It is a beautiful thing to be led by a Prophet of God in these latter days. They have a certain knowledge of Jesus Christ, his mission, and his atonement and resurrection. In one of his final Conference addresses, President Boyd K. Packer stated clearly, “I bear my witness that the Savior lives. I know the Lord. I am His witness. I know of His great sacrifice and eternal love for all of Heavenly Father’s children. I bear my special witness in all humility but with absolute certainty.” (“The Witness,” April 2014) But despite a perfect witness of the Savior’s existence, the Lord’s servants still bring about His purposes through faith.
In Hebrews 11 in the New Testament and Ether 12 in the Book of Mormon, we learn that the many miracles that were performed through the ages by great prophets were accomplished by faith. Peter witnessed Christ’s miracles in the flesh but was warned by Jesus to be converted (Luke 22:31-32). It wasn’t until Christ had ascended to heaven and the Holy Ghost was wrought upon him that Peter was truly changed and his miracles were brought about by faith.
I was struck when reading Saints: The Standard of Truth, Vol. 1 and pondering on the story of the Saints and their trials in Missouri. The Lord had commanded the Saints to settle in Jackson County, where they almost immediately encountered problems with mobs and violence. When Joseph Smith was made aware of the issues, he inquired of the Lord repeatedly as to His will. Here are some examples:
On August 18, 1833, Joseph Smith wrote to Edward Partridge: “I know not what to say to you.” Joseph sent a copy of the August 6 revelation and continued to promise the Lord would protect them, “I have his immutable covenant that this shall be the case, but God is pleased to keep it from mine eyes the means how exactly the thing will be done.” (Saints, pg. 186) Joseph urged the saints’ trust in the Lord for the promises He already made.
On November 25, 1833, the Lord simply told Joseph to be still and trust Him. “I know that Zion, in the own due time of the Lord, will be redeemed, but how many will be the days of her purification, tribulation, and affliction, the Lord has kept hid from my eyes,” Joseph wrote Edward Partridge. (Saints pg. 194)
Joseph finally received an answer in December after four months of praying: The Lord declared that [the Saints] had been afflicted for their sins, but He had compassion on them and promised they would not be forsaken. “They must needs be chastened and tried, even as Abraham.” (Saints, pg. 196)
The point of the story is that the Prophet himself, having a perfect witness of Christ, was required to have faith in the Lord, and follow without being given a reason straight away. We need the prophets to guide us in what the Lord wants us to do, but it is privy to the Lord to tell us why we are given instructions or the timing of His promised blessings. If we knew everything, the purpose of this life would be defeated. Sometimes, as was the case with the Jackson County Saints, they faced some of their trials due to sin. On other occasions, as with Father Abraham, the reasons are clouded simply because we need to exercise the faith to follow.
It has come into vogue recently for some Latter-day Saints to attribute everything they may disagree with to “the fallibility of the Brethren.” That line of thinking simply allows for one to pick and choose which instructions or commandments are right and wrong based on their view of how fallible the Prophet and Apostles were that day. What then, exactly, is the point of having prophets and apostles?
I submit that the “fallibility of the Brethren” resides in the fact that as humans, we’re asked to have faith, which means not exactly knowing why we were given a command or what the future holds. The Brethren carefully and painstakingly make each decision that is passed down to us, not by a majority vote, but unanimously upon confirmation of the Spirit. The Brethren’s “fallibility” doesn’t stem from incorrectly receiving commandments from the Lord, but from His choice to have us exercise faith without disclosing every motive for why He commands us. A testimony that can be moved and altered with each and every policy or revelation that you may or may not agree with is the very definition of building your house upon the sand.
“The Purpose of Life: To Be Proved” – Elder Franklin D. Richards, October 1971
“Plow In Hope” – Elder Neal A. Maxwell, April 2001″
The Right Thing at the Right Time” – Elder David A. Bednar, The New Era, July 2007
Dustin Turner is a life long member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He served a mission in Monterrey, Mexico (2002-04). He has been married 15 years to his wife, Paola and together they have five boys. You can follow him @dmturner1232