Doctrine & Covenants/Church History
“We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet”
Our need for a living prophet.
The roles of our living prophet.
Heeding the words of our living prophet.
Latter-day prophets’ example of Christlike love.
A study of this lesson will help us recognize the need for our living
prophet, understand his roles, and more faithfully obey his counsel.
Scripture references for study:
Heritage, page 131;
Class Member Study Guide
Note: Underlined scripture references have been hyperlinked
to the LDS Scriptures at LDS.org and will open in a new window.
Lesson 37 Handout (PDF)
The Need For A Living Prophet
Many years ago President Hugh B. Brown, counselor to President McKay,
gave a wonderful talk titled Profile of A Prophet. The first part
of that talk establishes the fact that God has always worked through prophets. As the prophet Amos wrote: "Surely the Lord
God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the
prophets" (Amos 3:7). Consider the words of
I should like to be a witness
in support of the proposition that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been
restored in our day and that this is his Church which was organized under
his direction through the Prophet Joseph Smith. I should like to give some
reasons for the faith I have and for my allegiance to the Church. Perhaps
I can do this more effectively by referring to an interview I had in London,
England in 1939, just before the outbreak of the war. I had met a very
prominent English gentleman, a member of the House of Commons, formerly
one of the justices of the supreme court of England. In my conversations
with this gentleman on various subjects, "vexations of the soul" he called
them, we talked about business and law, about politics, international relations,
and war, and we frequently discussed religion. He called me on the phone
one day and asked if I would meet him at his office and explain some phases
of the gospel. He said, "I think there is going to be a war. If there is,
you will have to return to America, and we may not meet again." His statement
regarding the imminence of war and the possibility that we would not meet
again proved to be prophetic. When I went to his office, he said he was
intrigued by some things I had told him. He asked me to prepare a brief
on Mormonism and discuss it with him as I would discuss a legal problem.
He said, "You have told me that you believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet.
You have said to me that you believe that God the Father and Jesus of Nazareth
appeared to Joseph Smith. I cannot understand how a barrister and solicitor
from Canada, a man trained in logic and evidence could accept such absurd
statements. What you tell me about Joseph Smith seems fantastic, but I
wish you would take three days at least to prepare a brief and permit me
to examine it and question you on it."
I suggested that we proceed
at once to have an Examination for Discovery, which is briefly a meeting
of the opposing sides in a lawsuit where the plaintiff and defendant, with
their attorneys, meet to examine each other's claims and see whether they
can find some area of agreement and thus save the time of the court later
I said perhaps we could
see whether we had some common ground from which we could discuss my "fantastic
ideas." He agreed to that quite readily.
I can only give a condensed
and abbreviated synopsis of the three-hour conversation which followed.
I began by asking, "May I proceed, sir, on the assumption that you are
"I assume you believe in
the Bible—the Old and New Testament?"
"Do you believe in prayer?"
"You say that my belief
that God spoke to a man in this age is fantastic and absurd?"
"To me it is."
"Do you believe that God
ever did speak to anyone?"
"Certainly, all through
the Bible we have evidence of that."
"Did he speak to Adam?"
"To Enoch, Noah, Abraham,
Moses, Jacob, Joseph, and on through the prophets?"
"I believe he spoke to
each of them."
"Do you believe that contact
between God and man ceased when Jesus appeared on the earth?"
"No, such communication
reached its climax, its apex at that time."
"Do you believe that Jesus
was the Son of God?"
"Do you believe, sir, that
after Jesus was resurrected a certain lawyer, who was also a tentmaker
by the name of Saul of Tarsus, when on his way to Damascus, talked with
Jesus of Nazareth, who had been crucified, resurrected, and had ascended
"Whose voice did Saul hear?"
"It was the voice of Jesus
Christ, for he so introduced himself."
"Then, my Lord, (that is
the way we address judges in the British Commonwealth) my Lord, I am submitting
to you in all seriousness that it was standard procedure in Bible times
for God to talk to men."
"I think I will admit that,
but it stopped shortly after the first century of the Christian era."
"Why do you think it stopped?"
"I can't say."
"You think that God hasn't
spoken since then?"
"I am sure he hasn't."
"There must be a reason,
can you give me a reason?"
"I do not know."
"May I suggest some possible
reasons: Perhaps God does not speak to men anymore because he cannot. He
has lost the power."
"He said, "Of course that
would be blasphemous."
"Well, then if you don't
accept that, perhaps he doesn't speak to men because he doesn't love us
anymore. He is no longer interested in the affairs of men."
"No," he said, "God loves
all men, and he is no respecter of persons."
"Well, then, if he could
speak, and if he loves us, then the only other possible answer as I see
it is that we don't need him. We have made such rapid strides in science,
we are so well-educated, that we don't need God any more."
And then he said, and his
voice trembled as he thought of impending war, "Mr. Brown, there never
was a time in the history of the world when the voice of God was needed
as it is needed now. Perhaps you can tell me why he doesn't speak."
My answer was, "He does
speak, he has spoken; but men need faith to hear him."
President Brown continued on in his conversation with the judge and
established a profile of a prophet using available evidence to demonstrate
to the judge that Joseph Smith fit the profile of ancient prophets.
He then concluded his story:
The judge sat and listened
intently, he asked some very pointed and searching questions; and at the
end of the period he said, "Mr. Brown, I wonder if your people appreciate
the import of your message: do you?" He said, "If what you have told me
is true, it is the greatest message that has come to this earth since the
angels announced the birth of Christ.
"This was a judge speaking,
a great statesman, an intelligent man. He threw out the challenge, "Do
you appreciate the import of what you say?" He added: "I wish it were true.
