Count It All Joy

Count it all joy – what a great scriptural reminder we find in James 1:2! President Russell M. Nelson has taught that joy is “a principle that will only become more important as the tragedies and travesties around us increase.”1 Does that sound a little like this year? Interestingly, the entire scripture reads, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.”2 In the Joseph Smith Translation, the last few words are “when ye fall into many afflictions.”3 Many afflictions? Absolutely! What about different temptations? I’m sure there have been at least a few times this year when we’ve been tempted to complain, to get upset, to give up, to be unkind. And yet, we are to count it all joy.

President Nelson reminded us that “joy … as little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives. When the focus of our lives is on God’s plan of salvation … and Jesus Christ and His gospel, we can feel joy regardless of what is happening—or not happening—in our lives.”1

When everything started shutting down, I found myself focusing on what I couldn’t do. I could no longer go to the temple or to church, go on vacation or out to dinner. I was allowing restrictions—circumstances—to blur my focus. Places, as wonderful as they may be, are not the source of my joy.

Luckily it didn’t take me too long to get my focus where it belonged. Never before have I  felt such a longing to be in the temple, been more anxious to hear from the prophet, so excited for general conference, and more eager to go to church. The sacrament has become more sacred, the temple more cherished, family more valued, and the living prophet more important.

Through this year of tragedies and travesties, temptations and afflictions, I am more profoundly grateful for my family, my faith, and my friends. Yes, I can count it all joy.

References:

1.  Joy and Spiritual Survival – Russell M. Nelson

2.  James 1:2

3.  James 1:2 – Joseph Smith Translation

I Can & I Will!

I absolutely loved general conference! It did my soul good! In President Russell M. Nelson’s opening message, he said, “Unusual times can bring unusual rewards.”1 And in his closing message he said, “Despite the world’s commotion, the Lord would have us look forward to the future ‘with joyful anticipation.’”2 I love the optimism in these statements. We can all agree that we have been living in unusual times. Have we taken the opportunity to consider the unusual rewards that have come to us? And are we looking with joyful anticipation to what lies ahead?

The words “can bring” really resonated with me. You will notice President Nelson didn’t say, “Unusual times do bring unusual rewards.” The “can” reminds me that both my actions and my reactions matter. I can choose to act or react in ways that will make life rewarding despite the commotion of the world. I can choose how I respond to the challenges that I am given. I can keep going, even when it’s hard. I can trust in good things to come. And always, I can trust in Heavenly Father and His promises.

Optimism coupled with faithfulness, obedience, perseverance, and patience will bring unusual rewards.

To me, one of the greatest blessings, especially during these unusual and chaotic times, is having a living prophet of God! I can choose to follow the prophet.

I can choose to follow Jesus Christ.

I can embrace the future with faith.

I can choose to let God prevail in my life.

I can keep an eternal perspective.

President Nelson encouraged us to do many more things during conference this past weekend. Those were just a few! May we take some time to carefully read through each of his talks, taking note of the things he is asking us to do and highlighting the promises for doing them. I am always amazed at the prophetic promises!  

Yes, these are unusual times we are living in. But unusual rewards, even miracles, have been promised. There is so much to be grateful for! I can and I will look forward to the future with joyful anticipation!

References:

1.  Moving Forward – Russell M. Nelson

2.  A New Normal – Russell M. Nelson

What Faith Can Do

Helen Keller said, “Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.” That is exactly what happened in the Sacred Grove two hundred years ago. There a 14 year-old boy went to pray, having faith enough to know that if he asked his Heavenly Father a question he would get an answer. And he did get an answer! Because Joseph Smith prayed in faith and then acted in faith on the answer he received, the world has been filled with the incredible light of the gospel!

There have been many times in my life when I have had to rely totally on faith – faith is built on our Savior, Jesus Christ. He is the Light of the world. I know that faith in Him can give us the strength to emerge triumphant in times when we feel our world shattering is around us. Without a doubt we will all have times when we feel like our world is shattering around us, because, honestly, that is part of our mortal learning. Those are the refining moments in our lives. During those times, we get to choose if we will have faith, if we will trust Heavenly Father to shape and mold us into the person He wants us to be. While I can’t say that I have loved my trials, I can say I love what my trials have helped me become. I cannot say I have loved watching those I love go through their trials, but I love how they have come through them better and stronger than ever!

Russell M. Nelson reminds us, “If Joseph Smith’s transcendent experience in the Sacred Grove teaches us anything, it is that the heavens are open and that God speaks to His children. The Prophet Joseph Smith set a pattern for us to follow in resolving our questions. … The boy Joseph took his question directly to Heavenly Father. He sought personal revelation, and his seeking opened this last dispensation. … What will your seeking open for you?”1

Do we have the kind of faith that young Joseph had? Do we really know that Heavenly Father will answer our sincere prayers? Do we have enough faith in Him to trust how He answers our prayers? 

I love the beautiful reminder in Alma 58:11 that says, “Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him.”

