Follow the Brethren

Mortal life is an essential part of God's plan in bringing about the "immortality and eternal life" (Moses 1:39) of his children.    President Ezra Taft Benson
(1899-1994) taught of four essential purposes for our coming to the world of trial and development:

Life has a fourfold purpose.  First of all, we come to this mortal life to receive a physical, mortal body.  Without a physical body man is limited in his progression and only with a spirit and a body united together permanently can man receive a fulness of joy; so we are living today part of eternity.  We accepted that plan in the spirit world before we came here, and we rejoiced at the opportunity of coming here.

Second, we came here to gain experience--experience with a physical, mortal world.

The third purpose of life is to give us an opportunity to prove ourselves (Abraham 3:25).  To prove that even in the presence of evil and sin we can live a good life.  To prove that in spite of temptation that we have the strength and the character to adhere to the principles of the gospel.

And fourth, this life is intended to provide an opportunity to help our Father in Heaven with His great plan, and we do that through honorable parenthood.  We cooperate with our Heavenly Father in helping to prepare tabernacles to house spirits of His children.  So the matter of marriage, the home, and the family is a vital part of the plan of our Heavenly Father, and by keeping this fourfold purpose of life in mind constantly and carrying out these purposes to have a fulness of joy in mortal life, and we prepare ourselves for exaltation in the celestial kingdom where we will receive a fulness of joy.  So the whole purpose of the Church is to help and assist us in carrying out these purposes in life. (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [1988],  pp. 27-28; bolding added)

Of these purposes, marriage is one of the most important aspects of mortality.  Indeed, it ought to be our most important concern in this life.  President Howard W. Hunter (1907-95) urged:

Let us make the temple, with temple worship and temple covenants and temple marriage, our ultimate earthly goal and the supreme mortal experience. ("Follow the Son of God," Ensign, Nov. 1994, p. 87)

Being married or sealed in the temple is just the beginning of building an eternal marriage.  If it is to be an eternal marriage, it must be built on eternal principles.  God has revealed these eternal principles through his prophets.

It obvious, then, that the first key to building an eternal marriage is to follow the Lord's earthly servants--the Brethren.  This is taught in Lehi's dream.  President Boyd K. Packer observed:

Lehi’s dream or vision of the iron rod has in it everything a Latter-day Saint needs to understand the test of life. ("Finding Ourselves in Lehi's Dream," Ensign, Aug. 2010)  

From Lehi's Dream we learn that in this world we are subject to two major influences.  These were symbolized by the rod of iron that led to the tree of life and the great and spacious building that hovered in the air on the other side of the river (see 1 Ne. 8:19-28). 

Nephi saw a vision in which he came to understand the interpretation of the rod of iron and the great and spacious building.   The rod of iron symbolized "the word of God" (1 Ne. 11:25).  The great and spacious building was symbolic of "the world and the wisdom thereof" (1 Ne. 11:35).

Following the word of God leads one to eternal life while following the wisdom of the world will lead to destruction.

The Savior taught that though we live in this world we must not be "of the world" (John 17:14-16).  This is true of marriage
.  Since "marriage is ordained of God unto man" (D&C 49:15), it follows that the principles followed in building an eternal marriage must come from the infinite and eternal God and not from the finite and mortal world where the philosophies of men dominate.  The importance of this can be seen in issuance of The Family: A Proclamation to the World by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.  Before reading the proclamation, President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008) said:

With so much of sophistry that is passed off as truth, with so much of deception concerning standards and values, with so much of allurement and enticement to take on the slow stain of the world, we have felt to warn and forewardn.  In furtherance of this we of the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles now issue a proclamation to the Church and to the world as a declaration and reaffirmation of standards, doctrines, and practices relative to the family which the prophets, seers, and revelators of this Church have repeatedly stated throughout its history.  ("Stand Strong Against the Wiles of the World," Ensign, Nov. 1995)

How is the word of God obtained?  President Ezra Taft Benson explained that word of God is obtained through three sources:

In his dream, Lehi saw an iron rod which led through the mists of darkness. He saw that if people would hold fast to that rod, they could avoid the rivers of filthiness, stay away from the forbidden paths, stop from wandering in the strange roads that lead to destruction. Later his son Nephi clearly explained the symbolism of the iron rod. When Laman and Lemuel asked, “What meaneth the rod of iron?” Nephi answered, “It was the word of God; and [note this promise] whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction.” (1 Ne. 15:23–24; italics added.) Not only will the word of God lead us to the fruit which is desirable above all others, but in the word of God and through it we can find the power to resist temptation, the power to thwart the work of Satan and his emissaries. ... 

