In the first few years after the restoration of the Church, it was quite possible that every member of the Church had at least occasional personal interaction with the prophet himself. Joseph Smith was even known to get down in the dirt and play games with the children. The people knew the prophet, for they talked to him regularly.
These days, the vast majority of Church members have never met the prophet personally. We support and sustain him, of course, but our trust is based upon our faith in God, not personal experience. At a distance, it’s easy to make our modern prophets and apostles into idealized role models, practically perfect in every way.
As I listened to one of the apostles speak at a Stake Conference recently, I was struck by how false this idealism is. These are great men, of course, who have sought the Gifts of the Spirit and the blessings of revelation, but they are still just men. They have the same emotions that we do, the same long days and restless nights that we have. They get the same sicknesses, stub the same toes, and occasionally spill their drinks the same way we do. They are simply children of God who have learned to hearken to the voice of the Spirit, something we should all aspire to.
Today’s hymn is “We Ever Pray for Thee“. It’s message is simple—an acknowledgement of heavy burden borne by our prophetic leaders, and a prayer that they will be strengthened and empowered to handle the burdens placed upon them.
We ever pray for thee, our prophet dear,
That God will give to thee comfort and cheer;
As the advancing years furrow thy brow,
Still may the light within shine bright as now,
Still may the light within shine bright as now.
If advancing years “furrowing the brow” isn’t an acknowledgement of prophetic human-ness, I don’t know what is. Note that the sustaining blessing we seek for the prophet here is “comfort and cheer,” something we can all relate to. The prophetic calling does not remove the basic emotional needs all of us have.
We ever pray for thee with all our hearts,
That strength be given thee to do thy part,
To guide and counsel us from day to day,
To shed a holy light around our way,
To shed a holy light around our way.
As General Conference approaches in only a few weeks, it is appropriate to pray that our leaders will be given both spiritual and physical strength necessary to prepare for those duties—to be able to “shed a holy light around our way.” But this prayer alone is not enough; I hope we’ll also pray for willingness to follow that counsel.
We are truly blessed to have modern prophets to lead us—prophets authorized by God to direct his work and his ordinances throughout the world. But the Gifts of the Spirit are not limited to those who might address us at General Conference. We all have the same access to those gifts if we will earnestly seek them. “Seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given.” (D&C 46:8) As we learn to receive and act upon revelation for ourselves, the burden borne by our leaders will be lightened.
So yes, let’s pray for the prophet, and let’s pray for the apostles, presidents, bishops, counselors, and other leaders who have been called to guide us. But in doing so, let’s not neglect our own spiritual growth. Let’s listen to the prophet, but let’s also listen to the Lord.