Where were you when the spirit first bore witness to you that God does call prophets in this day and that man can speak for God with authority and power from on high? Have you received that witness and testimony for yourself? I have. May I share it with you? It may sound simple in the telling, but I promise you that it was a powerful and personal answer to prayer when I was blessed to know for myself that authorized representatives of the Lord walk the earth today, speaking in his name and in his behalf.
A spiritual setting works best
It was during the October conference of 1974 – the first general conference I had ever attended in person. I was a student at Ricks College at the time and a group of us decided to drive to Salt Lake to hear the word of the Lord in person. I had watched conference on TV before, but had only once before been in the presence of a prophet. It was wonderful to sit in the tabernacle, or rather, to be squeezed in. For those who have gone and sat in the upper balcony, I’m sure you know how the ushers used to pack the people in to those 7,000 seats.
I remember so distinctly where I was sitting. Looking towards the pulpit, it would be on the left side balcony just above the clock. We sat for 30 or 40 minutes before the Brethren came in and took their seats. The organ was playing softly and the people were quiet and reverent. I just sat looking intently at the prophet, not moving, not talking, just staring. At that moment I felt inspired to offer a prayer in my heart, “Heavenly Father, is this man I’m looking at really a prophet? Is President Kimball truly thy spokesman here on the earth?”
The receipt of a spiritual witness
As I sat staring at him, he glanced up from his conducting book and began to look around the tabernacle. As he turned his face in my direction, he stopped and paused for a moment. Now I don’t know if he was really looking at me, but I was looking directly into his eyes, even if it was from a hundred feet away. It was at that moment that the Lord sent his spirit to this seventeen year old boy and whispered into my heart and mind that I was indeed looking at a prophet of the Lord. I knew it then and I still know that today.
And just to make it more sure, at least in my mind, President Kimball seemed to nod and smile before he returned to studying his conducting book in preparation for the meeting. Now, it may seem to be just a coincidence to you, but I submit that the Lord impressed President Kimball to look around the tabernacle and pause as he looked in my direction. Who knows, maybe he was just looking at the clock below me, but it served the purpose.
That testimony changed everything
Do you know what happened at that moment? What changed? Well, although you couldn’t tell immediately from my actions and behavior, I began to carry with me an understanding that I hadn’t felt up to that time in my life. Now I knew that there was a living prophet. Do you know what that means? I knew that when he spoke I needed to listen. I knew that if I wanted to be true to the testimony that I had received that I had to do whatever it might be that he would ask me to do when he was speaking as a prophet of the Lord.
That’s why, when at a stake priesthood meeting less than a year later, as I watched a film of President Kimball describing his vision of carrying the gospel into all the world, I knew that I would be going on a mission shortly. And, I did. I spent two years in Central America bearing my testimony of President Kimball in a language I never could figure out in high school. And you know what? Each time I bore my testimony, it grew. It grew stronger and stronger and surer and surer each time I shared it.
A foundation for our lives
That witness I felt while sitting in the tabernacle was one of several spiritual foundations I received in my youth and upon which I have built my life. I suppose you could say that I first really understood the reality and power of God when I learned from firsthand experience the reality and power of the adversary as a result of some incorrect choices I made when I was younger. How grateful I am for the recorded words of a Book of Mormon prophet, even father Lehi, as he taught that there must needs be opposition in all things. How I appreciate the knowledge that came to me in my youth that God lives and that he knows me and loves me.
If we will exercise faith and resolve to follow the words of the prophets with greater diligence, the Lord will help us to keep his commandments. I know this to be true. He loves to help us repent and change. He knows that we will fall. He is there to help us get up each and every time we fall. I testify that this is true. Even if you are struggling with an addiction in loneliness and sorrow, I promise you that the Lord is kind and forgiving. We can change. It’s not too late. Learning to control ourselves is central to the purpose of this life. Any effort in this area is not wasted.