Robert Liefson teaches for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (nicknamed “Mormons”) in the Seminary and Institute program for young adults, serves as volunteer fire chief in Woodruff, and is the parent of 6 children from 5-19 years of age.
I was blessed to be raised in a home where I regularly heard the stories of Biblical Prophets such as Moses, Noah, Isaiah, Elijah and Abraham. I was taught the writings of the Prophet Amos in the Old Testament where it is recorded, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the Prophets.” Many people have posed the question, “Why hasn’t God called Prophets in our day the way He did in ancient times?” Because of their belief that there are prophets today, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) gather every six months in a general conference to hear their counsel. Thanks to the advances of modern technology, this LDS conference is broadcast to countless radio and television stations and translated into ninety-two different languages. It has been my personal practice to watch conference in my home on television. This conference experience would be unique for me as I had the privilege to attend in person with members of my family at the conference center in Salt Lake City, Utah.
As the start of the session drew closer I anticipated the entrance of President Thomas S. Monson the current president (“Mormon prophet”) of the Church of Jesus Christ, to take his place among the leaders. His two counselors entered and were seated. It was impossible to miss the empty chair between them. There was a similar hole in my heart as I grew uneasy that he would not be in attendance. To say I was disappointed would be a huge understatement. The meeting began without any word of explanation concerning President Monson’s absence. The Mormon Tabernacle choir performed a hymn, well known to members of the Church “We Ever Pray for Thee, Our Prophet Dear.” Thy lyrics include the promise and hope that “God will give to thee comfort and cheer; As the advancing years furrow thy brow.” The second verse contains the phrase, “That strength be given thee to do thy part, to guide and counsel us from day to day.” The words of the hymn brought some comfort to my heart and perfectly expressed my feelings. I noticed my wife had written on the top of her notepad, “Where is President Monson?”
There have been times in the past where due to age or health, presidents of the Church have been unable to attend the conferences of the Church of Jesus Christ (inadvertently called The Mormon Church by friends of other faiths). I had not expected this conference to be one of these occasions. I tried to focus my attention on the messages of the other speakers and began to write my impressions and thoughts concerning their messages. The members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints revere fifteen men as Prophets, Seers and Revelators. This group includes the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles patterned after those called by Jesus Christ during his ministry upon the earth. The Prophets Moses, Enoch, and Daniel were mentioned in the course of the addresses as well as the names of prophets in our time.
As those in the LDS Conference Center stood to sing a hymn part way through the meeting I saw President Monson walk onto the stage and stand between his counselors. I am not known for being an emotional person but my emotions caught me as I had to stop singing. I have possessed a strong conviction throughout my life that there are prophets in our day but the strength of the feelings in my heart once again confirming this belief surprised me. His presence caused a tangible change in the feeling and atmosphere of the Conference Center. The Restoration of Christ’s Church and this dispensation began, actually, with the very appearance of Jesus Christ and the Father to a young inquiring boy who became a prophet–Joseph Smith.
It was announced that President Thomas S. Monson would be the next speaker. As he stood to the pulpit his cheerful greeting of “Hello” brought laughter and smiles to those in attendance. I would assume that those watching on television may have been confused at his greeting but to those of us participating in person, it was a welcome sound. His prophetic, cheerful countenance and optimistic attitude always lift my spirit and motivate me to follow his example.
President and Prophet, Thomas S. Monson’s message included the announcement of several additional temples that will be built throughout the world including France; Democratic Republic of the Congo; South Africa, Colombia, Wyoming and Utah. President Monson also explained, “Temples are places where relationships are sealed together to last through the eternities.” His message was short but I anticipate the impression left upon me that morning to last for a long time.
I witnessed for myself once again that there are prophets upon the earth that fulfill the same role as the ancient prophets. I would encourage anyone who is seeking to hear God’s counsel and guidance to study the words of the messages of LDS (Mormon) General Conference. They are timely and relevant to the challenges we face in our modern world. The prophet Noah was not given the instructions on how Moses should lead the children of Israel out of bondage nor was the prophet Elijah told how Isaiah should counsel the people of his day. The messages of these prophets were specific to the people of their time and we have the same blessing in our day. The prophet’s words give me direction, comfort, and help me see the overall purpose of my life. They are an anchor to me in a world of shifting values and beliefs.