I hope it may be true. God knows it ought to be true. I would to God,"
he said, and he wept as he said it, "that some man could appear on the
earth and authoritatively say, Thus saith the Lord." (The Eternal
At the end of their conversation, the judge asked President Brown a probing
question: "I wonder if your people appreciate
the import of your message: do you?" This is an important
question. Do we understand the need for a living prophet and do we appreciate the fact that we have a living prophet who leads the Church
under the direction of Jesus Christ?
President Gordon B. Hinckley: "How thankful
we ought to be . . . how thankful we are, for a prophet to counsel us in
words of divine wisdom as we walk our paths in these complex and difficult
times. The solid assurance we carry in our hearts, the conviction that
God will make his will known to his children through his recognized servant
is the real basis of our faith and activity. We either have a prophet or
we have nothing: and having a prophet, we have everything. . . .
"Could any people have
a greater blessing than to have standing at their head one who receives
and teaches the will of God concerning them? We need not look far in the
world to know that 'the wisdom of the wise has perished and that the understanding
of the prudent has come to naught.' That wisdom for which the world should
seek is the wisdom which comes from God. The only understanding that will
save the world is divine understanding." (Teachings of Gordon
B. Hinckley, p500)
President Hinckley tells of visiting the Philippines in 1961 and meeting
the only native Filipino member they had been able to locate. President
Hinckley tells the story of this lone member: "When
he was a boy he found in a garbage can an old tattered copy of the Reader's
Digest. It contained a condensation of a book giving the story of the Mormon
people. It spoke of Joseph Smith and described him as a prophet. The word
prophet did something to that boy. Could there actually be a prophet upon
the earth? he wondered. The magazine was lost, but concern over the presence
of a living prophet never left him during the long, dark years of war and
oppression when the Philippines were occupied. Finally the forces of liberation
came, and with them the reopening of Clark Air Base. David Lagman found
employment there. His supervisor, he learned, was a Mormon, an Air Force
officer. He wanted to ask him if he believed in a prophet, but was afraid
to do so. Finally, after much inner turmoil, he mustered the courage to
"'Are you a Mormon, sir?'
the young man asked. 'Yes, I am,' was the forthright reply. 'Do you believe
in a prophet, do you have a prophet in your church?' came the anxious question.
"'We do have a prophet,
a living prophet, who presides in this church and who teaches the will
of the Lord.'
"David asked the officer
to tell him more, and out of that teaching came his baptism. He was the
first native elder ordained in the Philippines." (Teachings
of Gordon B. Hinckley, p499)
For those of us that have grown up in the Church, we sometimes do not appreciate
the significance and importance of a living prophet. When one is
born on a fruitful farm, one does not appreciate the fact that there are
starving people in many places around the world. Throughout my life
I have been blessed with gospel light and in being able to hear the words
of the prophets. Yet there are many suffering from spiritual famine
throughout the world. Oh, how grateful we should be to receive guidance
and direction from the Lord's spokesman.
Latter-Day Prophets - Joseph Smith to Heber J. Grant
The Lord raised up Joseph Smith as an instrument to restore the fullness
of the gospel to the earth in the last days.
He spoke with God the Father and his son, Jesus Christ.
Priesthood powers and keys were restored through him by angelic messengers.
The Book of Mormon was translated by him through the power of God.
Additional scripture was revealed to him.
He laid the foundations for the kingdom of God. The Church grew from
a handful of believers to many thousands of stalwart Saints.
His life was given as a testimony of all that he lived for.
According to John Taylor, "Joseph Smith, the Prophet
and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation
of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it."
Joseph Smith (LDS.org)
Many thought the Church would collapse with the death of Joseph Smith. Such was not to be the case. Under the direction of the Lord, Brigham Young assumed leadership of
He led the Church through the succession crisis and paved the way for the
smooth transition of leadership in the future.
This was a powerful leader who turned Nauvoo into a factory in preparation
for the move west.
Like a Joshua or a Moses, Brigham Young guided the single largest migration
in the history of the continent.
He guided the establishment of a new and better civilization in the Great
He did more to organize the structure of the Church than any other man.
He was a man recognized by the world. His statue stands in the Hall
of Statues in the U.S. Capitol Building.
Brigham Young set many of the stakes of Zion in order. Some twenty
were organized or reorganized by President Young that summer.
He released all the Twelve from presiding over stakes. The Twelve
were instructed that their mission had a larger field than a stake of Zion.
He set the priesthood in order.
The duties of all priesthood offices were defined from the apostles down
to those offices of the Aaronic Priesthood.
President Young presided over the organization of the Box Elder stake on
August 19 and then returned to his home.
On August 23rd he was seized with an illness that proved fatal within six
days. At the age of 76, on August 29th, President Young died surrounded
by his family and friends. The last words he uttered were "Joseph, Joseph,
Wilford Woodruff said at President Young's funeral: "I
do not suppose there was ever a man breathed the breath of life who, in
the short space of forty-five years, has done so much towards the establishment
of the government and kingdom of God, as our beloved president [Brigham
Brigham Young (LDS.org)
With the death of Brigham Young, many once again felt that the Church would
One of the great testimonies of this Church is that the Lord continues
to raise up prophet after prophet - men who lead the Church and kingdom
John Taylor at President Young's funeral: "The
work we are engaged in is not the work of man. Joseph Smith did not originate
it, neither did Brigham Young, nor the twelve nor any mortal man. It emanated
from God, he is its author, his eye is over us, he is watching every movement
and every transaction that transpires now, and that has transpired ever
since the commencement, and will continue so to do. It is he that has been
our Grand Leader, these others now departed have been our brethren, appointed
to lead and guide us, under his direction, in the paths of life. And although
we mourn the loss of our departed friend, a brother and a president, and
although the feelings of our hearts sympathize with his family and friends
yet at the same time there are principles greater and grander than any
personal interest, or any individuality associated with these matters.
It is a heavenly interest, the building up of Zion, the establishment of
the Kingdom of God and the rolling forth of his purposes upon the earth."
