Following the Brethren
Speeches By Mormon Apostles
Ezra Taft Benson
Bruce R. McConkie
On February 24, 1980 the Salt Lake Tribune carried a full-page ad concerning our new book, THE CHANGING WORLD OF MORMONISM. In this ad we demonstrated that many important changes have been made in Mormon doctrine. Two days after this was published, Ezra Taft Benson, who is President of the Council of the Twelve Apostles and next in line to lead the Mormon Church, spoke at Brigham Young University. In this speech he claimed that the "Living Prophet" is "More Vital to Us Than The Standard Works" i.e., the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price. He went on to warn: "Beware of those who would pit the dead prophets against the living prophets, for the living prophets always take precedence." Using this type of reasoning a Mormon could set aside the teachings of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young when they disagree with the "Living Prophet."
It would appear from President Benson's speech that he wants his people to allow the "Living Prophet" to do their thinking in temporal as well as spiritual matters. This is reminiscent of the ward teachers message for June, 1945:
"Any Latter-day Saint who denounces or opposes, whether actively or otherwise, any plan or doctrine advocated by the 'prophets, seers, and revelators' of the Church is cultivating the spirit of apostasy....Lucifer...wins a great victory when he can get members of the Church to speak against their leaders and to 'do their own thinking.'...
"When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a planit is God's plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give direction, it should mark the end of controversy (Improvement Era, June 1945, p. 354).
Ezra Taft Benson's speech has caused great consternation among Mormons who want to "do their own thinking." One thing they really fear is his attempt to mix politics with religion. He indicates that the Prophet has a right to dictate to his people on political matters and even to "lead them in government. Alma was the head of the Church and of the government in the Book of Mormon; Joseph Smith was mayor of Nauvoo and Brigham Young was governor of Utah.... Those who would remove prophets from politics would take God out of government." Those who know of President Benson's previous attempts to involve the Church in politics realize the danger that lies ahead if he should become the "Living Prophet." This is a very real possibility because Spencer W. Kimball, the present leader, is four years older than Benson and now in poor health. [Web-editor note: Benson was President from Nov. 10, 1985May 30, 1994.]
The other speech printed in this booklet was given by Bruce R. McConkie of the Council of the Twelve. Apostle McConkie had previously maintained that the anti-black doctrine, which denied blacks the right to the priesthood, could not be changed. In this speech McConkie admonished his people to "Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsover has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding, and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world."
The reasoning used by Apostle McConkie reminds one of that used by President Benson. They both want us to forget the past and trust in an "arm of flesh." This is the very thing the Bible warns against:
"Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord." (Jeremiah 17:5)
FOURTEEN FUNDAMENTALS IN
FOLLOWING THE PROPHETS
By President Ezra Taft Benson
BYU Devotional Assembly
Tuesday, February 26, 1980, 10:00 a.m.
My beloved brothers and sisters. I am honored to be in your presence today. You students are a part of a choice young generation--a generation which might well witness the return of our Lord.
Not only is the Church growing in numbers today, it is growing in faithfulness and, even more important, our young generation, as a group, is even more faithful than the older generation. God has reserved you for the eleventh hour--the great and dreadful day of the Lord. It will be your responsibility not only to help bear off the kingdom of God triumphantly but to save your own soul and strive to save those of your family and to honor the principles of our inspired constitution.
To help you pass the crucial tests which lie ahead I am going to give you today several facets of a grand key which, if you will honor, will crown you with God's glory and bring you out victorious in spite of Satan's fury.
Soon we will be honoring our Prophet on his 85th birthday. As a Church we sing the song, "We Thank Thee, Oh God, For A Prophet." Here then is the grand key--Follow The Prophet--and here now are Fourteen Fundamentals In Following the Prophet, the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
FIRST: The Prophet is the Only Man Who Speaks For The Lord in Everything.
