Prophets or Evolution - An LDS Perspective

 

Chapter 8

 

Living Prophets

 

 

We should have gained sufficient experience by this time to realize that no man, no individual, no clique, and no secret organization can combine with force and power sufficient to overturn the purposes of the Almighty; or to change the course of His work.

Joseph F. Smith (2000-2001 Priesthood/R.S. Manual - page 114)

 

 

Introduction to Church Organization

 

The LDS church is led by two key quorums at the top of its hierarchy:

1) The First Presidency (3 members normally)

          President (i.e. President of the church)

          First Counselor in the First Presidency

          Second Counselor in the First Presidency

2) The Quorum of Twelve Apostles (12 members normally)

 

Each of these quorums has equal authority under certain circumstances (actually there is a third quorum of potential importance, the Presidency of the Seventy, but I will not talk about that quorum).

 

When the First Presidency is organized, then the President in the First Presidency presides over the whole church and the First Presidency is the highest quorum in the church.  It is higher than the Quorum of Twelve Apostles.

 

When the Savior was alive, He did not need counselors, but prophets do need counselors.

 

If the President of the church dies, then the First Presidency of the church is instantly dissolved and the two counselors are automatically put into the Quorum of Twelve Apostles in their order of seniority (seniority is determined by virtue of ordination date into the Quorum of Twelve Apostles) and the Quorum of Twelve Apostles presides over the church.

 

When the Quorum of Twelve Apostles is presiding over the church, the senior apostle in this quorum (i.e. the President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles) presides over the church; until such time as he reorganizes The First Presidency, with himself as President.

 

When reorganizing the First Presidency, any of the other apostles can be called to be one of his counselors in the First Presidency.

 

When the First Presidency is organized, the second senior apostle (the first senior apostle is the prophet) is automatically the President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, even if he is also a member of the First Presidency.

 

If the President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles is a member of the First Presidency (i.e. he is one of the counselors); then the most senior apostle who is not a member of the First Presidency has the title of "Acting President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles."

 

By looking at the succession of the church president, it should be clear that the senior apostle is always the President of the church and presides over the church.  The second senior apostle is always the President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles (if the First Presidency is organized).

 

New members of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles are chosen solely by the President of the church by revelation only he can receive.

 

Every president of the LDS church, since Brigham Young, has served in the Quorum of Twelve Apostles (which includes serving in the First Presidency as a counselor) for 30 years or more prior to becoming president of the church.  Thus, the President of the church always has many years of church leadership experience prior to becoming the president of the church and he is well known to the church.

 

When the President of the church dies; no member of the church who understands how the church is organized is confused for one second as to who is leading the church.  The President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, no matter which quorum he is in at the time of the prophet's death, immediately takes over the leadership of the church.

 

It can be seen that in the LDS church, there is never any campaigning by people to become top leaders in the church.  They are chosen as apostles by the President (i.e. he is frequently referred to simply as the "Prophet" because he alone has the authority to dictate church doctrine and policy).  Actually, even at the local level leaders are chosen by those in higher levels in the church.

 

The key to the stability and effectiveness of the leadership of the LDS church is that Christ Himself leads the church and the leaders make their decisions based on revelation given to them on the basis of their level of authority.

 

In other words, revelation from God is only given to the person in the proper level of church authority.  Only the prophet can receive revelation for the entire church, and this includes all church doctrine.

 

With this organization in mind, here are the prophets who have led this church since 1830:

 

1) Joseph Smith, Jr. (1805 - 1844)

          President: April 6, 1830 - June 27, 1844

 

2) Brigham Young (1801 - 1877)

          President: December 27, 1847 - August 29, 1877

 

3) John Taylor (1808 - 1887)

          President: October 10, 1880 - July 27, 1887

 

4) Wilford Woodruff (1807 - 1898)

          President: April 7, 1889 - September 2, 1898

 

5) Lorenzo Snow (1814 - 1901)

          President: September 13, 1898 - October 10, 1901

 

