I was around age 11 when I first knew that the Church was true and that the Lord speaks to us through His prophet. It was a Sunday afternoon and I was bored—we weren’t allowed to watch TV on Sundays or play with friends and most of the family was napping or reading. I sat on the little yellow rocking chair in the family room and noticed the basket of scriptures next to the chair that we used for our early morning scripture reading.
I picked one up, opened it randomly to Doctrine and Covenants section 1 and began reading verse 38, which reads, “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”
When I finished this verse, I felt the love of the Lord pouring into my body. I felt as though the Lord had spoken directly to me, that he had taken the time to tell me that He will speak to me through both the scriptures and the prophet, and that His words will never fail.
Despite gaining a testimony of the prophet those 25 years ago, sustaining the prophet “in all patience and faith” (D&C 21:5) has not always been easy for me. I am in good company, though, since historically, sustaining the prophet has been difficult. I found this description by Brigham Young particularly poignant. In it, he describes the hardship that resulted in his sustaining Joseph Smith as a prophet and moving to Ohio: “When we arrived in Kirtland, if any man that ever did gather with the Saints was any poorer than I was—it was because he had nothing. . . I had two children to take care of—that was all. I was a widower. ‘Brother Brigham, had you any shoes?’ No; not a shoe to my foot, except a pair of borrowed boots. I had no winter clothing, except a homemade coat that I had had three or four years. ‘any pantaloons?’ No. ‘What did you do? Did you go without?’ No; I borrowed a pair to wear till I could get another pair. I had travelled and preached and given away every dollar of my property. I was worth a little property when I started to preach. . . . I had traveled and preached until I had nothing left to gather with; but Joseph said: ‘come up;’ and I went up the best I could” (Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling).
Brigham Young himself asked the Saints to do hard things, including building a temple whose foundation alone required 9,000 men days of labor to dig, all in the midst of building homes of their own, planting crops of their own, and dealing with crickets and the U.S. Army (Jeffrey R. Holland, Broken Things To Mend).
I’ve been forced to think more deeply about sustaining the prophet lately because in the last 2 months, I’ve been asked to give 2 talks and a Relief Society lesson this Sunday about this topic. Do you think I should take this as a sign that I need to do better at this?! And I do.
In musical terms, a sustain is the period of time during which the sound remains before it “becomes inaudible, or silent” (Wikipedia.org). This makes an interesting analogy when applied to sustaining the prophet. In covenanting to sustain the prophet, we are promising to keep his voice, his words, from becoming inaudible, or silent. How do we do that? For starters, by acting on his words, by carrying them with us, by patient and consistent work.
The good part comes when we read the Lord’s promise associated with sustaining the prophet “in all patience [which sometimes is itself difficult, to be patient with the prophet!] and faith”: For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers of darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory.” (D&C 21:5–7). Wow, good stuff, huh?
So, after my looooong treatise on this, I want to hear your experiences: How do you sustain the prophet? What blessings have come in your life as a result—what darkness has been dispersed and how have the heavens shook for your good?
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