This lesson is one of my favorites (aren’t they all). The living prophet is the one who provides us with the most timely advice, instruction, and guidance so any study into what they are telling us to do is often the most applicable. ETB recognized this and stressed this in many of his talks, which we will review this week.
To start, the two videos on the Church’s website are worth reviewing, even if one if probably too short to be used in the lesson. Sister McConkie’s brief talk (45 seconds) stresses that while following the living prophet might not be “cool”, it is critical in understanding what the Lord needs us to do. The second video is a collection of testimonies of the prophet given around a talk by Elder Christofferson.
In my timing of this lesson, I will try to leave enough time at the end of the lesson for a discussion of some of the key teachings of President Monson. To do this, I will paraphrase many of the stories. I intend to use many examples from President Monson’s talks throughout the lesson, the actual subject will depend greatly on where the discussion leads regarding which things he is currently teaching us. Invariably it will be centered on service, but I have no doubt we’ll hit on other teachings as well such as obedience, reading the scriptures, prayer, etc.
From the Life of Ezra Taft Benson
This lesson starts with the story from ETB’s youth. I will paraphrase the story of how when ETB was 15 (1915), his father read a letter from Joseph F. Smith (the Prophet at the time) that implement Family Home Evening. In 1947, another letter went out, asking for a renewed focus on Family Home Evening and ETB emphasized it during his conference address that year as an apostle.
(As an aside, I will ask the quorum what we should do to commemorate the 100th year of Family Home Evening in the church or as families? It might be a good thing to celebrate.)
Concluding this section I will have the last paragraph read from the manual:
Having experienced blessings that result from heeding the counsel of the Lord’s chosen servants, Ezra Taft Benson frequently urged Latter-day Saints to keep their eyes on the living prophet. He boldly testified of the divine calling of each President of the Church with whom he served.6 When President Spencer W. Kimball, who had been ordained an Apostle on the same day as President Benson, delivered his first address as President of the Church to a group of Church leaders, President Benson “arose and with a voice filled with emotion, echoing the feeling of all present, said, in substance: ‘President Kimball, through all the years that these meetings have been held, we have never heard such an address as you have just given. Truly, there is a prophet in Israel.’”7 And when that divine calling came to President Benson after the death of President Kimball, he accepted it with humility and determination. He said: “My wife, Flora, and I have prayed continually that President Kimball’s days would be prolonged on this earth and another miracle performed on his behalf. Now that the Lord has spoken, we will do our best, under his guiding direction, to move the work forward in the earth.
1 – The President of the Church is the Lord’s mouthpiece on the earth.
Learn to keep your eye on the prophet. He is the Lord’s mouthpiece and the only man who can speak for the Lord today. Let his inspired counsel take precedence. Let his inspired words be a basis for evaluating the counsel of all lesser authorities. Then live close to the Spirit so you may know the truth of all things.
(short section, won’t spend much time here)
2 – The most important prophet for us is the living prophet.
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. 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 that you should do is of the latest inspired words from the Lord’s mouthpiece. That is why it is essential that you have access to and carefully read his words.
Beware of those who would set up the dead prophets against the living prophets, for the living prophets always take precedence.
Each President has been uniquely selected for the time and situation which the world and Church needed. All were “men of the hour,” as we have witnessed in President Spencer W. Kimball. Contemplate the miracle of that foreordination and preparation! Though called and given keys many years prior to the time that the mantle fell upon him, the President was always the right man in the right place for the times. This miracle alone is one of the marks of the divinity of the Church.
To make this point more clear, I will ask the quorum to try to imagine Spencer W. Kimball leading the pioneers across the plains with his health issues, or Brigham Young, leading the church today.
3 – The living prophet tells us what we need to know, not necessarily what we want to hear.
A revealing characteristic of a true prophet is that he declares a message from God. He makes no apology for the message, nor does he fear for any social repercussions which may lead to derision and persecution.
Sometimes there are those who feel their earthly knowledge on a certain subject is superior to the heavenly knowledge which God gives to his prophet on the same subject. They feel the prophet must have the same earthly credentials or training which they have had before they will accept anything the prophet has to say that might contradict their earthly schooling. How much earthly schooling did Joseph Smith have? Yet he gave revelations on all kinds of subjects. … We encourage earthly knowledge in many areas, but remember if there is ever a conflict between earthly knowledge and the words of the prophet, you stand with the prophet and you’ll be blessed and time will show you have done the right thing.
Said President Harold B. Lee:
“You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may conflict with your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. … Your safety and ours depends upon whether or not we follow. … Let’s keep our eye on the President of the Church.”
How we respond to the words of a living prophet when he tells us what we need to know, but would rather not hear, is a test of our faithfulness. …
The learned may feel the prophet is only inspired when he agrees with them, otherwise the prophet is just giving his opinion—speaking as a man. The rich may feel they have no need to take counsel of a lowly prophet. …
… The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.
As a prophet reveals the truth it divides the people. The honest in heart heed his words but the unrighteous either ignore the prophet or fight him. When the prophet points out the sins of the world, the worldly either want to close the mouth of the prophet, or else act as if the prophet didn’t exist, rather than repent of their sins. Popularity is never a test of truth. Many a prophet has been killed or cast out. As we come closer to the Lord’s second coming you can expect that as the people of the world become more wicked, the prophet will be less popular with them.
