Isaiah's Lips Anointed with Fire - Benjamin West (1738-1820)

Isaiah's Lips Anointed with Fire - Benjamin West (1738-1820)

I spoke in my ward’s sacrament meeting yesterday.  Here is a copy of my talk:

I’m grateful for this opportunity to speak to you today about a subject that is very important to me, and hopefully to you.  I pray that the Spirit might be with us so that we may both be edified by these things, and that we can apply what we learn (D&C 50:22).

The topic I’ve been given is twofold - first, the hymn “Who’s on the Lord’s Side?” and second, “following the prophet.”  While these two topics don’t seem to relate to each other on the surface, I think the point is that those who follow the teachings of the prophets are truly on the Lord’s side.

First a short story.  Most of us have not had to deal with severe persecution.  Our baptism day was probably greeted with smiling faces, the company of close friends and family, and a warm Spirit.  But others have not been as fortunate.  This story was related by Elder Charles Dahlquist, Young Men General President, in the April 2007 General Conference:

In February 1852, a young woman by the name of Hannah Last Cornaby was baptized in Yarmouth, England. It was not the quiet, reverent experience most have but was described by her in these words: “We found the house surrounded by a mob, through which we with difficulty made our way. . . . Before we reached the water’s edge, the whole horde was upon us; and my husband baptized me amid a shower of stones, and shouts . . . and, although the stones whizzed around us thick as hail, not one touched us, and we reached home in safety, thanking God for our miraculous deliverance” (Hannah Cornaby, Autobiography and Poems [1881], 24–25).[1]

This sister’s life continued to be a difficult one.  Years later she wrote a poem, which we now recognize as one of our hymns:

Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
Now is the time to show
We ask it fearlessly
Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
We wage no common war
Cope with no common foe
The enemy’s awake
Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
We serve the living God
And want his foes to know
That, if but few, we’re great
Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
We’re going on to win
No fear must blanch the brow
The Lord of Hosts is ours
Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
The stone cut without hands
To fill the earth must grow
Who’ll help to roll it on?
Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
Our ensign to the world
Is floating proudly now
No coward bears our flag
Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
The powers of earth and hell
In rage direct the blow
That’s aimed to crush the work
Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?
Truth, life, and liberty
Freedom from death and woe
Are stakes we’re fighting for
Who’s on the Lord’s side, Who?
Now is the time to show
We ask it fearlessly
Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?[2]

I think that is the message that our prophets give us every time they speak - “Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?”  The answer to that question may be answered by each of us individually.

But what is a prophet?  Why follow what another person says?  The Bible Dictionary describes a prophet in this way:

The work of a Hebrew prophet was to act as God’s messenger and make known God’s will. The message was usually prefaced with the words “Thus saith Jehovah.” He taught men about God’s character, showing the full meaning of his dealings with Israel in the past. It was therefore part of the prophetic office to preserve and edit the records of the nation’s history; and such historical books as Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Sam., 1 and 2 Kings were known by the Jews as the former Prophets. It was also the prophet’s duty to denounce sin and foretell its punishment, and to redress, so far as he could, both public and private wrongs. He was to be, above all, a preacher of righteousness. When the people had fallen away from a true faith in Jehovah, the prophets had to try to restore that faith and remove false views about the character of God and the nature of the Divine requirement. In certain cases prophets predicted future events, e.g., there are the very important prophecies announcing the coming of Messiah’s kingdom; but as a rule a prophet was a forthteller rather than a foreteller.[3]

I think that last part is interesting, about a prophet being a forthteller rather than a foreteller.  The word forthteller is one that we’re not typically used to.  President Anthony Ivins, counselor to President Heber J. Grant, once gave the definition of a prophet almost the same as we have it today in the Bible Dictionary, adding that a prophet’s “direct, and most important calling is to be a forth-teller, or director of present policy, rather than a foreteller of what is to come” (President Anthony W. Ivins, October 1925 General Conference).  Carolyn Rasmus commented on this:

Isn’t that fascinating language? A forth-teller, meaning to present to the people the doctrine, to speak forth on things that we need to know. We often think of a prophet as foretelling the future. But consider even the word prophet itself: the prefix pro means “forth.” So a prophet declares or states forth the word of God.[4]

Indeed, the word prophet comes from two roots, pro meaning “before,” and phanai meaning “to speak.”  So both the word forthteller and prophet have the meaning that the person is speaking for someone else, that they are a spokesman, “speaking forth” the word of another.  The Hebrew word for prophet is “nabiy” which literally means spokesman or speaker, speaking not his own words, but those delivered to him.  In Greek the word is “prophetes” which has the meaning of someone who is moved by the Spirit of God and hence is his spokesman, who declares to mankind what he has received by inspiration from God.  In many commentaries, a prophet is said to be the immediate organ, instrument, or mouthpiece of God for the communication of his will to men.  This brings more meaning to the scripture from Doctrine and Covenants that says “whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38).  A prophet reports what he hears from God, sometimes even prefacing their words with, “Thus saith the Lord…”

Now we begin to see what a prophet is.  He is an ordinary person, but specifically called and commissioned to deliver the word and will of God to mankind on the earth.  The most common way the will of the Lord has been communicated to mankind since the beginning was through the voice of his prophets.  They were messengers from our Heavenly Father, servants.  When the people wanted to know what God wanted them to do, they listened to the prophet.  Almost all of the scriptures we possess were given to us through prophets, who not only declared the word of God, but wrote it down.