In Section 132 verse 7 of the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord speaks of the Prophet--the President--and says:
"There is never but one on the earth at a time on whom this power and the keys of this priesthood are conferred."
Then in Section 21 verses 4-6, the Lord states:
"Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;
"For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.
"For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you."
Did you hear what the Lord said about the words of the Prophet? We are to "give heed unto all his words"--as if from the Lord's "own mouth."
SECOND: The Living Prophet is More Vital to Us Than The Standard Works.
President Wilford Woodruff tells of an interesting incident that occurred in the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith:
"I will refer to a certain meeting I attended in the town of Kirtland in my early days. At that meeting some remarks were made that have been made here today, with regard to the living oracles and with regard to the written word of God. The same principle was presented, although not as extensively as it has been here, when a leading man in the Church got up and talked upon the subject, and said: 'You have got the word of God before you here in the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants; you have the written word of God, and you who give revelations should give revelations according to those books, as what is written in those books is the word of God. We should confine ourselves to them.'
"When he concluded, Brother Joseph turned to Brother Brigham Young and said, 'Brother Brigham I want you to take the stand and tell us your views with regard to the living oracles and the written word of God.' Brother Brigham took the stand, and he took the Bible, and laid it down; he took the Book of Mormon, and laid it down; and he took the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and laid it down before him, and he said: 'There is the written word of God to us, concerning the work of God from the beginning of the world, almost, to our day. And now, said he, 'when compared with the living oracles those books are nothing to me; those books do not convey the word of God direct to us now, as do the words of a Prophet or a man bearing the Holy Priesthood in our day and generation. I would rather have the living oracles than all the writing in the books.' That was the course he pursued. When he was through, Brother Joseph said to the congregation; 'Brother Brigham has told you the word of the Lord, and he has told you the truth.'" (CR, October 1897 pp. 18-19.)
THIRD: The Living Prophet is More Important to Us Than a Dead Prophet.
The living prophet has the power of TNT. By that I mean "Today's News Today." God's revelations to Adam did not instruct Noah how to build the Ark. Noah needed his own revelation. Therefore the most important prophet so far as you and I are concerned is the one living in our day and age to whom the Lord is currently revealing. His will for us. Therefore the most important reading we can do is any of the words of the Prophet each week in the Church Section of the Deseret News, and any words of the Prophet contained each month in our Church magazines. Our marching orders for each six months are found in the General Conference addresses which are printed in the Ensign magazine.
I am so grateful that the current conference report is studied as part of one of your religion classes--the course entitled "Teachings of the Living Prophets" number 333.
May I commend that class to you and suggest that you get a copy of the class manual at your bookstore whether you're able to take the class or not. The manual is entitled "Living Prophets For A Living Church" for Religion Course number 333.
Beware of those who would pit the dead prophets against the living prophets, for the living prophets always take precedence.
FOURTH: The Prophet Will Never Lead The Church Astray.
President Wilford Woodruff stated:
"I say to Israel, the Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of the Church to lead you astray. It is not in the program. It is not in the mind of God." (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, pp. 212-213.)
President Marion G. Romney tells of this incident which happened to him:
"I remember years ago when I was a Bishop I had President (Heber J.) Grant talk to our ward. After the meeting I drove him home . . . Standing by me, he put his arm over my shoulder and said: 'My boy, you always keep your eye on the President of the Church, and if he ever tells you to do anything, and it is wrong, and you do it, the Lord will bless you for it.' Then with a twinkle in his eye, he said, 'But you don't need to worry. The Lord will never let his mouthpiece lead the people astray.'" (CR, October 1960, p. 78.)
FIFTH: The Prophet is Not Required to Have Any Particular Earthly Training or Credentials to Speak on Any Subject or Act on Any Matter at Any Time.
