We live in a day of tremendous opportunities, trials, and temptations. Though great help can be found in the words of past prophets, we are in need of the Lord’s continuing guidance fit to the circumstances in which we live. President John Taylor (1808–87) taught:
We require a living tree—a living fountain—living intelligence, proceeding from the living priesthood in heaven, through the living priesthood on earth. … 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 must we. (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: John Taylor , 158)
This chapter is designed to help your students understand their need for living prophets and the blessings we receive by heeding their counsel.
Some Doctrines and Principles
The Lord reveals His will to living prophets now as He did in the past.
The Lord’s Church is built on the foundation of prophets and apostles.
The members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles are prophets, seers, and revelators.
Prophets help us build faith in Jesus Christ.
Safety comes in knowing and applying the teachings of the living prophets.
Ideas for Teaching
The Lord Reveals His Will to Living Prophets Now as He Did in the Past
Share with your class the statement by President Hugh B. Brown of the First Presidency about the need for living prophets from page 6 of the student manual under the heading “The Lord Reveals His Will to Living Prophets Now as He Did in the Past.”
Read Amos 3:7 as a class and ask:
How does Amos 3:7 reinforce what President Brown taught?
Write the following references on the board: 1 Nephi 2:1–3; Exodus 3 chapter summary. Invite students to read one of the references and identify what the Lord asked the people to do and who received the revelation. Briefly discuss their findings.
Invite a student to read the quotation from President John Taylor in the institute student manual under the heading “The Word of the Lord to the Living Prophet Is Timely and of Utmost Importance to Us Now” (page 19). Then discuss the reasons President Taylor gave for the need of living prophets.
To emphasize that the Lord reveals to living prophets the counsel and instruction we need in our day, write the word pornography on the board. Share with students that the first time the word pornography was used in general conference was in October 1959. Over the next 10 years, from 1959 to 1969, it was mentioned 8 times in conference. However, for the 10-year period from 1999 to 2009 it was mentioned or discussed 81 times in general conference. Ask students the following questions:
Why do you think there has been such a dramatic change in the number of references to pornography by the Brethren? (Be cautious not to allow this to turn into a detailed discussion on pornography; it is simply one example of the need for living prophets based on changing circumstances.)
What other examples are there of important truths or counsel received in our day through living prophets that may not have been emphasized so much by prophets of the past? (Write students’ answers on the board for reference later in the lesson. Answers might include family home evening or warnings against drug abuse, abortion, and homosexuality.)
Share the following quotation by President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency:
Revelation and inspiration have come to [President Thomas S. Monson] in my presence. … I am an eyewitness. (In Conference Report, Apr. 2008, 23; or Ensign, May 2008, 24)
Why is it important to know that the Lord continues to reveal His mind and will through living prophets?
Testify of the need for living prophets in the world today and that the Lord continues to reveal His mind and will through His chosen prophets.
The Lord’s Church Is Built on the Foundation of Prophets and Apostles
Draw the accompanying diagram on the board and ask students the following question:
Knowing the value of a solid foundation, what difference does the type of building material make in a foundation?
Invite students to read Matthew 7:24–27.
Share the following statement by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
About two decades ago when a temple was to be built in Mexico City, architects faced a great challenge. Because Mexico City is situated on a basin over water, some of its buildings settle and become tilted with the passage of time. Construction of a temple there required a special foundation. Two hundred twenty-one large, reinforced concrete piles [each pile was 18 inches in diameter] were driven more than 100 feet deep into the ground. … With this unseen but sure foundation, that temple today stands steady and straight.
A firm foundation is necessary for any building, institution, or individual to endure. With that in mind, let us consider the foundation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Then let us see how the solid foundation of the Church supports our foundation of faith as individual members of the Church. (In Conference Report, Apr. 2002, 87; or Ensign, May 2002, 75)
Read Ephesians 2:19–21 aloud with the class and use the following questions to help students compare the foundation of the Mexico City Temple to the Church’s foundation of prophets and apostles:
In what ways are the foundation of prophets and apostles similar to the large pilings used to secure the Mexico City Temple?
What can a person do to be sure he is building a strong foundation?
Explain that the Apostle Paul gave some reasons for the foundation of prophets and apostles. Ask a student to read Ephesians 4:11–14. Have the rest of the students look for reasons why the Lord gave prophets and apostles as our foundation. Discuss students’ findings.
Invite a student to read the statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles from page 8 of the student manual under the heading “The Lord’s Church Is Built on the Foundation of Apostles and Prophets.” Ask students the following questions:
According to Elder Holland, why is a foundation of prophets and apostles so vital today?
What is an example of a teaching from one of the prophets and apostles from the most recent general conference that has helped strengthen your foundation of faith?
How can adherence to that teaching or other teachings you recall from conference help prevent you from being “tossed to and fro … with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14) in today’s world?
The Members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles Are Prophets, Seers, and Revelators
Hold up a picture of the President of the Church.
Remind the students that during our ward, stake, and general conferences we raise our right hands to the square to manifest that we sustain the General Authorities. Ask students the following questions:
What is the wording used when we sustain the President of the Church? (Prophet, seer, and revelator.)
Is there anyone else we sustain in that same language?
What is the advantage of having more than one man with that authority?
Invite a student to read the statement by President Harold B. Lee from pages 8–9 of the student manual under the heading “The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles Are Prophets, Seers, and Revelators.” Ask:
When the prophet passes away, who has the authority to serve as the next President of the Church?
Write the word prophet on the board. Ask students to read the entry in the Bible Dictionary for the word prophet. Then ask them to work with another person in class to come up with a brief definition for the word. Invite several students to share their definitions.
Have the students turn to page 9 in the student manual under the heading “What Are Prophets, Seers, and Revelators?” and read the definition of a prophet taken from the Guide to the Scriptures. Invite students to point out any specific words or phrases that further explain what a prophet is and what he does.