6) Joseph F. Smith (1838 - 1918)

          President: October 17, 1901 - November 19, 1918

 

7) Heber J. Grant (1856 - 1945)

          President: November 23, 1918 - May 14, 1945

 

8) George Albert Smith (1870 - 1951)

          President: May 21, 1945 - April 4, 1951

 

9) David O. McKay (1873 - 1970)

          President: April 9, 1951 - January 18, 1970

 

10) Joseph Fielding Smith (1876 - 1972)

          President: January 23, 1970 - July 2, 1972

 

11) Harold B. Lee (1899 - 1973)

          President: July 7, 1972 - December 26, 1973

 

12) Spencer W. Kimball (1895 - 1985)

          President: December 30, 1973 - November 5, 1985

 

13) Ezra Taft Benson (1899 - 1994)

          President: November 10, 1985 - May 30, 1994

 

14) Howard W. Hunter (1907 - 1995)

          President: June 5, 1994 - March 3, 1995

 

15) Gordon B. Hinckley (1910 - 2008)

          President: March 12, 1995 - January 27, 2008

 

16) Thomas S. Monson ( )

          President: February 4, 2008 - current

 

Note: As mentioned above, during the time between the death of each president of the church, and the reorganization of the First Presidency; the Quorum of Twelve Apostles presides over the church.

 

 

Prophesies

 

The living prophets in Biblical times made a lot of prophesies.  Making prophesies was not their primary purpose, however.  The primary purpose of living prophets is to tell the people living in their day the word of God and to keep the people of their day on the path to know and follow the true and living God.

 

Of course, in every generation, even in the generations of the Old Testament, people have had serious problems believing there is a "living prophet" in their day.

 

For example, in the days of Christ, the people had the Old Testament and they had living scholars.  Many people did not see a need for a living prophet because they had the dead prophets.  Aren't all prophets supposed to be dead?

 

In reality, God would always place a living prophet on the earth if there were enough people who would follow him.  Today, there are enough people and there is a nation which allows enough freedom of religion to have a living prophet.

 

Among the prophesies made in the days of the Bible, were prophesies that the day would come when there would not be a "living prophet" on the earth and there would be a famine on the earth of hearing the word of God from living prophets.

 

However, the famine of hearing the word of God was also prophesied to end; meaning the Biblical prophets knew the day would come when there would be new "living prophets" called after the drought of the word of God.  These new "living prophets" would be ordained prior to the Second Coming of the Savior.

 

For example, let us think about some of these prophesies.

 

  11 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:

  12 And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.

  13 In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst.

Amos 8:11-13

 

During the Dark Ages the people had the Bible (though they were not allowed to read it), but they did not have the "word of the LORD."  The word of the Lord can only come from living prophets, not scholars or politicians.

 

This famine of hearing the "words of the Lord" meant that there would be no living prophet on the earth.  While the description in this prophesy existed for a few hundred years prior to the birth of the Savior, during this time the Jews did have scribes and the Jews were still a unified people (i.e. they had not yet been dispersed).  It should be clear that the scripture in Amos is referring to a much greater apostasy than the time just before the birth of Christ.

 

Another evidence for this interpretation of Amos is that the prophet Paul, the apostle, made a similar prophesy as did Amos.  The prophesy of Paul places the fulfillment of the prophesy of Amos after the time of Paul.  Paul stated:

 

  1 Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him,

  2 That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand.

  3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;

  4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

  5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?

2 Thessalonians 2:1-5

 

Paul is prophesying that before the Second Coming of the Savior there would be a time when there were no living prophets on the earth.  In fact, he is prophesying that the "man of sin" would be exalted and would have great dominion on the earth.

 

The Savior himself was asked what the signs of the times of his Second Coming would be.  Here is part of His reply:

 

  4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.

  5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

  6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

  7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.

  8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.

  9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.

  10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.

  11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.

  12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.