Sometimes there are those who feel their earthly knowledge on a certain subject is superior to the heavenly knowledge which God gives to His Prophet on the same subject. They feel the prophet must have the same earthly credentials or training which they have had before they will accept anything the prophet has to say that might contradict their earthly schooling. How much earthly schooling did Joseph Smith have? Yet he gave revelations on all kinds of subjects. We haven't yet had a prophet who earned a doctorate degree in any subject, but as someone said, "A prophet may not have his PhD but he certainly has his LDS." We encourage earthly knowledge in many areas, but remember if there is ever a conflict between earthly knowledge and the words of the prophet, you stand with the prophet and you'll be blessed and time will vindicate you.
SIXTH: The Prophet Does Not Have to Say "Thus Saith the Lord" to Give Us Scripture.
Sometimes there are those who haggle over words. They might say the prophet gave us counsel but that we are not obligated to follow it unless he says it is a commandment. But the Lord says of the Prophet, "Thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you." (D&C 21:4.)
And speaking of taking counsel from the Prophet, in D&C 108:1, the Lord states:
"Verily thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant Lyman: Your sins are forgiven you, because you have obeyed my voice in coming up hither this morning to receive counsel of him whom I have appointed."
Said Brigham Young, "I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they may not call scripture." (JD 13:95.)
SEVENTH: The Prophet Tells Us What We Need to Know, Not Always What We Want to Know.
"Thou hast declared unto us hard things, more than we are able to bear," complained Nephi's brethren. But Nephi answered by saying ". . . the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center." (1 Nephi 16:1, 3.) Or to put it in another prophet's words, "Hit pigeons flutter."
Said President Harold B. Lee:
"You may not like what comes from the authority of the Church. It may contradict your political views. It may contradict your social views. It may interfere with some of your social life. . . Your safety and ours depends upon whether or not we follow. . . Let's keep our eye on the President of the Church." (CR, October 1970, p. 152-153.)
But it is the living Prophet who really upsets the world. "Even in the Church," said President Kimball, "many are prone to garnish the sepulchres of yesterdays prophets and mentally stone the living ones." (Instructor 95:257.)
Why? Because the living prophet gets at what we need to know now, and the world prefers that prophets either be dead or mind their own business. Some so-called experts of political science want the prophet to keep still on politics. Some would-be authorities on evolution want the prophet to keep still on evolution. And so the list goes on and on.
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.
Said President Marion G. Romney, "It is an easy thing to believe in the dead prophets, but it is a greater thing to believe in the living prophets." And then he gives this illustration:
"One day when President Grant was living, I sat in my office across the street following a general conference. A man came over to see me, an elderly man. He was very upset about what had been said in this conference by some of the Brethren, including myself. I could tell from his speech that he came from a foreign land. After I had quieted him enough so he would listen, I said, 'Why did you come to America?' 'I am here because a prophet of God told me to come.' 'Who was the prophet;' I continued. 'Wilford Woodruff.' 'Do you believe Wilford Woodruff was a prophet of God?' 'Yes, I do.' 'Do you believe that President Joseph F. Smith was a prophet of God?' 'Yes, sir.'
"Then came the sixty-four dollar question. 'Do you believe that Heber J. Grant is a prophet of God?' His answer, 'I think he ought to keep his mouth shut about old age assistance.'
"Now I tell you that a man in his position is on the way to apostasy. He is forfeiting his chances for eternal life. So is everyone who cannot follow the living Prophet of God." (CR, April 1953, p. 125.)
EIGHTH: The Prophet is Not Limited by Mens Reasoning.
There will be times when you will have to choose between the revelations of God and reasoning of men--between the prophet and the politician or professor. Said the Prophet Joseph Smith,
"Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof until long after the events transpire." (Scrapbook of Mormon Literature, Vol. 2, p. 173.)
Would it seem reasonable to an eye doctor to be told to heal a blind man by spitting in the dirt, making clay and applying it to the man's eyes and then telling him to wash in a contaminated pool? Yet this is precisely the course that Jesus took with one man, and he was healed. (See John 9:6-7.) Does it seem reasonable to cure leprosy by telling a man to wash seven times 15 in a particular river, yet this is precisely what the Prophet Elisha told a leper to do, and he was healed. (See 2 Kings 5.)
