Welcome to Tween Talk for Latter-day Saints! This week, episode 6 of Tween Talk is about following the prophet.
Tween Talk Episode #6
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Bruce R. McConkie, “This Final Glorious Gospel Dispensation,” Ensign, Apr. 1980, pp. 21–22
Primary song Follow the Prophet
Tween Talk 6 Transcript
Have you ever wondered what to do if the prophet says something you’re not sure you agree with?
Hello, guys! Welcome back to Tween Talk for Latter-day Saints.
This week we’re going to talk about the following the prophet, since that’s something we need to understand as we discuss doctrine, principles, and applications.
Do you remember the difference between all of those things?
Doctrine is the deep stuff that never changes. We are children of God. The Plan of Salvation. These answer the “Why?” about the gospel.
Principles are the commandments that God gives us. Tithing, the law of chastity are some examples. They answer the “What?” as in, “What am I supposed to do?” Principles can change throughout history. The children of Israel had clean and unclean foods, and we have the Word of Wisdom.
Then there are applications. These answer the “how” of the gospel, and this is what we can decide on our own and how we choose to be valiant, which will get us to the Celestial Kingdom instead of the Terrestrial Kingdom.
And to help us navigate all of those things, we need prophets.
Remember how the whole point of this earth is to prove ourselves trustworthy?
Well, how can we do that if we don’t know WHAT we’re supposed to be doing or what the rules are?
That’s like doing a project for school when the teacher hasn’t given you any instructions AT ALL. Just, “go write an essay.” Well, how long should the essay be? One page? Ten pages? Two hundred?
(And yes, I had a project my senior year of college that was 200 pages long.)
And what does the teacher expect? Is it an essay about a book we’ve read? Or a current event? Will they care about spelling? Should we type it or handwrite it?
So say you write your essay, and the teacher comes back and has taken off points because you double-spaced and put your name in the top left corner instead of the top right corner.
Where’s the fairness?
Just like your school teacher gives you a rubric and clear instructions (or hopefully they do), Heavenly Father calls a prophet to give us the rubric – the doctrine and the principles of the gospel.
And just like the teacher doesn’t tell you EVERY word to write in your essay – that’s YOUR job – the prophet won’t tell you every single thing you should do to apply the principles.
The application is YOUR job, with the guidance of the Holy Ghost.
D&C 58:26-27 says
For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.
Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
So God doesn’t want to command us in all things! He wants us to be anxiously engaged in a good cause and do things of our OWN free will.
Otherwise, it’s Satan’s plan, remember?
Doesn’t anxiously engaged in a good cause sound like another way of saying “valiant”?
But people aren’t perfect, right? Not everyone wants to listen to the prophet. Sometimes, more and more people turn away and soon EVERYONE rejects the prophet.
This is called apostasy.
God allows the people to live in sin and wickedness for a while, but then when the time is right, He will ALWAYS call another prophet.
This is called a dispensation.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie, a former member of the Quorum of the 12, “Whenever the Lord reveals the plan of salvation anew so that men do not have to rely solely upon prior dispensings from heaven of the same glories and wonders, it is called a dispensation of the gospel. This may or may not involve a restoration of keys and powers and priesthoods.” (Bruce R. McConkie, “This Final Glorious Gospel Dispensation,” Ensign, Apr. 1980, pp. 21–22.)
We started out from the very beginning with a prophet. Do you know who that was? Adam.
Remember the Primary song Follow the Prophet? “Adam was a prophet, first one that we know…”
But then Cain killed Abel, and Cain’s descendants were wicked, and eventually they all fell into apostasy.
So after a while, God called Enoch to be a prophet, starting a new dispensation. He created the city of Zion, and they went to dwell with God, while the wicked were left on the earth and the earth was once again in apostasy.
Then a few generations later, God called Noah. As in, Noah and the ark. And this began another dispensation.
Are you starting to see a pattern here?
Dispensation, apostasy, dispensation, apostasy….
