Have you ever sat in a room where everyone agrees on the item at stake? There is an undercurrent of excitement, unity, inspiration, and power. When we raise our hands unanimously, sustaining a prophet of God, we feel this same kind of power emanate from on high. This one act unifies people as they work together to uphold a prophet, which their God and King has chosen.
The first session of the October 1972 session of conference was a Solemn Assembly. In the Church, that describes a meeting where a new prophet is sustained for the first time by the membership as president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
At this session, after being sustained as prophet, seer, and revelator, President Harold B. Lee, spoke first. He explained how Jesus Christ is the head of this Church. As the newly sustained prophet, he expressed, “How grateful I am for your loyalty and your sustaining vote!”
Pres. Lee, in a way, is helpless but to accept this call from the Lord. He was foreordained to this calling, and because of the choices he made in his life, he remained worthy of fulfilling that foreordination. What a humbling realization! Think how you might feel at being placed in this position. Would you not want that vote of confidence from the membership of the Church?
The last talk of the session was given by President Spencer W. Kimball (who would later, himself, be called as a prophet of God). He said,
“It is important that the quorums of the priesthood and the assembly of the Saints have an opportunity to express their gratitude, pledge their support and confidence, and reaffirm their covenants.”
This statement makes me think of the temple. In this holy edifice, we make certain covenants, and promise to keep them. We willingly confirm in gratitude these promises, and there are no dissenting votes there. Satan would say it’s because we are all forced to conform, but that isn’t true at all. We are able to leave anytime we choose. By attending the temple, we sustain God’s words and renew our commitment. We show our gratitude, pledge our support and confidence, and willingly offer up our obedience and desire at accepting and living our covenants.
When members have problems with the Church, they seem to think there is power in their dissenting vote; that they proclaim their freedom to voice their opinion. The reality is that true power comes from our affirming support, love, and gratitude for our leaders. It is our special privilege to become one under the raised hand of our membership.
So often, we’ll hear the brethren say words such as these by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “We have been especially blessed by President Thomas S. Monson’s presence and prophetic messages. President, we love you, we pray for you, we thank you, and above all, we sustain you” (April 2016 GC). When we hear how the Brethren sustain our prophet, we are encouraged to sustain him by our own love, devotion, and obedience. We acknowledge to the world our desire to do as the Lord commands, through the voice of His servant, the prophet.
Our discipleship unites us into one great whole. Our hand raised in submission signals to the Lord the placement of our hearts. As they do in General Conference, we might consider restating our sustaining vote toward the prophet and apostles, in talks given in our local areas. This re-enforces the feeling of unity we feel as an entire membership. There is power given to each one of us to fulfill our joy of responsibility, and sustenance, in building the kingdom of God.
It is with sadness we see people raising their hand in a dissenting motion against our prophet. They decline the feeling of unity, separating themselves from the whole. And for what? Because they think the prophet is old-fashioned, mistaken, or imperfect? Do they realize they are motioning against Jesus Christ, as well? Perhaps they think they know better than He? These dissenters have spoken of the great courage it takes to shout “No” in the congregation. That speaks wasted courage to my mind. Affirming the sustaining of a prophet means that we will be courageous in defending truth and righteousness. The choice to keep sacred covenants is more courageous than insisting on the so-called freedoms the world offers.
Pres. Kimball offered two great quotes worth remembering; one from Joseph F. Smith and the other from Joseph Smith, Jr.
“I look at our President–I always did watch the captain of the ship with peculiar interest, when on the ocean surrounded by icebergs or when in the midst of great storms. … I watched his eye and his demeanor, and I fancied … that I could form a good idea of our peril by watching him. I have been in storms when everybody on board excepting the Elders expected to go down. …” (Gospel Truth, p. 271.)
“I will give you one of the Keys of the mysteries of the Kingdom. It is an eternal principle, that has existed with God from all eternity. That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is on the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 156-57.)
Our prophets are imperfect men while on this earth, but what sets them apart is their humility and willingness to live according to the will of God. While still being imperfect, our prophets have mastered themselves against Satan. And their humility has given them power to be the hands and instruments needed to serve the membership of this Church, in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ.
Pres. Kimball reminded us of how Joshua supported Moses, and together, they were promised that the Lord would “not fail [them], nor forsake [them]” (Josh. 1:5). So too, may Pres. Kimball’s words be our own words of true unified discipleship:
“May the Lord bless our new President and his counselors and fully sustain them. May we the people uphold his hands and totally sustain [our prophet, called of God].”
Enjoying reading additional General Conference Odyssey posts:
Mormonism and Becoming Nathaniel Givens
I Know Daniel Ortner
Revelation and Character Ralph Hancock
“Things Won Are Done; Joy’s Soul Lies In Doing” Walker Wright
Getting Old and Becoming a Somebody SilverRain