Chapter 2: The Living Prophet: The President of the Church

Teachings of the Living Prophets Student Manual, (2010), 14–27


Introduction

The President of the Church presides over all priesthood quorums and the general membership of the Church. President James E. Faust (1920–2007) of the First Presidency explained: “He is the senior Apostle on the earth. He has been ordained and set apart as the prophet, seer, and revelator to the world. He has been sustained as the President of the Church. He is the presiding high priest over all the priesthood on the earth. He alone holds and exercises all the keys of the kingdom under the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the head of this Church and is the chief cornerstone” (“Continuing Revelation,” Ensign, Aug. 1996, 5).

Elder Mark E. Petersen (1900–1984) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles testified that the living prophet is the Lord’s spokesman to the Church and to the world: “People who are not members of this church may not sense the great significance attached to his ministry. Even some Latter-day Saints have not yet discovered it. But the president of the Church is in fact a prophet raised up in these last days to give inspired guidance, not only to Latter-day Saints, but to all mankind everywhere” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1972, 15; or Ensign, July 1972, 40).

A careful study of this chapter will deepen your appreciation for the President of the Church and the priesthood keys of authority he holds and will help you understand how safety comes to those who choose to heed his counsel.

Commentary

    The Living Prophet Possesses All the Keys of the Priesthood

  • President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles told of an experience when President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) declared that he, as the President of the Church, held the keys of the priesthood:

    “In 1976 following a conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, President Spencer W. Kimball invited us to a small church to see the statues of Christ and the Twelve Apostles by Bertel Thorvaldsen. The Christus stands in an alcove beyond the altar. Standing in order along the sides of the chapel are the statues of the Twelve, with Paul replacing Judas Iscariot.

    “President Kimball told the elderly caretaker that at the very time Thorvaldsen was creating those beautiful statues in Denmark, a restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ was taking place in America with apostles and prophets receiving authority from those who held it anciently.

    “Gathering those present closer to him, he said to the caretaker, ‘We are living Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ,’ and pointing to Elder Pinegar he said, ‘Here is a Seventy like those spoken of in the New Testament.’

    “We were standing near the statue of Peter, whom the sculptor depicted holding keys in his hand, symbolic of the keys of the kingdom. President Kimball said, ‘We hold the real keys, as Peter did, and we use them every day.’

    “Then came an experience I will never forget. President Kimball, this gentle prophet, turned to President Johan H. Benthin, of the Copenhagen Stake, and in a commanding voice said, ‘I want you to tell every prelate [religious leader] in Denmark that they do not hold the keys! I hold the keys!

    “There came to me that witness known to Latter-day Saints but difficult to describe to one who has not experienced it—a light, a power coursing through one’s very soul—and I knew that, in very fact, here stood the living prophet who held the keys” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1995, 7; or Ensign, May 1995, 8).

  • The prophet has the powers, gifts, and blessings that enable him to officiate in any office of the Church (see D&C 46:29; 107:91–92). Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles identified responsibilities of the President of the Church, the living prophet:

    Joseph Smith recieving the priesthood

    The same priesthood keys and powers that the Prophet Joseph Smith held continue on the earth today.

    “He is the earthly head of the kingdom of God, the supreme officer of the Church, the ‘President of the High Priesthood of the Church; Or, in other words, the Presiding High Priest over the High Priesthood of the Church.’ (D. & C. 107:65–66.) His duty is ‘to preside over the whole church. …’ (D. & C. 107:91.)

    “He is the one man on earth at a time who can both hold and exercise the keys of the kingdom in their fulness. (D. & C. 132:7.) By the authority vested in him, all ordinances of the gospel are performed, all teaching of the truths of salvation is authorized, and through the keys which he holds, salvation itself is made available to men of his day” (Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. [1966], 591–92; emphasis added).

  • President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) explained how the priesthood keys continue from the Prophet Joseph Smith to the current living prophet in this dispensation: “That same authority which Joseph held, those same keys and powers which were the very essence of his divinely given right to preside, were by him conferred upon the Twelve Apostles with Brigham Young at their head. Every president of the Church since then has come to that most high and sacred office out of the Council of the Twelve. Each of these men has been blessed with the spirit and power of revelation from on high. There has been an unbroken chain from Joseph Smith, Jr., to Spencer W. Kimball [who was the current prophet]. Of that I bear solemn witness and testimony before you this day. This Church is built upon the sure word of prophecy and revelation—built, as Paul wrote to the Ephesians, ‘upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.’ (Eph. 2:20.)” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1981, 27–28; or Ensign, May 1981, 22).