At the beginning of the year, President Nelson issued this challenge, “In this remarkable year as we commemorate the 200th anniversary of the First Vision, I invite you to think deeply and often about this key question: How do you hear Him?”2 Speaking peace to my soul and granting me great faith are some of the sweetest ways I hear Him. Trusting God, having faith in His Son, and listening for the whisperings of the Holy Ghost are things I have to do every day. Then I can hear Him better. And as I learn to hear Him better, I know He will lighten my burdens and brighten my days.  

References:

1.  Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives – Russell M. Nelson

2.  How Do You Hear Him? – Russell M. Nelson

True and Enduring Freedom

Yesterday we took a Sunday drive to see an enormous American flag flying in a nearby canyon. It was breathtaking! When I saw our beautiful flag blowing in the breeze, I couldn’t help but have a lump in my throat, a tear in my eye and a deeper my love for this great country! I am sure part of my patriotism comes from having a father who served in the military. After celebrating the 4th of July with fewer freedoms than we usually have, I was grateful for the tender reminder of the precious gift of freedom. I truly am grateful to live in America. I am thankful for those who have fought, and continue to fight, to make us free and for those who promote freedom.

In the early 1950s, my dad served in the Coast Guard. He spent most of his time on the St. George Reef Lighthouse, off the coast of northern California. A few years before he passed away, my family had the privilege of going back with him to visit. Although we weren’t able to go out to the lighthouse, which is six miles out to sea, one clear day, we could see this sturdy granite structure from the shore. Parts of the lighthouse, including the huge Fresnel lens, were on display at the museum we visited in Crescent City. As he looked at that massive lens, my dad recounted many wonderful experiences on the lighthouse. And while cleaning that lens was one of his most important jobs, and certainly the most dangerous, it was definitely his least favorite! It was time-consuming and tedious. But it was essential. The light from the lens could warn weary travelers some twenty miles away.

Thinking about my dad’s experiences as a lightkeeper made me think a little deeper about freedom. The captains of the boats knew they could trust that there would be a light burning brightly to warn of danger, keeping them free from inevitable harm if not for that light. We, too, have lightkeepers who want to ensure our freedom by warning us of imminent dangers. They are our prophets and apostles!

A profound warning was given by Ezra Taft Benson when he was the prophet. He said, “Wickedness is rapidly expanding in every segment of our society. It is more highly organized, more cleverly disguised, and more powerfully promoted than ever before. Secret combinations lusting for power, gain, and glory are flourishing. A secret combination that seeks to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries is increasing its evil influence and control over America and the entire world. … As the forces of evil increase under Lucifer’s leadership and as the forces of good increase under the leadership of Jesus Christ, there will be growing battles between the two until the final confrontation. As the issues become clearer and more obvious, all mankind will eventually be required to align themselves either for the kingdom of God or for the kingdom of the devil. As these conflicts rage, either secretly or openly, the righteous will be tested. … But God will provide strength for the righteous; … and eventually and finally truth will triumph.”1

We know there will always be an ongoing battle between freedom and bondage, between right and wrong, between good and evil. While we are being warned about the need to cherish, honor and protect our freedoms, many of the talks I read during my study remind us that the best way to do that is through obedience to God’s commandments.

Here are a few quotes from some of those talks.

“Living the commandments makes us free. … Real freedom is found only in obedience—in subjecting ourselves to God’s will. … One of Satan’s most effective tools is to clothe bondage in the costume of liberty.”2 – Paul V. Johnson

“How can we best … secure the blessings of liberty and ensure the protection and guidance of our Father in Heaven? First and foremost, we must be righteous.”3 – Ezra Taft Benson

“Freedom and liberty are precious gifts that come to us when we are obedient to the laws of God and the whisperings of the Spirit. … Obedience leads to true freedom. The more we obey revealed truth, the more we become liberated.”4 – James E. Faust

“There is no true freedom without responsibility, and there is no enduring freedom without a knowledge of the truth.”5 – Boyd K. Packer

“The Lord has revealed His sacred standard to guide people in a troubled world. You and I were born free to follow His divine guidance. … For freedom and joy, choose to ‘be faithful in Christ.’”6 – Russell M. Nelson

“Freedom comes not from resisting it but from applying it. … It is God’s will that we be free men and women enabled to rise to our full potential both temporally and spiritually, … prepared in all things to join Him in His celestial kingdom.”7 – D. Todd Christofferson

“Freedom is a God-given eternal principle. … One of the privileges of mortal life is the opportunity to rise in freedom’s defense.”8 – Ezra Taft Benson

On my way back to the car after seeing the beautiful flag, there was an older man, a veteran I am sure, who with help from his family stood, staring at the flag. You could see from the expression on his face that he loves what the flag stands for. He, like so many others, fought for our freedoms. Does a love of freedom show in our faces and in our actions? What are we doing to cherish, honor and protect our freedoms?

Watching this humble older man reminded me of something Vaughn J. Featherstone said, “I think it is time we should all awaken. Our concern isn’t about the flames of freedom which burn so brightly in our generation; the concern is that in the upcoming generation the fire has never been kindled. … Freedom ought to ring in the heart of every Latter-day Saint regardless of his country. The United States of America is the greatest nation on the face of the earth. We ought to love it and we ought to talk about it. We need to be true, we need to have faith. If we do this, God will give us strength to brace against the winds. He will make this country like a giant pillar of granite. He will make us a mighty people, a pure people, a Christlike people, a worthy people, a free people.”9

Elder Featherstone’s generation was my dad’s generation and the generation of the veteran I saw yesterday! The flames of freedom definitely burned brightly in them! Gratefully I was blessed with a father who kindled the fire of freedom in me!