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8, 9.)
NINTH: The Prophet Can Receive Revelation on Any Matter--Temporal or Spiritual.
Said Brigham Young:
"Some of the leading men in Kirtland were much opposed to Joseph the Prophet, meddling with temporal affairs. . .
"In a public meeting of the Saints, I said, 'Ye Elders of Israel, . . . will some of you draw the line of demarcation, between the spiritual and temporal in the Kingdom of God, so that I may understand it?' Not one of them could do it. . .
"I defy any man on earth to point out the path a Prophet of God should walk in, or point out his duty, and just how far he must go, in dictating temporal or spiritual things. Temporal and spiritual things are inseparably connected, and ever will be." (JD 10:363-364.)
TENTH: The Prophet May be Involved in Civic Matters.
When a people are righteous they want the best to lead them in government. Alma was the head of the Church and of the government in the Book of Mormon; Joseph Smith was mayor of Nauvoo and Brigham Young was governor of Utah. Isaiah was deeply involved in giving counsel on political matters and of his words the Lord Himself said, "Great are the words of Isaiah." (3 Nephi 23:1.) Those who would remove prophets from politics would take God out of government.
ELEVENTH: The Two Groups Who Have The Greatest Difficulty in Following The Prophet Are The Proud Who Are Learned And The Proud Who Are Rich.
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. The rich may feel they have no need to take counsel of a lowly prophet.
In the Book of Mormon we read:
"O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish."
"But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God."
"And whoso knocketh, to him will he open; and the wise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their riches--yea, they are they whom he despiseth; and save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them." (2 Nephi 9:28, 29, 42.)
TWELFTH: The Prophet Will Not Necessarily be Popular With The World or The Worldly.
As a prophet reveals the truth it divides the people. 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.
THIRTEENTH: The Prophet And His Counselors Make Up The First Presidency--The Highest Quorum in The Church.
In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord refers to the First Presidency as "the highest council of the Church" (107:80) and says ". . . whosoever receiveth me, receiveth those, the First Presidency, whom I have sent, . . ." (112:20.)
FOURTEENTH: The Prophet And The Presidency--The Living Prophet And The First Presidency--Follow Them And Be Blessed--Reject Them and Suffer.
President Harold B. Lee relates this incident from Church history:
"The story is told in the early days of the Church--particularly, I think, at Kirtland--where some of the leading brethren in the presiding councils of the Church met secretly and tried to scheme as to how they could get rid of the Prophet Joseph's leadership. They made the mistake of inviting Brigham Young to one of these secret meetings. He rebuked them, after he had heard the purpose of their meeting. This is part of what he said: 'You cannot destroy the appointment of a prophet of God, but you can cut the thread that binds you to the prophet of God, and sink yourselves to hell.'" (CR, April 1963, p. 81.)
In a general conference of the Church President N. Eldon Tanner stated:
"The Prophet spoke out clearly on Friday morning, telling us what our responsibilities are. . .
"A man said to me after that, 'You know, there are people in our state who believe in following the Prophet in everything they think is right, but when it is something they think isn't right, and it doesn't appeal to them, then that's different.' He said, 'Then they become their own prophet. They decide what the Lord wants and what the Lord doesn't want.'
"I thought how true, and how serious when we begin to choose which of the covenants, which of the commandments we will keep and follow. When we decide that there are some of them that we will not keep or follow, we are taking the law of the Lord into our own hands and become our own prophets, and believe me, we will be led astray, because we are false prophets to ourselves when we do not follow the Prophet of God. No, we should never discriminate between these commandments, as to those we should and should not keep." (CR, October 1966, p. 98.)
