well.

Erring by Proof-texting

Part of the problem that causes these errors is that people misuse the scriptures:

D&C 10:63
And this I do that I may establish my gospel, that there may not be so much contention; yea, Satan doth stir up the hearts of the people to contention concerning the points of my doctrine; and in these things they do err, for they do wrest the scriptures and do not understand them.

Proof-texting is a common example of this. In proof-texting, you start with your conclusion, then look for verses that confirm your precept while ignoring all the others that undermine your precept. One clue that proof-texting is in play is if only a few words from a verse are quoted. Without the context surrounding the words being quoted, it is easy to make a few words mean what you want them to mean.

Here’s one example of proof-texting on this very topic: whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same. This gets used all the time to tell us we need to listen to and obey every word that today’s Church leaders say. But if we read everything that the Lord says about these servants in the section, we see that interpretation is wrong.

D&C 1:37-38
Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled. What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.

The Lord is not referring to talks at General Conference. He is specifically talking about the published revelations in the Book of Commandments. The promise is that his  prophecies and promises shall all be fulfilled, and whether those words are fulfilled by his own voice or the voice of his servants doesn’t matter. He is not opening the door to everything these servants say being backed up by God. Why not?

D&C 1:24-28
Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.

And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known;
And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed;
And inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent;
And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong,
and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time.

These servants make errors and need to seek wisdom. They sin and need to humble themselves to receive knowledge. Joseph made it clear that a prophet was only a prophet when speaking as a prophet. To suggest that anything said over the pulpit is the word of God is non-scriptural, for even his servants err.

Jeremiah 6:13
For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely.

D&C 121:39-40
We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. Hence many are called, but few are chosen.

Just because a man is called to a leadership position does not mean he is chosen. Most who are called to positions of authority do not have the nature and disposition to exercise righteous dominion. To pretend that everyone called to a leadership position is a humble servant of God and incapable of exercising unrighteous dominion is to deny the scriptures. The scriptures say that most in authority will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.

What else does Section 1 tell us about these commandments?

D&C 1:17-20
Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments; And also gave commandments to others, that they should proclaim these things unto the world; and all this that it might be fulfilled, which was written by the prophets—

The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh— But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world;

The Lord’s desire is that no one tries to counsel others. A servant trying to fulfill the Lord’s commandments would not insist that people heed his counsel, nor try to maintain that power and influence by virtue of his priesthood position. Nor would there be a hierarchy of counsel, with counsel from someone higher up the ladder being more important than counsel from someone lower down the ladder, or even, heaven forbid, someone not on the ladder at all!

Who specifically are these servants that the Lord gives this authority to in D&C 1? Is it anyone and everyone that assumes a leadership position in the LDS Church? No.

D&C 1:6
Behold, this is mine authority, and the authority of my servants, and my preface unto the book of my commandments, which I have given them to publish unto you, O inhabitants of the earth.

The servants that D&C 1 is talking about are a very select group of people – those who were given the Book of Commandments to publish. The last time I checked, none of them were still alive. To claim that verse 38 applies to anyone living today is a proof-text, ignoring the very specific, very limited scope the Lord used in that revelation.

Modern leaders err

D&C 33 was received in October 1830 – six months after the establishment of the Church of Christ. Yet the Lord says only a few do good, and even they err in many instances. This links directly back to Nephi 28:14.

D&C 33:4
there is none which doeth good
save it be a few;
and they err in many instances
because of priestcrafts, all having corrupt minds.

2 Nephi 28:14
they have all gone astray
save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ;
nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err
because they are taught by the precepts of men.

Presumably, the members of the church were among the few people doing good in October 1830. Yet they erred in many instances and were dealing with priestcrafts. These verses link teaching the precepts of men with priestcrafts, which Nephi defined as:

2 Nephi 26:29
Priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.

Christ taught us:

3 Nephi 14:13-15
Enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, which leadeth to destruction, and many there be who go in thereat; Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

Christ taught that few will find the way that leads to life. Just like Nephi and D&C 10, Jesus follows up talking about the few by talking about bad leaders, in this case false prophets, who will teach:

2 Nephi 28:5-6
Hearken unto us, and hear ye our precept; for behold there is no God today, for the Lord and the Redeemer hath done his work, and he hath given his power unto men; Behold, hearken ye unto my precept;

We have also been commanded to prevent these false prophets from coming among us:

Alma 5:60
60 And now I say unto you that the good shepherd doth call after you; and if you will hearken unto his voice he will bring you into his fold, and ye are his sheep; and he commandeth you that ye suffer no ravenous wolf to enter among you, that ye may not be destroyed.

Yet the Lord’s people don’t obey that command:

Jeremiah 5:30-31
A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?

Hope for the future

Fortunately, the scriptures do tell us that at some point in the last days, we won’t have to worry about false prophets any more.

