Teaching Children to Follow the Prophet
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“Teaching Children to Follow the Prophet,” Tambuli, Sept. 1989, 27

Handbook for Families

Teaching Children to Follow the Prophet

For some reason as Peter Nordhoff walked through the room, the words he heard from the television made him stop. General conference was being broadcast, and his wife, who had been recently reactivated through the fellowship of a friend, was watching.

Peter and Adrina had been raised in the Church and married in the temple, but for nearly ten years they had not been involved much with the Church. At first, his work kept him busy on Sundays. When that changed, they used Sundays to relax together.

But that conference Sunday changed their lives. “The words of a prophet of God affected me,” Peter says. “The Spirit spoke to me through God’s mouthpiece. It was like a second birth for me. Listening to the prophet helped me realize that I must start doing the things I was supposed to be doing if I wanted my wife and daughter near me in eternity.” Later that day, Peter and Adrina went to their bishop.

“We went from less-active to overactive very quickly,” recalls Adrina, smiling.

Evidence of God’s Love

Like the Nordhoffs, we can all be blessed by the words of the prophets of the Lord—if we will only listen and follow their counsel. How fortunate we are that “the living God” has restored his “living Church,” with “living prophets” and additional “living scriptures.” (Neal A. Maxwell, Scriptures for the Modern World, edited by Paul R. Cheesman and C. Wilfred Griggs, Provo: Religious Studies Center, 1984, page 1.) Having a living prophet on the earth today is evidence that God loves us and is interested in us.

When we speak of the prophet of the Church, we mean the President of the Church who is president of the High Priesthood. He is sustained by the membership of the Church as “prophet, seer, and revelator.” He holds the “keys of the kingdom.” (See D&C 81:2.) The prophet with his counselors constitute the First Presidency of the Church. We sustain the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve as prophets, seers, and revelators.

As Elder Bruce R. McConkie explains, “Those called to preside over quorums, wards, stakes, or other organizations in the Church should be prophets to those over whom they preside.” He points out that the First Presidency preside over all the presidencies in the Church and that they do so because of their apostolic authority, holding “both the fulness of the priesthood and all of the keys of the kingdom of God on earth. The President of the Church serves in that high and exalted position because he is the senior apostle of God on earth … [He] is the presiding prophet on earth and as such is the one through whom revelation is sent forth to the world.” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985, pages 348–50.)

Many people live in darkness, unsure of God’s will. They believe that the heavens are closed and that people must face the world’s challenges alone. But as Latter-day Saints, we are blessed to know that the Lord, through his prophet, will instruct us on current matters. (See Amos 3:7.)

Parents need to teach these truths to their children. A good way to begin is to discuss with them such questions as the following:

  1. How many prophets can you name?

  2. Who was the prophet that restored the gospel in our modern times? How did that happen?

  3. Have there been prophets on the earth since Joseph Smith? How many? Can you name them?

  4. How do prophets share God’s love with us?

Guidance and Counsel

Children should be taught that a prophet is chosen by God and called through proper priesthood authority. Having been called in this way, our living prophet has the responsibility to be a special witness for Jesus Christ and to testify of His divinity. A prophet teaches the gospel, interprets the word of God, and calls the unrighteous to repentance. He receives revelations and directions from the Lord for our benefit, and he may see into the future and foretell coming events in order to warn the world.

“Today the Lord is revealing his will to all the inhabitants of the earth, and to the members of the Church in particular, on the issues of this day through the living prophet, with the First Presidency at the head. What they say as a presidency is what the Lord would say if he were here … and it is scripture.” (Marion G. Romney, General Conference, April 1945.)

Because the world is ever changing and the problems we face vary, we have living prophets to give us counsel on these current problems. This counsel is given to us in both general and stake conference, and in Church publications, such as magazines, lesson manuals, and other written and recorded material. Through these, we can learn the Lord’s will and follow his counsel to “study my word which hath gone forth among the children of men, and also my word which shall come forth.” (See D&C 11:21–22.)

“The way I have enjoyed studying the prophet’s word,” reports Maxine Johnson, “is by reading the conference addresses in the Church magazines. I can read those inspirational talks again and again. This not only feeds my soul as I go about my daily work, it keeps me current on the Lord’s word to me as it comes through the Brethren.”

We all need to study general conference talks so we can follow the Lord’s most recent counsel. Wise parents will involve their children in such a study. In a general conference, Elder Thomas Fyans told of one family “who will again do a very special thing following this conference. When the Church magazine arrives with the conference addresses at their home, the family will immediately read the messages, with the older children reporting on selected addresses.