"Look to the Presidency and receive instruction," said the Prophet Joseph Smith. (Teachings of The Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 161.) But Almon Babbitt didn't, and in the Doctrine and Covenants section 124, verse 84, the Lord states:
"And with my servant Almon Babbitt, there are many things with which I am not pleased; behold, he aspireth to establish his counsel instead of the counsel which I have ordained, even that of the Presidency of my Church; . . ."
In conclusion let us summarize this grand key, these "Fourteen Fundamentals In Following the Prophet," for our salvation hangs on them.
FIRST: The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything.
SECOND: The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.
THIRD: The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.
FOURTH: The Prophet will never lead the Church astray.
FIFTH: The prophet is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time.
SIXTH: The prophet does not have to say "Thus Saith the Lord," to give us scripture.
SEVENTH: The prophet tells us what we need to know, not always what we want to know.
EIGHTH: The prophet is not limited by men's reasoning.
NINTH: The prophet can receive revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual.
TENTH: The prophet may be involved in civic matters.
ELEVENTH: The two groups who have the greatest difficulty in following the prophet are the proud who are learned and the proud who are rich.
TWELFTH: The prophet will not necessarily be popular with the world or the worldly.
THIRTEENTH: The prophet and his counselors make up the First Presidency--the highest quorum in the Church.
FOURTEENTH: The prophet and the presidency--the living prophet and the First Presidency--follow them and be blessed--reject them and suffer.
I testify that these fourteen fundamentals in following the living prophet are true. If we want to know how well we stand with the Lord then let us ask ourselves how well we stand with His mortal captain--how close do our lives harmonize with the words of the Lord's anointed--the living Prophet--President of the Church, and with the Quorum of the First Presidency.
May God bless us all to look to the Prophet and the Presidency in the critical and crucial days ahead is my prayer.
"ALL ARE ALIKE UNTO GOD"
by Elder Bruce R. McConkie
of the Council of the Twelve
I would like to say something about the new revelation relative to our taking the priesthood to those of all nations and races. "He [meaning Christ, who is the Lord God] inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Genthe." (2 Nephi 26:33.)
These words have now taken on a new meaning. We have caught a new vision of their true significance. This also applies to a great number of other passages in the revelations. Since the Lord gave this revelation on the priesthood, our understanding of many passages has expanded. Many of us never imagined or supposed that they had the extensive and broad meaning that they do have.
I shall give you a few impressions relative to what has happened, and then attemptif properly guided by the Spiritto indicate to you the great significance that this event has in the Church, in the world, and where the rolling forth of the great gospel is concerned.
The gospel goes to various peoples and nations on a priority basis. We were commanded in the early days of this dispensation to preach the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. Our revelations talk about its going to every creature. There was, of course, no possible way for us to do all of this in the beginning days of our dispensation, nor can we now, in the full sense.
And so, guided by inspiration, we began to go from one nation and one culture to another. Some day, in the providences of the Lord, we shall get into Red China and Russia and the Middle East, and so on, until eventually the gospel will have been preached everywhere, to all people; and this will occur before the second coming of the Son of Man.
Not only is the gospel to go, on a priority basis and harmonious to a divine timetable, to one nation after another, but the whole history of God's dealings with men on earth indicates that such has been the case in the past; it has been restricted and limited where many people are concerned. For instance, in the day between Moses and Christ, the gospel went to the house of Israel, almost exclusively. By the time of Jesus, the legal administrators and prophetic associates that he had were so fully indoctrinated with the concept of having the gospel go only to the house of Israel, that they were totally unable to envision the true significance of his proclamation that after the resurrection they should then go to all the world. They did not go to the genthe nations initially. In his own ministration, Jesus preached only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and had so commanded the Apostles (Matthew 10:6).
