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Q&A: Sheri Dew on receiving spiritual witnesses of prophets

Sheri Dew

In conjunction with the release of her latest book, Prophets See around Corners, Sheri Dew answered a few questions about her personal experiences with prophets and shared her insights on how all Latter-day Saints can strengthen their testimonies and access the spiritual power of prophets.

The following is a transcript of an interview and has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

You’ve had the unique opportunity of working closely with many prophets and apostles over the years. If you wanted Latter-day Saints to know one thing that you have learned about prophets from your experiences, what would it be?

Sheri Dew: That they really are led by God. I’ve seen it over and over again. I don’t want to overstate it, but I’ve had a close enough association over enough years to have seen with my own eyes, in my own experience, that they are guided by the person who is the head of this Church, which is the Lord Jesus Christ. So I believe it. I’ve seen it again and again.

Although you’ve had these personal experiences and associations with prophets, like most Latter-day Saints, you grew up away from the central location of prophets and apostles. Do you remember how your testimony of prophets developed, or how you began to feel that they were relevant to your life?

Sheri Dew: I was raised by very faithful parents in a little teenie branch in Ulysses, Kansas. We just always spoke of the prophets with respect and reverence.

I remember my first personal experience [with a prophet]. Our parents brought us out to general conference when I was a seventh grader. We stood in long lines, and we sat on those truly torturous benches in the Tabernacle.

And it’s not like I came to conference and had this big spiritual experience. I didn’t. But it was cool to come, and for a little kid from a little branch in Kansas, it was a big deal.

Afterward, we walked around to the west side of Temple Square, and there was a little crowd gathered of younger people. The way I remember it, somebody said, “Oh, you should wait here. President McKay’s going to come out in just a minute.” So we paused there, and here came President McKay walking out of the Tabernacle, and he stopped to talk to all the kids. And I’ll tell you, a bolt went through me that I wasn’t really quite sure what it was, but tears came to my eyes. I had this incredible impression that I was with somebody really special.

Then when I was a BYU student, with some of my friends, we started traipsing up to conference, and I remember several times seeing Joseph Fielding Smith or Harold B. Lee walk in as Presidents of the Church and feeling something undeniable. So there were different little touchpoints where I started to feel that there was something different about these men. I don’t think I could have articulated it. I just felt something.

For Latter-day Saints who have doubts about the divine role of prophets, how would you tell them to find those touchpoints or to find joy in following the prophets?

Sheri Dew: First thing: in my opinion, and from both observation and experience, the Spirit is pretty willing to bear testimony of a prophet. Whether the prophet is Alma in the Book of Mormon or Russell M. Nelson alive today. So if someone has a sincere heart and pure intent and really wants to know—is there something different about this man that we sustain as a prophet, seer, and revelator?—I think that given a little spiritual work, the Spirit will testify. That doesn’t mean you might like everything he says. I have to wrestle with some of the things that they say sometimes. But I don’t think the Spirit withholds that for a sincere seeker.

So that’s the spiritual side. The practical side is—I have this conversation a lot with people who say, “Yeah, but I think they’ve been wrong, so maybe they’re wrong today. Maybe they’re right about some things, but maybe they’re wrong about other things.”

Well, number one, it is pretty presumptuous to say they were wrong. Do we know that? But number two, I say, “OK, set that aside for a minute, because I don't feel qualified to opine on whether or not XYZ prophet was wrong on this thing.”

But what I do ask myself is, “Is there anybody who is more likely to be accurate than a prophet, seer, and revelator who has all priesthood keys, whose only motive is to try to help us progress, and who has no personal motive?” They’re not looking for our vote. They’re not looking for money. They’re not looking for popularity. They’re not looking for any of that. In fact, read the Book of Mormon—it’ll scare you to death about what happens to prophets. So I look and say, “Who is more likely to give me the best possible information who is a mortal walking the earth?” I just can't see any person or any group of people whose counsel would be more accurate, more fair, and more in my best interest. I can’t see anybody, so I’m hanging with them.

You mentioned that there are some things you’ve had to wrestle over. Can you explain what that process looks like and how you came to be at peace?

Sheri Dew: There have been times when there have been policy changes or other things where I’ve thought, “I don't get that. Why would that be?” When you associate closely with senior leaders of the Church, the great majority of the time you see them up close and personal and they look even better than you think they were. You say, “OK, they’re the real deal.”

