In 2014, then-Elder Russell M. Nelson chaired the Missionary Executive Council. One day he announced to the council the need to put smartphones in the hands of every missionary.
In time, the council began pilot testing in a few missions, and every problem the council predicted could happen, happened. However, “Elder Nelson never wavered in his conviction that missionaries could be taught to use the internet righteously and that they should have smartphones,” Sheri Dew related during a BYU–Hawaii devotional on Nov. 1.
Fast forward to January 2020 when President Nelson, now President of the Church, authorized every missionary worldwide to have a smartphone. Within three weeks, the pandemic shut down the world and proselyting stopped.
However, through the inspired efforts of missionaries working from their apartments on their smartphones, baptisms continued.
Elder Brent H. Nielson, executive director of the Missionary Department at the time, said, “I quickly learned that the Lord had prepared us for this day. Prophets can see around corners.”
That principle — “prophets can see around corners” — was the title and central message of the address offered by Sister Dew during Tuesday’s campus devotional in the Cannon Activities Center in Laie, Hawaii.
“I know that following [prophets] makes us smarter because seers see things we cannot see. Prophets help us see around corners,” Sister Dew testified.
How ‘prophets make us smarter’
To begin her remarks, Sister Dew, who is now executive vice president and chief content officer for Deseret Management Corp., recalled being named the president and CEO of Deseret Book Co. 20 years ago. The company was losing money and every part of its business was being disrupted.
Sister Dew told President Gordon B. Hinckley, “President, I don’t think I’m smart enough to turn this company around. I wish I were smarter.”
He advised, “Hire people you trust who will make you smarter.”
Is anyone smart enough to maneuver this world alone? Sister Dew asked. “Without help from those who are smarter, the future looks downright scary. So in a world filled with billions of conflicting voices, where do we turn for the smartest help?”
Prophets see things others cannot see because the Lord does “nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).
“This is why prophets make us smarter than any other leaders or influencers on earth. Prophets help us see dangers we cannot yet see and opportunities we can’t even imagine,” Sister Dew explained.
On Sept. 17, 2020, Sister Dew was invited to a communications meeting with President Nelson where it was suggested that he record a message of hope for Church members as the pandemic was raging.
Eventually, President Nelson told the group he should record a message for the world, not just members, that it should be about gratitude, and when it should be released and how long the video should be.
If group members had relied on their own expertise, Sister Dew said, they would never have made the video as long as President Nelson specified nor would they have released it on a Friday. “But a Prophet had spoken and we went to work.”
The result was the #GiveThanks video. “That video’s reach dwarfed anything the Church had ever released, especially to those not of our faith. Never in the history of the earth had so many people heard a prophet’s voice. Prophets see around corners,” Sister Dew said.
Unfortunately, throughout history, most people, most of the time, have rejected prophets. “Today is no different. Most of the world — and even some of our own members — reject the 15 prophets, seers and revelators ordained as apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Are prophets infallible?
Not long ago, Sister Dew said, a young woman asked her, “Do you think prophets are infallible?”
If infallible means perfect, then no, Sister Dew said. “Only one perfect Being walked this earth, and He was a God. Prophets are mortal and are being tested just as we are. Being ordained as special witnesses of Jesus Christ gives them unique spiritual privileges, but it does not magically absolve them of human weakness.”
The Lord governs His Church through a unique pattern of presidencies, councils and quorums so no one person acts alone, Sister Dew continued.
She quoted President Nelson: “The calling of 15 men to the holy apostleship provides great protection for us as members of the Church. Why? Because decisions of these leaders must be unanimous. Can you imagine how the Spirit needs to move upon 15 men to bring about unanimity?”
The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, acting in unity, will never send the Church in the wrong direction, Sister Dew said. Why? “Because even the prophet is not the head of this Church. Jesus Christ is, and He is perfect. Prophets take their instructions from Him who knows all, sees all, and understands all things.”
Members of the Church are never dependent solely upon mortal men. “When we follow the prophet, we are actually following and placing our trust in Jesus Christ. For He has promised that His words will all be fulfilled, ‘whether by [His] own voice or by the voice of [His] servants, it is the same’” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:38).
Sister Dew then posed and answered four questions “more relevant” than the question of infallibility.
• First, who exactly are prophets, seers and revelators?
They are “special witnesses of the name of Christ in all the world,” who hold all priesthood keys the Lord allows to be exercised on earth. “Which means that they authorize how, where and by whom the Lord’s power may be used,” Sister Dew said.
