Why Do Mormons Trust Men to Speak for God?
With the April 2012 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints just around the corner, I start thinking about what's going on in the world and what our prophets will have to say, pertinent to our times. After all, that's what modern-day prophets do, right? We live during a time when much of what prophets teach and instruct, which runs glaringly in opposition to mainstream society, for some, becomes a bit uncomfortable -- and to a few, unbearable. No doubt this is the way it has always been, but I'm pretty sure that in these Last Days, with modern technology, it's particularly challenging.
One of our most unique Mormon beliefs is that we do follow, or take direction from, those whom we believe to be living prophets. We believe that prophets are ordinary men, called of God, to speak His mind and will for our day. Every member of the LDS Church makes this choice through the covenant of baptism -- and throughout active membership has many opportunities, through priesthood authority, to signify this ongoing support. To sustain living prophets is a key component of every faithful Latter-day Saint's testimony and membership.
In general conference of October 1994, Elder David B. Haight had this to say: “When we sustain the President of the Church by our uplifted hand, it not only signifies that we acknowledge before God that he is the rightful possessor of all the priesthood keys; it means that we covenant with God that we will abide by the direction and the counsel that comes through His prophet. It is a solemn covenant” (see here).
To sustain prophets is a choice, and requires trust. However, contrary to what some may believe, this is not blind trust. For a Mormon, the trust to follow a living prophet is a byproduct of our testimony of The Book of Mormon. For many outside of our faith this may seem quite odd -- and if so please read my post, here, where I explain exactly how this works.
Trusting in God and believing that we have living prophets upon the earth today, who speak His will, is one of the great blessings of membership in the Church. The blessings come as we hearken to their counsel -- believing that it comes from God.
What might be interesting to those outside of the Mormon faith, is the fact that not only do we believe prophets speak to members of the LDS Church, but that their words are also applicable and important for all of God's children. The words of living prophets are for all of mankind. Their teachings and exhortations are not limited to Mormons. The difference in a member's relationship with living prophets is that we have bound ourselves, through covenant, to hearken to their messages. To hearken means not only the obligation to listen, but to DO -- or quite literally, follow their instruction.
The other key element in the member relationship with living prophets, is the right to have the Holy Ghost confirm to us that the words they speak are inspired of God. This does not mean, however, that members can simply pick and choose which counsel they are comfortable following. And of course, this is where faith and trust enter this most unique of earthly relationships.
The establishment of trust to follow a prophet emanates from a personal testimony that the Church is true -- which includes that it is led by living prophets. Once that is established a member can have confidence/trust that although at times following the words of prophets is difficult, nonetheless, it is the current mind and will of God.
As much as this prophet/member relationship may appear to outsiders to be between man and man, it is not. The relationship that members have with prophets springs forth from our relationship directly with God -- and our willingness to trust Him. As the most basic and vital element of our testimony, of the restored gospel, is our willingness to have faith in Jesus Christ that living prophets speak on His behalf, to the world at large.
God sustains the words of His prophets, as His mouthpiece, and has made this fact known in both ancient and modern scripture:
Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets. (Amos 3:7)
"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)
"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; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name's glory" (D&C 21:4–6).
The Lord also gives this warning to those who have made covenants to follow His prophets and then reject their words:
"And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people;
For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant;
They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall. (D&C 1:14–16)
For those of us who choose to follow living prophets, today, we believe that by doing so, we are obedient to God's will, and in doing so our families are blessed with safety and protection from the evils of our times.
Video: Mormon Doctrine -- Living Prophets and their Message
Although at times it might be difficult to follow the counsel of living prophets, (and I don't think that it's supposed to be easy), I trust that they lead the Church and its people in the way that God would have them, for our day. History proves that following prophets brings safety, both physically and spiritually, to those who will hearken to their words. I may not always understand why we are counseled to do certain things, but I'm willing to trust that these prophets, called of God -- and whom I have sustained as such -- have no other desire than to lead me and my family, safely, back to God.
One of the great blessings of following living prophets, to me personally, is the quiet peace that I feel inside when I confidently follow their counsel, and willingly stand up to support their teachings.
March 2012 First Presidency Message: Why Do We Need Prophets?
"Because Heavenly Father loves His children, He has not left them to walk through this mortal life without direction and guidance. The teachings of our Heavenly Father are not the ordinary, predictable, run-of-the-mill kind you can pick up in paperback at the local bookstore. They are the wisdom of an all-powerful, all-knowing celestial Being who loves His children. Encompassed in His words is the secret of the ages—the key to happiness in this life and in the world to come."
Meet Today's Prophets and Apostles
Prophets and Apostles Speak Today
The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles
Gospel Topics: Prophets
"As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are blessed to be led by living prophets—inspired men called to speak for the Lord, as did Moses, Isaiah, Peter, Paul, Nephi, Mormon, and other prophets of the scriptures. We sustain the President of the Church as prophet, seer, and revelator—the only person on the earth who receives revelation to guide the entire Church. We also sustain the counselors in the First Presidency and the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators.
Like the prophets of old, prophets today testify of Jesus Christ and teach His gospel. They make known God's will and true character. They speak boldly and clearly, denouncing sin and warning of its consequences. At times, they may be inspired to prophesy of future events for our benefit.
We can always trust the living prophets. Their teachings reflect the will of the Lord, who declared: "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).
Our greatest safety lies in strictly following the word of the Lord given through His prophets, particularly the current President of the Church. The Lord warns that those who ignore the words of the living prophets will fall (see ). He promises great blessings to those who follow the President of the Church."