Come, Listen to a Prophet’s Voice

Every six months, the world is privileged to hear inspired addresses from living prophets and apostles of the living Lord Jesus Christ. In His day, Jesus ordained Twelve Apostles, groups of Seventy elders, and others to whom He gave His power and authority to act, called the Holy Priesthood. Over long centuries of apostasy and tampering by uninspired men, the true points of His Gospel were lost and He revoked His Priesthood. In 1820, the Lord and His Father appeared to one Joseph Smith, calling him to be a new prophet to restore the lost points of the Gospel and to be the instrument through which the Priesthood was against brought to the earth.

In due course, Joseph Smith was given the Priesthood – the authority to act and officiate in God’s name for the welfare of men on the earth – by the hands of the angels Peter, James, and John. Other ancient prophets, from John the Baptist to Elijah, returned to restore keys and powers. New scripture was revealed as a companion to the Holy Bible, called respectively The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, The Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. These sacred books confirmed the the Bible’s witness of reality of Jesus Christ, testified of His divinity and calling as the Redeemer, and pointed all men to Him for salvation and happiness.

On April 6, 1830, Joseph Smith restored the Lord’s Church. By revelation, the Lord named it “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” Every six months, the current prophet – the successor of Joseph Smith – the Twelve Apostles – reorganized in our day just as during the Lord’s ministry – and other General Authorities and Seventies – the same as those had in the ancient Church of Christ – deliver messages on faith, repentance, baptism, the Holy Ghost, the Atonement of the Savior, families, missionary work, and other key elements of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In a revelation through Joseph Smith in 1831, the Lord bore witness of Himself, His Gospel, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He also gave fervent counsel to the wayward world. Said He:

“Wherefore the voice of the Lord is unto the ends of the earth, that all that will hear may hear:

“Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come, for the Lord is nigh;

“And the anger of the Lord is kindled, and his sword is bathed in heaven, and it shall fall upon the inhabitants of the earth.

“And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people;

“For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant;

“They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall.

“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;

“And also gave commandments to others, that they should proclaim these things unto thet world; and all this that it might be fulfilled, which was written by the prophets –

“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 –

“But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world;

“That faith also might increase in the earth;

“That mine everlasting covenant might be established;

“That the fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers.

“Behold, I am God and have spoken it; 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. . . .

“Search these commandmennts, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled.

“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 fulilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.

“For behold, and lo, the Lord is God, and the Spirit beareth record, and the record is true, and the truth abideth forever and ever. Amen” (The Doctrine and Covenants 1:11-24, 37-39).

A powerful declaration! One of the things that stands out is the premium which the Lord places on listening to His prophets and servants. We are instructed to heed them as we would heed Him. Naturally, a prophet is only a prophet when he is speaking under inspiration of the Spirit. But when he so speaks, we are under obligation to listen and heed as if the Lord was speaking by His own mouth.

Every six months, the world is treated to the inspired word of God delivered by the mouths of prophets. These messages are broadcast over the web, on TV, on the radio, and in meetinghouses of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the world over. The messages are then printed, published, and archived so that we may have them in our hands or on our devides and study them with our families. Most importantly, these messages are carried throughout the world by the Holy Spirit who has the power to make them sink deep into your heart if you will simply invite Him in.

I give my personal witness that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s restored organization, that it is led by a living prophet called of God and possessing His Priesthood, that every six months we have a flood of light from Heaven channeled through inspired prophets and apostles, and that the Spirit has the power to confirm all of this to you independently of my words. I invite you to come and listen to a prophet’s voice this April 2 and 3 at General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The current prophet-president of the Church is President Russell M. Nelson. This wise man is a spiritual giant who has delivered numerous messages of comfort, motivation, and instruction since being chosen as a prophet, seer, and revelator by His Lord. He has given profound doctrine, guidance, and instruction, such as the following. Answer for yourself if these types of messages could benefit you and your family in this day of darkness and confusion:

“The voices and pressures of the world are engaging and numerous. But too many voices are deceptive, seductive, and can pull us off the covenant path. To avoid the inevitable heartbreak that follows, I plead with you today to counter the lure of the world by making time for the Lord in your life—each and every day.

“If most of the information you get comes from social or other media, your ability to hear the whisperings of the Spirit will be diminished. If you are not also seeking the Lord through daily prayer and gospel study, you leave yourself vulnerable to philosophies that may be intriguing but are not true. Even Saints who are otherwise faithful can be derailed by the steady beat of Babylon’s band.

“My brothers and sisters, I plead with you to make time for the Lord! Make your own spiritual foundation firm and able to stand the test of time by doing those things that allow the Holy Ghost to be with you always” (President Russell M. Nelson, “Make Time for the Lord,” General Conference, October, 2021).

President Russell M. Nelson

“Each of God’s children deserves the opportunity to hear and accept the healing, redeeming message of Jesus Christ. No other message is more vital to our happiness—now and forever. No other message is more filled with hope. No other message can eliminate contention in our society.

“Faith in Jesus Christ is the foundation of all belief and the conduit of divine power. According to the Apostle Paul, “Without faith it is impossible to please [God]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

“Everything good in life—every potential blessing of eternal significance—begins with faith. Allowing God to prevail in our lives begins with faith that He is willing to guide us. True repentance begins with faith that Jesus Christ has the power to cleanse, heal, and strengthen us” (President Russell M. Nelson, “Christ is Risen; Faith in Him Will Move Mountains,” General Conference, April, 2021).

“The challenge for you and me is to make certain that each of us will achieve his or her divine potential. Today we often hear about “a new normal.” If you really want to embrace a new normal, I invite you to turn your heart, mind, and soul increasingly to our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Let that be your new normal.

“Embrace your new normal by repenting daily. Seek to be increasingly pure in thought, word, and deed. Minister to others. Keep an eternal perspective. Magnify your callings. And whatever your challenges, my dear brothers and sisters, live each day so that you are more prepared to meet your Maker” (Prsident Russell M. Nelson, “A New Normal,” General Conference, October, 2020).

“Earthquakes, fires, floods, plagues, and their aftermaths have disrupted routines and caused shortages of food, staples, and savings.

“Amidst all of this, we commend you and thank you for choosing to hear the word of the Lord during this time of turmoil by joining with us for general conference. The increasing darkness that accompanies tribulation makes the light of Jesus Christ shine ever brighter. Just think of the good each of us can do during this time of global upheaval. Your love of and faith in the Savior may very well be the catalyst for someone to discover the Restoration of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ” (President Russell M. Nelson, “Hear Him,” General Conference, April, 2020).

““Does everyone need to repent?” The answer is yes.

“Too many people consider repentance as punishment—something to be avoided except in the most serious circumstances. But this feeling of being penalized is engendered by Satan. He tries to block us from looking to Jesus Christ, who stands with open arms, hoping and willing to heal, forgive, cleanse, strengthen, purify, and sanctify us.

“The word for repentance in the Greek New Testament is metanoeo. The prefix meta- means “change.” The suffix -noeo is related to Greek words that mean “mind,” “knowledge,” “spirit,” and “breath.”

“Thus, when Jesus asks you and me to “repent,” He is inviting us to change our mind, our knowledge, our spirit—even the way we breathe. He is asking us to change the way we love, think, serve, spend our time, treat our wives, teach our children, and even care for our bodies.

“Nothing is more liberating, more ennobling, or more crucial to our individual progression than is a regular, daily focus on repentance. Repentance is not an event; it is a process. It is the key to happiness and peace of mind. When coupled with faith, repentance opens our access to the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

“Whether you are diligently moving along the covenant path, have slipped or stepped from the covenant path, or can’t even see the path from where you are now, I plead with you to repent. Experience the strengthening power of daily repentance—of doing and being a little better each day.

“When we choose to repent, we choose to change! We allow the Savior to transform us into the best version of ourselves. We choose to grow spiritually and receive joy—the joy of redemption in Him. When we choose to repent, we choose to become more like Jesus Christ!

“Brethren, we need to do better and be better because we are in a battle. The battle with sin is real. The adversary is quadrupling his efforts to disrupt testimonies and impede the work of the Lord. He is arming his minions with potent weapons to keep us from partaking of the joy and love of the Lord.

“Repentance is the key to avoiding misery inflicted by traps of the adversary. The Lord does not expect perfection from us at this point in our eternal progression. But He does expect us to become increasingly pure. Daily repentance is the pathway to purity, and purity brings power. Personal purity can make us powerful tools in the hands of God. Our repentance—our purity—will empower us to help in the gathering of Israel” (President Russell M. Nelson, “We Can Do Better and Be Better,” General Conference, April, 2019).

“Please believe me when I say that when your spiritual foundation is built solidly upon Jesus Christ, you have no need to fear. As you are true to your covenants made in the temple, you will be strengthened by His power. Then, when spiritual earthquakes occur, you will be able to stand strong because your spiritual foundation is solid and immovable.

“I love you, dear brothers and sisters. These truths I know: God, our Heavenly Father, wants you to choose to come home to Him. His plan of eternal progression is not complicated, and it honors your agency. You are free to choose who you will be—and with whom you will be—in the world to come!

“God lives! Jesus is the Christ! This is His Church, restored to help you fulfill your divine destiny. I so testify in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen” (President Russell M. Nelson, “The Temple and Your Spiritual Foundation,” General Conference, October, 2021).

Wise words from an inspired servant of God! General Conference is like a spiritual B12 shot that can lift you from the dolldrums and help you rise above your shortcomings. It can strengthen your faith in the Savior and increase your understanding of your potential. A dose of General Conference is just what the Master Healer ordered.

I repeat: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s true Church. It is a living Church led by living prophets who receive the living word from the Life and Light of the World, Jesus Christ. I know it from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet. I know it by the unmistakable power of the Holy Ghost. Whatever imperfections I may have, there is no imperfection is my witness of Jesus Christ and I bear it before the world, before you, and before God and His angels.

I urge you to come listen to a prophet’s voice this weekend, again in October, and every time the Lord’s chosen mouthpiece stands to address our Father’s children. Come and see. Open your heart. Hear Him. Let the Spirit tutor you and confirm my witness, the witnesses that will be shared during the Conference, and the witness of the Lord Himself cited earlier. He is coming sooner than many think. He has warned us to prepare for that great and wonderful day. The best way you can prepare is to come to Him and listen to His prophet’s voice.