It is true that he made a few minor exceptions because of the faith and devotion of some genthe people. There was one woman who wanted to eat the crumbs that fell from the table of the children, causing him to say, "O woman, great is thy faith." (Matthew 15:28; see also Mark 7:27, 28.) With some minor exceptions, the gospel in that day went exclusively to Israel. The Lord had to give Peter the vision and revelation of the sheet coming down from heaven with the unclean meat on it, following which Cornelius sent the messenger to Peter to learn what he, Cornelius, and his genthe associates should do. The Lord commanded them that the gospel go to the genthes; and so it was. There was about a quarter of a century, then, in New Testament times, when there were extreme difficulties among the Saints. They were weighing and evaluating, struggling with the problem of whether the gospel was to go only to the house of Israel or whether it now went to all men. Could all men come to him on an equal basis with the seed of Abraham?
There have been these problems, and the Lord has permitted them to arise. There isn't any question about that. We do not envision the whole reason and purpose behind all of it; we can only suppose and reason that it is on the basis of preexistence and of our premortal devotion and faith.
You know this principle: God "hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him" (Acts 17:26, 27)meaning that there is an appointed time for successive nations and peoples and races and cultures to be offered the saving truths of the gospel. There are nations today to whom we have not gonenotably Red China and Russia. But you can rest assured that we will fulfill the requirement of taking the gospel to those nations before the second coming of the Son of Man.
And I have no hesitancy whatever in saying that before the Lord comes, in all those nations we will have congregations that are stable, secure, devoted, and sound. We will have stakes of Zion. We will have people who have progressed in spiritual things to the point where they have received all of the blessings of the house of the Lord. That is the destiny.
We have revelations that tell us that the gospel is to go to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people before the second coming of the Son of Man. And we have revelations which recite that when the Lord comes he will find those who speak every tongue and are members of every nation and kindred, who will be kings and priests, who will live and reign on earth with him a thousand years. That means, as you know, that people from all nations will have the blessings of the house of the Lord before the Second Coming.
We have read these passages and their associated passages for many years. We have seen what the words say and have said to ourselves, "Yes, it says that, but we must read out of it the taking of the gospel and the blessings of the temple to the Negro people, because they are denied certain things." There are statements in our literature by the early brethren which we have interpreted to mean that the Negroes would not receive the priesthood in mortality. I have said the same things, and people write me letters and say, "You said such and such, and how is it now that we do such and such?" And all I can say to that is that it is time disbelieving people repented and got in line and believed in a living, modern prophet. Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsover has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world.
Ww get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have now had added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don't matter any more.
It doesn't make a particle of difference what anybody ever said about the Negro matter before the first day of June of this year (1978). It is a new day and a new arrangement, and the Lord has now given the revelation that sheds light out into the world on this subject. As to any slivers of light or any particles of darkness of the past, we forget about them. We now do what meridian Israel did when the Lord said the gospel should go to the genthes. We forget all the statements that limited the gospel to the house of Israel, and we start going to the genthes.
Obviously, the Brethren have had a great anxiety and concern about this problem for a long period of time, and President Spencer W. Kimball has been exercised and has sought the Lord in faith. When we seek the Lord on a matter, with sufficient faith and devotion, he gives us an answer. You will recall that the Book of Mormon teaches that if the Apostles in Jerusalem had asked the Lord, he would have told them about the Nephites. But they didn't ask, and they didn't manifest the faith; and they didn't get an answer. One underlying reason for what happened to us is that the Brethren asked in faith; they petitioned and desired and wanted an answerPresident Kimball in particular. And the other underlying principle is that in the eternal providences of the Lord, the time had come for extending the gospel to a race and a culture to whom it had previously been denied, at least as far as all of its blessings are concerned. So it was a matter of faith and righteousness and seeking on the one hand, and it was a matter of the divine timetable on the other hand. The time had arrived when the gospel, with all its blessings and obligations, should go to the Negro.
