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Friday, January 15, 2016

The Prophet Joseph Smith—Teacher by Example

I am using this post to share the first talk I gave in our new Orem ward. The title of the talk is the title of this post. My parents were present to hear Amy and me speak. Amy was very brief, leaving me lots of time, so I was well prepared. I hope you enjoy this.

My beloved brethren and sisters,
            Amy has very capably and ably introduced us and shared her beautiful testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith. As far as I’m concerned, I feel like we could end the meeting without another word being spoken.
            In talking to Bishop Wilkinson last week regarding our assignment to speak today, he advised us that if we each planned on taking around 20 minutes, we’d be in good shape. Amy told me straight up that speaking in Church is not one of her favorite things, and that she’d leave me lots of time. Bishop Wilkinson indicated last week that we shouldn’t worry if our time falls short; the bishopric would just call on someone from the congregation to bear their testimonies. In order to keep everyone happy, and in order to avoid any hard feelings that might arise if I were to be brief, I would like to share with you my side of our story as well as my own testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith.
I first met Amy while I was serving as a veil worker in the Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple. I had been working there since I commenced my part-time missionary service in 2006. Fast forward a bit to January 2009 when I had just started at BYU. I had retained my temple service even after my missionary service had ended seven months earlier. I had become somewhat anxious about finding someone who would love me, because in my case, I knew that was going to be tough for whoever I finally ended up with. With those thoughts in mind, I had routinely checked the left hand of young ladies I brought through the veil, mostly because I was curious about their marital status. When Amy came through my veil, I noticed instantly that the proper finger was empty. A strong impression came to mind, “This woman will one day be your eternal companion.”
Thinking about it and knowing now what I felt then, I should have gone after her that day in the temple. However, the timing wasn’t right for us to get together. So, as most men habitually do, I forgot that strong impression and let her slip through my fingers.
Fast forward again to August 2009. Amy had then become a temple worker herself, and, due to a schedule conflict, she wound up on one of the shifts I was working. We got to know each other better, and our mutual attraction blossomed. Because I had been unlucky in love before that time, I procrastinated the urge to ask Amy out, explaining my situation to the Lord. I cried unto Him and covenanted that, if some way presented itself that she and I could get together, I would delay no longer than was absolutely necessary in commencing a relationship with her.
By this time, more time had passed. By late May 2010, the temple was closed for maintenance. I guess Amy grew tired of waiting for me to make the first move. At that time, she had someone in her singles’ ward that looked like he may have wanted to ask her out. Because of her feelings for me, she decided she wanted me to have a first chance with her before she even considered the other guy. So, she tracked down my address (that’s how I first learned how resourceful she was in going after something she wanted) and wrote me a beautiful letter that was mailed to and received by me while the temple was still closed.
In the letter, she expressed an interest in me and her desire to get to know me better. I can never forget the tender tone of that letter. I still treasure it today. She put it beautifully: “I realize your life may be complicated, so if you ever wanted to go do something together, I would be happy to drive.” That was enough of a prodding for me. She said some other things too about why she wrote the letter and what she hoped would come of it. I had the instant confirmation for which I had been seeking that this would be the right thing to do, especially as she seemed ready to embrace whatever my situation was (as we hadn’t had a chance to talk about my disabilities and other health issues). In the letter, she had given me her e-mail address, so I sent off a reply befitting the invitation. I saw her again the first Friday night after the temple was open. She looked several times like she wanted to say something to me, but she didn’t. Or at least she kept silent till the end of the night.
We were exiting the room where we both had waited for the last session of the day to be over, and Amy took the opportunity to approach me at that time. She asked if I had received her letter. I said I did and that I replied to her. She said she hadn’t received anything from me at all. I was quick to reassure her of my interest in her, and said I would dash off another copy of that e-mail to her that very night. This I did.
What followed was a whirlwind romance. We must have really hit it off. We went on fourteen dates in the first three weeks after our exchange of email messages. At one point, I told her that it wouldn’t surprise me if we were engaged by the end of the year. But the Lord had a very different and much quicker timetable in mind.
