- Three weeks ago I was at a stake conference in the lovely little mountain community of Prescott, Arizona. Following the delightful events of that weekend a sister silently slipped me a note as she and others came by to shake hands and say good-bye. With some hesitation I share a portion of it with you this morning. Please focus on the doctrine this sister teaches, not the participants in the exchange.
- “Dear Elder Holland, thank you for the testimony you bore in this conference of the Savior and His love. Forty-one years ago I prayed earnestly to the Lord and told Him I wished I had lived on earth when the Apostles walked upon it, when there had been a true Church, and when Christ’s voice was still heard. Within a year of that prayer Heavenly Father sent two LDS missionaries to me, and I found that all those hopes could be realized. Perhaps some hour when you are tired or troubled, this note will help you remember why hearing your voice and shaking your hand is so important to me and to millions just like me. Your sister in love and gratitude, Gloria Clements.”
- Well, Sister Clements, your very tender note recalled for me a similar hope and almost the same language once used in my own family. In the tumultuous years of the first settlements in this nation, Roger Williams, my volatile and determined 10th great-grandfather, fled—not entirely of his own volition—from the Massachusetts Bay Colony and settled in what is now the state of Rhode Island. He called his headquarters Providence, the very name itself revealing his lifelong quest for divine interventions and heavenly manifestations. But he never found what he felt was the true New Testament church of earlier times. Of this disappointed seeker the legendary Cotton Mather said, “Mr. Williams [finally] told [his followers] ‘that being himself misled, he had [misled them,’ and] he was now satisfied that there was none upon earth that could administer baptism [or any of the ordinances of the gospel], … [so] he advised them therefore to forego all … and wait for the coming of new apostles.” Roger Williams did not live to see those longed-for new Apostles raised up, but in a future time I hope to be able to tell him personally that his posterity did live to see such.
Elder Holland presents some questions and answers that help us realize what is gained by having apostles and prophets on the earth today.
- Are the heavens open? Does God reveal His will to prophets and apostles as in days of old? That they are and that He does is the unflinching declaration of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to all the world. And in that declaration lies the significance of Joseph Smith, the Prophet, for nearly 200 years now.
- His life asked and answered the question “Do you believe God speaks to man?” In all else that he accomplished in his brief 38 and a half years, Joseph left us above all else the resolute legacy of divine revelation—not a single, isolated revelation without evidence or consequence, and not “a mild sort of inspiration seeping into the minds of all good people” everywhere, but specific, documented, ongoing directions from God. As a good friend and faithful LDS scholar has succinctly put it, “At a time when the origins of Christianity were under assault by the forces of Enlightenment rationality, Joseph Smith [unequivocally and singlehandedly] returned modern Christianity to its origins in revelation.”
He concludes with thanks to God for allowing revelation on the earth today and the great men who have been called to this holy calling.
- We do “thank thee, O God, for a prophet to guide us in these latter days,” because many of those days will be windblown and tempest-tossed. We give thanks for that morning in the spring of 1820 when the Father and the Son appeared in glory to a 14-year-old boy. We give thanks for that morning when Peter, James, and John came to restore the keys of the holy priesthood and all the offices in it. And in our generation we give thanks for the morning of September 30, 1961, 43 years ago this weekend, when (then) Elder Gordon B. Hinckley was called to the apostleship, the 75th man in this dispensation to be so named. And so it goes down to a day such as this, and so it will go continually until the Savior comes.
I echo Elder Holland's words that I am grateful for a prophet to guide us in the latter-days. I am grateful for a plan of God that instructs, teaches, uplifts, and guides these simple men to lead a massive following to the Savior. I am grateful to God for not allowing the Heavens to be silenced in our time. We gain so much from the words and inspiration of these fine men who could not possibly do what they do without the divine guidance of our Savior Jesus Christ. The Heavens are open, and great men are being instructed to lead and guide His church today.