M. Russell Ballard
Adapted from an April 2001 general conference address.
I promise. If you will listen to the living prophet and the apostles and follow our counsel, you will not go astray.

Follow the Prophet

Have you ever had the experience of driving around and around the streets of a city with the driver saying, “I know where it is; I’m sure I can find it”? Finally, in frustration, he stops and asks someone for directions. How much easier it is to find our way when we follow the directions of someone who knows how to locate our destination.

These are difficult times. Is there one clear, unpolluted, unbiased voice that we can always count on? Is there a voice that will always give us clear directions to find our way in today’s troubled world? The answer is yes. That voice is the voice of the living prophet and apostles.

It is no small thing to have a prophet of God in our midst. Great and wonderful are the blessings that come into our lives as we listen to the word of the Lord given to us through him. At the same time, knowing that President Gordon B. Hinckley is God’s prophet also endows us with responsibility. 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.

Listen and do

We know of the experience of Naaman, who was struck with leprosy and who eventually contacted the prophet Elisha and was instructed to “go and wash in [the] Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean” (2 Kgs. 5:10).

At first, Naaman was unwilling to follow Elisha’s counsel. He couldn’t understand the thing he had been asked to do—to wash seven times in the Jordan river. In other words, his pride and stubbornness were keeping him from receiving the Lord’s blessing through His prophet.

Thankfully, he finally went down, and “dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (2 Kgs. 5:14).

What a humbling thing it must have been for Naaman to realize how close he came to allowing his own pride and his unwillingness to listen to the counsel of the prophet to prevent him from receiving such a great, cleansing blessing. And what a humbling thing it is to contemplate how many of us might miss out on great and promised blessings because we do not listen and then do the relatively simple things our prophet is telling us to do today.

Remember the Bs

In November of 2000, President Hinckley challenged you to set goals for yourselves to be grateful, be smart, be clean, be true, be humble, and be prayerful. The six “Bs,” as President Hinckley called them, are a marvelous standard for all Latter-day Saints.

It is significant to remember that President Hinckley petitioned the Lord on behalf of you young people. He said, “I want you to know that I have been on my knees asking the Lord to bless me with the power and the capacity and the language to reach into your hearts” (“A Prophet’s Counsel and Prayer for Youth,” Ensign, Jan. 2001, 2).

Have we studied his counsel and identified the things we need to avoid or to do differently? I know a 17-year-old who, just prior to the prophet’s talk, had pierced her ears a second time. She came home from the fireside, took off the second set of earrings, and simply said to her parents, “If President Hinckley says we should only wear one set of earrings, that’s good enough for me.”

Wearing two pairs of earrings may or may not have eternal consequences for this young woman, but her willingness to obey the prophet will. And if she will obey him now, on something relatively simple, how much easier it will be to follow him when greater issues are at stake.

A simple promise

Are we listening? Are we hearing the words of the prophet? Or are we allowing ourselves, as Naaman did at first, to be blinded by pride and stubbornness, which could prevent us from receiving the blessings that come from following the teachings of God’s prophet?

I make you a promise. It’s a simple one, but it is true. If you will listen to the living prophet and the apostles and heed our counsel, you will not go astray.

As I have traveled throughout the Church these past few months, I have noticed that many of you are eagerly following President Hinckley’s counsel. Many of you have already made the decision to be even more well groomed than you were before. Many of you are striving more diligently to avoid evil talk, to choose your friends wisely, to stay away from pornography and illicit drugs, to not attend evil concerts and dangerous parties, to respect your bodies and keep yourselves morally clean in every way.

To those of you who have not listened yet, I caution you to not disregard the counsel of the President of the Church. He has spoken to you plainly. Study his words and strive to obey them. They are true and come from God. We encourage you who need to repent to go forward with faith and become clean before the Lord. Each one of you is preparing now to be a leader in the Church in the future, and we need you to be clean and faithful and true to the Lord.

Never forget how it felt to listen as President Hinckley prayed for you. Did you feel how precious you are as he prayed? “Bless them that they may walk acceptably before Thee as Thy cherished sons and daughters. Each is Thy child with the capacity to do great and noble things” (Ensign, Jan. 2001, 11).

I promise you in the name of the Lord that if you will listen not just with your ears but also with your heart, the Holy Ghost will manifest the truth unto you of the messages delivered by President Hinckley, his counselors, the Apostles, and other leaders of the Church. The Spirit will prompt you to know what you should do as individuals and as families in order to follow our counsel, that your testimonies might be strengthened and that you might have peace and joy.

I testify to you that the fulness of the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Today we are blessed to be led by God’s prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley. May we listen and then do those things that he teaches us is my humble prayer.

[illustration] Illustrated by Larry Winborg

[illustration] Illustrated by Paul Mann