Witness Testimony of Prophets
Wendy Watson Nelson:
One day while praying, I felt inspired to investigate the Mormon Church. I learned that Salt Lake City, Utah, was the Church’s headquarters. I decided to write a letter and addressed it to “Men in charge of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.”
In 1959, in response to my letter, Brother Lamar Williams from the Church Missionary Department sent me Joseph Smith’s testimony, the Articles of Faith, and the Book of Mormon. I studied them all and was convinced of their truthfulness. However, there were no missionaries or members to teach me in India.
Then in January 1961, Elder Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles visited Delhi. I spent three days traveling with him to the Taj Mahal at Agra and to Dharamsala. I was like a sponge soaking up all the gospel lessons he taught. On the final day of his visit, I was ready for baptism. On January 7, 1961, I was baptized by Elder Kimball in the Yamuna River; Sister Kimball was the official witness, though there were many curious onlookers. I was confirmed that evening.
Those three days when the Lord’s Apostle taught me without any interruptions have been some of the best days of my life. Parting was sad because he had become my special Mormon friend.
I often look back at my journey from being a “jungle boy” in rural India to being where I am today and know that my life and faith are truly miracles. The Lord’s embroidery of my life is more beautiful than I ever expected. How wonderful it was to have the Lord’s anointed prophet Spencer W. Kimball school me and walk with me at key times in my life’s journey.
Twenty-nine and a half years have passed since that day, during which I have served under six of the Prophet-Presidents of the Church: Presidents Heber J. Grant, George Albert Smith, David O. McKay, Joseph Fielding Smith, Harold B. Lee, and Spencer W Kimball and their great and inspired counselors. What a rare and marvelous blessing!
These have been busy, demanding, challenging years, yet rewarding beyond my powers to measure. The members of each of the First Presidencies, the Twelve and other General Authorities have been good to me. The Lord has been good to me! Many, many times he has put ideas into my mind and even words into my mouth that have enabled me to meet difficult situations or remove resistant obstacles that otherwise might have impaired the work of the Society for which I had been given responsibility.
I remember one Thursday morning in seminary, my instructor was teaching us about prophets and apostles. He said a phrase that was burned into my memory: “President Thomas Spencer Monson [who was the prophet at the time] is a prophet of God, and whoever has the desire to know if this is true can sincerely pray to find the answer.” His words really touched me.
When I got home that day, I got on my knees and asked Heavenly Father to let me know if President Monson was called as the prophet by Him. At that moment, I felt a great and sweet joy fill me—something inexplicable. From that day on, I knew that the warmth I felt at that moment came from God, and it confirmed my faith in the prophet.
Not often but over the years some sources have suggested that the Brethren are out of touch in their declarations, that they don’t know the issues, that some of their policies and practices are out-of-date, not relevant to our times.
In 1930 J. Reuben Clark was named as U.S. ambassador to Mexico. Two and a half years later he was called by letter as second counselor to President Heber J. Grant.
General conference had come and gone, and a vacancy in the First Presidency was not filled. A senior Apostle told me that two members of the Twelve waited upon President Grant and said, “We see you did not fill the vacancy in the Presidency.”
Then on January 11, 1984, a year to the day after the passing of Elder Richards, Elder Mark E. Petersen of the Twelve passed away. Now there were two vacancies in the Twelve, and, if anything, the situation was more critical. President Kimball’s health had deteriorated even further, and his mind was less dependable. To make matters worse, those privy to the situation knew President Kimball was in no condition to receive the revelation to extend such calls. One of those persons was Dr. Nelson. The week before the April 1984 general conference, Russell’s surgical nurse, Jan Curtis, mentioned how excited she was for the upcoming conference because two new Apostles would be called. Russell tried to gently tell her that it wasn’t going to happen. “I was his doctor, and I knew it wasn’t feasible, that President Kimball was not well or coherent enough to do it. I explained to her that calling an Apostle is the prerogative of the President of the Church and that President Kimball was simply in no condition to do that.” For months, President Gordon B. Hinckley, the only healthy member of the First Presidency at the time (President Marion G. Romney’s health had also deteriorated), had left standing instructions with President Kimball’s caregivers that if his mind ever cleared, they were to call him immediately, regardless of the hour. Month after month passed with no call. From time to time, President Hinckley looked in on President Kimball, but an opportunity to discuss such a spiritually sensitive topic as calls to the Twelve never presented itself. Then, at about 2:30 a.m. on the Wednesday morning prior to the April 1984 general conference, the phone rang at President Hinckley’s home. President Kimball was alert and would like to talk to him. President Hinckley rushed downtown to President Kimball’s suite in the Hotel Utah, where the issue of vacancies in the Twelve was raised. President Kimball said simply, “Call Nelson and Oaks to the Quorum of the Twelve, in that order.”
