Lessons from the Old Testament: Watchmen of the Lord

Gary J. Coleman

One of the great blessings of membership in the restored Church is the opportunity to be led by prophets and apostles of the Lord, just as members of the ancient Church were led. When I was a new convert many years ago, I noticed that my friends and colleagues in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were not bashful in declaring their desire to “follow the Brethren.” I came to know they meant following the 15 men whom the Lord had designated as prophets, seers, and revelators and as His special witnesses in the latter days. Anciently these men were referred to as “[watchmen] unto the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 33:7) and “watchmen upon [Jerusalem’s] walls” (Isaiah 62:6). “Therefore,” the Lord declared, “thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me” (Ezekiel 33:7).

In the latter days the Lord gave a parable in which a nobleman told his servant to “set watchmen round about … , and build a tower, that one may overlook the land round about, to be a watchman upon the tower” (D&C 101:45). Just as a “watchman upon the tower” was able to protect his people because of the perspective his position afforded, so do the prophets and apostles protect us.

Personal Experiences

My appreciation for the vision, insight, revelatory nature, and far-reaching discernment of our living prophets has been heightened because of personal experiences I have had high in the lookout towers of U.S. national forests. Immediately following our sealing in the Cardston Alberta Temple, my wife and I journeyed to northern Idaho to begin my assignment on Anthony Peak in the St. Joe National Forest. We were to be “watchmen upon the tower” throughout the summer, watching for fires started accidentally by careless campers and hikers, prompted by sparks from heavy machinery or hotboxes on railroad cars, or ignited by hundreds of lightning strikes from passing storms. We were housed high above the ground in a 20-by-20-foot cabin with four glassed walls positioned upon four stout legs.

Prior to taking up residence in the lookout tower, we paid a visit to the president of the St. Maries Branch, some 35 miles from the tower, and asked for his counsel concerning our responsibilities as Church members living in his branch. We did not have access to Church services due to our isolation and professional duties each day while manning the tower. He gave us permission and encouragement to hold all of our Church services and regular member activities as a couple on the lookout tower.

As each Sunday came along that summer, we prepared our worship services, following the commandments of the Lord and counsel of the Brethren to attend church, nourish one another in the gospel, and faithfully renew our covenants. Priesthood meeting was held for the one priesthood holder in attendance; Relief Society meeting was prepared by my dear wife; Sunday School lessons were implemented, with each of us helping to give the lessons; and sacrament meeting was always a sacred opportunity to sing, pray, and bless and pass the sacrament in memory of the Savior’s Atonement. We followed this by sharing talks and testimonies with each other. We had everything we needed to be active members of the Church: the scriptures, the manuals, family home evening lessons, our faith, our obedience to our eternal covenants with the Lord, and a desire to honor the Lord and His prophets and apostles and to endure to the end. We enjoyed 100 percent attendance at all our meetings, even though we had no high council visitors to check up on us all summer! We determined to do as the prophet Joshua taught his people: “Choose you this day whom ye will serve; … but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

They Have Seen the Terrain

I was no stranger to mountain work and firefighting prior to this experience. When we lived on the tower as “watchmen” over our district, we could literally survey for miles the conditions and locations where I had worked in that district during the previous two summers.

Similarly, the prophets and apostles are “watchmen upon the tower” during these latter days. They bring to their assignment many years of experience on the pathways of the Church worldwide. They have seen the terrain, and they have walked the hills and valleys of life in their responsibilities as fathers, husbands, students, young marrieds, participants in Church callings, and professionals in various pursuits of life. They man the Lord’s watchtowers with vision and with the ability to give direction and counsel on countless matters that arise throughout the kingdom of God here on the earth. We remember the Lord’s counsel to the prophet Amos: “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).

The Lord tells these watchmen on the tower what they need to teach and how they should help prepare Church members for storms and difficulties (see D&C 115:6). They see far into the distance and thus make warnings and preparations even for those who haven’t seen the storm clouds beginning to form. These watchmen counsel us to keep the Sabbath day holy, study the scriptures regularly, pray daily, avoid the pitfalls of immorality, honor parents, be respectful to spouse and children, serve God and humankind, keep our covenants, follow the example of Jesus Christ in our daily living, and keep all the other commandments that will help us stay on gospel paths during these troubled times.

Just as the prophets of the Old Testament guided the covenant people through generations of ancient times, so do our prophets guide us during our mortal journey in these latter days. We welcome the opportunity to heed these watchmen on the tower, for we know that in following their counsel, we are following the Lord. “My word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled,” the Savior tells us; “whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38).

Helps for Home Evening

Most Ensign articles can be used for family home evening discussions, personal reflection, or teaching the gospel in a variety of settings.

  1. 1.

    Take the family to a hill or to a higher level of the home for family home evening. Invite family members to look around and discuss what they see. What are their advantages of vision? How could they be of aid if an emergency arose below? Relate how Elder Coleman’s experience in the Idaho mountains gave him a new perspective on following Church leaders. Remind family members that the prophets and apostles have a better perspective and serve as our watchmen.

  2. 2.

    If the family has young children, have them draw an interpretation of the second paragraph of the article. Discuss dangers watchmen see and invite them to add these to their drawings. Who are the latter-day watchmen? Bear testimony of how prophets have prepared and protected you from the dangers in the world today.

[illustrations] Background: My Father’s House, by Al Rounds; illustrations by Robert T. Barrett