I gave a talk a month ago in church on prophets, and have recently finished reading “Go Forth With Faith – The Biography of Gordon B. Hinckley” by Sheri Dew, and this weekend is the 181st Semi-Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I guess you could say I have prophets on the brain and want to share a little bit about them.
First, just so we’re clear: Ancient Hebrews prophets were God’s messengers who made known God’s will. A prophet also taught about God’s character, denounced sin, and foretold its punishment. They also could remove false views (think of most of the books in the New Testament), and in certain cases also predict future events (Isaiah anyone?).
In our church, we believe in prophets and believe that we have a bonafide prophet who leads and guides our church today. Joseph Smith was our first one. Our current one is Thomas S. Monson, and the one before him was Gordon B. Hinckley (the biography I read was about him). Our church is set apart because of this belief. Our church’s foundation hinges on the belief that Joseph Smith was a prophet and did indeed speak with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. We believe that Joseph and the prophets who have followed have the ability to commune with God, receive revelation, foretell future events, hold priesthood keys, and direct God’s work on the earth.
Prophets are not elected to the office or volunteer to be one. They are called or appointed by God himself. They were preordained in heaven and prepared for the work on earth, though all feel unworthy of such a title and responsibility (think Moses). This was true of Hebrew prophets just as it is of today’s prophets.
In our church it is a simple process of who will become the next prophet. President Hinckley described it this way:
The man who becomes the President of the Chruch is schooled and disciplined by the Lord over a long period of time for this responsiblity. The Lord trains a man and disciplines him. He tests his heart and his substance. And in a natural process that [God] directs, God moves through the Quorum of the Twelve [Apostles] a man to become the senior apostle who on the death of the President becomes the next President of the Chruch. There is no campaigning but only the quiet operation of a divine plan that provides inspired and tested leadership. The Lord is at the helm of this work, and the President of the Church is an instrument in His hand to carry forward this work and to strengthen His Kingdom.”
We believe that it makes a great difference in our lives to know that a prophet walks the earth. Anyone who has experienced the unexpected loss of a loved one, has yearned for answers to life’s tough questions, or doubted their personal worth can be grateful for knowing that there is a plan in place; life continues after death; Heavenly Father is watching over you and He hears your prayers. There is a bigger picture than the one we see now. Things do happen for a reason. The heavens are open! Families can be eternal. God lives! Jesus Christ is your Savior.
Through prophets and the Book of Mormon many truths have been restored to the earth – life saving truths! It makes all the difference to know that we have a prophet today, to anchor us in a world of shifting moral and values.
Gaining a testimony or belief in the prophet Joseph Smith and the current prophet are essential to true membership in our Church.
Prophets today are no different than prophets of the past and have many job descriptions – prophet, seer, revelator, president of the church, patriarch, translator, and so on. Their most important mission is to be the Lord’s mouthpiece. They are called to bring all to Christ. Therefore, a prophet’s counsel is never free of the message to repent, because repentance brings you unto Christ. Any time we make a decision to start or stop or tweak a behavior in order to obey the counsel of the prophets or scriptures (and therefore God himself) it is a form of repenting. Repentance is the process God uses to perfect us. Repentance is making a change for the better. It is humbly acknowledging our short comings before the Lord and asking for his grace to aid us make a lasting change. The repentance process leads us to betterment, to happiness, and ultimately to exaltation. The prophets counsels are not meant to offend, to hurt, to condemn, to stretch you too far, or to limit your freedom; it is meant to save your soul.
At General Conference, the leaders of our Church speak on many different subjects, but the underlying messages are usually the same each time – repent, get your houses in order, get your lives in order, strengthen the family, serve your fellow man, and live so that you can gain your eternal reward.
Life is hard, but I believe that the things in life that bring the truest satisfaction are the things we have worked hard for, something we have earned, sacrificed for, and then accomplished. And the reward for a a life of hard work and dedication to God and his prophets is the ultimate reward–eternal life with our Heavenly Father and our families in the Celestial Kingdom (Heaven). I can’t imagine desiring anything other than hearing my Heavenly Father congratulating me on a job well done, praising me for my faithfulness and willingness to obey him, and then welcoming me into his presence.
Prophets are really just trying to help us stay focused on that goal! If you listen carefully during conference you’ll realize that the prophets want us to stop letting things, possessions, pride, greed, lust, sin, endless excuses, and even other “good things” get in the way of us saving our souls. We often get so consumed with things of an earthly nature that we forget God. We forget that life is meant for us to prove our worthiness to enter into God’s presence. In Doctrine and Covenants 25:10 it commands us to “lay aside the things of the world, and seek for the things of a better.” This simple command takes our whole lives to completely obey (or so I think!).
I know that it is hard to follow the prophets and other leaders of the church in everything, but it is what we are asked to do. We don’t have to do everything perfectly, because God will judge our hearts and bear in mind our situation. But, in a general conference of the Church President N. Eldon Tanner stated:
The prophet spoke out clearly on Friday morning, telling us what our responsibilities are… A man said to me after that, “You know, there are people in our state [Utah] who believe in following the Prophet in everything they think is right, but when it is something they think isn’t right, and it doesn’t appeal to them, then that’s different.” He said, “Then they become their own prophet. They decided what the Lord wants and what the Lord doesn’t want.”
I thought how true, and how serious when we begin to choose which of the covenants, which of the commandments we will keep and follow. When we decided that there are some of them that we will not keep or follow, we are taking the law of the Lord into our own hands and become our own prophets, and believe me, we will be led astray, because we are false prophets to ourselves when we do not follow the Prophet of God. No, we should never discriminate between these commandments, as to those we should and should not keep.
Joseph Smith said “Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof until long after the events transpire.”
So, as I listen to General Conference this weekend, I am listening for guidance and direction for things in my life. I am also listening for things that I should be doing or doing better. I have loved all of the sessions I have listened to so far and am looking forward to the messages from our leaders again today.
Have a great weekend no matter what you choose to do, and remember, GOD LOVES YOU! 🙂