Well, in that setting, on the first day of June in this year, 1978, the First Presidency and the Twelve, after full discussion of the proposition and all the premises and principles that are involved, importuned the Lord for a revelation. President Kimball was mouth, and he prayed with great faith and great fervor; this was one of those occasions when an inspired prayer was offered. You know the Doctrine and Covenants statement, that if we pray by the power of the Spirit we will receive answers to our prayers and it will be given us what we shall ask (D&C 50:30). It was given President Kimball what he should ask. He prayed by the power of the Spirit, and there was perfect unity, total and complete harmony, between the Presidency and the Twelve on the issue involved.
And when President Kimball finished his prayer, the Lord gave a revelation by the power of the Holy Ghost. Revelation primarily comes by the power of the Holy Ghost. Always that member of the Godhead is involved. But most revelations, from the beginning to now, have come in that way. There have been revelations given in various ways on other occasions. The Father and the Son appeared in the Sacred Grove. Moroni, an angel from heaven, came relative to the Book of Mormon and the plates and relative to instructing the Prophet in the affairs that were destined to occur in this dispensation. There have been visions, notably the vision of the degrees of glory. There may be an infinite number of ways that God can ordain that revelations come. But, primarily, revelation comes by the power of the Holy Ghost. The principle is set forth in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 68, that whatever the elders of the Church speak, when moved upon by the power of the Holy Ghost, shall be scripture, shall be the mind and will and voice of the Lord.
On this occasion, because of the importuning and the faith, and because the hour and the time had arrived, the Lord in his providences poured out the Holy Ghost upon the First Presidency and the Twelve in a miraculous and marvelous manner, beyond anything that any then present had ever experienced. The revelation came to the President of the Church; it also came to each individual present. There were ten members of the Council of the Twelve and three of the First Presidency there assembled. The result was that President Kimball knew, and each one of us knew, independent of any other person, by direct and personal revelation to us, that the time had now come to extend the gospel and all its blessings and all its obligations, including the priesthood and the blessings of the house of the Lord, to those of every nation, culture, and race, including the black race. There was no question whatsoever as to what happened or as to the word and message that came.
The revelation came to the President of the Church and, in harmony with Church government, was announced by him; the announcement was made eight days later over the signature of the First Presidency. But in this instance, in addition to the revelation coming to the man who would announce it to the Church and to the world, and who was sustained as the mouthpiece of God on earth, the revelation came to every member of the body that I have named. They all knew it in the temple.
In my judgment this was done by the Lord in this way because it was a revelation of such tremendous significance and import; one which would reverse the whole direction of the Church, procedurally and administratively; one which would affect the living and the dead; one which would affect the total relationship that we have with the world; one, I say, of such significance that the Lord wanted independent witnesses who could bear record that the thing had happened.
Now if President Kimball had received the revelation and had asked for a sustaining vote, obviously he would have received it and the revelation would have been announced. But the Lord chose this other course, in my judgment, because of the tremendous import and the eternal significance of what was being revealed. This affects our missionary work and all of our preaching to the world. This affects our genealogical research and all of our temple ordinances. This affects what is going on in the spirit world, because the gospel is preached in the spirit world preparatory to men's receiving the vicarious ordinances which make them heirs to salvation and exaltation. This is a revelation of tremendous significance.
The vision of the degrees of glory begins by saying "Hear, O ye heavens, and give ear, O earth." (D&C 76:1.) In other words, in that revelation the Lord was announcing truth to heaven and to earth because those principles of salvation operate on both sides of the veil; and salvation is administered to an extent here to men, and it is administered to another extent in the spirit world. We correlate and combine our activities and do certain things for the salvation of men while we are in mortality, and then certain things are done for the salvation of men while they are in the spirit world awaiting the day of the resurrection.
