Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Importance of Following Today's Prophet

Following the Prophet

Since the time of Adam until our time, with Thomas S. Monson as the prophet, every dispensation of the gospel has been marked by having prophets on the earth. Our Father in Heaven has always spoken to His children through His appointed servants. In Amos 3:7 we read, Surely, the Lord God will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets.

Why are prophets important? Because the Lord speaks to them, and they relay His messages to us; because they hold the keys for administering the gospel of Jesus Christ; and because they are teachers of the gospel and testifiers of the divinity of our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ. How important are their messages? They are vital to our spiritual growth, protection, and direction. Because they speak the word of God, they are the ones who point the way to the Savior and help us know what we need to do to follow Him and return to our Heavenly Father through Him.

In Article of Faith number nine, we read, “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” (See Articles of Faith) These words were penned by the Prophet Joseph Smith. How does that revelation pertain to the prophets, and how does it pertain to us?

There were many in the early restored church who claimed revelations that were contrary in nature to the revelations that the Prophet Joseph was receiving. Today there are also people who are claiming revelation or authority to act on behalf of the church, not understanding that not all revelations are equal. How can we determine what is true and what is inspired of God, and what is false and may be inspired by our own misunderstandings, desires, or neglect to be in harmony with the gospel truths? Without the Spirit, we cannot receive revelation from God. The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14)

First off, we need to realize that all of us are entitled to personal revelation by which we can improve our own lives and by which we can enrich the lives of our family members or those over whom we have stewardship. But even then, we cannot claim entitlement to revelation without seeking the Lord’s will, keeping His commandments, and being humble before Him. Personal revelation is indeed a blessing. Through the Spirit, we can read and pray to know that The Book of Mormon is true; we can all develop faith and understanding in our Heavenly Father’s Plan; we can gain knowledge that we are His children, and that His Son is our Savior; we can come to know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true and that it houses the restored gospel. We can receive promptings of direction and protection, and we can be strengthened beyond our own abilities in all capacities in which we serve. I personally am thankful for personal revelation.

But when we think that we can speak for the church, in regards to revelation, either individually or collectively, we are on extremely shaky, treacherous ground. No matter how well-intentioned our original purpose, we are acting in defiance to the Lord’s servants if we strive to gain a following by purposing that the prophet needs to change his position regarding matters of church policy. Not only would we be on shaky ground in doing such a thing, but we would carry responsibility for leading away many that are weak or ill-informed regarding principles of order and authority.

In conjunction with this, we should recognize that when we speak against our prophet and leaders that we are on the road to apostasy. Joseph Smith asked the question:

Why do you think people can change from righteousness to apostasy in such a short time?

"I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the Kingdom. It is an eternal principle, that has existed with God from all eternity: That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is in the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives.”

(History of the Church, 3:385; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on July 2, 1839, in Montrose, Iowa; reported by Wilford Woodruff and Willard Richards. See Beware the Bitter Fruits of Apostacy)

Next, we need to remember that the prophet holds all the keys for this dispensation, and that he is the only person on earth that can speak for the entire church. (If he were to die, that authority would be shared jointly among the apostles until a new prophet was ordained.) In addition to this, we need to remember that we are to seek counsel from the Lord and not seek to counsel Him. (See Jacob 4:10) He knows whom he has called as His prophets, and He knows why.

Some safeguards for me, and they should also be for you, in determining that a prophet’s words are from the Lord, have always been, “Do I support this man as a prophet of God? Are the words which he speaks in harmony with what I already know about the gospel? When the prophet teaches a principle, can I find that same thing taught by other prophets, and in the scriptures? Do I feel the Spirit?” I indeed can pray about what is being taught in conferences and gain a personal witness that the things that I hear are true.

Another safeguard should be, "When I don’t like something that is said, how will I personally deal with that? Do I pray and research the scriptures and the words of the prophets and seek for clarity from the Spirit and perhaps from local church leaders, or do I look to outside sources and apostate materials to justify my reasoning? Do I hunt for small errors in delivery, or do I look for the inspired message that is being taught and how I can incorporate true principles into my life? We need to remember that our General Authorities have been called of God and that they seek inspiration from Him before they address us. We also need to remember that the prophet is the Lord’s spokesperson, and that the Lord has said, “Whether by mine own voice, or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” (See Doctrine and Covenants 1:38) Also, we are promised that the prophets of the Lord in this dispensation will never lead us astray. (See Excerpt regarding the Manifesto)

But the number one safeguard is found in reading the Book of Mormon! If you don’t believe me, ask the missionaries. It’s all found in Preach My Gospel, in the lesson entitled What is the Role of the Book of Mormon? We all should know that Joseph Smith has said that we can draw nearer to God by reading The Book of Mormon than by any other book and that it is the keystone of our religion. (That is found in the introduction to The Book of Mormon.) Why is that true, you may ask. Well, The Book of Mormon most clearly defines the first principles and ordinances of the gospel and the role of the Savior. Having a living testimony of that book will help us to face the challenges of our day.