    The Prophet Is the Lord’s Spokesman

  • President Harold B. Lee (1899–1973) indicated that the Saints need never be deceived, for the Lord has established an unmistakable channel of instruction: “When there is to be anything different from that which the Lord has told us already, he will give it to his prophet not to some Tom, Dick, or Harry that is thumbing his way across the country as we have had people tell the story; and not through someone, as another story relates, who swooned and came up and gave a revelation. I have said, ‘Do you suppose that when the Lord has his prophet on the earth, that he is going to take some round-about means of revealing things to his children? That is what he has a prophet for, and when he has something to give to this Church, he will give it to the President, and the President will see that the presidents of stakes and missions get it, along with the General Authorities; and they in turn will see that the people are advised of any new change’” (“The Place of the Living Prophet, Seer, and Revelator” [address to CES religious educators, July 8, 1964], 11; emphasis added).

  • President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994) taught that we should value the words of the prophet more than those of any other person: “Of all mortal men, we should keep our eyes most firmly fixed on the captain, the prophet, seer, and revelator, and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is the man who stands closest to the fountain of living waters. There are some heavenly instructions for us that we can only receive through the prophet. A good way to measure your standing with the Lord is to see how you feel about, and act upon, the inspired words of his earthly representative, the prophet-president. The inspired words of the president are not to be trifled with. All men are entitled to inspiration, and various men are entitled to revelation for their particular assignment. But only one man stands as the Lord’s spokesman to the Church and the world, and he is the president of the Church. The words of all other men should be weighed against his inspired words” (“Jesus Christ—Gifts and Expectations,” New Era, May 1975, 16).

    Joseph Smith

    The Prophet Joseph Smith received revelation from God.

    President Ezra Taft Benson

    “A good way to measure your standing with the Lord is to see how you feel about, and act upon, the inspired words of his earthly representative, the prophet-president. The inspired words of the president are not to be trifled with.”

    President Ezra Taft Benson

    The Lord Leads the Church by Continuous Revelation to His Prophet

  • The Lord reveals His mind and will to His prophet. President Spencer W. Kimball testified that the heavens are still open and that the Lord guides His Church from day to day:

    “I bear witness to the world today that more than a century and a half ago the iron ceiling was shattered; the heavens were once again opened, and since that time revelations have been continuous. …

    “Since that momentous day in 1820, additional scripture has continued to come, including the numerous and vital revelations flowing in a never-ending stream from God to his prophets on the earth. …

    “… We testify to the world that revelation continues and that the vaults and files of the Church contain these revelations which come month to month and day to day. We testify also that there is, since 1830 when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized, and will continue to be, so long as time shall last, a prophet, recognized of God and his people, who will continue to interpret the mind and will of the Lord.

    “Now, a word of warning: Let us not make the error of the ancients. Numerous modern sectarians believe in the Abrahams, the Moseses, and the Pauls, but resist believing in today’s prophets. The ancients also could accept the prophets of an earlier day, but denounced and cursed the ones who were their contemporaries.

    “In our day, as in times past, many people expect that if there be revelation it will come with awe-inspiring, earth-shaking display. For many it is hard to accept as revelation those numerous ones in Moses’ time, in Joseph’s time, and in our own year—those revelations which come to prophets as deep, unassailable impressions settling down on the prophet’s mind and heart as dew from heaven or as the dawn dissipates the darkness of night.

    “Expecting the spectacular, one may not be fully alerted to the constant flow of revealed communication. I say, in the deepest of humility, but also by the power and force of a burning testimony in my soul, that from the prophet of the Restoration to the prophet of our own year, the communication line is unbroken, the authority is continuous, a light, brilliant and penetrating, continues to shine. The sound of the voice of the Lord is a continuous melody and a thunderous appeal. For nearly a century and a half there has been no interruption” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1977, 114–15; or Ensign, May 1977, 77–78; emphasis added).

    President Spencer W. Kimball

    “The sound of the voice of the Lord is a continuous melody and a thunderous appeal. For nearly a century and a half there has been no interruption.”

