Monday, November 2, 2009

Latter Day Prophets

When I ride in my car, I usually don't listen to music.  I really enjoy using that time to learn new things.  Because of this, I am always looking for good CDs that I can learn something from while I drive to and from work.  I listen to a variety of topics but recently I acquired The Presidents of the Church: Insights into Their Lives and Teachings by Truman G Madsen on CD.  He gives about a 40 minute talk on each of the Latter Day Prophets.  While I was listening I tried to pick out one thing that I admired about each of the prophets.  It was purely for my own education and betterment, but I figured since I already compiled the information I may as well share it.

I recognize that there are many awesome things I could have written about all of these men.  If you are offended that your favorite story wasn't shared, I'd love for you to share it in a comment.

Joseph Smith
Lived: December 23, 1805 – June 27, 1844(aged 38)
President of the Church: 1830-1844
Admirable Attribute: His caring for others. When he was martyred in Carthage Jail, he knew that the mob was coming for him. I had always thought that he was shot and just fell out the window, but according to Truman G. Madsen he thrust himself to the window after he had been shot so that the mob would see him fall. When the mob saw Joseph fall from the window they stopped attacking.  Joseph's last thoughts before he died were selfless ones and he saved the lives of John Taylor and Willard Richards who both would have surely been killed if the mob had continued to attack.

Brigham Young
Lived: June 1, 1801-August 29, 1877(aged 76)
President of the church: 1847-1877
Admiral Attribute: He was humble. One time Joseph Smith publicly rebuked him for something he didn’t do. Brigham would have certainly had the right to argue that he was being unjustly dealt with, but rather than argue about it he just replied, “What would you like me to do?”

Joseph, who had been testing him, came down from the pulpit, hugged Brigham and told him, “Brother Brigham you passed.” 

John Taylor
Lived: November 1, 1808-July 25, 1887(aged 78)
President of the Church: 1880-1887
Admirable Attribute:  He had total trust in the Lord. He struggled with the doctrine of polygamy, and especially struggled when Joseph Smith told him that Leonora (John Taylor’s wife) would not be sealed to him but instead to Joseph. He told Joseph, “If the Lord wants Leonora he can have Leonora. If you are asking, the answer’s no.” Joseph told him that the Lord didn’t want Leonora but it was a test and he passed.

Wilford Woodruff
Lived: March 1, 1807-September 2, 1898(aged 91)
President of the Church: 1889-1898
Admirable Attribute: He was a record keeper. He often said that he could not let his head hit the pillow until he had recorded the events of the day. He wrote in his journal every day for over 60 years.  He also would keep shorthand of sermons that were given by Joseph Smith as well as Brigham Young.  He would not go to sleep until he had transcribed his shorthand into regular writing.  He is the reason that we have the transcripts of many of those sermons today.

Lorenzo Snow
Lived: April 3, 1814-October 10, 1901(aged 87)
President of the Church: 1898-1901
Admirable Attribute:  He was obedient. He didn't want to get married because he didn't want children.  (I can relate, I wanted to get married and I'm happy I did but I'm somewhat afraid of children.)  Joseph Smith took him for a walk and gave him a good talking to about the importance of marriage and families.  He got married and eventually had 41 children.  (I told Robyn I can't be too bad if I started out with the same problem a prophet had.  But, I'm pretty sure we won't have 41 children.)  I admire not only his obedience, but he also had such a great love for his children.  He loved to share stories of the gospel with his children.  He was a true family man.

Joseph F. Smith
Lived: November 13, 1838-November 19, 1918 (aged 80)
President of the Church: 1901-1918
Admirable Attribute:  He was an amazing missionary. He went on his first mission at the age of 15, to Hawaii. It was at a time when others who had been called there had given up because they had no success. He went on to have great success there and returned many times, later as a Mission President.