We got along so well together that we agreed after the first week that the question of marriage for us would be when and how rather than if. By that time, we were done looking for or considering any other individual to spend eternity with. I proposed to her on July 4 (the best Independence Day I ever had), and she willingly accepted. I must have been quite surprised at her instant acceptance of my proposal, because after she said “Yes” I said “Really?” She was quick to assure me that her answer was sincere.
We were now in the courtship phase of our relationship, tentatively setting a marriage date for December 18. We would have preferred it to be a month or two sooner, but that was not to be. And the timing worked out beautifully because her parents’ anniversary was December 18, and Amy’s mother had passed away from complications of multiple sclerosis the January before we started dating. So, we determined to do all we could to make December 18 work as a wedding day.
Shortly after our engagement, I was reading in the Book of Mormon, and I came across a scripture that really hit me. I shared it with Amy, and we determined this would be the theme scripture of our courtship and marriage. What was that scripture that touched us so deeply? It’s found in the Book of Moroni within the Book of Mormon. It reads, “And Christ hath said: If ye will have faith in me, ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.”[i] Isn’t that a powerful promise? I testify that this gave us the courage and faith we needed to press onward. Preparing for our marriage was an uphill climb with numerous obstacles. In spite of this, one by one, things fell into place for us to be married, and on our preferred date.
Soon after our engagement, we were discussing our preferences as far as who would officiate at our wedding. She said as I’d had more experience with the sealers at the temple, she would let me pick our sealer, and that whoever I decided on was all right with her. I told her that there was no one I’d rather have officiating at our wedding than C. Max Caldwell. Brother Caldwell had previously served as a General Authority in the Second Quorum of the Seventy, and at the time I first met him, he was living in my same stake. When I first started serving at the temple and found out he was the senior sealer there, we struck up an easy and deeply rewarding friendship. It didn’t take much to convince Amy that he was the best person to officiate at our marriage. When I asked him to do so, in that very humble way of his, he acted like the pleasure and the honor was completely his.
Almost two years after officiating at our sealing, Brother Caldwell became very sick and unable to serve in the temple anymore. He passed away in 2012. For a time, I kept an eye on his widow to ensure that she was doing all right. I knew that’s what Brother Caldwell would have wanted me to do, and it was my honor to do so.
I miss my friend Brother Caldwell a lot. He was a strong warrior in the cause of Christ, and it was my privilege to know him. I take comfort in the knowledge that at least he was able to officiate at our sealing before his passing. We may have been among the last of those weddings he officiated in.
It is an honor I deeply cherish to have been counted among his friends, and I will never forget the wonderful influence this remarkable man had on me, especially as he officiated at the event wherein everything that was important to me took on a new, deeper, and more fulfilling meaning. May God bless this humble, unassuming man to continue our Heavenly Father’s “work and . . .glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man”,[ii] which I know he is now doing on the other side of the veil. I know when I see him again, we will instantly recognize each other and that the bond of our friendship still exists, a friendship I hope to continue in all the eternities to come.
 When that great reunion with this treasured friend takes place, I will likely be called upon to let him know how true I was to the advice and counsel he gave us when officiating at our sealing. It is my dearest hope and prayer that he may be pleased when I do so.
It was interesting to see how things fell into place when the timing was right. Remembering the promise in our scripture, we pressed forward in spite of many obstacles to our marriage, recognizing that the richest and best things in this life often take hard work, a lot of faith, and making sure to involve the Lord. One by one things fell into place, with not a lot of time to spare. We found our first dwelling place a mere four days before the wedding.
Some time had passed after our marriage, when suddenly one day while Amy and I were working at the temple, something triggered my memory, and the impression I’d had in 2009 that Amy would be my future wife returned to me. I’m sure all of you can appreciate the fact that I lost that impression until we had been married for a while. It worked out so much better for us that things happened the way they did.
Fast forward again to this last October. We had been wanting to be in a place of our own and had been looking for a while. We came across a trailer in Mon-A-Lea trailer court and knew instantly it was the right place for us to be, and we were able to purchase it. The first Sunday we attended this ward, we both felt at home. This was a big thing for me because I had been in my previous stake since moving to American Fork in 1999.