President Benson taught that we can put The Book of Mormon to use in handling objections to the church. Now that’s of interest. If we are firmly grounded in the teachings of the Book of Mormon, besides gaining a testimony of that book, we can gain a testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith. And that is important. We can also gain a testimony that his successors were also prophets of the Lord, and that Thomas S. Monson is the Lord’s current prophet. And that is important.

You may ask, how does that all work? Good enough. It works, because a prophet of the Lord said it works; and it also works, because if we are reading The Book of Mormon, we are inviting the Spirit into our lives, and we are open to the revelation that we need to know that God is at the helm and that things are being run according to His will and in the proper order.

Now here are some examples of how it works: If an investigator or a member of the church, at the time of Joseph Smith, had objections to the Word of Wisdom, his real objection would not be with that principle, but with truly accepting Joseph Smith as a prophet. If he had a testimony of The Book of Mormon, he could also gain a testimony that the man who received and translated the plates was indeed a prophet of God, and that he received the revelation now known as the Word of Wisdom. If we have faith to believe in The Book of Mormon and fully accept it, we will also accept the prophets and the teachings that come from the prophets.

Another example: If current investigators or members have problems with The Family: A Proclamation to the World, then their real objection is not with that document itself; their real objection is that they did not receive the prophet, which was President Hinckley, nor his counselors, nor the Quorum of the Twelve as prophets, seers, and revelators. (Or when they had trouble accepting President Monson’s directive to support Proposition 8, they did not believe in his authority as a prophet to do so. Again, their real objection is that they do not believe in the prophets.) They may say that they do, but they lack the faith to do so fully. And how can they regain that faith? That’s right—by reading The Book of Mormon. As our faith is strengthened in the Restoration of the gospel, we will have the strength to overcome any other objection or concern.

Elder Costa spoke in the October 2010 General Conference. Along with Elder Costa, I feel to say,

"What a great blessing it is to have prophets in our day!"

Elder Claudio R. M. Costa's talk

After Elder Costa read, pondered, and prayed, the Lord gave him the assurance that Joseph Smith was a prophet. He also came to know that all Joseph’s successors were prophets. Since a prophet is a person called by God to speak in His name, it is a great blessing for us to have a prophet so that we can receive the word of the Lord.

The Lord reveals His will to us and instructs us through His prophets. If we believe in Him, we will follow His prophets and do what He asked us to do. When Elder Costa accepted baptism into the church, he covenanted to always follow the prophet. So did you and I. The prophet, his counselors and the twelve apostles have all been called and ordained as prophets, seers, and revelators. We have raised our rights hands each general and stake conference to show our support and to sustain them as such.

Elder Costa further referenced a talk by President Benson where he delivered fourteen fundamental points in following the prophet.

Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet

The points presented by President Benson are as follows (paraphrased):

1. The prophet is the only man that speaks for the Lord in everything.
2. The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.
3. The living prophet is more important to us than the dead prophets.
4. The prophet will never lead the church astray.
5. The prophet doesn’t need to have any special credentials.
6. The prophet doesn’t need to say “thus saith the Lord” to be speaking for the Lord.
7. The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.
8. The prophet is not limited by man’s reasoning.
9. The prophet can receive a revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual.
10. The prophet may be involved in civic matters.
11. The two groups who have difficulty following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud  who are rich.
12. The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.
13. The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency, the highest quorum in the church.
14. If we follow the prophet and the First Presidency, we will be blessed; if we reject them, we will suffer.

I finished reading The Book of Mormon for the first time when I was 12. I remember praying early one evening to know if the Book was true. The warmth and power of the Spirit filling my bosom was enlightening and expanding. I had never experienced the Spirit to that degree before, and I knew that that Book of Mormon is true. My heart felt it and my mind comprehended it. I remember wanting to hold onto that feeling. I did not want to participate in any other earthly activity that evening. I had received a witness from the heavens.

