“Lesson 10 Class Preparation Material: Following the Lord’s Living Prophets,” Foundations of the Restoration Teacher Material (2019)
“Lesson 10 Class Preparation Material,” Foundations of the Restoration Teacher Material
On the day the Church of Jesus Christ was organized, the Lord revealed that the Prophet Joseph Smith would “be called a seer, a translator, a prophet, an apostle of Jesus Christ, an elder of the church” (Doctrine and Covenants 21:1).
The Lord then gave a commandment to the Saints about following His prophet and described the blessings that would come if they did so.
The following year the Lord reiterated the connection between His voice and the voice of His prophets. In a revelation that served as a preface for the Book of Commandments, which would later become the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord again taught that “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 the voice of my servants, it is the same” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:38).
Elder Ulisses Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles testified:
Having prophets is a sign of God’s love for His children. They make known the promises and the true nature of God and of Jesus Christ to Their people. …
By following [the Lord’s prophets], our lives are happier and less complicated, our difficulties and problems are easier to bear, and we create a spiritual armor around us that will protect us from the attacks of the enemy in our day. (Ulisses Soares, “Prophets Speak by the Power of the Holy Spirit,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2018, 99)
At times, you may find it difficult to accept and follow the counsel and teachings of the Lord’s prophets. This might occur when you do not fully understand the reasoning behind their words. Or their teachings may conflict with popular views and practices of society or with your own personal views and family traditions.
Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave the following counsel and promise:
Don’t be surprised if at times your personal views are not initially in harmony with the teachings of the Lord’s prophet. These are moments of learning, of humility, when we go to our knees in prayer. We walk forward in faith, trusting in God, knowing that with time we will receive more spiritual clarity from our Heavenly Father. …
… I have found that as I prayerfully study the words of the prophet of God and carefully, with patience, spiritually align my will with his inspired teachings, my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ always increases. If we choose to set his counsel aside and determine that we know better, our faith suffers and our eternal perspective is clouded. I promise you that as you remain resolute in following the prophet, your faith in the Savior will increase. (Neil L. Andersen, “The Prophet of God,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2018, 26–27)
Sister Carol F. McConkie, who served as first counselor in the Young Women General Presidency, taught:
As we give heed to, uphold, and affirm prophetic word, we witness that we have the faith to humbly submit to the will, the wisdom, and the timing of the Lord.
We heed prophetic word even when it may seem unreasonable, inconvenient, and uncomfortable. According to the world’s standards, following the prophet may be unpopular, politically incorrect, or socially unacceptable. But following the prophet is always right. …
When we heed the words of the prophets, we build our homes and our lives upon an eternally sure foundation, “the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God” [Helaman 5:12]. (Carol F. McConkie, “Live according to the Words of the Prophets,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2014, 77, 79)
The following example from Church history can help illustrate what it means to receive the words of the Lord’s living prophets in patience and faith. Speaking of the vision of the kingdoms of glory, now recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 76 (see also “The Vision (D&C 76),” ChurchofJesusChrist.org), President Brigham Young related:
When God revealed to Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon that there was a place prepared for all, according to the light they had received and their rejection of evil and practice of good, it was a great trial to many, and some apostatized because God was not going to send to everlasting punishment heathens and infants, but had a place of salvation, in due time, for all, and would bless the honest and virtuous and truthful, whether they ever belonged to any church or not. It was a new doctrine to this generation, and many stumbled at it. (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young , 292)
Brigham Young himself had difficulty accepting this doctrine at first. He said: “My traditions were such, that when the Vision came first to me, it was directly contrary and opposed to my former education. I said, Wait a little. I did not reject it; but I could not understand it. … I [had] to think and pray, to read and think, until I knew and fully understood it for myself” (in Journal of Discourses, 6:281).
Early in the Church’s history, Joseph Smith sought the Lord’s help concerning Church members who had been deceived by false doctrine.
[Several months after the Church was organized, Joseph Smith] learned that Hiram Page, one of the Eight Witnesses [of the Book of Mormon] and a teacher in the Aaronic Priesthood, had started to seek revelations for the church through what he thought was a seer stone. Many Saints … believed these revelations were from God.
Joseph knew he was facing a crisis. Hiram’s revelations mimicked the language of scripture. They spoke of the establishment of Zion and the organization of the church, but at times they contradicted the New Testament and truths the Lord had revealed through Joseph.
Unsure of what to do, Joseph stayed up praying one night, pleading for guidance. (Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, vol. 1, The Standard of Truth, 1815–1846 , 97)
In response to Joseph Smith’s prayers, the Lord gave the revelation recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 28, which clarified Joseph’s unique role as the Prophet of the Church.
The Lord also declared that the things Hiram Page had written were not of God (see Doctrine and Covenants 28:11). Soon after this revelation was given, “the Saints renounced Hiram’s revelations and unanimously sustained Joseph as the only one who could receive revelation for the church” (Saints, 1:98).
Because the Lord’s living prophets hold the keys to receive revelation for the Church, they also have the responsibility to teach and clarify doctrine for Church members. Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has taught:
In the Church today, just as anciently, establishing the doctrine of Christ or correcting doctrinal deviations is a matter of divine revelation to those the Lord endows with apostolic authority. …
They have the right, the power, and authority to declare the mind and will of God to his people, subject to the over-all power and authority of the President of the Church. …
How does the Savior reveal His will and doctrine to prophets, seers, and revelators? He may act by messenger or in His own person. He may speak by His own voice or by the voice of the Holy Spirit … (see 1 Nephi 17:45; Doctrine and Covenants 9:8). He may direct Himself to His servants individually or acting in council (see 3 Nephi 27:1–8). …
… It should be remembered that not every statement made by a Church leader, past or present, necessarily constitutes doctrine. It is commonly understood in the Church that a statement made by one leader on a single occasion often represents a personal, though well-considered, opinion, not meant to be official or binding for the whole Church. (D. Todd Christofferson, “The Doctrine of Christ,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2012, 86–88)
Elder Andersen explained that true doctrine is taught consistently by the Lord’s chosen, living prophets:
A few question their faith when they find a statement made by a Church leader decades ago that seems incongruent [inconsistent] with our doctrine. There is an important principle that governs the doctrine of the Church. The doctrine is taught by all 15 members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. It is not hidden in an obscure paragraph of one talk. True principles are taught frequently and by many. Our doctrine is not difficult to find. (Neil L. Andersen, “Trial of Your Faith,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2012, 41)