The granite lighthouse my father served on was built to withstand the ocean beating on it from every side. And perched atop was a bright, guiding beacon. If we are righteous, God will make this country, which was founded on freedom, like a great pillar of granite. Every latter-day prophet has reminded us that America is a chosen land, chosen because it was necessary to have a free country where the gospel could be restored. We know that there will be opposition from every side, not just here in America. The prophets and apostles, our lightkeepers, can be our beacon in this ever-darkening world. If we will follow them, they will lead us to safety in these treacherous times.

References:

1.  I Testify – Ezra Taft Benson

2.  Free to Choose – Paul V. Johnson

3.  Our Divine Constitution – Ezra Taft Benson

4.  Obedience: The Path to Freedom – James E. Faust

5.  Agency and Control – Boyd K. Packer

6.  Addiction or Freedom – Russell M. Nelson

7.  Free Forever, to Act for Themselves – D. Todd Christofferson

8.  October 1972 Ensign – Ezra Taft Benson

9.  But Watchman, What of the Night? – Vaughn J. Featherstone

Prophets & Revelation

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.

 References:

  1.  The Articles of Faith 1:9

  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

12.  Gospel Topics: Prophets

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

The Apostasy and the Restoration

During the month of April, I have been studying the doctrinal topic of the Apostasy and the Restoration. Russell M. Nelson explained, “Prior to His Crucifixion, the Lord Jesus Christ had established His Church. It included apostles, prophets, seventies, teachers, and so forth.  And the Master sent His disciples into the world to preach His gospel.  After a time the Church as established by the Lord fell into spiritual decay.  His teachings were altered; His ordinances were changed.  The Great Apostasy came as had been foretold. … This Great Apostasy followed the pattern that had ended each previous dispensation. The very first was in the time of Adam. Then came dispensations of Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and others. Each prophet had a divine commission to teach of the divinity and the doctrine of the Lord Jesus Christ.  In each age these teachings were meant to help the people.  But their disobedience resulted in apostasy.  Thus, all previous dispensations were limited in time and location.  They were limited in time because each ended in apostasy.  They were limited in location to a relatively small segment of planet earth.  Thus a complete restoration was required.  God the Father and Jesus Christ called upon the Prophet Joseph Smith to be the prophet of this dispensation.  All divine powers of previous dispensations were to be restored through him.  This dispensation of the fulness of times would not be limited in time or in location.  It would not end in apostasy, and it would fill the world.”1


This explanation helps us understand that neither the apostasy nor the restoration were one-time events.  So how do they each apply in our lives today?  


When we hear that we live in the dispensation of the fulness of times, do we appreciate the significance of it?  While disobedience caused each previous dispensation to end in apostasy, meaning the loss of true doctrine, ordinances, priesthood power and the gift of the Holy Ghost, with the Restoration came the reality that there would never be another time when the blessings of the gospel would be unavailable to God’s children.  Of course wickedness will continue to exist as it always has, and maybe even more, so we must always be vigilant in guarding against personal apostasy.  We have been told that in the last days even the elect will be deceived.  Safety is found in cherishing and honoring our covenants, studying and living the doctrines of the gospel of Jesus Christ, hearing and heeding the Holy Ghost and following the prophet.


The Bible Dictionary defines restoration as “a reestablishment of the gospel of Jesus Christ on the earth in the last days, with the powers, ordinances, doctrines, offices, and all things as they have existed in former ages.  It means a gathering together of the house of Israel from its scattered condition.  Thus it is frequently spoken of as the restitution (or restoration) of all things, as in Acts 3:19–21.  The time in which all these things are accomplished is called the dispensation of the fulness of times.”2 


President Nelson taught, “As prophesied by Peter and Paul, all things were to be restored in this dispensation. Therefore, there must come, as part of that restoration, the long-awaited gathering of scattered Israel.  It is a necessary prelude to the Second Coming of the Lord.  This doctrine of the gathering is one of the important teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  The Lord has declared: ‘I give unto you a sign … that I shall gather in, from their long dispersion, my people, O house of Israel, and shall establish again among them my Zion.’  The coming forth of the Book of Mormon is a sign to the entire world that the Lord has commenced to gather Israel and fulfill covenants He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  We not only teach this doctrine, but we participate in it.”1


When we talk about gathering Israel, we most often think about missionary work.  And while that certainly is an important aspect, there is another.  Since becoming our prophet, I have been intrigued at how often President Nelson uses the words on both sides of the veil.  However, he hasn’t only been using that expression recently.  The concluding sentence for the paragraph quoted above says, “We do so as we help to gather the elect of the Lord on both sides of the veil.”1  As I have studied his talks, it has been very clear to see the importance President Nelson places on gathering all our Heavenly Father’s children.  Last year he said, “Our message to the world is simple and sincere: we invite all of God’s children on both sides of the veil to come unto their Savior, receive the blessings of the holy temple, have enduring joy, and qualify for eternal life.”3


