Lesson 5: Listening to a Prophet Today

"Lesson 5: Listening to a Prophet Today," The Presidents of the Church: Teacher’s Manual, (1996)


Class members will understand why we have a living prophet and recognize that heeding his words brings us happiness.


  1. 1.

    Have available pictures of—

    1. a.

      A small child (toddler) from your own or a class member’s family pictures or picture 62307 from the meetinghouse library.

    2. b.

      The present-day prophet of the Church.

  2. 2.

    Prepare wordstrips for “What Is a Prophet?”

  3. 3.

    Hand copy or photocopy the readers’ theater of the Hugh B. Brown story. At least a week before class, assign two capable class members to prepare it for class.

  4. 4.

    Choose a recent talk by the current prophet from the Conference Report or the Ensign. Assign a class member to read it and report on the instructions given by the prophet. (Allow no more than five minutes for this report in the lesson.)

Suggested Lesson Development


Picture and discussion

Display the toddler’s picture and then read or tell the following:

Pretend this child is your brother (or sister), whom you love very much. You are responsible for him this afternoon and are playing with him in a yard. On one side of the yard is a very busy street where vehicles speed by; on the other side is a deep canal with rushing water. You won’t let the toddler play by or go into the street, and he now wants to play on the edge of the canal. When you bring him back into the middle of the yard, he screams and kicks and shows his anger with you. Do you give in? Do you let him play on the edge? Why won’t you? (You know the danger that he is too young to realize, and you care about and love him.)

  • Who is there to keep teenagers from playing on the edge of danger? Who says: “Don’t go to violent or immoral movies,” “Stay away from drugs,” “Come home early,” “Don’t date until you are sixteen”? (Parents, teachers, and Church leaders.)

  • Who keeps parents, teachers, and Church leaders away from “the edge”? (Their experience, the guidance of the Holy Ghost, and a prophet of God.)

Our Heavenly Father loves all his children and provides for them. He directs his prophets, who counsel God’s children. He provides parents, teachers, and Church leaders who can guide those who do not have the experience or knowledge to be aware of all of life’s dangers.

  • Are parents, teachers, and Church leaders all-knowing? (No. They need the guidance of the Holy Ghost and a living prophet also. The prophets teach and warn us all.)

Today we are going to talk about the importance of having a living prophet.

A Prophet Is God’s Spokesman


Display the picture of the present-day prophet.

Wordstrips or chalkboard and discussion

  • What is a prophet? (Class members will probably say that he is one who prophesies or foretells the future. That is one of his qualities. Bring out in the discussion the following, putting up wordstrips or writing each on the chalkboard as it is mentioned.)

    What Is a Prophet?

    He is the spokesman of God.

    He teaches of God and Jesus Christ.

    He denounces sin and declares punishment.

    He preaches righteousness.

    He calls us to repentance.

    He interprets scripture.

    He is the administrator of present Church policy.

Read or have a class member read the following:

Elder Bruce R. McConkie said:

“A true prophet is one who has the testimony of Jesus; one who knows by personal revelation that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God, and that he was to be—or has been—crucified for the sins of the world; one to whom God speaks and who recognizes the still small voice of the Spirit. A true prophet is one who holds the holy priesthood; who is a legal administrator; who has power and authority from God to represent him on earth. A true prophet is a teacher of righteousness to whom the truths of the gospel have been revealed and who presents them to his fellowmen so they can become heirs of salvation in the highest heaven. A true prophet is a witness, a living witness, one who knows, and one who testifies. Such a one, if need be, foretells the future and reveals to men what the Lord reveals to him” (The Mortal Messiah, 4 vols. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1980], 2:169).

We Need a Living Prophet

Readers’ theater

Have the previously assigned class members present the readers’ theater:

TEACHER: President Hugh B. Brown, who was an Apostle and member of the First Presidency, reported having a conversation with a former justice of “the supreme court of Britain.” He asked Elder Brown to explain some phases of the Mormon faith, presenting it as he would a case in court.

JURIST: “What you tell me about Joseph Smith seems fantastic. …”

ELDER BROWN: “Perhaps we could find some common ground. … May I proceed, sir, on the assumption that you are a Christian?”

JURIST: “I am.”

ELDER BROWN: “I assume that you believe in the Bible—the Old and New Testaments?”

JURIST: “I do!”

ELDER BROWN: “Do you believe in prayer?”

JURIST: “I do!”

ELDER BROWN: “You say that my belief that God spoke to man in this age is fantastic and absurd?”

JURIST: “To me, it is.”

ELDER BROWN: “Do you believe that God ever did speak to anyone?”

JURIST: “Certainly, all through the Bible we have evidence of that.”

ELDER BROWN: “Did he speak to Adam?”

JURIST: “Yes.”

ELDER BROWN: “To Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jacob, and to others of the prophets?”

JURIST: “I believe he spoke to each of them.”

ELDER BROWN: “Do you believe that contact between God and man ceased when Jesus appeared on the earth?”

JURIST: “Certainly not. Such communication reached its climax, its apex at that time.”

ELDER BROWN: “Do you believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God?”

JURIST: “He was.”

ELDER BROWN: “Do you believe, sir, that after the resurrection of Christ, God ever spoke to any man?”

JURIST: “I remember … Saul of Tarsus who was going down to Damascus to persecute the saints, and who had a vision, was stricken blind, in fact, and heard a voice.”

ELDER BROWN: “Whose voice did [Saul] hear?”