Every prophet from Joseph Smith to Thomas S. Monson has led the Church
forward. What other organization in the history of the world has
had such incredible continuity of great leaders?
Consider the United States, arguably the greatest nation in the history
of the world. We began with a remarkable group of men leading this
country, beginning in 1789 with the ascendancy of George Washington to the
presidency. He was followed by John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James
Madison, and James Monroe. Even John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson
might be considered good presidents. But consider the caliber of
so many who have filled that office since. Men like Martin Van Buren,
James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Warren G. Harding, Richard Nixon, and others.
And yet, the Church has traveled through that same time period, minus a
few years, with the most remarkable men leading the Church. What
a testimony! Let us take a glimpse at a few of these other great prophets.
The only president of the Church not to be born in the United States.
He was born in 1808 in Milnthorpe, England, as one of ten children.
He worked on the family farm and later learned the woodturner's trade.
As a teenager he joined the Methodist church. He labored actively
with his friends and was appointed a lay preacher at age seventeen.
B.H. Roberts wrote that when John Taylor was "but
a small boy he saw, in vision, an angel in the heavens, holding a trumpet
to his mouth, sounding a message to the nations" (Life of John
President Taylor said that at one time he was overcome by a powerful influence. He said to his companion, "I have a strong impression
on my mind, that I have to go to America to preach the gospel!"
(Life of John Taylor, p28)
In 1832, John left England and sailed to the American continent where he settled in Canada.
He aligned himself with the local Methodist church. He discovered
in studying the scriptures, with a few close friends, that there were doctrines
taught by the Lord and his apostles that were not being taught by the
churches of the day. He joined his friends in fasting and prayer
hoping to discover the truth. In May 1836, John was visited in Canada by Parley P. Pratt. Wrote President Taylor: "About this time
Parley P. Pratt called on me with a letter of introduction from a merchant
of my acquaintance. I had peculiar feelings on seeing him. I had heard
a great many stories of a similar kind to those that you have heard, and
I must say that I thought my friend had imposed on me a little in sending
a man of this persuasion to me. I, however, received him courteously....
I told him, however, plainly, my feelings, and that in our researches I
wanted no fables; I wished him to confine himself to the scriptures. We
talked for three hours or upwards, and he bound me as close to the scriptures
as I desired, proving everything he said therefrom. I wrote down eight
sermons that he preached, in order that I might compare them with the word
of God. I found nothing contrary.... A number of others and myself were
baptized [on May 9, 1836]." (Gospel Kingdom, p368)
Brother Taylor became the presiding elder of the Church in Canada at the
age of 28. A year later he was called by the Prophet to join the
Saints in Missouri. No sooner had he arrived, after a journey of
2,000 miles, when he was driven out of the state with the other Saints.
Elder Taylor was ordained an apostle at Far West in December 1838. He then assisted Brigham Young in settling the exiled Saints in Illinois.
Elder Taylor was part of the important mission of the Twelve to England. Upon his return to Nauvoo he:
Petitioned Congress for redress of the wrongs heaped upon the Church.
He was judge advocate and colonel in the Nauvoo Legion.
Member of the Nauvoo city council.
A regent of the University of Nauvoo.
Editor of the Times and Seasons and the Nauvoo Neighbor.
Elder Taylor was present in Carthage Jail when Joseph and Hyrum were gunned
down. He was wounded, taking four shots.
He sustained Brigham Young as the leader of the Church and assisted him
with the exodus to the west.
He assisted with the organization of the Mormon Battalion.
Served another mission to England.
Led a large company of pioneers west to Salt Lake.
Served as an associate justice in the Supreme Court of the provisional
state of Deseret.
He served additional missions to France and Germany.
Served briefly in the territorial legislature.
John Taylor, like other members of the Twelve, were taught the principle
of plural marriage upon their return from England. He wrote: "I
had always entertained strict ideas of virtue, and I felt as a married
man that this was to me, outside of this principle, an appalling thing
to do. The idea of my going and asking a young lady to be married to me,
when I had already a wife! It was a thing calculated to stir up feelings
from the innermost depth of the human soul. I had always entertained the
strictest regard for chastity....Hence, with the feelings I had entertained,
nothing but a knowledge of God, and the revelations of God, and the truth
of them, could have induced me to embrace such a principle as this."
(Life of John Taylor, p100)
John Taylor became, perhaps, the staunchest defender of this principle
in the latter-day.
With the death of President Young on August 26, 1877, the Quorum of the
Twelve again assumed the leadership of the Church, with John Taylor as
president of the quorum. The First Presidency was not reorganized
until October 10, 1880, with John Taylor ordained President of the Church.
In 1880, President Taylor presided over the 50th anniversary of the restoration
of the Church.
He felt that they ought to do as ancient Israel and do something to relieve
those that were oppressed with debt and help the needy. He wanted
it to be a time of rejoicing.
President Taylor canceled the debts of many who had received money from
the Perpetual Emigration Fund. He also requested that the more wealthy
Saints cancel the debts of those who were poor. "If
you have mortgages upon the homes of your brethren and sisters who are
poor, worthy and honest, and who desire to pay you but cannot, free them
in whole or in part. Extend to them a jubilee." (Life of John Taylor,
March 1882: The Edmunds Bill was signed into law.
At the October Conference, President Taylor spoke to the Saints about the
oppressive measures of the law: "We do not
wish to place ourselves in a state of antagonism, nor to act defiantly,
towards this government. We will fulfil the letter, so far as practicable,
of that unjust, inhuman, oppressive and unconstitutional law, so far as
we can without violating principle; but we cannot sacrifice every principle
of human right at the behest of corrupt, unreasoning and unprincipled men;
we cannot violate the highest and noblest principles of human nature and
make pariahs and outcasts of highminded, virtuous and honorable women,
nor sacrifice at the shrine of popular clamor the highest and noblest principles
of humanity! We shall abide all constitutional law, as we always have done;
but while we are Godfearing and law-abiding, and respect all honorable
men and officers, we are no craven serfs, and have not learned to lick
the feet of oppressors, nor to bow in base submission to unreasoning clamor.