  13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

  14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

Matthew 24:4-14  (see: Joseph Smith - Matthew in the Pearl of Great Price)

 

Not only is the Savior talking about a falling away, where there would be many wars, he also talks about the time when living prophets would once again be on the earth.  For example, in verse 14 He talks about the "gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world."  The true gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be preached unless the forces of Christ are led by living prophets who will insure the doctrines of the missionaries are correct.

 

The point is that the Bible clearly predicts not only a falling away (i.e. there would be no living prophets on the earth), but also a restoration of the gospel, which would require newly called living prophets and living apostles.

 

This restoration was not to be led by Bible scholars or reformers, though the reformers were clearly important in opening the minds of the people.  But the full restoration could only be led by a newly called living prophet.

 

 

Preparing the World For Living Prophets

 

While the "world" believes that there have been no living prophets since the days of the apostles in Jerusalem, and that there are no apostles today, the LDS church teaches a different doctrine.

 

In LDS doctrine, which is consistent with Bible doctrine, there was a Universal apostasy before the Second Coming of the Savior.  That apostasy included what we call the Dark Ages.

 

After the death of the apostles, chosen by the Savior during his lifetime, the priesthood of God was gone from the earth and the heavens were closed. Revelation from heaven ceased to enlighten men and women (except in the Americas for about 400 more years, then revelation ended in the Americas as well).

 

The world fell into the "Dark Ages," which were literally darkened by the absence of the light of revelation from God to his living prophets and living apostles. Corruption, superstition and false doctrine controlled the world (with a foundation set by the Nicene Creed).

 

In about the year 1500 A.D. God started the long 300 year process of preparing the world for new apostles and new light from heaven.  Early in this process the printing press was invented.  During the 16th and 17th centuries, the world experienced the Renaissance and Reformation, which started the process of unchaining the minds of the population from the deep corruption which had controlled the minds of the people for many centuries.

 

"There is no regularly constituted church on earth, nor any person authorized to administer any church ordinance; nor can there be until new apostles are sent by the Great Head of the Church for whose coming I am seeking."

Roger Williams, Picturesque America, p. 502

 

In the 18th century the "New World," America, was prepared as a free country with a constitution protecting freedom of religion. The brave and wise men who founded America were raised up by God to create a nation which was ruled by a government that did not create a religion or force their people to join any specific religious denomination.

 

"The religion builders have so distorted the doctrines of Jesus, so muffled them in mysticisms, fancies and falsehoods, have caricatured them into forms so inconceivable, as to shock reasonable thinkers ...  Happy in the prospect of a restoration of primitive Christianity, I must leave to younger persons to encounter and lop off the false branches which have been engrafted into it by the mythologists of the middle and modern ages."

Thomas Jefferson,

Jefferson's Complete Works, vol. 7. pp. 210 and 257

 

After literally 300 years of preparation, it was time for the heavens to be opened again and for the light of revelation to again be restored to the earth, this time never to be taken away again.

 

The words of Peter:

 

  20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:

  21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.

Acts 3:20-21 [Peter, the Apostle]

 

That opening of revelation, in the spring of 1820, did not occur with a minor incident, such as a dream; it occurred by a glorious personal appearance of God the Eternal Father, and his beloved Son Jesus Christ, to a prophet chosen and called long before his birth, named Joseph Smith (i.e. Joseph Smith, Jr.), in Palmyra, New York.

 

This glorious appearance, because it opened the heavens, never to be closed again, is called the "First Vision."

 

Joseph Smith was only 14 years old when this vision occurred.  Why was not the vision shown to a mature minister of the gospel?

 

First of all, Joseph Smith was chosen many thousands of years before he was born:

 

"It was decreed, in the counsels of eternity, long before the foundations of the earth were laid, that he [Joseph Smith, Jr.] should be the man, in the last dispensation of this world, to bring forth the word of God to the people, and receive the fulness (sic) of the keys and power of the Priesthood of the Son of God. The Lord had his eye upon him, and upon his father, and upon his father's father, and upon their progenitors clear back to Abraham, and from Abraham to the flood, from the flood to Enoch, and, from Enoch to Adam. He has watched that family and that blood as it has circulated from its fountain to the birth of that man. He was foreordained in eternity to preside over this last dispensation, ..." (emphasis added)

Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 7:289-290

 

See also: D&C 138:53.

