The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (sometimes called the Mormon or LDS Church) doesn’t have paid clergy, so it falls to members of the congregation to give the sermons each Sunday. It was my turn yesterday and so I thought I would share my address with my readers. If you are not a member of the LDS Church and have questions about anything in the sermon fell free to ask them in the comment section and I will answer them.
I have chosen to speak on the importance of following God’s modern prophets, seers and revelators and the blessings that can be ours if we do so. To better do that, I would like to lay some groundwork.
There are two dimensions to priesthood power. The most vital and enduring dimension is when a man and a woman, endowed with priesthood power and sealed across the altar in the temple form an eternal kingdom called a family.
In an eternal family, the wife and husband strive to be perfectly unified and guide each other and their children (if they are so blessed) along the covenant path to justification and exaltation by the proper use of agency and through the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The second dimension of priesthood power, although temporary, is also very important. To govern His earthly kingdom, the Lord calls 15 worthy men, ordains them to the office of apostle and gives them the keys to administrate his Church.
Those apostles sustain and set apart the senior apostle and two others into a quorum of the First Presidency. That quorum presides and directs the work of the Church including the work of the remaining quorum of twelve apostles.
The power, authority and keys to administer the affairs of the earthly kingdom cascade down form these fifteen men. Women and men of the Church are called to serve in the kingdom in thousands of roles that focus on the gathering of Israel to Jesus Christ and preparing the world for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to the earth.
As part of their calling, each of these apostles serves as a prophet, a seer and a revelator to the whole world.
People often think of a prophet as someone who can predict the future, and while that may be a result of their work, the role of a prophet is to be God’s spokesman. He tells us what God wants us to hear.
A seer is one who has divine vision. He sees what God wants him to see whether it is in his mind’s eye or with physical sight. This gift allows him to better instruct, warn and guide the Church.
Revelators reveal the things God wants us to know. This knowledge, while available to all God’s children, is often only recognized and appreciated by a relatively few and is “hidden” from others due to rebellion, indifference or wickedness.
When we speak of prophets or (in the case of the senior apostle) the prophet, we are actually talking about men who are prophets, seers and revelators.
Primary children sing, “follow the prophet, follow the prophet, follow the prophet, he knows the way.” There has never been more important council.
Today, I would like to teach the importance of following the prophet by sharing three quick stories from my life.
First a story illustrates the manner in which modern prophets work.
In the late 1980’s, our family was living Safford Arizona. I was assigned to home teach a great family. The husband was our ward mission leader (and a good one). The wife was the town anti-Mormon.
They were both good people and worked hard to love each other and lead their family, while facing the challenge of this serious difference of opinion. Not wanting to cause them any undue stress, I avoided the subject of religion during home teaching visits. But, for some reason, during one visit I felt inspired to ask the wife why she thought Mormons weren’t Christians.
Her answer floored me.
“You don’t preach Jesus in your Churches! Next time you go to sacrament meeting listen how many times Jesus is even mentioned. I bet you won’t hear it except during the sacrament prayer or when closing talks and prayers “in the name of Jesus Christ”.
The next Sunday, I took her up on her bet and listened very carefully. She was right. Except for the sacrament and when closing prayers and talks no one mentioned Jesus.
It wasn’t that bad every week, but once I started listening, I saw the same thing happened in priesthood meeting, in Sunday School and even my Seminary lessons. We, as a Church, really weren’t as centered on Jesus Christ as we should have been.
In preparation for this talk, I compared the April, 1988 and 2023 General Conference talks. In 1988 there were only 5 talks on the Savior or His mission (and it was Easter weekend). In 2023, I found fifteen that focused on the Savior specifically.
There has been a change in this Church and unless you’ve been paying close attention, as I have, for the last thirty-five years, you probably didn’t even notice that little by little the brethren have been nudging us along, helping us to center more and more on Jesus Christ and his Atonement.
Modern prophets seldom stand on the wall (Samuel the Lamanite style) and preach hellfire and brimstone; gloom and doom; shape up or ship out.
Most of the time they teach “by cpersuasion, by dlong-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned”; “line upon, line and precept upon precent”; and by example. This is the way and if you are not actively listening and responding you will miss it.
My second story illustrates how you can lose blessing by rejecting the prophet and how easy that is to do.
In 2003, I was teaching released-time seminary in Wenatchee Washington. Because our numbers were small, we didn’t have a real seminary building. I taught in a converted house that barely fit out needs.
I was very excited when the area told me that CES wanted to tear down the house and build a real seminary building. For over a year we worked together on plans, budgets, permits and, all that time, the students and I were getting more and more excited.
Then one day, the physical facilities guy walked into my office with bad news. President Hinckley felt inspired to belay all unnecessary building projects and all my dreams of a nice new building evaporated in an instant. I was disappointed and saddened and that was understandable, but then I did something of which I am not proud.
I got mad. I sent my boss, his boss and his boss’s boss a scathing email. I let that seed of discontent into my heart and before I was able to right my attitude, I had done some irreparable damage to some dear friendships, my career and lost some choice blessings.
Looking back, I can clearly see the problem. I know President Hinckley was preparing us for the Great Recession that would happen four years later and I should have felt blessed. But instead, I had rejected the prophet. Even though it was a small thing, I allowed myself to get mad at his counsel.
I paid dearly for that!
In contrast, my last story demonstrates how we can be greatly blessed for believing and following the prophets.
I came of age in the early 1970’s. At that time, for reasons we still don’t understand, members of the Church of African descent were not ordained to the priesthood or afforded the blessings of the temple.
This was a hard time for me. I felt so badly for those that could not enjoy the full blessings of the gospel simply because of their lineage. Some offered explanations for the Church’s policy, but the Holy Ghost didn’t confirm any of them to me. The only comfort that I had was in knowing that prophets, seers and revelators lead God’s Church and they would not lead us astray.
While serving my mission I was witness to the conversion of Mary, a young African-American woman. I sorrowed in her confusion and pain. I was awed by her courage and faith. I remember her bearing testimony, shortly after her baptism, as she wondered out loud why God was asking her to sit in the ‘back of the bus” of His Church.
I, with countless others in the Church, held on to our faith and supported these good people as best we could.
Then came the fateful day in June 1978, when the Church announced that the fifteen apostles had entered the temple, united in purpose and faith, petitioning the Lord on this issue. They had a revelation instructing them to remove the restriction. Priesthood ordination and temple blessings would henceforth be granted on the basis of worthiness alone.
What a great day that was in Mormondom. We wept, we rejoiced, we offered prayers of gratitude. And one African-American young woman named Mary, then a student at BYU, sat crying and praying in the midst of an impromptu traffic jam / party on the streets of Provo Utah. Mary would soon be endowed in the temple and become the first female of African descent to serve a full-time mission for the Church.
Mary was rewarded that day for her faith in the Lord and his living prophets, but she wasn’t the only one. Millions of faithful Latter-day Saints who remained faithful and had trusted the Lord’s prophets on this difficult issue were similarly blessed and remain so today.
And thus we see, that, no matter the question, concern or issue, those who understand the role of prophets and faithfully follow their counsel are blessed, while those that don’t understand and don’t follow aren’t.
Prophets are human and hence not perfect. They will not always say exactly the right thing, in the right way; they can sometimes be misunderstood; and they can even make mistakes. But my testimony from personal experience, confirmed today by the Holy Ghost is that the greatest safety lies in standing squarely behind the living prophets and moving forward with them though the minefield of mortality.
Follow the prophet! Follow the prophet! Follow the prophet! He knows the way.