When I met him, although I was only ten or eleven, I knew that he was special. I was performing in a musical and at intermission President Thomas S. Monson, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, came back to the green room and shook my hand.
I stood awkwardly behind a large black plastic garbage can, suddenly embarrassed that I hadn’t put on my shoes yet. He didn’t care. He smiled with warmth and kindness and I knew. I knew. This man was a disciple of Jesus Christ.
As an adult I still hold that memory as a treasure because now President Thomas S. Monson is the prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes inadvertently called the Mormon Church.
To understand the significance of prophets, imagine you’re getting ready to go out on a date with your spouse and you hear a knock on the front door. There stands a very pleasant looking woman, “Hello. I’m here to watch your children for you,” she smiles.
“I didn’t hire you,” you reply, puzzled.
“Well, I’m highly qualified. I have a Ph.D. in early childhood development, I’m certified in CPR, and of course, I love children,” she explains.
“Oh. Well, that’s very nice of you to offer,” you say. “But I’ve chosen someone I know and trust to watch my children. I’m sure you’re a good person, but as a parent I get to decide who will guard my children in my absence. And I’ve made my choice.”
Parents have both the responsibility and the privilege of guarding their children. This same principle holds true in Heaven as well. God the Father has chosen, in our absence from Him, guardians who lead, guide and protect us, His children. They are prophets. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ adamantly claim to follow a living prophet.
A distinction, then, needs to be made between the self-aggrandizing and manipulating self-proclaimed “prophets” commonly highlighted in media, because their congregations have grown into mega-churches, and the true and loyal servants of Christ who are called as prophets by God and given the authority and power to convey revelation from heaven.
In the Sermon on the Mount, the Savior explained that there would be many “false prophets” who would appear to be innocent like sheep but inwardly they would be “ravening wolves.” He continued, “Ye shall know them by their fruits… A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit” (Matt. 7:15-18).
Jesus Christ explained that anyone may know a true prophet from a false prophet by examining the fruits which they bear, or in other words, the labors they perform and the life they live. By utilizing this test of character and by examining the pattern of the Lord’s leadership found in both the Old and New Testaments, the validity and necessity of the claim of living prophets surfaces.
A prophet is a man who is called by God to lead His children. Prophets always point the way back to Jesus Christ. Prophets are humans and may have flaws and weaknesses like all humans do, yet through the call of God they are authorized and given authority to speak for the Lord.
Some may question why being called of God matters or what it entails. Many Christians feel they have been called of God to serve in ministries and to testify of Christ. For members of the LDS church, the call of prophets by God is literal.
Most Christians are very familiar with Moses’ call to be a prophet and to free the children of Israel. Samuel was called in the temple by the Lord and answered, “Here I am.” Likewise, in 1820, Jesus Christ and God the Father appeared to Joseph Smith as a teenager, calling him by name. Joseph Smith was ordained, or blessed by having hands placed on his head, by the resurrected Peter, James and John, as well as other resurrected prophets. They gave him the keys of the priesthood of God, the governing right to operate through God’s authority, thereby setting him apart as one who could speak on behalf of God.
Joseph Smith then called and set apart others with these same powers by blessing them with his hands on their heads. These men comprised a restored quorum of twelve apostles. Upon the death of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, the senior member of the quorum, became the acting president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and prophet. All members of the quorum of the twelve apostles have the authority to speak as the voice of God because they have been ordained, as Joseph Smith was, by the laying on of hands by those who have authority.
Although many good Christians may feel called to serve God’s children, like the volunteer babysitter in the example, God chooses who He will to guide His children as prophets. Christ, speaking to the Twelve Apostles of His day during the Last Supper, taught, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain…” (John 15:16).
The claim of living apostolic and prophetic authority, although unique to members of the Church of Jesus Christ in doctrine among Christian sects, follows the Lord’s pattern of leadership evident in both the Old and New Testaments.
Some question how the doctrine remains pure when a new prophet may alter a practice of a previous prophet. The biblical example of this is Peter addressing the circumcision of gentiles. Although circumcision had been well established as an integral part of the covenant between God and his people, when proselytizing of non-Jews began after the resurrection of Christ, the practice changed because of revelation. As the prophet and senior member of the quorum of the twelve apostles, Peter was given the guidance to alter this practice.
In modern times, The Church of Jesus Christ is governed by this same spirit of revelation, which allows the current prophet to lead the people under his watch-care according to the will of the Lord, at times altering the practices of the church. The core doctrines of the gospel, however, have always remained unchanged.
Elder Neil L. Anderson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explained that the doctrine of the Church remains pure because it is, “taught by all 15 members of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. It is not hidden in an obscure paragraph of one talk. True principles are taught frequently and by many. Our doctrine is not difficult to find.”
Although I’ve had the unique experience of having a personal encounter with the prophet, Thomas S. Monson, anyone can come to know what I did by studying his words and his life and then contemplating his fruits and the continued pattern of the Lord’s leadership evident in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the living prophet.
A loving Heavenly Father has chosen someone to watch over us.
Miranda likes eating frozen cookie dough, playing with her four kids and her amazing husband, reading worthwhile things, and singing her lungs out. She graduated from BYU with a BA and continues learning new things everyday. She was recently interviewed for LDS Living in an article about how Latter-day Saints can better support military families and has been published in the Ensign magazine. She lives on a remote Air Force station in Cavalier in North Dakota where my husband is stationed in the USAF. We'll only be here for two more months, but for the past two years it's been home. We have four children Mason, Miriam, Cyrus and Gideon. They are ages 8, 6, 4, and 2 respectively. I love musical theater and am working on writing the book for a musical based on Corie ten Boom's "The Hiding Place." Have you read it? It's an amazing story and I feel priviledged to be able to create my own adaptation of it. I also sew a bit and sing and I exercise. And I read quite a bit. I've worked in the nursery for about a year as my calling.