Luke 16:16 is one of several Biblical passages leveled against the Mormon Church. The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. This is interpreted by many to mean that there will be no more prophets after John the Baptist. A fundamental doctrine of the Mormon Church is that there are living prophets now. Beginning with Joseph Smith, and continuing to the present, the Mormon Church claims that the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are all prophets, seers, and revelators. Those seeking to discredit the Mormons contend that this belief contradicts the Bible because of Luke 16:16. Mormons accept the Bible as the word of God, but contend that it is a misinterpretation of the scripture. The misinterpretation suggests that the “law” means the Law of Moses, and the “prophets” means the existence of a living prophet to lead the people, and both ceased with the Savior’s ministry. This is either an overly simple reading of the verse, or a deliberate twisting of the meaning to discredit Mormon belief.
“The law and the prophets” is a phrase used several times in the Bible. In each usage, the term is synonymous with “the scriptures.” The sacred writings used to teach the word and laws of God by the Jews of Jesus’ day were the books of the Old Testament. The “law” refers to the first five books: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. In these books is the Law of Moses as given to the children of Israel. The purpose of this law was to be a schoolmaster to remind them of Christ and prepare them for the higher law (Galatians 3:24). The “prophets” refers to the historical and prophetic books of the Old Testament — the historical books from Joshua to Esther, and the prophetic books from Isaiah to Malachi. The purpose of these prophesies was to foretell the coming of Jesus Christ. Also included in the Old Testament are “the writings.” These are the poetical books such as Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. Jesus refers to them with the law and the prophets in Luke 24:44. Their purpose is also the same; they profess the glory of the Lord and His love for His people. When the phrase “the law and the prophets” is used in the New Testament, it is used in the same way that “the Bible” is used today, indicating the sacred writings instructing the people of God how to live.
Mormons believe that in Luke 16:16 the “law and the prophets were until John” means John was the last prophet to precede the coming of Jesus Christ, the last prophet of the old covenant. As Jesus said, the law and prophets, meaning the scriptures and former covenant with God’s people, will not be destroyed, but fulfilled (Matthew 5:17). The prophets had preached and written of the coming of the Son of God. The Law of Moses was symbolic of the Savior’s sacrifice. With that sacrifice, all that the law had symbolized was completed; all that the prophets had spoken of was accomplished. From that point on, the law and the prophets did not anticipate the coming of Jesus Christ, for He had already come and established a new covenant. Now the preaching was of Christ who had already come, and the gospel He set forth.
Much of the debate over the interpretation of Luke 16:16 may be in the definition of a prophet. As stated before, one definition not clearly understood is the use of “prophets” in the New Testament to mean scripture. The Lord could not have meant there would be no more scripture, for none of the books of the New Testament had been written yet. Another misunderstanding could be in the concept of prophet as one who predicts the future. In this case it is understandable why some would see no more need for prophets. Old Testament prophets spoke of the Lord coming at some future date. It is quite a leap of deductive logic to assume that because Jesus had come, the need for prophets was over. Again, it may be the false conception of the role of prophets underlying this. The need to foretell of His coming is certainly over, but if prophets are those speaking for the Lord, then the need for them will never end. This is precisely what Mormons believe the duty of a prophet is. Before the Lord had come, the prophets foretold of Him and so the association of future telling came to be. However, the truthfulness of the words of the prophets is of more importance, and this is what Mormons see as the crucial role of a prophet–to testify of truth. Rather than foretelling, the role of a prophet is forth-telling, characterized by the phrase, And thus saith the Lord. . .
Now that believers have seen Jesus Christ come as fulfillment of prophecy, and it is part of history, some people now think the prophets are unnecessary, citing Luke 16:16 among other scriptures as proof. But Mormons believe that the church Jesus organized under the twelve apostles and other leaders to testify of Him, preach the gospel, and administer to the believers has been restored in these days. The apostles act just as prophets of old had, and it is merely a change in title. They speak with authority and on behalf of God, of things past and things to come. Revelation has not ceased. Jesus said of His followers, Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater [works] than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father (John 14:12). This does not indicate that prophecies and miracles have ceased, but the opposite. After the ascension of the Lord, the apostles performed miracles, received revelation, and prophesied. The spirit of prophecy is one of the gifts talked about by Paul to be sought after by the followers of Jesus Christ. In this sense a prophet is one who speaks by the spirit of prophecy, which is the testimony of Jesus (Revelation 19:10). This will be ever-present with the people of God.
Mormons believe in the same organization set up by Jesus during His ministry to administer the gospel. The Mormon Church, also known as the LDS Church, is organized with a quorum of twelve apostles as its leaders. These apostles are prophets, seers, and revelators under the new covenant the Lord issued during His ministry. They speak the will of the Lord as prophecy, which has more to do with truth than future events. In Luke 16:16 Jesus said the law and the prophets were until John. This meant the old covenant with the children of Israel, written and taught in the scriptures of that day, was fulfilled. Now there is a new covenant for the people of God to live by, with new laws and new prophets.