Doctrine & Covenants/Church History
Lesson 37
“We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet”

Lesson Highlights

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:  Our Heritage, page 131; Class Member Study Guide
    Note: Underlined scripture references have been hyperlinked to the LDS Scriptures at 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 President Brown:

        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 on.
        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 a Christian?"
        "I am."
        "I assume you believe in the Bible—the Old and New Testament?"
        "I do!"
        "Do you believe in prayer?"
        "I do!"
        "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?"
        "He was."
        "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 into heaven?"
        "I do."
        "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 Quest, p127-134)

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?

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.

Joseph Smith (

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 the Church.

Brigham Young (

With the death of Brigham Young, many once again felt that the Church would not survive.

John Taylor.

John Taylor (

Wilford Woodruff.

Wilford Woodruff (

Lorenzo Snow.

Lorenzo Snow (

Joseph F. Smith.

Joseph F. Smith (

Heber J. Grant.

Heber J. Grant (

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 Monson, 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. Williams.

Wilford Woodruff, History of His Life and Labors by Matthias F. Cowley.

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Changes last made on:  17 July 2017