 Enough about our story. Now let me share some things about Joseph Smith  When we originally got this topic last week, I immediately said that I would have it easy because I had given a talk on Joseph Smith back when I was in the Singles’ Ward. With the permission of the bishopric and with some additions and corrections, I am resurrecting and reusing that talk this morning. Contrary to what I had supposed, it took a lot more preparation than I thought.
It is a great privilege for me to talk to you today about the Prophet Joseph Smith. He has always been one of my heroes. Much has been written and said of him. To discuss in detail even one aspect or teaching from his life would be impossible in the remaining time I have. And so I have chosen to touch briefly upon several lessons we can learn from the prophet’s life, example, and teachings. I have patterned my remarks after a talk President Thomas S. Monson gave in the October 2005 General Conference entitled: “The Prophet Joseph Smith—Teacher by Example.” So, hang on to your hats! This will be a wild ride!
First, I quote from Teachings of Presidents of the Church—Joseph Smith regarding an experience the Prophet had as a young boy. “Evidence of the Prophet’s extraordinary character emerged early in his life. The Smiths were living in West Lebanon, New Hampshire, when a deadly epidemic of typhoid fever attacked many in the community, including all the Smith children. While the other children recovered without complication, Joseph, who was about seven years old, developed a serious infection in his left leg. Doctor Nathan Smith of Dartmouth Medical School at nearby Hanover, New Hampshire [who, by the way, was not related to Joseph’s family], agreed to perform a new surgical procedure to try to save the boy’s leg. As Doctor Smith and his colleagues prepared to operate, Joseph asked his mother to leave the room so she would not have to witness his suffering. Refusing liquor to dull the pain and relying only on his father’s reassuring embrace, Joseph bravely endured as the surgeon bored into and chipped away part of his leg bone. The surgery was successful, although Joseph walked the next several years with crutches and showed signs of a slight limp the rest of his life.”[iii]
One lesson that I observed from this is that, even as a young boy, Joseph refused to take anything into his body that was not good for him. I don’t know this for a fact, but I am of the opinion that the Smith family may have been observing some form of the Word of Wisdom all of Joseph’s life, long before it became the revealed word of the Lord. Joseph saw those blessings in this instance. It’s not documented, but again, an educated guess leads me to believe that this adherence to a law of health was one of the reasons Joseph was able to come through such a traumatic experience at such a tender age. The promise the Lord would give through the Prophet became true in his own life.
We all know the words of that promise: “And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;
“And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
“And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
“And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.”[iv]
The Prophet Joseph Smith learned at a very early age what we know now. He taught obedience to a law of health and abstinence from practices that would have a negative effect—by example.
Throughout his short life of 38 years, he would endure much more adversity. One such incident happened as a result of his First Vision in which he saw our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. This was the first time our Heavenly Father had appeared to anyone in the history of the world.[v] I hope that gives us a sense of how important this work really is. Great persecution followed the young Prophet, but, in spite of it all, he could not and would not deny either that vision or the many more manifestations that followed him. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught us how to stand by our testimonies—by example.
Another incident happened when he was imprisoned at Liberty Jail in Missouri amidst miserable and sometimes even dangerous conditions. In his anguish, he pleaded with the Lord, asking why He had seemingly abandoned His people. The questions he asked, the petitions he made, and the answers he received are instructive to all of us who face adversity. He cried out, “O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place? . . .
“[S]tretch forth thy hand; let thine eye pierce; let thy pavilion be taken up; let thy hiding place no longer be covered; let thine ear be inclined; let thine heart be softened, and thy bowels moved with compassion toward us.
“Let thine anger be kindled against our enemies; and, in the fury of thine heart, with thy sword avenge us of our wrongs.
“Remember thy suffering saints, O our God; and thy servants will rejoice in thy name forever.”[vi]
The Lord’s answer to Joseph can be very helpful to us in our own moments of trial. He said,
“My son [for which we could also substitute “my daughter”], peace be unto thy soul; Thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
“And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes [for which we could also substitute “trials”].”[vii]
The Lord goes on to enumerate some of the worst circumstances anyone could be in, ending with a profound promise and reminder:
