I was asked to speak in Church yesterday on the subject “Come Listen to a Prophet’s Voice” and I though that others might be interested in my remarks so I am posting them here in preparation for General Conference in two weeks.
“Come listen to a prophet’s voice, And hear the word of God. “
Do you believe that? Do you believe that God does indeed speak? And that we can listen to Him? Do you believe that Prophets speak the word of God?
To start we need to “Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend”
In a previous ward I taught Sunbeam class – the three year-olds in their first class in Primary. My wife at a different time taught in Nursery, with the children as young as 18 months, in their first institutionalized Church class. Do you know what the first lesson in the Nursery manual is? It is the same lesson in the Sunbeam manual. The very first thing that we teach our youngest children in this Church, the very first thing that we want them to know and understand is: I am a Child of God.
At a different time I taught the Gospel Principles class. This is a class designed for investigators of the Church and recent converts to the Church. It covers the basic principles of the Gospel in simple terms and helps introduce the Gospel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to those who are not yet members and those who have most recently joined this Church. The very first lesson in that manual — the very first thing we want these individuals to know is: Our Father in Heaven. It talks about God and who He is and our relationship to him.
I left on my mission ten years ago in October. I entered the MTC 4 days before Preach My Gospel was introduced. I entered on a Wednesday and was given the old discussion materials, books and pamphlets and handouts and everything. Then at the weekly Sunday night fireside Elder Ballard came and introduced Preach My Gospel and they handed us our copies the next morning, asking us to then recycle all of our old material. The first principle in the first lesson that is taught as we introduce the Message of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is: God is our Loving Heavenly Father.
Or, I am a Child of God.
The very first thing that the Lord taught Moses, as recorded in the Book of Moses chapter 1, in verse 4, after introducing himself to Moses he says “And behold, thou art my son” And he repeats that, “Moses, my son” two more times in that chapter. But the very first thing that Satan did when he came tempting Moses after this incredible spiritual encounter was to cause Moses to forget or doubt what God had taught him. He calls him, “Moses, son of man”
But Moses did not forget what he had been taught and what he had felt through the spirit, he responds, “Behold, I am a son of God”.
There is power and strength in that statement and in the knowledge that gives. We are children of God, we are offspring of Deity, we are part of something eternal and grand, and he has chosen to call himself our Father. OF all of the titles he could rightfully choose — Omnipotent, Omniscient, Almighty, Supreme Creator. What has he chosen as his preferred title? Father.
That must teach us great truths about the role of fatherhood. That must teach us great truths about our true relationship with our God.
Once we know that there is a God and our relationship with him, what is the next logical thing to ask?
What do you want, Father?
What do you know that I should know?
I still call my father, my parents almost weekly to ask them how to do things or just to talk and hear their opinions and advice. They’ve been here before!
And because our Father loves us he wants to share his opinions and advice with us. He wants us to return to him. But he knows that there are eternal laws governing Justice and Priesthood which even He must abide by or God would cease to be God.
He has a plan whereby we can return to him through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. We can repent and be forgiven of our sins and become worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven. Despite any mistake or shortcoming or error on our part, if we come to Jesus Christ and accept his Atoning sacrifice, we can and will be forgiven of our sins, we can and will be washed clean, and we can and will be worthy and acceptable of a place in the Celestial Kingdom of our God.
And so, in the words of the prophet Lehi, “How great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth!” (2 Nephi 2:8)
Ever since Adam, the Lord has called prophets to teach his people of Jesus Christ and the Atonement and of the Plan of Salvation, the Plan of Redemption, the Plan of Happiness. Every prophet has taught of the need for repentance.
Though the central message has not changed, each prophet is also given revelation and prophecies concerning the people and the time to whom he is called.
There is and there has to be continuing revelation. God is a God of order and he changeth not. If truly loves all his children why would he not send the same blessings to all of them in all ages of the earth? That is one of the fundamental testimonies of the Book of Mormon to me. It teaches us, both by what it says and by what it is, that God has not forgotten any of his children, that he loves them all in all ages and on all continents, and he will send angels and prophets and messengers to teach them all of Jesus Christ and his Atonement.
I have spoken to many people about the Gospel and told some that we have a prophet again on the earth, just as in days of the Old Testament. And the first question they usually ask is — What has he prophesied?
It is great that we can go to LDS.org or open the Gospel Library app on my smartphone and have access to General Conference talks going back to 1971!
But, what has President Thomas S. Monson prophesied recently?
