Sometimes, we learn doctrine while seeking answers to other personal concerns. As a reader and keeper of records, Limhi just wanted a translation service for the mysterious set of metal plates his people had found. What happened to the writers, what was their story, their civilization, etc.? Ammon’s answer included this important doctrinal statement that furnishes us with hope in a world gone seemingly dark, with conspiracy theories blossoming in every corner, some credible, some not.
“…a seer is greater than a prophet…a seer is a revelator and a prophet also; and a gift which is greater can no man have, except he should possess the power of God… a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them, and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known.” Mosiah 8:15-17
During a similar time, as ours, of escalating darkness, a young man born five generations after the crescendoing effects of strife, war, secret combinations, and wickedness that were preparing the world for a divine cleanse, Enoch was more than hesitant to accept his missionary call.
Enoch asked “Why is it that I have found favor in thy sight, and am but a lad, and all the people hate me; for I am slow of speech; wherefore am I thy servant?” (Moses 6:31)
Not only did Enoch doubt his own capacity, but the call required him to labor with a very intimidating people who among other things could not “see afar off.” Short term perspectives lead to self-indulgent life choices which then lead to competition, conflict, contention, power struggles and secret combinations in an effort to avoid the consequences.
After endowing Enoch with super-powers of a sort, The Lord has him anoint his eyes with clay and then wash them. Certainly, an act that tested his faith. Logically, why would an omniscient being command him to put wet dirt on his eyes only to wash it off? Enoch’s humility shines, not to be confused with his sense of personal inadequacy, but because he is willing to trust and then obey that which seemed illogical.
As an LTM teacher (pre-MTC), I was invited to work with a young missionary assigned to my district who refused to cut his hair…it was, after-all, illogical that God couldn’t work through him as he was and had been. After several weeks together, I told him the story of Gideon. Remember, a young man called to gather an army to go against the mighty Midianites that were like an infestation of “grasshoppers?” Eventually, God instructed him to continually reduce the size of his army by asking certain vetting questions and watching for their responses. The final qualifying requirement was not necessarily a “black-belt” separator;
“and the Lord said unto Gideon, Every one that lappeth of the water with his tongue, as a dog lappeth, him shalt thou set by himself…By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand” Judges 7:5, 7
I asked this handsome, sharp, dedicated missionary, without ever talking about his hair, “Why did God use lapping water as a delineator as to who would serve on His small but super-powered team?” Then without waiting for an answer, I invited him to be prayerful and I left the room. The next day it was visually evident whose team he chose to serve on.
Enoch discovered by his willingness to obey that the Lord was teaching him using symbols. The people he was to serve couldn’t “see afar off” because their eyes were filled with “clay;” earthly appetites. Upon washing them Enoch could see;
“the spirits that God had created; and he beheld also things which were not visible to the natural eye”
Enoch could now “see afar off.” The scriptures then add,
“from thenceforth came the saying abroad in the land: A seer hath the Lord raised up unto his people.” Moses 6:36
Between Enoch and Ammon we learn that a seer:
- Can see a far off – long term thinking
- Can see across the veil
- Can see invisible things and persons
- Can see some things others cannot
- Can understand the significance and implications of past events
- Is a source of all revealed knowledge such as:
- Can see hidden things
- Reveals secret things
- Can see future things
- Can know the unknown and otherwise, unknowable
We sustain fifteen prophets and apostles as “seers.” Without an exhaustive tracking, this capacity is readily evident. See if you can spot a pattern:
Just for readily available data, let’s start with President Heber J. Grant. He presided over the Church from 1918-1945. Major themes from the pulpit of his presidency included the plea to the saints to become self-sufficient, have a two-years supply of food and necessities. The Church Welfare program resulted as the Church also became self-sufficient. But his pleas went to members immersed in post-war recoveries, growing prosperity and a focus on education. The roaring twenties increased the appetite for entertainment. As such, many of the parents hearing and reading his revealed guidance failed to pass on these messages to their children growing up wanting more material things and an education appetite.
President George Albert Smith presided from 1945-1951 continuing the themes and work of President Grant through the post-war recovery of WW2, including the great depression.