We will contend, inch by inch, legally and constitutionally, for our rights
as American citizens, and for the universal rights of universal man."
Persecution began once again.
Homes were broken into and ransacked.
Men were fined and hounded beyond the legal limits.
In the south, missionaries were mobbed, beaten, and killed.
The persecution was so difficult in Arizona, that President Taylor visited
the Saints there and suggested that they establish temporary homes in Mexico. The Mormon colonies of Colonia Juarez, Colonia Dublan, and Colonia Diaz
A similar recommendation was made to the Saints in Cache Valley. Many migrated to Alberta to escape the raids and persecution.
As the persecution continued, many of the General Authorities went underground
to escape prosecution and to continue the work of the Church.
President Taylor made his last public address to the Church in the Tabernacle
on February 1, 1885. He then went underground.
He died while in hiding at the home of Thomas F. Rouche, at Kaysville,
He was joined at his bedside by his two counselors, George Q. Cannon and
Joseph F. Smith, both who had also been in hiding. This was the first time
the quorum of the First Presidency had been together in over two and a
Wrote Elder B.H. Roberts: "His blood was
then mingled with the blood of the martyred Prophet and Patriarch [Joseph
and Hyrum Smith]. He has stood since then as a living martyr for the truth.
But today he occupies the place of a double martyr. President John Taylor
has been killed by the cruelty of officials who have, in this territory,
misrepresented the government of the United States. There is no room to
doubt that if he had been permitted to enjoy the comforts of home, the
ministrations of his family, the exercise to which he had been accustomed,
but of which he was deprived, he might have lived for many years yet. His
blood stains the clothes of men, who with insensate hate have offered rewards
for his arrest and have hounded him to the grave. History will yet call
their deeds by their right names."(CHC, 6:188)
John Taylor (LDS.org)
Fourth president of the Church.
Born in 1807 in Farmington, Connecticut.
As a child he was an avid student of the scriptures and often pondered
When he heard the gospel from two missionaries in 1832, he quickly recognized
the truth and was baptized two days later.
At the age of 27 he participated in Zion's Camp.
He filled his first mission in 1834 to the southern states.
1838: He was called to the apostleship and served in that special
calling for a half century.
1839: Wilford joined the mission of the Twelve to England where he
brought thousands of souls into the gospel. President Heber J. Grant
said that "no other man who ever walked the face
of the earth was a greater converter of souls to the gospel."
(CR, June 1919)
1847: Wilford was in the first company of Saints to enter the Salt
1856: He became the official Church Historian.
One of the hallmarks of President Woodruff's life was the keeping of extensive
journals which became the basis for much of our early Church history.
- He recorded 7,000 pages which are now part of the archives in the Church
- President Woodruff: "I have never spent
any of my time more profitably for the benefit of mankind than in my journal
writing." (Encylopedia of Mormonism, p1581)
- President Woodruff: "The devil has
sought to take away my life from the day I was born until now, more so
even than the lives of other men. I seem to be a marked victim of the adversary.
I can find but one reason for this: the devil knew if I got into the Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I would write the history of that
Church and leave on record the works and teachings of the prophets, of
the apostles and elders." (Wilford Woodruff, p477)
President Woodruff became the first president of the St. George Temple.
President Woodruff speaks of the following incident: "I
will here say that two weeks before I left St. George, the spirits of the
dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them. Said
they, 'You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years,
and yet nothing has ever been done for us. We laid the foundation of the
government you now enjoy, and we never apostatized from it, but we remained
true to it and were faithful to God.' These were the signers of the Declaration
of Independence, and they waited on me for two days and two nights. I thought
it very singular, that notwithstanding so much work had been done, and
yet nothing had been done for them. The thought never entered my heart,
from the fact, I suppose, that heretofore our minds were reaching after
our more immediate friends and relatives. I straightway went into the baptismal
font and called upon Brother McAllister to baptize me for the signers of
the Declaration of Independence, and fifty other eminent men, making one
hundred in all, including John Wesley, Columbus, and others. I then baptized
him for every President of the United States, except three; and when their
cause is just, somebody will do the work for them." (JD, 19:229)
He served as General Superintendent of the Young Men's Mutual Improvement
April 7, 1889: At the age of 82, Wilford Woodruff became president
of the Church.
He guided the Church through the last, difficult days of the polygamy persecutions.
When President Woodruff took over the reigns of leadership, the Church
was disincorporated, tithing funds were seized, Temple Square and other
properties were transferred to the U.S. government.
The work of salvation for both the living and the dead was threatened.
He issued the Manifesto that ended the practice of plural marriage in the
Journal entry for September 25, 1890: "I
have arrived at a point in the history of my life as the president of the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints where I am under the necessity
of acting for the temporal salvation of the church. The United States government
has taken a stand and passed laws to destroy the Latter-day Saints on the
subject of polygamy, or patriarchal order of marriage; and after praying
to the Lord and feeling inspired, I have issued the following proclamation
which is sustained by my counselors and the twelve apostles."
1894: The Genealogical Society was organized under President Woodruff's
There was confusion about the sealing process which was clarified. Many had been having themselves sealed to prominent Church leaders such
as Joseph Smith or Wilford Woodruff himself.
- Taught President Woodruff: "We want the
Latter-day Saints from this time to trace their genealogies as far as they
can, and to be sealed to their fathers and mothers. Have children sealed
to their parents, and run this chain through as far as you can get it."
(Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p492)
1896: The Salt Lake Temple was completed and dedicated.
1896: The "fast day" was changed from the first Thursday of the month
to the first Sunday of the month. The principle of donating the cost
of the two meals missed was re-emphasized at this time.