“Come, listen to a prophet’s voice,
And hear the word of God,
And in the way of truth rejoice,
And sing for joy aloud.
We’ve found the way the prophets went
Who lived in days of yore.
Another prophet now is sent
This knowledge to restore.”

– Come, Listen to a Prophet’s Voice, Hymn No. 21

Zack Strong,
April 1, 2022

Russell M. Nelson – Prophet of God

Our sustaining of prophets is a personal commitment that we will do our utmost to uphold their prophetic priorities. Our sustaining is an oath-like indication that we recognize their calling as a prophet to be legitimate and binding upon us.” – President Russell M. Nelson, “Sustaining the Prophets,” General Conference, October, 2014

Many people believe that the most powerful person on earth is the president of the United States. This is incorrect. The most powerful man on earth, filling the most globally-significant position of trust, is the Lord’s living prophet.

President Russell M. Nelson

This man is a prophet, a seer, and a revelator for the whole earth. He is the Savior’s intermediary tasked with delivering the Lord’s current will to mankind, teaching His doctrine, and presiding over the gathering of Israel prior to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This man serves as the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is the burgeoning Kingdom of God that will stand through the Millennium. Today, Russell M. Nelson is the individual called of God to lead His earthly Church, speak in His holy name, and hold the keys of Priesthood authority to perform saving Gospel ordinances.

Russell M. Nelson is not a name familiar to most people. Yet, this humble man is the one chosen by Jehovah to preside over His affairs. He is the Lord’s captain and commanding officer. He is the one selected, as Peter of old, to sit in the presidency of the Savior’s Church and administer His ordinances of salvation.

It is my desire to help you understand who President Nelson is, what he has been teaching, and why your attention should be riveted on him more than on any other person currently living. I also wish to bear my personal witness that Russell M. Nelson is indeed a prophet in every sense of the word; an inspired man like Moses, Abraham, or Isaiah. Not only is he a prophet, he is the prophet called by the resurrected Redeemer to speak to the world on His behalf at this hour.

Before speaking specifically about President Nelson, a word about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints over which he presides is in order. A century after Christ, the Church He established fell into disarray and apostasy. The New Testament writers frequently warned of impending apostasy. Indeed, some lamented that the various branches of the Church were already accepting false teachers and falling into wickedness. One cannot read the New Testament without encountering these warnings and prophesies.

During His earthly ministry, the Lord ordained twelve apostles to lead His Church. He set Peter at their head to serve as the prophet and presiding authority. In his capacity as president of the Church, Peter received revelation as needed and directed the affairs of the Church. To cite one example, Peter received the revelation that it was time to take the Gospel to the gentiles. This pattern of continuing revelation was to mark the Lord’s Church, as was leadership via a duly ordained prophet and body of twelve apostles.

Eventually, Peter, the Lord’s prophet, was taken and murdered. James, Philip, Andrew, Paul, and the rest of the apostles, except John who was not slain but went on to higher work, were martyred for their testimony of the divinity of Jesus Christ. In the wake of their murders and the consequent dissolution of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, who was left to lead the Lord’s Church? Who was left with the Priesthood authority to preside over the Church and officiate in essential ordinances? The sad answer is that no one was called by the Lord to fill these indispensable offices. No one was ordained in the proper way by others holding the same apostolic authority. Tragically, the Lord’s line of Priesthood authority ended with the death of the last apostle.

Inasmuch as Peter and the other apostles received their authority directly under the hands of the Savior, it was necessary that either they or Jesus personally extended the same authority to others. The resurrected Lord did not do so, as all sects admit the apostolic line ended. Furthermore, there is no record that Peter and his associates conferred their authority on successors either. Hence, the keys of the Priesthood authority – that power and authority necessary to officiate in saving ordinances like baptism and conferring the Holy Ghost – was lost and could only be restored by divine manifestation.

Though the bishop of Rome and others subsequently claimed authority to lead the Church, the apostasy overtook it as the New Testament writers prophesied would happen. As a brief historical note, the bishop of Rome was not an apostle, lacked apostolic authority to govern the Lord’s Church, and tried to make his claim while John, an authentic apostle and successor to Peter, was yet alive – thus making him an impostor. His claim, and those of his direct papal successors, is, thus, null and void. No other claimant to this sacred authority last held by John can be identified, nor was the body of twelve apostles perpetuated as established by the Savior.

This wholesale apostasy necessitated not a mere reformation, but a full restoration of the Gospel with its authority, ordinances, and gifts. This pattern of apostasy, loss of authority, and later restoration by divine manifestation through a newly called prophet, occurred several times in Biblical history, so it should not be surprising to any diligent student of the Bible that yet another apostasy, followed by a restoration, happened after the death of the apostles. John, in fact, prophesied of a future restoration. He foretold:

“And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” (Revelation 14:6).

“Clarion Call” by Rose Datoc Dall

Surely one cannot believe that the Apostle John, a legal administrator of the Gospel, would speak of the need for an angel to come declaring the Gospel if that Gospel was intended to exist in an unbroken line as is generally supposed. The fact is, as John knew and spoke of, and as Peter and Paul and others testified, that the Lord’s Church would be lost from the earth and would need to be restored by Heavenly intervention and the appearance of angels.

Thankfully for the world, the Lord fulfilled His promise and the “everlasting gospel” was restored to the earth in 1830 through the instrumentality of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith began his unassuming life as a poor, hard-working farm boy. He became interested in the salvation of his soul, talked to pastors, attended various churches, and prayed to God to know which of all the contending sects was correct and which he should join.

In answer to his simple, faith-filled prayer, the Lord personally appeared to Joseph Smith in a grove of trees near Palmyra, New York. Both the Father and the Son appeared in a powerful manifestation that forever changed the world. The Lord explained to Joseph that all the churches had gone astray. They professed His name, but lacked His authority. The Lord therefore called Joseph to be His prophet to restore His Gospel in its authoritative fullness.

In subsequent years after this First Vision, an angel named Moroni did appear and delivered sacred teachings and writings to Joseph Smith. The most significant of these was an ancient record of the former inhabitants of America, who were Israelites led to this land by the Lord around 600 B.C. They worshiped Christ, had prophets, and were some of the “other sheep” the Savior spoke of during His ministry (John 10:16). Their record, which came to be called The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, was a direct fulfillment of Ezekiel’s prophecy that the “stick of Judah” (the Bible) and the “stick of Joseph” (The Book of Mormon), would “be one” in the Lord’s hand (Ezekiel 37:15-19).

In a modern revelation, the Lord confirmed:

“And again, the elders, priests and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, in the which is the fulness of the gospel” (Doctrine and Covenants 42:12).

Ezekiel with the sticks of Judah and Joseph

Together, as one, the Bible and The Book of Mormon come together to testify of Jesus Christ, clarify His doctrines, encourage mankind to repent and turn to Him for salvation, expose His enemies and false doctrines, and inspire His disciples to serve Him and preach the Gospel in all the world. While The Book of Mormon is derided, falsely, as a non-Christian book, it in fact speaks of Jesus Christ more frequently than the Bible. It powerfully confirms the Bible’s testimony that only in and through Jesus Christ can we be saved. We find such teachings as the following littered throughout the pages of this holy book:

“[W]e labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved after [i.e. notwithstanding] all we can do. . . .

“And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins. . . .

“. . . the right way is to believe in Christ and deny him not; for by denying him ye also deny the prophets and the law.

“And now, behold, I say unto you that the right way is to believe in Christ, and deny him not; and Christ is the Holy One of Israel; wherefore ye must bow down before him, and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul; and if ye do this ye shall in nowise be cast out” (2 Nephi 25:23-29).

Thus, as John prophesied, an angel flying in the heavens proclaimed the “everlasting gospel” to the inhabitants of the earth once more in 1830. Joseph Smith was the instrument for bringing forward companion scripture to the Bible. Together, these two sacred volumes confound false doctrines and point our souls to Jesus Christ, our Master.

Not only was additional scripture given to support the Bible’s witness, but the same sacred authority that Jesus gave to His ancient apostles was restored to the earth. Peter, James, and John, the last ones to hold the Priesthood authority before the apostasy, appeared to confer their authority on Joseph Smith and a man named Oliver Cowdery, both of whom witnessed often of this event. Through these and other divinely inspired events and endowments of authority, the Lord’s Church was restored once more, being called, by Him, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It is this Church organization, restored in our time with its Priesthood authority, saving ordinances, spiritual gifts, and pristine doctrines which break through the confusion of centuries of apostasy, that is headed today by President Russell M. Nelson. It is this Church which contains a prophet, a Quorum of Twelve Apostles, Quorums of Seventy elders, ordained patriarchs, teachers, and deacons, and so forth, just as we find in the Bible’s record of the early Church. This truly is the Lord’s Church and matches the Biblical description to a T.

Since the appearance of Peter, James, and John to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, the Priesthood has been handed down in an unbroken line of succession. Seventeen men have been called as prophets in this final Gospel Dispensation. Today, the office of prophet is held by President Nelson.

The vibrant and fit Russell Marion Nelson will turn ninety-six years old on September 9th of this year. In terms of worldly accomplishments, President Nelson is much respected. He was a world-renowned heart surgeon who helped pioneer the art of heart surgery. He was elected the president of the Society of Vascular Surgery in 1975 and has held other prestigious medical titles and posts. He holds a PhD as well as other honorary degrees from multiple universities. He is an author of numerous books. He served in the Korean War as an Army surgeon, speaks six languages, has visited over 130 nations, and fathered ten children.

In spite of his remarkable professional and personal achievements, the Lord called him into the apostleship for other less tangible reasons. President Nelson’s ability to receive revelation is, simply, remarkable. Since becoming the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he has instituted radical changes in Church format and focus not seen in generations. He has introduced numerous programs, alterations, and proclamations via revelation. He has been called “Moses in a business suit.”

In an uncharacteristically good CNN article penned in 2019 after President Nelson announced a certain change in Church presentation, we find the following description of how readily this prophet receives and follows revelation:

“When the messages come during the dark of the night, Russell M. Nelson reaches for his lighted pen and takes dictation from the Lord.

““Ok dear, it’s happening,” the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints tells his wife, Wendy Nelson.

