A personal response from Gerald.
One of the main roles of prophets and apostles is to receive revelation for the people of their day. Noah was warned about the Flood. Moses gave the Law. Isaiah was called to command the nations to repent. Ezekiel explained to Israel that Jehovah was still their God, even in their Babylonian exile. Each prophet tends to have a special dispensation of specific responsibilities in leading and guiding the people of their time and place.
Today is no different. Joseph Smith needed to restore many precious lost truths, and so he received many revelations. Brigham Young had to lead the Saints west and tame the western deserts. Today, Thomas S. Monson receives inspiration to lead an international church.Today we receive much revelation for several reasons. As mentioned, revelation is needed to restore many of the plain and precious truths that have been lost (2 Nephi 27). We live in a varied and complex global society unlike that of the ancient Jews. With the expansion of truth, priesthood, and service comes a need for inspiration to prepare the world for the Second Coming of Jesus (Doctrine and Covenants 1:13-23).
We also live in a time where people flounder around looking for answers. People seek answers to life’s big questions in drugs, violence, sex, texting, video games, and FaceBook. While some answers can be found in the Bible, the various Christian groups disagree as to what those answers are. It is no wonder Paul stated the need for apostles and prophets until we all come to a “unity of faith” that we are not “tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:11-14). With living prophets and apostles, God can reveal His will today. In the 1950’s, President David O. McKay taught about Family Home Evening, foreseeing the collapse of the family today and giving an inspired program to strengthen families. In 1998, President Gordon B. Hinckley warned everyone to get out of debt and pay off their homes, comparing our time with Pharaoh’s dream of seven years plenty, then famine. Those who heeded his counsel avoided the full impact of the housing crash of 2008. Another key difference in the quantities of revelation between ancient and modern prophets has to do with time, customs, and technology.
In the ancient Near East, most teachings and sermons were traditionally not written down, but orally transmitted. The Gospels, for example, were not written until decades after Jesus’ death. Oral histories that had been passed down were used. Since each Gospel writer had a separate purpose in writing his account, we find some overlap, but also a lot of differences. Not all oral traditions were written down, and so many were lost. Second, many teachings and stories were written down, but did not make it into the Bible. Among the Dead Sea Scrolls are hundreds of Old Testament era religious texts that are not found in the Bible, even though they were considered inspired by an ancient Jewish sect. Fragments from the Book of Enoch were found there. While the Bible does not contain the Book of Enoch, the New Testament quotes from it 39 times (see Jude 1:14). There are hundreds of ancient texts that ancient Jews or Christians considered inspired that are not included in the Bible.
The final reason for more revelation being available in the latter days has to do with technology and wide-spread education. When Joseph Smith spoke, many people would write down what they heard. Anciently, not everyone who could read could also write. When apostles spoke, there wasn’t always someone capable of writing it down.
And if it was written down, making copies was slow, difficult, and expensive. Today’s technology allows easy (and usually immediate) access to scripture, General Conference talks, etc. For us in the latter days, filling the earth with the knowledge of God is another blessing to help prepare the world for the Second Coming of Christ.