When does a prophet become a prophet? What does that question really mean?
We know about both the ancient and modern processes God uses to select wise, righteous men as prophets. First he tests them, then he calls them, almost always through some kind of personal visitation; Lehi had dreams, and Joseph Smith experienced visions. I have no doubt that our modern prophets were chosen and called through similar experiences; it doesn't seem possible to bear a personal witness of the Savior unless you've had one yourself. Prophets are not about to throw pearls before swine, however, by revealling the glorious details of their own personal witness. The Lord expects us to strive to feel the quiet influence of the Holy Ghost witnessing to our spiritual senses that a prophet knows our Heavenly Father and His Son on a personal level.
Even if we believe the explanation above to be logical and right, it doesn't help us much in knowing how and when prophet becomes a prophet. Lehi and Joseph Smith were not prophets before they became prophets- they were just regular guys like you and me, trying to make a living in this world while searching for truth. Are you thoroughly confused yet?
If you are, it's because I left out a critical word in my question. I really meant to ask “when does a prophet become YOUR prophet?” That is, when does your knowledge of a particular prophet's life, words, and work go beyond mere awareness and belief, and extends to a personal spiritual witness that is indelibly written in the tablets of your heart?
I am somewhat ashamed to admit that up until a few days ago, I knew that President Monson was a prophet, but I didn't know that he was MY prophet. His life, words, and works had always impressed me, ever since I was old enough as a youth to appreciate the legendary accounts of his faithful service as a young bishop of a huge ward with overwhelming welfare needs. I liked his talks in General Conference, and often felt moved to act by his words of encouragement. I knew him to be a great man of God worthy of my emulation and respect, but still something was missing.
Then it happened a week ago. Words cannot do justice to what happened; I implore you to read between the lines from here on out and seek to feel the spirit that accompanies these words. During one of my morning drives to work I was listening to the March audio Ensign article about the sister who wrote President Monson's biography. I was more than informed and entertained by stories of his dedicated life and how they made it to print. I was more than encouraged and inspired by descriptions of his positive outlook on life and his willingness to be constantly engaged in lifting the hearts and souls of the temporally and spiritually downtrodden. I was filled with the Holy Ghost which bore a personal witness to me that Thomas S. Monson is a prophet of God, chosen by Him in this generation in time to lead mankind back to Him. He has to be the happiest man on earth because he is so wholly, humbly dedicated to serving others. I am proud to say that President Monson is now my prophet.
Who is your prophet?