“And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
“The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?”[viii]
Joseph learned from and was sanctified through his experiences at Liberty Jail. There followed some of the greatest revelations and experiences the world has ever known. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught us how to endure to the end and have faithful courage amidst great trials—by example.
Joseph also had a unique experience interacting with the guards set to watch over him in Liberty Jail. They had been involved in chasing those who believed in Joseph and the restored gospel message out of town, and had done all sorts of unspeakable things to the Saints. They boasted of their deeds to one another. Joseph lay still and listened to their reviling as long as he could take it. He then shot to his feet, and, with fire in his eyes, thundered out, “Silence, ye fiends of the infernal pit! In the name of Jesus Christ I rebuke you and command you to be still! I will not live another minute and hear such language. Cease such talk, or you or I die this instant!”
Parley P. Pratt, one of Joseph’s fellow prisoners, writes of this experience, “He ceased to speak. He stood erect in terrible majesty. Chained, and without a weapon; calm, unruffled and dignified as an angel, he looked upon the quailing guards, whose weapons were lowered or dropping to the ground; whose knees smote together and who, shrinking into a corner, or crouching at his feet, begged his pardon and remained quiet till a change of guards.
“I have seen the ministers of justice, clothed in ministerial robes, and criminals arraigned before them, while life was suspended on a breath . . .; I have witnessed a Congress in solemn session to give laws to nations; I have tried to conceive of kings, of royal courts, of thrones and crowns; and of emperors assembled to decide the fate of kingdoms; but dignity and majesty have I seen but once, as it stood in chains, at midnight, in a dungeon in an obscure village of Missouri.”[ix] The Prophet Joseph Smith taught us how to boldly speak out when the conduct of others is less than it should be —by example.
Shortly after his release from Liberty Jail and following the Saints’ migration to what was then Commerce, Illinois (later renamed Nauvoo, or “The City Beautiful”) an epidemic of cholera left many saints, including Joseph, his wife Emma, and many of their children, confined to bed and unable to do much. This epidemic lasted several weeks, until one day Joseph faithfully prayed for healing and was granted that blessing. He rose from his sickbed completely healed, and, in what came to be known as “a day of God’s power”, he proceeded to administer first to his family, then all through Nauvoo. Each person he spoke to rose from their sickbeds, and many apostles of that day were witness to the healing power of God.
When Joseph became physically and spiritually drained from performing these miraculous healings, he exhorted and admonished the apostles to do as he had done. Initially doubting their own abilities to do what Joseph had done, the apostles were emboldened by his statement that they, as special witnesses of Christ, could do as he did. They continued the work of healing that Joseph started.[x]
Whether it was starting a collection for a needy brother, wiping the mud from the boots of small children, rescuing a sister from a mud hole, giving labor to two out-of-work brothers or whatever it might be, his life was all about service. Joseph said: “A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.”[xi] The Prophet Joseph Smith taught us the high importance of service—by example.
            In a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith, we read the following:
“My disciples, in days of old, sought occasion against one another, and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this evil they were afflicted and sorely chastened.
“Wherefore, I say unto you that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord, for there remaineth in him the greater sin.
“I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.”[xii]
This instruction, given in 1831, became the pattern for Joseph’s life. On the fateful night of March 24, 1832, the Prophet was forcefully dragged from his home and tarred and feathered. What followed was a painful night during which he watched one of his babies die and had to stay up most of the night getting the tar and feathers removed by some friends. He rose from that experience the next day and preached a powerful sermon on forgiveness. As  a result of his response to the persecution, as was not uncommon in that time, some of the very men who had so abused him the night before came forward, humbly confessing their sins and requesting forgiveness and baptism, which the Prophet willing and unconditionally extended to them.
When Elder Parley P. Pratt came to himself after a temporary period of disaffection and asked the Prophet’s forgiveness, Brother Joseph willingly gave it. William W. Phelps turned away from and joined in the persecution of the Church during the trials of Missouri. When he wrote to the Prophet asking his forgiveness, the Prophet responded with these words:
