Wendy Nelson once wrote about the spiritual manifestation she received as the prophetic mantle fell upon her husband, President Russell M. Nelson. The manifestation “was so vivid, so clear, so real!” she said, that every detail of the experience “was seared into my mind and heart.” The details of the experience are too sacred to share, she tells us, but it was nevertheless one “that I can neither forget nor deny.” Sister Nelson thus came to know that her husband was the prophet of the Lord—and she knew it not because of her intellect, or because that’s just how things work in the Church. She came to know it because the Spirit had manifested it to her with vividness and power.
This is true for all of us. There’s no way we can ever know enough to figure out whether those called as prophets really are prophets. Both real and false prophets will say things that are appealing, even inspiring; both can say things that are puzzling or unintuitive. Even false prophets can happen upon accurate predictions or manufacture believable miracles. And even true prophets can be plagued by critics and enemies who portray them as false ones. We aren’t smart enough to know which is which with certainty from our brains. We need something else.
That something else is, of course, the Spirit. The Spirit can give us more certainty than the normal senses can give us. We can know divine things by the Spirit better than we know earthly things. We can experience the power of the Spirit almost to the consuming of our flesh, and we gain a certainty beyond certainty when we do so.
This doesn’t mean that every spiritual message comes with such power, of course. More often the Spirit gives us a feeling of rightness and truth that, while not overwhelming, nevertheless bears witness of itself. It delivers deep spiritual conviction even when it is not overpowering. If we are paying attention, deep in our souls the Lord tells us what is right and true.
Ultimately, this is where we must look to learn about prophets, seers, and revelators. No amount of mortal evidence can prove that they are the Lord’s chosen. Their callings are divine—and mortal brains, on their own, can never figure out what is divine. People try, of course, and wrangle endlessly about one matter or another that might undermine the status of the Lord’s chosen. That is nothing new. The scribes and Pharisees did that regarding the Lord Himself. Failing to heed the Spirit, they relied solely on their brains—and their brains led them to call out for His crucifixion. They rejected their Lord—the very Creator of heaven and earth—even as He stood before them.
Sadly, the same is true for some, today, regarding the Lord’s chosen servants. Even as these prophetic leaders stand before us, some cannot see the divine mantle that rests upon them. But it is there. Mortal brains alone cannot see it, and because of this—just as with the scribes and Pharisees regarding Jesus—mortal brains will always have reasons to deny it. But also—just as with the scribes and Pharisees—these mortal brains will also always be wrong.
Only a divine source can teach us divine things. And that’s why only the Spirit—not the endless cries of mortal critics—can teach us the truth about prophets. And the good news is that we can have the Spirit. Just as the Lord could sear the truth of President Nelson’s calling into Sister Nelson’s mind and heart, He can sear it into ours. We have to ask for it and live for it, but we too can know from a divine source. That is not a pipe dream; it is an absolute and glorious reality.
Learn more about modern prophets in the authors’ new book The Last Safe Place.
 Wendy W. Nelson, The Heavens Are Open (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2019), 82–83.