“The Living Prophet,” Ensign, Nov. 1976, 67
My dear brethren, I wholeheartedly sustain the brethren in the new First Council of the Seventy and the prophet through whom the Lord called them to their new positions of responsibility. Tonight we shall listen to the word of the Lord from His living prophet, Spencer W. Kimball. Young men, you’ve heard about prophets. It has been my opportunity to live where I could associate with one for the last four years. Tonight I would like to share some personal experiences which have brought me to an unyielding testimony of the divine call and mission of President Spencer W. Kimball as prophet, seer, and revelator for the Lord Jesus Christ in our day and time.
It was my privilege to be present when President Kimball became President of the Church. As the body of priesthood bearers raised their hands to sustain President Kimball, there came into my heart and into my mind a calm assurance that this was indeed the will of our Heavenly Father.
President Kimball, like the Prophet Joseph Smith, is a man of courageous action. He is sensitive to the Spirit, a doer of the work. I have seen him on planes, on buses, in waiting rooms, in hotels, and in chapels, and he is in constant motion—reading, preparing, listening, teaching by precept and by example. His is an inspired and inspiring, warm personal approach as he applies the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people he serves. He seems never too busy nor too tired to attend to the needs of the individual as he encourages each of us to a higher, more excellent personal performance in living.
Recently, a young man in a wheelchair was referred to my office for counsel. He had been informed that he had a terminal illness. He desired a blessing and wanted to see a General Authority before he died. Elder Rector and I were talking with him when in came President Kimball. He had learned of the young man’s condition and came to spend a few moments with him. The President makes time for people.
On another occasion we were returning from area conferences in Europe, and we had a rather extended layover in New York City. Although tired and weary from his rigorous schedule, President Kimball eagerly visited with six missionaries who were en route to the Germany Munich Mission. He inquired about their families, their personal feelings about serving on missions, and then he charged them to be the best missionaries in their mission. He encouraged them to be diligent and faithful and promised that success would accompany such efforts. The missionaries left feeling uplifted in spirit and determined to serve valiantly. President Kimball edifies and inspires others.
While in Argentina in 1975 at the area conference, President Kimball spoke to a large gathering of youth. Shortly after he began, he set aside his prepared text and shared a personal experience with them. He asked them, “Who gave you your voice?” He then told them about his experience with surgery to save his voice. He explained that the Lord had spared his voice. He said it wasn’t the same voice he had once had. He couldn’t sing as he had previously enjoyed doing but he did have a voice. He said his voice wasn’t a pretty one, but I tell you it was beautiful in what it taught that night. As he spoke the youth responded even before the translator could interpret his words. He told those present, “Serving a mission is like paying tithing; you’re not compelled—you do it because it’s right. We want to go on missions because it’s the Lord’s way. The Savior didn’t say, ‘If it’s convenient, go,’ he said, ‘Go ye into all the world.’” (Mark 16:15.) President Kimball explained that it was the responsibility of young women to help young men remain worthy and to encourage them to go on missions.
As the President concluded his remarks he asked, “Didn’t the Lord give you your voice so you could teach the gospel?” He then testified that he had come to know that his voice and our voices are for the declaring of the gospel of Jesus Christ and for testifying of the truths revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith. President Kimball teaches us the correct perspective of life.
Our beloved prophet not only calls us to be better missionaries, to lengthen our stride, he shows us how. In 1975 my wife and I were with President and Sister Kimball in Bogota, Colombia. As we were in the airport for his departure, an airlines representative met with us. Upon being introduced to this fine young man, the prophet extended his hand with these words, “Young man, I hope the next time I shake your hand you’re a member of this church.” Without any hesitation, and with his eyes fixed firmly on those of the prophet, the man replied, “Sir, so do I!” The President turned to the mission president and obtained a commitment from him to teach the man the gospel. Words President Kimball had spoken to missionaries in Bogota had been exemplified in deed: “Give full energy and thought to the Lord’s work—your lives will be rich because of it.” That day I saw how the prophet’s full thought was centered on living the spirit of the calling, as well as carrying out the physical duties that are his.