1897: President Woodruff turned 90. On the occasion of his
birthday, thousands of Saints gathered in the Tabernacle to honor him.
September 2, 1898: President Woodruff passes away.
Wilford Woodruff (LDS.org)
President Snow was born April 30, 1814, in Mantua, Portage County, Ohio.
Lorenzo was the 5th child, but oldest son.
His parents were educated people from New England and encouraged their
children in the pursuit of intellectual honor and social accomplishment.
His father was frequently away from home on business. Lorenzo would
be left in charge of the large and prosperous farm. As he grew older,
he managed the shipment of produce downriver to New Orleans. It appears
the Lorenzo was always equal to the task.
His parents were Baptists. Lorenzo's sister, Eliza, says that they
were "Not of the rigid iron-bedstead order." Open and honest
discussion of ideas was encouraged. They were never allowed to become
bigoted or narrow.
Lorenzo loved books. When his attention was not needed elsewhere,
he would take a book and go off where he would not be disturbed.
Eventually, Lorenzo went off to college at Oberlin, Ohio, to attend the
Lorenzo was not attracted to institutionalized religion. Near the
end of his term he said, "If there is nothing
better than is to be found here in Oberlin College, goodbye to all religions."
(Heavens Resound, p130)
Lorenzo's mother and a sister joined the Church. Later, his sister
Eliza joined the Church.
Lorenzo had tremendous respect for Eliza. He wrote and asked her
many questions about this new religion. She wrote back and encouraged
Lorenzo to come to Kirtland and study with Professor Seixas, who had been
commissioned to teach Hebrew at the School of the Prophets.
1836: After spending time with the Saints in Kirtland and comparing the
Mormon religion to the New Testament, he was convinced of its validity
and was baptized.
A spiritual testimony did not come until a few weeks after his baptism,
when he retired in private prayer and received a powerful witness of the
Lorenzo Snow: "I had no sooner opened my
lips in an effort to pray than I heard a sound, just above my head, like
the rustling of silken robes, and immediately the Spirit of God descended
upon me, completely enveloping my whole person, filling me, from the crown
of my head to the soles of my feet, and O, the joy and happiness I felt!
No language can describe the almost instantaneous transition from a dense
cloud of mental and spiritual darkness into a refulgence of light and knowledge,
as it was at that time imparted to my understanding. I then received a
perfect knowledge that God lives, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,
and of the restoration of the Holy Priesthood, and the fulness of the Gospel....
That night as I retired to rest the same wonderful manifestations were
repeated, and continued to be for several successive nights. The sweet
remembrance of those glorious experiences from that time to the present,
bring them fresh before me, imparting an inspiring influence which pervades
my whole being, and I trust will to the close of my earthly existence."
(Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow, p8)
His first mission was in his home state of Ohio. Later he served
a mission to Italy, a difficult mission. There were laws against proselyting throughout this heavily Catholic land. Said Lorenzo:
the loveliness of nature, I found the soul of man like a wilderness. From
the palace of the king to the lone cottage on the mountains, all was shrouded
in spiritual darkness. Protestant and Papist looked upon each other as
outcasts from the hopes of eternity, but regarded themselves as the favorites
of heaven. And thus they had done from time immemorial." (Ibid.,
On February 12, 1849, Lorenzo Snow was ordained a member of the Quorum
of the Twelve Apostles.
While presiding in Brigham City, he oversaw the organization and operation
of a highly successful co-operative.
During the period of the raid, Lorenzo was arrested for and convicted of
unlawful cohabitation. He served eleven months in jail without complaint.
In the period prior to the issuance of the Manifesto, many members neglected
to pay their tithing. They felt that the donations, which would then
be confiscated by the government, would be used to further the aims of
the enemies of the Church. After the Manifesto, as the Church tried
to get back on its feet, President Woodruff struggled with the financial
condition of the Church. Wrote President Woodruff in 1894: "There
is a heavy load resting upon us in church affairs, our debts are very heavy."
In September 1898, President Woodruff died, leaving for his successor,
Lorenzo Snow, at the age of 84, the heavy financial burden that rested
upon the Church. President Snow continued to struggle with this great
In May 1899, President Snow felt impressed to make a trip to St. George
and conduct a conference. He held additional conferences in the settlements
as he returned to Salt Lake. He did not know the purpose of the trip,
only that he should go.
Even as he spoke to the Saints in St. George he said, "My
brethren and sisters, we are in your midst because the Lord directed me
to come; but the purpose of our coming is not clearly known at the present,
but this will be made known to me during our sojourn among you."
(Promptings of the Spirit, p126)
During a later session his son reported: "It
was during one of these meetings that my father received the renewed revelation
on tithing. I was sitting at a table reporting the proceedings, when all
at once father paused in his discourse, complete stillness filled the room.
When he commenced to speak again his voice strengthened and the inspiration
of God seemed suddenly to come over him, as well as over the entire assembly.
Then he revealed to the Latter-day Saints the vision that was before him.
God manifested to him there and then the purpose of the call to visit the
Saints in the south. He told them that he could see, as he had never realized
before, how the law of tithing had been neglected by the people."
President Snow taught in St. George and to the Church: "The
time has now come for every Latter-day Saint, who calculates to be prepared
for the future and to hold his feet strong upon a proper foundation, to
do the will of the Lord and to pay his tithing in full. That is the word
of the Lord to you, and it will be the word of the Lord to every settlement
throughout the land of Zion." (Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, p155)
This was the turning point for the financial affairs of the Church. We
have all been blessed by the tithes given to the Church in the building
of chapels, temples, and allowing the work of the Lord to go forth in a
President Snow's party of Church leaders continued their journey back to Salt Lake. On one day they were traveling between Cove Fort and Fillmore. President
Snow's buggy led the party and were traveling along at a comfortable
President Joseph F. Smith, second in line, pulled his carriage along President
Snow's and suggested, "Perhaps it would be well to go a trifle faster
over these good roads, President Snow."