Several years ago, he reminded us that it is our responsibility to “help fulfill the Abrahamic covenant.  Ours is the seed foreordained and prepared to bless all people of the world. … After some 4,000 years of anticipation and preparation, this is the appointed day when the gospel is to be taken to the kindreds of the earth.  This is the time of the promised gathering of Israel.  And we get to participate!  Isn’t that exciting?  The Lord is counting on us. … The Book of Mormon is a tangible sign that the Lord has commenced to gather His children of covenant Israel.  This book, written for our day, states as one of its purposes that ‘ye may know that the covenant which the Father hath made with the children of Israel … is already beginning to be fulfilled. … For behold, the Lord will remember his covenant which he hath made unto his people of the house of Israel.’  Indeed, the Lord has not forgotten!  He has blessed us and others throughout the world with the Book of Mormon.  One of its purposes is for ‘the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ.’  It helps us to make covenants with God.”4 


Speaking to the youth last year President Nelson said, “Every prophet commencing with Adam has seen our day.  And every prophet has talked about our day, when Israel would be gathered and the world would be prepared for the Second Coming of the Savior.  Think of it!  Of all the people who have ever lived on planet earth, we are the ones who get to participate in this final, great gathering event.  How exciting is that! … [T]he gathering of Israel ultimately means offering the gospel of Jesus Christ to God’s children on both sides of the veil who have neither made crucial covenants with God nor received their essential ordinances.  Every child of our Heavenly Father deserves the opportunity to choose to follow Jesus Christ, to accept and receive His gospel with all of its blessings—yes, all the blessings that God promised to the lineage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who, as you know, is also known as Israel.  My dear extraordinary youth, you were sent to earth at this precise time, the most crucial time in the history of the world, to help gather Israel.  There is nothing happening on this earth right now that is more important than that.  There is nothing of greater consequence.  Absolutely nothing.”5

The only way one can accept and receive the gospel of Jesus Christ with all its blessings is to have access to the ordinances of the temple.  It is evident that this is important to President Nelson.  Since becoming the prophet, he as announced the building of 27 new temples!  He once taught that the doctrine of salvation for the dead is “a pivotal part of the promised ‘restitution of all things.’ … This doctrine and its ordinances are laden with love and are intended to perpetuate the sweetest of all relationships—in families forever. … No mortal mind could have conceived this divine work. It is evidence of the restoration of the gospel in its fulness.”6 


In a recent interview after the dedication of the Concepción Chile Temple, President Nelson said, “The Book of Mormon teaches over and over again that you need to have the ordinances.  And of course, that’s why we have temples so that all the potential that God has in store for His children can become a fact, a reality. … No one else can offer perpetuation of the family unit beyond the grave.  And that, according to our Heavenly Father, is the greatest gift that He can give to His children.”7


President Nelson also said, “We’re witnesses to a process of restoration.  If you think the Church has been fully restored, you’re just seeing the beginning. There is much more to come. … Wait till next year. And then the next year.  Eat your vitamin pills.  Get your rest.  It’s going to be exciting.”7  

This shouldn’t come as a surprise.  The ninth Article of Faith 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.”8  The prophet reminded us in our last general conferences that “revelation continues in this, the Lord’s Church. It will continue until ‘the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.’”9  He said virtually the same thing last October.  


This next quote is powerful!  Think for a moment about what it means to you personally, especially as it applies to our topic of apostasy and restoration.  “Our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, will perform some of His mightiest works between now and when He comes again.  We will see miraculous indications that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, preside over this Church in majesty and glory.”10  No wonder President Nelson says it’s going to be exciting!  To me, this clearly indicates there will be on-going revelation and restoration.  He continues, “But in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.”10  Surviving spiritually is the opposite of apostasy.  And what greater safeguard can we have against personal apostasy than the constant influence of the Holy Ghost in our lives?


It is a glorious blessing to live in the dispensation of the fulness of times!   We have a living prophet to lead and guide us.  I love him and know he is truly a prophet of God. With proper priesthood authority, the ordinances of the gospel can bless our lives daily, including the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.  There are now temples all around the world, with more being built.  Temple blessings are unmatched! 


We are so very blessed!  And with such incredible blessings come significant responsibilities.  We have a great work to do in preparing ourselves and the world for the Second Coming of the Savior, Jesus Christ. President Nelson shared how.  He said, “Anytime you do anything that helps anyone—on either side of the veil—take a step toward making covenants with God and receiving their essential baptismal and temple ordinances, you are helping to gather Israel.  It is as simple as that. … Pray daily that all of God’s children might receive the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  You and I are living to see, and will continue to see, Israel gathered with great power.  And you can be part of the power behind that gathering!”5 


He also gave us a challenge at the end of our last general conference, “God’s objective should be our objective.  He wants His children to choose to return to Him, prepared, qualified, endowed, sealed, and faithful to covenants made in holy temples. … May we dedicate and rededicate our lives to serving God and His children—on both sides of the veil.”9 

