In the previous part of this series I discussed the importance of scriptures as the collection of pure doctrine that teaches us the total plan of salvation as we have received it from our Father in Heaven. Elder Hales made the comment that if we want to talk to God we pray. If we want God to talk to us we need to search the scriptures.This brings us to the question of why we need prophets if we already have the scriptures, the inspired writings and doctrines that will lead us back to our heavenly home. Yes, the scriptures have been given to us by prophets, but prophets are not always recorded in scripture. Does that make that prophet any less useful to those God called him to serve?
Think of all the beloved prophets/apostles of this dispensation who have not been canonized or immortalized in official scripture. Are their sermons now worthless, to be tossed out because they haven’t been turned into chapter and verse? If having their writings put into scriptures isn’t what makes a prophet valuable then what is it? That is where human nature comes in.
As valuable as the scriptures are, they are still a disembodied voice. They are without a face or identity. It is human nature to question what we cannot see or hear. Even if it really is the truth, we doubt and question something that we did not experience for ourselves. And the scriptures fall completely within that category. They were written long ago by people of different cultures and different eras. How do we know they thought like us or had our kinds of problems?
There are a thousand reasons to not believe the scriptures, despite the complete truth of the scriptures. That is where the prophets/apostles come in.
Wisdom of God
The Lord knows our nature. Because of His wisdom he has selected choice servants to help us in our times of weakness. They are called by God to go among the children of the earth and testify of that which the scriptures teach. It is their calling to testify of the truths found within the scriptures, especially of the divinity of Christ and the reality of the Father.
The calling of the apostleship includes things like teaching us how to read and understand the scriptures. They have personally learned much in their lives, and they share their wisdom with the rest of us so we can learn wisdom while we are much younger than they.
Elder Bednar gave a talk in October General Conference of 2015. In that talk he spoke about some of the General Authorities of the Church who had just recently passed away. I would like to use some quotes from that talk to make a point about the usefulness of having living witnesses of the Lord’s work and intentions for us. As you read these quotes, look for common threads that run throughout Elder Bednar’s comments.
Quote 1 from Elder Robert D. Hales
I asked Elder Hales, “You have been a successful husband, father, athlete, pilot, business executive, and Church leader. What lessons have you learned as you have grown older and been constrained by decreased physical capacity?”
Elder Hales paused for a moment and responded, “When you cannot do what you have always done, then you only do what matters most.”
I bear witness that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of the living God. He stands at the head of the Church. Through His Atonement and the power of the priesthood, families which are begun in mortality can be together through the eternities. …
“I am so grateful for … the Atonement which can wash clean every stain no matter how difficult or how long or how many times repeated. The Atonement can put you free again to move forward, cleanly and worthily” (“The Plan of Happiness,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 28).
“The Savior has offered to all of us a precious peace through His Atonement, but this can come only as we are willing to cast out negative feelings of anger, spite, or revenge. …
“Let us remember that we need to forgive to be forgiven. … With all my heart and soul, I believe in the healing power that can come to us as we follow the counsel of the Savior ‘to forgive all men’ [D&C 64:10]” (“The Healing Power of Forgiveness,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 69).
“I affirm my witness of the calling of the Prophet Joseph, of his works, of the sealing of his testimony with his blood as a martyr to the eternal truth. … You and I are faced with the stark question of accepting the truth of the First Vision and that which followed it. On the question of its reality lies the very validity of this Church. If it is the truth, and I testify that it is, then the work in which we are engaged is the most important work on the earth” (“The Stone Cut Out of the Mountain,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2007, 86).
Elder Bednar had more quotes I could have used, and I encourage you to read his address. It is well worth your time. What did you see in common between these four quotes?
Each of these men have a lifetime of experience with the Lord and his teachings. Each of them has a breadth of understanding of what it means to be mortal we should seek to emulate. And each of them is able to bear witness of something different because of their unique experience in life. Elder Bednar said that Elder Faust was the most forgiving man he ever knew. It is this knowledge of Elder Faust’s personality that gives his testimony such power.
Each prophet and apostle is called to do a basic work for the Lord, to testify of Him. But in the course of that work they help make God’s plan of salvation for us real and tangible. The prophets act as touchstones by which we can measure our own testimonies. Their sermons inspire us to try harder and search the scriptures more diligently.
The key here is that as truthful as the scriptures are, we need, need, need living witnesses who have been personally commissioned by God to bear witness of His work. This makes them invaluable to each generation, even if their writings never make it into the scriptures. Their testimonies save the lives and souls of God’s children everywhere. They act as examples of service and of lives lived valiantly in the Lord’s way.
Thank God for the scriptures. Thank God for His living witnesses, the apostles and prophets.
Read the chosen to bear testimony of my name by Elder Bednar here