Divide the class into two groups. Assign one group to review the information on pages 9–10 of the student manual under the heading “Seer” and the other group to review the information on page 10 under the heading “Revelator.”
After sufficient time for review and study, ask each group to choose a spokesperson. Invite this spokesperson to teach the rest of the class how a seer or a revelator is different from a prophet. Encourage them to share their feelings and testimony about why seers and revelators are important today. If any students have personally met an Apostle (a prophet, seer, and revelator) or attended a meeting where an Apostle has spoken in person, encourage them to relate the experience and any feelings they had.
Prophets Help Us Build Faith in Jesus Christ
Read Doctrine and Covenants 1:17 with your class and ask:
What reason did the Lord state for calling the Prophet Joseph Smith?
Read Doctrine and Covenants 1:21 with your class and ask:
What additional reason did the Lord state for needing Joseph Smith in the last days?
How has your knowledge of the life and teachings of Joseph Smith increased your faith?
How has your knowledge of the life and teachings of other prophets of the Church increased your faith?
Safety Comes in Knowing and Applying the Teachings of the Living Prophets
Note to the teacher: Doctrine and Covenants and Church History DVD Presentations 1–22 (item 54012) has an excellent presentation on how safety comes through hearkening to living prophets. It is located on disc 1, presentation 4, “Seek the Lord” (10:05). You may want to show this presentation and discuss it with the class.
Bring a container of cleaning liquid (or any other item that contains a warning on the label) and read the warning on the label to the class. Ask:
What could happen if the container did not have a warning label or if a person did not heed the warning on the label?
What parallels do you see between the label on the cleaning bottle and the teachings of a prophet?
Point out that some people might use the cleaning liquid incorrectly and injure themselves because they don’t know about the warning, while others who do know about the warning but don’t apply that knowledge will experience the same injury.
How could the above scenario for misuse of a cleaning liquid be applied to our prophets today?
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 1:2–4. Ask the rest of your students to identify how the Lord will warn us in the latter days. Then ask the following questions:
Who are the “disciples” of the Lord in our day?
How does this warning compare to the warning on the cleaning liquid?
Invite a student to read President Harold B. Lee’s statement on page 13 of the student manual under the heading “One of Our Greatest Needs Is to Hearken to the Prophets.” Ask:
According to President Lee, what is a key to safely making our way through the challenges of life?
What can we do to ensure that we are seeing the “warning labels” given by latter-day Apostles in the challenges of life today?
Read to your students the following statement from President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency:
Because the Lord is kind, He calls servants to warn people of danger. That call to warn is made harder and more important by the fact that the warnings of most worth are about dangers that people don’t yet think are real. (In Conference Report, Oct. 1998, 40; or Ensign, Nov. 1998, 32)
How are prophets able to perceive dangers that others fail to perceive? (If students don’t bring it up, this may be an appropriate place to bear witness of the role of seers—they see things through revelation that others don’t see.)
Read the following statement by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
When we hear the counsel of the Lord expressed through the words of the President of the Church, our response should be positive and prompt. History shows that there is safety, peace, prosperity, and happiness in responding to prophetic counsel. (In Conference Report, Apr. 2001, 84; or Ensign, May 2001, 65)
Ask students the following questions:
What are reasons some people give for ignoring the warnings we receive from the Brethren?
What difference would it make to respond to the warnings and counsels of the prophets and apostles in the way that Elder Ballard described?
Ask your students to look at the list on the board that the class made earlier of important truths revealed by our living prophets. The Brethren invest huge amounts of time, effort, and money to provide general conference; their intent is that the messages, prayers, and music will help us improve our lives. Ask the class:
What must the Brethren do to ensure this will happen? (Answers might include being well prepared, being inspired about what subjects to address, and speaking under the influence of the Holy Ghost.)
What is my responsibility in this process? (Answers might include listening, praying for the Brethren who are speaking, praying to be receptive, taking notes, being free of interruption during the conference, and being in tune with the Holy Ghost.)
Allow enough time for students to think about their answers and make some goals.
Arrange students in pairs. Have each pair study Doctrine and Covenants 21:4–6 and then discuss the following questions (you could write these questions on the board before class):
What doctrine is taught in these verses?
Why does it sometimes take faith and patience to heed the counsel of a prophet?
What promises are made to those who give heed to the words and commandments of the prophet?
Share with your class the following statement by President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency:
Looking for the path to safety in the counsel of prophets makes sense to those with strong faith. When a prophet speaks, those with little faith may think that they hear only a wise man giving good advice. …
… But the choice not to take prophetic counsel changes the very ground upon which we stand. It becomes more dangerous. The failure to take prophetic counsel lessens our power to take inspired counsel in the future. (In Conference Report, Apr. 1997, 32–33; or Ensign, May 1997, 25)
Ask students the following questions:
Why would “the very ground upon which we stand” become “more dangerous” when we reject the counsel of the prophet?
What are some examples of counsel the prophet has given during your lifetime that addresses modern-day concerns? (List the students’ answers on the board. Answers might include pornography, gambling, divorce, forgiving others, pride, reading the Book of Mormon, or other counsel.)
Give each student a sheet of paper. Invite them to select one of the answers listed on the board and write a paragraph describing how heeding this counsel will bring spiritual safety and “will disperse the powers of darkness” (D&C 21:6) in their lives. Invite several students to share what they wrote. For those students who share their response, consider asking them a follow-up question such as:
When have you felt the truthfulness of this teaching in your life?
How could you teach and testify of this principle to a family member or friend?
Help students understand that once we recognize the importance of living prophets in our lives, we must act decisively to apply their teachings to our lives. The Lord has sent prophets to help keep us spiritually safe.