Teachings of presidents are fundamental

In the early 1990s, Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander, then of the Second Quorum of the Seventy, arrived in a priesthood leadership meeting in Moscow, Russia, with President Howard W. Hunter, then-president of the Quorum of the Twelve.

"When we walked into the room, one of the district presidents from St. Petersburg was speaking and conducting. When the door opened and in stepped President Hunter, the effect on the brethren in that room was discernible," Elder Neuenschwander recalled. The district president turned white as a ghost, he added, and said, " 'Brethren, I don't know what to say. I have never been in the presence of an apostle.'

"That is the effect the teachings and the presence of prophets have," said Elder Neuenschwander, who is now a member of the Presidency of the Seventy and executive director of the Church's Curriculum Department.

And with the Church now in its sixth year of studying the Teachings of Presidents of the Church in Melchizedek Priesthood quorum and Relief Society, Elder Neuenschwander hopes members recognize that though these men have completed their earthly ministries, their teachings are relevant and essential today.

"Their teachings are the fundamental stones in the Church, and their testimonies, particularly of the Savior, are the spiritual foundation," he said while speaking with the Church News about the 2003 course of study for Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society.

Throughout the year on the second and third Sundays, members will study in Sunday lessons and in their homes the Teachings of Presidents of the Church: John Taylor. In 2002, members studied the teachings of Harold B. Lee, and before that — for two years each — members studied the teachings of Brigham Young and Joseph F. Smith.

In addition, on fourth Sundays, members study and discuss Teachings for Our Time, which include the words of current prophets and apostles arranged in topical order. For example, the first topic is "Hope through the Atonement of Jesus Christ," which offers, along with scriptures, general conference addresses from President James E. Faust of the First Presidency, and Elders Dallin H. Oaks and Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve.

"We are blessed in the Church with prophets, seers and revelators, and their teachings — as with the teachings of the scriptures — are based upon inspiration and revelation given to the Latter-day Saints in our period of time," Elder Neuenschwander said, speaking of both courses of study. "If we do not study the words of the living prophets, how can we know what the will of the Lord is for us today? And these are not just social issues or issues of a contemporary nature. These are issues dealing with doctrine and with the teachings of the Lord's mouthpiece on the earth today."

He also explained that with a rapidly growing Church, these priesthood and Relief Society manuals make available to members across the earth the teachings of the prophets of this dispensation that they might not have had otherwise.

"We are experiencing growth in areas where books are very precious, but members of the Church need to have access to these two pillars of the word of the Lord — the scriptures, the revealed word, canonized word of the Lord to His people, as well as the teachings of latter-day prophets. Without this course of study, without these books on the teachings of the presidents of the Church, members across the earth would not have access to the development of the Church in this dispensation. The Church makes it available through the curriculum of the Church."

Elder Neuenschwander said he hopes all Church members use Teachings of Presidents of the Church as a resource book not only in Sunday classroom study, but also in personal and family study "as one of the richest and most wonderful resources of teaching doctrine to our children."

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