“Is there any wonder why the father says: ‘Our family regards general conference as the Lord’s list of things we should be concentrating on. It has meant more to us and our children than words can say. …’

“How much are the instructions of … conference going to mean to us? How much will they mean to us as parents?” (General Conference, October 1974.)

Early in this dispensation the Lord made it clear just how important the counsel of his prophets is: “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” (D&C 1:38.)

It is reassuring to know that in our time, when self-proclaimed experts on every topic and issue offer conflicting advice and prescriptions, we can rely on one source for the truth. As we follow the counsel of our latter-day prophets, we will not find ourselves blindly experimenting to find answers to our problems. We have instead clear, consistent leadership.

Family home evening is a good time to discuss ways to follow the prophet. A discussion with children may include such questions as the following:

  1. Remember how God led Lehi and his family away from the dangers in Jerusalem? What dangers do you think God is telling President Benson to lead us away from today?

  2. Do you know of any revelations a prophet has received in our own day?

  3. Can you think of some ways our family can begin to follow the prophet that we are not doing now?

  4. What can our family do to pay more attention to what the prophet is saying?

Our Prayers for Him

The prophets have often expressed appreciation for the sustaining prayers members of the Church offer on their behalf. Such prayers strengthen them—and us.

One family found that added blessings came to them as they sought to receive a testimony of the divine calling of the prophet. Soon after hearing the news of the death of President Joseph Fielding Smith, the family knelt in prayer. “The father expressed thankfulness for having lived during the ministry of that great prophet. He then thanked the Lord for all the prophets who have lived and especially for President Harold B. Lee (the new president of the Church). He prayed that his children might become acquainted with the new prophet and study his teachings. ‘Bless these fine children, Father’ he prayed, ‘that they might follow those who follow the prophet and never do anything that President Lee would not do.’” (Marion P. Sorensen, “Teaching Children Through Prayer.”)

Another father strengthened his family by bearing testimony to them that he felt the mantle of the Prophet fall upon the shoulders of President Ezra Taft Benson after he heard President Benson’s first talk as President. “In that first address to the Church as prophet, President Benson spoke of ‘cleansing the inner vessel’ and making yourself pure from within and doing things for the right reasons.” The father explained to his family that during the talk a spirit of love filled him so full that he knew beyond any doubt that this new President was speaking the words the Lord would speak if he were here.

The way our families pray can do much to teach our children to follow the prophet. In preparing for prayer, we might find it helpful to ask the following questions:

1. How do our prayers help the prophet and other leaders?

2. What things should we ask Heavenly Father to help the prophet with?

3. Do we need to pray that we will feel more like following the prophet?

Following the Prophet’s Example

One of the most important ways we can follow the prophet is to follow the prophet’s example. “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy,” wrote John the Apostle. (Rev. 19:10.) This means that as members of Christ’s Church obtain a testimony, they obtain the spirit of prophecy. Consequently, just as the President of the Church is entitled to revelation on behalf of the Church, so are worthy parents entitled to revelation for their family. In fact, each Latter-day Saint is to seek spiritual guidance for his or her own life. Paul’s words invite us all: “For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. … Wherefore brethren, covet to prophesy.” (1 Cor. 14:31, 39.)

Our children must see us seeking the gift of prophecy and revelation for our family. They must see us responding to the guidance of the prophet of the Lord. They must see us leading them in righteousness, in patience, and love. As we do so, they will see us following the Savior, the Prophet of Israel. (See Deut. 18:15–19.)

As Latter-day Saints, we know that there is only one true prophet on the face of the earth who speaks to all the world on behalf of the Lord, whose servant he is. Following the guidance given by our prophet and other Church leaders is vital. Only prophets can lead us safely through this life and back into the presence of our Heavenly Father.

[illustration, photos] Joseph Smith, top left, the first prophet of this dispensation, was called of God as were his successors, from left, top to bottom: Brigham Young (Church president from 1847–1877), John Taylor (1880–1887), Wilford Woodruff (1889–1898), Lorenzo Snow (1898–1901), Joseph F. Smith (1901–1918), Heber J. Grant (1918–1945), George Albert Smith (1945–1951), David O. McKay (1951–1970), Joseph Fielding Smith (1970–1972), Harold B. Lee (1972–1973), Spencer W. Kimball (1973–1985), and Ezra Taft Benson (1985–).

Photography by Longin Lonczyna, Jr.