Imagine you are on a ship at sea and it is overtaken by a storm. You are in perilous danger. But if the ship could withstand the pounding rain and fierce winds long enough to navigate to the eye of the storm, you would be safe. The eye is a natural phenomenon at the center of every whirling storm. From an aerial view, it looks just like that—the pupil of an eye. It is a region of mostly calm weather, about 20—40 miles in diameter. If you were sailing within the eye, you would see a clear sky above. The wind and seas would be calm and there would be no devastation. Surrounding you is the eye wall, where the thunderous storm reels in full fury. But you are safe, because you are within the eye.
I’ve lived through spiritual uncertainty—much like being tossed about by the storms of life. But I found the eye of the storm. I decided I enjoyed the peace and clarity of mind and heart more than the confusion and turmoil that lies beyond the eye wall. I decided it was safer to follow the eye rather than plant my feet on worldly soil and brave the storm as it passes over me. The eye is obviously the safest place to be.
Today, the eye of the storm is the modern-day prophet, Thomas S. Monson. It will be easier to understand this statement if you can identify the storm.
The Storm of Spiritual Confusion
Before I found The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I had always felt that I was a child of God and that heaven was a place called home where we would return some day, but I was discouraged by the differing doctrines of faith between cultures. Why was there such a disparity in all the world’s religious teachings? This made no sense to me. God was a master architect and loving Father—why would his world be organized with complete perfection yet his doctrine so vague with so many varying interpretations? Even the Bible states we should be united in one faith.
Spiritual differences are stemmed from man’s misinterpretation of God’s plan, man’s desire for power and control, and even man’s distractions from God’s ways. A spiritual storm of confusion has been brewing ever since man has had agency to act on his own. In contrast, a perfect God would have a perfect plan for salvation for all of his children regardless of their means or circumstances. He would also give us a sure way to find it and a way to follow it.
In Amos chapter 3, verse 7 it states, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” God had prophets in the Old Testament who prepared the people for the higher law of the gospel. He continued to have prophets in the New Testament who ushered in that higher law. In every dispensation of time, God has either had prophets on the earth, or he withdrew them because of the corruption of the people.
Apostasy and Restoration
The higher law, or plan of salvation, was fulfilled through Jesus Christ. After the prophets and apostles in the New Testament times were martyred, God withdrew his authority on the earth for a time. This was known as the Dark Ages. But this would not last forever. God prepared the world to receive a new prophet to bring forth the last dispensation of time—the time before the second coming of Jesus Christ. A young boy in a new nation founded on religious freedom asked the same question—which is the true church of God. Joseph Smith received his answer in a quiet grove of trees when Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ visited him personally and called him to be the first prophet of this last dispensation. God opened the heavens again—the eye of the spiritual storm—so that his children could navigate in safety.
Joseph Smith was called of God. He received his priesthood authority from resurrected heavenly messengers who held the priesthood keys. He used that authority to call others and to establish the true church on the earth again. This act unlocked the heavens to pour out revelation to all people—not just the powerful or those who could pay off their way to salvation, not just the elite, but to all of God’s children. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has since had fifteen prophets, with Thomas S. Monson serving currently as the sixteen prophet is this day.
Russell M. Nelson of the quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught recently in the October General Conference how a prophet is not elected or appointed by man. He said, “No prophet or any other leader in this Church, for that matter, has ever called himself or herself. No prophet has ever been elected. The Lord made that clear when He said, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you. (John 15:16) You and I do not “vote” on Church leaders at any level. We do, though, have the privilege of sustaining them.
“The pattern of revelation begins with the prophet and ends with the individual. President Boyd K. Packer described that identifying mark of the true Church this way: “Revelation continues in the Church: the prophet receiving it for the Church; the president for his stake, his mission, or his quorum; the bishop for his ward; the father for his family; the individual for himself.” (Russell M. Nelson, Sustaining the Prophets, General Conference, Oct 2014).
Likewise, when a prophet speaks for the church, Heavenly Father confirms the truth not only to him, but to his counselors and apostles as well. It is comforting to know that no one man can thus lead the people astray. Modern day prophets have taught us the pattern of authority set by Jesus Christ. Elder Nelson further said, “When we sustain prophets and other leaders, we invoke the law of common consent, for the Lord said, “It shall not be given to anyone to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by someone who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authority and has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church. (D&C 42:11).”
To me, this is just one more example of how the spiritual confusion that torments the world need not leave us frightened. God’s holy prophet does not speak alone. “Counterbalances and safeguards abound so that no one can ever lead the Church astray. Senior leaders are constantly being tutored such that one day they are ready to sit in the highest councils. They learn how to hear the voice of the Lord through the whisperings of the Spirit. (Russell M. Nelson, Sustaining the Prophets, General Conference, Oct 2014).
Personal Revelation: The freedom to pray, to ponder, and to act on our own
Even as a child I knew our Father in Heaven would not steer his children into a violent storm without a plan for safety. I knew he loved us individually and gave us the agency to pray and find answers on our own, free of intimidation, guilt, or oppression. In a sense, I knew there had to be an eye in the storm of religious confusion and I knew a loving Heavenly Father would help his children who earnestly sought to find it.
We each have the freedom to study for ourselves with an open heart, to search for truth with sincerity and real intent, to ponder what we have learned, to test the fruit of our labor. We have a right to receive answers from Heavenly Father. Personal revelation comes gently over time, after much effort and persistence. But when it does come, it is uniquely divine.
Safety in the eye of the storm
Life is full of turmoil; voices of contention swirl around us much like a tropical storm. But like the storms at sea, there is a safe haven from the confusion—there is an eye of clarity and reason.
How important is it for you to feel spiritually protected? Are there times when you may go to bed at night wondering what your future holds? Do you carry family burdens, sorrow for your children’s future, physical uncertainty? Times of trouble come to everyone, but we can rest assured—there is safety from the storm.
I invite you to ponder the possibility of a modern-day prophet, Thomas S. Monson—the spiritual eye of the storm.
Nanette O'Neal loves the gospel and is very happy to share her testimony on LDS Blogs. She is a convert to the church and still feels the spirit burn strong within her heart. She graduated from Mason Gross School of the Arts with a degree in music education and has taught children and adults in the private and public sphere for over twenty years. Nanette continues to study the gospel and the art of writing. She writes weekly inspirational articles on her blog and is currently working on an LDS fantasy novel series, A Doorway Back to Forever. You can find her at NanetteONeal.blogspot.com. Nanette has a wonderful husband, talented son, and three beautiful dogs.