“Messages from the Doctrine and Covenants: He Speaks through His Prophets,” Ensign, Sept. 2005, 21–23
In 1849, 19-year-old William Fowler of Sheffield, England, joined the Church. His father had died when William was 11, his mother three years later. William was 18 when he first heard members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints preach; likely they testified of the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith and of his role in restoring the gospel. William must have felt the Spirit strongly that day, for he was baptized a short time later and soon was laboring as a local missionary. When his membership in the Church became known, he was fired from his job as a cutler (one who sells or works with knives).
Yet his testimony of living prophets remained bright. His diary speaks of mob persecution and of traveling 28 miles, mostly on foot, to attend Church meetings. At some time between 1860 and 1863 he attended one such meeting to which he brought the words of a song he had written. There it was sung for the first time. “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet” has been a Latter-day Saint anthem ever since.1
As a young man I felt the spirit of that hymn as I stood in the Wandsworth chapel in south London, listening to President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) speak. I was privileged to be an usher and was assigned to stand by the chapel door nearest the pulpit. There I heard President Kimball say in his distinctive voice: “I am often asked, ‘Should every young man serve a mission?’ The Lord has given the answer; it is ‘Yes!’”
At the time it was rare for our young men in Europe to serve missions. As I listened to the prophet’s voice, it became clear to me what I and others of my generation must do, and I resolved to serve a full-time mission. It was a humbling and sweet moment when my call to serve in Scotland arrived, with the letter bearing the signature of President Kimball. The letter contained a phrase that deeply penetrated my heart: “We repose in you our confidence.” I knelt down in prayer and committed myself to be worthy of that confidence.
Later, in the mission field, we heard that President Kimball had remarked that if the missionaries knew what he knew, they would run from door to door. We felt a new sense of urgency in our service.
A fundamental part of the Latter-day Saints’ message to the world is that our Father in Heaven continues to speak through prophets today. It is our witness that the heavens are open, that revelation continues, that Joseph Smith was called by God to be the Prophet of the Restoration, and that there is a prophet of God on the earth today, even President Gordon B. Hinckley. Our witness is evidenced not only by what we say in testimony meetings but chiefly by what we do in following the prophet.
May I suggest some ways in which we might more faithfully follow the Lord’s prophet?
First, we should obtain our own spiritual witness of the prophetic calling of President Hinckley, his counselors, and the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. As we ponder their words, as we follow their counsel, and as we pray to Heavenly Father, so will the Spirit bear record of their divine calling.
My wife, Dianne, and I had the privilege of attending general conference in April 1995, when the new First Presidency was sustained. Unable to get seats in the Tabernacle, we sat with many others on the grounds of Temple Square, listening to the conference proceedings. As we stood to sustain President Hinckley, I noticed tears gently falling from Dianne’s eyes. She said, “I have just felt the Spirit tell me that we have a prophet.” Such a witness is available to all.
Second, we can gain so much by becoming familiar with the lives and circumstances of those whom we sustain as prophets and apostles. There is something about the lives and characters of these good men that proves uplifting and encouraging.
Third, we should hunger and thirst for their words and counsel, studying their articles in the Church magazines and attentively watching each session of general conference, which for most of us is made possible via satellite broadcast or Internet transmission.
Fourth, it is of course insufficient to just listen to the words of God’s prophets. It is heeding their counsel that keeps us on the path of righteousness and draws us closer to the Lord. “For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth,” the Lord declared (D&C 21:5). If we do so, His promise is sure: “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” (D&C 21:6). May we all merit these magnificent blessings by faithfully following the Lord’s prophets.
Most Ensign articles can be used for family home evening discussions, personal reflection, or teaching the gospel in a variety of settings.
Begin your family home evening by singing “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet” (Hymns, no. 19). Relate the story of William Fowler and invite family members to share their feelings about this hymn.
Display pictures of latter-day prophets. Relate Elder Baxter’s experience in following a prophet’s counsel to serve a mission. Discuss the four ways to more faithfully follow the Lord’s prophet. Bear testimony of a time when following the prophet blessed your life.