As President Trump announced a national emergency on Friday, March 13th 2020 due to the Coronavirus (Covid-19), rather than panic, I felt a sense of calm and peace. Saturday, I visited a neighborhood Stater Bros supermarket, a grocery chain in Southern California, and watched frenzied shoppers frantically stuffing shopping carts with basic essentials. Again, I felt a deep sense of calm and peace. I left the store without buying anything.
In the parking lot I was stopped by a dear friend from my church congregation. We stood and chatted for several minutes about some deep impressions she was feeling over the prior 48 hours. She got emotional as she shared her feelings of calm and peaceful assurance amidst this national emergency. What was this source of this peace that both she and I were feeling?
First, a quick preface and back story.
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, we believe in the reality of a living prophet. Just as in times of old, we believe that the heavens are open and that our Heavenly Father communicates through prophets, seers and revelators in our day. This is a powerful claim. I know no other faith that asserts such doctrine. Since the days of Adam, one way the Lord has communicated His will to His children has been through prophets. See Amos 3:7. Prophets teach us God’s will and reveal His divine character. They are the watchmen on the tower. They teach righteousness and denounce sin. When inspired to do so, they can foretell future events.
Over 20 years ago I was working with a business associate late into the evening. Our conversation turned to spiritual things and I could tell his life lacked religious footing. We spoke of many things that night, but I shared the basics of the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in 1830 and bore fervent testimony that a living prophet was on the earth. He immediately interrupted me by saying, “Well, what is he saying?” His instantaneous reply took me by surprise. I had to think for a minute… The prophet at the time was President Gordon B. Hinckley. I recalled his most recent message and then conveyed it to my friend, Eric.
As he pondered, Eric was struck by the reality of a living prophet, so much so that he accepted an invitation to visit with full-time missionaries in his home. I remember telling Eric, “What if that’s true? What if there is a person on earth who can be the mouth piece for our Heavenly Father? What if there was such a person to help direct us in such a troubled world? That would be important to know, wouldn’t it?” Eric agreed.
Eric, his wife Helle and their family later joined the church. Eric’s reaction to the existence of a living prophet and now following his counsel all these years has been a life changing experience for he and his family.
Under the direction of a living prophet, the church over the last several years has experienced many revelatory changes and adjustments. The prophetic counsel from President Russell M. Nelson, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has fortified the saints world-wide to be prepared both temporally and spiritually for our current crisis. As an ecclesiastical leader serving thousands of members in the Riverside, California area, I have observed these developments first hand.
I have observed blessings of peace and calm that come to those who live the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and follow a living prophet. The resulting source of calm and peace in one’s life is a direct result of experiencing priesthood power on the earth and working to live a life centered in Christ. This is precisely what my dear friend shared with me in the supermarket parking lot yesterday. Amazing how we were both feeling the same way.
News Flash! We are experiencing a national Covid-19 health crisis and worldwide pandemic. What we need more than ever is as sense of calm and peace.
As I have pondered the source of my peaceful feelings, I have seen the Savior’s hand through a living prophet provide love, care and concern for His children over the last many years. If you are a member of the church then you are aware of many adjustments over the last 5-10 years, not changes in doctrine, but adjustments in how doctrines can be more fully applied in our lives. Consider with spiritual eyes God’s strengthening hand as you review these adjustments in aggregate rather than indiscriminate organizational changes.
I have listed below some of the many adjustments that have occurred in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints since 2013. There are many more, but I would consider these as the “Big Rocks.”
Enjoy identifying the many connections, patterns and themes that you see. See how, if we are faithful, they can fortify us amidst this time of crisis. In addition, see how they build upon each other and have no doubt provided spiritual building blocks of peace and calm during trials and uncertainty, like this global pandemic.
Teaching the Gospel the Savior’s Way – In 2013, adjustments were made encouraging saints to model their gospel instruction after the master teacher, the Savior Jesus Christ. In His teachings, the Savior showed them, trusted them, prayed for them, invited them, he asked questions of them, he related to them through parables and stories, he was an example to them and he loved them.
This model of instruction continues to provide a great source of strength as we practice Come Follow Me in the home and move towards a more Home Centered, Church Supported gospel.
Do you see how this framework was so prophetic many years ago?
Come Follow Me for YM & YW – Launched in 2013 for Young Men and Young Women, Come Follow Me was a shift in curriculum from a broad range of gospel centered topics to focusing on core doctrinal topics like the Godhead, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, Our Heavenly Father’s Plan, Commandments, Ordinance & Covenants, the Restoration & Apostasy, Priesthood, Temples, Eternal Marriage, etc.
