While studying May’s doctrinal topic of Prophets and Revelation, I have thought many times about the ninth Article of Faith, which states, “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.”1 As a young girl, I memorized the Articles of Faith in Primary. Yet how often have I recited those words without giving much thought to what they really mean? Through ancient and modern scriptures, we have access to what God has previously revealed. Think about the exciting changes we have seen over the last year or so. Surely these changes are what God is now revealing to our prophet. And President Nelson has been quite clear that there is more coming. He has also been very clear that we need to know how to receive personal revelation and strengthen our testimonies if we are going to withstand the challenges that will come our way, thus allowing us to believe all the “many great and important things”1 that will yet be revealed.
Russell M. Nelson once taught, “God’s long-established pattern of teaching His children through prophets assures us that He will bless each prophet and that He will bless those who heed prophetic counsel.”2 Think about those words as I share some comments made by two Samoan dignitaries, who are not members of the church, who attended the devotional in Samoa, one of the stops on President Nelson’s recent nine-day Pacific Tour.
After hearing the prophet speak, a man who is a member of a Pentecostal church said, “I was very interested to attend when I heard the prophet is coming to Samoa. It was good to hear [President Nelson] speak on faith and the challenges we are facing now. … We have to be strong in the faith to know we are to live by faith and depend on God. This will make us stronger people and make us better citizens of the world and also for eternity. It helped me as a leader to listen to such wisdom. I learned a lot.”3
Another man said, “[If we follow his counsel], I think we will have a peaceful Samoa. What the Church of Jesus Christ [of Latter-day Saints] is doing in our country is amazing. … I’m a Catholic, but I know he’s God’s prophet, that he brings peace to us. Hearing [President Nelson has] really filled my heart. I probably am going to use it in my own family, to teach my kids to be brave for what’s going to happen in the future. It’s good that he gave us that warning to help our kids because [our kids are] our future.”3
I find it so interesting that both of these men knew they were listening to a prophet of God. President Nelson is not just the prophet for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but indeed the prophet for the whole world. We are so blessed to have a living prophet to lead and guide us in these latter days!
A few years before becoming the prophet, President Nelson said, “Often we sing, ‘We thank thee, O God, for a prophet.’ Do you and I really understand what that means? Imagine the privilege the Lord has given us of sustaining His prophet, whose counsel will be untainted, unvarnished, unmotivated by any personal aspiration, and utterly true!”4 Do we appreciate the privilege of receiving untainted and true counsel that comes to us from the Lord through His prophet? Wasn’t this the experience the two men had while listening to the prophet in Samoa? I believe it was.
He continued, “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. Prophets testify of Jesus Christ—of His divinity and of His earthly mission and ministry. We honor the Prophet Joseph Smith as the prophet of this last dispensation. And we honor each man who has succeeded him as President of the Church.”4
President Nelson personally knew ten of the sixteen Presidents of the Church who preceded him. Surely the interactions with and tutelage of these men helped prepare President Nelson. Shortly after being set apart as the 17th President of the Church, he said, “I’ve served in the Quorum of the Twelve under five previous Presidents of the Church. I have watched each President receive revelation and respond to that revelation. The Lord always has and always will instruct and inspire His prophets. The Lord is at the helm. We who have been ordained to bear witness of His holy name throughout the world will continue to seek to know His will and follow it.”5
Speaking at a member meeting in Kenya shortly after being sustained as the prophet, President Nelson reminded them, “God always taught His children upon the earth through prophets. There has never been an exception. Now, there have been times in between prophets, when there hasn’t been a prophet upon the earth because of wickedness of the people. They stoned the prophets and disobeyed the commandments and lost that teaching opportunity. … You know the prophets of the Old Testament. Nephi was a prophet, Lehi was a prophet, Joseph Smith was a prophet. Now I have that great responsibility. You may wonder, ‘What is it like?’ I’m just finding out. … I testify to you that revelation is real and that it is no different for me than it is for you. You can receive personal revelation for your own circumstances just as actually as I can for my circumstances. You get it for your family and for yourself; I get it for the whole Church.”6
Through personal revelation, we can know that Russell M. Nelson truly is God’s prophet. That knowledge is crucial if we are going to honor and sustain him and follow his counsel and teachings. Each general conference, stake conference and ward conference we attend, we have the privilege of raising our hand to sustain the prophet. President Nelson helps us better understand what it means to sustain the prophet. He said, “Our sustaining of prophets is a personal commitment that we will do our utmost to uphold their prophetic priorities. Our sustaining is an oath-like indication that we recognize their calling as a prophet to be legitimate and binding upon us. Twenty-six years before he became President of the Church, then-Elder George Albert Smith said: ‘The obligation that we make when we raise our hands … is a most sacred one. It does not mean that we will go quietly on our way and be willing that the prophet of the Lord shall direct this work, but it means … that we will stand behind him; we will pray for him; we will defend his good name, and we will strive to carry out his instructions as the Lord shall direct.’”4
Nearly three decades ago, President Nelson taught, “Learn to listen, and listen to learn from Church leaders. Faithful members love the Savior and honor His servants, having faith in the Lord’s declaration that ‘whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.’ Gratefully we thank God for a prophet to guide us in these latter days. But many turn a deaf ear to his teachings, oblivious to his prophetic position. They do so at great risk, for scriptures contain this warning: ‘A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you … ; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. … Every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.’ President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., said, ‘We do not lack a prophet; what we lack is a listening ear.’ Words of the Lord are taught by His disciples. Wise members listen to learn from Church leaders.”7
President Nelson once said, “My experience is that once you stop putting question marks behind the prophet’s statements and put exclamation points instead, and do it, the blessings just pour. I never ask myself, ‘When does the prophet speak as a prophet and when does he not?’ My interest has been, ‘How can I be more like him?’”8
President Nelson has a listening ear! He has shown us that he would do what a prophet asked him to do, without questioning. Here are two perfect examples.
