Sunday School: Gospel Doctrine
Lesson 37: ‘We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet’

“Lesson 37: ‘We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet’” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual (1999), 213–19

“Lesson 37,” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Gospel Doctrine, 213–19

Lesson 37

“We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet”


To help class members recognize the need for our living prophet, understand his roles, and more faithfully obey his counsel.


  1. Prayerfully study the scriptures in this lesson and Our Heritage, page 131.

  2. Review the material for this lesson in the Class Member Study Guide (35686). Plan ways to refer to the material during the lesson.

  3. To gain a greater understanding of historical events related to the doctrine in this lesson, consider reviewing the following:

    1. “All Things Must Be Done in Order.”

    2. Additional historical material for this lesson.

  4. Ask a class member to prepare to tell the story of Elder Spencer W. Kimball helping a mother and her children in an airport (Our Heritage, page 131).

  5. Prepare to have class members sing “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet” (Hymns, no. 19) if you plan to use it at the conclusion of the lesson. Or ask a class member or a group of class members to prepare to sing it.

Suggestions for Lesson Development

Attention Activity

As appropriate, use the following activity or one of your own to begin the lesson.

Share the following story, told by President Hugh B. Brown of the First Presidency:

Before President Brown was called as a General Authority, he spent some time in England working as a barrister, or attorney. He befriended a prominent Englishman who was a member of the House of Commons and a former justice of the supreme court of Britain. The two men often discussed various subjects, including religion.

In 1939, when it appeared that World War II would soon break out, the English gentleman called Brother Brown into his office. He asked Brother Brown to defend his religious beliefs in the same way he would discuss a legal problem. In a general conference address, President Brown recalled part of their conversation:

“I began by asking, ‘May I proceed, sir, on the assumption that you are a Christian?’

“‘I am.’

“‘I assume that you believe in the Bible—the Old and New Testaments?’

“‘I do!’”

The English gentleman said that he believed the biblical accounts of the Lord speaking to prophets. However, he maintained that such communication had stopped soon after the Resurrection of Christ. The conversation continued with another question from Brother Brown: “Why do you think it stopped?”

“‘I can’t say.’

“‘You think that God hasn’t spoken since then?’

“‘Not to my knowledge.’

“‘May I suggest some possible reasons why he has not spoken. Perhaps it is because he cannot. He has lost the power.’

“He said, ‘Of course that would be blasphemous.’

“‘Well, then, if you don’t accept that, perhaps he doesn’t speak to men because he doesn’t love us anymore. He is no longer interested in the affairs of men.’

“‘No,’ he said, ‘God loves all men, and he is no respecter of persons.’

“‘Well, then, … the only other possible answer as I see it is that we don’t need him. We have made such rapid strides in education and science that we don’t need God any more.’

“And then he said, and his voice trembled as he thought of impending war, ‘Mr. Brown, there never was a time in the history of the world when the voice of God was needed as it is needed now. Perhaps you can tell me why he doesn’t speak.’

“My answer was, ‘He does speak, he has spoken; but men need faith to hear him’” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1967, 117–18; or Improvement Era, Dec. 1967, 36–37).

Emphasize that the Lord continues to speak today through a living prophet. This lesson discusses the blessings of being led by a living prophet and our responsibility to follow his counsel.

Discussion and Application

Prayerfully select the lesson material that will best meet class members’ needs. Encourage class members to share experiences that relate to the principles you discuss.

1. Our need for a living prophet

  • Why do we need a living prophet today? (You may want to point out that the counsel of the living prophet helps us respond to all the major problems and needs of our day.)

    While serving as President of the Quorum of the Twelve, President Ezra Taft Benson said: “The most important prophet, so far as we are concerned, is the one who is living in our day and age. This is the prophet who has today’s instructions from God to us today. God’s revelation to Adam did not instruct Noah how to build the ark. Every generation has need of the ancient scripture plus the current scripture from the living prophet. Therefore, the most crucial reading and pondering which you should do is of the latest inspired words from the Lord’s mouthpiece” (in Conference Report, Korea Area Conference 1975, 52).

  • How have you been blessed because there is a living prophet on earth today?

2. The roles of our living prophet

Explain that the members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are all prophets, seers, and revelators. However, only the President of the Church is authorized to receive revelation for the entire Church and to exercise all the priesthood keys necessary to govern the Church.

The Doctrine and Covenants provides important information about the roles of our living prophet. Have class members read the following italicized scripture references. Then have them identify what those scriptures teach about the roles of our living prophet (suggested answers are in parentheses). Summarize responses on the chalkboard. Then discuss the responses.