 
As we do our part to serve God and His children, we have been promised we “will be blessed now and forever.”4  

References:

  1.  The Gathering of Scattered Israel – Russell M. Nelson

  2.  Restoration – Bible Dictionary

  3.  Let Us All Press On – Russell M. Nelson

  4.  Covenants – Russell M. Nelson

  5.  Hope of Israel – Russell M. Nelson

  6.  The Spirit of Elijah – Russell M. Nelson

  7.  October 30, 2018 News Release

  8.  The Articles of Faith 1:9

  9.  Closing Remarks – Russell M. Nelson

10.  Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives – Russell M. Nelson

Prophets & Revelation

The doctrinal topic for May’s discussion is Prophets and Revelation.  April’s General Conference is perfect for this discussion.  It was most definitely a very special one.  It began with a solemn assembly where we had the privilege of sustaining a new prophet.  M. Russell Ballard emphasized the importance of that sacred event, “As we each sustained President Nelson by our uplifted hands, we stood as witnesses before God and acknowledged that he is President Monson’s rightful successor.  With our raised hands, we promised to hearken unto his voice as he receives direction from the Lord.”1   We witnessed some of that direction as changes were announced by our new prophet, most notably what President Nelson calls “the beginning of a new era of ministering.”2  We should have no doubt that this came by revelation as he explained, “The Lord has made important adjustments in the way we care for each other.”2  During general conference, it was our great blessing to be taught often about the importance of both prophets and revelation.

Why it is so important to have a prophet?  And why is it important to listen to and follow our living prophet?  Ulisses Soares answers these questions, “Having prophets is a sign of God’s love for His children. … Prophets speak by the power of the Holy Spirit.  They testify of Christ and His divine mission on earth.  They represent the mind and heart of the Lord and are called to represent Him and teach us what we must do to return to live in the presence of God and His Son, Jesus Christ.  We are blessed as we exercise our faith and follow their teachings.  By following them, our lives are happier and less complicated, our difficulties and problems are easier to bear, and we create a spiritual armor around us that will protect us from the attacks of the enemy in our day.”3 

Neil L. Andersen said, “A prophet is a watchman on the tower, protecting us from spiritual dangers we may not see. … The prophet’s voice brings spiritual safety in very turbulent times.  We live on a planet clamoring with a million voices.  The internet, our smartphones, our bloated boxes of entertainment all plead for our attention and thrust their influence upon us, hoping we will buy their products and adopt their standards.  The seemingly endless array of information and opinion remind us of the scriptural warnings of being ‘tossed to and fro,’ ‘driven with the wind,’ and overcome by the ‘cunning craftiness’ of those who ‘lie in wait to deceive.’  Anchoring our souls to the Lord Jesus Christ requires listening to those He sends.  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.”4

As members of the Church, we are sometimes accused of not having a mind of our own, blindly following what the prophet and our leaders teach.  Elder Andersen teaches, “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. … 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.”4 

Receiving more spiritual clarity or receiving a personal witness that the prophet is called of God is called personal revelation.  Russell M. Nelson reminds us, “You don’t have to wonder what is true.  You do not have to wonder whom you can safely trust.  Through personal revelation, you can receive your own witness that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, that Joseph Smith is a prophet, and that this is the Lord’s Church.  Regardless of what others may say or do, no one can ever take away a witness borne to your heart and minds about what is true.  I urge you to stretch beyond your current spiritual capacity to receive personal revelation. … Oh, there is so much more that your Father in Heaven wants you to know.”2  

Henry B. Eyring also taught, “If you ask with real intent and with faith in Jesus Christ for inspiration, you will receive it in the Lord’s way and in His time.  God did that for the young Joseph Smith.  He does it today for our living prophet, Russell M. Nelson.”5  

President Nelson said the Prophet Joseph “set a pattern for us to follow in resolving our questions,” which is to take our questions “directly to Heavenly Father.  He sought personal revelation, and his seeking opened this last dispensation.  In like manner, what will your seeking open for you?  What wisdom do you lack?  What do you feel an urgent need to know or understand?  Follow the example of the Prophet Joseph.  Find a quiet place where you can regularly go.  Humble yourself before God.  Pour out your heart to your Heavenly Father.  Turn to Him for answers and for comfort.  Pray in the name of Jesus Christ about your concerns, your fears, your weaknesses—yes, the very longings of your heart. And then listen!”2

Larry Y. Wilson shared an incredible example of this exact kind of seeking.  During the Korean War, Frank Blair was aboard a transport ship that got caught in a huge typhoon.  One of the three engines stopped working completely and another one was only functioning at half power.  The situation was serious.  The captain had asked Brother Blair to be the ship’s chaplain and now came to him asking him to pray for the ship.  How he prayed is very instructive.  Elder Wilson said, “He prayed to know if there was something he could do to help ensure the safety of the ship.  In response to Brother Blair’s prayer, the Holy Ghost prompted him to go to the bridge, speak with the captain, and learn more.  He found that the captain was trying to determine how fast to run the ship’s remaining engines.  Ensign Blair returned to his cabin to pray again.  He prayed, ‘What can I do to help address the problem with the engines?’  In response, the Holy Ghost whispered that he needed to walk around the ship and observe to gather more information.  He again returned to the captain and asked for permission to walk around the deck.  Then, with a lifeline tied around his waist, he went out into the storm.  Standing on the stern, he observed the giant propellers as they came out of the water when the ship crested a wave.  Only one was working fully, and it was spinning very fast.  After these observations, Ensign Blair once again prayed. The clear answer he received was that the remaining good engine was under too much strain and needed to be slowed down.”  When this information was given to the captain, he was very surprised because it was completely opposite from what the ship’s engineer suggested be done.  But the captain chose to listen to Brother Blair’s suggestion, which ultimately saved their lives.  Two hours after slowing the good engine down, it stopped working completely.  “With half power in the remaining engine, the ship was able to limp into port.”6