That is a hard question to answer, especially to those who are not familiar with the Church or modern prophets. They often expect some great prophecy like prophets of old. They expect a prophet to stand up and predict a great calamity or terrible destruction if the people do not repent. Like Noah, or Isaiah, or Moses in the court of Pharaoh.
But, I do not remember President Monson preaching any calamitous flood or natural disaster. I do not remember him warning of another nation’s imminent attack and taking our citizens away captive into a foreign land. I do not remember him speaking to the President, forecasting mighty plagues against this country if certain we do not obey the commandments of God.
It is true that occasionally prophets are called upon to preach in such manner, but John the Revelator wrote, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10)
And certainly every latter-day prophet since Joseph Smith has testified of Jesus Christ, including Thomas S. Monson.
In October he taught:
One woman, each time she related experiences she had during a visit to the Holy Land, would exclaim, “I walked where Jesus walked!”
She had been in the vicinity where Jesus lived and taught. Perhaps she stood on a rock on which He had once stood or looked at a mountain range He had once gazed upon. The experiences, in and of themselves, were thrilling to her; but physically walking where Jesus walked is less important than walking as He walked. Emulating His actions and following His example are far more important than trying to retrace the remnants of the trails He traversed in mortality.
When Jesus extended to a certain rich man the invitation, “Come, follow me,”7 He did not intend merely that the rich man follow Him up and down the hills and valleys of the countryside.
President Thomas S. Monson, Ponder the Path of Thy Feet, October 2014
It is less so that Prophets and Apostles preach some great new thing or raise a voice of warning, but they always remind us of the simple aspects of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The daily things we should and should not be doing in order to become more like our Father in Heaven.
General Conference is in two weeks and we will once again hear from our Prophet and his Counsellors and the other Apostles and other General Church leaders. In opening October’s Conference, President Monson said,
They have sought heaven’s help concerning the messages which they will present, and they have felt inspiration regarding what will be said.
If they prepare so carefully to present to us the message that God wants us to hear, should we not prepare ourselves so that we can best receive it?
How do we prepare for General Conference? Each family has their traditions and routines, but it must be centered in Jesus Christ – as is everything in our lives.
We need to have the spirit with us and in our homes when we listen to General Conference – For the Holy Ghost will teach us all things what we should do. Nephi further taught,
“when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men”
If we want the Holy Ghost to carry the messages of Conference into our hearts, we need to have the spirit with us and be receptive to his teachings.
I like to reread addressed from last General Conference and go over my notes again about the thoughts and impressions I had while listening to Conference to remind me of what we were taught and admonished just six months ago. And I have found, as I do this, that there is an amazing consistency in the messages of the Prophets and Apostles.
We are all familiar with the principle that in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. That bears out in General Conference as well. What one Apostle teaches in General Conference will always be repeated or taught again in a different way by another Apostle in the next Conference, and sometimes even in the same Conference.
They are united in the spirit of Christ and the spirit of prophecy and they teach us those things that our Father in Heaven wants us to know and understand and do.
There is essentially only one commandment — Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. All of the other commandments that He has given us are to help us achieve this goal.
If you prepare yourselves in the next two weeks, invite the spirit of the Lord into your home and into your lives and you will feel the peace and comfort that comes when you know you are doing what the Lord will have you do. And if you are not doing all that you should be doing, if there are areas of your life that need improvement to bring them into accordance with the principles of the Gospel, the spirit will whisper these things to you and give you the constant encouragement you need.
Take some time in the next few weeks to be with the spirit. Take some time to converse with your Father in heaven. Take some time to take a deep personal spiritual inventory and consider all of those things that you are grateful for and those things that you feel you still stand in need of. Write some thoughts and impressions down and maybe a few questions that you would like the Lord to answer. Then watch and listen to General Conference with the spirit and take notes of the thoughts that come into your mind and the feelings that enter your heart. Listen with the spirit and you will find that your Father in heaven is speaking to you through his duly appointed Prophet and Apostles who hold the Priesthood keys for revelation and guidance of the Church as a whole.
Especially in these last few years when they have made the text of General Conference addresses available by the end of the week, I find that my note taking has evolved. I find myself not transcribing what they are saying, I don’t necessarily write down quotes of what they exactly said, but more of the personal things that the spirit is speaking to me. I can always go back and read what they said, and it will be much more accurate than my note taking. But if I do not capture the impressions of the spirit when they happen, if I do not save those thoughts and personal revelation at the moment they occur, they will be lost.
Come listen to a Prophet’s voice, and hear the word of God. Your God is preparing to speak to you through the mouths of his Prophet and Apostles and he has said that “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. “ (D&C 1:38)