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

Teachings of the Living Prophets Teacher Manual, (2010), 8–12


Introduction

The keys the President of the Church exercises in his role as prophet, seer, and revelator set him apart from everyone else on earth. The prophet’s inspired counsel will always be in harmony with eternal truths and will be focused on the needs and conditions of his day. Heeding his counsel has eternal implications. Help your students know that as they place confidence and trust in the counsel of the living prophet, they will be led to paths of safety. While serving as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) declared:

Presidents Gordon B. Hinkley, Ezra Taft Benson and Thomas S. Monson.

I am satisfied that the peace and the progress and the prosperity of this people lie in doing the will of the Lord as that will is articulated by [the President of the Church]. If we fail to observe his counsel, we repudiate his sacred calling. If we abide his counsel, we shall be blessed. (In Conference Report, Oct. 1973, 164–65; or Ensign, Jan. 1974, 125)

Some Doctrines and Principles

  • The President of the Church holds and directs the use of all the keys of the priesthood.

  • The teachings and directions of the living prophet take precedence over what former prophets have said.

  • The Lord will never permit the living prophet to lead the Church astray.

Ideas for Teaching

The President of the Church Holds and Directs the Use of All the Keys of the Priesthood

Have a student turn to page 15 in the student manual under the heading “The Living Prophet Possesses All the Keys of the Priesthood,” and ask him or her to read the first four paragraphs (up through “we use them every day”) of the account by President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Then study Matthew 16:15–19; 18:18 with your students. Ask:

  • What did the Savior say he would give unto Peter?

  • What would these keys enable Peter to do?

  • Who else received these keys? (see Matthew 18:18; note that verse 1 indicates that Jesus spoke these words to His Twelve Apostles).

  • Who has been given these same keys today?

Have a student finish reading the account by President Packer; then ask:

  • What is meant by the term priesthood keys?

Share the following statement from Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

The keys of the priesthood are the right and power of presidency. They are the directing, controlling, and governing power. Those who hold them are empowered to direct the manner in which others use their priesthood. (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [1985], 309)

Ask the students to summarize, in their own words, Elder McConkie’s definition of priesthood keys.

Read the following scriptures with your class and have students make a list on the board of priesthood keys identified in each verse:

Ask the class:

  • How do these keys affect individual members of the Church? (All gospel ordinances are ministered by those with keys.)

  • How does the President of the Church use these keys to direct the work of the Lord on earth? (Opens countries to the gospel, authorizes sealing privileges, builds temples, explains mysteries of the gospel.)

Help students understand the difference between keys and authority by sharing the following examples:

A priest has the priesthood authority to baptize (see D&C 20:46), but his bishop—who holds keys to preside in the ward (see D&C 107:13–15)—must first give the priest permission to perform the baptism and tell the priest when, how, where, and whom to baptize.

Members of the First Presidency of the Church hold the keys of the sealing powers of the priesthood. They call and set apart other worthy priesthood holders, authorizing them to act as sealers to perform temple sealings.

Share the following statement by President Gordon B. Hinckley:

When a man is ordained to the apostleship and set apart as a member of the Council of the Twelve, he is given the keys of the priesthood of God. Each of the fifteen living men so ordained holds these keys. However, only the President of the Church has the right to exercise them in their fulness. He may delegate the exercise of various of them to one or more of his Brethren. Each has the keys but is authorized to use them only to the degree granted him by the prophet of the Lord. (In Conference Report, Oct. 1992, 77; or Ensign, Nov. 1992, 54)

Ask the students:

  • How does the President of the Church direct the use of priesthood keys by the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles?

  • Why do the Apostles need to have the same keys as the President of the Church?

Testify that each of the Presidents of the Church have held all the keys of the priesthood. These keys make the blessings of salvation through the ordinances of the gospel available to all.

The Teachings and Directions of the Living Prophet Take Precedence over What Former Prophets Have Said

Ask students for examples of Church practices that have changed or begun over the years. If students are unable to come up with any, you might suggest some of the following:

  1. 1.

    Sunday meeting schedule (a three-hour block rather than separate meetings in the morning and evening)

  2. 2.

    Tithing funds cover most ward budget needs (previously wards were required to raise their own money for their budgets)

  3. 3.

    Standardized missionary discussions (revised several times in the last 30 years, most recently in Preach My Gospel [2004])

  4. 4.

    Smaller temples (small temples meet needs of smaller areas)

  5. 5.

    Perpetual Education Fund (announced in April 2001)

  6. 6.

    Quorums of the Seventy (at one time each stake had a quorum of seventies; then there was only one quorum at the general level; now we have many)

Ask students:

  • In what ways would the Church be hampered if we did everything the same way as in earlier generations?

  • How have these changes helped the Church grow throughout the world?

Explain that in addition to directing the practices and procedures in Church policies, prophets also clarify and expand our understanding of Church doctrine. Write the following questions on one half of the board:

  • How often did President Spencer W. Kimball say that prophets have received revelation since 1820?

  • How do revelations often come to living prophets?

  • What warning did President Kimball give us?

Assign half of your class to read President Kimball’s statement from pages 17–18 of the student manual under the heading “The Lord Leads the Church by Continuous Revelation to His Prophet.” Have the students look for answers to the questions on their side of the board as they read.

On the other half of the board, write the following questions:

  • Why did President Brigham Young prefer the words of the living prophet over the scriptures?

  • What did President Ezra Taft Benson mean when he stated that the prophet has “the power of TNT”?

  • What did President Benson suggest is the most important reading we can do?

  • What did President Benson caution us to beware of?

Assign the other half of the class to read President Benson’s second and third “fundamentals” from page 23 in the student manual. (These are part of a talk titled “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet”). Have the students look for answers to the questions on their side of the board as they read.

After students have had sufficient time to read and ponder the material and answer the questions, encourage them to share answers and insights with the class. Ask a few students to share their testimonies of the living prophet and the benefits they have found in following prophetic counsel.

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

Ask one student to read Numbers 12:6–8 and another student to read Exodus 33:11 to the class. Discuss what enables a prophet to know how to lead us.

Divide your class into small groups. Have each group read the statements on page 20 of the student manual under the heading “The Lord Will Never Permit the Living Prophet to Lead the Church Astray.” Have the groups discuss the following questions as they study (you may wish to write the questions on the board or provide them on a handout):

  • What did President Wilford Woodruff say would never happen?

  • What did he say the Lord would do before such a thing could ever happen?

  • What does it mean to “keep your eye” on the prophet? In what ways can we effectively do that?

  • What did President Gordon B. Hinckley say is the only desire of the leaders of the Church?

  • How did he say important decisions of the Church are made?

  • In what ways does understanding these principles affect our faith in the Church and the living prophet?

  • Read Deuteronomy 18:18–22. How do these words of Moses support the idea that the Lord will never permit the living prophet to lead the Church astray?

Invite students to share with the class some of what they discussed in their groups.