My Come, Follow Me studies for this week took me to the Sermon on the Mount once again in Matthew 6-7. The lesson was titled “He Taught Them as One Having Authority” and was introduced with this information.
When we read the scriptures with a question in mind and with a sincere desire to understand what Heavenly Father wants us to know, we invite the Holy Ghost to inspire us. As you read Matthew 6-7, pay attention to these impressions.
The Sermon on the Mount is one of the best-known discourses in Christianity. The Savior taught with rich images, such as a city set on a hill, lilies of the field, and wolves disguised as sheep. But the Sermon on the Mount is far more than a beautiful speech.
The power of the Savior’s teachings to His disciples can change our lives, especially when we live by them. Then His words become more than words; they become a sure foundation for life that, like the wise man’s house, can withstand the world’s winds and floods (see Matthew 7:24-25).
The Sermon on the Mount contains many principles that deserve to be discussed. However, I feel prompted to discuss one from the Sunday School lesson manual. The principle is found in Matthew 7:15-20 “We can identify true and false prophets by their fruits.”
15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
In the above verses, the Lord gave His test for discerning true prophets from false prophets. It is interesting that this teaching came at a time when the Savior Himself was being called a false prophet who was performing miracles and healing people by the power of the devil.
The Savior acknowledged that there would be imposters who would claim to be His authorized representatives. He said that false prophets would come in sheep’s clothing with their own agenda to fulfill. He told His followers to look for the “fruits” from anyone who claims to represent Christ because corrupt trees cannot bring forth good fruit.
The Savior taught that “good trees” bring forth “good fruits,” but “corrupt trees” bring forth “evil fruit” (Mathew 7:17-19). We know that Jesus Christ was a true prophet because we know the “fruits” that He brought forth. He went about doing good, casting out devils, healing people, and teaching good principles.
We also know that Heavenly Father testified of Jesus’ divine nature and calling. At the baptism of Jesus Christ, those present heard the Father’s voice declare from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). On the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter, James, and John heard the Father proclaim, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Matthew 17:5).
In a similar manner, Jesus Christ testified of the divine calling of Joseph Smith. “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” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:17).
At another time, the Lord said, “I, the Lord, am God, and have given these things unto you, my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and have commanded you that you should stand as a witness of these things; … For hereafter you shall be ordained and go forth and deliver my words unto the children of men…. But this generation shall have my word through you” (Doctrine and Covenants 5:2, 6, 10).
Joseph Smith declared that he was God’s prophet and was doing the work of the Lord. Elder Dean L. Larsen, then a member of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy declared that the “fruits of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ are the real test of Joseph and his work.” “By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them” (churchofjesuschrist.org)
Among these fruits which are easily available for assessment today are the scriptures that came from his efforts. These, of course, include the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. They are tangible fruits that cannot be displaced by all of the commentary of those who have an interest in reconstructing history. They contain the revelations of God. The value of the eternal principles which they propound can be tested by daily application….
Those who receive the gospel are expected to manifest its fruits in their lives, not only for their own benefit and blessing, but for the purpose of drawing others to the truth.
This does not suggest that all who are obedient to the principles of truth will be free of all earthly cares and concerns, for all are tested. But those who are compliant with the Lord’s plan of life will be able to meet the tests and not be overcome. They will endure. I significant ways their lives will manifest the fruits of the gospel and set them apart as a beacon to all who are seeking for light and truth.
I testify that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. He was an instrument in the hands of the Lord to reestablish the true Church of Jesus Christ upon the earth. His church teaches His plan for bringing eternal happiness and exaltation to as many of the children of Heavenly Father who will accept and live His gospel.
I also testify that those who succeeded Joseph Smith as prophets of Jesus Christ have been men who were chosen and given power and authority to accomplish the work of the Lord. I testify that today President Russell M. Nelson is the Lord’s prophet on the earth today.