    President Spencer W. Kimball

    The Word of the Lord to the Living Prophet Is Timely and of Utmost Importance to Us Now

  • The world is constantly changing. New and different problems and many variations of old problems continually challenge us. Our wise and loving Heavenly Father knows all things before they happen, and He reveals answers and solutions through His prophet as needed. In addition to interpreting and reaffirming existing scripture, a prophet acts as the agent through whom the Lord can give new scripture, according to the needs of the people. Speaking under the direction of the Holy Ghost, the living prophet’s words take precedence over other statements on the same issue. His inspired counsel is in harmony with the eternal truths in the standard works and is focused upon the needs and conditions of his day.

    Doctrines are eternal and do not change; however, the Lord, through His prophet, may change practices and programs, according to the needs of the people. The following examples illustrate this principle:

    1. 1.

      The law of Moses was given to the children of Israel as a “schoolmaster to bring [them] unto Christ” (Galatians 3:24; see also Galatians 3:24, footnote b; from Joseph Smith Translation) but was fulfilled when the law of the gospel was given by Jesus Christ (see Galatians 3:23–25; Mosiah 13:27–35; 3 Nephi 9:15–20).

    2. 2.

      When Jesus was upon the earth, the gospel was generally taught only to the house of Israel (see Matthew 10:5–6; 15:24; Mark 7:25–27). After His Resurrection, the Savior commanded the Apostles to take the gospel to everyone (see Mark 16:15; Acts 10).

    3. 3.

      In Moses’s time the Melchizedek Priesthood was taken from the general population of Israel and the Aaronic Priesthood was given only to the Levites (see D&C 84:24–26; see also Numbers 8:10–22; Hebrews 7:5). In the time of Christ and His Apostles, the Melchizedek Priesthood was again made available and the Aaronic Priesthood was offered to men who were not Levites (see Luke 6:13–16; Philippians 1:1; Hebrews 7:11–12). Today “every faithful, worthy man in the Church may receive the holy priesthood, with power to exercise its divine authority” (Official Declaration 2).

  • President John Taylor (1808–87) referred to prophets in the Old Testament to illustrate that new revelations are necessary for new generations: “We require a living tree—a living fountain—living intelligence, proceeding from the living priesthood in heaven, through the living priesthood on the earth. … And from the time that Adam first received a communication from God, to the time that John, on the Isle of Patmos, received his communication, or Joseph Smith had the heavens opened to him, it always required new revelations, adapted to the peculiar circumstances in which the churches or individuals were placed. Adam’s revelation did not instruct Noah to build his ark; nor did Noah’s revelation tell Lot to forsake Sodom; nor did either of these speak of the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt. These all had revelations for themselves, and so had Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jesus, Peter, Paul, John, and Joseph. And so must we” (The Gospel Kingdom, sel. G. Homer Durham [1987], 34; see also Teachings of Presidents of the Church: John Taylor [2001], 158).

    President Wilford Woodruff

    President Wilford Woodruff

  • President Wilford Woodruff (1807–98) spoke of a meeting attended by the Prophet Joseph Smith and Brigham Young: “Brother Joseph turned to Brother Brigham Young and said, ‘Brother Brigham I want you to take the stand and tell us your views with regard to the written oracles and the written word of God.’ Brother Brigham took the stand, and he took the Bible, and laid it down; he took the Book of Mormon, and laid it down; and he took the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and laid it down before him, and he said: ‘There is the written word of God to us, concerning the work of God from the beginning of the world, almost, to our day.’ ‘And now,’ said he, ‘when compared with the living oracles [living prophets] those books are nothing to me; those books do not convey the word of God direct to us now, as do the words of a Prophet or a man bearing the Holy Priesthood in our day and generation. I would rather have the living oracles than all the writing in the books.’ That was the course he pursued. When he was through, Brother Joseph said to the congregation: ‘Brother Brigham has told you the word of the Lord, and he has told you the truth’” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1897, 22–23; emphasis added).

    Noah

    As in Noah’s day, prophets today provide a voice of warning.

    President John Taylor

    “Adam’s revelation did not instruct Noah to build his ark; nor did Noah’s revelation tell Lot to forsake Sodom; nor did either of these speak of the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt. These all had revelations for themselves, and so had Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jesus, Peter, Paul, John, and Joseph. And so must we.”

    President John Taylor

  • President Boyd K. Packer taught that principles and doctrines of the gospel remain constant, even though Church practices must be adjusted occasionally: “Procedures, programs, the administrative policies, even some matters of organization are subject to change. We are quite free, indeed, quite obliged to alter them from time to time. But the principles, the doctrines, never change” (“Principles,” Ensign, Mar. 1985, 8).

