The model of the New Testament church was of small interconnected communities called ekklesia, wherein each person (male and female) had the opportunity to function, for the building up of the community. In knowing one another--worshiping and sharing life together--people's tendencies, abilities, shortcomings and spiritual gifts were recognized and known. Paul's lists of body gifts in Eph 4:11-13 and 1 Cor 12:27-30 are assumed to occur within the context of interactive community. When Paul writes to the ekkesias in Rome he expresses his desire to be with them so that he can encourage them with his spiritual gifts and, in turn, that he will be encouraged by theirs (Rom 1:11-12). There is a noticeable lack of hierarchy in Paul's view of the functioning of these spiritual gifts. Instead there is egalitarianism and interdependence.
I have known real life prophets. It is because I have known them first as friends and fellow worshipers of Christ that I could recognize and trust their prophetic gifting. I could also recognize when they were forcing it and speaking their own mind. Our gifts are intended to function within community--not only for the benefit of the community, but because each of us needs the checks and balances of faithful friends to keep us from going off the deep end.
The problem with prophets comes when they are not known by and accountable to an ekklesia community. Self-proclaimed (or organizationally-proclaimed) prophets come into town claiming to speak for God. This was a problem that the early church was beginning to struggle with as it expanded, as evidenced by the guidelines about prophets provided in the Didache (http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/didache-roberts.html -- See chapters 11 & 13).
In my view, the first test of a prophet is this: Do I know them? Are they a part of my community? If not, are they known and in community and accountable to others whom I personally know and trust? If not, I'll pass. God is not miserly with His spiritual gifts to His body. He gives them freely. Within a community of Jesus followers who are open to receiving and sharing His gifts, there will not be a shortage of prophets or anything else.
Additionally, the presence of prophets in our midst does not negate or diminish our ability--nay, our responsibility--to hear directly from God and follow accordingly. As the author of 1 John wrote, "As for you, the anointing you received from Him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as His anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit--just as it has taught you, remain in Him." (2:27)
A statement from Quaker author Lewis Benson is germane to this point: "The objective Word which is addressed directly to man by God is the distinguishing feature of all Hebrew religion. With the coming of Christ this knowledge of the divine Word is no longer mediated through a few uniquely chosen prophets but comes through the living Christ who is inwardly available to all men. This continuously spoken authoritative Word becomes the great organizing principle of a new type of community: the Church of Christ."
This brings us to a fundamental difference in viewpoint between myself and the Mormons (or some Charismatic Christian groups) regarding Apostles & Prophets. The difference is between thinking in terms of "Office" vs. "Gift". "Office" implies position. Position implies hierarchy. Hierarchy implies succession. For the purpose of illustration, let's assume that you work at a job where you have a supervisor. Your supervisor is both a person and a position (or office). If the person who is your supervisor leaves the company, the position/office will likely remain in place and be filled by a different person. That new person's authority over you comes by way of occupying the position/office. This is a similar approach towards Apostles and Prophets taken by the Mormon church and some Charismatic Christian groups.
By contrast, my understanding of apostles and prophets is that they are not offices, but rather gifts given by God--through people--for the edification of the ekklesia. "Gift" implies function, rather than position. A functional orientation--rather than a positional one--implies a lack of hierarchy and certainly a lack of succession. If God is giving the gifts directly to men and women why would He need the mechanisms of succession or transference from one person to another?
The gifts listed by Paul in Eph 4:11-13 and 1 Cor 12:4-28 have to do with the function of the ekklesia (what we have come to call "church"). An ekklesia in the first century was not a hierarchical organization, but rather a gathering of believers mutually edifying one another with their spiritual gifts.
The picture Paul paints in 1 Cor 12 of a functioning ekklesia is decidedly non-hierarchical:
"Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, "Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, "Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be?
But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the ekklesia, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way."
What makes gifts "greater" in Paul's mind? Their ability to edify the body.
As Paul explains in a more abbreviated way in Eph 4:7-16 (I'm skipping verses 9 & 10 for the sake of brevity):
"But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore it says, "WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN." And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love."
In the Quaker meeting within which I worship, as well as in house churches I've been a part of, we have recognized that everyone seems to have certain "clusters" of gifts in varying mixtures and degrees of prominence. Anyone is free to function in their gifts when the ekklesia meets--for the edification of the body--so long as they are led by God to do so. Through the expression of these various gifts, we see the body of Christ formed in our midst.
"For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellors there is safety". (Prov. 24:6) We were designed and created to function within community. Although we have direct access to God through Jesus Christ and can be guided and instructed by the Holy Spirit, we still need one another. We are interdependent. This is why God gives a multitude of spiritual gifts to the ekklesia. Within the community of a functioning church, we complement each other, compensate for each other, provide wisdom and council for each other, edify each other, instruct each other, help each other discern what the Holy Spirit is saying, etc. No person is above this interdependence.
One last note about Prophets: Foretelling the future is a very small part of prophecy. Prophecy is God speaking to His gathered people. Sometimes it is encouragement, sometimes it is corrective, sometimes it is warning. In the instance of warning, sometimes God will reveal something that is going to occur. An example is Agabus' prophecy in Acts of an impending famine. The Old Testament prophets were typically issuing corrective prophecies that went along the lines of; "You are screwing up big-time (for example by allowing injustices to occur), if you don't change your behavior, this is what is going to happen..." In these cases the future events foretold were conditional upon how the Israelites responded to the prophesy.
When predictions of future events are included in prophetic pronouncements, the point isn't the prediction itself. The point is the word of correction, warning or encouragement spoken to a community--by God--through those in their midst that have been thusly gifted.