As we head into General Conference weekend, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will publicly sustain prophets and apostles. We’ll hear the names of each member of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve apostles read. We’ll then have the sacred opportunity to both publicly raise our hand to show a sign of support and privately sustain them in our hearts. It’s one of my favorite moments of General Conference.
In 1991 Elder Rulon G. Craven, secretary to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave a fantastic talk in General Conference titled Prophets in which he testified of the divine callings of prophets and apostles. Elder Craven, who passed away last month, had the rare privilege of spending thirteen years as their personal secretary. I can’t imagine what kind of insight he gained while observing these great leaders in both private and public settings. Slipped in at the very end of his talk was this gem: “My brothers and sisters, there will yet be perilous and challenging times ahead. I admonish the Saints to look to the prophets, study their words. … and sustain them in private and in public.”
Sustain them in private and in public.
This phrase hasn’t left my mind since hearing it for the first time this week. Perhaps it’s because there is a notable difference between raising our hand to sustain them publicly twice a year and sustaining them privately every single day. (Technically we sustain them four times a year if you add in Stake Conference.) At any rate, this has caused me to stop and give pause to consider where I stand in sustaining prophets, seers and revelators–both privately and publicly.
Of sustaining, President Russell M. Nelson, quoting Elder George Albert Smith, said:
“The obligation that we make when we raise our hands … is a most sacred one. It does not mean that we will go quietly on our way and be willing that the prophet of the Lord shall direct this work, but it means … that we will stand behind him; we will pray for him; we will defend his good name, and we will strive to carry out his instructions as the Lord shall direct.” (Sustaining the Prophets, October 2014 General Conference.)
President Howard W. Hunter added upon this with a specific call to the women of the church when he declared:
We, his servants all across the Church, need you, the women of the Church, to stand with us and for us in stemming the tide of evil that threatens to engulf us. … It seems to me that there is a great need to rally the women of the Church to stand with and for the Brethren in stemming the tide of evil that surrounds us and in moving forward the work of our Savior. (To the Women of the Church, October 1992 General Conference.)
Let’s unpack three things that stand out in the above quotes:
- Sustain prophets and apostles in both private and public.
- Stand by the prophet. Pray for him. Defend his good name. Strive to carry out his instructions.
- Rally the women of the Church to stand with and for the Brethren.
Sustaining them publicly when the names are read aloud? That’s fairly straightforward. The real work begins when we determine how we’ll sustain, support and defend them each day. Do we stand by the prophet? Pray for him? Defend his good name? Strive to carry out his instructions? Help rally the women of the Church to stand with and for them? Yes–to all of the above! But on a more personal note, you and I can sustain prophets and apostles both privately in our hearts and publicly in our words and actions. Sustaining them also means we don’t seek to find fault, criticize or undermine them privately or publicly on blogs or comments on social media. This not only undermines our faith but also the faith of others. It is so important that it has its own question in the temple recommend interviews.
As we head into General Conference weekend and prepare to sustain prophets, seers, and revelators, perhaps we might pause as we raise our hands and reflect about how we privately and publicly support their counsel, direction, warnings, and instructions. Because we live in challenging times and we’ll face even greater challenges in the work that lies ahead, this weekend will be a perfect reminder to stop and quite literally “thank Thee, oh God for a prophet to guide us in these latter days.”
*Please also consider praying for the wives of our apostles. They need our love, strength and support too.
*See also this related post: Chipping Away at Priesthood Authority
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