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Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson Lesson 11: Follow the Living Prophet

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Image from LDS.org.

Living prophets are a rare breed, since there is only one acting prophet alive at any one time on the earth. At least that is the way it is in this dispensation. This lesson discusses the importance of having a living prophet, following his counsel above all others, and the blessings for doing so.

This lesson deserves to be started with a quote from President Benson.

Learn to keep your eye on the prophet. He is the Lord’s mouthpiece and the only man who can speak for the Lord today. Let his inspired counsel take precedence. Let his inspired words be a basis for evaluating the counsel of all lesser authorities. Then live close to the Spirit so you may know the truth of all things.

This may seem simpler on the surface than it really is. We may not be falling for someone preaching that we all need to gather in one spot so space aliens can come and pick us up and take us to the real Zion, but Satan isn’t that stupid as to try something so blatant. Instead, there are people pointing out that this prophet or that prophet was so human as to say or teach such and such principle, that is “clearly” false and foolish.

Recently I saw a long string of posts in a Facebook group where the man was mocking the Church and the prophets, but never actually came out and said they were fools. Instead he would express his gratitude that the “profit, oops! prophet” knew so much as to make this claim or that claim. He would then present evidence that was clearly meant to shake one’s testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel. It was amazing to me how many people fell for this ploy.

There are those who claim to be faithful members of the Church, and often wave their temple recommends to “prove” their faithfulness. These members call on the prophet to get with the times and change the practices or programs of the Church. We, as a people are so accustomed to people in the world calling out for social change to bring about a better world, we tend to forget that when they do this to the Lord’s chief steward in mortality, it is really Christ they are challenging. They are saying, in essence, “Lord, your program is flawed, and you need to listen to me and make the following improvements ...” How cheeky is that?

Anyone who claims to have a better handle on the needs of the Church than the prophet, has already abandoned the prophet as their leader. I say this because they think they know better than the prophet, and feel they have the right to counsel the Lord’s servant in his duties. Even the apostles don’t presume to tell the prophet what he needs to do. They take their direction from him.

If we truly believe the prophet is the Lord’s mouthpiece on earth, and that he will never lead us astray, then we can live our lives with confidence that no matter what goes on around us, we will be on the right path, as long as we follow his counsel.

Living Prophets are More Important than Dead Prophets

Again, let’s start this section with a quote from President Benson.

God knows all things, the end from the beginning, and no man becomes president of the church of Jesus Christ by accident, or remains there by chance, or is called home by happenstance.

The Lord has mapped out the lives of every person born into mortality. The scriptures specifically state that he has set our time of birth and the bounds of our experience in mortality. When it comes to the prophets, each one has a special mission to perform, and they will come to earth and become prophet when it is time for that mission to be performed.

If you look at the lives of each of the prophets of this dispensation you will see that a unique work was performed or begun by each prophet. There have been no prophets who did not contribute something unique to the progress of God’s kingdom. Some introduced special programs, like welfare, or started the temple building frenzy or have made specific boosts to the missionary programs of the Church. All of them have had their purpose.

A prophet of 100 years ago could not adequately answer the needs of today’s Saints. We need a mouthpiece today that can give us guidance for today’s challenges. In an ever-changing world, with constantly devolving morals and circumstances, we need a pilot at the helm of the ship to guide us through life’s murky seas.

Necessary, but Maybe not Popular

It is very important for us to remember that the directions we are given by the prophet do not require him to have any worldly training in a particular field of study. He may tell us something that goes against what the experts in archeology say or against what the biologists or sociologists say. This creates difficulties for those in their chosen professions, but that is something they will have to work out on their own.

The prophet receives his instructions from the Lord, and therefore, they are correct. We believe our God is a God of truth, and cannot lie. If the prophet directs us to do certain things and we will be blessed for it, or to stop doing certain things or we will be punished, then those who have a witness from the Spirit that he speaks for God know that they had better listen to his counsel.

There are those who are concerned that the Lord’s words always be couched and introduced with “Thus saith the Lord.” But the prophet does not have to say these words to give us the Lord’s direction. God’s instructions for his people will come in common, everyday language, as delivered by an elderly man who stands at a pulpit and talks to us. It is up to us to take everything he says to the Lord and receive our own witness of its truthfulness so we know for ourselves that we have been instructed by God’s anointed servant.

Sometimes there are those who argue about words. They might say the prophet gave us counsel but that we are not obliged to follow it unless he says it is a commandment. But the Lord says of the Prophet, “Thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you.” (D&C 21:4.)

In the New Testament the Savior said that he came not to bring peace, but to divide the people (Luke 12:51). In the lesson President Benson says, “As a prophet reveals the truth it divides the people. The honest in heart heed his words but the unrighteous either ignore the prophet or fight him.”

Blessings of a Living Prophet

President Benson makes a promise, and gives us a grand key by which we can be guaranteed to weather any spiritual storm and come out victor over the fury of the devil. That key is to follow the prophet. If we come to have a strong testimony that the prophet is the Lord’s mouthpiece on earth, then following his counsel, no matter how it’s given, when it’s given, or about any subject, we will land our souls safely back home with our Father in Heaven.

The prophet has promised us that we will all be given the chance to follow the voice of the prophet or someone else’s voice. Safety lies in following the voice of the prophet. Our covenants demand it of us, as does the Lord who gave us those covenants.

Read President Benson's teachings at LDS.org.

Kelly likes to keep the gospel simple. For more of his articles and lesson helps go to his website, http://mormonbasics.com.

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