The message to the entire world from the Christian leaders in the beginning of 1820 was that the Heaven’s were closed, that God no longer speaks to man, and that everything necessary for salvation in the Kingdom of God was recorded in the Bible. But in the spring of 1820 all that changed. The young boy prophet Joseph Smith could declare to the world not with an eye of faith but with certain knowledge that the Heaven’s were open again. That God speaks to man with a message of great peace, happiness, joy, and salvation.
“Throughout history, God has chosen prophets, such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, and others, to teach the gospel and direct His Church (Amos 3:7). It is no different today. But that leads to these questions.” (Mormon.org FAQ) Why do we need a prophet and what are their roles in our lives?
The first answer comes from the very familiar analogy of the watchman on the tower. In ancient Israel the Lord of the Vineyard would protect his precious fruit against raiders by commanding that hedges and walls be built round about His vineyard and that a watchman be set upon a tower to sound the voice of warning while the enemy was yet afar off. The elevated view of the watchman allowed him to see what others couldn’t and protect the vineyard from the onslaught of danger. The Lord of the vineyard is Jesus Christ and the watchman on the tower is the prophet. I find it interesting that the warnings given by the watchman on the tower were given when the enemy was far away. The watchman gave plenty of opportunity to prepare, just like the prophet who may warn of danger that is yet to come in the future and gives us the time we need to prepare if we head his warning.
“We all need God’s guidance and warnings in a world that is sometimes confusing. Because God loves His children, He continues to send living prophets. Joseph Smith was the first prophet of our time. Thomas S. Monson is God’s chosen prophet today. Just as God led the Israelites out of slavery and to a better place through His prophet Moses, He leads His children today into happier, more peaceful lives when they choose to follow His living prophet.” (Mormon.org FAQ)
President Eyering said, “There seems to be no end to the Savior’s desire to lead us to safety and there is constancy in the way He shows us the path. He calls by more than one means so that there will be more willing to accept it and those means always include sending the message by the mouths of His prophets whenever people have qualified to have a prophet among them. Those authorized servants are always charged with warning the people; telling them the way of safety.”
The second answer is found in Mosiah 3:13,“And the Lord God hath sent his holy prophets among all the children of men, to declare these things to every kindred, nation, and tongue, that thereby whosoever should believe that Christ should come, the same might receive remission of their sins, and rejoice with exceedingly great joy, even as though he had already come among them”
The fundamental responsibility of a prophet is to bear testimony of our Savior Jesus Christ to all the world. A Prophet serves under the direction of the living Christ; He is the cornerstone of our religion and through Him the way to our salvation. It would only make sense that a Prophet of God would testify of Him. “This basic call to be a special witness of His name has remained constant whenever…[Prophets]…have been on the earth. This testimony, borne of the Holy Ghost through revelation, was the heart of the New Testament Church and is the heart of the Church today.” (Dennis B. Neuenschwander, October 2000 Living Prophets, Seers, and Revelators)
The third answer is similar to first in that they both go hand in hand. In the October 2004 General Conference Jeffrey R. Holland gave this wonderful explanation of the Prophet’s role he said, “Among other reasons, so ‘that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.’…Thus the…prophetic foundation of the Church was to bless in all times, but especially in times of adversity or danger, times when we might feel like children, confused or disoriented, perhaps a little fearful, times in which the devious hand of men or the maliciousness of the devil would attempt to unsettle or mislead. Against such times as come in our modern day, the First Presidency and Quorum of the twelve are commissioned by God and sustained by [us] as prophets, seers, and revelators, with the President of the Church sustained as the prophet, seer, and revelator, the senior Apostle, and as such the only man authorized to exercise all of the revelatory and administrative keys for the Church. In New Testament times, in Book of Mormon times, and in modern times these officers form the foundation stones of the true Church, positioned around and gaining their strength from the chief cornerstone, ‘the rock of our Redeemer, who is [Jesus] Christ, the Son of God.’ He who is the great ‘Apostle and High Priest of our profession’… Such a foundation in Christ was and is always to be a protection in days “when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you.” In such days as we are now in – and will more or less always be in – the storms of life “shall have no power over you…because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.”
The fourth and final answer is one that is very important in our religion, if not one of the very foundations. “Elder John Taylor, a young English immigrant to this country, was called to be an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, a prophet, a seer, a revelator. In that calling Elder Taylor once said in sympathy with honest seekers of truth: “Whoever heard of true religion without communication with God? To me the thing is the most absurd that the human mind could conceive of… I do not wonder that so many men treat religion with contempt, and regard it as something not worth the attention of intelligent beings, for without revelation religion is a mockery and a farce…The principle of present revelation…is the very foundation of our religion.”
Jeffrey R. Holland said, “ The principle of present revelation? The very foundation of our religion? Let me return from those foundations to the present, the here and now… For one and all…the issue is still the same. Are the heavens open? Does God reveal His will to prophets and apostles as in days of old? That they are and that He does is the unflinching declaration of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to all the world. And in that declaration lies the significance of Joseph Smith, the Prophet, for nearly 200 years now.”
At one point in my life my family and I lived in an area in California that was a little scary. For a year while our home was being built in Orem, we lived in an apartment complex with little backyards connected to one another. The only thing that separated one backyard from the next was a wooden fence. This fence ran between our backyards and a parking lot on the other side. One night my family was away and I was alone. As I was cleaning up a little and getting ready for bed I remembered I had left something outside in the yard that I needed to retrieve. Before I could go outside I remember getting the very distinct and strong impression that I should not go outside. At first I thought I was just getting scared and overreacting because I was alone, it was dark outside, and we lived in a scary place, but then the prompting came again strong and clear so I decided I to head the warning. That night when my dad got home I learned that an angry drunkard was hanging out in the parking lot and that eventually the police came to pick him up.
The reason I bring up this story is because the Holy Ghost and the Prophet are very similar. Though in this moment in my life I received this prompting from the Holy Ghost it can be compared to the times we are heeded by the Prophet. If we listen to the Prophet and act upon his words I know that we will be protected and blessed just as I was protected and just as the people below the watchman on the tower were protected.
I love the Prophet. He testifies of Christ, guides in times of turmoil, warns of dangers ahead, watches over, protects, and is a mouthpiece of the Lord. The message that I will take to the people in Georgia is that the heavens are opened; that God speaks to man again through His chosen prophet; that the full power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ can once again be activated in the lives of all people through Priesthood authority, ordinances, and the making and keeping of sacred covenants; that these greatest of all blessings and privileges are once again available to all mankind. In these final times of the world’s history, the great ‘Plan of Happiness’ that gives hope, understanding, reveals hidden pearls of truth and extends unlimited possibilities to individuals and families, will never again be taken from the Earth. As Elder Holland observed, “Later, the incomparable Ralph Waldo Emerson rocked the very foundations of New England ecclesiastical orthodoxy when he said to the Divinity School at Harvard: “It is my duty to say to you that the need was never greater [for] new revelation than now.” “The doctrine of inspiration is lost…Miracles, prophecy…the holy life, exist as ancient history [only]…Men have come to speak of…revelation as somewhat long ago given and done, as if God were dead…It is the office of a true teacher,” he warned, “to show us that God is, not was; that He speaketh, not spake.” In essence, Mr. Emerson was saying, “If you persist in handing out stones when people ask for break, they will eventually stop coming to the bakery.” I know that God is our Father in Heaven and that His Son Jesus Christ, our Savior, lives. They love you and me. This along with other knowledge has brought much peace and happiness to my life. This message is one of joy, peace, and happiness and I can’t wait to share it with the people of Georgia. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.