Church History Lesson 38 (Topical Subject)
September 11-17

One of our most familiar hymns expresses our gratitude for living prophets: “We thank thee, O God, for a prophet to guide us in these latter days.”1 As we approach General Conference week, we would do well to reflect on this great blessing once again.

There, standing before us, will be the men God has called and anointed to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the Church. And if God has something to say to His children in this dispensation, these are the men to whom He will impart that message. With the world spinning ever-more rapidly down into destruction, how wonderful it is that we have the voice of the Lord to guide us as revealed to these chosen servants.

Our Need for a Living Prophet

We need a living prophet. In a day and age when the family is under nearly-constant assault, we have received the Proclamation on the Family—given nearly 20 years ago, well before the most strident attacks on the family arose. In a time when hatred and selfishness and wickedness is everywhere apparent, we have messages of faith, peace, optimism, and a sense of purpose spoken so frequently in recent years by President Hinckley and President Monson. In the midst of spiritual darkness, the light of truth shines as brightly as ever, thanks to the teachings and testimonies of our modern-day prophets.

President Ezra Taft Benson said while serving as President of the Quorum of the Twelve:

“The most important prophet, so far as we are concerned, is the one who is living in our day and age. This is the prophet who has today’s instructions from God to us today. God’s revelation to Adam did not instruct Noah how to build the ark. Every generation has need of the ancient scripture plus the current scripture from the living prophet. Therefore, the most crucial reading and pondering which you should do is of the latest inspired words from the Lord’s mouthpiece.”2

The Roles of Our Living Prophet

We sustain all of the members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators. However, only the President of the Church is authorized to receive revelation for the entire Church and to exercise all the priesthood keys necessary to govern the Church.

● The prophet speaks for the Lord and reveals the Lord’s will (D&C 1:38; 21:4–5; 43:2; 68:3–4).

● The prophet testifies of Jesus Christ and teaches the gospel (D&C 20:21–26; Mosiah 13:33).

● The prophet is a seer (D&C 21:1; Mosiah 8:13–18). A seer is a prophet upon whom God bestows great power to know the past and the future. He can know of things that are not known or are hidden. He also can have the power to translate ancient records.

● Failing to follow the prophet’s counsel may lead us into destruction. Consider the following parable contained in D&C 101:

— In this parable, the servants failed to obey the Lord’s nobleman (D&C 101:43–54).
— If the servants had built the tower they would have been protected (D&C 101:46–50).
— This applies to the attention we give the President of the Church (D&C 101:51–54).
— The President of the Church can see the enemy “while he [is] yet afar off” (D&C 101:54).
— This was the case with the Proclamation on the Family (20 years ago), and the Family Home Evening program (first instituted by President Joseph F. Smith a century ago).
— It is also the case with our prophets’ counsel to prepare ourselves temporally by setting aside food storage (starting nearly 80 years ago).

● The prophet presides over the Church (D&C 107:91–92). We are called upon to sustain him in his role as the Lord’s mouthpiece (D&C 107:22) by obeying his counsel and responding to his calls to serve and sacrifice. An inspiring recent example is the tremendous response by our young men and women to President Monson’s invitation to enter the mission field earlier and in great numbers than every before.

Heeding the Words of Our Living Prophet

The Lord has commanded:

     4 Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;

     5 For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.

     6 For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory. (D&C 21:4–6)

President Harold B. Lee taught, “The only safety we have as members of this church is to do exactly what the Lord said to the Church in that day when the Church was organized [see D&C 21:4–5]. . . . There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord. himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that `the gates of hell shall not prevail against you’ [D&C 21:6].”3

The counsel of our prophets can be found in general conference talks, First Presidency Messages, and other articles in the Church magazines, and letters from the First Presidency that are read in Church meetings.

President Ezra Taft Benson said at the close of a general conference, “For the next six months, your conference edition of the Ensign should stand next to your standard works and be referred to frequently.”4

We will be blessed as we follow the counsel of the prophet. Elder Bruce D. Porter of the Seventy related the following story:

“When my wife and I were a young married couple, we lived in the Boston area, where I attended school. Another young couple moved into our ward shortly after we did. They were converts of about two years. . . . I was concerned about how they would do, . . . so it was with pleasure that I accepted the calling to be their home teacher. I looked forward to helping strengthen their testimonies of the gospel.

“My companion and I arrived at their modest apartment one evening to home teach them. They had just completed a home evening with their little baby. I made a mental note that it would be a good idea for my wife and I to start holding home evenings so . . . when a child arrived we would already have the habit. They then eagerly showed us their Book of Remembrance in which they had collected many names of ancestors from both sides of their family. I remembered that it had been a long time since I had looked at my Book of Remembrance.