Heber J. Grant
Lived: November 22, 1856-May 14, 1945 (aged 88)
President of the Church: 1918-1945
Admirable Attribute: He learned how to be Financially Prepared.  He had invested in some businesses that failed.  He had gotten deep into debt because of that.  He was over 100,000 dollars in debt which is more than one million in today's dollars.  He had developed a plan to pay off his debts with continual hard work.  He was called to be a Mission President in Japan and he accepted it knowing that it would greatly increase the difficulty of getting out of debt.

After accepting the call, John W. Taylor came to him and said, "It's been made known to me that you have made a great sacrifice today."  He said that the Lord would open the way for him to become financially free.  He was not to plan to make money but he was to just ask the Lord to guide him.  Within six months he was out of debt and went to Japan.

For the rest of his live he taught that being debt free was important, and he even brought the church to the point where it has a year's supply of money.  This means that if all tithing and donations stopped, the church could still continue for an entire year at its current rate of spending.

George Albert Smith
Lived: April 4, 1870-April 4, 1951 (aged 81)
President of the Church: 1945-1951
Admirable Attribute:  He was filled with kindness and charity.  He would donate to the Salvation Army because he said they reach people that we don't.  He was also known for giving to anyone in need.  One day he came home from work shivering.  His wife asked him if he had forgotten his coat that morning.  He replied, "No, but I gave it to a man on Main Street."

David O. Mckay
Lived: September 8, 1873-January 18, 1970 (aged 96)
President of the Church:1951-1970
Admirable Attribute: He had a reverence for sacred places. One time he saw two boys playing and climbing trees in the Sacred Grove.  He politely told them, "Boys, please this is a sacred grove, it is not a game, it is not for fun.  If you want to play, please play over there."

At another time he spoke about the temple and said, "I believe there are few, even temple workers who comprehend the full meaning and power of the temple endowment.  Seen for what it is, it is the step by step ascent into the eternal presence.  If our young people could but glimpse it, it would become the most powerful spiritual motivation of their lives."

 Joseph Fielding Smith
Lived: July 19, 1876-July 2, 1972 (aged 95)
President of the Church: 1970-1972
Admirable Attribute:  He had complete integrity.  He wanted to never deceive any person. One time a photographer came to him and wanted to take a picture of him signing a letter.  He asked President Smith to pretend to sign a letter.  President Smith refused, but said that he would find a letter that needed signing and would allow the photographer to take a picture of him actually signing a letter.

Harold B Lee
Lived: March 28, 1899- December 26, 1973 (aged 74)
President of the Church: 1972-1973
Admirable Attribute: He had an ability to listen to the spirit and have confidence in the answer. He was sitting in General Conference. Someone gave an anonymous tip to the city saying that there was a bomb that was going to go off in 20 minutes inside the tabernacle. They sent the bomb squad in and someone went and let President Lee know about the bomb. He thought for a moment and said, “There is no bomb in this building.” They went back and told the bomb squad there was no bomb. Imagine if he were wrong, he would die as well as thousands of members of the church. But he had total confidence that the spirit had communicated the truth to him.

Spencer W. Kimball
Lived: March 28, 1895-November 5, 1985 (aged 90)
President of the Church: 1973-1985
Admirable Attribute: He had a love for others and a strength of spirit always with him. A young Japanese convert was unsure about the church and was ready to walk away forever.  A friend encouraged him to stay at a conference long enough to shake hands with President Kimball.  After meeting President Kimball this young man said,  "Is that what a celestial world is like?  I felt the spirit so strongly that testified to me that our Heavenly Father is like President Kimball.  I almost missed the glorious opportunity of staying in the church."

Ezra Taft Benson
Lived: August 4, 1899-May 30, 1994 (aged 94)
President of the Church: 1985-1994
Admirable Attribute:  His dependence on prayer. He convinced President Eisenhower of the importance of prayer and got him and his cabinet to say verbal prayers at all of their cabinet meetings.

One time there was a drought in Texas. President Benson convinced the Texas Governor to declare a day of fasting and prayer. He did and it rained 2 inches. In connection with this event, the newspaper reported, “Benson has contacts that are out of this world.”