Since God will do nothing without revealing his will to the prophets (Amos 3:7), it is therefore reasonable to believe that he has called prophets today.  And He has.

President Gordon B. Hinckley

President Gordon B. Hinckley

One great example of a modern-day prophet was President Hinckley.  The October 2001 General Conference was less than a month after the horrific terrorist attacks of 9/11.  The United States had just begun a war.  President Hinckley said this at the time:

No one knows how long it will last. No one knows precisely where it will be fought. No one knows what it may entail before it is over. We have launched an undertaking the size and nature of which we cannot see at this time.

Occasions of this kind pull us up sharply to a realization that life is fragile, peace is fragile, civilization itself is fragile. The economy is particularly vulnerable. We have been counseled again and again concerning self-reliance, concerning debt, concerning thrift. So many of our people are heavily in debt for things that are not entirely necessary. When I was a young man, my father counseled me to build a modest home, sufficient for the needs of my family, and make it beautiful and attractive and pleasant and secure. He counseled me to pay off the mortgage as quickly as I could so that, come what may, there would be a roof over the heads of my wife and children. I was reared on that kind of doctrine. I urge you as members of this Church to get free of debt where possible and to have a little laid aside against a rainy day.

We cannot provide against every contingency. But we can provide against many contingencies. Let the present situation remind us that this we should do.

As we have been continuously counseled for more than 60 years, let us have some food set aside that would sustain us for a time in case of need…

I do not know what the future holds. I do not wish to sound negative, but I wish to remind you of the warnings of scripture and the teachings of the prophets which we have had constantly before us.

I cannot forget the great lesson of Pharaoh’s dream of the fat and lean kine and of the full and withered stalks of corn.

I cannot dismiss from my mind the grim warnings of the Lord as set forth in the 24th chapter of Matthew.

I am familiar, as are you, with the declarations of modern revelation that the time will come when the earth will be cleansed and there will be indescribable distress, with weeping and mourning and lamentation (see D&C 112:24).

Now, I do not wish to be an alarmist. I do not wish to be a prophet of doom. I am optimistic. I do not believe the time is here when an all-consuming calamity will overtake us. I earnestly pray that it may not. There is so much of the Lord’s work yet to be done. We, and our children after us, must do it…

Now, brothers and sisters, we must do our duty, whatever that duty might be. Peace may be denied for a season. Some of our liberties may be curtailed. We may be inconvenienced. We may even be called on to suffer in one way or another. But God our Eternal Father will watch over this nation and all of the civilized world who look to Him.[5]

In the current economic storm of the stock market plunging 50% in the last 6 months, and unemployment over 8% and rising, President Hinckley’s words ring as true today as ever.  Those members of the Church who were on the Lord’s side in 2001, followed the word of the prophet, and will make it through these turbulent times today, and as President Hinckley said, will have “peace in [their] hearts and peace in [their] homes”[6].

The Brazen Serpent - Benjamin West (1738-1820)

The Brazen Serpent - Benjamin West (1738-1820)

There are other current events which have made us look to the prophet to receive the Lord’s guidance.  Of these circumstances Elder Neal A. Maxwell spoke 30 years ago:

Discipleship includes good citizenship; and in this connection, if you are careful students of the statements of the modern prophets, you will have noticed that with rare exceptions–especially when the First Presidency has spoken out–the concerns expressed have been over moral issues, not issues between political parties. The declarations are about principles, not people, and causes, not candidates. On occasions, at other levels in the Church, a few have not been so discreet, so wise, or so inspired.

But make no mistake about it, brothers and sisters; in the months and years ahead, events will require of each member that he or she decide whether or not he or she will follow the First Presidency. Members will find it more difficult to halt longer between two opinions (see 1 Kings 18:21).

President Marion G. Romney said, many years ago, that he had “never hesitated to follow the counsel of the Authorities of the Church even though it crossed my social, professional, or political life” (CR, April 1941, p. 123). This is a hard doctrine, but it is a particularly vital doctrine in a society which is becoming more wicked. In short, brothers and sisters, not being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ includes not being ashamed of the prophets of Jesus Christ.[7]

Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?  Now is the time to show!  Sometimes the labor we will be given will be only to look, but because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, many will not do it (1 Nephi 17:41).

The Church’s Semiannual General Conference is coming up in three weeks.  We will have the sacred opportunity to listen to the Lord’s prophets and apostles speak to us.  We might liken this to Moses standing at the pulpit to speak, or Enoch, or Abraham, or Jacob, or Isaiah.  Would we listen to them?  The Lord’s mouthpiece is going to teach us those things we should know and do in our day to withstand the blows of the adversary and to draw closer to our Father in heaven.

We are waging a war, one that began in the pre-mortal life.  Who’s on the Lord’s side? Who?  Those who pay strict heed to the prophets of God.

Related Posts


Who’s on the Lord’s Side? Who?

  1. Charles W. Dahlquist, “Who’s on the Lord’s Side?” April 2007 General Conference.
  2. Hymn #260
  3. Bible Dictionary - prophet.
  4. Maren Mouritsen and Carolyn Rasmus, “By Mine Own Voice or by the Voice of My Servants,” BYU Women’s 2000 Conference.
  5. Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Times in Which we Live.”  October 2001 General Conference.
  6. ibid.
  7. Neal A. Maxwell, “Meeting the Challenges of Today,” BYU Devotional, October 10, 1978

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