Some time ago my three-year-old grandson, Jacob, came running into the kitchen and called out to his mother, “What are you doing?” She answered, “I am feeding little Emily. What are you doing?” Jacob responded, “I’m keeping the commandments.”
Children have such great potential for learning the significant things of the kingdom. Undoubtedly you too are striving to keep the commandments. You too have great potential for learning and doing the significant work of the kingdom.
Recently I visited a Primary in which the Primary president asked, “Who is our prophet today?”
The children responded without waiting to be called upon: “President Gordon B. Hinckley.”
The leader then asked, “What does President Hinckley do?”
The children were not as ready to respond to this question, so she answered for them: “He conducts the business of the Church.”
I thought, “Yes, and so much more.” Feelings of respect and honor for our prophet and the office he holds filled my being. I wanted to share my testimony of the blessings of having a living prophet of God on earth today. I wanted the children to know that the hymn they sing in Primary “We Listen to a Prophet’s Voice” declares the truth when they sing:
We listen to a prophet’s voice and hear the Savior too.
With love he bids us do the work the Lord would have us do.
The Savior calls his chosen seer to preach the word of God,
That men might learn to find the path marked by the iron rod.1
Our prophet holds the holy priesthood of God, the keys of which enable us to participate in the saving ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Righteous priesthood leaders have the authority and power to govern and bless the Lord’s people. As sisters in Zion, we can be part of the mighty work of God as we assist priesthood leaders. I would like to suggest a pattern with three steps that will help us learn from our priesthood leaders: sustain, listen, and respond.
The first step is to sustain our priesthood leaders. They have received the power of God for the purpose of blessing our lives.
Sister Mary Ellen W. Smoot, former Relief Society general president, and I visited San Salvador in February last year, shortly after the people had experienced three major earthquakes.
We visited a family who was living in their backyard. The walls of their home had fallen down around their feet just four days before. The father had used the tin from the original roof to make a covered area for cooking and sleeping. He told us how he had managed to get his family, including his 10-year-old daughter who is paralyzed, to safety.
At the time we visited, bricks and cement had been delivered by the Church to rebuild their home. Nevertheless, on this Saturday, this father, as the bishop of the ward, was completing the forms for sustaining the officers of the Church in ward conference the following day. Here in the midst of a disaster, he was preparing to offer the members of his ward the opportunity to raise their hands to sustain the general and local officers of the Church.
Each year millions of Church members throughout the world participate in the act of sustaining. Each has an opportunity to accept the words of the Savior in the Doctrine and Covenants: “Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38).
It requires faith to surrender our will and follow the direction of those in authority. Submitting or surrendering is not something mortals do well. But we are not talking about surrendering to human beings nor to another person’s will. We are talking about surrendering to God’s will and His authority upon this earth.
President James E. Faust said: “Some women may feel it subverts their agency to be directed by the power of the priesthood. This feeling comes from misunderstanding. There should be no compulsion, duress, or unrighteous dominion involved in priesthood authority.”2
Men are called, ordained, and set apart to administer the saving ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is more than the service of organizing the work of the kingdom—this is doing the work of the Savior, which is bringing individuals and families unto Christ. Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained, “The Lord’s servants must do the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way or their efforts will come to naught.”3
The Lord’s way is for men and women to be directed by priesthood authority and for both to receive inspiration from the same source: the Lord. This means we are to follow the true order of heaven for leadership in the Church. It is our privilege and right to know the mind and will of God, but it may come through someone else. Yes, we are entitled to direct personal revelation for ourselves, but that does not preempt inspiration by the priesthood.
All that we love about the gospel is administered by those holding priesthood keys. We are blessed when we sustain our local priesthood leaders with the same conviction and joy that we sustain the prophet—with heart and soul.
The second step in the pattern is to listen with understanding. Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: “I cannot stress enough the importance of listening to and following the prophet and the apostles. … Think of it! Think about the value of having a source of information that you can always count on, that will always have your eternal interests at heart, and that will always provide inspired truth. That is a phenomenal gift and guide.”4
In the book of Matthew the Savior counseled, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11:15). Faith can direct ears and hearts to hear beyond spoken words.
