The Book of Acts is a remarkable resource in our defense as Latter-day Saints. I have noticed several instances as I’ve studied for Come, Follow Me where the Lord follows the same pattern in establishing His Church in our day as He did with the original disciples. For this post, I’d like to focus on two specific items: the power of the Holy Ghost in leading Christ’s Church after His ascension, and the requirement for a new succeeding apostle when one is needed.
Elders Richard G. Scott and David A. Bednar gave powerful discourses discussing the conversion process, using the Apostle Peter as an example. When Jesus asked Peter who he believed Him to be, Peter testified, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16) Peter had obtained a testimony, but Jesus later hinted he lacked conversion.
I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.
And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me. (Luke 22:32-34)
Of course, we know that Peter did indeed deny Christ three times. While Peter mourned his failings, Christ had greater things in store for him. Prior to His death, Jesus testified of the forthcoming mission of the Holy Ghost:
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26)
Before ascending to heaven, Christ comforted His Disciples. “But ye shall receive power, after the Holy Ghost which is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me…” (Acts 1:8)
As we know, Peter was a powerful witness of Christ until he was eventually martyred, bringing thousands of souls to Him. Peter never wavered in his faith with the power of the Holy Ghost as he had while Christ ministered with him personally. Christ’s earthly ministry lasted approximately three years, after which He left the Holy Ghost in his stead. Notice Peter wasn’t condemned for denying Christ, but the unpardonable sin is to deny the Holy Ghost? Notice the miracle of thousands of souls being converted occurred not while Christ tarried, but through the witness and power of the Holy Ghost?
We read in the first chapter of Acts the disciples working to find a replacement for Judas. This passage jumps off the page to me: “…must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.” (Acts 1:22) In order to be called to be an apostle, one must be a witness of Christ’s resurrection. While our current apostles surely weren’t around to see 34 A.D. and witness Christ’s resurrection, they are special witnesses of Christ. They have seen the resurrected Lord and bear testimony of Him all over the world. It is the same pattern which was established during the primitive era of the Church.
Combining these two principles, we can understand how the Church is run in our day. Our modern-day prophet, Russell M. Nelson, and the rest of the First Presidency and Quorum of the 12 Apostles are special witnesses of the resurrected Lord, Jesus Christ. However, for the most part, the Church runs through revelation and the power of the Holy Ghost. It is a power that too many within the Church dismiss.
It has come into vogue when confronted with an issue or policy one disagrees with or has difficulty explaining to state, “the Brethren are fallible, they are mortals, not perfect, and prone to err.” Yes, the Brethren are human, they aren’t immortal, and they are susceptible to human weaknesses, illness, and death. We do not worship them. We are commanded, however, to follow and sustain them with exactness. We are judged on our ability to be obedient, not on our ability to offer explanations to our critics.
Just as the ancient disciples came together to make a decision on a new apostle, understanding the requirements, and coming to a unanimous decision in the spirit, so it is with all decisions made for our worldwide church. Dismissing the Brethren as “fallible” when an announcement is made known or when reading about policies from Church history is to deny the power of the Holy Ghost. For 15 men from varying backgrounds to come together and be completely united in harmony with each decision can only come from the confirming power of the Holy Ghost. All official correspondence from the Church is inspired. All of it. All. Of. It.
We may not understand everything right away. We may not have a suitable explanation at our fingertips. That is the purpose of faith. To dismiss revelation as a mistake coming from the mouth of a fallible human is a show of laziness, a lack of critical thinking, a lack of faith, or some combination of all the above. It means you disagree with their policy decision or a doctrinal interpretation, and it’s easier to point to their fallibility than your own. True conversion via the spirit will allow for us to accept and obey…and eventually, find even more answers.
“Converted unto the Lord” – Elder David A. Bednar, October 2012
“Full Conversion Brings Happiness” – Elder Richard G. Scott, April 2002
“Faith and Keys” – Elder Henry B. Eyring, October 2004
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