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
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