Zechariah 13:1-4
In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness. And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land. And it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the Lord: and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the prophets shall be ashamed every one of his vision, when he hath prophesied; neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive:

D&C 64:38-40
For it shall come to pass that the inhabitants of Zion shall judge all things pertaining to Zion. And liars and hypocrites shall be proved by them, and they who are not apostles and prophets shall be known. And even the bishop, who is a judge, and his counselors, if they are not faithful in their stewardships shall be condemned, and others shall be planted in their stead.

At that future date, the inhabitants of Zion (not the leaders, but the pure in heart, the humble followers of Christ) shall judge all things. When they do, there will be men claiming to be apostles and prophets who really are not such, and leaders who are not faithful in their stewardships, and others will be planted in their stead.

Jehovah – Part 3

The first post in this series, “Will the real Jehovah please stand up” discussed how the name of the Father is YHVH. The second post, “Jehovah – Part 2” discussed how Jesus was given the name YHVH by the Father. This post builds off those two posts, so make sure you’ve read them first.

The word of the Lord

The phrase “the word of the Lord” is used often in the scriptures, especially in the Old Testament. The vast majority of the time it means simply something that God has said. But sometimes it talks about a who, not a what.

Genesis 15:1
After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.

If the word of the Lord is just words, or even a voice, it wouldn’t come in a vision. You see things in visions. It isn’t only Abraham that saw the word of the Lord.

1 Samuel 3
1 And the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision.

7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, neither was the word of the Lord yet revealed unto him.

Why would you need to have open vision to receive the word of the Lord if it is just a voice? Look a few verses later:

10 And the Lord came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth.

15 And Samuel lay until the morning, and opened the doors of the house of the Lord. And Samuel feared to shew Eli the vision.

21 And the Lord appeared again in Shiloh: for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the Lord.

Samuel didn’t just hear the voice of the Lord, he also saw something. Just like Abraham, the word of the Lord came to Samuel in a vision. In these instances, the word of the Lord isn’t a verbal message, it is a personage.

Jeremiah records a similar experience:

Jeremiah 1
4
Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, 5 Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

9 Then the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.

If the word of the Lord was just a voice, it couldn’t put forth his hand and touch his mouth. The word of the Lord was a personage.

Here’s an example from Zechariah where the word of the Lord is associated with an personage, in this case called an angel (which means messenger).

Zechariah 1:7-9
Upon the four and twentieth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Sebat, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the Lord unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying, I saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom; and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white.

Then said I, O my lord, what are these? And the angel that talked with me said unto me, I will shew thee what these be.

As we search the Old Testament carefully, we will find instances where the word of the Lord is not simply a voice, but associated with a visible personage.

The Word of the Lord

John 1:1-3
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

John teaches that Jesus was the Word and that by him all things were made. Notice how that matches the Old Testament description of the word of the Lord.

Psalms 33:6
By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.

Jesus is the Word of the Lord. With that in mind, let’s play with 1 Samuel 3:21 and focus on the key parts:

the Lord revealed himself … by the word of the Lord.

YHVH revealed himself … by the Word of YHVH.

The Father revealed himself … by the Son.

Notice how this adds a whole new dimension to a familiar story about Elijah.

1 Kings 19
9 And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?

10 And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: 12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

The Word of the Lord (Jesus) appeared to Elijah and asked him why he was hiding in the cave. After hearing Elijah’s answer, Jesus told Elijah to head outside to talk directly with the Father. Notice how the same question is asked, and the same answer is given. This doesn’t make sense unless there are two different personages involved.

13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?

14 And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

15 And the Lord said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria:

In this experience, Elijah talks with both the Lord (YHVH, the Father) and with the Word of the Lord (the Son).

Ramifications

When reading the Old Testament, we need pay close attention to the surrounding context when we come across the phrase “the word of the Lord.” While many times it will simply refer to something the Lord has said, there are some occasions when it is actually a reference to a divine visitation.

Consider this:

Ezekiel 1:1-3
 Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. In the fifth day of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin’s captivity, The word of the Lord came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the Lord was there upon him.

and compare it to what Joseph taught

TPJS p. 181
All the prophets had the Melchizedek Priesthood and were ordained by God himself

Is Ezekiel 1:3 making reference to Ezekiel’s calling as a prophet, where he sees the Lord and is ordained by God himself to be a prophet? Do a search and see how many other Old Testament prophets mention the word of the Lord coming unto them. I suspect many of these were more than simple auditory experiences.

This ties is nicely with the scriptural requirements for a prophet.

Jeremiah 23:18,22 (ESV)
For who among them has stood in the council of the Lord to see and to hear his word, or who has paid attention to his word and listened?

But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds.

According to Jeremiah, a prophet needs to stand in the presence of the Lord, and see and hear his word! How do you see a voice? But if we use the substitutions we used earlier, a prophet must see and hear the Son.

Isaiah 6 and Ezekiel 1-2 both give detailed accounts of their audience with the Lord prior to beginning their prophetic missions. If we had all the records available, I suspect every prophet would have a similar story. In the meantime, we can watch for linguistic shorthand like “the word of the Lord came unto me” to realize a lot more is happening than appears with only a surface reading.