I have a memory etched in my mind of the first time I met one of the living Apostles. It was in the late 1960s. I must have been about 13 or 14 years old. One afternoon, as an Aaronic Priesthood activity, our quorum of teachers and deacons visited the old Church Office Building. We were seated in the lobby when a secretary greeted us kindly and led us all into the office of Elder Joseph Fielding Smith, who was then the President of the Quorum of the Twelve. President Smith was more than ninety years old. But he greeted each one of us with a firm handshake and looked deeply into our eyes. In a soft voice, he asked a few questions and told us to be true to the priesthood that we held, both in word and in deed. His words penetrated my heart. I knew I had been given instructions from a servant of God. President Smith’s secretary took of photo of our meeting, which has preserved my memory.
I am sure I did not have a complete appreciation then of the great privilege it was to meet and shake hands with the second most senior apostle of the Church, but I shall not forget the feeling that came over me, or the certainty that President Smith was an apostle of the Lord, a prophet, seer, and revelator.
In recent weeks, members of the Church gratefully and tearfully said goodbye to President Thomas S. Monson as he passed from this earth after more than 54 years of continuous service as an apostle of the Lord, and nearly ten years as the President of the Church. Shortly after President Monson’s funeral, we joyfully welcomed the news that the senior living apostle, Russell M. Nelson, had been sustained by the Quorum of the Twelve and set apart as the new President of the Church, under the combined hands of all the living apostles with the next most senior apostle, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, acting as voice.
Immediately after President Nelson was set apart as the President, he named his counselors in the First Presidency, the President of the Quorum of the Twelve, and the Acting President of the Twelve. Then, President Dallin H. Oaks, President Henry B. Eyring, and President M. Russell Ballard were in like manner sustained and set apart in their respective offices.
Elder Gary E. Stevenson recently described these events as the “divine, sacred, solemn, and orderly transfer of authority to exercise all priesthood keys from one prophet to another.” The transfer of all priesthood keys to a new President, prophet, and seer has occurred only 17 times in this last dispensation. Elder Stevenson shared his tender feelings and powerful witness in these words: “This was a deeply sacred and special experience with an abundance of the Spirit in attendance… Brothers and sisters, I offer to you my absolute witness that the will of the Lord, for which we fervently prayed, was powerfully manifest in the activities and events which took place that day.” (Devotional, BYU-Hawaii, January 23, 2018).
In the coming weeks, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will gather for the General Conference of the Church and will have the privilege of raising their hands to sustain President Nelson and the First Presidency, together with each member of the Quorum of the Twelve. We may also anticipate the joyous opportunity to sustain two new members of the Twelve to replace those that have passed since the previous General Conference of the Church.
In each session of Conference, we will hear revelatory words of wisdom, counsel, and instruction from those who have been called to lead us, including those called as prophets, seers, and revelators. I encourage each member of the Church to prepare to listen and to learn and, most importantly, to act by applying the counsels of our living prophets.
The Lord has promised to reveal to His servants His word. “And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.” (D&C 68:4). It has been said “that a person is not truly converted until he sees the power of God resting upon the leaders of this Church, and until it gets down into his heart like fire” (A. Theodore Tuttle, What is a Living Prophet?, April 1973).
In the coming General Conference, as we raise our hands in unity to sustain President Russell M. Nelson, the First Presidency, and the Quorum of the Twelve, let us be thoughtful and intentional in making of our commitment to sustain with more than the uplifted hand. Let us sustain with a commitment to the Lord that we will live by the words and counsel given to the Church by these prophets, seers, and revelators who are chosen to lead us in these latter days. May each one of us see the power of God resting on the leaders of our Church, and may this be a confirmation of truth that settles in our hearts like fire. You have my assurance that God will always reveal the truth to His saints by the voice of His prophets.