Chapter Three: Prophets and Apostles

by | Feb. 17, 2005

Sunday School

Several years ago I was flying over Texas from San Antonio to Wichita Falls in a small jet that seated about a dozen people. This was my first time in such a small jet, and I was excited to see and feel what it would be like to fly in it. When the plane took off, I felt my body press into the back of the seat. It felt like a ride at Disneyland.

The flight lasted only an hour, but as we approached the Wichita Falls airport, we hit some turbulence. It wasn't too bad at first, but then the plane started shaking violently. I grabbed onto my seat with a death grip born of fear and looked out my window, only to see the wing of the plane moving up and down so rapidly that I thought it would break off.

I wondered what we were going to do. At that moment a soft, calm voice came over the intercom and said, "Everything's all right. We're experiencing some turbulence, but we have everything under control and will be landing soon." I was so glad to hear the voice of the pilot. I somehow knew that he was telling the truth and that I would be all right, although I didn't immediately let go of the seat. The pilot knew the course he should take, and he guided us to where we needed to be. He had the information to keep us safe from harm.

I feel the same way about our living apostles and prophets. They have information that will guide us to safety if we will listen to them and obey their counsel. They are special witnesses of Jesus Christ to all the world (D&C 107:23). They desire to bring us closer to Christ so that we may prepare ourselves for his coming. Let's take a look at what kind of witnesses they are.

After Jesus was crucified, the apostles gathered together, wondering what to do next. As they were talking, Jesus appeared to them and said, "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have" (Luke 24:39). Each of the apostles then had the opportunity to see for himself that Jesus was alive again with a resurrected body.

Elder Harold B. Lee said:

May I impose to bear my own testimony. I was visiting with one of the missionaries some years ago when two missionaries came to me with what seemed to be a very difficult question, to them. A young Methodist minister had laughed at them when they had said that apostles were necessary today in order for the true church to be upon the earth. And they said the minister said: "Do you realize that when they met to choose one to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Judas, that they said it had to be one who companied with them and had been a witness of all things pertaining to the mission and resurrection of the Lord? How can you say you have apostles, if that be the measure of an apostle?"

And so these young men said, "What shall we answer?" I said to them: "Go back and ask your minister friend two questions. First, how did the Apostle Paul gain what was necessary to be called an apostle? He didn't know the Lord; had no personal acquaintance. He hadn't accompanied the apostles. He hadn't been a witness of the ministry, nor the resurrection of the Lord. How did he gain his testimony sufficient to be an apostle? Now the second question you ask him: How does he know that all who are today apostles have not likewise received that witness?" I bear witness to you that those who hold the apostolic calling may, and do, know of the reality of the mission of the Lord. ("Born of the Spirit," 13)

You may be asking yourself, "What does this have to do with the Second Coming?" Hang on, we'll get there. The Lord always follows a pattern of revealing himself to his apostles and prophets. He revealed himself to Adam, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham. Book of Mormon prophets Lehi, Nephi, Jacob, Mormon, Moroni, and the brother of Jared also saw him. If the Lord always follows a pattern of revealing himself to chosen witnesses, what about our apostles today?

Elder Boyd K. Packer said:

One question . . . I am asked occasionally . . . is, "Have you seen Him?" That is a question that I have never asked of another. I have not asked that question of my Brethren in the Council of the Twelve, thinking that it would be so sacred and so personal that one would have to have some special inspiration--indeed, some authorization--even to ask it. Though I have not asked that question of others, I have heard them answer it--but not when they were asked. I have heard one of my Brethren declare, "I know, from experiences too sacred to relate, that Jesus is the Christ." I have heard another testify, "I know that God lives, I know that the Lord lives, and more than that, I know the Lord." (Teach Ye Diligently, 86)
I am so grateful for good men who can fly the gospel plane to safety. They have the kind of knowledge that will get us to our destination on time, intact, and without any white-knuckled experiences. Understanding their testimonies will help us feel safe about the coming of the Lord.

Think of all the times Christ has appeared to his chosen servants in these latter days. First, he appeared to Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove. The First Vision took place for several reasons but primarily to restore the gospel and usher in the last days. Through Joseph Smith the Lord said, "I will suddenly come to my temple" (D&C 36:8). On April 3, 1836, the Lord appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery suddenly in the Kirtland Temple (D&C 110).

Jesus appeared to many of his servants in the past, and he visits many today. We can have faith in the apostles and prophets because they know that Christ lives and directs his Church. So as you think of the Second Coming, try not to see it as just one big event. Rather, think of it as many great events connected together to prove that Jesus keeps his promises and that there are many who witness of him. Those witnesses hold the keys and authority of the priesthood, so it's up to us to follow their counsel and guidance.

Elder Robert D. Hales told the following story:

At the Copenhagen Denmark Area Conference held August 3-5, 1976, President [Spencer W.] Kimball went to see Thorvaldsen's beautiful sculpture[s]. . . . After a few spiritual moments admiring The Christus, President Kimball bore his testimony to the caretaker who stood nearby. As he turned to the statue of Peter and pointed to the large set of keys in Peter's right hand, he proclaimed: "The keys of priesthood authority which Peter held as President of the Church I now hold as President of the Church in this dispensation." Then he stated to the caretaker, "You work every day with Apostles in stone, but today you are in the presence of living Apostles." He then introduced President N. Eldon Tanner, Elder Thomas S. Monson, and Elder Boyd K. Packer. He presented the caretaker with a Book of Mormon in Danish, and bore his testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith. The caretaker was moved to tears in acknowledgment of the Spirit he felt in the presence of a prophet and Apostles. He acknowledged to me as we left the church, "Today I have been in the presence of servants of God." ("Examples from the Life of a Prophet," Ensign, November 1981, 20)
I am so grateful for the Lord's apostles and prophets. They testify and preach of Christ, and if we follow their counsel and guidance, we will approach the Second Coming not with turbulence, fear, and white knuckles but with the smooth landing of hope and peace.

President Harold B. Lee gave it to us straight when he said, "We don't need more prophets to speak--we need more ears to listen" (as quoted by A. Theodore Tuttle, in Conference Report, April 1970, 85).

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