Elder Wilson reminds us that, although this story is quite dramatic and we are unlikely to find ourselves in such dire circumstances, from it we learn three important lessons “about how we can receive the Spirit’s guidance more frequently.  First, when it comes to revelation, we must properly tune our receiver to heaven’s frequency. … We must each be making the effort to align our lives with God’s commandments in order to be directed by Him. … Second, … instead of just listing our problems in prayer and asking the Lord to solve them, we ought to be seeking more proactive ways of receiving the Lord’s help and committing to act according to the Spirit’s guidance.  A third important lesson, … we need the Holy Spirit as our guide in calm waters so His voice will be unmistakable to us in the fiercest storms.”6 

President Nelson said something very important for us to truly understand, “One of the things the Spirit has repeatedly impressed upon my mind since my new calling as President of the Church is how willing the Lord is to reveal His mind and will.  The privilege of receiving revelation is one of the greatest gifts of God to His children.  Through the manifestations of the Holy Ghost, the Lord will assist us in all our righteous pursuits. … We can pray to our Heavenly Father and receive guidance and direction, be warned about dangers and distractions, and be enabled to accomplish things we simply could not do on our own. If we will truly receive the Holy Ghost and learn to discern and understand His promptings, we will be guided in matters large and small. … We live in a world that is complex and increasingly contentious.  The constant availability of social media and a 24-hour news cycle bombard us with relentless messages.  If we are to have any hope of sifting through the myriad of voices and the philosophies of men that attack truth, we must learn to receive revelation. … In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost. … I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation.”2

President Nelson shared with us some experiences when he received revelations for his personal, professional and spiritual life.  These help us understand that the ability to receive revelation can and will bless every aspect of our lives.  He is such a great example of one who has the constant influence of the Holy Ghost.  We are truly blessed to have him as our prophet.   

Because there has always been a prophet on the earth during our lifetimes, we should be careful that we don’t take this great blessing for granted!  Think about this statement from Elder Andersen, “In a future day, looking back on our mortality, we will rejoice that we walked the earth at the time of a living prophet.”  And with great blessings come great responsibilities.  Elder Andersen continued, “At that day, I pray that we will be able to say:

“We listened to him.

“We believed him.

“We studied his words with patience and faith.

“We prayed for him.

“We stood by him.

“We were humble enough to follow him.

“We loved him.”4

From this day forward, may we commit to listen to our prophet, to believe him, study his words, pray for him, stand by him, humbly follow him and love him!  As we do, we will find true happiness, not only in this life but also in the life to come.

May we also heed President Nelson’s exhortation to “‘come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift,’ beginning with the gift of the Holy Ghost, which gift can and will change your life.”2  President Nelson knows and loves the Savior and knows how to bring us closer to Him.  Elder Andersen said, “A prophet does not stand between you and the Savior.  Rather, he stands beside you and points the way to the Savior.  A prophet’s greatest responsibility and most precious gift to us is his sure witness, his certain knowledge, that Jesus is the Christ.”4  Think about those powerful words!  My hope and prayer is that we will treasure the prophet’s gift of his sure witness of the Savior.  As the Primary song teaches us, “Follow the prophet.  He knows the way!”7 

References:

1.  Precious Gifts from God – M. Russell Ballard

2.  Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives – Russell M. Nelson

3.  Prophets Speak by the Power of the Holy Spirit – Ulisses Soares

4.  The Prophet of God – Neil L. Andersen

5.  His Spirit to Be With You – Henry B. Eyring

6.  Take the Holy Spirit as Your Guide – Larry Y. Wilson

7.  Follow the Prophet – Children’s Songbook p. 110

increase our faith

Move Forward With Faith

This year’s study of the life and teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley has been so wonderful and uplifting! The underlying message in each chapter has been faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Chapter 25, Move Forward with Faith, is the perfect conclusion to this year’s study. Those words were the motto of his exemplary life. Jeffrey R. Holland once wrote, “’Things will work out’ may well be President Hinckley’s most repeated assurance to family, friends, and associates. ‘Keep trying,’ he will say. ‘Be believing. Be happy. Don’t get discouraged. Things will work out.’”1

Optimism and faith were instilled in President Hinckley as a young boy. When he left to go on his mission, his father handed him a card which read, “Be not afraid, only believe.” Those words were a great inspiration to him not only on his mission but throughout his entire life. He reminds us, “If there is any one thing that you and I need, … it is faith—the kind of faith that moves us to get one our knees and plead with the Lord for guidance, and then, having a measure of divine confidence, get on our feet and go to work. … Such faith is, when all is said and done, our only genuine and lasting hope.”