A. Doctrine and Covenants 1:38; 21:4–5; 43:2; 68:3–4. (The prophet speaks for the Lord and reveals the Lord’s will.)

  • What are some subjects on which we have received guidance from recent prophets? (Answers could include building strong families, doing temple work, helping new members of the Church, staying out of debt, and reading the Book of Mormon.)

B. Doctrine and Covenants 20:21–26; Mosiah 13:33. (The prophet testifies of Jesus Christ and teaches the gospel.)

  • How has your testimony of the Savior been strengthened by the words of our living prophet?

C. Doctrine and Covenants 21:1; Mosiah 8:13–18. (The prophet is a seer.)

  • What is a seer? (A seer is a prophet upon whom God bestows great power to know the past and the future. He can know of things that are not known or are hidden. He also can have the power to translate ancient records.)

  • Read D&C 101:43–54 with class members. In this parable, which commandment did the servants fail to obey? (See D&C 101:46–50.) What could have been avoided if the servants had built the tower? (See D&C 101:51–54.) How does this apply to the attention we give the President of the Church?

  • The President of the Church can see the enemy “while he [is] yet afar off” (D&C 101:54). What dangers have latter-day prophets seen and warned us about?

D. Doctrine and Covenants 107:91–92. (The prophet presides over the Church.)

  • What blessings do we receive because the true Church is always led by a prophet who is chosen and guided by God?

  • How can we sustain the prophet in his role as President of the Church? (See D&C 107:22.)

3. Heeding the words of our living prophet

  • Read D&C 21:4–6 with class members. What do these verses teach about our responsibility to listen to the prophet? What does the Lord promise us if we obey the prophet’s counsel?

    President Harold B. Lee taught: “The only safety we have as members of this church is to do exactly what the Lord said to the Church in that day when the Church was organized [see D&C 21:4–5]. … There will be some things that take patience and faith. You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. But if you listen to these things, as if from the mouth of the Lord himself, with patience and faith, the promise is that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against you’ [D&C 21:6]” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 152; or Improvement Era, Dec. 1970, 126).

  • How can we learn of the prophet’s inspired counsel? (By studying general conference talks, First Presidency Messages, and other articles in the Church magazines and by listening to letters from the First Presidency that are read in Church meetings.)

    At the close of a general conference, President Ezra Taft Benson said, “For the next six months, your conference edition of the Ensign should stand next to your standard works and be referred to frequently” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1988, 97; or Ensign, May 1988, 84).

    While serving in the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Harold B. Lee made a similar statement during general conference. He said that the report of the conference should “be the guide to [our] walk and talk during the next six months” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1946, 68).

  • How can we better study and use the prophet’s general conference addresses individually and in our families?

  • How have you been blessed as you have followed the counsel of the prophet?

Share the following story related by Elder Bruce D. Porter of the Seventy:

“When my wife and I were a young married couple, we lived in the Boston area, where I attended school. Another young couple moved into our ward shortly after we did. They were converts of about two years. … I was concerned about how they would do, … so it was with pleasure that I accepted the calling to be their home teacher. I looked forward to helping strengthen their testimonies of the gospel.

“My companion and I arrived at their modest apartment one evening to home teach them. They had just completed a home evening with their little baby. I made a mental note that it would be a good idea for my wife and I to start holding home evenings so … when a child arrived we would already have the habit. They then eagerly showed us their Book of Remembrance in which they had collected many names of ancestors from both sides of their family. I remembered that it had been a long time since I had looked at my Book of Remembrance.

“After our lesson they took us out to the screened back porch where were stacked ice cream buckets filled with wheat, sugar, flour, and other food—a complete year’s supply of food. I had supposed, somehow, that as students that counsel didn’t apply to us! By now I was feeling very humble. I had come to teach them, but they were teaching me in every point. As we left their little apartment I noticed a picture of the temple hanging near their door. I remembered that President Spencer W. Kimball said that every Latter-day Saint family should have a picture of the temple prominently displayed in their home, and I remembered that we didn’t have one. …

“I went home, filled with a spirit of repentance, and found a small picture of the Swiss Temple in a mission brochure. I cut it out and taped it on our wall. Since that time we have always had a picture of the temple in our home. Every time I look at it, it reminds me of a young convert couple who taught us what it meant to ‘follow the prophet’” (address given in the Bountiful Mueller Park Stake conference, 17 Jan. 1999).

4. Latter-day prophets’ example of Christlike love

Point out that the Presidents of the Church have served others selflessly and with great love. We can learn much from their example.