 

So the question of who to call had already been decided many thousands of years before his birth.  The only question left was when and where to put him on the earth and at what age to call him.

 

 

The First Vision

 

The decision was made to call him in 1820, at the age of 14, in the state of New York.  It is certain that the First Vision occurred when Joseph was young so that his mind would not have been tainted by the false religious doctrines of his day regarding the nature of God and other issues.

 

In early 1820, Joseph Smith belonged to a family that had a long history of visions and other religious experiences.  Joseph was a descendant of John Lathrop, 1584-1653, a religious pioneer in England and then America.  Several other presidents of the LDS church were also descended from John Lathrop.

 

The Smith family in 1820, however, was divided in religion. Joseph had gone into a grove of trees by his father's farm to ask God which church to join. The result of that prayer is called "The First vision."

 

After beginning his prayer, and before the appearance of God the Father and the Savior, Joseph was first visited by a different power, the evil one.  This quote starts by reference to Joseph's attempts to escape the power of the evil one:

 

"But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.

 

It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them [Heavenly Father] spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!

 

My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.

 

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

 

This is how God opened a new dispensation of the gospel!!  The Savior now had a living prophet, called long before he was born (see Jeremiah 1:5), who was not indoctrinated by the learning and wisdom of men.  Joseph, over the next two and a half decades of his life, would be frequently taught by angels and by Christ Himself.

 

About 10 years after this vision, the Book of Mormon was published, a new church was organized and soon after the organization of the church, new living apostles were called to lead this new church.

 

Joseph actually received his authority to call new apostles by a visitation of Peter, James and John.  Prior to this visitation, Joseph had been visited by John the Baptist to restore the lesser priesthood.

 

Oliver Cowdery, a scribe of Joseph, was with Joseph during both of these visitations of ancient prophets.  Here is part of Oliver’s testimony regarding his involvement in the translation of the Book of Mormon and other early events in the church:

 

”These are days never to be forgotten—to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom! Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his (Joseph Smith's) mouth, as he translated with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites would have said, "Interpreters," the history or record called "The Book of Mormon."

. . .

After writing the account given of the Savior's ministry to the remnant of the seed of Jacob, upon this continent, it was easy to be seen, as the prophet said would be, that darkness covered the earth and gross darkness the minds of the people. On reflecting further it was easy to be seen, that amid the great strife and noise concerning religion, none had authority from God to administer the ordinances of the Gospel. For the question might be asked, have men authority to administer in the name of Christ, who deny revelations, when His testimony is no less than the spirit of prophecy, and His religion based, built, and sustained by immediate revelations in all ages of the world when He has had a people on earth? If these facts were buried, and carefully concealed by men whose craft would have been in danger if once permitted to shine in the faces of men, they were no longer to us; and we only waited for the commandment to be given, ’Arise and be baptized.’

. . .

This was not long desired before it was realized. The Lord, who is rich in mercy, and ever willing to answer the consistent prayer of the humble, after we had called upon Him in a fervent manner, aside from the abodes of men, condescended to manifest to us His will. On a sudden, as from the midst of eternity, the voice of the Redeemer spake peace to us, while the veil was parted, and the angel of God came down clothed with glory, and delivered the anxiously looked-for message, and the keys of the Gospel of repentance. What joy! what wonder! what amazement!

While the world was racked and distracted—while millions were groping as the blind for the wall, and while all men were resting upon uncertainty, as a general mass, our eyes beheld, our ears heard, as in the "blaze of day;" yes, more—above the glitter of the May sunbeam, which then shed its brilliancy over the face of nature! Then his voice, though mild, pierced to the center, and his words, "I am thy fellow-servant," dispelled every fear. We listened, we gazed, we admired! 'Twas the voice of an angel from glory, 'twas a message from the Most High! And as we heard we rejoiced, while His love enkindled upon our souls, and we were wrapped in the vision of the Almighty! Where was room for doubt? Nowhere; uncertainty had fled, doubt had sunk no more to rise, while fiction and deception had fled forever!