That kind of faith is what fueled his ever-optimistic attitude, something that endeared him to us all! Russell M. Nelson described it like this, “President Hinckley was unfailingly optimistic, an outgrowth of his complete faith in the Lord.”2

Along with optimism, President Hinckley’s unwavering faith gave him confidence – divine confidence that with the Lord’s help he could do whatever was asked of him. While he was on his mission, a few of the local newspapers reviewed the reprint of a book that was critical of the Church’s history. His mission president asked him to meet with the publisher and protest it. Although he felt inadequate for the job, he agreed to go. He first said a prayer and then walked to the publisher’s. President Hinckley shared what happened, “I found the office of the president and presented my card to the receptionist. She took it and went into the inner office and soon returned to say that the president was too busy to see me. I replied that I had come five thousand miles [8,000 kilometers] and that I would wait. During the next hour she made two or three trips to his office; then finally he invited me in. I shall never forget the picture when I entered. He was smoking a long cigar with a look that seemed to say, ‘Don’t bother me.’ I held in my hand the reviews. I do not recall what I said after that. Another power seemed to be speaking through me. At first he was defensive and even belligerent. Then he began to soften. He concluded by promising to do something. Within an hour word went out to every book dealer in England to return the books to the publisher. At great expense he printed and tipped in the front of each volume a statement to the effect that the book was not to be considered as history, but only as fiction, and that no offense was intended against the respected Mormon people. Years later he granted another favor of substantial worth to the Church, and each year until the time of his death I received a Christmas card from him.”

President Nelson said that President Hinckley could confidently speak about the gospel with everyone, be they experienced journalists or world leaders. He said, “I witnessed how he softened the heart of Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the Soviet Union, who initially resisted an invitation to meet with President Hinckley in his office. Instead, Mr. Gorbachev wanted President Hinckley to come to Gorbachev’s hotel room. But when they met at Church headquarters, President Hinckley pointed out the beautiful Circassian walnut paneling in the First Presidency’s council room. When President Hinckley told Mr. Gorbachev where that wood was from, Mr. Gorbachev was amazed! That wood had come from the very region of his birthplace in Russia! His mood warmed immediately.”2

Through word and deed, President Hinckley taught, “If you do your best, it will all work out. Put your trust in God, and move forward with faith and confidence in the future. The Lord will not forsake us. … There is no obstacle too great, no challenge too difficult, if we have faith.”

Perhaps because his own life had been so richly blessed by his faith, President Hinckley said, “Of all our needs, I think the greatest is an increase in faith.” For part of one general conference talk, he took from the scripture in Luke which reads, “Lord, increase our faith” and offered a prayer for us all that our Father in Heaven would help us to increase our faith in very specific areas. Imagine how much richer our lives would be if we would petition our Heavenly Father for ourselves and our families in such a way! His prayer included:

“Increase our faith to bridge the chasms of uncertainty and doubt.

“Increase our faith to rise above the feeble detractors of this Thy great and holy work.

“Grant us faith to look beyond the problems of the moment to the miracles of the future.

“Give us faith to pay our tithes and offerings.

“Give us faith to do what is right and let the consequence follow.

“Grant us faith when storms of adversity beat us down and drive us to the ground.

“When we walk in the valley of the shadow of death, give us faith to smile through our tears, knowing that it is all part of the eternal plan of a loving Father, … and that through the atonement of the Son of God all share rise from the grave.

“Give us faith to pursue the work of redemption of the dead.

“Grant us faith to follow counsel in the little things that can mean so very much.

“Increase our faith in one another, and in ourselves, and in our capacity to do good and great things.

“Increase our faith in Thee, and in Thy Beloved Son.”

In the next few days, we all will be thinking about the things can improve upon in the coming year. This year as we make our New Year’s Resolutions, let the one we put at the top of our list be to increase our faith!

References:

1. President Gordon B. Hinckley: Stalwart and Brave He Stands – Jeffrey R. Holland

2. Prophets, Leadership and Divine Law – Russell M. Nelson

Continuous Revelation Through Living Prophets

We have the great blessing of living at a time of continuous information. It takes only seconds to find an answer to any question we might have. There is only one problem with that – we don’t always know if the information is correct. And sometimes it is very difficult to find the source of that information.  

We have the even greater blessing of living at a time where there is a prophet on the earth who receives continuous revelation. We can know for ourselves through personal revelation that what the prophet says is true and can know the Source from which that revelation comes!

In Chapter 7, Continuous Revelation Through Living Prophets, Howard W. Hunter says, “There is an unending stream of revelation flowing constantly from the headwaters of heaven to God’s anointed servants on earth.” He also reminds us that “it is continuous revelation that guides prophets and the Church in any age. Down through its history, including this very day, the Church has had a prophet, seer, and revelator. At the head of the Church is Jesus Christ, who directs his prophet. Members of the Church can believe the voice of their leaders, knowing they are guided by the Lord.” 

