The choice to follow and obey God’s authorized servants is a free will decision. He will never force His will upon us. But the choices we make will have eternal consequences; good or bad.
Our Father in heaven has a plan and an established order here upon the earth and in heaven to govern His kingdoms. That order is the Melchizedek priesthood with authorized representatives to receive the necessary revelation and inspiration on the various levels, pertaining to their calling.
Each person is entitled to personal inspiration and revelation as pertains to his personal stewardships, but President Brigham Young clearly defines the limits of that personal revelation and inspiration: “Whenever there is a disposition manifested in any of the members of this Church to question the right of the President of the whole Church to direct in all things, you see manifested evidences of apostasy—of a spirit which, if encouraged, will lead to a separation from the Church and to final destruction; wherever there is a disposition to operate against any legally appointed officer of this Kingdom, no matter in what capacity he is called to act, if persisted in, it will be followed by the same results; they will 'walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, self-willed; they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.' (Discourses of Brigham Young, p.83)
Karl G. Maeser, on one occasion was leading a party of young missionaries across the Alps. “As they slowly ascended the steep slope, he looked back and saw a row of sticks thrust into the glacial snow to mark the one safe path across the otherwise treacherous mountains.
Something about those sticks impressed him, and halting the company of missionaries he gestured toward them and said, ‘Brethren, there stands the priesthood. They are just common sticks like the rest of us—some of them may even seem to be a little crooked, but the position they hold makes them what they are. If we step aside from the path they mark, we are lost.’
I bear witness, my brethren and sisters, fellow students, that in this Church men are as they indeed must be—called of God by prophecy. May we learn in our youth this lesson; it will see us faithful through all of the challenges of our lives. May we learn to follow the brethren, I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.”
Elder Eyring taught: “Another fallacy is to believe that the choice to accept or not accept the counsel of prophets is no more than deciding whether to accept good advice and gain its benefits or to stay where we are. But the choice not to take prophetic counsel changes the very ground upon which we stand. It becomes more dangerous. The failure to take prophetic counsel lessens our power to take inspired counsel in the future. The best time to have decided to help Noah build the ark was the first time he asked. Each time he asked after that, each failure to respond would have lessened sensitivity to the Spirit. And so, each time his request would have seemed more foolish, until the rain came. And then it was too late.
Every time in my life when I have chosen to delay following inspired counsel or decided that I was an exception, I came to know that I had put myself in harm's way. Every time that I have listened to the counsel of prophets, felt it confirmed in prayer, and then followed it, I have found that I moved toward safety. Along the path, I have found that the way had been prepared for me and the rough places made smooth. God led me to safety along a path which was prepared with loving care, sometimes prepared long before”. ('Finding Safety in Counsel,' Elder Henry B. Eyring, April 1997)
We learn in D&C 43:8-10, that when we are instructed, edified and sanctified by the Holy Ghost, we are expected to bind ourselves to act in all holiness before God. We are warned that if we do not act, “it shall be taken, even that which ye have received.”
Failure to heed prophetic counsel will lead to personal apostasy. Consistently heeding the counsel of God’s chosen servants will bring safety, peace and joy in a turbulent and ever-changing world.
Apostasy is selfish, just like all sin is selfish. A large part of it comes from pride, and a desire to choose our will over that of God’s.
As we begin this new year may we use our agency wisely and always choose to follow the living prophets of God.