President Snow replied, "Very well, just follow us." President
Snow gave his teamster a nudge and his team dashed off with President Smith
following. The two carriages left the rest of the group seeing only
a cloud of dust.
After two miles the carriages were running neck and neck. Said President
Snow to his teamster, "Go on, go on! Never mind the ruts. We'll get
beat. Go!" President Snow's carriage took the lead. The
race continued for fifteen miles. President Snow liked to relate how his
team came out victorious, though the honors were disputed by President
Smith. (Presidents of the Church, p135)
Prior to joining the Church, while Lorenzo was living in Kirtland, he attended
a meeting where Joseph Smith, Sr. was giving patriarchal blessings. Lorenzo was impressed with the blessings and asked to be introduced to
Father Smith. When he was introduced Father Smith said to him, "You
will soon be convinced of the truth of the latter-day work, and be baptized.
And you will become as great as you can possibly wish--even as great as
God, and you cannot wish to be greater." (Biography and Family
Record of Lorenzo Snow, p10)
Lorenzo said, "The old gentleman's
prediction, that I should ere long be baptized, was strange to me, for
I had not cherished a thought of becoming a member of the 'Mormon' Church;
but when he uttered the last clause, I was confounded. That, to me, was
a big saying, and, I then thought, approaching almost to blasphemy....
But with all my favorable impressions of the Patriarch, that big saying
was a dark parable." (Ibid., pp10-11)
About four years later Lorenzo was in Nauvoo after having served missions
in several states. He had accepted an invitation to spend an evening
in the home of his friend Henry G. Sherwood. They were discussing
the parable of the Husbandman in Matthew 22. Said Lorenzo: "While
attentively listening to his explanation, the Spirit of the Lord rested
mightily upon me-the eyes of my understanding were opened, and I saw as
clear as the sun at noonday, with wonder and astonishment, the path way
of God and man. I formed the following couplet which expresses the revelation,
as it was shown me, and explains Father Smith's dark saying to me at a
blessing meeting in the Kirtland Temple, prior to my baptism, as previously
mentioned in my first interview with the Patriarch: As man now is, God
once was: As God now is, man may be. I felt this to be a sacred communication,
which I related to no one except my sister Eliza, until I reached England,
when in a confidential private conversation with President Brigham Young,
in Manchester, I related to him this extraordinary manifestation."
Three years later, Lorenzo was visiting with the Prophet after his mission
to England and told Joseph of this incident. Said the Prophet: "Brother
Snow, this is true doctrine, and it is a revelation from God to You."
(Presidents of the Church, p140)
Suffering from declining health, President Snow died of pneumonia in the
Beehive House, the residence of the President, on October 10, 1901.
Lorenzo Snow (LDS.org)
Joseph F. Smith.
The first of the Church presidents to be born to Latter-day Saint parents.
Born November 13, 1838 at Far West Missouri.
The son of Hyrum and Mary Fielding Smith.
Hyrum married Mary Fielding after the death of his first wife, Jerusha.
At the time Joseph was born, Mary had been caring for Hyrum's five children
from Jerusha. Mary had been quite sick. Hyrum was in prison
with his brother Joseph.
He was named after Mary's brother, Joseph Fielding.
Young Joseph F lost his father to assassins at Carthage.
At the age of 8, Joseph drove an ox team over 200 miles from Nauvoo to
Winter Quarters. He then drove his own team of oxen to Salt Lake
Being a tender boy, he would throw his arms about the necks of his animals
and cry when they lowed from strain, fatigue, and thirst.
At the age of 10, in the Salt Lake valley, he was placed in charge of the
family herd. He also did plowing, canyon work, farming, and harvesting.
At age 14, his mother died.
At the age of 15, he was ordained an elder and served a three year mission
While there he overcame fatigue and severe illness.
He presided over several branches of the Church.
Upon his return from Hawaii, he was ordained a Seventy and a year later
a High Priest and a stake high councilor.
He also joined the Nauvoo Legion and was part of the expedition sent to
intercept Johnston's army. He was almost constantly in the saddle
patrolling the region between Echo Canyon and Fort Bridger.
He married at age 21 and a year later he was called to serve his second
mission, this time in Great Britain. While there, he presided over
a number of districts.
Five months after his return from the British Isles, he left on a third
mission, once again to Hawaii and served as an assistant to two of the
While in Hawaii, he selected the site for a Church plantation on Oahu,
now the location of the Hawaii Temple, BYU-Hawaii, and the Polynesian Cultural
1865: Began work as a clerk in the Church Historian's office. Also, elected to the Territorial House of Representatives.
1866: Elected to the Salt Lake City Council.
1866: At the ripe old age of 27, Brigham Young ordained Joseph F.
Joseph was called to practice plural marriage and over a period of years married
five wives. He became the father of forty-three children.
1874: Presided over both the European and British missions.
1875: Called as stake president over the Saints in Davis County,
1877: Sent to Great Britain to preside over the European Mission.
Returned to Salt Lake to help with the settlement of Brigham Young's estate.
1880: At the age of 41, he was set apart as second counselor to John
Taylor serving along with George Q. Cannon. Along with President
Cannon, they continued to serve as counselors in the First Presidency to
both Wilford Woodruff and Lorenzo Snow.
1885: Joseph went into hiding after a warrant was issued for the
arrest of members of the First Presidency. He returned to Hawaii
under the assumed name of J.F. Speight.
1887: He returned to Utah as President Taylor lay dying.
1888-89: Assigned as the chief lobbyist to Congress for the Church
in Washington, D.C.
1890: President Woodruff issued the Manifesto.
President Harrison issued a pardon and Joseph was finally able to resume
a normal life in society.
After the Manifesto, Joseph continued to care for each of his wives and
to have children by them.