Equal devotion is evident in the others of the apostleship. Shortly after his call to the Twelve, for example, Elder Ezra Taft Benson was assigned to supervise the work of the Church in helping Europe recover from the devastation of World War II. He was to restore organization to the missions of the Church and to arrange for the distribution of welfare supplies. Elder Benson spent nearly a year laboring 18-hour days in difficult conditions that included freezing cold and long stretches without food, in a devastated post-war environment where civilian groups were seldom if ever granted the permissions Elder Benson was trying to obtain.
In response to one seemingly insurmountable problem—gaining a visa that would allow entrance into Poland— he retired to his hotel room to pray. Some two or three hours later, Elder Benson, “enveloped in a beautiful glow of radiant light,” stood in his assistant’s doorway and said: “Pack your bags. We are leaving for Poland in the morning!” With numerous other examples of miraculous help, Elder Benson ultimately succeeded, and, after close to a year, was released from that mission. As the assignment ended, despite all his efforts, Elder Benson still worried that he hadn’t done enough. Only after a dream from the Lord could he come to feel that his work had been found acceptable. He wanted to do still more.
Elder Benson recorded this dream in his journal. "Last night, in a dream, I was privileged to spend, what seemed about an hour, with Pres. George Albert Smith in Salt Lake. It was a most impressive and soul-satisfying experience. We talked intimately together about the Great Work in which we are engaged and about my devoted family. I felt the warmth of his embrace as we both shed tears of gratitude for the rich blessings of the Lord ... ." Through this experience, Elder Benson came to feel that his work had been found acceptable to the Brethren and to the Lord. Shortly thereafter, he also received a letter from Elder Harold B. Lee, expressing the admiration of all the Brethren for the mission he had performed. See Sheri L. Dew, Ezra Taft Benson (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1987), 224.
“One time I went to President Faust with a piercing problem I didn’t know how to solve,” Elder Andersen recalls. “He said to me, ‘Neil, have you prayed about it? Have you prayed all night like Enos did?’ And then he sat back in his chair and said, ‘I’ve prayed all night many times to receive the answer to difficult challenges. That is how you will get your answer as well.’ He was right.”
I know that God can hear prayers; he has heard mine on numerous occasions. I have received direct revelation from him. I have had problems that did not seem to have a solution, and I have suffered in facing them until it seemed that I could not go further if I did not have an answer to them. After much praying, and on many occasions fasting for a day, a week, over long periods of time, I have had answers revealed to my mind in finished sentences. I have heard the voice of God in my mind, and I know his words.
He outlined to them the direction his thoughts had carried him—the fading of his reluctance, the disappearance of objections, the growing assurance he had received, the tentative decision he had reached, and his desire for a clear answer. Once more he asked the Twelve to speak, without concern for seniority. “Do you have anything to say?” Elder McConkie spoke in favor of the change, noting there was no scriptural impediment. President Tanner asked searching questions as Elder McConkie spoke. Then Elder Packer spoke at length, explaining his view that every worthy man should be allowed to hold the priesthood. He quoted scriptures (D&C 124:49; 56:4–5; 58:32) in support of the change. Eight of the ten volunteered their views, all favorable. President Kimball called on the other two, and they also spoke in favor. Discussion continued for two hours.155 Elder Packer said, a few weeks later, “One objection would have deterred him, would have made him put it off, so careful was he . . . that it had to be right.” The decision process bonded them in unity. They then sought divine confirmation.
President Kimball asked, “Do you mind if I lead you in prayer?” There were things he wanted to say to the Lord. He had reached a decision after great struggle, and he wanted the Lord’s confirmation, if it would come. They surrounded the altar in a prayer circle. President Kimball told the Lord at length that if extending the priesthood was not right, if the Lord did not want this change to come in the Church, he would fight the world’s opposition. Elder McConkie later recounted, “The Lord took over and President Kimball was inspired in his prayer, asking the right questions, and he asked for a manifestation.”