“After our lesson they took us out to the screened back porch where were stacked ice cream buckets filled with wheat, sugar, flour, and other food—a complete year’s supply of food. I had supposed, somehow, that as students that counsel didn’t apply to us! By now I was feeling very humble. I had come to teach them, but they were teaching me in every point. As we left their little apartment I noticed a picture of the temple hanging near their door. I remembered that President Spencer W. Kimball said that every Latter-day Saint family should have a picture of the temple prominently displayed in their home, and I remembered that we didn’t have one . . .

“I went home, filled with a spirit of repentance, and found a small picture of the Swiss Temple in a mission brochure. I cut it out and taped it on our wall. Since that time we have always had a picture of the temple in our home. Every time I look at it, it reminds me of a young convert couple who taught us what it meant to ‘follow the prophet.'”5

The Prophet Will Never Lead Us Astray

Elder Ezra Taft Benson taught while serving in the Quorum of the Twelve:

“Keep your eye on the Prophet, for the Lord will never permit his Prophet to lead this Church astray.”6

President Joseph F. Smith taught while serving as a counselor in the First Presidency: “If [the President of the Church] should become unfaithful, God would remove him out of his place. I testify in the name of Israel’s God that he will not suffer the head of the Church, whom he has chosen to stand at the head, to transgress his laws and apostatize; the moment he should take a course that would in time lead to it, God would take him away. Why? Because to suffer a wicked man to occupy that position would be to allow, as it were, the fountain to become corrupted, which is something he will never permit.”7

Latter-day Prophets’ Example of Christlike Love

All of the Presidents of the Church have served selflessly and with great love. We can learn much from their example. Our lesson manual relates the following account from the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith:

John Lyman Smith and his family came to Nauvoo when it was first being settled by the Saints. The only place the family could find to live at first was a stable made of logs. Everyone in the family except the mother soon came down with fevers as a result of living in the swampy area.

John Lyman Smith said of the experience:

“The Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum visited us and administered to all of us, father being delirious from the effects of the fever. Their words comforted us greatly, as they said in the name of the Lord ‘you all shall be well again.’ Upon leaving the hovel, Joseph placed his slippers upon my father’s feet and sprang upon his horse from the doorway and rode home barefoot. The next day Joseph removed father to his own house and nursed him until he recovered.”8

We may also consider the story of how Elder Spencer W. Kimball helped a mother and her crying children in an airport on the way home from a Church assignment.9

And more recently, we have the example of President Gordon B. Hinckley:

In 1998 a devastating hurricane caused great destruction in Central America. The Church sent large amounts of relief food and supplies. President Gordon B. Hinckley felt that he should go to Honduras and Nicaragua to meet with and encourage the people there. Later in a Christmas devotional, President Hinckley spoke of a two-year-old girl he met on this trip who had been orphaned in the disaster. Her mother had died a few months before the hurricane, and when the hurricane hit, the father piled the furniture in his house to avoid the rising water.

President Hinckley related that the father “took a little mattress and placed it at the top and laid [his daughter] on it. In his frantic and desperate effort he suffered a stroke and died. . . . No one knew anything of her, until a young man, two days later, happened to look up in that abandoned house and saw her still alive. He tenderly brought her down and delivered her to the bishop and the bishop’s wife. It was there that we saw her . . .

“I would hope that at this Christmas season, when there will be no gift-giving among these devastated people, this small orphan girl might receive perhaps a little taste of candy, something sweet and delicious. I must see that that happens.

“God bless the people everywhere . . . that their hearts may be opened and their hands extended to help the needy.”10

We can find such examples in the lives of all of our latter-day prophets. We might profitably spend some time reviewing their lives and missions in our homes, as we will do for some of them in future “Come, Follow Me” lessons this fall.

1. Hymns, #19.
2. In Conference Report, Korea Area Conference 1975, 52.
3. In Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 152; or Improvement Era, Dec. 1970, 126.
4. In Conference Report, Apr. 1988, 97; or Ensign, May 1988, 84.
5. Address given in the Bountiful Mueller Park Stake Conference, 17 Jan. 1999.
6. In Conference Report, Oct. 1966, 123; or Improvement Era, Dec. 1966, 1145.
7. “Come, Follow Me”, 5th ed. [1939], 44–45.
8. Quoted in Stories about Joseph Smith the Prophet: A Collection of Incidents Related by Friends Who Knew Him, comp. Edwin F. Parry [1934], 33–34.
9. Our Heritage, 131.
10. Church News, 12 Dec. 1998, 4.

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