How have we reacted to the words of the Prophet? Did we question whether 18 year old’s are ready for missions? Or were we excited by the change? Did we take up ETB’s challenge to read the Book of Mormon? Did we include the Proclamation on the Family in our scripture reading? In October of 2013, President Monson challenged us to do better with our Home Teaching, have we? Or did we listen to his words and assume he was talking to someone else?
4 – We will be blessed as we follow the living prophet.
To help you pass the crucial tests which lie ahead, I am going to give you … a grand key which, if you will honor, will crown you with God’s glory and bring you out victorious in spite of Satan’s fury.
… As a Church we sing the hymn, “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet” [Hymns, no. 19]. Here then is the grand key—Follow the prophet. …
… The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.
Previous lessons have touched on the idea that this life is a test, for which we have the answer sheets available (the scriptures). I will refer back to these discussions here in regards to the Prophet being the key to our success in this test.
Worried about getting the wrong answer?
… in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 21 verses 4–6, the Lord states:
“Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;
“For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.
“For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.
Depending on the time available, I might use the quotes from Wilford Woodruff and Marion Romney.
One point I will stress during this portion of the discussion, is that the blessings are often not immediate. This is a problem in today’s world where we expect instant gratification. Noah is a good example of the need to listen to the Prophet, but most estimates of the time it took to build the ark would be between 55-75 years. The warning about the flood occurred 120 years before the flood actually happened. Moses led the people to the promised land, but this took 40 years because of some of their actions. Even Lehi spent years in the wilderness before making his way to the new land. Often the blessings promised to us by the Prophets take time or lead to something else.
The story is told how Brigham Young, driving through a community, saw a man building a house and simply told him to double the thickness of his walls. Accepting President Young as a prophet, the man changed his plans and doubled the walls. Shortly afterward a flood came through that town, resulting in much destruction, but this man’s walls stood. While putting the roof on his house, he was heard singing, “We thank thee, O God, for a prophet!
As members of the Church we have some close quarters to pass through if we are going to get home safely. We will be given a chance to choose between conflicting counsel given by some. That’s why we must learn—and the sooner we learn, the better—to keep our eye on the Prophet, the President of the Church
For some excellent quotes that tie into this lesson see this website: Prophet, Seers and Revelators.
In order to add a touch of what President Monson is currently teaching us, I compiled a list of his conference addresses since his first conference presiding (April 2008). I hope to include a reference to as many of the talks as possible over the course of the lesson:
- Examples of Righteousness – We are to be examples. Be Worthy, Be Strong, (Love the Ear Wiggling!)
- Looking Back, Moving Forward – Kindness, Respect for others, especially in our families.
- To Learn, To Do, To Be. – Economic Struggle, Families. Stressing the need to learn what our duties are, do the things we are supposed to do, and most importantly, we should strive to be the type of person we know we should be.
- Finding Joy in the Journey – Things Change, “There is no tomorrow to remember if we don’t do something today”, Tell those important to us that we Love them. Find Joys even in struggles. Pray, Express Gratitude.
- Be your Best Self – Study Diligently, Pray Fervently, Live Righteously
- Be of Good Cheer – Economic struggles, the Lord is with us
- May you have courage – (Relief Society) – Courage to not judge other (Love one another), be chaste, and stand for truth
- School Thy Feelings, O My Brother – Control our tempers.
- What have I done for someone today? – Service, not just intentions.
- Preparation brings blessings – Preparing for missions, temple marriage
- He is Risen! – The Resurrection (Easter)
- The 3 R’s of choice – Right of Choice (Agency), Responsibility of Choice (doing nothing is not really a choice), Results of choice (consequences)
- The Divine Gift of Gratitude – Be Grateful
- Charity Never Faileth – (RS) – Do not Judge (love the window washing story), Love one another
- Priesthood Power – Be worth of it. Use the Priesthood. Serve others. Marriage (either get married or work to protect your marriage, depending on your situation)
- The Holy Temple—a Beacon to the World – The Blessings of the temples
- Dare to stand alone – Stand up for what we believe in
- Stand in Holy Places – Decline of Religion in the world, Prayer
- Willing and Worthy to Serve – Power of the Priesthood and the responsibilities that come with it. Willingness. Service will bring joy.
- The Race of Life – Keeping an eternal perspective
- Believe, Obey, and Endure – (RS) Have Faith, be obedient, and endure to the end
- See Others as They May Become – Look for the best in people, People can change. Missionary work.
- Consider the Blessings – Prayers heard and answered. Listen to Promptings, be willing to serve.
- Come, All Ye Sons of God – Search the Scriptures, Plan, Teach, Serve
- Obedience Brings Blessings – Obedience will help us learn, understand, keep us safe, and make us happy.
- True Shepherds – Home Teachings, Service.
- “I Will Not Fail Thee, nor Forsake Thee” – We will become more faithful and stronger as we endure trials. (His wife, Frances, had died the previous May, making this talk more emotional)
- We Never Walk Alone – Heavenly Father loves us and is with us as we encounter trials. Prayer, Scriptures.
- Be Strong and of a Good Courage – Stand up for our beliefs
- Love—the Essence of the Gospel – Self-explanatory and among my favorite conference talks of all time
- Guided Safely Home – Faith, Courage, Prayer
- Ponder the Path of Thy Feet – Follow the example of Christ. Read the Scriptures, Follow his teachings.