Following the prophet is not something I take lightly. Recently, I read a few blog posts on the internet that bothered me a bit. The writer of these posts proclaimed to have a testimony of The Book of Mormon, a testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, and a testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. However, he says he does not have a testimony of current living prophets. In addition, his posts try to convince his readers that living prophets don’t exist.
In an attempt to understand this man, I reached out a few days ago to the readers of our Mormon Women Stand Facebook page. I posed the following questions to our readers:
1) Is it easier to teach children to follow the prophet, or to follow the prophet yourself?
2) Is it easier to teach children to follow the prophet when you are following the prophet yourself?
3) Is it easier to follow ancient prophets, or modern-day prophets?
4) Is it easier to follow one prophet over another?
5) If you have a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ as restored by the prophet Joseph Smith, which includes the principle of ongoing revelation, is it possible to not have a testimony of living prophets?
Our Mormon Women Stand readers never disappoint, and quite a few people engaged in the conversation. The comments gave me a lot to consider, and I learned a few things.
The answers to questions #1 and #2 were obvious to all. As adults, we need to be following the prophet ourselves if we want to instill in the children around us the importance of following the prophet. Children learn by example as much or more than from lectures. If we want them to love the prophets, we need to do the same, as love is contagious. Wonderful examples were given of parents who taught the importance of following the prophet through example. It was also pointed out to me that parents are in essence prophets in their own homes because they are entitled to receive revelation for their family through priesthood power. I had never before considered personal revelation to be prophecy; but that is exactly what it is.
All responses to question #3 were in agreement that our current living prophets give revelation specifically for us, so it is most important to follow their counsel. However, by reading the words of ancient prophets (or even not so ancient prophets), we gain much insight and understanding.
Question #4—Is it easier to follow one prophet over another? While we all agreed that we can’t pick and choose which prophets to listen to and obey, there was a very honest response that touched my heart about how sometimes we don’t believe something that is being taught by a prophet, so we choose to believe that particular man is not a real prophet of God. It all comes back to “line upon line, precept upon precept.” Testimonies are built slowly and carefully, building upon each new gospel principle we learn and accept. Sometimes we get stuck on a principle of the gospel, and it shakes our faith in the person delivering the message. The honesty of that response gave me a lot to think about, and as I pondered and prayed, I began to understand a little bit about the writer who had written the blog posts that had been so disturbing to me.
Another very honest response was that it can be hard to follow a prophet when your own opinions are challenged by him. It comes down to whether or not we want to hold onto our opinions, or give them up for a better way—God’s way. That can often be a hard thing to do.
Question #5—Can you have a testimony of Joseph Smith and the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, and not have a testimony of the current living prophet? The responses to this question were a mixed bag, which was very interesting to me. Some people couldn’t understand how anyone could possibly believe the Joseph Smith story without believing in continuing revelation. When I posed the question, that’s where my mindset was too. How on earth could you swallow the whole Joseph Smith story and then not get that revelation continues?
Ah, but then there were others who enlightened me. I was again reminded that testimonies aren’t swallowed, they are built—line upon line, precept upon precept. It was pointed out to me that someone could have a testimony that the gospel had been restored, but that person may not yet have prayed to find out if the current living prophet is part of that restoration. Someone said that if you don’t have a testimony of living prophets, it should be something you are working towards.
There was one very short response that said, “Anything’s possible.” Those two words are the answer to the question. Of course, anything is possible. It is quite possible that those blog posts that were so troublesome to me personally, made perfect sense to the writer. I once had a testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but refused to go to church. Does that make sense? It doesn’t make any sense to me now—but it did back then. A good friend of mine likes to tell me that we are all on a different level when it comes to our spiritual progression. Oh, how I wish I would remember that!
The time for me to believe in living prophets of God is now; your time may be tomorrow. My next door neighbor’s time may be a year from now. The writer of the troublesome blog posts may never believe—or he may come to that knowledge at some point down the road. The point is that it is not my problem. Each individual must work out her/his own salvation. That’s why I’m glad I posed those questions to the Mormon Women Stand community. It gave me a chance to remember to be charitable to others who are not in the same place with their testimonies as I am.
I do have a testimony of living prophets and apostles. There is no doubt in my mind that President Thomas S. Monson is a living prophet of God. There is no doubt in my mind that the 15 men who lead this Church are leading by the power of God through the priesthood. Heavenly Father will not let His Church be led astray. We are led by true prophets of God, and I choose to follow them—not blindly—but with confirmation from the Holy Ghost that this is what I need to do. If you are reading this, and you have not yet had confirmation from the Holy Ghost that this is so, please pray—with an honest heart and pure intent, so that you may also have a testimony of this truth. I say this, in Jesus Christ’s name. Amen.