“Declare in my name, in solemnity of heart, in the spirit of meekness, in all things. And I give unto you this promise, that inasmuch as ye do this the Holy Ghost shall be shed forth in bearing record unto all things whatsoever ye shall say.” (DC 100:7-8.)
(Powhatan Ward LDS Church, Richmond Virginia Midlothian Stake, 20 Apr 2008.)
My Life-Changing Experience in 1999
In 1999, I heard Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speak at a regional leadership training meeting in Nashville, Tennessee. It wasn’t his speaking ability that impressed me, but a flood of inspiration and great desire to change my life that came as he spoke and taught by the power of the Holy Ghost.
His words were not overpowering or emotional or awe-inspiring. It was the content and the result of hearing them that made the difference. As he spoke, the Holy Ghost inspired me, and I knew precisely what God wanted me to do and change to please Him best. Elder Eyring testified that if we actually did what we felt impressed to do that day, spiritual blessings would follow. I obeyed, even though it was sometimes hard. My life changed forever.
Now I Listen More Carefully
Since that experience, when Elder Eyring speaks, I listen perhaps a little more carefully than usual, though I know through the Holy Spirit that each the Twelve is a true and living, modern-day apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Uncharacteristically, this past General Conference (April 2008), I had trouble understanding the focus of his Saturday morning talk, so I studied and pondered it for this speaking assignment. Today I’d like to explain, then elaborate on what I believe he was teaching about “the true and living church.” Then I’ll connect it to the concept of a “living prophet of God.”
Two Favorite Scriptures
Two scriptures I’ve liked for some time are connected to Elder Erying’s April 2008 conference talk. First:
…this church [is] … the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased…. (D&C 1:30.)
Also this one:
…. these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language that they might come to understanding. (DC 1:24.)
In preparing this talk, I discovered that these verses are essentially connected. One actually implies the other. How?
Principle 1: Weakness => Humility
The Lord’s anointed servants have weaknesses? The revelations come “in their weakness, after their language” (meaning their manner of speech and understanding)? It is at first a surprising idea to some, that prophets and apostles are not perfect, but it shouldn’t be. Lorenzo Snow, an apostle and later prophet and president of the Church, said:
I saw the . . . imperfections in [Joseph Smith]. . . . I thanked God that he would put upon a man who had those imperfections the power and authority he placed upon him . . . for I knew that I myself had weakness[es], and I thought there was a chance for me. . . . I thanked God that I saw these imperfections. (As cited by Neal A. Maxwell, “Out of Obscurity,” Ensign, Nov. 1984, p. 10; also Conference Report, Oct. 1984.)
The Lord has said:
The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh….
And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known;
The Lord’s Servants Are Perfected in Weakness
But the Lord has a grand purpose behind this!
The Lord’s servants, like all of us, need to rely on and be sustained by Him. We are not sufficient unto ourselves, and we must be humble. The Lord gives us weakness specifically so we may become humble! (Ether 12:27.) The Lord’s servants are no exception. In fact, when the Lord said to Paul: “my strength is made perfect in weakness,” Paul added: “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Cor 12:9.)
Principle 2: Humility => Establishing the Church
Returning to the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord explains that these weak servants (which includes us), acting in repentant humility, being made strong and blessed with knowledge from Him would
… have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually—
Yet We Must Remain Humble and Repentant
So we must all remain faithful and humble to properly build up the kingdom of God on the earth.
Leads to Whole Focus of Elder Eyring’s Talk
All this brings us to the purpose, I believe, of Elder Eyring’s talk:
1. He teaches us that we sustain and build up “the true and living church” by sustaining these humble leaders,
2. He teaches us how to truly sustain them (involves humility), and
3. He instills faith in us to go and do it.
Pattern for Our Teaching
I believe this sets a pattern for our own teaching in the Church and in our families:
1. Teach the PRINCIPLE,
2. Teach HOW to actually do it (be practical, be specific), and
3. Instill FAITH to actually go and do (assurance, testimony).
Looking back, I think this is the pattern he followed in that regional leadership training meeting in Tennessee. Let’s follow this pattern ourselves as we review the remainder of his talk.
1. PRINCIPLE: We actually sustain and build up “the true and living church” by sustaining these humble leaders
They hold the keys. They—and no one else—have the divine authority for their callings at this time. Our support of them is essential for them, for us, and for the church itself.
2. HOW: How Do We Actually Sustain Them and the Church?
Elder Eyring teaches or alludes to three important ways to sustain them that we might not normally consider:
1. Exercising our faith, confidence and prayers in their behalf,
2. Remaining humble and worthy ourselves, and
3. Giving service in the Lord’s name.
2a. Faith, Confidence and Prayers
In a great revelation on priesthood, the Lord teaches us that
“…three Presiding High Priests … , appointed and ordained to that office, … [constitute] the Presidency of the Church” [and they] “…[are] upheld by the confidence, faith, and prayer of the church.” (DC 107:23.)
What an amazing concept! The Lord’s prophet and his counselors, the Presidency of the Church, must be upheld through our confidence, our faith, and our prayers in their behalf!
2b. Remaining Humble and Worthy
Elder Eyring said:
“Now our obligation is to remain worthy of the faith necessary … to … sustain those who have been called. The Lord … cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance…. We must examine our lives, repent as necessary, pledge to keep the Lord’s commandments, and follow his servants.”
Seek Inspiration on Repentance
How do we best repent? Elder Eyring said:
“We need to know by the power of the Holy Ghost in what ways we can do better in keeping the commandments.”
Have you ever prayed to be shown your weaknesses? I have. That prayer is usually answered speedily and pointedly. Are you afraid to do so? I can relate to that feeling. But if you or I are afraid to ask to be shown our weaknesses, what does that say about our humility?