I was so impressed by the effectiveness of this missionary approach by the prophet that I tried it myself in Puerto Rico. Just a few weeks later I was in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for a district conference. Following the morning session a Brother Martinez brought his nonmember mother and sisters up so I could meet them. As I leaned down over the railing of the stand I could hear the words of President Kimball ringing in my mind. Out they came: “Ma’am, the next time I shake your hand, I hope you are a member of this Church.” To my amazement and joy, her reply came quickly and sincerely, “And sir, so do I.” Five weeks following the conference the Martinez family was baptized. The father followed the rest of the family into the waters of baptism by three weeks. This experience has been repeated at least six times. My life has become rich by following the example set by President Kimball.
This past summer my wife and I were again blessed to be with President and Sister Kimball and other General Authorities and their wives at area conferences in Scandinavia and Europe. Following the closing session in Copenhagen, Denmark, we all visited a cathedral referred to as the Dome. Within this great edifice are the best-loved works of Denmark’s greatest sculptor, Bertel Thorvaldsen—his original Christus and the Twelve Apostles. The imposing statue of Christ stands in an alcove at the front of the cathedral beyond an altar. Standing in order along the two sides of the cathedral are the lifelike statues of the apostles, with Paul replacing the betrayer Judas Iscariot. As we looked at those beautiful works of art we noted that Peter was sculptured with large keys in his hands; John is holding scriptures. Others of the Twelve are shown with identifying symbols indicating, for example, the manner in which they earned a living or how they were martyred. President Kimball thoughtfully studied each statue.
As we were ready to leave the cathedral, the Danish caretaker, a man about sixty years of age, was standing near the door awaiting our departure. President Kimball shook his hand, thanked him for his kindness in letting us visit the cathedral. Then the president began an explanation of the church established by Jesus Christ and of its importance to us. All those present gathered near to be taught by the prophet.
He began in simple words which went something like this: “My dear friend, the man who created these statues was surely inspired of the Lord. The beauty and majesty of the Christus are wonderful. While Thorvaldsen was doing his work here, in 1821 to 1844 Joseph Smith was doing his work in America. Thorvaldsen didn’t have the gospel as did Joseph Smith, but he had the Spirit. He must have been inspired to create these statues of Christ and the apostles. He was trying to bring them to life.”
Gathering President Tanner, Elder Monson, and Elder Packer closer to him, the president continued, “We are living apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. There are Twelve Apostles and three others who are the presidency of the Church. We hold the real keys, as Peter did, and we use them every day. They are in use constantly.” Then the president introduced me. “This is a real, live seventy,” he said. “You will recall that the Savior called His Twelve Apostles and His seventy. He sent the seventy two by two before His face into every city into which He Himself should come to prepare the way before Him. We can give you the true gospel of Jesus Christ.”
What a thrilling spiritual feeling to hear the prophet bear witness of his own calling and to have so graphically illustrated the importance of living apostles. As beautifully and masterfully done as the statues were, they were only marble and could do no more than remind us of the real priesthood leaders which they represented. How blessed we all felt to be present with a living prophet and apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. Brethren, we must be more than “marble.” We must follow the prophet’s lead and become “living examples” of Christ—bearers—living carriers of His message of salvation to those about us.
My testimony of the divine call of Spencer W. Kimball as the Lord’s prophet has grown from that sweet assurance at the time of his sustaining. Observing his personal example with individuals, with groups of people, in his nonpublic doings, with members and nonmembers of the Church, I have seen and felt his concern for the individual, his dauntless missionary spirit, and his commitment of his full energy and thought to the work of the Lord. In each of these settings, there has come into my soul that witness that here indeed is the prophet of God.
I testify to you that Jesus is the Christ; that He is the Head of this Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and that He does have living apostles of whom the chief apostle is President Spencer W. Kimball. These men do hold the keys of priesthood authority and power, the soul-saving power administered by the Savior Himself during His sojourn here in the earth.
Think of it! The Lord loves us so much that He has placed these great men here on the earth to guide us safely back into His presence. Take a good look at them. Listen to their counsel thoughtfully and prayerfully.
May you receive in your heart through the Holy Ghost the same witness and testimony which I have in mine regarding these truths, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.