Living Prophets: A Thought and a Talk

This weekend is general conference weekend for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you would like to see what our leaders are teaching Latter-day Saints worldwide, join us through one of the broadcast options.

In the spirit of conference and as a tribute to the Lord for restoring prophets to the earth in this day and age, I would like to post a thought from a living apostle, and then post a copy of the talk I gave in church last week regarding modern prophets.

 

The Thought

President Russell M Nelson has posted on Facebook:

In a coming day, you will present yourself before the Savior. You will be overwhelmed to the point of tears to be in His holy presence. You will struggle to find words to thank Him for paying for your sins, for forgiving you of any unkindness toward others, for healing you from the injuries and injustices of this life.

You will thank Him for strengthening you to do the impossible, for turning your weaknesses into strengths, and for making it possible for you to live with Him and your family forever. His identity, His Atonement, and His attributes will become personal and real to you.

But you don’t have to wait until then. Choose to be one of His true disciples now. Be one who truly loves Him, who truly wants to serve and lead as He did.

 

The Talk (copied and pasted as I prepared it to present in church)

When Brother J arrived at my home, I gained insight into how difficult it must be to be a member of the bishopric. My husband and I had just arrived home, and I was putting some things away in the back of the house when he said someone was knocking. I thought it was odd, but walked cheerfully out when my husband announced the visitor was here to see me. I rounded the corner, I saw Brother J, my smile dropped, and the first words out of my mouth were “No! I’m just getting the hang of my calling!”

Brother J, thank you for only asking me to speak, and I want you to know that you are truly welcome in our home!

As I begin my remarks, I hold deep concerns in my heart. I am afraid that, as I try to express my deep love and excitement about my Savior and his gospel, I will appear to be pointing fingers or declaring that I am somehow more than what I really am. I promise you that I am very aware of my personal faults and failings — I see them up close and personal every waking moment of my life! I ask for your compassion and your prayers of support as I speak today.

Next week is General Conference weekend. I remember clearly that I once had a friend refer to it as “church vacation.” I can only imagine the look that I gave when I heard those words because I still can’t completely understand that idea.

 

I’ll explain by sharing a piece of my personal history:

I did not grow up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As a child, I tried to understand what I was being taught, and my teachers tried to answer my questions, but I ended up with some unsatisfactory ideas about God: He is all-loving, but he’s going to punish you severely if you mess up. However, even though God wanted us to be good and obedient, a special prayer guaranteed your ticket to heaven. To my childhood mind, that meant that murderers could get the same reward I got, even after I had tried hard all my life to be good so that God wouldn’t “get me.”

I was taught to pray because God answers prayer, but everything he had to say was in the Bible, nothing more was coming, and it was our job to figure out what the words of the Bible mean for us now.

It was in middle school when I became fed up with what I then ”understood” about God and decided I really didn’t care and God could just “get me” because that God wasn’t worth the effort.

It turns out that I was lying to myself, and I really wanted there to be a God. I felt empty. I felt that there was something big missing from my life. I started searching.

My family moved between my eighth and ninth grade years, ending up in Collierville. As I was trying to make friends and find my way around in a school two or three times the size of what I was used to, I ended up getting to know these people who were “Mormons.” I met them in the band. They were in my homeroom. They were kind of everywhere, even though there really weren’t all that many of them!

It turns out that Heavenly Father really is intimately involved in the paths we walk in this life because he knew exactly what would intrigue me — the fact that no matter how hard I tried, these Mormons always turned out to be better than me! So, I started asking questions, thinking I could figure out and re-create what they had.

 

The short story is that I became converted roughly around the age of 16, and joined the church as soon as I could complete the missionary discussions when I was 18.

So far, I guess I still haven’t explained what any of this has to do with conference weekend, so I’ll start tying things together.

As I was pondering the assignment I was given for this talk, I reflected on why I love our living prophets and apostles so much. I think it is because they stand as living witnesses of the Lord’s immense love for me. God didn’t stop talking to his children at the end of the New Testament! He knew that his children would struggle with unfamiliar literary devices and cultures as the times of the Bible faded into history. He knew that evil and conspiring men would set out to alter eternal truths for their own gain. He knew good people would do their best to hold to the truth but miss the mark.

He provided a way to clear away all of the error and bring the truth out of darkness and into the light of modern day — he called prophets. To me, that is one of the biggest witnesses that my Heavenly Father not only knows me, but he wants me to know him. He wants me to be close to him because he adores me.

Because of that, I look forward to conferences. I want to hear the messages spoken, whether through the voices of the Lord’s appointed servants or the inspiration of the Spirit as I seek to understand how I am to apply the truths, doctrines, and principles that are being taught. I don’t want to miss a word.

To go a little deeper into the value of living prophets, I’d like to have you imagine with me.

For a moment, I want you to imagine that you are a teenager, and you have been sent by your parents to the best sports camp available anywhere. The cost is astronomical, and you know that your parents have saved and sacrificed beyond anything reasonable to get you there. This is your chance to develop your talents and abilities to become your very best, and they have done anything and everything to give you this chance.