. . .

I shall not attempt to paint to you the feelings of this heart, nor the majestic beauty and glory which surrounded us on this occasion; but you will believe me when I say, that earth, nor men, with the eloquence of time, cannot begin to clothe language in as interesting and sublime a manner as this holy personage. No; nor has this earth power to give the joy, to bestow the peace, or comprehend the wisdom which was contained in each sentence as they were delivered by the power of the Holy Spirit! Man may deceive his fellow-men, deception may follow deception, and the children of the wicked one may have power to seduce the foolish and untaught, till naught but fiction feeds the many, and the fruit of falsehood carries in its current the giddy to the grave; but one touch with the finger of his love, yes, one ray of glory from the upper world, or one word from the mouth of the Savior, from the bosom of eternity, strikes it all into insignificance, and blots it forever from the mind. The assurance that we were in the presence of an angel, the certainty that we heard the voice of Jesus, and the truth unsullied, as it flowed from a pure personage, dictated by the will of God, is to me past description, and I shall ever look upon this expression of the Savior's goodness with wonder and thanksgiving while I am permitted to tarry; and in those mansions where perfection dwells and sin never comes, I hope to adore in that day which shall never cease.”

Oliver Cowdery - Messenger and Advocate, vol. 1 (October 1834)

 

 

The Book of Mormon

 

The Book of Mormon is clearly God's tangible "sign" to the world that living prophets have been called again.  This author has personally read the Book of Mormon more than 60 times and I can testify that no human being, or group of human beings, including scholars, could have written the Book of Mormon in 1830 or even today.

 

While the Book of Mormon is a sign to the world, more importantly it is literally true that the Savior is again in charge of His apostles and that His living apostles again preside over His church.  The restoration was complete before Joseph was martyred.  The darkness which enveloped the world during the Dark Ages will never happen again.

 

Here are the words of one of the prophets of this dispensation, President Joseph Fielding Smith (president of the church from 1970 to 1972):

 

"I desire to say that no man of himself can lead this church. It is the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ; he is at the head. The Church bears his name, has his priesthood, administers his gospel, preaches his doctrine, and does his work.

 

He chooses men and calls them to be instruments in his hands to accomplish his purposes, and he guides and directs them in their labors. But men are only instruments in the Lord's hands, and the honor and glory for all that his servants accomplish is and should be ascribed unto him forever. If this were the work of man, it would fail, but it is the work of the Lord, and he does not fail."

Joseph Fielding Smith, in Conference Report, April 1970, 113

 

 

George Mason

 

A very inspiring story about the restoration was told by President Wilford Woodruff (president of the church from 1889 to 1898), which involved a long time friend of his, Mr. George Mason.  The story of George Mason is not unique, because several people who lived prior to the restoration of the gospel knew that the gospel would be restored and living apostles would again walk the earth.

 

The story takes place prior to President Woodruff joining the church.  When Wilford Woodruff was a child, he and his family befriended Robert Mason, a man who was known for his distinctive religious beliefs. President Woodruff recalled:

 

“He [George Mason] believed that it was necessary to have prophets, apostles, dreams, visions and revelations in the church of Christ, the same as they had who lived in ancient days; and he believed the Lord would raise up a people and a church, in the last days, with prophets, apostles and all the gifts, powers, and blessings, which it ever contained in any age of the world. … He frequently came to my father’s house when I was a boy, and taught me and my brothers those principles; and I believed him.

 

“[He] prayed a great deal, and he had dreams and visions, and the Lord showed him many things, by visions, which were to come to pass in the last days.