““I just remain quiet and soon he’s sitting up at the side of the bed, writing,” she said in a recent church video.

“Sometimes the spirit prompts the prophet’s wife the leave the bed, though she’d rather sleep. One such morning, Wendy Nelson told Mormon leaders, her husband emerged form the bedroom waving a yellow notebook.

““Wendy, you won’t believe what’s been happening for two hours,” she recalled Russell Nelson saying. “The Lord has given me detailed instructions on a process I am to follow.”

“Nelson’s nighttime messages have “increased exponentially,” his wife said. . . .

“One of the things the Spirit has repeatedly impressed upon my mind since my new calling as President of the Church,” Nelson said, “is how willing the Lord is to reveal His mind and will.”

In the Bible, the Apostle James testified that if anyone wanted knowledge, they could merely ask God in prayer and He would give it to them (James 1:5). President Nelson has put this principle into action and has become a veritable conduit for Heavenly communication. The CNN article then continued with an observation about why President Nelson is unique among world religious leaders:

“Lots of religions talk about revelations. They fill much of the New Testament’s last book and many parts of the older Hebrew Bible, from the burning bush that inspired Moses to the “still, small voice” who whispered to Elijah.

“But many modern believers consider both Bibles to be closed canons, the last words we’ll hear from God before the final trumpet blows. . . .

“Latter-day Saints, as they prefer to be called, believe in continuing revelation. Their canon is open, ready to be revised or supplemented by its top cadre of leaders, first among whom is the church’s president, who is considered a “prophet, seer and revelator.” . . . .

““There’s no mistaking it, this is Moses in a business suit,” [historian Kathleen] Flake said of the Mormon presidency, “someone who can lead people, write Scripture and talk to God.””

Yes, it is a unique point of Latter-day Saint doctrine that the windows of Heaven are not closed. God speaks to His children today just as He did anciently. Jesus Christ leads His Church by revelation through prophets just as He in days past through Peter, Moses, Samuel, Jeremiah, and other seers. Today, the Lord’s will is made known through modern prophets when it is needed in this work of gathering the souls of men into the Good Shepherd’s fold. Often, however, the occasion for announcements, alterations to programs, or renewed emphasis on eternal principles, comes during what we call General Conference.

Twice annually, the apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, led by the prophet-president, gather with Church members to expound doctrine and clarify the current will of the Lord. It is in these General Conferences that we can most easily see what the Lord wants His Twenty-First Century followers to be focused on.

Since his call to the apostleship in April, 1984, President Nelson has delivered 91 General Conference addresses. Twenty-one of those talks were given since he was sustained as the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in January of 2018. What has been President Nelson’s general theme or message as the prophet?

Since 2018, there has been a flood of light and revelation. It is difficult to point to one single teaching that has predominated. However, we can narrow it down to several that often rise to the top. I mention six, in no particular order:

1. The Gathering of Israel

2. Ministering

3. Receiving revelation

4. Home-centered, Church-supported worship

5. Repentance

6. Staying on the Covenant Path

1. The Gathering of Israel

President Nelson has made it clear that the gathering of Israel, that is, bringing the Lord’s sheep into His Church, is the most important work in all the world. During a worldwide youth devotional on June 3, 2018, the prophet told the youth of the Church:

“My dear young brothers and sisters, these surely are the latter days, and the Lord is hastening His work to gather Israel. That gathering is the most important thing taking place on earth today. Nothing else compares in magnitude, nothing else compares in importance, nothing else compares in majesty. And if you choose to, if you want to, you can be a big part of it. . . .

“When we speak of the gathering, we are simply saying this fundamental truth: every one of our Heavenly Father’s children, on both sides of the veil, deserves to hear the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. They decide for themselves if they want to know more.

“Those whose lineage is from the various tribes of Israel are those whose hearts will most likely be turned to the Lord. He said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Those who are of the house of Israel will most easily recognize the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior and will desire to be gathered into His fold. They will want to become members of His Church, make covenants with Him and Heavenly Father, and receive their essential ordinances.”

President Nelson went on to call the gathering of Israel “the greatest challenge, the greatest cause, and the greatest work on earth today.” To accomplish this great work, the prophet invited the youth to join what he termed the “youth battalion of the Lord.” He also called it “Zion’s army.”

Both youth and adults have been called to enlist in the titanic effort to bring people into the Church. In the October, 2018 Conference, President Nelson specifically invited the women of the Church to engage in this great work, stating: “I’m extending a prophetic plea to you, the women of the Church, to shape the future by helping to gather scattered Israel.”

It is our work as members of the Church to gather Israel; that is, to gather those who, according to the promises given to Abraham, have a right to hear the Gospel. As full-time missionaries, in our daily lives, and in our all-important roles as fathers and mothers, it is our job to hunt out the true believers – even in our own homes – and share with them the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ so that they may choose to embrace it, repent, and be baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There is no greater work in all the world!

2. Ministering

In 1964, the home teaching program was instituted. Under this program, members of the Church were organized with companions to go meet with other ward members and their families once a month. Home teaching was one of the mainstays of the Church. True to form, however, President Nelson announced the end of home teaching during his first General Conference presiding over the Church, replacing it with a simper system called “ministering.” He remarked:

“We have made the decision to retire home teaching and visiting teaching as we have known them. Instead, we will implement a newer, holier approach to caring for and ministering to others. We will refer to these efforts simply as “ministering.””

In another address in the same Conference, President Nelson explained the need for this “holier” system of ministering:

“Brethren, we hold the holy priesthood of God! We have His authority to bless His people. Just think of the remarkable assurance the Lord gave us when He said, “Whomsoever you bless I will bless.” It is our privilege to act in the name of Jesus Christ to bless God’s children according to His will for them. . . .

“To all brethren holding the priesthood, I invite you to inspire members to keep their covenants, fast and pray, study the scriptures, worship in the temple, and serve with faith as men and women of God. We can help all to see with the eye of faith that obedience and righteousness will draw them closer to Jesus Christ, allow them to enjoy the companionship of the Holy Ghost, and experience joy in life!

“A hallmark of the Lord’s true and living Church will always be an organized, directed effort to minister to individual children of God and their families. Because it is His Church, we as His servants will minister to the one, just as He did. We will minister in His name, with His power and authority, and with His loving-kindness. . . .

“Brethren, there are doors we can open, priesthood blessings we can give, hearts we can heal, burdens we can lift, testimonies we can strengthen, lives we can save, and joy we can bring into the homes of the Latter-day Saints—all because we hold the priesthood of God. We are the men who have been “called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God, on account of [our] exceeding faith,” to do this work.”

As can be seen, this higher and holier system of ministering does not give us a pass or an excuse to relax, but, rather, increases our level of responsibility and the urgency with which we must serve. President Nelson has emphatically pleaded with us to become purer that we may have more spiritual power to bless those around us. Jesus went about doing good, blessing people, healing the sick, uplifting the downtrodden, and spreading light, and it is the duty of those who hold His Priesthood to also do good to our fellow brothers and sisters. We can and should minister to all within our sphere of influence, as our prophet has clearly directed.

3. Receiving Revelation

In October, 2018, President Nelson delivered an address titled “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” in which he taught:

“Our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, will perform some of His mightiest works between now and when He comes again. We will see miraculous indications that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, preside over this Church in majesty and glory. But in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.

“My beloved brothers and sisters, I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation . . . Choose to do the spiritual work required to enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost and hear the voice of the Spirit more frequently and more clearly.”

He also stated:

“One of the things the Spirit has repeatedly impressed upon my mind since my new calling as President of the Church is how willing the Lord is to reveal His mind and will. The privilege of receiving revelation is one of the greatest gifts of God to His children.”

In the April, 2020, General Conference, President Nelson again pleaded with us to make the necessary sacrifices to receive revelation. Said he:

“We also hear Him more clearly as we refine our ability to recognize the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. It has never been more imperative to know how the Spirit speaks to you than right now. In the Godhead, the Holy Ghost is the messenger. He will bring thoughts to your mind which the Father and Son want you to receive. He is the Comforter. He will bring a feeling of peace to your heart. He testifies of truth and will confirm what is true as you hear and read the word of the Lord.

“I renew my plea for you to do whatever it takes to increase your spiritual capacity to receive personal revelation.

“Doing so will help you know how to move ahead with your life, what to do during times of crisis, and how to discern and avoid the temptations and the deceptions of the adversary. . . .

“What will happen as you more intentionally hear, hearken, and heed what the Savior has said and what He is saying now through His prophets? I promise that you will be blessed with additional power to deal with temptation, struggles, and weakness. I promise miracles in your marriage, family relationships, and daily work. And I promise that your capacity to feel joy will increase even if turbulence increases in your life.”

It was during this talk that President Nelson said the Restoration of the Gospel is an “ongoing process.” Indeed, he had previously remarked:

“We are witnesses to a process of restoration. If you think the Church has been fully restored, you are just seeing the beginning. There is much more to come.”

4. Home-centered, Church-supported worship

In October, 2018, President Nelson made a major change to Church worship. For decades, the Saints have met for three hours every Sunday. Acting under inspiration, President Nelson reduced the three-hour block to two. Simultaneously, he introduced a program for home-centered, church-supported worship. A family study manual, Come Follow Me, was unveiled. Instead of three hours in meeting houses, allotment was made for a two-hour worship meeting to supplement and support each individual family’s own home meeting. In these home meetings, families are expected to read and discuss the scriptures.

As part of the announcement for this change, President Nelson explained:

“As Latter-day Saints, we have become accustomed to thinking of “church” as something that happens in our meetinghouses, supported by what happens at home. We need an adjustment to this pattern. It is time for a home-centered Church, supported by what takes place inside our branch, ward, and stake buildings.”

I personally love this change and the greater emphasis on home-centered Gospel study. When I was fourteen, my family moved to Port Lions, Alaska. We were the lone members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in our small fishing village. It was too costly and difficult to travel by boat or plane into the nearest location that had a formal congregation. Consequently, my Dad received permission from Church authorities to hold meetings in our home. And so, for ten years, my family held Church in our home for three hours every Sunday. We had all the meetings and even performed primary programs. My Mom also taught seminary to me and my siblings. It was a bonding experience like no other. So, when the announcement for home-centered, Church-supported worship was handed down, I could only say, “It’s about time!”

