Sustaining the prophet is a sacred privilege, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles declared during the Sunday morning session of general conference on Oct. 5.
“How do we really sustain a prophet?” Elder Nelson asked.
“Often we sing, ‘We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet,’ ” he said. “Do you and I really understand what that means? Imagine the privilege the Lord has given us of sustaining His prophet, whose counsel will be untainted, unvarnished, unmotivated by any personal aspiration and utterly true!”
But sustaining the prophet is more than just raising one’s hand — it means standing behind the prophet, praying for him, defending his good name and striving to carry out the instructions he gives as directed by the Lord.
“My dear brothers and sisters, if the Restoration did anything, it shattered the age-old myth that God had stopped talking to His children,” he said. “Nothing could be further from the truth. A prophet has stood at the head of God’s church in all dispensations, from Adam to the present day. … We honor the Prophet Joseph Smith as the prophet of this last dispensation. And we honor each man who has succeeded him as president of the Church.”
Prophets testify of Jesus Christ — of His divinity and of His earthly mission and ministry — and are called by the proper authority. Counterbalances and safeguards abound so that no one man can ever lead the Church astray.
“This gives us, as members of the Lord’s Church, confidence and faith as we strive to keep the scriptural injunction to heed the Lord’s voice, as it comes through the voice of His servants, the prophets,” he said. “All leaders in the Lord’s Church are called by proper authority. No prophet or any other leader in this Church, for that matter, has ever called himself or herself. No prophet has ever been elected. The Lord made that process clear when He said, ‘Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you.’ You and I don’t ‘vote’ on Church leaders, at any level. We do, though, have the privilege of sustaining them.”
The ways of the Lord are different from the ways of man, Elder Nelson taught. “Man’s ways remove people from office or business when they grow old or become disabled. But mans’ ways are not and never will be the Lord’s ways.”
Members sustain the prophet through personally committing to do their utmost to uphold the prophetic priorities. The sustaining is an oath-like indication that recognizes the calling of the prophet to be legitimate and binding.
The calling of 15 men — from different educational and professional backgrounds and differing opinions about many things — to the holy apostleship provides great protection for members of the Church because decisions of the those leaders must be unanimous.
“The Church today has been organized by the Lord Himself,” he said. “He has put in place a remarkable system of governance that provides redundancy and backup. That system provides for prophetic leadership even when the inevitable illness and incapacities may come with advancing age. Counterbalances and safeguards abound so that no one man can ever lead the Church astray. Senior leaders are constantly being tutored such that one day they are ready to sit in the highest councils. They learn how to hear the voice of the Lord through the whisperings of the Spirit.”
Recognizing the lifelong service of President Thomas S. Monson, Elder Nelson said: “We honor you! We love you! We sustain you, not only with uplifted hands, but with all our hearts and consecrated efforts.”