When I was just off my mission, President Hinckley announced that, in answer to a question about how to provide temples to smaller LDS communities, he had been inspired to construct smaller temples. There was a palpable sense of excitement at BYU, as we saw the prophet make what we regarded as a prophetic announcement. And, as a result of this revelatory change, we waited with baited breath for other announcements of revelatory changes.
Occasionally I run across complaints about the bureaucracization of the leadership of the Church. The complaints seem to suggest that that’s not the role of a prophet/apostle and that administrative duties detract from prophetic ones.
I want to argue that neither complaint is correct. The prophet’s role isn’t to hold our MTV-addled (or video-game addled, or ADHD’d, or whatever) attention. As much fun as it was to have things change, they shouldn’t have to. What’s more, the argument that the prophetic role is solely to receive revelation is myopic and, frankly, wrong. Administration has, historically, been a role of the prophet. Though Jethro encouraged Moses quit mediating all of Israel’s issues, some still fell to him to administer. Samuel found the king. Alma the Younger worked to make sure that the church was in harmony. The ancient apostles debated whether gentile converts had to be circumcised (which is, frankly, an administrative, not a revelatory, discussion, though it’s worth noting that Peter appears to have received revelation on that administrative point). Brigham Young took the Saints west. A large part of what a prophet does is administer the governance of the body of Christ.
Moreover, as much as we hope to avoid it before we start working, no job is without its administrative aspects. Doctors and dentists spend time working on their charts and doing paperwork; it isn’t time they spend treating patients, but it is integral to their patients’ care. Attorneys don’t just research, negotiate, and argue in court: they also record their billing time, write memos to files and to clients, and lay out closing papers. I spend some amount of my time going to faculty meetings, committee meetings, and other necessary administrative duties. Heck, the members of Van Halen don’t spend all of their time rocking: they also go through their contract riders. The administrative duties are, generally speaking, not the sexy part of a job. And I have to assume that prophets would rather spend their time being conduits of revelation, not administering the temporal aspects of the Church. But the fact that they likely spend a large portion of their time administering in no way prevents them from being able to receive revelation; rather, it allows the Church to run smoothly so that, when revelation comes, it can be instituted among a body of millions.
That’s not, of course, to say that the administrative role is the sole role of our prophets. But we certainly shouldn’t be disdainful of the fact that, by virtue of their callings, they need to spend some percentage of their time fulfilling administrative duties.