I remember singing the hymn “We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet,” as a child. It was just a song at that time, just words in the hymnal. Now that I am older, I understand better what it means to have a living prophet to guide us, and I am truly grateful to live in a day when a living prophet of God walks the earth.
This week The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced that President Thomas S. Monson will not attend General Conference this weekend due to problems with old age. I am saddened at this news but not surprised because I know that he is 90 years old and have seen the effects of old age creeping up on him.
I know that he has curtailed his speaking assignments in the past few years. Whereas the prophet usually opens and closes the conference as well as give two longer talks, President Monson gave an abbreviated talk to the priesthood brethren and a short talk to the general membership in the past two conferences. I miss the opportunity to hear directly from the prophet.
In preparation for conference I listened to several talks given by President Monson in recent conferences. In the October 2016 General Conference, he first spoke to the priesthood brethren about the importance of living the Word of Wisdom.
In 1833 the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith a plan for healthy living. That plan is found in the 89th section of the Doctrine and Covenants and is known as the Word of Wisdom. It gives specific direction regarding the food we eat, and it prohibits the use of substances which are harmful to our bodies.
Those who are obedient to the Lord’s commandments and who faithfully observe the Word of Wisdom are promised particular blessings, among which are good health and added physical stamina….
Brethren, may we care for our bodies and our minds by observing the principles set forth in the Word of Wisdom, a divinely provided plan. With all my heart and soul, I testify of the glorious blessings which await us as we do.
The next morning President Monson spoke to the general membership of the Church on the topic of “The Perfect Path to Happiness.”
Our Father’s plan for our happiness and our salvation is shared by our missionaries throughout the world. Not all who hear this divine message accept and embrace it. However, men and women everywhere … recognize its truths, and they plant their feet on the path that will lead them safely home. Their lives are forever changed.
Essential to the plan is our Savior, Jesus Christ. Without His atoning sacrifice, all would be lost. It is not enough, however, merely to believe in Him and His mission. We need to work and learn, search and pray, repent and improve. We need to know God’s laws and live them. We need to receive His saving ordinances. Only by so doing will we obtain true, eternal happiness.
We are blessed to have the truth. We have a mandate to share the truth. Let us live the truth, that we might merit all that the Father has for us. He does nothing save it be for our benefit. He has told us, “This is my work and my glory – to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).
From the depths of my soul and in all humility, I testify of the great gift which is
our Father’s plan for us. It is the one perfect path to peace and happiness both here and in the world to come.
In the April 2017 General Conference President Monson spoke to the priesthood brethren about the importance of having “Kindness, Charity, and Love.” He quotes Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as saying, “Kindness is the essence of a celestial life. Kindness is how a Christlike person treats others. Kindness should permeate all of our words and actions … especially in our homes. Jesus, our Savior, was the epitome of kindness and compassion….” Then President Monson says following.
The scriptures teach us that the righteous exercise of the priesthood is dependent upon our living the principles of kindness, charity, and love….
Brethren, let us examine our lives and determine to follow the Savior’s example by being kind, loving, and charitable. And as we do so, we will be in a better position to call down the powers of heaven for ourselves, for our families, and for our fellow travelers in this sometimes difficult journey back to our heavenly home.
The next morning President Monson also spoke to the general membership of the Church on the topic “The Power of the Book of Mormon.” He gave some powerful counsel in his short address.
This morning I speak about the power of the Book of Mormon and the critical need we have as members of this Church to study, ponder, and apply its teachings in our lives. The importance of having a firm and sure testimony of the Book of Mormon cannot be overstated.
We live in a time of great trouble and wickedness. What will protect us from the sin and evil so prevalent in the world today? I maintain that a strong testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of His gospel will help see us through to safety. If you are not reading the Book of Mormon each day, please do so. If you will read it prayerfully and with a sincere desire to know the truth, the Holy Ghost will manifest its truth to you. If it is true – and I solemnly testify that it is – then Joseph Smith was a prophet who saw God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
Because the Book of Mormon is true, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s Church on the earth, and the holy priesthood of God has been restored for the benefit and blessing of His children.
If you do not have a firm testimony of these things, do that which is necessary to obtain one. It is essential for you to have your own testimony in these difficult times, for the testimonies of others will carry you only so far. However, once obtained, a testimony needs to be kept vital and alive through continued obedience to the commandments of God and through daily prayer and scripture study.
As I am writing this post before General Conference starts in a day or so, I do not know if President Monson has prepared remarks to be read by someone else. However, I discovered that he prepared the First Presidency message in the September 2017 Ensign titled “Prophets to Guide Us.” In his article he first shares an experience of sitting in the Salt Lake Temple and gazing on the portraits of his “predecessors – from the Prophet Joseph Smith (1805-44) to President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008) – I thought, `How grateful I am for the guidance of each one.’” He proceeds to share what he learned from each of his predecessors and then adds the following.
The Savior sends prophets because He loves us. During general conference this October, the General Authorities of the Church will again have the privilege of sharing His word. We approach this responsibility with great solemnity and humility.
How blessed we are that the restored Church of Jesus Christ is upon the earth and that the Church is founded upon the rock of revelation. Continuous revelation is the very lifeblood of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
May we prepare to receive the personal revelation that comes in abundance during general conference. May our hearts be filled with deep determination as we raise our hands to sustain living prophets and apostles. May we be enlightened, uplifted, comforted, and strengthened as we listen to their messages. And may we be ready to recommit ourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ – His gospel and His work – and to live with renewed resolve in keeping His commandments and carrying out His will.
The four talks and the First Presidency message referenced above contain the counsel of the living Prophet of the Lord on earth today. He gives the counsel that he believes to be most important for us to know right now. That counsel is: (1) Follow the teachings of the prophets; (2) Study the Book of Mormon to gain your own testimony of Jesus Christ and His gospel; (3) Be kind, loving, and charitable; (4) Live and share the truth of the Father’s plan for our happiness, and (5) Live the Word of Wisdom.
I thank God for the great blessing of living in a day when there are living prophets to lead and guide us in the ways of the Lord. I thank God for President Monson and the counsel he has given over the past year. I am grateful to know that he represents Heavenly Father and that his greatest desire to give me the counsel that I need to prepare to return to the presence of God. I know that President Monson is a prophet. “I thank thee, O God, for a prophet!”