And inasmuch as they erred it might be made known;
And inasmuch as they sought wisdom they might be instructed;
And inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent;
And inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high, and receive knowledge from time to time. (DC 1:25-8.)
2c. Give Service in the Lord’s Name, through His Servants
We sustain our leaders and the Lord’s Church as we give service as opportunities are extended to us through his servants. There are many opportunities for this: Humanitarian efforts, missions, temple service.
But what about callings? Do we willingly accept the calls to serve when they are extended through his servants? If we feel inadequate (as I think we all do), so we seek help and inspiration to know how to fulfill the calling? Will we accept any calling extended through an inspired leader?
If not, we are failing to sustain the Lord’s church.
3. INSTILL FAITH: to Sustain Our Leaders and “The True and Living Church”
Finally, Elder Eyring did what he could to instill faith in us to actually go and do these things.
We can’t give people faith as we teach. Instead, faith “is the assurance of things hoped for” (JST Heb 11:1) that comes to us from God. As we hear truth taught in a way that we can believe, we feel the glimmerings of divine assurance of its truth. This inspires us to hope and then act. That is faith.
That kind of teaching is not limited to apostles. We can all do it. The Lord said:
… a commandment I give unto you, that ye shall declare whatsoever thing ye declare in my name, in solemnity of heart, in the spirit of meekness, in all things.
So as we teach, we must be very careful to teach correct principles in the appointed way. Anything else can prevent the Spirit from testifying. That divinely-appointed way requires our human testimony. Then, as they believe and obey, divine testimony or assurance comes, and their faith increases. The pattern repeats, growing “brighter and brighter until the perfect day.” (DC 50:24.)
Elder Eyring’s Testimony: True and Living Church
Elder Eyring testified of when he first knew that this is the true and living church. Before he was eight years old he heard someone speak at a remote conference of the church in a small hotel room. He doesn’t remember what was said, but he does remember receiving a powerful witness that day that he was “hearing a servant of the God in the true Church of Jesus Christ.”
My Testimony: Serving by Accepting Callings
I also know, of myself, by many powerful witnesses, that this is the true church of Jesus Christ, “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.”
I can also testify of the importance of sustaining the Church and the Lord’s servants by accepting and fulfilling callings, even when it is hard.
Years ago I was struck down with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). After struggling for years with no answers, it was all I could do to make it to church to teach the Blazers at 11:30 am. A schedule change was coming that would make our meetings start at 8:30 am, and I met with my inspired bishop to alert him that I would probably not be able to continue in the calling.
The bishop looked at me a moment, then said, “That’s not what the Lord has told me.” Then he added, “Kevin, I spent a lot of time in the temple because of you last Saturday. A heavy calling is coming. When it does, we’ll work with you in any way we can if you accept it. As I prayed and your name came to me for the position, I though, ‘oh no, he can’t do this, he’s too sick.’ I had to repent very quickly.”
A calling was extended to be the ward clerk. It required me to attend Bishopric meeting at 5:45 am! I accepted the call in faith, and did what I could, asking for the Lord’s help. I literally staggered to church those mornings. But as I actually went and did as the Lord asked me, through his inspired servants, he blessed me. My capacity increased more than it had at any time before that. I sustained the Lord’s humble servants, the Lord blessed me with greater health, and I was blessed to build up the kingdom of God through greater service. I enjoyed that calling!
Another time, I knew a calling was coming. I had very sound reasons for being concerned about it. The Lord quietly reassured me that the call was inspired of Him anyway and should not be declined. The call was accepted, and blessings I could not have anticipated flowed to me and my family through that decision—answers to prayers of many years, in fact.
True and Living Church: A Living Prophet
In closing, I’d also like to connect these thoughts to the subject of a living prophet, and what that means.
The word of God and “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” were always given to prophets anciently. The apostle Paul told the Ephesians that the Church was built on the “foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” (Eph. 2:20.) When the apostles were killed, there was a falling away—the keys and authority were lost as foretold by those very prophets. Those keys had to be restored through the divine pattern, through a prophet, called of God.
The first prophet of that restoration was Joseph Smith. I know this is true by revelation to me, personally, through the Holy Ghost. That witness can come to anyone who will ask in faith, with real intent.
But what of today? What of Thomas S. Monson, the current president of this church?
I’ve had occasion to meet and listen to Elder Monson in person. I met him on my mission. My father lived in his ward. I’ve watched him closely and listened as he spoke over the years.
Remember that the Lord said:
…these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding. (DC 1:24.)
When I saw and heard Pres. Monson speak at this conference, I compared what I had seen and heard before.
I saw in the person the same face, and the same unpretentious sense of humor, but something had definitely changed. His demeanor and countenance were different. I sensed and knew that the Lord had taken an already-great man and changed him.
All of the apostles are “prophets, seers, and revelators.” Elder Monson was that before this new calling came. But there is something different about the responsibility of the President of the Church, the only person on the earth authorized to exercise all the priesthood keys.
I know that the Lord has placed that responsibility upon Thomas Spencer Monson.
Elder Monson himself said many times: “Whom the Lord calls, the Lord also qualifies.” Now it makes me smile to think of that saying, because I’ve seen it in him. And I’m grateful for that, because I need that same blessing in my life, to be qualified by the Lord to do whatever he asks.
I hope and pray that that we will all resolve to sustain the true and living church, that we will do this by sustaining the Lord’s humble servants, and that we will do it by:
1. Extending to them our faith, confidence, and prayers,
2. Remaining humble and worthy ourselves, and
3. Giving service in the Lord’s name, in his Church.
I know this is what the Lord wants us to do, and that if we will go home and actually do these things, “exceeding great and precious” blessings await us. (2 Pet 1:4.)
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.