Listen with a desire to understand the perspective of priesthood leaders. When we listen more and talk less, we learn more. In the book of Timothy we are counseled to “learn in silence” (1 Tim. 2:11).
Listen to allow the Spirit to enlarge and expand learning beyond our own understanding. We can come to know for ourselves of the truth of the teachings of our priesthood leaders. In the Doctrine and Covenants we are taught, “Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart” (D&C 8:2).
Listen for opportunities to be on the same team. President Gordon B. Hinckley admonishes: “In this world, almost without exception, we must work together as teams. It is so obvious to all of us that those on the football field or on the basketball court must work together with loyalty one to another if they are to win. It is so in life with each of us. We work as teams, and there must be loyalty among us.”5
I have personally found it helpful to record not only the directions I receive from priesthood leaders but also the impressions I feel from the Spirit. I have a well-worn file folder that contains priesthood teachings and my impressions. As I review this folder, I am reminded of principles that need to be applied to various challenges I am facing in my Church calling and in my family.
The third step in the pattern is to respond promptly. In January 2001 I attended a meeting in which the priesthood adviser for the general auxiliaries encouraged us to follow the example of President Gordon B. Hinckley and reach out to lift others.
I felt a desire in my heart to follow President Hinckley’s example and be more encouraging and more appreciative. After the meeting I hurriedly walked over to the distribution center in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building to pick up some supplies. I saw a mother and grandmother there with three children. I generally greet children when I see them, but I was in a hurry this time.
The words of my priesthood adviser came back to my mind. I stopped and spoke to the children. The father and grandfather joined the group. I learned they were in Salt Lake City for a family member’s temple wedding. As I lingered, I expressed words of appreciation for the goodness I felt from this family. Standing in the midst of this family, the Spirit blessed me, and tears flowed as hearts were intertwined. The teachings of a priesthood leader and the promptings from the Spirit can be so simple and yet can bless our lives in important ways.
President Hinckley has said: “I feel to invite women everywhere to rise to the great potential within you. I do not ask that you reach beyond your capacity. I hope you will not nag yourselves with thoughts of failure. I hope you will not try to set goals far beyond your capacity to achieve. I hope you will simply do what you can do in the best way you know. If you do so, you will witness miracles come to pass.”6
As we complete the three steps in this pattern—sustain, listen, and respond—we rejoice in opportunities to learn from priesthood leaders. Not long ago my Relief Society visiting teacher gave me a little “grateful heart” book with blank pages and invited me to record my blessings daily.
As I looked back at the blessings I recorded, I found many entries pertaining to the counsel and blessings I have received from priesthood leaders. I would like to share a few of these with you:
“I am grateful for a bishop who teaches and inspires, for temple ordinances and instructions and a peaceful place to learn, for chosen men who labor to do the work of the kingdom, for a husband’s priesthood hands upon my head to bless and comfort, and for a prophet with a voice of clear direction, encouragement, and appreciation.”
We as women can join the Primary children in testifying that “we listen to a prophet’s voice and hear the Savior too. With love he bids us do the work the Lord would have us do.”7
We have the opportunity to be women whose ears are attuned to the words of prophets and other priesthood leaders as if they are from the Lord Himself. Let us rejoice in the opportunities we have as sisters in Zion to assist priesthood leaders in the work of bringing families unto Christ.
A prophet’s plea is good enough for me. President Hinckley has said: “Stand on your feet and with a song in your heart move forward, living the gospel, loving the Lord, and building the kingdom. Together we shall stay the course and keep the faith, the Almighty being our strength.”8 Of this I testify.
Most Ensign articles can be used for family home evening discussions. The following questions are for that purpose or for personal reflection:
What are some specific ways in which women can assist priesthood leaders in fulfilling their callings?
What do we commit to do when we raise our hands to sustain general and local officers of the Church?
How can we make ourselves more receptive to inspiration given through priesthood leaders?