The Come Follow Me program essentially prepared Church members worldwide for a day when they might be compelled to host worship services in their own homes. That day came sooner than many expected. When governments tyrannically forced churches into closure due to overblown and unfounded “Coronavirus” fears, the Church complied with the orders, unjust as they were, and authorized Priesthood holders to hold sacrament meetings in their homes while continuing the Come Follow Me program.

5. Repentance

In a landmark address to the men of the Church in April, 2019, President Nelson highlighted the need for daily, constant repentance. He spoke of the power that lies in repentance. He taught:

“Recently I have found myself drawn to the Lord’s instruction given through the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Say nothing but repentance unto this generation.” This declaration is often repeated throughout scripture. It prompts an obvious question: “Does everyone need to repent?” The answer is yes.

“Too many people consider repentance as punishment—something to be avoided except in the most serious circumstances. But this feeling of being penalized is engendered by Satan. He tries to block us from looking to Jesus Christ, who stands with open arms, hoping and willing to heal, forgive, cleanse, strengthen, purify, and sanctify us.

“The word for repentance in the Greek New Testament is metanoeo. The prefix meta– means “change.” The suffix –noeo is related to Greek words that mean “mind,” “knowledge,” “spirit,” and “breath.”

“Thus, when Jesus asks you and me to “repent,” He is inviting us to change our mind, our knowledge, our spirit—even the way we breathe. He is asking us to change the way we love, think, serve, spend our time, treat our wives, teach our children, and even care for our bodies.

“Nothing is more liberating, more ennobling, or more crucial to our individual progression than is a regular, daily focus on repentance. Repentance is not an event; it is a process. It is the key to happiness and peace of mind. When coupled with faith, repentance opens our access to the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. . . .

“Brethren, we need to do better and be better because we are in a battle. The battle with sin is real. The adversary is quadrupling his efforts to disrupt testimonies and impede the work of the Lord. He is arming his minions with potent weapons to keep us from partaking of the joy and love of the Lord.10

“Repentance is the key to avoiding misery inflicted by traps of the adversary. The Lord does not expect perfection from us at this point in our eternal progression. But He does expect us to become increasingly pure. Daily repentance is the pathway to purity, and purity brings power. Personal purity can make us powerful tools in the hands of God. Our repentance—our purity—will empower us to help in the gathering of Israel.”

Repentance has certainly been necessary at any time in history, but it is especially important at this crucial juncture before the return of our Lord. If we heed the prophet’s words, we will have the purity and, thus, the power, necessary to defeat our enemies as true Christian soldiers.

6. Staying on the Covenant Path

In conjunction with repentance, President Nelson has spoken often of the “covenant path” of the Gospel. He has encouraged people everywhere to make formal covenants with the Lord through baptism, temple ordinances, etc., and then stay true to those covenants. In his first formal message as president of the Church, President Nelson said:

“[T]o each member of the Church I say, keep on the covenant path. Your commitment to follow the Savior by making covenants with Him and then keeping those covenants will open the door to every spiritual blessing and privilege available to men, women, and children everywhere.

“. . . The end for which each of us strives is to be endowed with power in a house of the Lord, sealed as families, faithful to covenants made in a temple that qualify us for the greatest gift of God – that of eternal life. The ordinances of the temple and the covenants you make there are key to strengthening your life, your marriage and family, and your ability to resist the attacks of the adversary. Your worship in the temple and your service there for your ancestors will bless you with increased personal revelation and peace and will fortify your commitment to stay on the covenant path.

“Now, if you have stepped off the path, may I invite you with all the hope in my heart to please come back. Whatever your concerns, whatever your challenges, there is a place for you in this, the Lord’s Church. You and generations yet unborn will be blessed by your actions now to return to the covenant path.. Our Father in Heaven cherishes His children, and He wants each of us to return home to Him. This is a grand goal of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – to help each of us to come back home.”

Three months later, in his first General Conference as president of the Church, President Nelson built upon this teaching when he declared:

“Our message to the world is simple and sincere: we invite all of God’s children on both sides of the veil to come unto their Savior, receive the blessings of the holy temple, have enduring joy, and qualify for eternal life.

“Eventual exaltation requires our complete fidelity now to covenants we make and ordinances we receive in the house of the Lord.”

The rapid building of temples could very well be added to our list of President Nelson’s emphases considering the dozens of temples he has announced, including temples in China, Russia, India, and the Middle East. The purpose of temples, however, is to provide a sacred place in which to make covenants with the Lord. These covenants could be given on a mountain top or in a broom closet and it would make little difference if performed by God’s Priesthood authority and power. From the very beginning, President Nelson has attempted to focus our minds on the overarching importance of covenants.

Finally, in the same talk to the men referenced above, President Nelson yet again extended the invitation to return to and stay on the covenant path of discipleship:

“Whether you are diligently moving along the covenant path, have slipped or stepped from the covenant path, or can’t even see the path from where you are now, I plead with you to repent. Experience the strengthening power of daily repentance—of doing and being a little better each day.”

This is the grand message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that all of us, regardless of where we are in our journey, may repent, change, and be made whole. The Lord taught: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:17). The word “whosoever” is significant. The invitation to come unto Christ and be healed is not reserved for a select few, but for any and every soul. Everyone who desires, may come to Jesus the Christ and, through faith and ordinances, be saved.

President Nelson has caught the divine vision and is attempting to bring us to the Savior. He wants us to gather together into the Lord’s Church. He wants us to minister to one another as Christ did. He wants us to qualify ourselves to receive personal revelation for our lives. He wants us to make our homes places of Gospel light, learning, and love. He wants us to repent and turn our hearts to God. And he wants us to make and keep sacred covenants so that we may, with our families, qualify to return to our Father in Heaven’s home.

This wonderful man of God has delivered many powerful sermons, trekked around the world uplifting people, and spent his life in the service of others and of the Lord. Since 1984, President Nelson has devoted his life to full-time ministry. As the apostles of old who went into all the world, without thought of themselves, to share the Lord’s light, President Nelson has been a beacon of hope, light, and love to millions of human beings on all continents.

I share my testimony which I have through the burning witness of the Holy Spirit that Russell M. Nelson is not only a learned man with many accomplishments under his belt, but a humble, inspired man of God. He radiates hope, confidence, and power. He is surrounded by light and carries the presence of the Savior with him.

I know President Nelson is a chosen vessel to lead the Lord’s Church at this very moment in time. He is not only a prophet, seer, and revelator, but he is the prophet on earth – the one man called, ordained, and authorized to speak in the name of the Lord. No president, no king, no sheikh, no pope, no dictator, possesses the same level of authority or power that President Nelson does, for his Priesthood is binding on earth and in Heaven. No one’s words are as important in your as President Russell M. Nelson’s.

Rivet your eyes on the prophet of God. Don’t let your gaze fall. Focus on the captain of the Lord’s Battalion, the commander of Zion’s Army. I give my witness that the Lord speaks through him, that he holds the keys of the Priesthood with its saving ordinances, and that we can know the will of our Master by hearkening to the words of President Russell M. Nelson. We can trust and follow him because he trusts and follows so closely behind our Savior, Jesus Christ, the very Lord who called him to His glorious ministry. I sustain him, the office he holds, and the Lord who called him, now and forever.

I express special gratitude to the Lord Jesus Christ. I am thankful for His loving-kindness and for His open invitation to come unto Him. I marvel at His matchless power to heal. I testify of Jesus Christ as the Master Healer. It is but one of many attributes that characterize His incomparable life.

Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, the Creator, the great Jehovah, the promised Immanuel, our atoning Savior and Redeemer, our Advocate with the Father, our great Exemplar. And one day we will stand before Him as our just and merciful Judge. . . .

I testify that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ – the Master Healer – in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.” – President Russell M. Nelson, “Jesus Christ – the Master Healer,” General Conference, October, 2005

Zack Strong,

September 9, 2020

His Servants the Prophets

It is an easy thing to believe in the dead prophets, but it is a greater thing to believe in the living prophets.” – President Marion G. Romney, “Nurture a Testimony,” General Conference, April, 1953.

From the Garden of Eden to the present, God has spoken to mankind through prophets. Whenever our Eternal Father has something significant to convey to His children, He speaks through prophets. Whenever the Lord wants to establish His Church and expound the points of His Gospel, He does so exclusively through prophets. The intention of this article is to explain the signature role of prophets in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to share my personal witness that the Lord speaks to us today through prophets.

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The Bible uncategorically affirms the importance and necessity of prophets. The prophet Amos recorded this wonderful statement:

Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).

Amos taught that the Lord speaks through prophets. That is His eternal pattern. He uses mediators to deliver His words, to warn of impending judgments, to instruct, and to officiate in essential saving ordinances and covenants like baptism.

Before we go any farther, let’s define what a prophet is. The word prophet comes from the Greek work meaning spokesman, or one who speaks in behalf of. In this case, prophets speak for God. When a prophet is inspired by the Holy Spirit to do so, his words are the equivalent of God’s own words; they are what the Lord wants people to know at that precise moment and are as equally binding upon the hearers as if God Himself was speaking. A true prophet, therefore, is the Lord’s spokesman or mouthpiece.

The Bible Dictionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gives us this insight:

The work of a Hebrew prophet was to act as God’s messenger and make known God’s will . . . He taught men about God’s character . . . He was to be, above all, a preacher of righteousness. When the people had fallen away from a true faith in Jehovah, the prophets had to try to restore that faith and remove false views about the character of God and the nature of the Divine requirement. In certain cases prophets predicted future events, e.g., there are the very important prophecies announcing the coming of the Messiah’s kingdom; but as a rule a prophet was a forthteller rather than a foreteller. In a general sense a prophet is anyone who has a testimony of Jesus Christ by the Holy Ghost.” (Bible Dictionary, Prophet”).

A prophet reveals God to his fellows. He reveals the true character and nature of the Being we worship. He helps us know our Father and His Son Jesus Christ – and really knowing Them is “eternal life” (John 17:3). A prophet, like any true friend, helps bring us to Jesus Christ (though ultimately the individual is responsible for receiving his own personal witness, through the Holy Spirit, of the Lord’s divinity). A prophet is also a seer and a revelator and, when it is the Lord’s will, he can reveal future events and authoritatively warn of coming judgments.