But God will always, always call another prophet when the world is ready and restore His church and His priesthood.
This pattern happened all the way down until Joseph Smith had the First Vision and was called to be the first prophet of this last dispensation.
Do you know why it is called the last dispensation?
Because there will never again be an apostasy where the Church and prophets are taken away. This dispensation will continue on until the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. President Wilford Woodruff said, “All inspired men, from the days of father Adam to the days of Jesus, had a view, more or less, of the great and last dispensation of the fulness of times, when the Lord would set his hand to prepare the earth and a people for the coming of the Son of Man and a reign of righteousness.”
The scriptures also call this dispensation the dispensation of the fullness of times.
In previous dispensations, they didn’t all have all the truth or all the priesthood ordinances. Did you know that they didn’t even do baptisms for the dead until after Christ was resurrected?
In the book of Alma, we learn that the Plan of Salvation wasn’t known in full, not even by Alma himself! He didn’t know what happened after death!
But this dispensation is the last one, and it has the fullness of the gospel.
After the First Vision, Joseph was visited by the heads of each of the previous dispensations and given their different priesthood keys: John the Baptist, Peter, James, and John, Elijah, Elisha, Moroni, and others.
We’ll talk more about Priesthood Keys in next week’s podcast, but here is what Joseph Smith had to say about the matter: “I … hold the keys of the last kingdom, in which is the dispensation of the fullness of all things spoken by the mouths of all the holy Prophets since the world began, under the sealing power of the Melchizedek Priesthood.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith: Chapter 44)
So we know, based on the prophecies of prophets from the Bible and the Book of Mormon, there would be a last dispensation before the Second Coming, and Joseph Smith was told that it would be this dispensation that we are in.
Isn’t that a wonderful comfort and blessing?
We live in the only time of the world where we are guaranteed that the Church will remain. It won’t fall into the apostasy or be taken from the earth or be destroyed or led astray.
In the end of the Doctrine & Covenants, there are two important official declarations about changes to Church policy that were difficult to understand. In the first declaration, President Wilford Woodruff said, “The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty.”
I don’t know about you, but I find that incredibly reassuring.
No matter what the world says, no matter what logic says, no matter what scientists say, there is someone who speaks for God, who God will not allow to lead us astray.
And that is the living prophet and president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Amos 3:7 says, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.”
In 2 Nephi 3:15, Nephi’s brother Joseph prophesied about Joseph Smith being the prophet to restore the last dispensation, even by name! He said, “And his name shall be called after me; and it shall be after the name of his father. And he shall be like unto me; for the thing, which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand, by the power of the Lord shall bring my people unto salvation.”
D&C 1:17, 38 says, “Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments;”
“What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, 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.”
Isn’t that amazing?
God, knowing the horrible things that were going to happen in the last days, called Joseph Smith. And we can know that when His chosen servants speak, it’s the same as if the Lord Himself is speaking.
So how do we know that this is true?
We ask God for ourselves.
After all, if someone comes and tells us they’re speaking on behalf of someone else, we would want to check with the source first.
For example, if someone at school comes up and says the teacher told them to tell you that you didn’t have to do that night’s homework, you’d probably want to check with that teacher first, right?
Or if your sibling tells you that your mom said you were grounded, you’d probably check with your mom first, right?
Or if you get a phone call from someone claiming to be the government and you owe thousands of dollars in taxes and had to pay right now or you would be arrested, you would probably want to check with the police first, right?
So why is this any different?
You can go to Heavenly Father in prayer and ask Joseph Smith was a prophet.
And then you can also go to ask about the current prophet.
Each time a new prophet or a new apostle is called, you can go again and again to the Lord to get confirmation that that person is truly called by Him.
Back when I was on my mission, I received a phone call one morning from my mission president, who informed us that President Gordon B. Hinckley had passed away.
We knew that logically, the next prophet would be Thomas S. Monson. The new prophet is always the Apostle who has the most seniority – who has been apostle the longest.