Relate the following account from the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith:

John Lyman Smith and his family came to Nauvoo when it was first being settled by the Saints. The only place the family could find to live at first was a stable made of logs. Everyone in the family except the mother soon came down with fevers as a result of living in the swampy area. John Lyman Smith said of the experience:

“The Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum visited us and administered to all of us, father being delirious from the effects of the fever. Their words comforted us greatly, as they said in the name of the Lord ‘you all shall be well again.’ Upon leaving the hovel, Joseph placed his slippers upon my father’s feet and sprang upon his horse from the doorway and rode home barefoot. The next day Joseph removed father to his own house and nursed him until he recovered” (quoted in Stories about Joseph Smith the Prophet: A Collection of Incidents Related by Friends Who Knew Him, comp. Edwin F. Parry [1934], 33–34).

Ask the assigned class member to share the story of Elder Spencer W. Kimball helping a mother and her children in an airport (Our Heritage, page 131).

After the class member’s presentation, relate the following story about President Gordon B. Hinckley:

In 1998 a devastating hurricane caused great destruction in Central America. The Church sent large amounts of relief food and supplies. President Gordon B. Hinckley felt that he should go to Honduras and Nicaragua to meet with and encourage the people there. Later in a Christmas devotional, President Hinckley spoke of a two-year-old girl he met on this trip who had been orphaned in the disaster. Her mother had died a few months before the hurricane, and when the hurricane hit, the father piled the furniture in his house to avoid the rising water.

President Hinckley related that the father “took a little mattress and placed it at the top and laid [his daughter] on it. In his frantic and desperate effort he suffered a stroke and died. … No one knew anything of her, until a young man, two days later, happened to look up in that abandoned house and saw her still alive. He tenderly brought her down and delivered her to the bishop and the bishop’s wife. It was there that we saw her. …

“I would hope that at this Christmas season, when there will be no gift-giving among these devastated people, this small orphan girl might receive perhaps a little taste of candy, something sweet and delicious. I must see that that happens.

“God bless the people everywhere … that their hearts may be opened and their hands extended to help the needy” (Church News, 12 Dec. 1998, 4).

  • What impresses you about the actions of these prophets? What can we learn from their example?


Emphasize that we are led by the word of God given through His prophet. As we listen to the prophet’s counsel and act on his instructions, we will receive the direction and strength necessary to meet the challenges of our day. As prompted by the Spirit, testify of the truths discussed during the lesson.

You may want to have class members sing “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet” (Hymns, no. 19). Or ask the assigned class member or group of class members to sing it.

Additional Teaching Ideas

1. The prophet will never lead us astray

Emphasize that we can have complete confidence that the prophet appointed by God will always lead us correctly.

While serving in the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Ezra Taft Benson taught, “Keep your eye on the Prophet, for the Lord will never permit his Prophet to lead this Church astray” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1966, 123; or Improvement Era, Dec. 1966, 1145).

While serving as a counselor in the First Presidency, President Joseph F. Smith taught: “If [the President of the Church] should become unfaithful, God would remove him out of his place. I testify in the name of Israel’s God that he will not suffer the head of the Church, whom he has chosen to stand at the head, to transgress his laws and apostatize; the moment he should take a course that would in time lead to it, God would take him away. Why? Because to suffer a wicked man to occupy that position would be to allow, as it were, the fountain to become corrupted, which is something he will never permit” (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [1939], 44–45).

2. Prophecy and revelation on war

As you discuss the roles of a prophet, you may want to read D&C 87 with class members. This revelation was given through Joseph Smith in 1832. It foretold the United States Civil War, which began in 1861.

3. “Watchmen on the Tower” video presentation

If the videocassette Teachings from the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History (53933) is available, consider showing “Watchmen on the Tower,” a four-minute segment.

4. Contributions of latter-day Presidents of the Church

Display pictures of the latter-day Presidents of the Church (62575; Gospel Art Picture Kit 401, 507–20; see also page 219). If you use pictures from the meetinghouse library or the Gospel Art Picture Kit, you may want to display by each picture the prophet’s name and the dates he served as President of the Church, as shown on page 219.

Ask class members to turn to “Church History Chronology” (pages 272–73 in this manual and pages 27–28 in the Class Member Study Guide). Explain that this is a helpful resource in finding some of the major contributions of each President of the Church.


Joseph Smith

Brigham Young

John Taylor

Wilford Woodruff

Lorenzo Snow

Joseph F. Smith

Heber J. Grant

George Albert Smith

David O. McKay

Joseph Fielding Smith

Harold B. Lee

Spencer W. Kimball

Ezra Taft Benson

Howard W. Hunter

Gordon B. Hinckley

Thomas S. Monson