President Spencer W. Kimball said, “Of all things, that for which we should be most grateful today is that the heavens are indeed open and that the restored church of Jesus Christ is founded upon the rock of revelation. Continuous revelation is indeed the very lifeblood of the gospel of the living Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.” 1

James E. Faust taught: “This continuous revelation will not and cannot be forced by outside pressure from people and events. It is not the so-called ‘revelation of social progress.’ It does not originate with the prophets; it comes from God. The Church is governed by the prophet under the guidance and direction of God. We have been promised that the President of the Church will receive guidance for all of us as the revelator for the Church. Our safety lies in paying heed to that which he says and following his counsel.” 2

The expectation of some that the Church yield to social pressures has always existed. However, with social media, the voice of opposition speaks louder and more often. If we do not learn for ourselves that our safety truly lies in following the prophet, we may find ourselves being guided more by “social progress” than by the will of God. When some find themselves caught in that trap, they begin to critical of the Church and its leaders, looking for justification to stay in the mainstream. We have been warned time and again that this would be the case. It seems that criticism is also continuous. We would be wise not to get caught in that trap!


Jeffrey R. Holland reminds us that “this is a divine work in process, with the manifestations and blessings of it abounding in every direction, so please don’t hyperventilate if from time to time issues arise that need to be examined, understood, and resolved. They do and they will. In this Church, what we know will always trump what we do not know. And remember, in this world, everyone is to walk by faith. So be kind regarding human frailty—your own as well as that of those who serve with you in a Church led by volunteer, mortal men and women. Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we. And when you see imperfection, remember that the limitation is not in the divinity of the work.” 3

In a recent BYU devotional, Allan F. Packer said, “The role of the Brethren is to represent God to His people, as all prophets have done in the past. These men, past and present, are the first to say they are not perfect, but, like all members, they are striving to become as the Savior commanded. Some people will hold up a yardstick of perfection to them and find them wanting. That measure is just a distraction from the real question. Christ, after all, was the only perfect person who lived on the earth. The real question is, ‘Did these men have and fill a divine mission?’ The fact that these men are not perfect does not bother me. It actually gives me hope in my quest for exaltation to know that the Lord does bless, guide, and honor them.  Following the teachings of the prophets is our test, not theirs.” 4

From Neil L. Andersen we learn, “The words of the Lord’s prophet, the First Presidency, and the Quorum of the Twelve are always available to lighten our path and help show us the way. Their united voice, if followed, will help set aside the enticing voices of the world. The men who occupy these positions would claim no personal perfection, but I witness to you that as the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve prayerfully approach the Lord, He shapes our thinking and direction and reveals His will for His covenant people, and indeed for all the world.” 5

Howard W. Hunter declared, “There is a prophet on the earth today who speaks the mind and will of the Lord to those who will hear and have the faith to follow. If we follow the advice, counsel, and teachings of the leaders of the Church in their instruction to us, we will not go amiss in that which is important for our own personal salvation and exaltation.”  

In a CES fireside in January, Russell M. Nelson said, “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.” 6

Much of the advice, counsel and teachings of the leaders of the Church comes to us in general conference. That is often when we are warned of dangers and told of the possibilities and privileges awaiting the faithful and obedient. Let us never forget, as President Hunter reminded us, that “we are guided by a living prophet of God—one who communicates with, is inspired by, and receives revelation from the Lord.” The choice is our if we will hear and have the faith to follow.

Speaking of general conference, President Hunter said, “Conference time is a season of spiritual revival when knowledge and testimony are increased and solidified that God lives and blesses those who are faithful. It is a time when an understanding that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, is burned into the hearts of those who have the determination to serve him and keep his commandments. Conference is the time when our leaders give us inspired direction in the conduct of our lives—a time when souls are stirred and resolutions are made to be better.”

Recently M. Russell Ballard warned, “Some of you have become casual in listening to the Lord’s servants. Some choose to miss sessions of general conference because they see those special weekends as a time off from their Church assignments. It is hard for me to understand why anyone turns to other voices on the Internet without first turning to voices of the scriptures or the voices of the living prophets and apostles.” 7

We cannot afford to be casual in listening to the Lord’s servants! In our day of continuous information, I hope we will search more deeply the information found in the scriptures and the words of the living prophets and apostles. Continuous revelation indeed comes to living prophets.  Through the Holy Ghost, it is also available to each of us. Russell M. Nelson teaches us that “revelation from the Lord to His servants is a sacred process, and so is your privilege of receiving personal revelation.”

In the general conference Howard W. Hunter was sustained as the prophet, he said, “Like my Brethren before me, I receive with this calling the assurance that God will direct his prophet.” That assurance is one each of us can and should have.  

References:

1.  Revelation:  The Word of the Lord to His Prophets, Spencer W. Kimball

2.  Continuous Revelation, James E. Faust

3.  Lord, I Believe, Jeffrey R. Holland

4.  Finding Your Way, Allan F. Packer

5.  A Compensatory Spiritual Power for the Righteous, Neil L. Andersen

6.  Becoming True Millennials, Russell M. Nelson

7.  To the Saints in the Utah South Area, M. Russell Ballard