But it is SO important that the Lord confirms that, that even the other apostles all go to the temple to fast and pray to get that confirmation from Him.
And we can – and SHOULD – do the same thing!
I still remember the overwhelming feeling that came over me when I knelt in Barbados and prayed to know that President Monson really was the next prophet, the only man who would speak for God.
D&C 132:7 says, “I have appointed unto my servant Joseph to hold this power in the last days, and there is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred.”
I repeated that same process when President Nelson was called to be a prophet, and I received a similar confirmation.
Now, are prophets and apostles perfect?
No. Absolutely not. Remember, only the Savior was.
There are times when they speak their opinions, and they may be wrong.
But these are almost always about Church policies – not doctrine.
Policies are things like the organization of the Church or who can have the priesthood.
One example of this is when several years ago, the prophet and apostles said that children whose parents were in a same-sex relationship couldn’t be baptized until they were 18 years old. That policy was changed a few years later.
This was difficult for many members. Some people lost their testimonies of the prophet over this. After all, did this mean someone was wrong? Did President Monson, who instituted that policy, do so incorrectly? Or did President Nelson give into public pressure and revoke the change three years later?
It’s really easy to think that because this policy change occurred, and then was reversed, someone had to have been wrong.
So, why the change then?
Of the original policy enactment, President Nelson (who was not the prophet then) said
“Filled with compassion for all, and especially for the children, we wrestled at length to understand the Lord’s will in this matter. Ever mindful of God’s plan of salvation and of His hope for eternal life for each of His children, we considered countless permutations and combinations of possible scenarios that could arise. We met repeatedly in the temple in fasting and prayer and sought further direction and inspiration. And then, when the Lord inspired His prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, to declare the mind of the Lord and the will of the Lord, each of us during that sacred moment felt a spiritual confirmation. It was our privilege as Apostles to sustain what had been revealed to President Monson. Revelation from the Lord to His servants is a sacred process . . .”
When Elder Oaks, under direction of President Nelson, made the announcement of the policy change, Elder Eyring said, “One reason is that we need the Lord’s direction to meet changing circumstances, and He has guided changes in practice and policy throughout the history of the Church.”
There are plenty of stories in scriptures about the Lord giving what seems to be conflicting guidance or changing His mind.
One example is Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son Isaac.
Originally, the Lord gave Moses different commandments before the 10 commandments.
God instituted the Law of Consecration before He changed it to tithing.
When the Church was first organized, blacks were allowed to receive the priesthood. Then they couldn’t for a period of time, and then it was allowed again.
A similar thing occurred with polygamy.
Principles and policies can change.
Does this mean that someone was wrong?
It means that we are changing. Our hearts change. Sometimes we aren’t ready for a policy, so the Lord gives something else.
Sometimes, like with Abraham and Isaac, it’s a test of our faith.
Sometimes it’s because the world is changing. I am extremely grateful to be born in a time where my jeans are considered modest and I DON’T have to wear skirts and corset.
I’ll be honest – I don’t always know the reason for every single thing.
If I did, then it wouldn’t be faith, would it?
There is an excellent speech from Ezra Taft Benson (the former prophet) that he gave at BYU when he was in the Quorum of the 12 called “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet.”
If there were time, I would just read it aloud to you – it’s that good.
But since I can’t, I’m going to just share a part of it with you, and you can read the whole thing on your own. There’s a link to it on my blog, savingtalents.com/podcasts: But President Benson tells a story that President N. Eldon Tanner told him. One time, in General Conference, the prophet at the time laid down some very specific responsibilities that everyone had.
A man said to me (meaning President Tanner) after that, “You know, there are people in our state who believe in following the Prophet in everything they think is right, but when it is something they think isn’t right, and it doesn’t appeal to them, then that’s different.” He (meaning President Tanner’s friend) said, “Then they become their own prophet. They decide what the Lord wants and what the Lord doesn’t want.”
