I joined the church when Spencer W. Kimball was the prophet. He was the prophet for so long after I joined that when he died, it was hard to accept that anyone else could be the prophet. He was, to me, the “real” prophet and I struggled to accept the next prophet. In order to maintain our testimony, however, it’s important that we learn to trust the new prophet and to love him as we do President Hinckley. Following are some tips for learning to love your new prophet:
1. Read about him. Bios will appear when the announcement is made. Read them carefully and get to know him as a person. Until the announcement is made, you can read biographies of church leaders on the church’s website.
2. Read his previous talks. This tells you a great deal about his personality and the things that are important to him. Notice what he talks about the most often in General Conference. What does he speak about most passionately?
3. Study his testimony. This is often given in talks and articles. Find out how he feels about the gospel and what he most often mentions in his testimony.
4. How did he gain his testimony? You can probably learn this as you study his life and teachings.
5. Hang his photograph in your home. You needn’t remove President Hinckley’s if you have it there, but add his as well. Seeing it each day will help you develop affection for him.
6. Plan a special Family Home Evening about him. Allow your family time to grieve for President Hinckley and to express their sadness. Then help them learn to love their new prophet as well. Your children might enjoy making cards for the new prophet and mailing them to Salt Lake City. Teach them how a prophet is chosen. There is a Sunday School lesson on succession in the church that you might want to use with older children.
7. Pray often for a testimony of the new prophet, just as you prayed to know President Hinckley was a prophet. Ask Heavenly Father to reassure you that His will has been followed and that this orderly procession is His plan, and a protection to us.
It’s natural to grieve, even for someone you’ve never met. President Hinckley was a wonderful leader and made more special to you because he was your very first prophet, and the one you gained your testimony of. But you may also have seen the new prophet often in General Conference, and in the church magazines, and you may have already started to feel affection for him as a leader. With time, this new prophet will also be greatly loved. As you study his teachings and learn to trust his advice, you will find he holds much the same place in your heart as did President Hinckley.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.