“Dear Brother Phelps: I must say that it is with no ordinary feelings I endeavor to write a few lines to you in answer to your [letter]; at the same time I am rejoiced at the privilege granted me. … It is true, that we have suffered much in consequence of your behavior—the cup of gall, already full enough for mortals to drink, was indeed filled to overflowing when you turned against us. … However, the cup has been drunk, the will of the Father has been done, and we are yet alive, for which we thank the Lord. And having been delivered from the hands of wicked men by the mercy of our God, we say it is your privilege to be delivered from the powers of the adversary. … Believing your confession to be real, and your repentance genuine, I shall be happy to give you the right hand of fellowship, and rejoice over the returning prodigal. … ‘Come on, dear brother, since the war is past, For friends at first, are friends again at last.
“Yours as ever, Joseph Smith, Jun.”[xiii]
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught us the importance of forgiveness—by example.
On one occasion, Jesse Crosby informed the Prophet Joseph Smith that helping out with what he termed “woman’s work” (such as carrying out the ashes, bringing in water and firewood, tending the children and washing the dishes) was not in keeping with his idea of a great man’s self-respect. The prophet rebuked Brother Crosby with these words that still ring true for any married man today: “If a man does not properly love and cherish his wife in this life and take care of her, he will not be privileged to have her in the next.” Properly rebuked, Jesse Crosby treated his wife better from that time forward.[xiv] Throughout his marriage, the Prophet would pitch in and help as often as he could. Joseph Smith taught how husbands should treat their wives—by example. I might add that I have been quick to forget this in my own marriage, and, as with anything, there is always room for improvement.
The final four topics I want to cover are interconnected. In a letter to John Wentworth, Joseph said: “The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”[xv] There is a dual lesson to be taught from this quote: No unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing. But by the same token, no unhallowed hand can help to move it forward. Each of us must consistently ask ourselves, as Joseph did, “Are my hands clean? Is my heart pure? Am I a worthy instrument in the Lord’s hands?” If the answers to these questions are “no,” then we have work to do. When we can answer “yes” to these questions, then we will know that the Prophet Joseph Smith taught us how we can best further the gospel cause—by example.
Joseph would, in the time prior to his martyrdom, confer upon the apostles the authority to lead Christ’s church. He also emphasized the special place of the Twelve in the church hierarchy when he said, “Where I am not [and this would apply to all future Church Presidents], there is no First Presidency over the Twelve.”[xvi]
The Prophet Joseph Smith gave the ultimate sacrifice—his life—in the furthering of the gospel. When Joseph prepared to go to jail for the final time in his life, he knew he would not be returning. At that time, he stated: “I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer’s morning. I have a conscience void of offense towards God and towards all men. I SHALL DIE INNOCENT, AND IT SHALL YET BE SAID OF ME—HE WAS MURDERED IN COLD BLOOD.”[xvii] Joseph died as his final testament that the work he restored to the earth is true. Our task is somewhat different than that of our beloved prophet: we are asked to live what we believe. As we do so, could we say the same as Joseph Smith? Are our consciences void of offense towards God and towards all men? Or is there room for improvement? Let us do as Joseph Smith did. He taught us how to live and die for the work—by example.
Though none of us can interact with the Prophet Joseph Smith, as did the saints in his day, his eye is on the work that he helped restore to the earth for the last time. 171 years after his martyrdom, the powerful testimony he bore of the Savior lives on in our scriptures, and more importantly, in our hearts. We can hear it ring as truly as it did when it was first given in 1832:
"And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
"For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—
"That by him and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God."[xviii]
He sealed that testimony with his blood. He did not die for a lie. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught us the nature and characteristics of Disciples of Christ—by example.
I close now with my testimony. I testify that Joseph Smith was indeed a Prophet of God. He was chosen and foreordained to be the instrument in the hands of the Lord in restoring His work upon the earth today. He did see the Father and the Son. He had the priesthood conferred upon him by angels. He translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God, and received many instructions that are still applicable to us today. His was a life of total obedience to the commandments of the Lord. Like the Master he served, he sealed his testimony with his blood. I echo the noble sentiment expressed by W. W. Phelps: “Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah!” and I testify that indeed “millions shall know ‘Brother Joseph’ again.”[xix] I bear my witness that the gospel is true, and leave my love and blessing with you all in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

