My dear brothers and sisters, aloha. I absolutely love BYU, Hawaii, and I’m thrilled to be back. I pray that the spirit of the Lord will teach you today so that you hear what the Lord wants you to hear. 20 years ago, I was named the new president and CEO of Desert Repo Company, which was facing some very stiff challenges. The company had been losing a lot of money, and every part of its business was being disrupted.
I knew absolutely nothing about turning a company around, and I was in way over my head. A few months into the job, president Gordon B. Hinckley, who had appointed me to this position, called me to his office to ask how things were going. I described the problems I was uncovering and said, president, I don’t think I’m smart enough to turn this company around. I wish I were smarter.
To which he instantly responded, sherry, I wish you were smarter, too.
After he finished laughing, he said, well, are you smart enough to hire smart people? I thought for a moment I said, yes, I can do that. And he said, well, then go hire the brains. Hire people you trust who will make you smarter. President Hinckley taught me something important that day.
Wasn’t he in essence saying, sherry, you probably aren’t smart enough to turn Desireette book around by yourself, but if you’ll hire smart people and listen to them, you can do it. That conversation with President Hinckley reminds me of something the actor John Wayne used to say life is hard, but it’s harder if you’re stupid.
Now, seriously, are any of us smart enough to maneuver this confusing world alone? Without help from those who are smarter, the future can look downright scary. So, in a world filled with billions of conflicting voices, where do we turn for the smartest help? With permission from President Russell M. Nelson and Elder Brent H.
Nielsen of the 70, I relate an instructive experience. In 2014, then Elder Russell M. Nelson chaired the Missionary Executive Council, or the MEC. One day in the MEC. Elder Nelson held up his smartphone, and he said, we need to put a smartphone into the hands of every missionary.
You can imagine the discussion that ensued about all the challenges missionaries with smartphones would create. But in time, the MEC. Began allowing missionaries in a few test missions to carry smartphones or iPads. Every problem the MEC predicted, happened. Everyone but Elder Nelson never wavered in his conviction that missionaries could be taught to use the Internet righteously and that they should have smartphones.
The test continued, and over the next few years, more and more missionaries received phones. Now fast forward to January of 2020. That month, President Russell M. Nelson, now president of the Church, authorized every missionary worldwide to have a smartphone. Then, just three weeks later, the pandemic shut down the world, and proselyding as we knew it stopped.
Elderbrenh Nielsen, then executive director of the missionary department was initially concerned that baptisms might drop to nearly zero. But they didn’t inspired missionaries and it might have been some of you working from their apartments, found and baptized 1250 people in 2020, the pandemic year, largely because they had smartphones. Says Elder Brent H. Nielsen. I quickly learned that the Lord had prepared us for this day.
Prophets can see around corners. Close quote ammon explained how prophets see around corners. Quote a seer can know of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them. Prophets see things we cannot see because the Lord does nothing but he reveal it his secret and to his servants, the prophets. This is why prophets make us smarter than any other leaders or influencers on earth.
Profits help us see dangers we cannot yet see and opportunities we can’t even imagine. I have experienced this myself. In the October 1998 General Conference, President Gordon B. Hinckley admonished members to get out of debt. I felt that I should try to pay off my home, but my accountant told me I was crazy to even think about it because the interest rate on my mortgage was so low.
Nonetheless, I finally decided to take President Hinckley’s word and just do it. It took some scrimping for several years, but I managed to pay off the loan. Now skip ahead to the fall of 2008, exactly ten years after President Hinckley’s warning about debt, when the US. Economy was suddenly plunged into a recession. I was still the CEO of Desireet Book at that time, and our sales plummeted.
I was worried sick about saving jobs and, frankly, about saving the company. But one evening, as I drove home with the all too familiar pit in my stomach, it dawned on me that despite all the pressure I was under, I wasn’t worried at all about myself. I owned my own home and I owed no money, all because I had followed a prophet’s council. Ten years earlier. A prophet helped me see around the corner.
Two years ago, I saw President Russell M. Nelson see something I could not see. On September 17, 2020, I was among those invited to a communications meeting with President Nelson. The pandemic was raging, and we suggested to President Nelson that he record a message of hope for church members. He told us to, quote, unquote, sprinkle a little fertilizer on that idea and bring it back to him the following week.
