John the Revelator saw an angel who told him that the testimony of Christ was the spirit of prophecy and this put John on equal standing with the angel as a fellow servant of God.
10 And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. – Revelations 19:10
Joseph Smith considered himself a prophet because he had a testimony of Jesus from the Holy Ghost and he believed John in that any man who has a testimony of Jesus through the Holy Ghost has experienced the spirit of prophecy and was therefore a prophet.
Joseph was asked, “Do you believe Joseph Smith, Jun., to be a Prophet?” He responded, “Yes, and every other man who has the testimony of Jesus. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. – Teaching of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Three p.119Many of the sects cry out, “Oh, I have the testimony of Jesus; I have the spirit of God; but away with Joe Smith; he says he is a prophet; but there are to be no prophets or revelators in the last days.” Stop, sir! The Revelator says that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy; so by your own mouth you are condemned.” – Teaching of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Six 1843-44, p.312
Joseph Smith taught anyone who is a teacher or preacher of righteousness must be a prophet or they are false teachers and impostors. This means that every member that fulfills a teaching or leadership position in the church, should be a prophet or prophetess.
“What Constitutes a Prophet? If any person should ask me if I were a prophet, I should not deny it, as that would give me the lie; for, according to John, the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy; therefore, if I profess to be a witness or teacher, and have not the spirit of prophecy, which is the testimony of Jesus, I must be a false witness; but if I be a true teacher and witness, I must possess the spirit of prophecy, and that constitutes a prophet; and any man who says he is a teacher or a preacher of righteousness, and denies the spirit of prophecy, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; and by this key false teachers and impostors may be detected. (Dec. 30, 1842.) DHC 5:215-216.” – Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Five 1842-43, p.269
“Salvation cannot come without revelation; it is in vain for anyone to minister without it. No man is a minister of Jesus Christ without being a Prophet. No man can be a minister of Jesus Christ except he has the testimony of Jesus; and this is the spirit of prophecy. Whenever salvation has been administered, it has been by testimony. Men of the present time testify of heaven and hell, and have never seen either; and I will say that no man knows these things without this.” – Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Four 1839-42, p.160
Because the testimony of Jesus by the power of the Holy Ghost is intended to come prior to baptism, all members of Christ’s church should be prophets.
29 And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them! – Numbers 11:29
18 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—
19 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—
20 But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world; – D&C 1:18-20
Anyone who has received the testimony of Christ by the spirit has experienced the spirit of prophecy. All other prophecies come by the spirit in the exact same way that we gain a testimony of Christ.
1 And now it came to pass that after I, Nephi, had read these things which were engraven upon the plates of brass, my brethren came unto me and said unto me: What meaneth these things which ye have read? Behold, are they to be understood according to things which are spiritual, which shall come to pass according to the spirit and not the flesh?
2 And I, Nephi, said unto them: Behold they were manifest unto the prophet by the voice of the Spirit; for by the Spirit are all things made known unto the prophets, which shall come upon the children of men according to the flesh. – 1 Nephi 22:2
21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. – 2 Peter 1:21
A prophet is only a prophet when speaking by the power of the Holy Ghost. To be a teacher or leader in the church, you must have and teach by the Holy Ghost or you are not of God.
17 Verily I say unto you, he that is ordained of me and sent forth to preach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the Spirit of truth, doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?
18 And if it be by some other way it is not of God. – D&C 50:17-18
2 And, behold, and lo, this is an ensample unto all those who were ordained unto this priesthood, whose mission is appointed unto them to go forth—
3 And this is the ensample unto them, that they shall speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost.
4 And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation. – D&C 68:2-4
20 And also that we may preserve unto them the words which have been spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets, which have been delivered unto them by the Spirit and power of God, since the world began, even down unto this present time. – 1 Nephi 3:20
… the words of the holy prophets, who spake as they were inspired by the gift of the Holy Ghost, … – D&C 20:26
… the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them. – 1 Samuel 10:10
(Joseph Smith wrote) “Wednesday, Feb. 8.–This morning I read German and visited with a brother and sister from Michigan, who thought that “a prophet is always a prophet;” but I told them that a prophet was a prophet only when he was acting as such.”–DHC 5:265. – Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Five 1842-43, p.278
…even the President of the Church, himself, may not always be “moved upon by the Holy Ghost,” when he addresses the people. This has happened about matters of doctrine (usually of a highly speculative character) where subsequent Presidents of the Church and the peoples themselves have felt that in declaring the doctrine, the announcer was not “moved upon by the Holy Ghost. – When Are the Writings and Sermons of Church Leaders Entitled to the Claim of Being Scripture?, President J. Reuben Clark, Jr. of the First Presidency (Church News, July 31, 1954; reprinted in Dialogue, Vol.12, No.2, p.68)
How do we know when someone is speaking as a prophet by the power of the Holy Ghost?
…when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men. – 2 Nephi 33:1
The question is, how shall we know when the things they have spoken were said as they were “moved upon by the Holy Ghost?”
I have given some thought to this question, and the answer thereto so far as I can determine, is: We can tell when the speakers are “moved upon by the Holy Ghost” only when we, ourselves, are “moved upon by the Holy Ghost.”
In a way, this completely shifts the responsibility from them to us to determine when they so speak. – When Are the Writings and Sermons of Church Leaders Entitled to the Claim of Being Scripture?, President J. Reuben Clark, Jr. of the First Presidency (Church News, July 31, 1954; reprinted in Dialogue, Vol.12, No.2, p.68)
19 And again, he that RECEIVETH the word of truth, doth he receive it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?
20 If it be some other way it is not of God.
21 Therefore, why is it that ye cannot understand and know, that he that receiveth the word by the Spirit of truth receiveth it as it is preached by the Spirit of truth?
22 Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understand one another, and both are edified and rejoice together.
23 And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness. – D&C 50:19-23
Prophets should not use their priesthood, position or calling in the priesthood as a reason to follow or obey them, (maintaining power or influence over others). They should only maintain power and influence by persuasion as if they had no priesthood or position at all.
41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, ONLY by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
42 By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
43 Reproving betimes with sharpness, WHEN moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy; – D&C 121:41-43
More instructions on how to recognize true and false prophets:
1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. – 1 john 4:1-3
15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
16 Ye shall know them by their fruits.
20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. – Matthew 7:13-23
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. – Galations 5:22-23
21 And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken?
22 When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him. – Deuteronomy 18:21-22