 

“I will here relate one vision, which he related to me. The last time I ever saw him, he said: ‘I was laboring in my field at mid-day when I was enwrapped in a vision. I was placed in the midst of a vast forest of fruit trees: I was very hungry, and walked a long way through the orchard, searching for fruit to eat; but I could not find any in the whole orchard, and I wept because I could not find any fruit. While I stood gazing at the orchard, and wondering why there was no fruit, the trees began to fall to the ground upon every side of me, until there was not one tree standing in the whole orchard; and while I was marveling at the scene, I saw young sprouts start up from the roots of the trees which had fallen, and they opened into young thrifty trees before my eyes. They budded, blossomed, and bare fruit until the trees were loaded with the finest fruit I ever beheld, and I rejoiced to see so much fine fruit. I stepped up to a tree and picked my hands full of fruit, and marveled at its beauty, and as I was about to taste of it the vision closed, and I found myself in the field in the same place I was at the commencement of the vision.

 

“ ‘I then knelt upon the ground, and prayed unto the Lord, and asked him, in the name of Jesus Christ, to show me the meaning of the vision. The Lord said unto me: “This is the interpretation of the vision; the great trees of the forest represent the generation of men in which you live. There is no church of Christ, or kingdom of God upon the earth in your generation. There is no fruit of the Church of Christ upon the earth. There is no man ordained of God to administer in any of the ordinances of the gospel of salvation upon the earth in this day and generation. But, in the next generation, I the Lord will set up my kingdom and my Church upon the earth, and the fruits of the kingdom and church of Christ, such as have followed the prophets, apostles and saints in every dispensation, shall again be found in all their fulness upon the earth. You will live to see the day, and handle the fruit; but will never partake of it in the flesh.” ’ ”

 

President Woodruff continued: “When [he] had finished relating the vision and interpretation, he said to me, … ‘I shall never partake of this fruit in the flesh; but you will, and you will become a conspicuous actor in that kingdom.’ He then turned and left me. These were the last words he ever spoke to me upon the earth. …

 

“He had this vision about the year 1800, and he related it to me in 1830—the same spring that this Church was organized.

 

“This vision, with his other teachings to me, made a great impression upon my mind, and I prayed a great deal to the Lord to lead me by his Spirit, and prepare me for his Church when it did come.”

 

When Wilford Woodruff joined the Church, he wrote a letter to his friend Robert Mason. “I … told him I had found the Church of Christ that he had told me about,” he later recalled. “I told him about its organization and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon; that the Church had prophets, apostles, and all the gifts and blessings in it, and that the true fruit of the kingdom and Church of Christ were manifest among the Saints as the Lord had shown him in his vision. He received my letter, and read it over many times, and handled it as he had handled the fruit in the vision; but he was very aged, and soon died. He did not live to see any Elder to administer the ordinances of the Gospel unto him.

 

“The first opportunity I had, after the doctrine of baptism for the dead was revealed, I went forth and was baptized for him.”

Wilford Woodruff (2006 Priesthood and Relief Society Manual)

 

 

The Future of the Church

 

In the spring of 1834, Wilford Woodruff attended a priesthood meeting in Kirtland, Ohio. At this meeting he began to understand the destiny of the Church in this dispensation.  President Woodruff later recounted:

 

“The Prophet [Joseph Smith] called on all who held the Priesthood to gather into the little log school house they had there. It was a small house, perhaps 14 feet square. But it held the whole of the Priesthood of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were then in the town of Kirtland. … That was the first time I ever saw Oliver Cowdery, or heard him speak; the first time I ever saw Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, and the two Pratts [Orson and Parley], and Orson Hyde and many others.

 

There were no Apostles in the Church then except Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. When we got together the Prophet called upon the Elders of Israel with him to bear testimony of this work. Those that I have named spoke, and a good many that I have not named, bore their testimonies. When they got through the Prophet said, ‘Brethren I have been very much edified and instructed in your testimonies here tonight, but I want to say to you before the Lord, that you know no more concerning the destinies of this Church and kingdom than a babe upon its mother’s lap. You don’t comprehend it.’ I was rather surprised. He said ‘it is only a little handfull of Priesthood you see here tonight, but this Church will fill North and South America—it will fill the world.’”