Well, once again a revelation was given that affects this sphere of activity and the sphere that is to come. And so it had tremendous significance; the eternal import was such that it came in the way it did. The Lord could have sent messengers from the other side to deliver it, but he did not. He gave the revelation by the power of the Holy Ghost. Latter-day Saints have a complex: many of them desire to magnify and build upon what has occurred, and they delight to think of miraculous things. And maybe some of them would like to believe that the Lord himself was there, or that the Prophet Joseph Smith came to deliver the revelation (see Time, 7 Aug. 1978, p. 55), which was one of the possibilities. Well, these things did not happen. The stories that go around to the contrary are not factual or realistic or true, and you as teachers in the Church Educational System will be in a position to explain and to tell your students that this thing came by the power of the Holy Ghost, and that all the Brethren involved, the thirteen who were present, are independent personal witnesses of the truth and divinity of what occurred.
There is no way to describe in language what is involved. This cannot be done. You are familiar with Book of Mormon references where the account says that no tongue could tell and no pen could write what was involved in the experience and that it had to be felt by the power of the Spirit. This was one of those occasions. To carnal people who do not understand the operating of the Holy Spirit of God upon the souls of man, this may sound like gibberish or jargon or uncertainty or ambiguity; but to those who are enlightened by the power of the Spirit and who have themselves felt its power, it will have a ring of veracity and truth, and they will know of its verity. I cannot describe in words what happened; I can only say that it happened and that it can be known and understood only by the feeling that can come into the heart of man. You cannot describe a testimony to someone. No one can really know what a testimony isthe feeling and the joy and the rejoicing and the happiness that comes into the heart of man when he gets oneexcept another person who has received a testimony. Some things can be known only by revelation, "The things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God." (1 Corinthians 2:11.)
This is a brief explanation of what was involved in this new revelation. I think, I can add that it is one of the signs of the times. It is something that had to occur before the Second Coming. It was something that was mandatory and imperative in order to enable us to fulfill all of the revelations that are involved, in order to spread the gospel in the way that the scriptures say it must spread before the Lord comes, in order for all of the blessing to come to all of the people, according to the promises. It is one of the signs of the times.
This revelation which came on the first day of June was reaffirmed by the spirit of inspiration one week later on June 8, when the Brethren approved the document that was to be announced to the world. And then it was reaffirmed the next day, on Friday, June 9, with all of the General Authorities present in the temple, that is, all who were available. All received the assurance and witness and confirmation by the power of the Spirit that what had occurred was the mind, the will, the intent, and the purpose of the Lord.
Well, this is a glorious day. This is a wondrous thing; the veil is thin. The Lord is not far distant from his church. He is not far removed.
President Kimball is a man of almost infinite spiritual capacitya tremendous spiritual giant. The Lord has magnified him beyond any understanding or expression and has given him His mind and His will on a great number of vital matters which have altered the course of the pastone of which is the organization of the First Quorum of the Seventy. As you know, the Church is being guided and led by the power of the Holy Ghost, and the Lord's hand is in it. There is no question whatever about that. And we are doing the right thing where this matter is concerned.
There has been a tremendous feeling of gratitude and thanksgiving in the hearts of members of the Church everywhere, with isolated exceptions. There are individuals who are out of harmony on this and on plural marriage and on other doctrines, but for all general purposes there has been universal acceptance; and everyone who has been in tune with the Spirit has known that the Lord spoke, and that his mind and his purposes are being manifest to the course the Church is pursuing. We have already called our first Negro elder. He has been assigned to serve in the Florida Ft. Lauderdale Mission. We have already called our first Negro sister, assigned to Brazil Rio de Janeiro Mission. This race and culture now is going to be one with us in bearing the burdens of the kingdom.
We talk about the scriptures being unfoldedread over again the parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20) and remind yourselves that those who labor through the heat of the day for twelve hours are going to be rewarded the same as those who came in at the third and the sixth and the eleventh hours. Well, it's the eleventh hour; it's the Saturday night of time. In this eleventh hour the Lord has given the blessings of the gospel to the last group of laborers in the vineyard. And when he metes out his rewards, when he makes his payments, according to the accounts and the scriptural statements, he will give the penny to all, whether it is for one hour or twelve hours of work. All are alike unto God, black and white, bond and free, male and female.
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