Then I think this should rivet our attention. President Eyring has published the same talk FOUR TIMES, including an adapted one in the newest Ensign. Click here for links to all four talks. I think understanding this talk is vital for spiritual survival in the last days, and quite possibly our physical survival, according to a story he repeats in all four versions.
Here are my eight take-aways from the original talk in 1997.
1. Jesus Christ wants to lead us to safety.
President Eyring's talk said this 18 times in various ways -- call to safety, lead to safety, guide to safety, path to safety, go to places of safety, gather to safety. Remember, President Eyring told us that when prophetic counsel is repetitive, that should rivet our attention. I think 18 times in one talk is a deliberate theme and means we ought to pay attention.
2. God has created this awesome law of witnesses where His authorized servants give us messages to help lead us to safety.
President Eyring said that God "calls by more than one means so that it will reach those willing to accept it. And those means always include sending the message by the mouths of His prophets... One of the keys to recognizing those warnings is that they are repeated," like when one prophet quotes other prophets and becomes a second and even third witness. Prophets are absolutely vital. They are included in the ways God calls people to safety. Other ways can be local priesthood leaders like the bishop in President Eyring's article, patriarchal blessings, promptings from the Spirit, and some have gifts of receiving personal revelation through dreams, visions, or near death experiences. I don't have those gifts, but I know people who do, and the scriptures verify they are part of God's plan (see D&C 46:11-26, Moroni 10:8-19, 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. Click here for more on gifts of the Spirit.)
3. When we listen to and obey God's prophets, we can receive protection that we wouldn't otherwise receive.
President Eyring repeated the story of Haun's Mill in all four of his articles, which means there is an important lesson there. If Mr. Haun had delivered the prophet Joseph Smith's message to leave and come to Farr West, none of those innocent victims would have been killed. The lesson is simple and undeniable. Stick with the prophets; there is safety there. Not that people won't ever suffer or even die if it's their time to go, but that the safest place to be, especially important as signs of the last days are all around us, is to be 100% loyal to God through His prophets. This is a good lesson for our day where some believe in preparedness but seem to spend all their energy on gathering food storage and supplies, while neglecting their testimonies. Physical preparedness is great and coincides with what prophets have told us to do for decades, but being close to the Lord and having a burning testimony that God called our prophets today may be the only thing that can save you if there ever comes a time like Haun's Mill when the only thing that would have saved them was to obey the prophet.
4. One way to self-analyze the strength of your faith is by how you respond to the counsel of prophets.
- For those with strong faith, obeying the prophets makes sense to them and is a top priority in their lives.
- For those with little faith, prophets' counsel may seem like only advice, and if it matches their own opinions they may follow it, but if it doesn't, they may find fault in the advice or justifying being an exception to the counsel.
- For those with no faith, prophetic counsel may be seen as selfish commands that take away others' freedom, and they may mock and openly criticize the prophets and those who follow them, like Korihor did.
5. An interesting couple of false beliefs come to play here.
- When people reject God's counsel they may believe they are independent from any outside influence, but the truth is, whether we know it or not, rejecting God's protective influence means we choose the influence of the devil instead, whose motive is to make everyone miserable and take away their freedom.
- Another fallacy is believing that choosing whether to accept counsel from prophets or not is choosing whether to gain benefits of that choice or to stay where you are. The truth is that rejecting prophetic counsel "changes the very ground upon which we stand. It becomes more dangerous. The failure to take prophetic counsel lessens our power to take inspired counsel in the future. The best time to have decided to help Noah build the ark was the first time he asked. Each time he asked after that, each failure to respond would have lessened sensitivity to the Spirit. And so each time his request would have seemed more foolish, until the rain came. And then it was too late." So each rejection of prophetic counsel weakens our power and our freedom.
6. President Eyring gives a four step pattern to being on the path of safety.
- First, strengthen your own faith so you are in the group who prioritize prophetic counsel whether it makes sense or not. This is not something others can do for you. You must do it yourself, every time you kneel to pray, study your scriptures or words of modern prophets, every time you serve in the temple or fast or hold family home evening. Each time you obey God through the counsel of his ancient and modern prophets, you are adding oil to your spiritual preparedness lamp that President Kimball told us about (see Faith Precedes the Miracle (1972), 256).
- Second, pay attention to what the prophets are telling us. This weekend is a perfect time to pay attention at general conference. When I was younger I would multi-task by cleaning the house, cooking, or doing other projects during conference. Not any more. Now I strive to tidy the house first and be fully present with notebook in hand, ready to write down my take-aways from every talk. I want to pay attention and not miss a thing. If someone were to ask you right now what topics the First Presidency spoke on six months ago in conference, would you remember? I'm not sure I would either, which means I need to make studying those conference talks a better priority the six months between conference, and perhaps hanging a quote meme for each of our 15 prophets, seers, and revelators in my home to remind me of each of their prophetic topics they felt called upon to guide us to safety.