    The Lord Will Never Permit the Living Prophet to Lead the Church Astray

  • President Wilford Woodruff declared that we can have full confidence in the direction the prophet is leading the Church: “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty” (Official Declaration 1, “Excerpts from Three Addresses by President Wilford Woodruff Regarding the Manifesto”; emphasis added).

  • President Harold B. Lee taught this same principle: “You keep your eye upon him whom the Lord called, and I say to you now, knowing that I stand in this position, you don’t need to worry about the President of the Church ever leading people astray, because the Lord would remove him out of his place before He would ever allow that to happen” (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee, ed. Clyde J. Williams [1996], 533).

  • President Gordon B. Hinckley gave similar assurance to Church members: “The Church is true. Those who lead it have only one desire, and that is to do the will of the Lord. They seek his direction in all things. There is not a decision of significance affecting the Church and its people that is made without prayerful consideration, going to the fount of all wisdom for direction. Follow the leadership of the Church. God will not let his work be led astray” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1983, 68–69; or Ensign, Nov. 1983, 46; emphasis added).

    general conference
    President Gordon B. Hinckley

    “The Church is true. Those who lead it have only one desire, and that is to do the will of the Lord. They seek his direction in all things.”

    President Gordon B. Hinckley

    Some People Will Believe in Past Prophets but Reject the Living Prophets

  • Many people revere the prophets of the past but refuse to accept the prophet the Lord has sent to guide them in their day (see Helaman 13:24–26). President Harold B. Lee shared an experience that illustrates this tendency:

    “I have a banker friend in New York. Years ago when I met him in company with President Jacobson, who was then presiding over the Eastern States Mission, we had quite a discussion. President Jacobson had given him a copy of the Book of Mormon, which he had read, and he spoke very glowingly of what he called its ‘tremendous philosophies.’ Near the close of the business hour he invited us to ride to the mission home in his limousine, and we accepted. On the way, as he talked about the Book of Mormon and his reverence for its teachings, I said, ‘Well, why don’t you do something about it? If you accept the Book of Mormon, what is holding you back? Why don’t you join the Church? Why don’t you accept Joseph Smith, then, as a prophet?’

    “And he said, very thoughtfully and carefully, ‘Well, I suppose the whole reason is that Joseph Smith is too close to me. If he had lived two thousand years ago, I suppose I would believe. But because he is so close, I guess that is the reason I can’t accept him as a prophet.’

    “Here was a young man saying, ‘I believe in the dead prophets that lived a thousand-plus years ago, but I have great difficulty believing in a living prophet.’ That attitude is also taken toward God. To say that the heavens are sealed and there is no revelation today is saying that we do not believe in a living Christ today, or a living God today—we believe in one long-since dead and gone. So this term living prophet has real significance” (“The Place of the Living Prophet, Seer, and Revelator,” in Charge to Religious Educators, 2nd ed. [1982], 105).

  • Claiming a belief in dead prophets while rejecting the living prophet is a very old problem. Some of the Pharisees of Jesus Christ’s day rejected the living Christ but accepted the prophet Moses, who had led Israel over 1,000 years earlier. They reviled a man whom Jesus had healed, saying:

    “Thou art his disciple; but we are Moses’ disciples.

    “We know that God spake unto Moses: as for this fellow [Jesus], we know not from whence he is” (John 9:28–29; see also Matthew 23:29–30, 34; Helaman 13:24–29).

  • President Harold B. Lee taught that a belief in revelation must include the teachings of our current prophet:

    “Soon after President David O. McKay announced to the Church that members of the First Council of the Seventy were being ordained high priests in order to extend their usefulness and to give them authority to act when no other General Authority could be present, a seventy I met … was very much disturbed. He said to me, ‘Didn’t the Prophet Joseph Smith say that this was contrary to the order of heaven to name high priests as presidents of the First Council of the Seventy?’ And I said, ‘Well, I have understood that he did, but have you ever thought that what was contrary to the order of heaven in 1840 might not be contrary to the order of heaven in 1960?’ He had not thought of that. He again was following a dead prophet, and he was forgetting that there is a living prophet today. Hence the importance of our stressing that word living.