The day comes, and you arrive at camp. Some of the kids are wide-eyed and timid, but the kids who stand out the most are complaining. They gripe that the trip was long and boring, this wasn’t really their idea, and they would rather be at home with all of their electronic comforts.

Finally, everyone settles in, and it’s time for dinner. This camp has hired the best dieticians in the nation, and the food is prepared to be enticing, delicious, and nutritious. As everyone sits down to dinner, the whining starts again:

“Broccoli? You expect me to eat broccoli?”

“I’ll eat the mashed potatoes, but don’t expect me to take a bite of this other stuff.”

“I can’t eat this garbage! Where’s the vending machine?”

“Anyone got a phone? I’m ordering pizza.”

You know your mom and dad want you to make the most out of your camp experience, but now you’re not sure if you should eat or not. What will these other kids think of you?

 

The whining is even worse the next morning as training begins.

“Who are you to tell me what to do?”

“My coach at home would never make me do anything like this.”

“These workouts are so boring. I’m going back to my room to take a nap.”

I’m sure you can imagine who improves and becomes an elite athlete and who leaves the camp and goes home no better than when they came. It’s easy to judge from the outside looking in.

Our mortal experience is our spiritual training camp. Our Heavenly Parents sacrificed more dearly than we can imagine to give us the opportunity to come and receive the expert training that we need to become our very best and return home to celestial glory.

Our living prophets and apostles are like the camp nutritionists and coaches. They are the best. They have been called, trained, and inspired by the Lord. This coming weekend, we will have the opportunity to sit and partake of a spiritual feast. We will receive instructions from our coaches on how to improve our mortal game, if you will.

So, the only question is, which kind of child are we? Do we have the courage to ignore those who ridicule and denigrate the rich opportunity we have? Do we have a spiritual “beast mode” that will keep the fires of motivation burning as we go through the process of building our spirits by applying the things we learn?

In 2 Nephi 32:3, we are told “Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.”

I bear witness that our prophets and apostles also speak by the power of the Holy Ghost, so they also speak the words of Christ. But, if that’s not enough, here’s a stronger statement from the Lord, found in Doctrine and Covenants 68:4 “And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.”

In this month’s Ensign, Elder Randy D Funk of the seventy gave us four tips for feasting on the words of Christ, or getting all that we can from ancient scriptures and the words of modern prophets:

 

  1. Read [or listen] for knowledge and to be filled with the Spirit.
  2. Study for understanding and wisdom.
  3. Ponder for inspiration.
  4. Pray for confirmation.

When we listen to our prophets and apostles, we need to be likening (or relating) these brand new scriptures to our lives and circumstances, and we should be revisiting these scriptures (also known as talks) repeatedly between conferences to continue to gain new spiritual knowledge. We need to continue to think about the things we have learned throughout the day after we have studied, and as new spiritual connections for in our hearts and minds, we need to write these things down and then pray and ask if we are getting the message right and if there is more that we are to learn and know. We need to put what we are learning into action.

Think for a moment: what have you done with these gems from our most recent conference in April?

  • “If you are not reading the Book of Mormon each day, please do so. If you will read it prayerfully and with a sincere desire to know the truth, the Holy Ghost will manifest its truth to you. If it is true—and I solemnly testify that it is—then Joseph Smith was a prophet who saw God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

    “Because the Book of Mormon is true, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s Church on the earth, and the holy priesthood of God has been restored for the benefit and blessing of His children. …

    “… I implore each of us to prayerfully study and ponder the Book of Mormon each day. As we do so, we will be in a position to hear the voice of the Spirit, to resist temptation, to overcome doubt and fear, and to receive heaven’s help in our lives.” President Thomas S. Monson, “The Power of the Book of Mormon”
  • “Our hope for holiness is centered in Christ, in His mercy and His grace. With faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, we may become clean, without spot, when we deny ourselves of ungodliness [see Moroni 10:32–33] and sincerely repent. We are baptized by water for the remission of sins. Our souls are sanctified when we receive the Holy Ghost with open hearts. Weekly, we partake of the ordinance of the sacrament. … Over time, as we continually strive to become one with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, we become partakers of Their divine nature [see 2 Peter 1:4].” Carol F. McConkie, First Counselor in the Young Women General Presidency, “The Beauty of Holiness”
  • “Look up to Christ for strength, balance, and healing. Through the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, “all things shall work together for [your] good.” Elder Yoon Hwan Choi, “Don’t Look Around, Look Up!”
  • “During the coming weeks, find time to review your life’s goals and your plans, and make sure they align with our Heavenly Father’s great plan for our happiness. If you need to repent and change, then consider doing so now. Take the time to prayerfully think about what adjustments are needed to help you keep your “eye single to the glory of God.”” M. Russell Ballard, “Return and Receive”
  • “Being sin-resistant doesn’t mean being sinless, but it does imply being continually repentant, vigilant, and valiant. Perhaps being sin-resistant comes as a blessing from repeatedly resisting sin. …