What’s more, a prophet is a legal administrator of the essential saving ordinances of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He is one who possesses authority from the source of all power and authority – God Himself. God’s authority is called the Holy Priesthood. There is a higher (Melchizedek) and a lower (Aaronic or Levitical) Priesthood, but I will refer to them both in a collective sense.

At any given time, the Lord’s prophet is the man chosen and ordained to exercise all the authorities and powers of the Holy Priesthood for all people on earth. He, and he alone, presides over saving ordinances. He can delegate this power to local authorities such as bishops, elders, and priests, just as Jesus delegated His authority to His apostles, but the ultimate presiding authority resides in the man who at any given time is the president of the Holy Priesthood on earth.

It is through the Priesthood channel that revelation for mankind is given. Private individuals are not entitled to receive revelation for mankind (though they can of course receive personal revelation for themselves and their family); but a prophet can receive universal revelation by virtue of his office. In a helpful sermon on the two lines of communication God uses to speak to mankind, the personal and private lines, President Dallin H. Oaks, one of the Lord’s chosen apostolic witnesses in our day, explained:

The priesthood line is the channel by which God has spoken to His children through the scriptures in times past. And it is this line through which He currently speaks through the teachings and counsel of living prophets and apostles and other inspired leaders. This is the way we receive the required ordinances. This is the way we receive calls to service in His Church. His Church is the way and His priesthood is the power through which we are privileged to participate in those cooperative activities that are essential to accomplishing the Lord’s work. These include preaching the gospel, building temples and chapels, and helping the poor.

In respect to this priesthood line, our belief and practice is similar to the insistence of some Christians that authoritative ordinances (sacraments) are essential and must be performed by one authorized and empowered by Jesus Christ (see John 15:16). We believe the same but of course differ with other Christians on how we trace that authority.

Some members or former members of our church fail to recognize the importance of the priesthood line. They underestimate the importance of the Church and its leaders and its programs. Relying entirely on the personal line, they go their own way, purporting to define doctrine and to direct competing organizations contrary to the teachings of prophet-leaders. In this they mirror the modern hostility to what is disparagingly called “organized religion.” Those who reject the need for organized religion reject the work of the Master, who established His Church and its officers in the meridian of time and who reestablished them in modern times” (President Dallin H. Oaks, “Two Lines of Communication,” General Conference, October, 2010).

There have always been those who reject the prophets and the Lord’s organized Church with its formal officers, leaders, ordinances, and doctrines. Yet, in spite of objections throughout the Protestant world, God has always led His people through prophets. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8).

It should be understood that there is no salvation without ordinances. Yes, it is Jesus Christ who saves us through the mercy which He is capable of extending because of His atoning sacrifice, but He has appointed a pattern which includes ordinances. The ordinance of baptism, for instance, is so essential that the Lord taught:

Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. . . .

. . . Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. . . .

. . . Ye must be born again” (John 3:3, 5, 7).

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This teaching ought to dispel the incorrect notion that salvation can come without ordinances because, naturally, there is no salvation outside of the Kingdom of God. This doctrine should cause us to seriously search for the Lord’s legal administrators endowed with the authority to perform such saving ordinances. Again, common sense dictates that no ordinance is recognized by God unless it is performed by His authentic authority.

There are many who say “Lord, Lord,” but not all are in the path of righteousness (Matthew 7:21). Those who hold the Lord’s legitimate authority are members of His Holy Priesthood. They are legal administrators of salvific Gospel ordinances. And only at their hands can saving ordinances be received. This should cement in our minds forever the necessity of prophets.

Prophets are engaged in the work of salvation. They are the laborers in the vineyard of whom the Lord spoke in His parable in Matthew chapter twenty. As such, they are on the Lord’s errand and must work in the Lord’s approved manner and by His authority. Among other things, prophets, as well as all other Priesthood holders in their various offices, were never intended to labor for money. Their time was to be an offering to God. It was to be selfless service with no monetary or worldly reward; only the reward of helping others, doing the right thing, and serving in the mode of the Savior.

Peter instructed his fellow elders in the Priesthood:

Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;

Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2-3).

Those in the Church who worked for money (i.e. “filthy lucre”) or who worked to make themselves popular like the Jewish Pharisees, were then, and are today, guilty of priestcraft. Priestcraft is not a word used much among most Christians, but it is a perfect description of Christian churches throughout the world – especially the so-called “mega” churches. Additionally, those who sell saving ordinances, or offer forgiveness, in exchange for money are also guilty of priestcraft and are in direct violation of Peter’s words.

In the book of Acts, the Apostle Philip was ministering to the people in Samaria. A magician named Simon saw Philip’s legitimate miracles, such as casting out evil spirits and healing the sick, and temporarily believed the Gospel message. Some of those who had been previously bewitched by Simon were converted and were baptized. Hearing the good news, Peter and John traveled to Samaria and began conferring the gift of the Holy Ghost on the newly baptized members in the correct “laying on of hands” fashion. We then find this exchange between Simon and Peter:

And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,

Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.

But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.

. . . thy heart is not right in the sight of God.

Repent therefore of this, thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.

For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:5-23).

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As an interesting note of history, this very Simon, Simon Magus or Simon the Sorcerer, later apostatized and became the founder of Gnosticism. The same sin of which he was guilty, which is thinking that God’s ordinances, blessings, gifts, authority, or power can be bought with money, is rampant in Christendom. Forgiveness, let alone the gift of the Holy Ghost or the Holy Priesthood, cannot be purchased with money. Also, the Holy Ghost cannot be conferred on people in any other manner but through the laying on of hands (Acts 8:17).

Similarly, no one can claim, of themselves, the right and authority to preach the Gospel or perform ordinances. No true prophet in history has ever called himself to that position. Not one. Not Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Elijah, Malachi, Jonah, or Peter. A prophet is, rather, called by revelation from God through approved Priesthood channels or by direct manifestation or visitation of God.

This means that every self-appointed pastor, bishop, priest, evangelist, chaplain, reverend, cleric, or minister who created his own church, who invented his own “ministry,” or who was hired the same as any other worker is, rather than being called by revelation through a Priesthood authority, holds no legitimate authority or calling. While there are numerous sincere pastors who work for money, despite the Bible decrying paid a clergy who labor for “filthy lucre,” ultimately these are not called of God and hold no lawful Priesthood administrative authority.

Furthermore, earning a degree in theology does not qualify one for any ministry or calling in Christ’s legitimate Church. Were any of the Savior’s apostles theologians? Not a one of them. They were fishermen and laborers – average folks from the poorest parts of Palestine. For them, preaching the Gospel was not a profession; it was a sacred calling. They did not choose it; the Lord chose them. He said as much:

I am the vine, ye are the branches. . . .

Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you” (John 15:5, 16).

This is the pattern for all time and for all prophets. Not one true prophet or legitimate priest/pastor/bishop calls himself to the work. It has simply never happened. Rather he is chosen, through revelation via the proper channels, by the Lord Jesus Christ. He is ordained to his special calling through the Lord’s Priesthood. In the case of the original twelve apostles, the Lord – the true vine – ordained them. Later, these same apostles, via the same Priesthood authority given to them by Jesus Christ, selected and ordained others to fill vacancies in their quorum.

When the apostles needed to fill the void left by Judas Iscariot’s betrayal and gory suicide, they chose two possible candidates. They then “prayed and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen” (Acts 1:20-26). What were the apostles doing? They were, of course, seeking revelation. They did not merely vote and use their flawed human wisdom to select the next apostle. They understood that the Church of Jesus Christ was not their Church – it was the Lord’s and that the Lord alone has the right to call and appoint its leaders. The same is true in our day.

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Isaiah

Some believe that in order to be a prophet or apostle, one must have lived in the days of Christ and have personally witnessed His resurrection. They quote Acts 1:22 for this false belief. That verse, in part, states that a new apostle had to be taken from among the Christian brethren and must be “ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.” To believe that prophets and apostles had to have lived only 2,000 years ago is to misunderstand this verse or to deny other relevant scriptures.

The verse in question simply means that the office of an apostle is to bear witness of Jesus Christ. An apostle’s official capacity is as a special witness of the Savior’s life, resurrection, and divinity. It is His Church, after all. Can individuals learn these glorious truths today? Can we, through the Holy Spirit, gain personal testimonies and witnesses of the Savior just as the early Christians did? Yes, we can!

Peter, who walked and talked with the Savior, gained his personal witness through the Spirit and not because of His firsthand knowledge. He did not gain a witness by literally viewing Jesus with his own eyeballs. Speaking of Peter’s witness, Jesus clarified that “flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:15-17). And since we can today receive a spiritual confirmation of the truth as easily as the apostles could in Christ’s own day, men can presently be ordained to be legitimate apostolic witnesses.

This notion is further verified by a correct understanding of another verse of scripture. It was in the context of Heavenly revelation to Peter that Jesus said “and upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). The verse does not refer to Peter as the rock, though Peter was the first president of the Lord’s Church and the man authorized by the Lord to receive revelation for the ancient Saints. Rather, revelation from the Lord is the rock upon which the Church of Jesus Christ must be built. And the apostles were sent out as messengers to declare to the world the truths they had learned through personal revelation.

Dr. Hugh Nibley, a brilliant scriptorian, scholar, and professor who mastered fourteen languages and penned numerous books, spoke of the unique station of prophets, and the general antipathy towards their holy work, in his book The World and the Prophets. He wrote:

A prophet is no ordinary person; he makes no ordinary claim; and he does not ask people to believe him, but to test him. God is not authoritarian: He asks no on to believe; but invites the world, as his prophets do, “Prove me herewith.”

When the Lord was upon his earthly mission, he greatly angered and upset men by forcing them to decide whether he was a true prophet or not . . . The Lord insists that we make up our minds one way or another regarding is calling.

. . . a prophet is a witness, not a reformer. Criticism of the world is always implicit in a prophet’s message of repentance, but he is not sent for the purpose of criticizing the world. Men know the world is wicked, and the wickedest often know it best . . . It was not the Sermon on the Mount that drove men to crucify the Lord. It was not for their moral tirades that the prophets of old and the Apostles were stoned . . .