- Third, President Eyring counsels us to pray and receive our own confirmation through the Spirit that the counsel is from the Lord. He told of him doing that himself, and then added the story of Reddick Allred likely praying to receive his own confirmation that his leaders' counsel was from the Lord to stay until the stranded handcart companies were found, even when other rescuers were giving up and heading home. He also mentioned this with Lehi's family, saying that only those who "had faith and who themselves received confirming revelation saw both the danger and the way to safety." It takes that kind of KNOWING when it's your moment to stand alone, to stand true to what God has told you even when many others around you are turning their back on what prophets have said, which happened in Allred's and Lehi's story. With the sifting of wheat and tares that we're told will happen before the Savior's Second Coming, this is something we each must have the strength and courage to do - to stand on the side of the prophets, even if those in our family or ward are going the other way, like the other rescuers did in Allred's story. I find that once I already have a burning testimony that our prophets are absolutely called of God, I don't feel a need to pray about specific counsel they give because the testimony of them being called of God waterfalls down as a testimony of the counsel they give. What a layered blessing. But if I ever need to do this for any specific counsel, I love knowing that I can and that God will give that gift to me. President Eyring said, "I promise you answers to such prayers of faith."
- Fourth, once you have heard what the prophets have said and have your own testimony of it, DO IT. Follow the counsel with humility, accepting that God knows better than your limited, mortal understanding.
I love how President Eyring said when he has used this pattern he has moved toward safety, and found that the way had been prepared ahead for Him by a loving Heavenly Father, sometimes far in advance, like Nephi's experience of getting the brass plates when God prepared Laban who had passed out, and then guided Nephi to that very spot. Keep in mind, Nephi had prayed to receive his own confirmation that his dad was indeed telling him God's will, which gave him the righteous spiritual stubbornness not to return until he had accomplished God's will, absolutely knowing God would help him succeed (see 1 Nephi 3:7 and 2:16).
7. When we follow the path of safety, we inspire others follow the path of safety too.
Reddick Allred "could offer [the starving handcart pioneers] safety because he had followed counsel when it was hard to do." As a twelve-year-old girl, I was invited to a birthday party where a rated-R movie started playing. This was before the days of cell phones and I didn't know how to handle the situation. I walked upstairs to do homework at the kitchen table. Soon my friend followed me, saying she felt very uncomfortable with the movie but didn't dare leave until she saw me leave the room. When one person follows God's prophets on the path to safety, it empowers others to do the same.
We see this all over in the scriptures.
- Think of how Abinadi infused spiritual courage into Alma.
- How Amulek was inspired by Alma.
- How Zeezrom was led to the path of safety by following the inspired words of Alma and Amulek.
- Think of Hyrum following Joseph.
- And President Monson being tenderly led to the path of ministering to the one by his inspired mother and primary teacher.
8. Finally, when a piece of prophetic counsel seems not to make sense or to apply to us, don't discard it but hold it close.
Just like being given a handful of sand with the promise of gold inside, don't throw it away because you can't see gold yet. Hold it carefully, shake it gently, and you will begin to see flakes of gold appear. You will begin to see the wisdom, foresight, and safety in counsel from a loving God who can see the beginning from the end, compared with our limited tunnel vision of mortality.
I have loved studying this talk. I love our prophets and apostles, and I am inspired by how they have consecrated their lives to God's work of calling you and me to safety.
I miss our three apostles who recently left us for the spirit world, and I am praying hard for the three new ones soon to be announced, as I can only imagine the immense overwhelm and inadequacy such a call would bring. But just as I know God has prepared and called every one of his prophets and apostles so far, the next three will also be called of God. Even though I don't yet know who they are, I already feel the Spirit confirming to me that they are men called of God from before this world (see Abraham 3:22-23), and that heeding their prophetic words will lead me to the path of safety.
I want to share an experience I had when President Hinckley had died and President Monson was about to be announced as our new prophet.
I was a bit nervous that my immense love and loyalty to President Hinckley as God's mouthpiece for so many years might get in the way of feeling that same conversion and loyalty to President Monson as the Lord's mouthpiece. So I prayed fervently that when I saw President Monson on the screen as we got the chance to sustain him as the new president of the Church, that I would be given that witness from the Spirit. I am happy to say that I was indeed given that confirmation, so strongly that tears rolled down my cheeks. I have tears in my eyes as I write this, remembering that moment. So if you need your own witness of our prophet, or any other leaders whom God has called, please don't put it off a day longer. Get on your knees and plead with him for a personal witness from the Spirit that these people are indeed called of God. As President Eyring said, "I promise you answers to such prayers of faith." Then you put yourself in the path of safety as you follow their counsel, especially in the challenging days ahead.
Click here to see the four times President Eyring published versions of this talk.