Wilford Woodruff (2006 Priesthood and Relief Society Manual)

 

As this is being written there are more than 13 million members of the LDS church worldwide.  Most of them are in North and South America (including Central America).

 

The prophets of this church have said many things about the future of this church.  Here is another quote:

 

"Our enemies have never done anything that has injured this work of God, and they never will. I look around, I read, I reflect, and I ask the question, Where are the men of influence, of power and prestige, who have worked against the Latter-day Saints? … Where are there people to do them honor? They cannot be found. ... Where are the men who have assailed this work? Where is their influence? They have faded away like dew before the sun. We need have no fears, we Latter-day Saints. God will continue to sustain this work; He will sustain the right."

Heber J. Grant (president from 1918 to 1945)

(2004 Priesthood/R.S. Manual - page 216)

 

Here is yet another quote:

 

"This church fail? No! Times and seasons may change, revolution may succeed revolution; thrones may be cast down; and empires be dissolved; earthquakes may rend the earth from center to circumference; the mountains may be hurled out of their places, and the mighty ocean be moved from its bed, but amidst the crash of worlds and the crack of matter, truth, eternal truth, must remain unchanged, and those principles which God has revealed to his saints be unscathed amidst the warring elements, and remain as firm as the throne of Jehovah."

John Taylor (president from 1880 to 1887)

The Gospel Kingdom, 364-365

 

There is a reason this church cannot fail.  It is led by the Savior Himself and the Savior cannot fail.

 

 

The Prophet Cannot Lead the Church Astray

 

Many members of the church have been led astray and have left the church because they did not understand one very important principle.  That principle is that the Savior of the world is literally at the head of this church.  Because this is the Savior's work, and because He is at the head, He will not let the prophet of the church lead the church astray.

 

Many times people have been led astray by thinking the living prophet of the church had fallen or had led the church astray.  This is impossible:

 

“The Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as President of this Church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God. If I were to attempt that, the Lord would remove me out of my place, and so He will any other man who attempts to lead the children of men astray from the oracles of God and from their duty.”

Wilford Woodruff, General Conference, October 6, 1890

[it is also at the back of the Doctrine & Covenants]

 

While any priesthood leader can fall away and lead others with him, it is a unique characteristic of this church that the President and prophet of this church will not be allowed to lead the church astray!!

 

The reason is that the prophet is looked at by the members of the church as the direct representative of the Savior and a true living prophet.  Thus, the Savior has a vested interest in making sure the prophet does not lead the church astray.

 

"No man will lead God's people nor his work. God may choose men and make them instruments of his hands for accomplishing his purposes, but the glory and honor and power will be due to the Father, in whom rests the wisdom and the might to lead his people and take care of his Zion. I am not leading the Church of Jesus Christ, nor the Latter-day Saints, and I want this distinctly understood. No man does ... Remember that God leads the work. It is his. It is not man's work. If it had been the work of Joseph Smith, or of Brigham Young, or of John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff or Lorenzo Snow, it would not have endured the tests to which it has been subjected."

Joseph F. Smith (president from 1901 to 1918)

(2000-2001 Priesthood/R.S. Manual - page 222)

 

Indeed, in the history of the church there have been many instances where the church was in a paradoxical situation, meaning no matter which direction the church took, it was the wrong direction.  Yet in the history of this church the prophet, under the direction of the Savior, has never made a bad decision.

 

In the business and corporate world, my observations have led me to conclude that it is rare when a corporation will have three competent presidents in a row.  But in this church, the church has not only had 16 highly competent leaders in a row, over a period of more than 175 years, but none of them has made a single bad decision.

 

This is not because these men were geniuses; it is because they were and are under the constant guidance of the Savior.  It is the Savior who makes the decisions in this church and the Savior does not make bad decisions.  He is the genius behind this work.