What, then, did Christ and the Apostles do and say that drove men into paroxysms of rage? They performed tangible miracles such as could not be denied, and they reported what they had seen and heart. That was all. It was as witnesses endowed with power form on high that they earned the hatred of the world, of which John speaks so much: “We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness” (John 3:11). . . .

And as soon as the Apostles said, “We are his witnesses of these things,” the council of the high priests “were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them (Acts 5:32-33; italics added). Again, we are told that the multitude “were cut to the heart” when Stephen accused them of rejecting what had brought “by the dispensation of angels” (Acts 7:53-54). But the last straw was when he had the effrontery to say, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him” (Acts 7:56-58). If Stephen had spent his life, as innumerable philosophers have, denouncing the vices and follies of the age, he might have died peacefully in bed. But those fatal words, “I see,” were his death warrant. And what did Paul say to make the Jews cry out in utter horror: “Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live,” as “they . . . cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air?” (Acts 22:22-23). What indeed? These were the unforgivable words that made him unfit to live: “Suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest” (Acts 22:6-8). Paul could have won his audience over by speaking as a scholar, but when he bore witness to what he had seen and heard, he was asking for trouble” (Hugh Nibley, The World and the Prophets, 12-15).

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The key thing to draw from this excerpt is that a prophet is a man with personal, firsthand knowledge of God – a bold witness who bears his simple testimony of the truth which he personally knows and which he has had confirmed to him by the Holy Spirit. Prophets do not speak from theoretical knowledge or scholarly learning. Rather, they speak from their firsthand experience with their Savior Jesus Christ.

Oftentimes, prophets have face-to-face or visionary encounters with the Lord, as did Paul, Moses, Abraham, Jacob, Enoch, Adam, Jeremiah, and others. They frequently hear the voice of the Lord. They see Him in dreams and manifestations. And, more importantly, they all receive spiritual confirmation of the truth through the power of the Holy Ghost. No matter how God is revealed to them, they know of His reality, His divine mission, and of the true points of His Gospel. Their task, when called by the Lord to do so, is to share their witness of Jesus Christ.

The book of Acts gives us a wonderful description of a prophet’s role. Peter testified:

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing. . . .

And we are witnesses of all things which he did. . . .

Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly. . . .

And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.

To him give all the prophets witness, that through is name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:38-40, 42-43).

All of the prophets who have ever ministered or who ever will minister have testified of Jesus Christ. At times they referred to Him as Jehovah, the Lord, or the Messiah, but it was the Man Jesus, the Son of the Living God, of whom they preached, taught, and bore special witness. As Dr. Nibley observed above, prophets are so hated precisely because they give personal witness and don’t speak theoretically. They force us to make a judgment, either for or against, regarding the veracity of their testimony. And as the scriptures show, correctly discerning the truth of a prophet’s words and aligning ourselves with them makes all the differences.

Artwork by Alex Levin, Israel.

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The existence of prophets in Old Testament times cannot be disputed. But what of the New Testament era and our own modern day? Some claim that prophets were done away with after the resurrected Christ’s Ascension. This is false. I again cite the scripture: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8).

The Lord very clearly intended that His Church should be guided, as it always had been in former times, by a duly called prophet wielding Priesthood authority. He also established apostles. The word apostle means “one who is sent” or, in other words, a messenger or emissary. A prophet is an apostle as well, just as an apostle is a prophet, but the prophet at any given time heads the body of apostles and presides in the Lord’s Priesthood.

Before His Atonement, the Lord chose Peter, James, and John to be the governing body within the large quorum of twelve apostles. Peter was the ranking and presiding authority among the apostles, or, in other words, the prophet and president of the Church of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul gave us a glimpse into the structure of the Lord’s Church. He wrote:

[Y]e are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;

And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Ephesians 2:19-20).

He again explained:

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-12).

Yet another time, to a different group of Saints, he likewise testified of the different callings and stations in the Church:

For the body is not one member, but many. . . .

But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. . . .

And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:14, 18, 28).

Paul is clear – the Lord established a Church with a set hierarchy and a neatly organized structure that includes prophets, apostles, elders, priests, teachers, patriarchs, members with spiritual gifts, and so forth. The presiding authority was Peter and, with him, the apostles.

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If Paul’s writings are not authoritative enough, the record shows that the mortal Messiah plainly called twelve apostles, endowing them with Priesthood authority, and established groups of seventy elders to hold office beneath the apostles (Matthew 10:1; Luke 9:1; Luke 10:1). If apostles and prophets were necessary for the Gospel ministry and for the edifying and perfecting of the members of the Lord’s Church two-thousand years ago, are they not also necessary today?

And if they are no longer necessary, as most Christians now believe, when did this start? Where is the formal revelation abolishing the quorum of twelve apostles set up by Christ? Where is the prophetic declaration announcing that the carefully designed structure of the Lord’s Church no longer applies or has been superseded with a better divinely-approved construct? Surely, if the Lord personally set up a Church with apostles and prophets, He intended the system to continue. It appears obvious on the face of it that without these governing bodies and the Priesthood which gave them authority to minister, heal, preach, baptize, and speak in the Lord’s name, there simply is no Church of Christ.

Since history bears out that the quorum of the twelve apostles did not continue past the First Century after Christ, and since the Catholic Church and Protestant organizations deny that prophets and apostles lead Christ’s Church today, we have to ask why. The scriptures have the answer. The Old and New Testaments both warn of an apostasy. Paul predicted a great “falling away” that would occur (2 Thessalonians 2:3). He warned:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

He spoke of Christian apostates as “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

Paul in fact said that this apostasy was already beginning during his day. He wrote to the Galatian Church members: “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel” (Galatians 1:6). He also noted:

[A]fter my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.

Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30).

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Lehi preaching in Jerusalem, 600 B.C.

Peter, the chief apostle of his day, also foretold of apostasy:

[T]here were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of” (2 Peter 2:1-2).

Finally, the Apostle John castigated false teachers and apostate churches in the book of Revelation, naming many of them. He was also given a revelation that condemned “them which say they are apostles, and are not” (Revelation 2:2).

Other New Testament witnesses, including the Lord Himself who talked about a coming age of false prophets (Matthew 24:24), could be appealed to. Even Old Testament prophets like Isaiah who prophesied of a time when “darkness shall cover the earth” (Isaiah 60:2) and the Lord’s followers would “draw near [to the Lord] with their mouth, and with their lips do honour [Him], but have removed their heart far from [Him]” (Isaiah 29:10, 13), could be noted. However, these are sufficient to show that the Bible foretells, quite unmistakably and frequently, of an apostasy. Those who honestly study the history of Christendom are also struck by the palpable reality of this great apostasy and the many changes made to Christ’s Church structure and to His doctrine.

T. Edgar Lyon wrote of these tragic changes to the Lord’s organization in his book Apostasy to Restoration. I excise a passage about the apostleship and what it meant that the apostles were eventually martyred:

As long as the original apostles of Jesus Christ were alive they gave church-wide supervision to His Church. By the close of the first century, however, there appears to be no apostolic leadership in the church. Furthermore, there is no recorded evidence that any plan had been adopted to perpetuate the apostleship or any other type of general church leadership. The Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11 and 12, stated that the apostles and prophets had been placed in the Church of Jesus Christ by Christ Himself, to be His leaders on earth. When they disappeared, the leadership was gone. Without the authority from Christ to lead His Church, no organization could then rightfully be called the Church of Jesus Christ. That an organization survived, is self evident. That it perpetuated for some years some of the fundamental teachings such as faith in God, immersion baptism and belief in the resurrection of true Christianity, no one can deny. That there were sincere believers and dedicated leaders, history testifies. That they considered themselves to be the Church of Jesus Christ, the members affirmed through their faith and suffering. But that it was Christ’s Church, when it was without divine authority, is not in keeping with early Christian understanding” (T. Edgar Lyon, Apostasy to Restoration, 3).

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As I have been attempting to convey, prophets and apostles are absolutely essential to the Church of Jesus Christ. Without them, there is no Church of Christ. Without the Priesthood authority held by correctly called and appointed leaders, no saving ordinances can be properly and lawfully performed. Without a prophet to receive direction for the entire Church, such as when Peter received the revelation that the Gospel was to be taken to the Gentiles (Acts 10), there could be no Church. Without a prophet to speak in Christ’s name, an organization simply cannot be considered His Church.

It is also crystal clear from any honest reading of history that many innovations were made in Church organization and doctrine that did not harmonize with what the Lord had personally made known and which His apostles had expounded in their ministry. In fact, these changes harmonized with popular paganism at the time, such as Mithraism. A modern prophet of the Lord put it this way:

Notwithstanding, the disciples of Jesus, excepting John the Revelator, suffered ignominious deaths, they sowed the seed of the Gospel among, and conferred the Priesthood upon men, which remained for several generations upon the earth, but the time came when Paganism was engrafted into Christianity, and at last Christianity was converted into Paganism rather than converting the Pagans. And subsequently the Priesthood was taken from among men, this authority was recalled into the heavens, and the world was left without the Priesthood—without the power of God—without the Church and Kingdom of God” (President Joseph F. Smith, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 22, 44, February 6, 1881).

As sad as this idea is, and as offensive as it may be to some sincere Christians, it is nevertheless an historically and scripturally substantiated truth. The Great Apostasy did occur and most of the world is still covered by darkness. Key doctrines were changed, such as the mode of baptism, how the gift of the Holy Ghost is conferred, the importance of marriage, how Church leaders are called, the nature of God, and so forth. In particular, the Nicene Creed and other church counsels presided over by uninspired men transformed the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit into a monstrous three-in-one creation not found in the Bible.

On the essential doctrine of the nature of God, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland explained the apostate idea compare to the scriptural truth:

In the year A.D. 325 the Roman emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea to addressamong other thingsthe growing issue of God’s alleged “trinity in unity.” What emerged from the heated contentions of churchmen, philosophers, and ecclesiastical dignitaries came to be known (after another 125 years and three more major councils) as the Nicene Creed, with later reformulations such as the Athanasian Creed. These various evolutions and iterations of creedsand others to come over the centuriesdeclared the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to be abstract, absolute, transcendent, immanent, consubstantial, coeternal, and unknowable, without body, parts, or passions and dwelling outside space and time. In such creeds all three members are separate persons, but they are a single being, the oft-noted “mystery of the trinity.” They are three distinct persons, yet not three Gods but one. All three persons are incomprehensible, yet it is one God who is incomprehensible.