Coupled with Teaching the Gospel the Savior’s Way, Come Follow Me has provided a wonderful reservoir of spiritual strength as saints learn for themselves to act in doctrine. An added development was to place all curriculum on line with hyperlinks to scripture references, conference talks, helpful videos and supporting content, etc. Now, anyone with an internet connection and device can access this information anywhere in the world.
The Focus of Sabbath Day Observance – In 2015, President Nelson and the First Presidency focused our attention on the importance of worshiping on the Sabbath Day and making it a delight. As the world wanes from formal religious observance, we are reminded of the importance of the Sabbath Day and to keep ourselves unspotted from the world, by going to the house of prayer and offering up the Lord’s sacraments on His holy day.
As we now worship in our homes during this Covid-19 crisis, can you see the wisdom from this 2015 focus?
Temporal and Spiritual Self Reliance – Although introduced outside the United States years before, our Stake received the new Self-Reliance Service (SRS) initiative in the summer of 2018. The new skills taught within SRS includes formal weekly classes entitled, Finding a Better Job, Personal Finances, Education for Better Work and Starting and Growing my Business. These courses are amazing and can transform lives. Coupling the temporal with the spiritual accelerates one’s progress.
What an amazing foundation this provides when one faces financial challenges like we are seeing today.
The Importance of Personal Revelation in our Lives – President Nelson noted in his April 2018 General Conference address titled, Revelation for the Church, Revelation for our Lives,
“If we are to have any hope of sifting through the myriad of voices and the philosophies of men that attack truth, we must learn to receive revelation… But in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost. My beloved brothers and sisters, I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation.”
Review his talk in entirety. He even provides 10 helpful steps for receiving personal revelation.
His address has profound application today, especially during these challenging times. The reason is because we are often tossed to and fro with every wind of thought and opinion on what is true and what it not.
We see this in our struggle to decipher truth in our current political environment, viewing news media and pundits and in the simple decisions we are faced with each day, like navigating our daily routines during this pandemic.
Ministering to our Brothers & Sisters – In the April 2018 General Conference we learned of a newer more holier approach to serving the needs of our fellow saints. This one on one approach would simply be called, ministering. For the last 24 months, this new approach to serving others has been the topic of conversation throughout stakes, wards and branch across the world.
Rather than focus on process, we would focus on outcomes. Rather than be motived by duty, we would move forward with love and charity. Rather than focus on what to do, we would focus on why to do it. As we grow in this holier approach we are learning to focus on the person, to be flexible in our efforts and to follow the spirit in lifting and building others.
Can you see how this prophetic direction has enabled us to serve God’s children in a higher and holier way during this time of uncertainty?
Come Follow Me for Individuals & Families – The Come Follow Me changes in 2013 were expanded in October 2018 to include all Individuals and Families. The curriculum is nothing short of amazing as individual and families can now follow a scriptural course of study each week throughout the year. Growing spiritually is not a Sunday, weekend experience but a daily, drip by drip life long experience. Content is available online and via all devices.
Home Centered / Church Supported – At the same October 2018 conference our leaders broadened the Come Follow Me curriculum by emphasizing a home centered, church supported focus of religiosity. Leaders focused our attention back toward individuals and families as the central educational and responsible unit of the gospel. In part, we must exercise our agency and take responsibility for our own gospel learning and spiritual growth.
Prophetic wisdom is once again manifest this week as this “home centered, church supported” focus supports individuals and families when virtually all church meetings have been suspended due to the Covid-19 scare.
Many homes across the world have been transformed into small groups of worship where, if approved by one’s local Bishop, holy sacraments have been shared and Come Follow Me discussions abound. Simply amazing!
Through priesthood channels we are charged with meeting the needs of others, helping and serving them to become more home centered and self-reliant. We can minister one by one, lift the hands that hang down and strengthen the feeble knees. We can leverage the wonderful Come Follow Me tools as they are readily available on line.
Now, with a national emergency and health crisis upon us we can see the Lord’s hand in preparing us in this way. It has been quite a road, but the last 5-10 years of revelatory changes have prepared us for this moment. I hope you see these connections and feel the peace that comes from having a living prophet to guide and direct us.
And so, I say to all, yes these are difficult times, but peace can be found in Christ and in the reality that God loves His children and has provided prophets in our day to lead and guide us.
We thank thee oh God for a Prophet!