I broke a cardinal rule of writing an article by giving away the whole message in the title.
But that message is too important to not declare right away.
Let’s think about this logically, though. What good are prophets to you personally if you only follow them when you agree with what they are saying?
Prophets are seers. They see what we cannot. They are there to warn of things we don’t know are coming.
If I only choose to follow the guidance and direction of a prophet when I agree with him, why not just ditch the prophet altogether and lean on my own understanding?
The Book of Mormon teaches:
“But a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them, and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known.” – Mosiah 8:17
I know a man who works with a relative of President Nelson. Every once in a while, they’ll get to chatting and my friend will ask this man what the latest is with the prophet.
A few years ago, he told of an experience where the prophet and his family were gathered together around the holidays and President Nelson told his family that he “wished they could see what he sees.”
I realize that this anecdote is hearsay, but it aligns perfectly with the function of a prophet, seer, and revelator – which I testify that Russell M. Nelson is. They see hidden things, secret things, and reveal them to us. If they didn’t reveal them to us, they otherwise would not be known.
President Ezra Taft Benson said:
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. … The learned may feel the prophet is only inspired when he agrees with them, otherwise the prophet is just giving his opinion—speaking as a man.
Sister Wendy Nelson stated that ever since Russell M. Nelson became prophet he has become much more future-minded. And why not? He now wears the mantle of a seer.
Do we want a seer? Or do we want a prophet who just says things that are pleasing to our personal narratives and align with our false traditions and customs?
Some of our attitudes today are reminiscent of those in Isaiah’s time:
Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever:
That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord:
Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits:
Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.
“As a prophet reveals the truth it divides the people,” said Ezra Taft Benson. “The honest in heart heed his words but the unrighteous either ignore the prophet or fight him. When the prophet points out the sins of the world, the worldly either want to close the mouth of the prophet, or else act as if the prophet didn’t exist, rather than repent of their sins. Popularity is never a test of truth. Many a prophet has been killed or cast out. As we come closer to the Lord’s second coming you can expect that as the people of the world become more wicked, the prophet will be less popular with them.”
Henry B. Eyring wrote an article in the 1997 Ensign called, “Finding Safety in Counsel.” A portion of his article reads
When we reject the counsel which comes from God, we do not choose to be independent of outside influence. We choose another influence. We reject the protection of a perfectly loving, all-powerful, all-knowing Father in Heaven, whose whole purpose, as that of His Beloved Son, is to give us eternal life, to give us all that He has, and to bring us home again in families to the arms of His love. In rejecting His counsel, we choose the influence of another power, whose purpose is to make us miserable and whose motive is hatred. We have moral agency as a gift of God. Rather than the right to choose to be free of influence, it is the inalienable right to submit ourselves to whichever of those powers we choose.
Another fallacy is to believe that the choice to accept or not accept the counsel of prophets is no more than deciding whether to accept good advice and gain its benefits or to stay where we are. But the choice not to take prophetic counsel changes the very ground upon which we stand. It becomes more dangerous. The failure to take prophetic counsel lessens our power to take inspired counsel in the future. The best time to have decided to help Noah build the ark was the first time he asked. Each time he asked after that, each failure to respond would have lessened sensitivity to the Spirit. And so each time his request would have seemed more foolish, until the rain came. And then it was too late.
Every time in my life when I have chosen to delay following inspired counsel or decided that I was an exception, I came to know that I had put myself in harm’s way. Every time that I have listened to the counsel of prophets, felt it confirmed in prayer, and then followed it, I have found that I moved toward safety. Along the path, I have found that the way had been prepared for me and the rough places made smooth. God led me to safety along a path which was prepared with loving care, sometimes prepared long before.
When we trust in the prophets, we trust in the Lord. Please trust these good men who we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators – ESPECIALLY, when the things they counsel us to do may be hard for us to swallow.