Living Prophets

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.

9th Article of Faith

This Sunday I will be teaching the lesson “Why is it important to listen to and follow the living prophets?” I thought I’d put down a few ideas here to help organize my own thoughts.

So a few different thoughts come to mind. One of the main ones is that this is one of the very striking things about the LDS faith; that we believe in living prophets and apostles.

I love this. I love that the heavens are not closed. I love that God still speaks to man. I love that we can receive a witness of those prophets and their teachings (Elder Oaks discussed this topic quite well in his talk “Two Lines of Communication“).

The twelve apostles we have today are very different people (Here’s a fun exercise: go through the scriptures and try to pick out the personalities of the various prophets, seeing how they compare with each other). A judge, a surgeon, a nuclear phycisist, an educator, and a car salesman are some of the former occupations of our current apostles. Very different experiences and ideas.

Elder Ballard discussed this briefly in the CES devotional he gave earlier this week. He said something to the effect of, “We each have strong personalities; so when we are unified in a decision, you can rest assured that we have counseled together and come to that decision after much prayer and thoughtful discussion.”

Personally, in my own experience both in various Church callings and at work, I’ve seen how difficult it is to come to a unanimous agreement. If my coworkers and I made no decision until all parties involved agreed unanimously, then nothing would get done.

Elder Christoffersen gives some additional insight into how the Church is led by the apostles in his talk entitled “The Doctrine of Christ.” He discusses how changes in practices are made, how prophets are not infallible, but how they keep the body of the Church from straying.

I really like the imagery of the prophets as watchmen on the tower, who can see approaching danger from a long distance. Elder Tingey gave a devotional in which he discussed this parable:

In addition to the trees and the nobleman, there was a watchman, and he was to stand on a tower. I believe the watchmen today are the prophets and apostles. The Lord has designated President Gordon B. Hinckley as our chief watchman on the tower today. We will be guided and protected from the enemy if we follow his counsel. President Boyd K. Packer is also a watchman on the tower… Trusted local priesthood leaders, including stake presidents and bishops, are watchmen on the tower to their members and congregations. Certainly a father is a watchman on the tower to his family. Each of you should be a watchman to yourself.

Another really good discussion on the watchmen on the tower vs. prophetic infallibility can be found here.

I truly believe that we are led by modern apostles and prophets. I believe that individually they are very different people. But through them the Lord guides His Church on the earth today.

What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.

Doctrine and Covenenants 1:38

A Spiritual Feast

I got a lot more from this conference than others, I think mostly because this conference I was particularly looking for guidance. And boy, did I ever get it. What a wonderful opportunity General Conference is! I am so grateful to live in a time where we not only have prophets and apostles, but we have such access to their teachings as has never been available on this earth before. Who could have thought that a prophet’s voice could be heard by so many people (What would King Benjamin have given for satellite reception, eh?). Who would have thought that I could search, study, highlight, annotate, comment on, and read not only the scriptures, but the words of the prophets and apostles for the last 40 years? As well as manuals, magazines, references, study guides, and other resources? Oh, and that all fits in a hand-sized computer that I carry in my pocket everywhere I go.

As cool as the golden plates are; at about 50 pounds, I’d rather not have to take them to church every Sunday.

There wasn’t just one or two talks that really spoke to me, there were so many that I have a hard time keeping them in my head.
I absolutely loved Elder Holland’s talk on defending our faith. And the many talks that continued that theme. I was tempted to take a nap when a few 70’s were lined up (maybe I’m the only one who mistakenly says, “OK, he’s not an apostle, so it’s not as critical for me to listen”), but Elder Zwick’s talk was really powerful for me.

I loved Sister Reeves’ talk about pornography and it’s dangers, and things we can do to avoid it. This is particularly close to me as I attended an anti-porn conference recently.

I loved how Elder Uchtdorf loves to mention planes in his talks, with “Dieter, don’t even think about it” being one of my favorite lines–it’s not only funny in the context of the story he was telling, it also speaks to the need for us to control our appetites and desires, lest they begin to control us.

I loved his later remarks about the importance of gratitude. Of simply being grateful to the Lord for what you have, and making gratitude a defining characteristic of your personality, and allow other virtues and righteous traits to come to you more easily.

It was really, really, powerful.

I’ll finish with a drive-by-shooting-style set of one-liners from my notes:

Defend your faith with courage, courtesy, and compassion.
Disciples of Christ are also called on to worry, warn, and sometimes just to weep.
To sustain a leader is to help them bear their burden.
String winds can cause trees to grow their roots deep, and to strengthen their trunks and branches. We can similarly be prepared for adversity through the gospel of Christ.
Whatever civil law may say, God’s moral law does not and can not change.
When teaching and encouraging others, keep the short and long views in mind.
Even if everyone is doing it, wrong is never right.
Gives others questions to ponder, and time to do that pondering.
Our family history centers are now in our homes.
Once you conclude “That’s just the way I am,” you have given up the ability to change (or be changed by the atonement).
What we insistently desire becomes, over time, what we will become. Therefore we must educate our desires.
The restoration is not an event that is over. It is a process that we are in the middle of. God has yet many great things to reveal.
Don’t sleep through the restoration.
Be specific in your prayers and in your expressions of gratitude. This will take more than a few minutes and more than a little thought.
We need to have courage to do the right thing because it is right.
A grateful heart is the parent of all virtues.
God helps us. Not necessarily in the way we want, but in the way that will help us grow.
This life is our Olympic four minutes.
Happiness is not the absence of a load.
We cannot keep either the first or second great commandment without keeping the other.
There is much knowledge that can only be obtained by study and prayer.
Obedience is an emblem of our faith in the power and wisdom of God.
Opposition, criticism, and antagonism are companions to truth.
Faith requires work.
May we realize how close God is willing to come to us, and how far He is willing to go for us.
These talks are worthy of our careful review and study.