I (meaning President Benson) thought how true it was, and how serious it is when we begin to choose which of the covenants, which of the commandments we will keep and follow. When we decide that there are some of them that we will not keep or follow, we are taking the law of the Lord into our own hands and become our own prophets, and believe me, we will be led astray, because we are false prophets to ourselves when we do not follow the Prophet of God. No, we should never discriminate between these commandments, as to those we should and should not keep. [In Conference Report, October 1966, p. 98; emphasis added]
2 Nephi 9:28-29 says, “O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish. But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.”
Elder F. Enzio Busche said, “If we do not decide to search out and accept the truth in the only way authorized by God, with all our might, mind, and strength, even when it means changing our lives completely, we will have built our house on sand. The half-truths of men, often mingled with scripture, are sometimes strong enough to fulfill the expectations of the people for a season or for a generation, but they can neither bring them along the path of exaltation and eternal life nor bring satisfying answers to the demanding problems of mankind in these days.”
Guys, we need to be very, very careful that we don’t take these philosophies of MAN that are MINGLED with scripture in an attempt to show why we think the prophet’s counsel shouldn’t apply to us.
President Marion G. Romney tells of this incident which happened to him:
“I remember years ago when I was a Bishop I had President [Heber J.] Grant talk to our ward. After the meeting I drove him home. . . .Standing by me, he put his arm over my shoulder and said: “My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.” Then with a twinkle in his eye, he said, “But you don’t need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.” [In Conference Report, October 1960, p. 78]”
Now, to be clear, not everything that comes from a prophet’s mouth is a commandment. But they strive to be very clear about what they are or are not telling people to do.
For example, when the COVID vaccine became available, the Church released a statement that said, “As appropriate opportunities become available, the Church urges its members, employees and missionaries to be good global citizens and help quell the pandemic by safeguarding themselves and others through immunization. Individuals are responsible to make their own decisions about vaccination. In making that determination, we recommend that, where possible, they counsel with a competent medical professional about their personal circumstances and needs.”
Does that sound like a commandment or a policy for the entire church?
Nope! And they made that perfectly clear.
But when it’s General Conference, and the speakers are General Authorities who have fasted and prayed for weeks, and even months, over what to speak to us about, you’d better believe that it’s being directed from the Lord, or else it will be corrected later.
So what do we learn from all these scriptures and quotes and stories?
We should follow the prophet.
Even when we don’t understand why.
Even when it seems dumb.
Even when it seems like counsel or suggestion, rather than commandment.
Now, does that mean you blindly follow everything?
Again, absolutely not.
You, as an individual, have every right to go to the Lord in prayer and counsel with Him yourself. As Him how you can change your heart and follow, even when you are unsure.
It’s not easy.
As you get older, some of the things the prophet says or does might be HARD. It might feel HURTFUL.
And you might wonder how a God of love would allow His spokesman to say or do something that seems so wrong based on your limited knowledge.
But remember that God has the master plan.
And He has called His prophet to tell us what that plan is.
We are following our flowcharts, and the prophet is here to help us know which arrow to choose when you aren’t sure what to do.
And if you follow the prophet, and you get to judgment day and you find out the prophet was wrong, will you be held accountable for it? No. But you WILL be held accountable for when the prophet was right and YOU were wrong.
And when it comes down to choosing between my own opinions or the prophet’s opinion, I’m going to choose the prophet’s every single time.
That’s because I have a testimony of the prophet.
And the best part? YOU can get that testimony for YOURSELF.
So until we meet again next week, I want to challenge you to gain a testimony of the living prophet for yourself.
Ask God! Go ask Him! Ask if the prophet really is His spokesman! And then ask for the courage to follow.
I know He will answer that prayer for you, because He has answered it for me.
And I’ll see y’all next week, when we talk more about the Priesthood, like what exactly it is, what Priesthood keys are, and why women don’t have the Priesthood.
See you then!