During that prayer, those present felt something powerful, unifying, ineffable. Those who tried to describe it struggled to find words. Elder McConkie said:
[It was as though another day of Pentecost came.] On the day of Pentecost in the Old World it is recorded that cloven tongues of fire rested upon the people. They were trying to put into words what is impossible to express directly. There are no words to describe the sensation, but simultaneously the Twelve and the three members of the First Presidency had the Holy Ghost descend upon them and they knew that God had manifested his will. . . . I had had some remarkable spiritual experiences before, particularly in connection with my call as an apostle, but nothing of this magnitude.
Elder L. Tom Perry recalled: “While he was praying we had a marvelous experience. We had just a unity of feeling. The nearest I can describe it is that it was much like what has been recounted as happening at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple. I felt something like the rushing of wind. There was a feeling that came over the whole group. When President Kimball got up he was visibly relieved and overjoyed.”
Elder Hinckley said soon afterward that the experience defied description: “It was marvelous, very personal, bringing with it great unity and strong conviction that this change was a revelation from God.” Ten years later he said:
There was a hallowed and sanctified atmosphere in the room. For me, it felt as if a conduit opened between the heavenly throne and the kneeling, pleading prophet. . . . 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. . . .
There was not the sound “as of a rushing mighty wind,” there were not “cloven tongues like as of fire” as there had been on the Day of Pentecost. . . .
. . . But the voice of the Spirit whispered with certainty into our minds and our very souls.
It was for us, at least for me personally, as I imagine it was with Enos, who said concerning his remarkable experience, “. . . behold, the voice of the Lord came into my mind.”
. . . Not one of us who was present on that occasion was ever quite the same after that.
Elder David B. Haight recalled, “The Spirit touched each of our hearts with the same message in the same way. Each was witness to a transcendent heavenly event.” He spoke of the event again eighteen years later: “I was there. I was there with the outpouring of the Spirit in that room so strong that none of us could speak afterwards. We just left quietly to go back to the office. No one could say anything because of the heavenly spiritual experience.” Elder Marvin J. Ashton called it “the most intense spiritual impression I’ve ever felt.” Elder Packer said that during the prayer all present became aware what the decision must be.
President Ezra Taft Benson recorded in his journal: “Following the prayer, we experienced the sweetest spirit of unity and conviction that I have ever experienced. . . . Our bosoms burned with the righteousness of the decision we had made.” He also said he “had never experienced anything of such spiritual magnitude and power.” Each who felt this powerful spiritual experience confirming the decision proposed by President Kimball perceived it as a revelation.
Elder Howard W. Hunter said, “Following the prayer . . . comments were made about the feeling shared by all, that seldom, if ever, had there been greater unanimity in the council.”
Elder Perry said, “I don’t think we’ve had a president more willing to entreat the Lord or more receptive since the Prophet Joseph. We knew that he had received the will of the Lord.”
When important changes to bless our homes were announced at the October 2018 general conference, I testified that "in the deliberations of the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the temple,...after our beloved prophet petitioned the Lord for revelation..., a powerful confirmation was received by all."
At that time, other revelations relating to sacred temple ordinances had been received but not announced or implemented. This guidance commenced with individual prophetic revelation to President Russell M. Nelson and tender and powerful confirmation to those participating in the process. President Nelson specifically involved the sisters who preside over the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary organizations. The final guidance, in the temple, to the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was profoundly spiritual and powerful. We each knew we had received the mind, will, and voice of the Lord.
Most of our guidance comes from the Holy Ghost. Sometimes and for some purposes, it comes directly from the Lord. I personally testify that this is true. Guidance for the Church, as a whole, comes to the President and prophet of the Church.
Just as the car reached the crown of the rise, President Hinckley said, “Stop the car, stop the car.” He then pointed to the right at a parcel of ground and said, “What about this property? This is where the temple goes. This is where the Lord wants the temple. Can you get it? Can you get it?”
Elder Henry B. Eyring:
And then I love it when he does the necessary work to receive the instruction from the Lord on whatever topic it is. But I love when sometimes he will say, “The Lord showed me exactly.” And that phrase caught my attention the very first time he used it, because just the day before, I had been studying from the life and teachings of President Wilford Woodruff and President Woodruff used the very same phrase. He said, “The Lord showed me exactly.” Now, again, I don’t know what the issue was or is when my husband wrestles, nor when he says, “The Lord showed me exactly,” but the rest of the sentence for my husband sometimes is then, “The Lord showed me exactly how to proceed,” “The Lord showed me exactly what to do or say,” “The Lord showed me exactly what would happen if a certain course were followed.”