Note: I delivered this address in my congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints on April 19, 2015.
On Being Led by Living Prophets
By Ken K. Gourdin
My subject today is being led by living prophets. I testify of the truth as it is recorded in the book of Amos, Chapter 3, Verse 7 that “Surely, the Lord God will do nothing save He revealeth His secret unto His servants, the prophets.” To those of us who might be tempted to condescend to Him, thinking that surely we would do things differently or better than He does them, God offers the simple assurance contained in Second Nephi, Chapter 27, Verse 20, where He says, “I am able to do mine own work.” Brothers and sisters, while I have absolutely no desire to give offense, please forgive me for being blunt (especially among those who might have tender ears): God doesn’t care whether we think He’s racist, or sexist, or homophobic, or otherwise bigoted, or politically incorrect. He is able to do his own work without us advising him. We need to decide whether we will be among the humble followers of Christ described in Lehi’s vision in the First book of Nephi, Chapter 8 in the Book of Mormon, who cling to the iron rod and follow the living prophets as they lead us through the mists of darkness to the tree of life, or whether we will be among those–and sadly, there will be those among them who are nominal Latter-day Saints–who are in the great and spacious building and who mock and point their fingers at those who are on the path. What President Ezra Taft Benson said in his masterful discourse on pride more than a quarter-century ago is even more applicable to us today than it was when first he wrote it. He wrote:
The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means “hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.” It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us. Pride is essentially competitive in nature. We pit our will against God’s. When we direct our pride toward God, it is in the spirit of “my will and not thine be done.” As Paul said, they “seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” The proud cannot accept the authority of God giving direction to their lives. They pit their perceptions of truth against God’s great knowledge, their abilities versus God’s priesthood power, their accomplishments against His mighty works.
If President Benson’s words describe us in any way, I pray that we might repent and humble ourselves. If we have not yet gained a testimony that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is led by living prophets today, we need to do so. If we do not, we will be as chaff blown about before the whirlwind. What Christ said of himself in John Chapter 7, Verse 17 is equally true of his living prophets: “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine: whether it be of God or whether” Joseph Smith, Ezra Taft Benson or Gordon B. Hinckley or Thomas S. Monson speaks of himself. In the book of First Kings, Chapter 18, Verse 27, Elijah mocks the priests of Baal and challenges them to see which god will consume the sacrifice that each prepares. That verse reads, “And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud”–in other words, priests of Baal, maybe he can’t hear you. Elijah continues, “For he is a god”–the God in whom I believe is all-knowing and all-powerful; what about yours? and Elijah concludes, “Either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awakened.” The God in whom I believe is never so busy or so distracted or so sleepy that He cannot pay sufficient attention to the needs of His Children, especially to those of His Church and of His Prophets! I like what the gospel reference True To The Faith has to say about prophets and about their role in our lives today:
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are blessed to be led by living prophets—inspired men called to speak for the Lord, just as Moses, Isaiah, Peter, Paul, Nephi, Mormon, and other prophets of the scriptures. We sustain the President of the Church as our prophet, seer, and revelator—the only person on the earth who receives revelation to guide the entire Church. We also sustain the counselors in the First Presidency and the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators. Like the prophets of old, prophets today testify of Jesus Christ and teach His gospel. They make known God’s will and true character. They speak boldly and clearly, denouncing sin and warning of its consequences. At times, they may be inspired to prophesy of future events for our benefit. You can always trust the living prophets. Their teachings reflect the will of the Lord, who declared: “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” (D&C 1:38) Your greatest safety lies in strictly following the word of the Lord given through His prophets, particularly the current President of the Church. The Lord warns that those who ignore the words of the living prophets will fall (see D&C 1:14–16). He promises great blessings to those who follow the President of 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; For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith. “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).
As Elder Russell Nelson so eloquently put it in his address wherein he asked us to sustain the prophet last October, “My dear brothers and sisters, if the Restoration did anything, it shattered the age-old myth that God had stopped talking to His children. Nothing could be further from the truth. A prophet has stood at the head of God’s Church in all dispensations, from Adam to the present day.” We need not worry about being led astray because this is the dispensation of the fullness of times, of the restoration of all things: there will not be another cycle of apostasy and restoration before the Savior’s second coming. Later in his address, Elder Nelson continues, “Our sustaining is an oath-like indication that we recognize their calling as a prophet to be legitimate and binding upon us.” In the General Conference of April 2006, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said:
Not often but over the years some sources have suggested that the Brethren are out of touch in their declarations, that they don’t know the issues, that some of their policies and practices are out-of-date, not relevant to our times. As the least of those who have been sustained by you to witness the guidance of this Church firsthand, I say with all the fervor of my soul that never in my personal or professional life have I ever associated with any group who are so in touch, who know so profoundly the issues facing us, who look so deeply into the old, stay so open to the new, and weigh so carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully everything in between.
In another General Conference, in April of 2008, Elder Holland quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson’s exhortation to students at Harvard Divinity School more than 170 years ago. Emerson exhorted his students to “teach that God is, not was; that He speaketh, not spake.” In every General Conference of the Church, prophets, seers, and revelators do exactly that.