President David O. McKay was president from 1951 through 1970. His themes and initiatives included, “No other success can compensate for failure in the home,” Family Home Evening, and Early Morning Seminary. The church members were, however, continuing to struggle with post-war depression, a statistical increase in world disasters including floods, etc. The pace of life was fairly slow and television now included great role models in its programing like, “Father Knows Best,” “Leave it to Beaver,” etc. There was little inherent motivation to prepare a lesson and mitigate the family quarrels when television surpassed parental entertainment capacities. Then came the social revolutions of the 60’s focusing member attention through media on the growing influence on the youth. Women were both enticed and forced away from the home and into the work force in order to make ends meet with the growing appetite for material things. Prayer and religious expression were blocked from schools and public places.
Presidents Joseph Fielding Smith served from 1970-72 as president with a focus on missionary work and temple building. His short tenure didn’t end that focus as President Lee succeeded him.
Spencer W. Kimball served as president from 1973-1985 during which members of the church were struggling for more income becoming somewhat laissez-faire in their parenting styles. International tensions had closed the door to missionary work in many countries so his regular addresses calling for a world-wide missionary effort fell on doubting ears. Media brought an image focus in clothes, cars, houses, etc. There was a growing entertainment exposure to immorality, drugs, violence, rebellion, etc. The family was beginning to be redefined and in growing danger. Yet President Kimball’s call was to “lengthen your stride and quicken your pace, spend more time with family on Sundays (the 3-hour block), “Every young man should serve a mission,” “Priesthood to all those worthy,” and a new set of revised scriptures and reference sources. Again, the inherent social focus didn’t encourage parents to share these messages with their children who were wrapped in other concerns and challenges.
President Benson followed from 1985-1994. His focus included: “Do more with the Book of Mormon,” repent of pride, no R-rated…, Every youth to seminary, Church to all the world, and increased temple attendance. But the society was increasing its pace, requiring both spouses to work resulting in latch-key kids, an A-morality in education and an “entertain-me entitlement generation”. Temples were few in number requiring huge sacrifices to attend for most members and those with proximity were so busy and tired trying to keep up and keep on. Then, President Hunter followed for a very short tenure with an increased focus on always having a current temple recommend.
President Hinckley was president during 1995-2008. The world was increasingly prosperous and chaotic. Science was being used increasingly to disparage religion and its standards. Self-sufficiency accompanied prosperity and pride grew exponentially. Public servants were increasingly found among the law-breakers but excused in the courts and by the media as secret combinations increased their hold. Meanwhile his messages and letters invited more fellowshipping and compassion, increased church exposure in the media, and a call for total historical transparency, an exponential increase in temple building with the introduction of the “small temples,” and a mandate that all YSA should attend institute to complete eight years of formal scripture education.
President Monson followed from 2008-2018. As a result of his great manifest love for mankind as told by the great story-teller himself, he was much loved. Yet his presidency was much criticized as society dealt with radical family break-down, pressures surrounding same-gender attraction, and women and the priesthood. The internet brought church history into the public eye resulting in sharp criticism and some increased exodus from church membership.
President Nelson began in 2018 and continues with focused strength in the call to gather Israel on both sides of the veil. He has enlisted youth as the latter-day battalion to reach out both as missionaries and in temple ordonnances. He has called for greater sanctity, home centered gospel teaching and a holier life-style amidst growing self-focus, atheism, “spiritual but not religious-ism,” etc. He has presided as a world-renown medical professional during a world-wide pandemic demanding a delicate balance between public image, member safety, and political intrigue.
Many years ago, I noticed a pattern that seems to continue even today. Though incomplete the pattern is evident:
Elder Packer spoke of this pattern and the response through seership:
“The scriptures speak of prophets as ‘watch[men] upon the tower’ who see ‘the enemy while he [is] yet afar off’ and who have ‘beheld also things which were not visible to the natural eye … [for] a seer hath the Lord raised up unto his people. Many years ago, the Brethren warned us of the disintegration of the family and told us to prepare. … The weekly family home evening was introduced by the First Presidency. … Parents are provided with excellent materials for teaching their children, with a promise that the faithful will be blessed.