In 1979 while serving as the General President of the Sunday School, he attended a meeting where President Spencer W. Kimball asked the congregation to pray that all nations would open their doors to the preaching of the gospel. He specifically mentioned China, telling them that they should learn that language. President Nelson went home and said to his wife, “President Kimball asked us in that meeting to learn Chinese! And I did not hear him say, ‘Everyone except Brother Nelson!’ So, would you be willing to study Mandarin Chinese with me?”9 She agreed and they were both tutored in Mandarin. That decision has blessed his life in many ways, both professionally and in his church responsibilities.
After becoming the prophet Ezra Taft Benson gave specific assignments to the members of the Twelve. President Nelson’s assignment was to open the countries of Eastern Europe for the preaching of the gospel. He explains, “That was 1985. During those politically frigid years that we refer to as the Cold War, not only did a literal wall divide the city of Berlin, but all of Eastern Europe was under the oppressive yoke of communism. Churches were closed, and religious worship was strictly limited. I had spent much of my professional life opening hearts to perform life-saving operations, but I had no experience that would lead me to believe I could open countries for the preaching of the gospel. And yet, a prophet had given me an assignment, so I set out to do what seemed utterly impossible. From the outset, obstacles were placed in my way. … But the Lord is able to do His own work, and I was privileged to watch the unfolding of one miracle after another—always, and only, after I had brought my best thinking, my most courageous efforts, and my most fervent prayers to the task. Recognition of the Church was granted by some of those countries before the Berlin Wall came down. Others came later. In the year 1992, I was able to report to President Benson that the Church was now established in every country in Eastern Europe!”9
President Nelson declares, “It is my testimony that when we follow through with whatever the prophet of God asks us to do, the way will be opened and lives will be changed.”10
Will we have a listening ear? Will we follow through with what the prophet asks? We have the privilege of listening to or reading the words of the prophet often. At general conference, his directions are given to the church as a whole. At other times, he speaks to groups of specific ages or in specific regions. Since becoming the prophet, President Nelson has been very busy! He “undertook the most ambitious first-year travel schedule by a new president in Church history, based on information published by Church Newsroom and discussions with Church historians—55,000 air miles with stops on five continents. He spoke to enormous crowds in an American professional football stadium, a professional baseball stadium, an NBA stadium, and at other arenas and convention centers and meetinghouses in 16 countries. That all happened since last April 2018.”11
We would be wise to have a listening ear to whatever the prophet says—no matter where or when he says it! We know that “our greatest safety lies in strictly following the word of the Lord given through His prophets, particularly the current President of the Church.”12
On his recent tour, the prophet admonished the Fijian Latter-day Saints to study the scriptures, pay their tithing and serve in the temple.13 To the Samoan Saints he cautioned, “There are difficult days ahead. Please protect your children. Help them to know the Lord and love Him and keep His commandments and be free from the shackles of addiction and bondage.”3 And to the Saints in Tahiti he said, “There’s trouble ahead. Prepare for attacks from the adversary. Please protect yourself from Satan’s traps, including harmful drugs and pornography.”14
President Nelson has explained, “Prophets see ahead. They see the harrowing dangers the adversary has placed or will yet place in our path. Prophets also foresee the grand possibilities and privileges awaiting those who listen with the intent to obey. I know this is true! I have experienced it for myself over and over again.”9
To the Saints in the Pacific, President Nelson was warning against the “harrowing dangers of the adversary.” Heeding his counsel will offer safety for them and for all who will listen. Safety also comes because, “The Lord has promised us that He will never allow the prophet to lead us astray.” Then quoting President Harold B. Lee, President Nelson continued, “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; 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.”9
Neil L. Andersen offered a similar admonition on the morning we had the privilege of sustaining President Nelson as our new prophet. He said, “The prophet’s voice, while spoken kindly, will often be a voice asking us to change, to repent, and to return to the Lord. When correction is needed, let’s not delay. And don’t be alarmed when the prophet’s warning voice counters popular opinions of the day. The mocking fireballs of annoyed disbelievers are always hurled the moment the prophet begins to speak. As you are humble in following the counsel of the Lord’s prophet, I promise you an added blessing of safety and peace. Don’t be surprised if at times your personal views are not initially in harmony with the teachings of the Lord’s prophet. These are moments of learning, of humility, when we go to our knees in prayer. We walk forward in faith, trusting in God, knowing that with time we will receive more spiritual clarity from our Heavenly Father.”15
