Many years ago I was on a small plane making its final approach for landing at the Phoenix airport. An inexperienced pilot was flying when alarms suddenly sounded in the cockpit. Upon hearing the alarm, the pilot looked at his more experienced companion for direction regarding what to do. The co-pilot immediately directed that our plane take evasive action to avoid collision with another plane that had errantly taken off from the field and was directly in the course of our descent.
I have reflected many times on that experience and what it taught me. Among other things, I learned that there are times when individuals with better preparation and more experience can see things better than I can. It also taught me that I could be kept safe by trusting and following the direction those individuals can provide.
There is a spiritual equivalent of the lessons I learned that day. There are those whose preparation and experience allows them to see the world more clearly than we do. These individuals are Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. We sustain them as members of the First Presidency of the Church and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. They are prophets, seers and revelators in every sense of the word.
We should not be surprised that God would make this blessing available to us. In Old Testament times he declared: “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). If you look carefully, you will see that we live in an age of revelatory enlightenment. The announcement of the change in qualifying ages for missionaries, the new approach to teaching youth and the doctrines relating to how the priesthood can strengthen individuals and families are a few examples of inspired direction recently provided by these men who see things more clearly than we do.
The second lesson I learned flying that day was that following the direction of those whose experience I could trust would keep me safe. It is the same with the counsel provided by those who lead us today. Sometimes we are tempted to pick and choose from the counsel they provide selecting those things we like while ignoring the things that may challenge us to stretch. While adherence to any direction given to us by these living prophets is good, it is much better if we seek to follow all their counsel, even that which is difficult for us to do. It has been my experience and is my testimony that when I do, the full blessings of heaven are available to my family and me.
Over the years some have suggested that the leaders of the Church are out of touch in their declarations, that they do not know the issues of our day and that some of their policies are out-of-date or not relevant to our times. In response to such criticism, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, one of the members of the Quorum of the Twelve, said this:
“As the least of those who have been sustained by you to witness the guidance of this Church firsthand, I say with all the fervor of my soul that never in my personal or professional life have I ever associated with any group who are so in touch, who know so profoundly the issues facing us, who look so deeply into the old, stay so open to the new, and weigh so carefully, thoughtfully, and prayerfully everything in between. I testify that the grasp this body of men and women have of moral and societal issues exceeds that of any think tank or brain trust of comparable endeavor of which I know anywhere on the earth. I bear personal witness of how thoroughly good they are, of how hard they work, and how humbly they live. It is no trivial matter for this Church to declare to the world prophecy, seership, and revelation, but we do declare it. It is true light shining in a dark world, and it shines from these proceedings” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Ensign, November 2006, "Prophets in the Land Again").
To Elder Holland’s witness I add my own. There are, indeed, prophets in the land again. They see the world more clearly than we do and their counsel will keep us safe. I pray that each of us will seek to understand the direction provided by those God has chosen to lead His church and that we will have the courage, strength and resolve to apply all that they teach, not just those things we like or find easy for us to follow.