    “The stripling warriors ‘were exceedingly valiant for courage. … They had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him’ [Alma 53:20, 21]. These young men went to war carrying Christlike virtues as weapons against their adversaries.” Joy D. Jones, Primary General President, “A Sin-Resistant Generation”
  • “… Let us examine our lives and determine to follow the Savior’s example by being kind, loving, and charitable. And as we do so, we will be in a better position to call down the powers of heaven for ourselves, for our families, and for our fellow travelers in this sometimes difficult journey back to our heavenly home.”
    President Thomas S. Monson, “Kindness, Charity, and Love”
  • “‘Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding’ [Proverbs 3:5]. …

    “… In English the word lean has a connotation of physically listing or moving to one side. When we physically lean toward one side or another, we move off center, we are out of balance, and we tip. When we spiritually lean to our own understanding, we lean away from our Savior. …

    “… Each of us can trust in the Lord and lean not. We can center our lives on the Savior by coming to know Him, and He will direct our paths.” Bonnie H. Cordon, First Counselor in the Primary General Presidency, “Trust in the Lord and Lean Not”
  • “True disciples of Jesus Christ are willing to stand out, speak up, and be different from the people of the world. They are undaunted, devoted, and courageous.” Russell M. Nelson, “Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives”
  • “Genuine discipleship is a state of being. … Disciples live so that the characteristics of Christ are woven into the fiber of their beings, as into a spiritual tapestry.” Robert D. Hales, “Becoming a Disciple of Our Lord Jesus Christ”
  • “Our love for the Sabbath day does not end when the chapel doors close behind us but instead opens the doors to a beautiful day of resting from routine tasks, studying, praying, and reaching out to family and others who need our attention.” Neil L. Andersen, “Overcoming the World”

Here are some thoughts from the General Women’s Meeting last night:

  • Sharon L Eubank: 1) Be righteous, 2) be articulate (speak up), 3) Be different (in happy and distinct ways), 4) Be distinct, 5)do 1-4 in happy ways; When you keep his commandments, he can use you in his work — his work is the exaltation and eternal life of women and men
  • Neil F Marriott: WE need to deepen our knowledge of and obedience to Heavenly Father — how are we going to accept his invitation to draw near to him and thus enjoy the blessings he longs to give to us? WE want to be encircled in the arms of our Father’s love and guidance, and so we put his will first; As our inner pitchers become clean, earthly relationships begin to heal; ISaiah — keepers of the law of the fast are called repairers of the breach; the lord bindeth up the breach of the people and healeth….
    The SAvior’s atonement is a conduit for a constant flow of charity from above
  • Joy D Jones: WE want to be encircled in the arms of our Father’s love and guidance, and so we put his will first; As our inner pitchers become clean, earthly relationships begin to heal; ISaiah — keepers of the law of the fast are called repairers of the breach; the lord bindeth up the breach of the people and healeth….; The SAvior’s atonement is a conduit for a constant flow of charity from above
  • President Uchtdorf: His parable of the 3 sisters made me squirm, because I have been the sad sister and mad sister — I’m just now really learning to be the glad sister; Nothing in the great and spacious building can compare with the fruit of living the gospel of the living God; The song of true discipleship may sound a little loud or off key to some, but to our heavenly father, it is the most beautiful song ever sung

Perhaps an even more important question for today is “what are you going to do about general conference this weekend?”

Brothers and Sisters, I testify that we have men, called as prophets and apostles, who regularly impart the word of the Lord to us. I testify that we can find peace and safety through studying, applying, and praying over the things we are being taught. I know that the things they teach are true. I have lived them, I am trying to continue living them, and I hope to live them forever. I have planted the seeds, nurtured the plants, and I have tasted the fruit. The fruit of the work required for spiritual growth truly is delicious beyond all else that I have ever tasted.

I would like to close with words the Lord gave as the preface to the Doctrine and Covenants, found in section 1. Listen with your hearts and see if they apply today:

“Hearken, O ye people of my church, saith the voice of him who dwells on high, and whose eyes are upon all men; yea, verily I say: Hearken ye people from afar; and ye that are upon the islands of the sea, listen together.

For verily the voice of the Lord is unto all men, and there is none to escape; and there is no eye that shall not see, neither ear that shall not hear, neither heart that shall not be penetrated.

And the rebellious shall be pierced with much sorrow; for their iniquities shall be spoken upon the housetops, and their secret acts shall be revealed.

And the voice of warning shall be unto all people, by the mouths of my disciples, whom I have chosen in these last days.

And they shall go forth and none shall stay them, for I the Lord have commanded them. (D&C 1:1-5)

11 Wherefore the voice of the Lord is unto the ends of the earth, that all that will hear may hear:

12 Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come, for the Lord is nigh;

14 And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people;

15 For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant;

16 They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall.

17 Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments;

18 And also gave commandments to others, that they should proclaim these things unto the world; and all this that it might be fulfilled, which was written by the prophets—

19 The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh—

20 But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world;

21 That faith also might increase in the earth;

22 That mine everlasting covenant might be established;

23 That the fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers.

24 Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.

25 And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known;

26 And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed;

27 And inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent;

28 And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time.

In the name of Jesus Christ,

Amen.