But they are human beings, and every day isn’t their best day. And if you associate with them a lot, you’re going to see them on days that aren’t their best day—just like every day isn’t your best day either. So when you get wounded by a senior leader in a meeting, it really hurts. Have I had that happen? Yes, I have. Enough times to know what I’m talking about. And you have to ask for heavenly help to get over it if you feel personally wounded.

But you can’t work with prophets, seers, and revelators very long without seeing the fact that they’re directed. I have seen it countless times, and so if I don’t agree with something that I’ve heard, or if it runs counter to what my opinion was about a given issue, I’ve learned that that means I need to wrestle with the issue, not with the Apostle.

Is there any advice you’d give to someone who is struggling with their testimony because of a perceived mistake made by a prophet, past or present?

Sheri Dew: I’m thinking about a family member who was really struggling with her testimony, and she had some real questions about prophets. One day she was telling me she had loved a talk that Elder [Dieter F.] Uchtdorf had given in conference. And so [I said], “Let's read what you love.”

So we pulled it out, and she started to read two or three paragraphs that she’d really loved. And she got a little bit emotional as she read it.

And I said, “What is that? What’s the emotion?”

“Well, I think it’s the Spirit.”

And I said, “Yeah, I do too. What do you think the Spirit is telling you?”

And she said, “That what I just read is true.”

I said, “Yeah, I think so too. So what do you think that says about Elder Uchtdorf?”

She said, “That he was speaking truth. He really is a prophet, seer, and revelator.”

I said, “Yep, that’s how I would interpret it.”

So if somebody’s really struggling and wondering, I say go study. Read the messages. Read them going back as far as you want to go in this dispensation, but for sure read the [words of the] living prophets and see how it makes you feel when you read their words. If someone earnestly wants to know if prophets are prophets, the Spirit will bear witness of that. It may take some work—some spiritual work—but the Spirit is not going to withhold that witness.

How can Latter-day Saints better invite the power of the prophets into their lives?

Sheri Dew: A few years ago, I was teaching institute, and the week right after general conference, the whole class was devoted to a conference review. What did you hear? What affected you? What impressed you? And one young woman raised her hand, and she said something I’ve never forgotten.

She said, “My roommate and I decided six months ago that we were going to treat the words of the prophets and prepare for this conference differently. We were going to do that by every day listening to a conference talk, and once we got through all the prophet, seers, and revelators from last conference, then we started going back to different conferences. Pretty much every day for the last six months, we’ve listened to a talk from a prophet, seer, and revelator. This conference, I feel like I received more personal revelation than I ever had, and I think it’s because I was in a constant state of preparation. Every day as I was getting ready in the morning and putting on my makeup and fixing my hair, I was listening to a conference talk.”

And as she told this story, I thought, “I’ve never done that. I’m going to do that.” And I can tell you that, with not a lot of exceptions, every day, I’m listening to at least one conference talk or major address by a prophet, seer, and revelator. And I think it makes all the difference in the world to have those words constantly, daily, in my heart and mind. And over time, you just know. The Spirit keeps telling you over and over again, “That’s true. That’s true. That’s true. That’s true.”

And that’s what gives me confidence about what they teach. I’ve had those little witnesses hundreds, maybe thousands, of times. So if there gets to a point where you hear something and you think, “Hmm, I don’t know how to feel about that,” it doesn’t make you then think, “Well, I don't think they’re a prophet.” It makes you think, “I’ve got to think about that more. I’ve got to work on that more.” It makes you want to wrestle with it until you get some peace about it. It may take some time, but the Spirit will always come to your aid when you're willing to wrestle.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Sheri Dew: What I just said is really the nub of it. Everybody needs their own testimony, not their mom’s, not their bishop’s. They need their own experience that says, “That feels true to me.” And once you have that feeling over and over and over and over again, then prophets become a go-to. You say, “Well, I'm going to see what they said.” And even if I have to wrestle with something they said, it’s OK because you’ve got a reservoir of all those little witnesses. So you go, “Yeah, I know they speak truth.”

Prophets See around Corners

Author Sheri Dew has had the unique opportunity to be in the presence of prophets, seers, and revelators hundreds of times if not thousands. In Prophets See around Corners, she shares her firsthand witness that these inspired men are indeed called of God and that they have the ability to help us in ways no other leader or influencer can. As she explains, “There is a crucial difference between prophets, seers, and revelators and the rest of us: They have priesthood keys that allow them to see things we do not yet see and understand things we do not yet understand.” This is why prophets have a singular capacity to prepare us for life’s unexpected turns. This is how they can see around corners.

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