[i] Moroni 7:33.
[ii] Moses 1:39.
[iii] Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, p. 2. Copyrighted 2007, all rights reserved. 
[iv] D&C 89:18-21.
[v] Joseph Smith—History 1:15-20.
[vi] D&C 121:1, 4-6.
[vii] D&C 121:7-8.
[viii] D&C 122:7-8.
[ix] See The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, p. 180. See also Gerald N. Lund’s The Work and the Glory series volume 4: Thy Gold to Refine, pp. 443-444.
[x] See Church History in the Fulness of Times, pp. 217-219 for an account of what happened that day.
[xi] HC 4:227.
[xii] D&6 64:8-10.
[xiii] HC 4:163–64.
[xiv] As recounted in Gerald N. Lund’s The Work and the Glory series, volume 5: A Season of Joy pp. 480-482.
[xv] HC 4:540.
[xvi] HC 2:374.
[xvii] D&C 135:4.
[xviii] D&C 76:22-24.
[xix] Praise to the Man, Hymn #27.

My 2016 version of the Sons of Ammon Apostles Song

Hello. As some of you may be aware, many people have speculated about when the Sons of Ammon will come out with a new apostles song. The sons of Ammon have done a new apostles song every time there is a change in the apostleship, which they have done since President Monson became the new prophet. In the absence of an official update from them, others have tried to do it for them. But I have found that most of these songs do not stick to the original tune (The Beverly Hillbillies Theme Song), and their versions, to me, are more obnoxious and annoying than would a Sons of Ammon version. In thinking about this, I have written a version that uses the original tune and some of the original stanzas of previous Sons of Ammon Songs, which meant I only needed to add a stanza including the new apostles and a line at the end with which to make mention of the apostles as a group. I present my version today. Video of it may be coming in the next little while, but not right away, as I am currently sick. I have never put a video on my blog, so I will need to record one and find a way to add one. Should be fairly easy. Just remember the Beverly Hillbillies tune, and the rest will be easy.

That said, you may find the whole thing disappointing. Here are the lyrics:

Thomas S. Monson is the prophet, you know.
Henry B. Eyring is the next below.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf is the third, you see.
And that makes up the First Presidency.

Russell M. Nelson operated on folks.
A Supreme Court justice was Dallin H. Oaks.
M. Russell Ballard sold cars you know,
Robert D. Hales plays the piano.

Jeffrey R. Holland is a Yale guy.
David A. Bednar changed Ricks to the Y.
Quentin L. Cook is from Cache Valley.
D. Todd Christofferson’s an attorney.

Neil L. Andersen worked on a dairy.
Ronald A. Rasband’s six months older than he.
Gary E. Stevenson’s our youngest one.
And Dale G. Renlund was a heart surgeon.

You know all of the apostles, so our song is now done. 

Following the Prophet and Accepting the Revelation Coming From Him

Hello, dear readers. No, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth yet. Things have been a bit crazy in my life, so this is the first chance I've had to post since November. A general update regarding personal and Church news will be following within the next few days as time and circumstances allow. But there is something that's been on my mind a lot since the sustaining of 3 new apostles in October, and I just felt a need to not postpone my prompting to talk about a certain topic of great import to me.

President Russell M. Nelson, who serves as the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke to Young Adults last Sunday in a CES Fireside for Young Adults. One of the things he emphasized in his address is the importance of following those sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators by gaining personal confirmation that what they say and do is in harmony with the Lord's will. He talked a lot about how he's personally endeavored to follow the prophet. He particularly talked about learning Mandarin Chinese at President Kimball's urging. This enabled President Nelson to open up greater understanding of and appreciation for the Church in China. He touched on President Benson's charge to him to open the countries of Eastern Europe to the preaching of the Gospel, recounting some of the miracles he saw in striving to follow the counsel of President Benson.

President Nelson also talked about how revelation was received in the matters of lowering the age of eligibility for young men and young women and in the handbook changes that were made as a result of the US and other nations legalizing the marriage of homosexual individuals. He talked about how every aspect and nuance of these issues is thoroughly discussed and how a decision is not reached until there is total unanimity among the apostles. He talked about how each of us can receive our own witness that the revelation coming from these prophets, seers, and revelators is truly the will of the Lord.

That is a very timely message in light of what happened following the calling of our three newest apostles. I've done enough research on the matter to know that many expressed their shock, dismay, and disappointment about the fact that none of those called were born outside the United States. It is to these people I want to address this post. I can understand the temptation to find fault with those chosen. They are all from Utah and are all older than many, including myself, had anticipated. I would have loved to see the apostleship get some younger international blood added to it. As many will remember, a few days prior to the conference, I gave specifics about who I thought would be called. All of my picks were international and younger.

