This post has been swirling in my head for several weeks now. For the first time in my life, I met an apostle.
I’ll tell you about it.
I was not at a conference. I was not at a meeting. I was not at the temple or at any place where you would expect to see an apostle. I was in a neighborhood visiting someone, and he was outside – shoveling his driveway.
So, my family and I went and visited with him. I’m not sure what I expected. This is an apostle I have loved ever since I heard him speak when he was first called as an apostle. His talks and speeches are straight-forward and doctrine laced. His words have been a support to me through several times in my life.
So, I stood there, in the snow, and in a way I guess I was star-struck, which sounds stupid.
I’m not quite sure what I expected. Did I think that the Heavens would part, there would be a choir of angels singing, and I’d have some kind of earth-shattering sign? Not really. Even though it has been several weeks, I still don’t know what I expected, but I do know that I was surprised by the meeting.
First of all, I have to say that he was really nice. He was done shoveling. I doubt that he really wanted to stay outside to talk to us. I don’t know. I mean, I’m sure he had other things to do. But he kindly spoke with us. He talked to each of our kids. He spoke kindly to Homey and to me.
Meeting him really impressed upon me the demands of his calling. He is rarely home. Here we are – a bunch of strangers – walking up to him, talking to him. How often does this happen? Can he even get his own groceries?
As I thought about these demands, I said, “It must be hard to travel so much. You were just in out of the country.”
Without hesitating he said, “It’s not hard. Doing the Lord’s work is not hard.” He didn’t say this with an air of false humility. He truly means what he said. It isn’t hard for him. Demanding – yes, but NOT hard.
After a cordial conversation and goodbyes, we left this apostle alone – each of us going about our days.
I’ve come to realize a few things about the apostles and my relationship with them through this encounter. I hope that I can express this in a way that makes sense.
Apostles are Normal People
Faithful – yes. Dedicated – yes. Disciplined – yes. Apostles are these things, for sure. They are doing their best to live the gospel. But that’s just the thing they are doing their best. They are imperfect, they are normal. Sometimes they even wear jeans and shovel snow.
This reminds me of something that Elder Ballard taught in the most recent General Conference:
“Too many people think Church leaders and members should be perfect or nearly perfect. They forget that the Lord’s grace is sufficient to accomplish His work through mortals.” – Elder M. Russell Ballard
I have to admit. I’ve been guilty of this. And maybe I was even guilty of this when I met an apostle. There have been times when I’ve been frustrated with people in my wards, leaders, and others – who are voluntarily serving God. I’ve forgotten that they, like me, are imperfect. They forget things, they have bad days, they get tired, or maybe they simply have different personalities and sensitivities than I do. While this is an obvious oversight, the real problem is that there are times when I’ve forgotten that God’s grace is sufficient. He can accomplish His work through us – even though we’re flawed!
When it came to my meeting an apostle, I had this stark realization that he is a normal guy. He is striving, trying. He is praying. He is working. He isn’t any more special than I am. He has a different calling, that’s for sure. But he’s a normal guy. It isn’t fair to assume that the apostles are just better people than we are. That diminishes their own agency, their own discipleship.
In meeting an apostle, I came to realize that the apostles are inspiring because they are normal and because they are proof that the gospel works. God’s grace IS sufficient.
The Real Testimony Comes to Me through The Spirit
Now, I want to emphasize that prophets and apostles are very important. The Lord has a pattern to revelation. I will probably talk about that in a later post. It is through the apostles and the prophets that I even know anything about God or the Spirit.
Elder Ballard taught:
“And make no mistake about it: the Lord directs His Church through living prophets and apostles. This s the way He has always done His work. Indeed, the Savior taught, ‘Verily, verily I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me.’ We cannot separate Christ from His servants.” – Elder Ballard
We need the witness that has been given to us by the apostles and prophets. That doesn’t mean, though, that the only way for us to access a testimony is through some kind of magical meeting with an apostle.
We gain a testimony as we draw nearer to the Lord – through prayer, scripture study, and keeping our covenants.
I’m grateful that the heavens didn’t part when I met an apostle. While I felt grateful for his service and for the teachings he has given throughout his tenure as an apostle, I didn’t feel some kind of “amazing” spiritual experience that was different than anything I’d experienced before. I felt the witness that he is an apostle, but nothing more than that. The experience was not some kind of earth-shattering moment in my life. And I’m grateful. It means that the Lord has revealed the truth of the gospel to me in the appointed way – through my own study of the scriptures and yes – through the words of the prophets when they are speaking in an apostolic way (i.e. general conference, firesides, etc.)
It meant that the gospel works, the Gift of the Holy Ghost will guide us and teach us. We don’t need to go shake the hand of an apostle to gain a testimony. We simply need to do as we’ve been taught: seek, knock, ask.
As I’ve sought the Lord, knocked at his proverbial door, and as I’ve asked Him the deep questions of my heart, He has guided me to the scriptures and to the words of modern apostles and prophets. An apostle can deliver a single message at one meeting, and it can touch the hearts of millions – in a million individual ways. This isn’t because the apostle is some kind of demi-god. It isn’t magic.
- Apostles are set apart to teach us the things we need to know. Elder Ballard teaches,
“The Lord’s Apostles are duty bound to watch, warn, and reach out to help those seeking answers to life’s questions.” – Elder M. Russell Ballard
- Apostles speak with the power of the Holy Ghost
- When we have the Spirit with us, we can receive the message of the prophets and apostles with the power of the Holy Ghost. This is when it works! This is when we learn the specific things that we need to know. This is how a single talk can touch millions of people in specific, individual ways.
It’s interesting – how we in Mormon culture view our Apostles and Prophet. I think that I understand it better now. I still wish that in the moment I met an apostle, that I would have simply thanked him. They do dedicate their lives. Do we realize that? Do we realize that they serve, day and night, for the rest of their days – for years without release? Do we realize that this means they travel all throughout the world, most likely spending more time away from home than at home? Do we realize that this means that we watch every single thing they do. (Did you see how he helped his wife with her coat? What kind of car does he drive? Does he keep his yard neat?) Do we realize the effort they put, day in and day out – even though there are so many who reject the witness that they were called to bear? Do we realize that they are normal people – that they have had their struggles, adversities, quirks, idiosyncrasies – and that they most likely STILL have these foibles of mortality, yet must fulfill such a demanding calling?
“It has always been a challenge for the world to accept living prophets and apostles, but it is so essential to do so in order to fully understand the Atonement and the teachings of Jesus Christ and to receive a fulness of the blessings of the priesthood that are given to those He has called.” – Elder M. Russell Ballard
I want to bear my testimony that the Apostles and Prophets are called of God and qualified by God. I know that being led by Apostles and a Prophet is a great blessing. We aren’t expected to navigate the waters of the Latter-days alone. We have people, normal people, who have been called and who are blessed with God’s grace, to lead us in these rough waters.
I know this because as I have studied and put the words of the apostles to the test, I have been able to come closer to the Lord, I have been lifted up, and I’ve been blessed. These apostles don’t know me. They don’t need to. The Lord does.
Though men are serving in the Lord’s work – it isn’t their work. They aren’t magic. They aren’t demi-gods. They are normal people, humbly submitting to the Lord, and being magnified by His grace. Through their efforts and God’s Spirit, they are able to guide, warn, and protect each of us in specific ways.
What has helped you to gain a testimony in God’s appointed servants, the Prophet and Apostles? How has this testimony helped your overall strength in the Lord?