We agree with our critics on at least that pointthat such a formulation for divinity is truly incomprehensible. With such a confusing definition of God being imposed upon the church, little wonder that a fourth-century monk cried out, “Woe is me! They have taken my God away from me, … and I know not whom to adore or to address.” How are we to trust, love, worship, to say nothing of strive to be like, One who is incomprehensible and unknowable? What of Jesus’s prayer to His Father in Heaven that “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”?

It is not our purpose to demean any person’s belief nor the doctrine of any religion. We extend to all the same respect for their doctrine that we are asking for ours. (That, too, is an article of our faith.) But if one says we are not Christians because we do not hold a fourth- or fifth-century view of the Godhead, then what of those first Christian Saints, many of whom were eyewitnesses of the living Christ, who did not hold such a view either?

We declare it is self-evident from the scriptures that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are separate persons, three divine beings, noting such unequivocal illustrations as the Savior’s great Intercessory Prayer just mentioned, His baptism at the hands of John, the experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, and the martyrdom of Stephento name just four” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent,” General Conference, October, 2007).

I quote this seeming aside for two reasons. First, the fact that the early Christians could not understand the nature of God and had so much contention on the issue illustrates their fallen condition. As sincere as they no doubt were, they lacked prophetic guidance and did not have the benefit of the Priesthood line of communication.

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Second, the confusion regarding the nature of our Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ could never have happened in a Church where a living prophet presided and spoke on behalf of the Lord. Again, the fact that this issue literally shattered Christendom into pieces, with each side excommunicating, excoriating, and persecuting the other, demonstrates their lack of prophetic leadership and proves the reality of the Great Apostasy foretold in the New Testament.

The careful Bible reader will readily acknowledge that the Old Testament records numerous periods of time – sometimes spanning hundreds of years apiece – when the Lord’s ancient people devolved into a state of apostasy in which He revoked His Priesthood authority and ceased calling prophets to lead them. After each period of darkness, however, the Lord called new prophets. He always appeared to the first new prophet in a personal visitation to inaugurate the new Gospel dispensation. There are at least six Gospel dispensations recorded in the Bible. The founding prophets of each dispensation are: Adam; Enoch; Noah; Abraham; Moses; and Jesus Christ.

Each of these men is extraordinary, even among prophets. The Lord is the ultimate Prophet. It was He, as Jehovah, who personally called Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses to head up new dispensations. He gave these wonderful men Priesthood authority to officiate in saving ordinances, additional revelations to add to past revelations from former dispensations, and new instructions adapted to their specific circumstances. This is the pattern for opening a new Gospel dispensation. The Lord followed this identical pattern in modern times when He initiated what is the final Gospel dispensation, the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times (Ephesians 1:10).

One of the hopeful messages of the Holy Bible is that the night of dark apostasy long foreseen would be shattered by the revelation of further Gospel light at a future day. The ancient prophet Ezekiel, peering prophetically through time, spoke of a day when the scriptural record of the Jews would be joined with another scriptural record written by Israelites from the tribes of Joseph. Together, these equally true records would constitute the holy scriptures and be “one” in the Lord’s hands:

[T]ake one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions:

And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand. . . .

Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand” (Ezekiel 37:16-17, 19).

Isaiah referred to a future day in which “the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it” (Isaiah 2:2).

Micah similarly prophesied of the future establishment of the Lord’s Kingdom, or Zion:

[I]n the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it.

And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the claw shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Micah 4:1-2).

Isaiah specifically spoke of the Great Apostasy and followed it up by foretelling of a latter-day Restoration of the Lord’s Church, which he called a “marvellous work and a wonder” (Isaiah 29:14).

Peter spoke of “the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21).

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The Savior also said that before His Second Coming in glory: “Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things” (Matthew 17:11).

And, perhaps most convincingly of all, the Apostle John prophesied of an angel who would once more bring the Gospel to mankind:

And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” (Revelation 14:6).

Isn’t it curious that the Apostle John foretold of a day when there would be a need for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be delivered to mankind once again by angels? Most Christians believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been on the earth for two-thousand years and does not stand in need of being restored, yet this contradicts John’s prophesy. There would simply be no need of an angelic minister to give the Gospel to those who already had it. When we factor in the reality of the Great Apostasy, however, we understand the significance of John’s prophesy.

In 1820, almost two-hundred years ago to the month, the prophesied Restoration of the “everlasting gospel” commenced in New York state when a fourteen-year-old man named Joseph Smith went into a small thicket of trees to pray to God to know which of all the competing churches was His one true Church. I invite you to read my article “Joseph Smith – Praise to the Man” for more about this wonderful servant of the Lord. Suffice it to say that because of his simple faith and sincere prayer, he received a divine manifestation of the Father and the Son. Brother Joseph later recounted:

I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.

. . . When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!

. . . I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof”” (Joseph Smith – History 1:16-19).

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This marvelous manifestation, eclipsing even Abraham’s and Moses’ manifestations in its grandeur, inaugurated what we call the Restoration of the Gospel. Joseph Smith was told by the Lord that he was to be an instrument in His hands to bring the truth back to the world. In due time, in direct fulfillment of John’s writings, an angel named Moroni appeared to tutor Joseph Smith in Heavenly things and inform him of the record of the tribes of Joseph which Ezekiel spoke of. With the power of God, Joseph Smith translated this divine record. It is today called The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ and is used in conjunction with the Bible to bring people to the Savior.

John the Baptist, as well as Peter, James, and John, appeared to Joseph Smith and others to restore the Holy Priesthood. Other angelic ministers, Moses and Elijah to name only two, appeared to give their Priesthood authorities and keys to Joseph Smith. Eventually, the Lord’s house – that is, His holy temple – was built once again. Not surprisingly, the chief of these modern temples sits today in the top of the mountains as foreseen by the Biblical prophets.

On April 6, 1830, the Lord’s Church was formally restored to the earth again as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Saints suffered extreme persecution. They were driven from state to state, murdered by mobs, and had an extermination order placed upon them by Governor Boggs of Missouri. In 1844, Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were shot to death by a ravenous mob while unjustly imprisoned in Illinois. Their spilled blood served as their final testimony of the truthfulness of the Restoration.

Yet, because it was not Joseph Smith’s church, but in actual fact the Church of Jesus Christ, it survived and has flourished and expanded throughout the globe at a miraculous pace. It is still led today by a prophet and a council of twelve apostles. It contains within it not only prophets and apostles, but also the quorums of seventy established by Jesus, the teachers and elders spoken of by Paul, and the gifts, authorities, and powers that always accompany the legitimate Priesthood authority of the Master. On every point of comparison in doctrine, structure, and origin between the Lord’s Church established in the Bible and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there is a beautiful harmony that powerfully touches the honest seeker of truth.

To these claims of new revelations, new scripture, new prophets, and a divinely-restored Church of Jesus Christ, the world is emphatically opposed. I bear my personal witness, given to me by the Holy Spirit, however, that it is the truth. These events fulfill the prophecies of Biblical prophets. The Everlasting Gospel has indeed been restored to the earth!

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Whenever the Lord gives new light, Satan intensifies his disinformation campaign. He sends false prophets to oppose the real ones. He disperses false dogmas to compete with revealed truth. He establishes counterfeit priesthoods to the real Priesthood. He erects alluring churches to draw people away from the true Church of Jesus Christ. And he inspires wicked people to persecute the Lord’s prophets.

President Brigham Young, the successor prophet to Joseph Smith, warned of Satan’s counterfeits to the restored Church of Jesus Christ:

If true principles are revealed from heaven to men, and if there are angels, and there is a possibility of their communicating to the human family, always look for an opposite power, an evil power, to give manifestations also: look out for the counterfeit.

There is evil in the world, and there is also good. Was there ever a counterfeit without a true coin? No. Is there communication from God? Yes. From holy angels? Yes; and we have been proclaiming these facts during nearly thirty years. Are there any communications from evil spirits? Yes; and the Devil is making the people believe very strongly in revelations from the spirit world. This is called spiritualism” (President Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 7, 240, September 1, 1859).

Another modern apostle, the brilliant Bruce R. McConkie, wrote of those who reject the Lord’s light:

In the very nature of things, persecution of true prophets includes the acceptance of false prophets. It is a philosophical impossibility to reject truth without accepting error, to depart from true teachers without cleaving to false ones, to reject the Lord’s ministers without giving allegiance to those who follow the other Master” (Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah, 37).

It is the Lord’s modern prophets, however, which Christendom declares “false.” They cite Paul’s warning: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any bother gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8). This claim falls flat, however, when you honestly study the Biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ and that revealed in modern times and realize how stunningly consistent they are. It is also out of harmony with John’s prophesy that an angel will restore the Everlasting Gospel to mankind.

We should at least have one thing clear in our minds: “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33). He therefore cannot be the God of the various religions of the world, including Protestantism. For all its merits, two of the fundamental Protestant creeds are: 1) That it doesn’t matter which church a person belongs to because one’s personal relationship with Christ is all that matters; and 2) there can be no prophets or hierarchy because each individual can commune directly with God and needs no mediator. As I have demonstrated earlier, these notions are unBiblical, wrong, and are contradicted by the words of Peter, John, Paul, and other New Testament writers.

The Apostle Paul also noted that universal revelation is not subject to private interpretation. There must be an interpreter who proclaims the will of the Almighty. Imagine if there was no hierarchy and no order. It would be mass confusion with everyone claiming to speak for God, yet offering different interpretations of doctrine and proposing differing policies.

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The current First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve Apostles in the visitor center at the Rome, Italy Temple

As He did anciently, God has again called prophets to act as His spokesmen, to teach correct doctrine, to expose falsehoods, to shine light on humanity, and to bring people to Jesus Christ. It is our challenge today to listen to these humble prophets. I say “challenge” because it is generally harder to listen to a living, breathing prophet in your own land than to an ancient Hebrew prophet long since dead. The same Elder McConkie cited above wrote:

The real test of one’s beliefs is not how much he purports to believe of what the dead prophets have said, but what he accepts from the lips of the living oracles of the same God who inspired those of old. Salvation comes through belief in the doctrines taught by the true disciples sent as legal administrators in our day. Needless to say, their teachings conform to those of their ancient fellowservants; in addition, modern disciples have the present power to perform the ordinances of salvation so they will be binding on earth and in heaven” (Elder Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 27-28.