My dear brethren, this is an answer to the great challenge of our time. The word of God, as found in [1] the scriptures, [2] in the words of living prophets, and [3] in personal revelation, has the power to fortify the Saints and arm them with the Spirit so they can resist evil, hold fast to the good, and find joy in this life. (“The Power of the Word,” Ensign, May 1986, p. 80; italics and numbers added)

As President Benson taught, the word of God comes through three sources: 

(1) the scriptures
(2) living prophets
(3) personal revelation

In the unique age we live in--unlike dispenstations in the past--every member of the Church can own their own set of scriptures where we can learn the will of God. And many of us have more than one set of scriptures!

We also have great acess to learning the will of God as taught through the Brethren--the living prophets and apostles.  We can find them in Church magazines and through the internet.  Never has there been an age where the teachings of the prophets have been so accessible.

It is through the scriptures and the teachings "the Brethren" that we learn God's will concerning marriage and parenthood in this mortal world.

President Benson also taught that the word of God was obtained through personal revelation.  What role does personal revelation play in learning the will of God?

In the Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting: Building Up A Righteous Posterity, February 9, 2008, where the doctrinal pattern of the ideal marraige and family was discussed, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated the purpose of personal revelation is understanding the word of God:

Now, I hope this helps you understand why we talk about the pattern, the ideal, of marriage and family when we know full well that not everyone now lives in that ideal circumstance. It is precisely because many don’t have, or perhaps have never even seen, that ideal and because some cultural forces steadily move us away from that ideal, that we speak about what our Father in Heaven wishes for us in His eternal plan for His children.

Individual adaptations have to be made as marital status and family circumstances differ. But all of us can agree on the pattern as it comes from God, and we can strive for its realization the best way we can.

We who are General Authorities and general officers are called to teach His general rules. You and we then lead specific lives and must seek the Lord’s guidance regarding specific circumstances. But there would be mass confusion and loss of gospel promises if no general ideal and no doctrinal standard were established and, in our case today, repeated. We take great strength in knowing the Lord has spoken on these matters, and we accept His counsel even when it might not be popular.  (From "General Patterns and Specific Lives," Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting: Building Up A Righteous Posterity, February 9, 2008;,4945,8027-1-4404-2,00.html)

In other words, from the scriptures and the teachings of modern prophets, one learns the general doctrines, principles, and pratices regarding God's will to his mortal children.  Then through personel revelation, each determines how to specifically apply the general teachings given by the scriptures and Brethren to their own circumstances.

As important as the four standard works (the scriptures) are, it is more important to look to the current prophet, seers, and revelators for guidance.  President Ezra Taft Benson declared:

We are admonished to “seek out of the best books words of wisdom” (D&C 88:118). Surely these books must include the scriptures. Alongside them must be the words of the Presidents of the Church. The Lord said of the President of the Church, “His word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth” (D&C 21:5). These books make up what has been referred to as “the Lord’s library”—namely the standard works and the various volumes that contain the words of the different Presidents of the Church. Of the latter volumes, that which would be of greatest importance to you would be the words of the current President of the Church, for his words are directed to our day and our needs. (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [1988], p.137-138)

In a general conference of the Church, President Wilford Woodruff (1807-98) recalled Joseph Smith's teachings of the same:

I will refer to a certain meeting I attended in the town of Kirtland in my early days. At that meeting some remarks were made that have been made here today, with regard to the living oracles and with regard to the written word of God. The same principle was presented, although not as extensively as it has been here, when a leading man in the Church got up and talked upon the subject, and said: “You have got the word of God before you here in the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants; you have the written word of God, and you who give revelations should give revelations according to those books, as what is written in those books is the word of God. We should confine ourselves to them.” When he concluded, Brother Joseph turned to Brother Brigham Young and said, “Brother Brigham I want you to take the stand and tell us your views with regard to the written oracles and the written word of God.” Brother Brigham took the stand, and he took the Bible, and laid it down; he took the Book of Mormon, and laid it down; and he took the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and laid it down before him, and he said: “There is the written word of God to us, concerning the work of God from the beginning of the world, almost, to our day.” “And now,” said he, “when compared with the living oracles those books are nothing to me; those books do not convey the word of God direct to us now, as do the words of a Prophet or a man bearing the Holy Priesthood in our day and generation. I would rather have the living oracles than all the [p.23]writing in the books.” That was the course he pursued. When he was through, Brother Joseph said to the congregation: “Brother Brigham has told you the word of the Lord, and he has told you the truth.”  (Conference Report, October 1897, p.22)

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