    “Years ago as a young missionary I visited Nauvoo and Carthage with my mission president, and we were holding a missionary meeting in the jail room where Joseph and Hyrum had met their deaths. The mission president related the historical events that led up to the martyrdom and then he closed with this very significant statement: ‘When the Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred, there were many saints who died spiritually with Joseph.’ So it was when Brigham Young died: so it was when John Taylor died. … Some Church members died spiritually with Wilford Woodruff, with Lorenzo Snow, with Joseph F. Smith, with Heber J. Grant, with George Albert Smith. We have some today willing to believe someone who is dead and gone and to accept his words as having more authority than the words of a living authority today” (Stand Ye in Holy Places [1974], 152–53; emphasis added).

    Mob surrounding Carthage Jail

    Mob surrounding Carthage Jail

Enrichment Material

Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet

President Ezra Taft Benson, 1980 Devotional Speeches of the Year (1981), 26–30; emphasis added.

President Ezra Taft Benson

My beloved brothers and sisters, I am honored to be in your presence today. You students are a part of a choice young generation—a generation which might well witness the return of our Lord.

Not only is the Church growing in numbers today, it is growing in faithfulness and, even more important, our young generation, as a group, is even more faithful than the older generation. God has reserved you for the eleventh hour—the great and dreadful day of the Lord. It will be your responsibility not only to help bear off the kingdom of God triumphantly but to save your own soul and strive to save those of your family and to honor the principles of our inspired constitution.

To help you pass the crucial tests which lie ahead I am going to give you today several facets of a grand key which, if you will honor them, will crown you with God’s glory and bring you out victorious in spite of Satan’s fury.

Soon we will be honoring our prophet [Spencer W. Kimball] on his eighty-fifth birthday. As a Church we sing the song, “We Thank Thee, O God, For a Prophet.” Here then is the grand key—follow the prophet—and here now are fourteen fundamentals in following the prophet, the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

First: The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.

In section 132, verse 7, of the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord speaks of the Prophet—the President—and says: “There is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred.”

Then in 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.”

Did you hear what the Lord said about the words of the prophet? We are to “give heed unto all his words”—as if from the Lord’s “own mouth.”

Second: The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.

President Wilford Woodruff tells of an interesting incident that occurred in the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith:

“I will refer to a certain meeting I attended in the town of Kirtland in my early days. At that meeting some remarks were made that have been made here today, with regard to the living oracles and with regard to the written word of God. The same principle was presented, although not as extensively as it has been here, when a leading man in the Church got up and talked upon the subject, and said: ‘You have got the word of God before you here in the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants; you have the written word of God, and you who give revelations should give revelations according to those books, as what is written in those books is the word of God. We should confine ourselves to them.’

“When he concluded, Brother Joseph turned to Brother Brigham Young and said, ‘Brother Brigham, I want you to take the stand and tell us your views with regard to the living oracles and the written word of God.’ Brother Brigham took the stand, and he took the Bible, and laid it down; he took the Book of Mormon, and laid it down; and he took the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and laid it down before him, and he said: ‘There is the written word of God to us, concerning the work of God from the beginning of the world, almost, to our day. And now,’ said he, ‘when compared with the living oracles those books are nothing to me; those books do not convey the word of God direct to us now, as do the words of a Prophet or a man bearing the Holy Priesthood in our day and generation. I would rather have the living oracles than all the writing in the books.’ That was the course he pursued. When he was through, Brother Joseph said to the congregation: ‘Brother Brigham has told you the word of the Lord, and he has told you the truth.’” [In Conference Report, October 1897, pp. 22–23]

Third: The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.

The living prophet has the power of TNT. By that I mean “Today’s News Today.” God’s revelations to Adam did not instruct Noah how to build the ark. Noah needed his own revelation. Therefore, the most important prophet, so far as you and I are concerned, is the one living in our day and age to whom the Lord is currently revealing His will for us. Therefore, the most important reading we can do is any of the words of the prophet contained … each month in our Church magazines. Our marching orders for each six months are found in the general conference addresses, which are printed in the Ensign magazine.

I am so grateful that the current conference report is studied as part of one of your religion classes—the course entitled “Teachings of the Living Prophets,” number 333. May I commend that class to you and suggest that you get a copy of the class manual at your bookstore whether you’re able to take the class or not. …

Beware of those who would pit the dead prophets against the living prophets, for the living prophets always take precedence.

Fourth: The prophet will never lead the Church astray.