Ezra Taft Benson, whom I’m fond of quoting in my writings, penned a stirring testimony of the revealed Gospel. As one of the Lord’s modern apostolic witnesses, his words take on added meaning. He declared:

The world has generally revered the ancient dead prophets and rejected the living ones. It was so with Joseph Smith. Truth is often on the scaffold, error on the throne. But time is on the side of truth, for truth is eternal. The message of Mormonism is a world message. It is the truth. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a world organization.

The message of Joseph Smith – the message of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the message of Mormonism – is the most important message in the world. And Joseph Smith the Prophet, who lives today, continues to have an important part in its direction here on earth.

The Church is a world organization – the true Church of Jesus Christ restored to the earth in its fulness – and is intended to bless all of our Father’s children. These things I know, and to them I bear humble witness.

God lives, Jesus is the Christ, the Redeemer of the world, with his latter-day base of operations here in America, and Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of the living God.

This is my witness and testimony to all the world” (Ezra Taft Benson, God, Family, Country: Our Three Great Loyalties, 40-41).

Yes, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is again on the earth in its bright fulness! The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is led by prophets – men called of God by revelation and anointed via the Holy Priesthood to their positions. These prophets have come from many walks of life, yet they are all selected by the same Lord and they all bear witness of His divinity.

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Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery receiving the Melchizedek Priesthood from Peter, James, and John

One of the Lord’s recent apostles gave us this insight into the type of people called to preside in the Lord’s Church:

What is a living prophet? His age? He may be young or old. He need not wear a tunic nor carry a shepherd’s staff. His physical features are not important. A prophet need not have advanced educational degrees nor come from any special social class. He may be rich or poor. He needs no credentials from men.

What is it, then, that qualifies a man to be a prophet?

Foremost, God must choose him as his prophet! . . . .

A prophet, then, is the authorized representative of the Lord. While the world may not recognize him, the important requirement is that God speaks through him. A prophet is a teacher. He receives revelations from the Lord. These may be new truths or explanations of truths already received.

It is an easy thing to believe in the dead prophets. Many people do. For some mysterious reason there is an aura of credibility about them. It is not so with the prophet who lives among us, who must meet life’s everyday challenges. But it is a great thing to believe in the living prophets. Our salvation is contingent upon our belief in a living prophet and adherence to his word. He alone has the right to revelation for the whole Church. His words, above those of any other man, ought to be esteemed and considered by the Church as well as by the world. One day this truth will be understood” (Elder A. Theodore Tuttle, “What Is a Living Prophet?Ensign, July, 1973).

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President Russell M. Nelson

The man who has been called today by Jesus Christ to lead His Church and to speak on His behalf is Russell M. Nelson. This great servant of the Almighty was recently called “Moses in a business suit” by University of Virginia religious studies professor Kathleen Flake. He has been called by others a “Renaissance Man.” President Nelson is a ninety-five-year-old man of wisdom, experience, and boundless energy. A father of ten children, a world-renowned heart surgeon, a speaker of six languages, an author, and a world traveler who has met with presidents, popes, and kings, he would be a wonderful choice to head any organization. However, far more importantly than his worldly laurels, he has been called of God and he bears emphatic testimony of our Redeemer Jesus Christ. President Nelson is the man of the hour for the world, the chief apostle, the mortal captain of the Church of Jesus Christ.

I bear testimony that the Lord has called prophets in the modern age. From my head to my feet, I know without a doubt, through the Holy Ghost, that prophets walk the earth today and speak for the Lord! I know President Nelson is an inspired man and that the apostles who serve at his side are special witnesses of Jesus who have been endowed with the Holy Priesthood. It is also my testimony that the Church of Jesus Christ will never again fall into apostasy. To bolster this important point, I appeal to a statement by one of the most brilliant of the Lord’s modern prophets:

Now, brethren, I think there is one thing which we should have exceedingly clear in our minds. Neither the President of the Church, nor the First Presidency, nor the united voice of the First Presidency and the Twelve will ever lead the Saints astray or send forth counsel to the world that is contrary to the mind and will of the Lord.

An individual may fall by the wayside, or have views, or give counsel which falls short of what the Lord intends. But the voice of the First Presidency and the united voice of those others who hold with them the keys of the kingdom shall always guide the Saints and the world in those paths where the Lord wants them to be. . . .

Now, brethren, these things are true. The Lord is with his people. The cause of righteousness shall prevail. Our cause is just, and the Lord will guide and direct us and bring us off triumphant in the end.

I testify that if we shall look to the First Presidency and follow their counsel and direction, no power on earth can stay or change our course as a church, and as individuals we shall gain peace in this life and be inheritors of eternal glory in the world to come. And I say this to you, my good brethren, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” (President Joseph Fielding Smith, “Eternal Keys and the Right to Preside,” General Conference, April, 1974).

In an address titled “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet,” Ezra Taft Benson gave us these accompanying truths:

The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.

God’s revelation to Adam did not instruct Noah how to build the Ark. Noah needed his own revelation. Therefore the most important prophet so far as you and I are concerned is the one living in our day and age to whom the Lord is currently revealing His will for us. Therefore the most important reading we can do is any of the words of the prophet contained each month in our Church Magazines. Our instructions about what we should do for each six months are found in the General Conference addresses which are printed in the Church magazine.

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Beware of those who would set up the dead prophets against the living prophets, for the living prophets always take precedence. . . .

. . . it is the living prophet who really upsets the world. “Even in the Church,” said President Kimball, “many are prone to garnish the sepulchres of yesterdays prophets and mentally stone the living ones.” (Instructor, 95:527.)

Why? Because the living prophet gets at what we need to know now, and the world prefers that prophets either be dead or worry about their own affairs. Some so-called experts of political science want the prophet to keep still on politics. Some would-be authorities on evolution want the prophet to keep still on evolution. And so the list goes on and on. . . .

There will be times when you will have to choose between the revelation of God and reasoning of menbetween the prophet and the professor.”

President Benson also added this wide counsel which each of us should apply to ourselves:

How we respond to the words of a living prophet when he tells us what we need to know, but would rather not hear, is a test of our faithfulness. . . .

If we want to know how well we stand with the Lord then let us ask ourselves how well we stand with His mortal captainhow close do our lives harmonize with the Lord’s anointedthe living ProphetPresident of the Church, and with the Quorum of the First Presidency” (President Ezra Taft Benson, “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet,” BYU Address, February 26, 1980).

Each person in the world who hears the proposition that God has again sent prophets to teach and lead mankind must make a decision whether it is true or false. That decision will largely determine his or her standing before God. Remember that prophets, when inspired by the Holy Spirit, speak for God. To reject a true prophet is to reject the true God. To accept a true prophet is to accept the true God.

Every six months, the prophet and apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gather in what is called General Conference to give talks on Gospel doctrine. They speak of the Lord, His Atonement and resurrection, His divinity and perfection, His right of Kingship over the earth, and the reality that He is returning to His earth sooner than later. They speak of the central importance of families and marriage to our Heavenly Father’s great Plan of Salvation. They speak of specific points of doctrine, whether it be baptism, prayer, scripture study, and so forth. I have never gone away from a Conference without feeling uplifted, strengthened, and more committed to follow Jesus Christ.

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This April 4 and 5 will be the next General Conference of the Savior’s Church. His prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, will preside and address the world. Living apostles will speak and share their testimonies and instruct the humble Saints of God throughout the earth. I invite you, dear reader, to tune in and prayerfully watch the broadcasts. Listen to the Holy Spirit and see what He prompts you to do about the messages. Investigate the Church of Jesus Chris of Latter-day Saints and read The Book of Mormon. You will be uplifted and inspired if you do so. If you are reading this article after April 4 and 5, fear not, the Church has a massive archive system housing the General Conference addresses of the past fifty years on its website https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/

The Lord Jesus Christ is shining light into the world at an increasing rate. The Devil is also belching out mists of darkness at an unprecedented pace. We must stay close to the Spirit, hold to the commandments, walk on the covenant path the Savior walked, and bind ourselves to God’s will if we are to survive these days. Thankfully, we don’t have to do it alone – the Lord has given us living prophets to show us the way to our Redeemer.

Jesus is the light and life of the world. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the One who presides over the earth and the One who shows His prophets how to direct mankind for their benefit. If we wish to come to Jesus, we must first come to His prophet, who at this time is President Russell M. Nelson. It is he who holds the keys of presidency in the Holy Priesthood. It is at his authorization that local missionaries and authorities can baptize us into the Lord’s Church, confer upon us the gift of the Holy Ghost, and initiate us into higher saving ordinances – such as the ordinance of eternal marriage – in the Lord’s temples. What a blessing!

I close this article with my witness of Jesus Christ and His servants. Jesus Christ died for our sins. He bled and suffered and died so that you and I could repent, improve, and eventually receive exaltation in our Heavenly Father’s Kingdom. We are the literal sons and daughters of our Eternal Father and Jesus is our Elder Brother and Only Begotten Son of God in the flesh. They love us with a familial bond and wish the best for us. They love us more than we can fathom; more than we love ourselves or our dearest relatives. Out of this great love, the Lord has sent prophets into the world in our day. Of this I testify with all my heart and invite you to investigate my claims for yourself.

Go to the Father in prayer and ask Him, in the name of Jesus Christ, whether or not this is true. If you are humble and prepared to act on any revelation you might receive, you will receive it. And then you will know for yourself, independent of all other sources, and in the face of opposition and mockery, that Jesus lives and that prophets also live and speak in His holy name.

I close with a statement from President Russell M. Nelson, the Lord’s prophet, which I encourage everyone to read and heed:

Our message to the world is simple and sincere: we invite all of God’s children on both sides of the veil to come unto their Savior, receive the blessings of the holy temple, have enduring joy, and qualify for eternal life.

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I bless you to raise your voice in testimony, as I do now, that we are engaged in the work of Almighty God! Jesus is the Christ. This is His Church, which He directs through His anointed servants. I so testify, with my expression of love for each of you, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen” (President Russell M. Nelson, “Let Us All Press On,” General Conference, April, 2018).

Zack Strong,

March 19, 2020