The Words of a Prophet

The Words of a Prophet

Have you ever thought how wonderful it would have been to have listened to Peter teaching on the Day of Pentecost or to Alma and Amulek preaching in Ammonihah as recorded in Alma 9 to 11? How I would have loved to hear Paul teaching with such power on his journeys through Turkey and Greece!

But why should we envy those days when we have access today to their teachings and to much more? Added to that, we are living in a time to be envied by those in the future because we are blessed to hear the words of today’s living prophets.

Twice each year, we can hear and read the prophetic teachings of President Thomas S. Monson and of those other men who have been chosen and called by God Himself as apostles and prophets for our time. I wonder whether we truly value their teachings, as others will in future days. 

Each April and October, all those men who have been ordained apostles speak to members of the Church in General Conference. As October is here, we now have the chance to learn from their prophetic words and inspired testimonies once again. Only the First Presidency, the Apostles, and other General Authorities and general officers of the Church speak at General Conference. No topics are assigned for these conferences. Each speaker is expected to prayerfully seek revelation as to the subject on which he or she should choose to speak and exactly what he or she should say.

As we approach General Conference with eagerness and seek for the personal revelation that can come to us as we listen or read, or do both, we can be taught directly by the Spirit ourselves. An example of an individual being personally taught during General Conference was illustrated to me in a letter I received. I had spoken at General Conference in October 2013 and during my talk, I had the most unusual and possibly unique experience for a General Conference, of being harassed by a pesky fly. This fly immediately became somewhat infamous as the “LDS Conference Fly” or “LDS ConFly” with many humorous comments and memes appearing after this Conference. Those who watched the Conference session live saw the fly buzzing around my head and landing on me several times as I delivered my talk. For those who did not see it live, the video of my talk was edited so that only long distance camera feeds were used for the portion of my talk where the fly was visible so as not to distract those watching in subsequent rebroadcasts. But it was a little distracting for many who watched live, and for me in delivering the talk.

However, a couple of days later, I received a letter from a Church member who had watched the Conference session live, and which taught me again how someone who was prepared, could learn a valuable lesson from what she saw and heard at General Conference. Part of that letter follows:

“Yesterday, I was watching General Conference with my family when Elder Vinson got up to speak. He started out by saying that God should be the centre of our universe. …. Or is there something else? As he spoke, not only were his words profound, so was his example; a fly came buzzing around him; it landed a few times on his head, then on the microphone, then on his nose. It was quite a nuisance and pest. As I watched him not be moved in what the Lord required of him, and not even flinch at the distraction, the Spirit whispered to me “this is what a fly represents – it is a “distraction”. And sometimes there are a lot of them. Elder Vinson did not move; he did not flinch; he did not get frustrated; and he did not let it stop him from delivering one of the important talks of the day, one that I needed to hear. He knew the fly was there and yet gave it no heed.

Distractions are one of Satan’s greatest tools to trip us up and to take us off course. In answer to the question: If God is not the centre of our universe, then what is? Well, it does not matter what is because anything else is a fly, a disease-carrying pest. Look at the word hidden in “flies” … “lies”. I know that our strength, our hope, our happiness is found in placing God in the centre of our lives and not letting any distraction take His place.”

This sister watched and listened, being prepared to be taught. As she participated, she sought the Spirit to teach her. I was particularly impressed with her comment that “the Spirit whispered to me” as she describes how she was taught, not by the words spoken by the person giving the talk, but by the Holy Ghost.

In our most recent General Conference in April this year, President Thomas S. Monson spoke twice, as he usually does. But both talks were short, much shorter than he has previously spoken. Some members may have been disappointed by his brevity. But when you closely examine the messages he delivered, you see that they were powerful and timely, and the messages as strong as they would have been, had the talks been longer. He spoke of priesthood holders being worthy to exercise their priesthood. This is one of the great doctrines of the Kingdom of God and is explained in beautiful detail in D&C 121, which describes how we come to understand and live the “doctrine of the priesthood”. That message is crucial for all Church members to understand and apply.

His other message emphasised the importance of the choices we make. And how true and timely that message is. He linked our choices to our faith – the primary principle of the gospel. He said: “May we choose to build up within ourselves a great and powerful faith which will be our most effective defence against the designs of the adversary - a real faith, the kind of faith which will sustain us and will bolster our desire to choose the right.'

The brevity of President Monson’s messages in April reminded me of a talk given by President James E Faust, a counsellor in the First Presidency at the time. He spoke at the end of a General Conference training session for the Seventy and he was allotted about 20 minutes for his remarks. Although he only used a tiny portion of that time,