President Wilford Woodruff stated: “I say to Israel, The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of the Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God.” (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, selected by G. Homer Durham [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1946], pp. 212–213.)

President Marion G. Romney tells of this incident which happened to him:

“I remember years ago when I was a Bishop I had President [Heber J.] Grant talk to our ward. After the meeting I drove him home. … Standing by me, he put his arm over my shoulder and said: ‘My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.’ Then with a twinkle in his eye, he said, ‘But you don’t need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.’ [In Conference Report, October 1960, p. 78]

Fifth: The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.

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 haven’t yet had a prophet who earned a doctorate in any subject, but as someone said, “A prophet may not have his Ph.D. but he certainly has his LDS.” 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 vindicate you.

Sixth: The prophet does not have to say “Thus saith the Lord” to give us scripture.

Sometimes there are those who haggle over words. They might say the prophet gave us counsel but that we are not obligated to follow it unless he says it is a commandment. But the Lord says of the Prophet Joseph, “Thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you” (D&C 21:4; italics added).

And speaking of taking counsel from the prophet, in D&C 108:1, the Lord states: “Verily thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant Lyman: Your sins are forgiven you, because you have obeyed my voice in coming up hither this morning to receive counsel of him whom I have appointed” (italics added).

Said Brigham Young, “I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call scripture” (Journal of Discourses, 26 vols. [London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot], 13:95).

Seventh: The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.

“Thou hast declared unto us hard things, more than we are able to bear,” complained Nephi’s brethren. But Nephi answered by saying, “The guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center” (1 Nephi 16:1, 3). Or, to put it in another prophet’s words, “Hit pigeons flutter.”

Said President Harold B. Lee:

“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. … Your safety and ours depends upon whether or not we follow. … Let’s keep our eye on the President of the Church.” [In Conference Report, October 1970, p. 152–153]

But it is the living prophet who really upsets the world. “Even in the Church,” said President Kimball, “many are prone to garnish the sepulchres of yesterday’s prophets and mentally stone the living ones” (Instructor, 95:257).

Why? Because the living prophet gets at what we need to know now, and the world prefers that prophets either be dead or mind their own business. Some so-called experts of political science want the prophet to keep still on politics. Some would-be authorities on evolution want the prophet to keep still on evolution. And so the list goes on and on.

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.

Said President Marion G. Romney, “It is an easy thing to believe in the dead prophets.” And then he gives this illustration:

“One day when President Grant was living, I sat in my office across the street following a general conference. A man came over to see me, an elderly man. He was very upset about what had been said in this conference by some of the Brethren, including myself. I could tell from his speech that he came from a foreign land. After I had quieted him enough so he would listen, I said, ‘Why did you come to America?’ ‘I am here because a prophet of God told me to come.’ ‘Who was the prophet,’ I continued. ‘Wilford Woodruff.’ ‘Do you believe Wilford Woodruff was a prophet of God?’ ‘Yes, I do.’ ‘Do you believe that President Joseph F. Smith was a prophet of God?’ ‘Yes, sir.’

“Then came the sixty-four dollar question. ‘Do you believe that Heber J. Grant is a prophet of God?’ His answer, ‘I think he ought to keep his mouth shut about old age assistance.’

“Now I tell you that a man in his position is on the way to apostasy. He is forfeiting his chances for eternal life. So is everyone who cannot follow the living Prophet of God.” [In Conference Report, April 1953, p. 125]

Eighth: The prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning.

There will be times when you will have to choose between the revelations of God and the reasoning of men—between the prophet and the politician or professor. Said the Prophet Joseph Smith, “Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof until long after the events transpire” (Scrapbook of Mormon Literature, vol. 2, p. 173).

Would it seem reasonable to an eye doctor to be told to heal a blind man by spitting in the dirt, making clay, and applying it to the man’s eyes and then telling him to wash in a contaminated pool? Yet this is precisely the course that Jesus took with one man, and he was healed. (See John 9:6–7.) Does it seem reasonable to cure leprosy by telling a man to wash seven times in a particular river? Yet this is precisely what the prophet Elisha told a leper to do, and he was healed. (See 2 Kings 5.)

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” [Isaiah 55:8, 9]

Ninth: The prophet can receive revelation on any matter—temporal or spiritual.

