“We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet”

Lesson 37 – Our Heritage, 131; D&C 1:38; 21:4-6, 43:2; 68:3-4; 20:1, 21-26; 101:43-54; 107:91-92


In our study of this material, we should learn to more fully appreciate the need for a prophet, be more knowledgeable about his role and responsibility, and seek to be more obedient to his counsel.


The need for a living prophet

President Hugh B. Brown shared the following experience that occurred before he was called as a General Authority:  While working as an attorney, a barrister, in England just before the start of World War II, he befriended a member of the English House of Commons. This gentleman was a prominent member of the legal community and a former justice of the supreme court of Britain.  As friends, they discussed a variety of subjects of mutual interest.  One day in 1939, as it became apparent that WWII would soon commence, his English friend asked Bro. Brown to speak in defense of his religious beliefs—just as if they were discussing a legal issue.  In a general conference address, Pres. Brown recounted the essence of their exchange. “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.’ ” His friend affirmed his belief in 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 Bro. 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’ “ (Improvement Era, Dec. 1967, 36-37).  Of course, it is the testimony of all faithful Latter-day Saints that God does speak today through a living prophet, even Thomas S. Monson.


A living prophet is needed because he helps us cope with and overcome the significant and important problems and concerns of our times.  While President of the Quorum of the Twelve, Pres. 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 in how to build the ark.  Every generation has need of the ancient scriptures 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” (Conference Report, Korean Area Conference 1975, 52).


Roles of the living prophet

While all the brethren serving in the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are sustained by the membership (and the Lord) as prophets, seers, and revelators, only the President of the Church—the senior Apostle on the earth—is authorized to receive revelation that is binding on the entire Church.  He alone is authorized to exercise all the priesthood keys necessary to govern the Church.


Scriptural references indicating the roles of the living prophet include:

·        D&C 1:38; 21:4-5; 43:2; 68:3-4.  The prophet reveals the will of the Lord and speaks for Him. Note: We have received guidance from the prophet on the importance of building strong families, temple building and temple worship, retaining newly converted members, managing finances to avoid debt, and the importance of studying the Book of Mormon.

·        D&C 20:21-26; Mosiah 13:33.  The prophet testifies of Jesus Christ and teaches the gospel.

·        D&C 21:1; Mosiah 8:13-18.  The prophet is a seer—one upon whom God bestows great power to know the past and the future; one who can know of things that are not known or are hidden. Seers also have the power to translate ancient records.

·        D&C 101:43-54 (a parable).  Think about how this parable teaches us a lesson about giving attention to the counsel of the President of the Church.

·        D&C 101:54.  The prophet can see coming danger and warn us in advance.

·        D&C 107:91-92. The prophet is the presiding authority over the Church.  He is chosen by God and receives direction, inspiration, and guidance from God for the Church.  It is our opportunity and responsibility to sustain the prophet by word and deed--See D&C 107:22.


Giving heed to the words and counsel of the living prophet

D&C 21:4-6 teach about members’ responsibility to give diligent heed to the prophet and promise us certain blessings if we are obedient and faithful in following his inspired 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]” (Improvement Era, Dec. 1970, 126).


Inspired counsel from the prophet can be found in General Conference talks, First Presidency messages, and other articles in the Church publications as well as any direction given in Church meetings that is passed along from the First Presidency.


Closing one 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” (Ensign, May 1988, 84). 

This is similar counsel as that given by Elder Harold B. Lee in 1946 when he stated that the conference report should “be the guide to [our] walk and talk during the next six months” (Conf. Rpt., April 1946, 68).

In class, you may wish to suggest ways in which we can improve our study and use of the prophet’s conference address(es) both as individuals and in our family.


We never fail to gain blessings when we follow the counsel of the prophet, as demonstrated in this story related by Elder Bruce D. Porter of the Seventy when he was a young married college student in Boston: “My [home teaching] 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. Then they 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 Pres. 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 to 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).  


Latter-day prophets exemplify Christlike love

Prophets serve selflessly and because of their great love for the Lord and their fellowmen.  That is an example worth following.  Here is an example 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” (Stories about Joseph Smith the Prophet: A Collection of Incidents Related by Friends Who Knew Him, comp. Edwin F. Parry [1934], 33-34). 




Elder Ezra Taft Benson taught, “Keep your eye on the Prophet, for the Lord will never permit his Prophet to lead this Church astray” (Improvement Era, Dec. 1966, 1145). 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 in time would 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).


In 1832, the Prophet Joseph Smith gave a prophecy and revelation on war. It foretold, almost thirty years before it came to pass, the War Between the States (a.k.a., the U.S. “Civil War”) that began in 1861.


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