Throughout our lives members of the Church have been taught to stand as witnesses of God. Alma proclaimed it clearly near the waters of Mormon as he taught what was expected of those being baptized. Among other things he said they were “. . . to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life.” (Mosiah 18:9 )
There are many ways we can stand as witnesses. Living our everyday lives in accord with the teaching of the Savior would certainly qualify, a goal for which most of us are striving. But now and then there comes a time when more is required. Where a direct standing up and courageously testifying to those who rail against the Church is needed.
Testifying at the MTC
A couple of years ago we were serving a part-time mission in the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Provo, Utah. Along with our duties as shift leaders we sometimes had the opportunity to act as investigators for new missionaries to teach. They weren’t sure if we were actual investigators or members. It didn’t matter. They were to treat us as though we were investigators. At times we were so touched by their testimonies of Joseph Smith and the divinity of the Book of Mormon that it brought tears to our eyes. We could feel the power and strength of these young men and women.
We recall a time when a woman serving as an investigator, who prided herself in giving the elders a hard time, came from her room after a session with the missionaries. The investigators were to remain in the room until the missionaries had left. First we saw the missionaries who had been teaching her come out of the room. Sometimes these new missionaries are so scared and relieved when a session is over that they hurry out. These two elders were different that day. They had tears in their eyes as they slowly, contemplatively walked toward the exit. We asked, “Are you okay, elders?” Wiping tears, they responded, “We’ve never felt better.” One went on to say, ” That was the most wonderful experience I’ve ever had. The Spirit was so strong. I can hardly wait to go out and testify about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.” Then they went on to their next meeting.
A few minutes later the “investigator” came out of the room. The expression on her face was different. She, too, had tears in her eyes. She said, “I’ve never had an experience quite like that before. Those young elders bore such a powerful testimony that no one could deny they know Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God. The Spirit was there. They will be amazing missionaries.”
That’s what standing up for the prophet is all about. Being a witness for Christ that Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet of God. We likewise testify that the prophet leading us today, Thomas S. Monson, is a true and living prophet. Knowing something is true and testifying about it has great power.
My personal experience
Several years ago I had an unforgettable experience standing as a witness. It was the kind that makes your heart pound and knees go weak. It’s a kind of experience that when it comes you know you have to be brave and testify with all the power you can muster. Here’s what happened.
In was in June, 1978. But first I need to back up to a year before this time. A middle-aged couple had moved in next door to us. We were told they were Southern Baptists. We wanted to make them feel welcomed into our neighborhood so I baked some cookies and took them some. The wife answered the door, we introduced ourselves and she was immediately guarded. She would not open the door any wider than required to take in the cookies. She thanked us curtly and shut the door. We were surprised by this treatment.
At times we would see her husband out doing some yard work and Gary would go over and talk to him. He was friendlier than his wife, but still somewhat guarded. We found out that certain disgruntled former members of the Church at the country club they belonged to had told them that the people in this Mormon community were out to baptize them, not befriend them, and to “beware of the Mormons.”
Our desire was to befriend these people. Of course, we would love to share the gospel with them, but most of all we wanted them to feel welcomed. So I continued to take goodies to the door, hoping at some point she would invite me in and we could become friends. She would take the gifts and say goodbye. I was crushed. This went on for several months. I kept praying and doing my best to be friendly.
Then the day came. It was actually the day after President Spencer W. Kimball received the revelation that all worthy men, include blacks, could receive the priesthood. It was a huge deal here in Utah, making the front page of all the newspapers as well as headlining all the TV news channels. This was a great day of celebration for all of the Church. We were thrilled and shed tears of gratitude with so many others that this day had finally come.
I made cookies that following day and took a plate to my unfriendly neighbor, hoping this news would open a dialog with her. Well, it certainly did. However, not at all what I expected. She took one look at me and began bashing our prophet. She said, “I heard the announcement. It’s about time! Your so-called prophet is the biggest bigot I know of. He hates minorities and has denied them your so-called priesthood all these years until now he is forced by society to accept them. He’s a disgrace!” On she went spewing out vile accusations against our beloved President Kimball.
My heart began to pound so hard I thought it would jump out of my chest. Tears were welling up in my eyes, but I held them back. I did not hold back what followed. I could take it no longer, looked her square in the eyes and with a calm, but bold, firmness declared, “Don’t ever speak about our prophet like that again! He is a man of God who loves all minorities, including, and maybe especially the black people. He has prayed for them for years. He has loved them, served them, and sought for this blessing for them for decades. You have no idea what you are talking about.”
I was wound up, and on I went, saying, “This is a man who has loved all minorities. When he was recovering from a heart problem he even went to stay with the Navajo people for a few weeks. He loves them and felt loved by them.