Said Brigham Young:

“Some of the leading men in Kirtland were much opposed to Joseph the Prophet, meddling with temporal affairs. …

“In a public meeting of the Saints, I said, ‘Ye Elders of Israel, … will some of you draw the line of demarcation, between the spiritual and temporal in the Kingdom of God, so that I may understand it?’ Not one of them could do it. …

“I defy any man on earth to point out the path a Prophet of God should walk in, or point out his duty, and just how far he must go, in dictating temporal or spiritual things. Temporal and spiritual things are inseparably connected, and ever will be.” [Journal of Discourses, 10:363–364]

Tenth: The prophet may be involved in civic matters.

When a people are righteous they want the best to lead them in government. Alma was the head of the Church and of the government in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith was mayor of Nauvoo, and Brigham Young was governor of Utah. Isaiah was deeply involved in giving counsel on political matters and of his words the Lord Himself said, “Great are the words of Isaiah” (3 Nephi 23:1). Those who would remove prophets from politics would take God out of government.

Eleventh: The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.

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.

In the Book of Mormon we read:

“O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.

“But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.

“And whoso knocketh, to him will he open; and the wise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their riches—yea, they are they whom he despiseth; and save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them.” [2 Nephi 9:28, 29, 42; italics added]

Twelfth: 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.

Thirteenth: The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency—the highest quorum in the Church.

In the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord refers to the First Presidency as “the highest council of the Church” (107:80) and says, “whosoever receiveth me, receiveth those, the First Presidency, whom I have sent” (112:20).

Fourteenth: The prophet and the presidency—the living prophet and the First Presidency—follow them and be blessed; reject them and suffer.

President Harold B. Lee relates this incident from Church history:

“The story is told in the early days of the Church—particularly, I think, at Kirtland—where some of the leading brethren in the presiding councils of the Church met secretly and tried to scheme as to how they could get rid of the Prophet Joseph’s leadership. They made the mistake of inviting Brigham Young to one of these secret meetings. He rebuked them, after he had heard the purpose of their meeting. This is part of what he said: ‘You cannot destroy the appointment of a prophet of God, but you can cut the thread that binds you to the prophet of God and sink yourselves to hell.’” [In Conference Report, April 1963, p. 81]

In a general conference of the Church President N. Eldon Tanner stated:

“The Prophet spoke out clearly on Friday morning, telling us what our responsibilities are. …

“A man said to me after that, ‘You know, there are people in our state who believe in following the Prophet in everything they think is right, but when it is something they think isn’t right, and it doesn’t appeal to them, then that’s different.’ He said, ‘Then they become their own prophet. They decide what the Lord wants and what the Lord doesn’t want.’

“I thought how true, and how serious when we begin to choose which of the covenants, which of the commandments we will keep and follow. When we decide that there are some of them that we will not keep or follow, we are taking the law of the Lord into our own hands and become our own prophets, and believe me, we will be led astray, because we are false prophets to ourselves when we do not follow the Prophet of God. No, we should never discriminate between these commandments, as to those we should and should not keep.” [In Conference Report, October 1966, p. 98; italics added]

“Look to the Presidency and receive instruction,” said the Prophet Joseph Smith (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1938], p. 161). But Almon Babbitt didn’t, and in the Doctrine and Covenants section 124, verse 84, the Lord states: “And with my servant Almon Babbitt, there are many things with which I am not pleased; behold, he aspireth to establish his counsel instead of the counsel which I have ordained, even that of the Presidency of my Church.”

In conclusion, let us summarize this grand key, these “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet,” for our salvation hangs on them.

First: The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.

Second: The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.

Third: The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.

Fourth: The prophet will never lead the Church astray.

Fifth: The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.

Sixth: The prophet does not have to say “Thus saith the Lord” to give us scripture.

Seventh: The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.

Eighth: The prophet is not limited by men’s reasoning.

Ninth: The prophet can receive revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual.

Tenth: The prophet may be involved in civic matters.

Eleventh: The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.

Twelfth: The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.

Thirteenth: The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency—the highest quorum in the Church.

Fourteenth: The prophet and the presidency—the living prophet and the First Presidency—follow them and be blessed; reject them and suffer.

I testify that these fourteen fundamentals in following the living prophet are true. If we want to know how well we stand with the Lord, then let us ask ourselves how well we stand with His mortal captain. How closely do our lives harmonize with the words of the Lord’s anointed—the living prophet, the President of the Church, and with the Quorum of the First Presidency?

May God bless us all to look to the prophet and the presidency in the critical and crucial days ahead is my prayer. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.