Howard W. Hunter
Lived: November 14, 1907-March 3, 1995 (aged 87)
President of the Church: 1994-1995
Admirable Attribute:  His ability to focus on his message: He had had health problems for quite a while. He had been sitting down to give talks in General Conference and elsewhere. One time he was feeling a little better and said that he wanted to stand at the pulpit. He did fine until one point he leaned a little bit backward and lost it. He fell straight on his back. He got up and finished his talk, they later learned he had broken 3 ribs in the fall, but despite that he still finished his talk.

This same calm courage came to the fore in 1993 when he was approached by a deranged man who had jumped up onto the stage at the Marriott Center while President Hunter was addressing BYU students. The assailant threatened that he would detonate a bomb unless Elder Hunter read a certain statement. Elder Hunter remained calm and said nothing. Eventually the man was subdued. The trouble averted, President Hunter proceeded with his speech as though nothing had happened.

Gordon B Hinckley
Lived: June 23, 1910-January 27, 2008 (aged 97)
President of the Church: 1995-2008
Admirable Attribute:  His love of the blessings of the temple. He said that he wanted every member to have a temple that can be reached within one day of travel. When he became President of the Church there were 47 temples worldwide. When he died there were 124.  At our most recent General Conference they announced that 80% of our church membership worldwide lives within 200 miles of a temple. 

Thomas S Monson
Born: August 21, 1927
President of the Church: 2008
Admirable Attribute: He has a great desire to serve others.  President Monson wasn't included in the Truman G. Madsen CDs.  But I love in all of his talks he speaks of the various people he has served.  There were many widows in his ward when he was a Bishop and he always talks about them and the story always ends with "and then I spoke at her funeral."  He did so much to serve those widows as well as so many others.


  1. I am so glad you liked the CD's. Thank you for sharing your favorite parts. All of those stories testify to me of the truthfulness of modern day prophets.

  2. Latter-day prophets are...number one!

    I LOVED this post. One of my faves for sure. I really enjoyed learning so many new things about the prophets. After each one I read I wanted to say, "Really?" or "Oh that's so cool!" or "I didn't know Joseph Smith tested so many people." :) Did you learn all of those facts in those CDs?

  3. work slow lately? I'm going to have to read this post in pieces through the day today...maybe into tomorrow :)

    I will always know president Grant for his quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson: "that which you persist in doing..."

  4. Kayli, yes all the stories (except for President Monson) came from the CDs. The dates were another bit of information I thought would be interesting so I compiled that myself.

    Melissa(glarcy) sorry it's so long. I've actually been writing this post for the past month or so. Robyn suggested I release all the information in 2 or 3 posts but I just decided to go for the glory.

  5. Very cool! I've only heard the Heber J. Grant one and loved it. This makes me want to listen to all of them now.

    I can't believe how many prophets have had to deal with assailants and terrorist threats in the middle of conferences and speeches. That really surprised me!

  6. Now sing the song with all their names...

  7. Thanks for the list. Keep up the good work. Ask me what I noticed about your list and you.

  8. Jeff,
    I'm so glad I found you! I was so stoked when I found your Twitter account, only to find that you don't use it. ;) Don't worry I don't Twitter either, but the great part is that it led me here. Now I shall continue to enjoy your exciting tales as I once did. P.S. we need to rematch in Monopoly; it's your turn to have crap in your cereal bowl.

  9. Thank you for sharing all of this. It is a real uplift to me to read this today.

  10. This is awesome. I might read it several times over to refresh my knowledge of the prophets. This is crazy though because President Monson just gave a devotional at BYU about this very thing - called "Principles from Prophets". He went through all of the prophets, telling what their admirable quality was. It was great. You can listen to or read it at this address if you're interested:

    My dad always listens to conference while he drives. I love getting into his car to drive somewhere because it's so pleasant to listen to. I have also enjoy listening to conference talks at work and other such places.

  11. I loved all the stories. I was always impressed with Joseph Smith's stopping to play with the children. They all loved him. I think that you should have at least 41 children. You would love them just as much. (I would be happy to babysit on occasion!!)


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