The senior Apostle is the only person alive who can speak for the Lord in everything, but he is assisted by two counselors and 12 Apostles — each ordained as a prophet, seer and revelator.
• Second, is there anyone who can offer inspired advice unaffected by personal agenda other than the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve?
While every journalist, talk-show host, celebrity, athlete, politician, entrepreneur, billionaire or scholar has personal agendas, “prophets of God do not,” Sister Dew said. “Their agenda is the Lord’s. And yet, too often, we listen to them last.”
Samuel the Lamanite rebuked the Nephites for following “foolish and blind guides” (Helaman 13:25-29). “My dear friends, to whom do you listen? Where does the living prophet rank in the list of those you turn to for advice? How many blind guides, whose myopic vision of life is no better than yours, are you following on podcasts and TikTok? Don’t let blind guides obscure your vision of seers, who see around corners,” Sister Dew said.
• Third, “do you know 15 smarter men who care about you more and who have purer motives?”
What’s in all of this for Apostles? “Clearly it’s not money or popularity,” Sister Dew said. Too often they are mocked for teaching truth.
“Apostles are under divine mandate to teach truth, even when truth is unpopular,” Sister Dew said. “They are pressured to change the Lord’s doctrine to make it more palatable, but the doctrine doesn’t belong to them and is not theirs to change.”
Sister Dew promised that “no leaders on earth are more honest with you than prophets are. And no leaders care more about you and your future.”
• Fourth, “are there any other leaders of whom the Holy Ghost unfailingly bears witness?”
Sister Dew was present in Araneta Coliseum in Manila, Philippines, when 35,000 Filipino Latter-day Saints crammed into 25,000 seats and waited eight hours for President Gordon B. Hinckley to arrive. She was also present when thousands of Tongan Saints waited hours in the rain for President Nelson, or when a few hundred Saints — the first members in their families — gathered in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, to hear the Prophet.
“The setting and size of audience doesn’t matter,” Sister Dew said. “The same thing always happens. When the President of the Church enters the room, a profound spiritual presence sweeps across the congregation. Tears flow. And the Spirit testifies of the reality of a prophet. Every time.”
Sister Dew then reviewed five crucial truths about prophets.
• Truth 1: “Because this is the Lord’s Church and Jesus Christ is the one who chooses His prophets, the Savior will never let the prophet lead the Church astray. Period.”
• Truth 2: The living prophet is the most important prophet. So what has President Nelson counseled for today?
“I know of nothing you can do right now that will pay greater dividends in your life than embracing and following President Nelson’s counsel,” Sister Dew said.
• Truth 3: Prophets hold priesthood keys that set them apart from any other leaders on earth.
Sister Dew admitted it is not always easy to hear what a prophet has to say. When serving in the Relief Society general presidency, she attended a general authority training where an Apostle corrected anyone who used the word “woman” or “man” and told them to use the words “mother” or “father” instead.
As the meeting wore on, Sister Dew said she became painfully aware that she was the only non-parent in the room. By the time it ended, she felt condemned. “At first, I was just hurt; but then I began to seethe.”
Months later she prayed on what to talk about during the General Relief Society Meeting and eventually received the impression that she should speak about motherhood. As she searched the scriptures and words of the prophets she discovered that the Apostle who had offended her was right — every woman has a divine endowment as a mother regardless of whether she has born children in this life.
“Learn from my experience. Don’t make life harder by being stupid. Don’t be deceived by activists who believe their passion for a cause gives them permission to censure and criticize prophets. Don’t turn your back on those who have all priesthood keys and who can help you see around corners,” Sister Dew said.
• Truth 4: “Prophets won’t be popular. So, when the social media mob pounces on them, don’t let that threaten your testimony. … Sustaining prophets in today’s world takes faith — but not faith in them, faith in Jesus Christ, who called them.”
• Truth 5: Spiritual safety comes from following the prophet. “My dear friends, there may be times when you find yourself wrestling with teachings from prophets. But this is not rocket science.”
Those who break covenants or turn their back on prophets will question their testimonies every day of their lives. “But the reverse is also true,” Sister Dew said. Those who keep their covenants and follow the prophet will enjoy growing their testimonies all of their lives. “That is a promise.”
Sister Dew encouraged listeners to let prophets be their spiritual anchor. “Listen to them. Study their words. Follow their counsel. It will protect you from deception and keep you from making major mistakes. Prophets will make you smarter. They will help you see things you cannot see.”
In conclusion, she said: “I plead with you to gain your own witness of prophets of God and then follow them for the rest of your life. It will be the smartest thing you ever do. Because prophets will be the last safe voices on earth.”