JURIST: “Well, … the voice said ‘I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. …’”

ELDER BROWN: “Then, [sir,] I am submitting to you in all seriousness that it was standard procedure in Bible times for God to talk to man.”

JURIST: “I think I will admit that, but it stopped shortly after the first century of the Christian era.”

ELDER BROWN: “Why do you think it stopped?”

JURIST: “I can’t say.”

ELDER BROWN: “You think that God hasn’t spoken since then?”

JURIST: “Not to my knowledge.”

ELDER BROWN: “May I suggest some possible reasons why he has not spoken. Perhaps it is because he cannot. He has lost the power.”

JURIST: “… Of course that would be blasphemous.”

ELDER BROWN: “Well, then, if you don’t accept that, perhaps he doesn’t speak to men because he doesn’t love us anymore. He is no longer interested in the affairs of men.”

JURIST: “No. … God loves all men, and he is no respecter of persons.”

ELDER BROWN: “Well, then, … the only other possible answer as I see it is that we don’t need him. We have made such rapid strides in education and science that we don’t need God anymore.”

JURIST: “… Mr. Brown, there never was a time in the history of the world when the voice of God was needed as it is needed now. Perhaps you can tell me why he doesn’t speak.”

ELDER BROWN: “He does speak, he has spoken; but men need faith to hear him.” (Adapted from Conference Report, Oct. 1967, pp. 117–18; or Improvement Era, Dec. 1967, pp. 36–37; see also “The Profile of a Prophet,” in Speeches of the Year [Provo: Brigham Young University Press, 1956], pp. 3–5.)


  • Why do we need a living prophet? (Give class members a chance to answer; answers will vary.)

President John Taylor explained it this way:

“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, or we shall make a shipwreck” (John Taylor, The Gospel Kingdom, sel. G. Homer Durham [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1943], p. 34).

The Old Testament prophet Amos said, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). And then the Lord in our time, speaking of his prophet, said:

Scripture discussion

“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” (D&C 21:4–5; see also D&C 1:38).

  • As far as we are concerned, which prophet is as important as Moses, Abraham, Nephi, or any other ancient prophet? (The current prophet, because he is directing us today.)

  • Why do you think many people have a tendency to respect ancient prophets, those in the Bible for instance, more than those living today? (People tend to be more critical of the human faults of those who are still living. Answers may vary.)

Latter-day Prophets Give Us Needed Counsel

Example and discussion

Tell the following incident: A young missionary was explaining to a contact that our Church is led by a prophet of the Lord who receives revelation for the Church and for the world. The man was very interested and asked the elder what the prophet had said. The missionary, however, could not think of anything specific to tell the man.

“Well, what is the most recent thing your prophet has proclaimed?” the man asked. Still the missionary stammered and could not answer; he just did not know.

  • Could each of us do better than that embarrassed missionary? What instructions has our prophet given us? (Accept varied answers. They could include counsel to study the Book of Mormon, to write in journals, to be missionaries and warnings against such things as abortion, pornography, homosexuality, and other serious sins of today.)


Have the assigned class member report on the important instruction he found in the prophet’s talk.

We Must Listen to Our Prophet

Our Heavenly Father has warned us of the evils of this world and of how we can be saved from the consequences of following the world. Our greatest need is to really listen and then to follow the counsel of God’s prophets today. As President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., said, “We do not lack a prophet; what we lack is a listening ear by the people and a determination to live as God has commanded” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1948, p. 80).

Some people believe in following the prophet in everything they think is right. However, when they think something isn’t right or it doesn’t appeal to them, they become their own prophet. They decide what the Lord wants and what the Lord doesn’t want. When we decide that we will not keep or follow some commandments, we are taking the law of the Lord into our own hands and becoming our own prophets. We will be led astray. Those who follow the living prophet only when it is convenient become false prophets unto themselves.

  • Do we ever think we can pick and choose which commandments to obey? Do we think a prophet isn’t a prophet if he counsels against something we like to do? (Have class members respond.)

Scripture discussion

Read from Hebrews 13:17.

“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls. …”


  • When Joseph Smith reported his revelation on the Word of Wisdom and counseled the Saints to abstain from tobacco, tea, and coffee, as well as alcohol, did everyone recognize it as sound and important advice? (No. Accept class comments and bring out that it took more than a hundred years for the world to recognize that the advice was scientifically true. Even doctors used to say that tobacco, tea, and coffee would not be harmful to the body. Those who listened to the prophet reaped great blessings of health.)

  • What kind of risks do people take who do not listen to the prophets’ teachings on chastity and moral cleanliness? (Answers might include: loss of faith and testimony, broken families, diseases such as AIDS, loss of Church membership, and loss of eternal blessings.)

Our Obedience to the Prophet Is a Measure of Our Faithfulness

Scripture discussion

Jacob, the brother of Nephi, said:

“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” (2 Nephi 9:28–29).

Of course, each of us has our agency; we can refuse to obey if we choose. If we do, however, we must take the consequences of our choice. Sometimes we do not fully weigh the results because some of our hardest choices are between the advice of friends and the advice of prophets.

  • What do you think the Lord meant when he said in Luke 6:46, “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (He was accusing them of being hypocrites. How did he feel about hypocrites?)

Testimony and Challenge

Bear your testimony to the importance of following a living prophet. Challenge the class to go forward with faith and courage in following the counsel of today’s prophets. Urge them to keep themselves unspotted from the world, to repent where necessary, and in every way help to build the kingdom of God here upon the earth. A true Latter-day Saint sustains the prophet, and to sustain the prophet we must follow him.