While the doctrines and revealed organization remain unchanged, all agencies of the Church have been reshaped in their relationship to one another and to the home. … The entire curriculum of the Church was overhauled—based on scriptures. … And years were spent preparing new editions of the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. … We can only imagine where we would be if we were just now reacting to [the] terrible redefinition of the family. But that is not the case. We are not casting frantically about, trying to decide what to do. We know what to do and what to teach.… The course we follow is not of our own making. The plan of salvation, the great plan of happiness, was revealed to us, and the prophets and Apostles continue to receive revelation as the Church and its members stand in need of more” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1994, 24-25; or Ensign, May 1994, 20).
What does President Nelson see that we cannot? I don’t know.. but with the current turmoil, I am led to look back at the messages of the past seers to see that if parents had passed on to their children, the life-style changes that would have resulted, they would have been prepared as some were. The depression of the 40’s would have been met, and was by some, with self-sufficiency. Growing world disasters and crises would have been met with preparedness and supplies. Families would have begun teaching gospel truths weekly as the disintegration of the family was rampant in society. As huge missionary demand followed the break-down of international barriers a sufficient force of testimony prepared youth would have been ready. The response to each world crises began to be introduced prophetically one to two administrations before. The members who were children at the time of the guidance, who then lived to experience the crises, were either prepared and prospered, or were not and struggled or fell away. We each learn differently, and God can consecrate even our weakness and failures to our eternal welfare if we allow Him. But a common message might be:
Little children are redeemed from the foundation of the world through mine Only Begotten; Wherefore, they cannot sin, for power is not given unto Satan to tempt little children, until they begin to become accountable before me; For it is given unto them even as I will, according to mine own pleasure, that great things may be required at the hand of their fathers. DC 29:46-48
If we are to really love our children, it is not enough to teach them…we must teach our children to teach their children! “Come Follow Me” church provided curriculum for home delivered gospel teaching cannot be ignored or relegated to a once a week overview or game time.
Last week, I sat beneath a giant Lego tower listening to my “King Benjamin” grand-daughters call the family to repentance. They were engaged and dressed in a towel and ribbon, and spoke with enthusiasm to their sisters, parents, and grandparents. This pandemic home-schooling has provided opportunities for parent-directed-learning that could include daily activities provided in the primary section or youth section of Come Follow Me or on sites like “www.Livingscriptures.com ” or others gospel contributors on YouTube, that can engage them in their own discoveries. On Sundays, the family time can be a Spirit directed sharing time that comes with a promise:
“And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom. Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed more perfectly in theory, in principle, in doctrine, in the law of the gospel, in all things that pertain unto the kingdom of God, that are expedient for you to understand; Of things both in heaven and in the earth, and under the earth; things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, things which are abroad; the wars and the perplexities of the nations, and the judgments which are on the land; and a knowledge also of countries and of kingdoms—That ye may be prepared in all things when I shall send you again to magnify the calling whereunto I have called you, and the mission with which I have commissioned you.” DC 88:77-80
 I am angry with this people, and my fierce anger is kindled against them; for their hearts have waxed hard, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes cannot see afar off;
28 And for these many generations, ever since the day that I created them, have they gone astray, and have denied me, and have sought their own counsels in the dark; and in their own abominations have they devised murder, and have not kept the commandments, which I gave unto their father, Adam.
29 Wherefore, they have foresworn themselves, and, by their oaths, they have brought upon themselves death; and a hell I have prepared for them, if they repent not;
30 And this is a decree, which I have sent forth in the beginning of the world, from my own mouth, from the foundation thereof, and by the mouths of my servants, thy fathers, have I decreed it, even as it shall be sent forth in the world, unto the ends thereof. Moses 6
 And when Enoch had heard these words, he bowed himself to the earth, before the Lord, and spake before the Lord, saying: Why is it that I have found favor in thy sight, and am but a lad, and all the people hate me; for I am slow of speech; wherefore am I thy servant? Moses 6
 Judges 7:12 And the Midianites and the Amalekites and all the children of the east lay along in the valley like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the sea side for multitude.