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Sustaining in patience and faith

By Catherine Pavia

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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About Catherine Pavia

(Prose Board) has worked as a cherry sorter, file girl, piano teacher, writer, editor, and college professor. She currently works full-time as the art director, events planner, chauffeur, and referee for her four children. She spends a good deal of her time running—be it down the supermarket aisle after an escaped child, around the living room in a heated game of flag football, or on early-morning runs/therapy sessions with her neighborhood friends. She earned her BA and MA in English from BYU and her PhD in English from UMass Amherst.

12 thoughts on “Sustaining in patience and faith”

  1. Investigating the Church at the tender age of 14, I didn't have a testimony of its truthfulness, but a deep hope that I had finally found what I had been searching for, which led to baptism. Everything I was taught by the missionaries, even Joseph Smith, was easy to accept – everything except a living prophet. But I joined anyway, assuming the fault was with me – not the Church. I was called to serve in the library in a small branch where youth were used to do a lot of things. (pre-block plan – David O. McKay was the prophet). Because of that library calling, I had access to and read every book they had both written by him and other books about him. I approached General Conference in fasting and prayer. As I watched him wheeled in, in a wheelchair, I was flooded with light and warmth. I have never doubted the existence of a living prophet since. My point is – don't make sustaining the prophet a casual, automatic gesture. Even with a testimony of his calling, study his life, come to know him, make conscious remembrances of his counsel and directives. (Same pattern of knowing the Savior?). Who knows what counsel we will be called upon to obey from him? Each of us needs to go beyond raising our hand to the square to really knowing him and what he asks of us.

  2. To me sustaining the prophet means not criticizing him openly. It doesn't mean I don't have doubts, but why plant those seeds in others?

    It also means that when I find something he teaches difficult, I experiment on his words instead of instantly rejecting it. Through this process I have found greater faith in the words of the prophet.

    A few days ago while listening to NPR I heard an economic journalist admit that much of what we hear in popular culture are lies. It was refreshing to hear someone not of our faith admit this. I am so grateful to have a prophet that clarifies doctrine and applies it to modern problems, leading us through the valley of darkness.

  3. right around the time president monson was called to be the prophet, i had an experience where i witnessed a wife of an apostle acting like she was a celebrity in the temple…as if everybody there should have known who she was. it gave me a tainted view of "utah mormons" and it put them all into a stereotype of "holier than thou." so as president hinckley passed away and president monson was called, i felt like he…like this apostle's wife…must have the same attitude (even though i had loved him before his call to be our prophet). i'm still not sure what to think about the wife's attitude of excpecting other people to know her on a usual day just because of who her husband is. but as i have heard president monson speak, i have felt his love, i have taken to heart his word, and i have gained my own testimony of his call to be the lords voice for us. i'm sad i let the evil promtings of satan creep into my thoughts and to doubt the worthiness of a prophet of god…but i'm grateful that my heart was softened and i was able and am able to know that he is!

  4. My testimony of prophets has been strengthened through reading the scriptures, particularly the Old Testament. I feel a lot of peace knowing that as the world gets crazier and crazier, I can listen to and follow the counsel of the prophet to keep my family "safe".

  5. Stephanie2, Laura, and Sharon, Thanks for sharing your experiences with strengthening your testimonies of a living prophet.

    jendoop, I love the distinction you make between sustaining, which is what we covenant to do when we raise our hands, and blind obedience, which is _not_ part of sustaining. As I've been reading more about sustaining the prophet, the phrase "with patience" in the scripture has struck me. I've often had to sustain with patience, like you said, by experimenting on his words. Or, in being patient with his style of communication and the examples he uses.

  6. Catherine, I loved this post and the insights you've shared. I like the distinction you made between sustaining and blindly obeying—sustaining is a much more active process that involves prayer and study and, as you said, "experimenting on his words." For me, the key has been striving for humility and a soft and open heart—and that's something I continually have to work on.

    Lovely post!

  7. I've never really had a problem with sustaining a prophet but I know what has helped me feel closer to them is reading their biographies. I come to understand them better and my faith in them as "mouthpieces of the Lord" increases.


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