But then the very next day, president Nelson asked to meet with our group again. He told us that our idea wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t right. During the night, he had received the impression that he should indeed record a message, but a message for the world, not just members. He said his message should be about gratitude and include a prayer for the world. He told us the exact day and time the video should be released, and even how long it should be.
I had never heard President Nelson be so specific about communication details. But as he spoke, I knew that I was witnessing a prophet act. On Revelation, we assembled a team of videographers and others to fulfill President Nelson’s instructions. If this group had relied on their own expertise, they would have never recommended a video as long as the one present Nelson specified, nor would they have suggested releasing it on a Friday, the worst day to release one. But a prophet had spoken, and so we went to work.
The result was the hashtag Give thanks video released on November 2020, and the results unprecedented. That video’s reach dwarfed anything the Church had ever released, especially to those not of our faith. Never in the history of the Earth had so many people heard a prophet’s voice. Prophets see around corners. The sobering reality, however, is that throughout history, most of the people, most of the time, have rejected prophets.
The Jaredites illustrate this perfectly. Here’s just one scripture from dozens and dozens that could be cited. Quote and there came prophets in the land again, crying repentance. But the people believed not the words of the prophets, but they cast them out. Close quote.
Today is no different. Most of the world, and even some of our own members reject the 15 prophets seers and revelators ordained as apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. Not long ago, a young woman your age told me that she was upset by something an apostle had said. Sheri she said, some of my friends think prophets make mistakes, but I don’t know what to believe. Do you think prophets are infallible?
Some of you Mary, have that same question if infallible means perfect, then no, I don’t think prophets are perfect. Only one perfect being walked this earth, and he was God. Prophets are mortal and are being tested just as we are. Being ordained as special witnesses of Jesus Christ gives them unique spiritual privileges, but it does not magically absolve them of human weakness. Further, I’ve never heard of prophet claim perfection.
Have you? Can you think of any scriptural prophet who didn’t demonstrate some weakness? Human weakness? Moroni, even acknowledged imperfections. In the Book of Mormon, President George Q.
Cannon, who served as a counselor to four presidents of the Church, said that when it comes to the senior apostle or prophet, it is the Lord’s privilege to choose whom he pleases. The man he once preserved is preserved, and if men whom he chooses are fallible, that is his business. He requires on our part, obedience to his will as it is made manifest through the man whom he has chosen.
The Lord governs his Church through a very unique pattern of presidencies, counsels and quorums, so that no one person acts alone. President Nelson explained that quote the calling of 15 men to the holy apostleship provides great protection for us as members of the Church. Why? Because decisions of these leaders must be unanimous. Can you imagine how the Spirit needs to move upon 15 men to bring about unanimity brothers and sisters?
The first presidency in Corma. The twelve apostles acting united will never send the Church in the wrong direction. And here is why because even the prophet is not the head of this Church. Jesus Christ is. And he is perfect.
Prophets take their instructions from Him who knows all, sees all, and understands all things. More than once, I personally heard President Nelson deflect praise for all of the adjustments that have occurred during his administration. Well, I can take instructions, he always says, meaning he is always on the Lord’s errand. In this Church, we are never dependent solely upon mortal men, as inspired as they may be. When we follow the prophet, we are actually following and placing our trust in Jesus Christ.
For he has promised that his words will all be fulfilled, whether by his own voice or by the voice of his servants. It is the same. Therefore, the question of fallibility leads us down a side road that I think misses the point of who prophets really are. So may I pose four different questions that seem more relevant, followed by five important truths. First question who exactly are prophets, seers and revelators?
They are ordained apostles who are special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world. They hold all restored priesthood keys that the Lord allows to be exercised on this earth. Which means that they authorize how, where and by whom the Lord’s power may be used. They have spiritual privileges distinct from anyone else on earth. The senior apostle is the only person alive who can speak for the Lord in everything, but even he does not.
Brandt Malone. He has two counselors and twelve apostles to assist him, each ordained as a prophet, seer and revelator. This leads to the second question is there anyone you trust to give you more inspired advice unaffected by personal agenda than the First Presidency and quorum of the Twelve Apostles? My answer can you think of any journalist, talk show host, celebrity athlete or politician you would trust more than our prophet? How about any entrepreneur, billionaire or scholar?