Elder Andersen also reminded us that “the prophet’s voice brings spiritual safety in very turbulent times. … Anchoring our souls to the Lord Jesus Christ requires listening to those He sends.”15
Unfortunately there will be those who mock us for following the prophet. They will accuse us of not thinking for ourselves or blindly following. Elder Andersen said, “We listen to the Lord’s prophet with the faith that his words are ‘from [the Lord’s] own mouth.’ Is this blind faith? No, it is not. We each have a spiritual witness of the truthfulness of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. By our own will and choice, we raised our hand this morning, declaring our desire to sustain the Lord’s prophet with our ‘confidence, faith, and prayer[s]’ and to follow his counsel. We have the privilege as Latter-day Saints to receive a personal witness that President Nelson’s call is from God.”15
President Nelson offered this promise, “You may not always understand every declaration of a living prophet. But when you know a prophet is a prophet, you can approach the Lord in humility and faith and ask for your own witness about whatever His prophet has proclaimed.”9
A personal witness of President Nelson’s call as a prophet of God is imperative to survive the days ahead. There may be times when the prophet will tell us things that are hard to hear. Other times he may ask us to make changes that seem too difficult. Prophets definitely tell us things that are contrary to the world’s view. When this happens, some will insist they love the Lord but find it too hard to follow the prophet. Many years ago, President Nelson warned, “Loyalty to the Lord carries an obligation of loyalty to those called by the Lord to lead His Church. He has empowered that men be ordained to speak in His holy name. As they guide His unsinkable boat safely toward the shore of salvation, we would do well to stay on board with them. ‘No waters can swallow the ship where lies / The Master of ocean and earth and skies.’ Nevertheless, some individuals want to jump ‘out of the boat’ before reaching land. And others, sadly, are persuaded out by companions who insist that they know more about life’s perilous journey than do prophets of the Lord.”16
Of course this is nothing new. There will always be impatience and opposition. This has always been the case. You will find example after example in the scriptures. That is why it is imperative to know for yourself that there are prophets and apostles on earth today. There is great protection in following God’s prophets. That protection comes because, as President Nelson reminds us, “The living Lord leads His living Church! The Lord reveals His will for the Church to His prophet. … We sustain 15 men who are ordained as prophets, seers, and revelators. When a thorny problem arises—and they only seem to get thornier each day—these 15 men wrestle with the issue, trying to see all the ramifications of various courses of action, and they diligently seek to hear the voice of the Lord. … The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counsel together and share all the Lord has directed us to understand and to feel individually and collectively. And then we watch the Lord move upon the President of the Church to proclaim the Lord’s will.”4
I find it very insightful to go back and read what the prophets and apostles have warned the Saints about five, fifteen, twenty, even fifty years ago. It is amazing to see how their prophesies have been or are being fulfilled. Speaking to the young single adults, President Nelson shared some thoughts about each of the ten Presidents of the Church he had known and extended this challenge, “I believe that the finest leaders to have walked the earth are the prophets of God. I urge you to study the lives and teachings of these 16 prophets of God. That study will change your life.”17 We certainly should add President Nelson’s life and teachings to that list. I hope we will all accept that challenge. Our lives will be changed because we will come to understand in a more profound way “all that God has revealed,” “all that He does now reveal,” and we will be better prepared to understand and accept the “many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God”1 that will be revealed.
I cannot even begin to imagine what my life would be like without my testimony of living prophets. I am so grateful to know that a loving Heavenly Father continues to speak to us through His prophets. I know that Russell M. Nelson is God’s prophet on the earth today. I know our lives will be blessed here and hereafter as we follow his prophetic counsel. He is an incredible example of love and loyalty to our Father in Heaven and His Son, Jesus Christ. May we strive to not only follow the prophet’s counsel but his example as well.
2. Ask, Seek, Knock – Russell M. Nelson
3. President Nelson Admonishes Samoans to Protect Their Children – churchofjesuschrist.org
4. Sustaining the Prophets – Russell M. Nelson
5. As We Go Forward Together – Russell M. Nelson
6. Teachings of Russell M. Nelson, pages 309-310
7. Listen to Learn – Russell M. Nelson
8. Russell M. Nelson: A Study in Obedience
9. Becoming True Millennials – Russell M. Nelson
10. Hope of Israel – Russell M. Nelson
11. President Nelson’s Remarkable First Year – ldsliving.com
13. Church News – Pacific Ministry Tour / Fiji
14. Church News – Pacific Ministry Tour / Tahiti
15. The Prophet of God – Neil L. Andersen
16. Endure and Be Lifted Up – Russell M. Nelson
17. Prophets, Leadership, and Divine Law – Russell M. Nelson