However, I was prepared to accept whoever was called, because I had prayed to know that those called would be the ones the Lord wants to become apostles at this time. After the initial shock and dismay I felt about none of them being international or on the younger side, there was the instant confirmation for which I had sought that the Lord had directed the calls of Elders Rasband, Stevenson, and Renlund. That feeling was only heightened as I watched the press conference where they fielded questions about why no one was called from a foreign land. They all stated that they had international experience (having served previously in Area Presidencies outside of the United States, and that they were called to be witnesses of the name of Jesus Christ in all the world. I thought they did very well.

I've taken a long, hard look at this, and, in every case of anyone I've come across who expressed their dismay about the Lord's choices, none of them posted additionally to say they had received their own witness that those called had the Lord's stamp of approval. I don't claim to be any more righteous, faithful, or inspirationally inclined than any or all of such individuals, but I can say that I have learned for myself what should have been abundantly clear to anyone who sustains Thomas S. Monson as the Lord's prophet on the earth today. Those who were called are the ones whom the Lord needed to take the apostolic mantle at this time.

There is another element to this, which I mention reluctantly. Joseph Smith once said, "I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the kingdom. It is an eternal principle, that has existed with God from all eternity: That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is on the high road to apostasy, and if he does not repent, he will apostatize, as God lives."

I offer with that quote a disclaimer: I do not mean to imply that any who found fault with the selection of the new apostles will apostatize. However, if any of you have not received your own witness that these new apostles are called of God, I implore you with all the energy of my soul: Take the steps to get that witness. And when you have received such a witness, be sure and share it with those around you. Let us not be silenced by those who have not done so. Gaining your own witness of the validity of the process by which the Lord inspires his servants in all things will be a great boon to you. Then use the public forum of your choice to make known the answer you received. The world will be benefitted by those bold enough to witness that those called to speak with and for the Lord are truly his servants.

We have scriptural precedents for such testimonies. Amos 3:7 says, "Surely the Lord God will do nothing [unless and until] he revealeth his secrets unto his servants, the prophets." And in modern times, the Lord has said, "What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself. And though the heavens and the earth pass away, my words shall not pass away but shall all be fulfilled; whether by my own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same." The Lord stated in another revelation of this dispensation, "And this is the ensample unto them, that they shall speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost. And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation."

Wilford Woodruff once stated "The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that. the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty."

When we remember this, we can be reassured that whatever comes from our general or local Church leaders is in harmony with the Lord's will.

I would like next to speak of a time when I had a problem accepting counsel from my local leader and what came of that. In so doing, I quote from a talk I gave shortly after our marriage, the first time in which Amy and I together spoke.

[I would like to share an experience from my life that has taught me the importance of following the counsel of leaders, both general and local.]
"At the conclusion of my part-time missionary service, I remained in my home ward, the American Fork 9th Ward. In February last year, Kendall Warburton became my bishop. I knew he had been serving in the Singles' Ward Bishopric for a couple of years. I figured he'd probably try and get more of our ward's young single adults to go to the singles’ ward. I also figured he wouldn’t bother trying with me, because I had already told his predecessor that I would go to the Singles’ Ward only when the Lord called me there. With the choice left up to me, I thought I would be safe.

"Then, one day last March, the unthinkable happened. I received word that Bishop Warburton wanted to meet with me. I went there with a little trepidation, but not overly worried because I felt he might just have another calling for me. I was ready for one. I loved where I was at, but lately felt that it had become routine to me. So I was ready to embrace whatever change he had for me. But nothing could have prepared me for what happened. To accurately capture what my thoughts and feelings were, I turn to the journal entry I wrote about that visit.

 "'He ushered me in, and we chatted (seemingly aimlessly) about my life. We talked of the state of my health, my callings and my schooling. He asked about my family, Neal in particular. Then he lowered the boom on me.