Any YouTube, celeb or star of stage, screen or Netflix? I can’t. Each of these wants something from us. They want our vote, our money, our support. They all have personal agendas.
Prophets of God do not. Their agenda is the Lord’s. And yet too often we listen to them. Last Samuel the Laminite delivered a stinging rebuke to the Nephi because they followed flawed leaders. He said, quote, o ye wicked and ye perverse generation, how long will ye suffer yourselves to be led by foolish and blind guides?
So, my dear friends, to whom do you listen? Where does the living prophet rank? In the list of those you turn to for advice. How many blind guides whose myopic vision of life is no better than yours. Are you following on podcasts and TikTok?
Don’t let blind guides obscure your vision of seers who see around corners. Third question do you know 15 smarter men who care about you more and who have pure motives? My answer have you ever asked yourself what’s in all of this for apostles? Clearly, it’s not money or popularity or comfort well beyond retirement age. They board planes and fly around the world for one reason they have none other object save it be the everlasting welfare of our souls.
And yet all too often they are mocked for teaching truth. I’ll never forget hearing the wife of an apostle admit that some passages of scripture were hard for her to read. I see what happens to prophets, she said. And when my husband gets shredded on social media for preaching truth, it feels a lot like stoning. Apostles are under divine mandate to teach truth.
Even when truth is unpopular. They are often pressured to change the Lord’s doctrine to make it more palatable. But the doctrine doesn’t belong to them, and it’s not theirs to change. They are sometimes accused of being out of touch. But I know of no group who is more in touch with the realities and complexities of life.
My dear friends, I promise you that no leaders on earth are more honest with you than prophets are. And no leaders care more about you and your future. Fourth question are there any other leaders of whom the Holy Ghost unfailingly bears witness?
I have been in the presence of prophets hundreds of times, including with presence of the church around the world. I was in Manila’s Aronetta Coliseum in May 6, when 350 or more Filipino saints crammed themselves into 250 seats and sat for 8 hours awaiting the arrival of President Gordon B. Hinckley. Three years ago. I watched thousands of Tongan saints sent patiently in the rain for several hours until President Nelson arrived in Ho Chi Minh City.
I saw a few hundred saints. The first members and their families come from far and wide to hear and see the prophet. The setting and the size of audience doesn’t matter. The same thing always happens when the president of the church enters the room. A profound spiritual presence sweeps across the congregation.
Tears flow and the spirit testifies to the reality of a prophet every time. Even those not of our faith can feel it. I was outside the Government Palace in Lima, Peru when President Nelson arrived to meet with Peru’s president. As President Nelson stepped out of the car, a tour guide standing nearby noticed him. Who is that man?
The guide asked some of us standing there. Before we could respond, she called out to President Nelson, will you please bless Peru? President Nelson could have been any dignitary dressed in a suit and tie. How did she know that he actually could bless Peru. She felt something.
The Holy Ghost is eager to bear witness of prophets, seers and revelators and the priesthood keys they hold. It is the presence of the keys we feel so profoundly when a prophet enters the room. But you don’t have to be in the presence of a prophet to gain a spiritual witness of his divine mantle. If you want to know if 15 prophets walk the earth today, pray to know. Ask humbly and sincerely and the Holy Ghost will bear witness to you.
I promise you that prophets, seers and revelators are very simply one of God’s greatest gifts to his children. Now, let’s review five crucial truths about prophets. Truth number one. Because this is the Lord’s church, and Jesus Christ is the one who chooses and directs his prophets, the Savior will never let the prophet lead the church astray. Period.
Truth number two the living prophet is the most important prophet for us. God did not tell Joseph Smith how to lead the Lord’s church across the plains. He told Brigham Young, because that is when that information was needed. So what has the Lord told President Russell M. Nelson to counsel us to do today?
His counsel is to increase our capacity to receive revelation, to spend more time in the temple, and to become a major force in gathering Israel. He’s counsel is to understand who we are as children of God, children of the covenant and disciples of Christ, and to never allow other identifiers to replace those three primary designations. And he’s counseled us to let God prevail in our lives.
I know of nothing you can do right now in your life that will pay greater dividends than embracing and following President Nelson’s council. Truth number three prophets hold priesthood keys that set them apart from any other leaders on earth. That is why living prophets are more important than any other prophets, whatever the cost. Do not separate yourself from those who hold all priesthood keys. Now let me admit that it’s not always easy to hear what a prophet has to say.