He loves all people. He has given his life in service to the people of this earth. He is a prophet of God and is doing God’s will. This was a revelation directly from God to him, because he loves these people. Never talk about him like that again!”
To my surprise, she put her hand over her mouth as if in shame and said, “Oh, I am so sorry. I had no idea. Please forgive me.”
Of course, I readily did. After that she invited me into her home and treated me with kindness. They were not interested in our church, but they treated us with courtesy and friendliness ever after that memorable day. When our three sons went on their missions, though they would not attend their farewell talks, she gave them each a gift-a white shirt to wear on their missions.
When they moved away a few years later, they knew they were loved by the Mormons.
I learned from this experience that there is power in standing up for the prophets and bearing testimony of their divine calling.
I also learned that doing so is one of the sweetest experiences one can have. Something wonderful happens when you stand strong in defense of a prophet of God-you love him and the Lord all the more. That day I felt surrounded by their love. It’s a great feeling.
Following are President Spencer W. Kimball’s own words about receiving revelation regarding the blacks and all worthy men to receive the priesthood, and all worthy women to receive the blessings of that priesthood. These quotes are from The Life and Ministry of Spencer W. Kimball Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, (2006), xiv-xxxvii
“I knew that something was before us that was extremely important to many of the children of God. I knew that we could receive the revelations of the Lord only by being worthy and ready for them and ready to accept them and put them into place. Day after day I went alone and with great solemnity and seriousness in the upper rooms of the temple, and there I offered my soul and offered my efforts to go forward with the program. I wanted to do what he wanted. I talked about it to him and said, Lord, I want only what is right. We are not making any plans to be spectacularly moving. We want only the thing that thou dost want, and we want it when you want it and not until.'” . . . .
“We had the glorious experience of having the Lord indicate clearly that the time had come when all worthy men and women everywhere can be fellow heirs and partakers of the full blessings of the gospel. I want you to know, as a special witness of the Savior, how close I have felt to him and to our Heavenly Father as I have made numerous visits to the upper rooms in the temple, going on some days several times by myself. The Lord made it very clear to me what was to be done. We do not expect the people of the world to understand such things, for they will always be quick to assign their own reasons or to discount the divine process of revelation.”
Elder Kimball’s service in the Quorum of the Twelve spanned three decades. In that time, he traveled extensively, strengthening the members and assisting in the growth of the kingdom. By special assignment from President George Albert Smith, Elder Kimball took a particular interest in descendants of the Book of Mormon prophet Lehi-native peoples of North, Central, and South America. He was an eloquent voice for their interests both in the senior quorums of the Church and among the membership at large. He decried all racial prejudice and oppression of the poor.
On June 1, 1978, President Kimball, with other members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, met in an upper room in the Salt Lake Temple. President Gordon B. Hinckley, who was present on that occasion as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, later reported:
“The question of extending the blessings of the priesthood to blacks had been on the minds of many of the Brethren over a period of years. It had repeatedly been brought up by Presidents of the Church. It had become a matter of particular concern to President Spencer W. Kimball.
“Over a considerable period of time he had prayed concerning this serious and difficult question. He had spent many hours in that upper room in the temple by himself in prayer and meditation.
“On this occasion he raised the question before his Brethren-his Counselors and the Apostles. Following this discussion we joined in prayer in the most sacred of circumstances. President Kimball himself was voice in that prayer. … The Spirit of God was there. And by the power of the Holy Ghost there came to that prophet an assurance that the thing for which he prayed was right, that the time had come, and that now the wondrous blessings of the priesthood should be extended to worthy men everywhere regardless of lineage.
“Every man in that circle, by the power of the Holy Ghost, knew the same thing.
“It was a quiet and sublime occasion. …
“… Not one of us who was present on that occasion was ever quite the same after that. Nor has the Church been quite the same.”32
Announcement of the revelation took the form of a letter dated June 8, 1978, to all general and local priesthood officers in the Church: “Every faithful, worthy man in the Church may receive the holy priesthood, with power to exercise its divine authority, and enjoy with his loved ones every blessing that flows therefrom, including the blessings of the temple” (D&C, Official Declaration 2).
President Hinckley recalled: “The letter was released to the Church and to the world. I need not tell you of the electric effect that was felt both within the Church and without. There was much weeping, with tears of gratitude not only on the part of those who previously had been denied the priesthood and who became the immediate beneficiaries of this announcement, but also by men and women of the Church across the world who had felt as we had felt concerning this matter.”
About three months later, President Kimball stated, referring to the revelation: “One of the Brethren said yesterday that now has come one of the greatest changes and blessings that has ever been known. … Outside of a few people who always want to be contrary, the people of the world have accepted this change with their gratitude. … So we are very, very happy about this, especially for those who had been deprived of these blessings before.”