1891: As Utah moved toward statehood, the People's party was disbanded. At that time, the vast majority of members leaned towards the Democratic
Joseph was asked to join the Republican party. The Republicans had
taken the leading part in the anti-polygamy campaign. In 1892 he published
Another Plain Talk: Reasons Why the People of Utah Should
1901: October 10 - President Snow died. October 17 - At the
regular meeting of the Twelve in the temple, the First Presidency was reorganized
with Joseph F. Smith as President. He was age 62.
President Smith was determined to improve public opinion of the Church
and its members during his administration. This was difficult because
of grueling interrogation before the U.S. Senate during the Smoot hearings,
local editorial attacks from the Salt Lake Tribune, and negative articles
in some of the nation's leading magazines.
Important results of President Smith's administration.
Conservative fiscal policy that resulted in the Church getting out of debt.
Purchase of significant historical sites: Joseph Smith's birthplace
in Vermont, the Smith farm in New York, important sites in Missouri, and
the Carthage Jail.
The following projects were completed: the Church Administration
Building, the LDS Hospital, a Church visitors bureau, and the Hotel Utah
in Salt Lake City.
He expanded the missionary and educational systems of the Church.
The first Home Evening program was established.
He taught extensively on Church doctrines and the principles of priesthood
His most significant doctrinal contribution was his "Vision of the Redemption
of the Dead," which he received on October 3, 1918, just six weeks prior
to his death on November 19. Added to the Doctrine and Covenants
in 1981 as Section 138.
Presiding Bishop Charles W. Nibley said of President Smith: "As
a preacher of righteousness, who could compare with him? He was the greatest
that I ever heard-strong, powerful, clear, appealing. It was marvelous
how the words of living light and fire flowed from him. He was a born preacher,
and yet he did not set himself up to be such. He never thought highly of
his own good qualities. Rather, he was simple, plain and unaffected to
the last degree; and yet, there was dignity with it all which enabled anyone
and everyone to say: 'He is a man among men!'" (Gospel Doctrine,
President Smith taught: "There are at least three
dangers that threaten the Church within, and the authorities need to awaken
to the fact that the people should be warned unceasingly against them.
As I see these, they are flattery of prominent men in the world, false
educational ideas, and sexual impurity. But the third subject mentioned-personal
purity, is perhaps of greater importance than either of the other two.
We believe in one standard of morality for men and women. If purity of
life is neglected, all other dangers set in upon us like the rivers of
waters when the flood gates are opened." (Gospel Doctrine, p313)
President Smith taught about the importance of home: "There
is no substitute for the home. Its foundation is as ancient as the world,
and its mission has been ordained of God from the earliest times.... The
home then is more than a habitation, it is an institution which stands
for stability and love in individuals as well as in nations."
(Gospel Doctrine, p300)
Joseph F. Smith (LDS.org)
Heber J. Grant.
November 22, 1856: Born in Salt Lake City to Jedediah M. Grant and Rachel
His father served as a counselor to Brigham Young in the First Presidency
and also as mayor of Salt Lake City.
His father died from "lung disease" nine days after Heber's birth.
His mother, Rachel, became the greatest influence in his life. She was
one of Jedediah's plural wives.
Because of diminished means after Jedediah's death, Rachel was forced to
leave the large Grant home on Main Street to a "widow's cabin" several
Declining the offer of Church aid, Rachel supported the family by sewing
and taking in boarders. Many times, young Heber sat on the floor
and pumped the sewing machine treadle to relieve his tired mother.
At the age of 15, Heber was ordained to the office of Seventy.
At the age of 19, Heber became a counselor in the Salt Lake 13th Ward Young
Men's Mutual Improvement Association when it was first organized.
The weekly sessions gave Heber a chance for study, self-improvement, and
As a young man, he became an active member of the Wasatch Literary Association. This group took part in lectures, debates, readings, musical renditions,
and small scale theatrical productions. These experiences were a
significant part of his cultural and intellectual training.
Business activity became an important part of Heber's life.
He sold insurance.
Found retailers for a Chicago grocery house.
Performed tasks for the Deseret National Bank.
Appointed assistant cashier of the Church owned Zion's Savings and Trust
In his early 20s, he made ten times the amount of the typical wage earner
in Utah at that time.
He opened an insurance agency.
With a partner, he purchased the Ogden Vinegar Works.
1880: At the age of 24, Heber was called as President of the Tooele
After moving to Tooele, his youthful sweetheart and wife, Lucy Stringham,
developed a lingering stomach illness, that claimed her life twelve years
His Salt Lake City businesses began to suffer from lack of attention.
The Ogden vinegar factory burned and he was underinsured.
Heber later admitted that during those years he felt so "blue" he did not
know what to "do or where to turn." (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p565)
Heber suffered physically himself. The doctor pronounced a diagnosis
of "nervous convulsions" and warned him to slow his pace.
1882: President Taylor called 26 year old Heber J. Grant to the Quorum
of the Twelve.
Heber felt unprepared for this high and important calling.
He was also concerned about his relish for commerce and whether it properly
mixed with religion.
Said Heber: "I have felt my own lack of
ability. In fact when I was called as one of the apostles I arose to my
feet to say it was beyond anything I was worthy of, and as I was rising
the thought came to me, 'You know as you know that you live that John Taylor
is a prophet of God, and to decline this office when he had received a
revelation is equivalent to repudiating the prophet.' I said, 'I will accept
the office and do my best.' I remember that it was with difficulty that
I took my seat without fainting." (Gospel Standards, p194)
He continued: "There are two spirits striving
with us always, one telling us to continue our labor for good, and one
telling us that with the faults and failings of our nature we are unworthy.