"'He was very kind and gentle, but also very firm and direct. He explained that he wished for me to seriously consider attending the Singles’ Ward in our stake. He reviewed the history of how it came about, recited the great experiences he’d had in the last three years as a counselor in the Singles’ Ward bishopric and explained the benefits I would receive as a result of my attendance there. [In so saying, he carefully dismantled all the arguments I had ever put up against the Singles’ Ward, even arguments I hadn’t realized I was using.] He mentioned that he felt my doing so would allow me to have a greater influence on Neal. He talked to me about not necessarily going over there permanently, but at least giving it a try for a few weeks. He told me they could cover my callings in my absence. I told him that at the conclusion of my missionary service, President Ivins had talked to me about the Singles’ Ward but had made it clear that the when and if of my attendance there would be up to me and the Lord. I also told him that every time I had approached the Lord about it thus far, the answer was ‘no.’ [I need to interject here that, though I didn’t know it at the time, I had been couching my query to the Lord in such a way that I could only get the answer I wanted.] Bishop Warburton acknowledged [what I had said], but suggested it was time to ask the Lord again. This time, he wished for me to do it amidst fasting, prayer, and temple attendance.

"'He told me that if I still felt the same way about this after that, he would say no more about it. He asked me to promise that I would do this. I told him all I could promise him was that I’d think about it. He said that was fair enough. Our interview ended on that note. By this time, I was late for Institute.

"'I had Mom take me to the seminary building, and I was able to catch most of the lesson. But I’m afraid I didn’t get much out of it this time around. I couldn’t get my conversation with Bishop Warburton off my mind. But surprisingly, the thing that bothered me most was not the enormity of what he had asked me to do. Instead, it was the fact that this was the first time my priesthood leader had asked me to do something, and all I could say was that I’d think about it. It was at that point, I think, that I experienced a paradigm shift in my perspective. I resolved then and there that I would do as Bishop Warburton asked. I would make the matter the object of prayer, fasting, and attending the temple as a patron after my shift, all the next day. I resolved that if the answer I got was affirmative, I would delay no longer than necessary and would start attending the Singles’ Ward on the first Sunday in May. This, I reasoned, would give the bishopric and my EQ presidency time to replace me in my callings, if the answer was affirmative…

 "'That night, I drifted off to an uneasy sleep, still plagued by the foolishness of the way in which I had responded in-person to Bishop Warburton’s counsel, but knowing that I was on the right track to take action the next day.'

"I turn again to my journal to recount what happened the next day as I followed the plan.'It was a good shift. I received a Japanese patron. The Spirit was extremely strong, even moving me to a quavering voice and quiet weeping. It was in these moments that I knew that the thing which I had considered since the night before was the very thing the Lord wanted me to do. I will go to the Singles’ Ward starting the first Sunday in May.'

"Go I did, and what a blessing it proved to be in my life. Approximately one month after I started attending the Singles’ Ward, I received a letter from one of my fellow temple workers, Amy Nuttall. The letter told me that she liked what she had seen and wanted to get to know me better. We went on 14 dates in a 3 week period, and we became engaged on July 4. Our ability to get married hinged on Amy being able to find a full-time job with benefits. Many times during our engagement, we became discouraged and wondered how and if it would ever work out. But our priesthood leaders provided constant encouragement and help to us. Because of this encouragement we received through the personal and priesthood lines of communication, we were able to stay strong in our belief that things would work out. We adopted as the theme scripture for our marriage the following: 'And Christ hath said, if ye will have faith in me, ye shall have power to do whatsoever thing is expedient in me.'[i]

"So, we exercised our faith and one miracle after another allowed all the necessary pieces to fall into place. One of those pieces was where we now live. I was taking to Brother Poulson from this ward, who I saw regularly at the Singles’ Ward. He asked how things were going. I told him that everything had neatly fallen into place except for us finding a place to live. He mentioned that he knew of a couple in his ward, John and JesAnn Allen, who would soon be losing a tenant in their basement apartment. I called to inquire about that apartment, and we resolved to take it no matter what because we felt we had run out of options. So, we met with the Allens to see the apartment. We talked about it for a few minutes, and at the conclusion of our interview, Brother Allen handed me the key. This was just 4 days prior to our wedding. Miracle is the only word that can describe how that came about."

And so it was that if I had remained prideful and not accepted my good bishop's counsel, I would have missed out on the greatest blessing in my life. Accepting leaders' counsel and decisions, especially when it goes against how we think things ought to be, will be vital as the world spins ever closer to the day when the Savior will return again to the earth. At that time, all of us will be held accountable for how much or little we accept and support the decisions and actions of our general and local leaders. It is my hope and prayer that we may all recognize the high importance of so doing, and I share these thoughts and this post with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

[i] Mormon 8:33.