A couple of years later, my older sister Sheila invited me to go with her to a play. I believe that it was called A Day, a Night, and a Day. I had been fasting to know if Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I remember having a strong witness in answer to my prayer at the end of that day, and following that production, that Joseph truly was a prophet.

I have felt the Spirit many times confirm to me that the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true. I have felt the witness of the Spirit on many occasions as I have sought for the Lord's direction and to do His will.

In one of my saddest times, after the death and temporary loss of our son Robby, I had a witness, in a very real and personal way, that Jesus Himself is aware of me and that His love for me knows no bounds. At this time, I felt these words from Him, "Thy sins are forgiven thee." Indeed, it is when our hearts are broken and we exercise faith in Him that we are not only healed from our emotional and spiritual wounds, but we receive a remission of our sins. (See Matthew 9:2-8)

I can also testify that when our most recent prophet Gordon B. Hinckley passed away, I saw the mantle of authority shift to our new prophet Thomas S. Monson. As he spoke in a news' address, I indeed knew that he is a prophet of God.

In our confusing world today, there are important things that we must do to not be deceived. We must pray; we must fast if we are able (and, if not, we must carry the spirit of the fast); we must study our scriptures, giving particular emphasis to the Book of Mormon; we must partake of the sacrament worthily; and we must support the prophets of God.

While there is some room for all of us to have personal opinions, we are treading dangerous waters when we even appear to be speaking out openly against the prophet. We cannot afford to do that. The essence of the gospel plan of happiness is for families to be able to return together to Heavenly Father. (See Moses 1:39) Anything that deviates from that plan is not of God and it will not bring happiness.

It is a wicked and adulterous generation that must have everything shown unto them before they believe that it is from God. (See Matthew 12:39 and  Matthew 16:4) It is sad to note that even when the Lord Jesus Christ was on the earth, not only as God's Prophet, but as His Son, there were people who demanded proof that the things He taught were true.

The answer to objections and problems in our day truly is found in gaining and keeping a testimony of The Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon isn't just a beginning place for testimony for a Latter-day Saint. It is the most valuable physical source for also strengthening and maintaining testimony. If it is set aside and neglected, testimony concerning the truth of the restored gospel and the validity of our prophet’s words will follow suit. If it is cherished and read from day to day, testimony will flourish.

Read with me Moroni’s words found in the Book of Mormon. Moroni 10:3-5.

God has placed prophets on this earth for instruction, for counsel, and to issue His calls and commandments. Some try to separate the commandments from the counsel, like the one is from God and the other is merely opinion. I know that this is not so. We need to accept the words from the prophets as though they are God's own words, which they are. (See Doctrine and Covenants 1:37-38) And we need to trust that the Lord knows all things and that it is His right to counsel us through His prophets. We should accept His counsel and stop seeking to counsel Him. (Jacob 4:10)

We Thank Thee O God for a Prophet

On February 1, 2013, President Monson spoke in a news address, marking five years since he was called as our prophet. (See Message from President Thomas S. Monson)

In closing, I’d like to read a few of his words:

This year will mark 50 years since I was called to serve in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. I was 36 years old when that call came. Last August I celebrated my 85th birthday. Some of the senior members of the Quorum of the Twelve have a few years even on me. Age eventually takes its toll on all of us. However, we join our voices with King Benjamin, who said, as recorded in the second chapter of the book of Mosiah, "I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind; yet I have been chosen ... and consecrated by my father, ... and have been kept and preserved by his matchless power, to serve you with all the might, mind and strength which the Lord hath granted unto me" (Mosiah 2:11). Despite any health challenges that may come to us, despite any weakness in body or mind, we serve to the best of our ability.

Now for the important part:

I assure you that the Church is in good hands. The system set up for the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve assures that it will always be in good hands and that, come what may, there is no need to worry or to fear. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, whom we follow, whom we worship, and whom we serve, is ever at the helm. (Thomas S. Monson, 1 February 2013)

I love the Lord. I love our prophet. I am thankful for my testimony of the Book of Mormon, for my testimony of Joseph Smith as a prophet and of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, and for my testimony that President Thomas S. Monson is God’s chosen prophet for all the world today.

Other Blogposts about Prophets:

Prophets of God

 A Note of Gratitude to our Leaders

Living Prophets Today

No comments:

Post a Comment