My purpose here is to discuss the importance of following the living prophet. As members of the Church, we believe that there are "prophets in the land again" today. We sustain the fifteen men who lead the Church as "prophets, seers, and revelators." We believe that these men are called of God and speak for Him just as literally as did Moses in ancient days. We believe that their united word is as good as the word of the Lord. "What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same" (Doctrine & Covenants 1:38, emphasis added).
What a marvelous blessing it is to be guided by a prophet who speaks for the Lord! But how often we discount that great blessing! Elder Holland's words seem particularly relevant as we confront the issues facing Church members this election:
"Some sources have suggested that the Brethren are out of touch in their declarations, that they don't know the issues, that some of their policies and practices are out-of-date, not relevant to our times...I say with all the fervor of my soul that never... have I ever associated with any group who are so in touch, who know so profoundly the issues facing us, who look so deeply into the old, stay so open to the new, and weigh so carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully everything in between. I testify that the grasp this body of men and women have of moral and societal issues exceeds that of any think tank or brain trust of comparable endeavor of which I know anywhere on the earth...It is no trivial matter for this Church to declare to the world prophecy, seership, and revelation, but we do declare it. It is true light shining in a dark world" (Prophets in the Land Again, Ensign Nov 2006, emphasis added).
When Moses commanded the Israelites to paint their lintels with the blood of a slain lamb, their personal taste in decorating was irrelevant. The sight of blood may have been abhorrent to some families. Others may have resented the prophet's reaching into their personal lives. Others undoubtedly questioned the merits of his command, or found the issue of such little consequence as to not be worth their attention. In the end, all such objections were irrelevant. Those who were obedient were spared from the destroying angel. Those who ignored the prophet's command were not so lucky.
Part of believing that we have prophets in the land today is believing that their words are the words of the Lord. Part of sustaining the prophet is believing that he is "appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church...for he receiveth them even as Moses" (Doctrine & Covenants 28:2). If we have prophets, but do not sustain them, we might as well not have them.
My father is an excellent example of this attitude. A convert to the Church in his teenage years, he joined the Church and never looked back. If I had to use one word to describe my father, that word would be "valiant." I have never had occasion to doubt his testimony, his loyalty, or his dedication to the Lord and to my mother. In my father's mind, when the prophet speaks, the Lord's living oracle has spoken, and the discussion is over. To him, if the prophet says, "Jump!", the only acceptable answer is "Yes, sir! How high, sir?" We could all stand to learn from his attitude, myself included.
Some will lambaste me for encouraging this attitude of submission. Some will call it blind obedience. I prefer to regard it as making my decisions in advance.
Consider Elijah's words to the Israelites as he confronted the priests of Ba'al. "And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him' (1 Kings 18:21). Or Joshua's words to the Israelites upon entering the promised land: "And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15, see also Moses 6:33).
I have made sacred covenants to follow the Lord. In doing so, I have crossed a line in the sand. I have chosen sides. I have succumbed to a divisive force. I have chosen between two opinions. I have chosen to serve the Lord. I have chosen to obey the voice of His prophets. My obedience then becomes an expression of my faith, and expression of my decision to serve the Lord, not a reflection of an inability to think for myself.
The prophet Isaiah said, "Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God. Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow" (Isaiah 50:10-11). I have come to understand that this is true.
I have learned that following the prophet brings joy and protection, and that following any counsel that opposes the prophet's counsel, however convincing, well-supported, or well-intentioned, brings sorrow and great spiritual danger. Many sincere people have tried to convince me that I can be just as happy, sucessful, and fulfilled by disobeying the counsel of the prophet as I will be by obeying it. I have taken flak from others when I have insisted that this is a lie. Their intentions may not be malicious, but their counsel is not true. In this issue, and in every other, no matter my personal desires, I will not halt between two opinions. I will not be ashamed of the gospel of Christ. I will not be ashamed to follow His prophets. For this day, I have chosen. "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
"If you have not chosen the kingdom of God first, it will in the end make no difference what you have chosen instead." (quoted by Neal A. Maxwell, “‘I Will Arise and Go to My Father’,” Ensign, Sep 1993, 65)