I can truthfully say that from October, 1882, until February, 1883, that
spirit followed me day and night, telling me that I was unworthy to be
an apostle of the Church, and that I ought to resign. When I would testify
of my knowledge that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the
Redeemer of mankind, it seemed as though a voice would say to me: 'You
lie! You lie! You have never seen Him'." (Gospel Standards,
President Grant had an experience that changed his feelings while traveling
on the Navajo reservation. He had been traveling with Lot Smith and some
others. He said to Lot: "I want to
be all alone. Go ahead and follow the crowd." While
traveling alone he said, "I seemed to see, and
I seemed to hear, what to me is one of the most real things in all my life.
I seemed to hear the words that were spoken." He
then went on to describe a council that took place regarding the filling
of the vacancies in the Twelve. Among those present were the Savior,
Joseph Smith, and his father Jedediah M. Grant. Said Heber, "It
was given to me that the Prophet Joseph Smith and my father mentioned me
and requested that I be called to that position. I sat there and wept for
joy. It was given to me that I had done nothing to entitle me to that exalted
position, except that I had lived a clean, sweet life. It was given to
me that because of my father's having practically sacrificed his life in
what was known as the great reformation, so to speak, of the people in
early days, having been practically a martyr, that the Prophet Joseph and
my father desired me to have that position, and it was because of their
faithful labors that I was called, and not because of anything I had done
of myself or any great thing that I had accomplished. It was also given
to me that that was all these men, the Prophet and my father, could do
for me. From that day it depended upon me and upon me alone as to whether
I made a success of my life or a failure." (Gospel Standards,
As a young apostle, Heber concluded that wealth and money making were honorable
when dedicated to the common good. His gifts to friends and worthy
purposes often took a third of his income. He founded home institutions
to benefit the community including two insurance companies, a bank, a newspaper,
the Salt Lake Theater, and Utah Sugar Company, and several other enterprises.
During the Panic of 1893, Heber lost his fortune and never fully recovered
President Grant was the last of the Church presidents to enter into plural
marriage. He married two other wives in addition to Lucy Stringham.
As a Church leader, he was often away from his family whom he dearly loved. He tried to make up for his absence by writing long and sensitive letters
to his family including his children and grandchildren. More than
50,000 letters are preserved in Church archives.
Heber opened the Japanese Mission in 1901 and in 1903 went to Europe to
preside over the mission there.
Upon his return to the states in 1905, he supervised Church education,
the Genealogical Society, and the Improvement Era.
He became actively involved in community working for the cause of prohibition
and directing World War I Liberty Bond drives.
In 1918, as Joseph F. Smith lay on his death bed he spoke to Heber,
Lord bless you, my boy, the Lord bless you. You have got a great responsibility.
Always remember that this is the Lord's work and not man's. The Lord is
greater than any man. He knows whom he wants to lead his Church and never
makes any mistake. The Lord bless you." (CR, Apr 1941)
Heber J. Grant served as president for 26 and 1/2 years, the second longest
in Church history.
He repeatedly spoke on the need for charity, duty, honor, service, and
He preached often about living the Word of Wisdom.
President grant accepted many invitations to speak to non-Mormon groups
throughout the United States in the hope of improving the image of the
The production of pro-LDS movies such as Union Pacific and Brigham Young
were influenced by President Grant.
He promoted national tours by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
He supported the political activity of Apostle and Senator Reed Smoot. His growing national influence brought favorable comment to Utah and the
President Grant's business experience helped keep the Church financially
stable through the depression of the 1930s.
He advised a number of local businesses - Mormon and non-Mormon - and helped
them to pull through the difficult times of the depression.
The Church Security Program (later renamed the Church Welfare Program)
was established under his administration. To help get it started,
he gave the program his large dry farm in western Utah.
He dedicated three new temples: Laie, Hawaii (1919), Cardston, Canada
(1923), and Mesa, Arizona (1927).
The seminary and institute program was established.
There was increased emphasis on Sacrament meeting attendance, temple activity,
obedience to the Word of Wisdom, family-history research, and monthly visits
by the priesthood to Church members in their homes.
The Assistants to the Twelve were created to help deal with the expansion
of the Church.
Seeking to personalize his presidency, he distributed thousands of homiletic
books, personally autographing each and sometimes marking passages for
Note: I have one of these books that was given to my father prior
to leaving for his mission.
In 1940, while traveling in southern California, he suffered a series of
strokes that slowed him considerably. He delegated active administration
of the Church to his first counselor, J. Reuben Clark, Jr.
President Grant died on May 14, 1945.
Heber J. Grant (LDS.org)
We thank Thee, O God, for a prophet! The Lord has sent the most wonderful
and incredible men to lead his people in the latter days. We have
only touched on the lives of a few of these men. Each has been instrumental
in moving the kingdom of God forward. How blessed we are to have
a such men to guide us in these times when so much is changing so quickly. I would love to continue with each of the prophets down to President
though there is already far more here than can be covered in a single lesson. Their lives are an inspiration to each of us.
Gospel Doctrine Notebook
Record your thoughts on latter-day prophets. What teachings from these
great men have touched your life? How can you honor their calling?
Resources Used In This Lesson
Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow by Eliza R. Snow.
Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints by B.H. Roberts (CHC).
Conference Reports (CR).
Encyclopedia of Mormonism edited by Daniel H. Ludlow.
Gospel Doctrine: Selections from The Sermons and
Writings of Joseph F. Smith.
Gospel Standards: Selections from the Sermons and
Writings of Heber J .Grant compiled by Dr. G. Homer Durham.
Journal of Discourses (JD).
Life of John Taylor by B.H. Roberts.
Presidents of the Church.
Promptings of the Spirit by Errol R. Fish.
Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley.
The Eternal Quest by Hugh B. Brown.
The Gospel Kingdom: Selections From The Writings
and Discourses of John Taylor.
The Heaven's Resound: A History of the Latter-day
Saints in Ohio1830-1838 by Milton V. Backman, Jr.
The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow edited by Clyde J.
Wilford Woodruff, History of His Life and Labors
by Matthias F. Cowley.
Gospel Doctrine Class
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