Give you just one example of that. While serving in the Relief Society general presidency, I attended a General Authority training session held prior to general conference. During that meeting, the apostle conducting the training did something unusual. Whenever someone used the words woman or man, he corrected them and told them to use the words mother or father instead. At first I didn’t think much about it, but as the meeting wore on for several hours and this apostle repeatedly emphasized that women were mothers and men were fathers, I started to shrink in my chair.
I became painfully aware that I was the only nonparent in the room by the end of the morning. Frankly, I felt condemned. When the training ended, I bolted out of the room so no one would see my tears. At first I was just hurt. But then I began to see how could an apostle disenfranchise an entire segment of members?
I’m sorry to tell you that I stood about this for months until I began to work on my upcoming talk for the General Relief Society meeting. I pleaded for inspiration about what to speak about, but I got nothing. I had no ideas. Then finally, I received a clear impression that I should speak about motherhood. I thought, You’ve got to be kidding.
But the impression was really clear. So I began to search the Scriptures and teachings of prophets. I went to the temple again and again, and I pleaded for understanding. And guess what I learned? That the apostle who had offended me was right.
His approach might have been insensitive, but he had taught an eternal truth that every woman has a divine endowment as a mother, regardless of whether or not she’s born children in this life. That truth led me to prepare an address entitled are we not all Mothers? Which is still quoted every Mother’s Day because it is filled with truth. Truth that I had to humble myself to learn. Learn from my experience.
Don’t make life harder by being stupid. Don’t be deceived by activists who believe their passion for a cause gives them permission to censure and criticize prophets. Don’t turn your back on those who have all priesthood keys and who can help you see around corners. Choose number four. Prophets won’t be popular, so when the social media mob pounces on them, don’t let that threaten your testimony.
When prophets refuse to embrace the disintegration of morals championed by a rapidly secular society, that does not mean prophets are wrong. Sustaining prophets in today’s world takes faith, our faith, but not faith in them. Faith in Jesus Christ, who called them truth. Number five. Your greatest spiritual safety will come by following the prophet.
My dear friends, there may be times when you find yourself wrestling with teachings from prophets, but this is not rocket science. At this age of my life, I can promise you two things. First, you will question your testimony every day of your life if you do two things break your covenants and turn your back on prophets. But the reverse is also true. You will enjoy a growing testimony all of your life if you keep your covenants and follow the prophet.
That is a promise. Let prophets of God be your spiritual anchor. Listen to them. Study their words. Follow their counsel.
It will protect you from deception and keep you from making major mistakes. Prophets will make you smarter. They will help you see things you cannot see. Let me conclude with two recent experiences. First, this summer, I attended a religious liberty summit in Rome, where President David H.
Oakes gave the keynote address. The summit was absolutely filled with inspiring speakers. But when President Oakes rose to speak, I experienced something distinctly, something qualitatively, different. I experienced that beautiful witness of the spirit that reaffirmed sherry. This is a prophet.
What a priceless truth it is to know that. Secondly, I recently accompanied my boss to a meeting with the First Presidency, where we sought to council about a complex issue affecting one of the Church’s media companies. What then unfolded was remarkable to behold. As these three presiding high priests counsel with each other, it was clear that they each initially saw this complex issue differently. But as they deliberated among themselves, the spirit flooded the room until they were of one mind and one heart.
Their counsel to us was inspiring. As we walked out of the room, I thought to myself, we just witnessed the First Presidency receive revelation together. I can only imagine how many thousands of times that exact scene has played out over the decades, where prophets, seers and revelators have counseled together, relying on a rare combination of wisdom and revelation, magnified by the keys they hold. We are the most blessed of all people to be led by prophets. There are no other leaders like them in all the world.
I know that President Russell M. Nelson is the Lord’s senior Apostle, and that 14 other prophets, seers and Revelators also walked the Earth. I don’t just believe this. I know it. I am an eyewitness to it.
I know that following them makes us smarter, because Seers see things we cannot see. Prophets help us see around corners. You can know this, too. I plead with you to gain your own witness of prophets of God, and then to follow them for the rest of your life. It will be the smartest thing you ever do, because prophets will be the last safe voices on earth.
In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.