 

 

We As Individuals

 

Knowing that the church cannot fall and that the church cannot be led astray, the same cannot be said for the individuals in the church.  There are also eternal truths that apply at the level of the individual.

 

"The devil is ready to blind our eyes with the things of this world, and he would gladly rob us of eternal life, the greatest of all gifts. But it is not given to the devil, and no power will ever be given to him to overthrow any Latter-Day Saint that is keeping the commandments of God. There is no power given to the adversary of men's souls to destroy us if we are doing our duty. If we are not absolutely honest with God, then we let the bars down, then we have destroyed part of the fortifications by which we are protected, and the devil may come in.

 

But no man has ever lost the testimony of the Gospel, no man has ever turned to the right or to the left, who had the knowledge of the truth, who was attending to his duties, who was keeping the Word of Wisdom, who was paying his tithing, who was responding to the calls and duties of his office and callings in the Church.

 

There are some who are forever asking to know what the Lord wants of them, and who seem to be hesitating on that account. I am thoroughly convinced that all the Lord wants of you and me or of any other man or woman in the Church is for us to perform our full duty and keep the commandments of God.

 

You find me a man that attends his quorum meetings, that performs his duties in the ward in which he lives, that honestly pays his tithing, and I will find you a man full of the spirit of God and growing and increasing in the testimony of the Gospel.

 

On the other hand, you find me a man that has seen angels, that has had wonderful manifestations, that has seen devils cast out, that has gone to the ends of the earth and preached the Gospel, and yet who is failing to keep the commandments of God, and I will find you a man that is criticizing the Lord’s anointed, and finding fault with what the President does, with where he goes, what he engages in and how he administers the affairs of the Church. …"

Heber J. Grant (2004 Priesthood/R.S. Manual - pages 27-28)

 

 

Popularity

 

One of the great tests of the youth of the church is to decide between popularity and keeping the commandments.  For some, it is an easy decision.  For others, it is a difficult decision.

 

The late President James E. Faust, of the First Presidency, stated the following:

 

“I think we will witness increasing evidence of Satan's power as the kingdom of God grows stronger. I believe Satan's ever-expanding efforts are some proof of the truthfulness of this work. In the future the opposition will be both more subtle and more open. It will be masked in greater sophistication and cunning, but it will also be more blatant. We will need greater spirituality to perceive all of the forms of evil and greater strength to resist it.

It is not good practice to become intrigued by Satan and his mysteries. No good can come from getting close to evil. Like playing with fire, it is too easy to get burned: "The knowledge of sin tempteth to its commission." The only safe course is to keep well distanced from him and any of his wicked activities or nefarious practices. The mischief of devil worship, sorcery, witchcraft, voodooism, casting spells, black magic, and all other forms of demonism should always be avoided.

 

However, President Brigham Young (1801–77) said that it is important to "study . . . evil, and its consequences.

The First Presidency described Satan: "He is working under such perfect disguise that many do not recognize either him or his methods. There is no crime he would not commit, no debauchery he would not set up, no plague he would not send, no heart he would not break, no life he would not take, no soul he would not destroy. He comes as a thief in the night; he is a wolf in sheep's clothing." Satan is the world's master in the use of flattery, and he knows the great power of speech, a power his servants often employ. He has always been one of the great forces of the world."

President James E. Faust, Ensign, January, 2007

 

From the above quotes it is clear that no member of the church needs to be concerned with the direction of the top leadership of the church.  These things are in the hands of Christ and Christ cannot be deceived (see 2 Nephi 9:41).

 

It is our individual lives we need to be constantly concerned about.  As President Faust said: "[Satan] is working under such perfect disguise that many do not recognize either him or his methods. There is no crime he would not commit, no debauchery he would not set up, no plague he would not send, no heart he would not break, no life he would not take, no soul he would not destroy. He comes as a thief in the night; he is a wolf in sheep's clothing."

 

There is also no false doctrine he would not use to weaken and undermine the faith of an individual.