I've really enjoyed my Doctrine and Covenants class. I have learned so much from my amazing professor, Dr. Brooks (I've mentioned him before; he was the professor I took for my Marriage class last semester). Today we were talking about D&C 21. It is right about the time that the church was organized (April 1830), and this section talks about the prophet and how we should always follow him. In this context, it specifically talks about how Joseph Smith will be the prophet, but we can apply it to our day as well with President Monson. It says that we should follow the prophet because God speaks through him. It is as if God were speaking to us directly.
My teacher made an interesting point with this doctrine. He said that often times, members of the Church are so concerned and waste too much time trying to decide if what the prophet said was a commandment or if it was just counsel. Sometimes, the members make excuses for why they won't follow the prophet's voice because they say he was just "counseling" us, and that it wasn't a "commandment." This is a sign of not understanding the doctrine of the Lord in D&C 21.
If we truly understand what the Lord has said, we will do EVERYTHING the prophet asks us to do because we know what he says comes from God Himself! I remember in my New Testament class last semester, my teacher explained that there are commandments, and then there are rules, or "counsels" that the prophets give us that aren't necessarily commandments that the doctrine of the scriptures mention. I sort of struggled with this. I guess I didn't really understand what my teacher was trying to say. But now, with this further clarity from Brother Brooks, I understand better the fact that it doesn't matter if it's commandment or counsel, we should ALWAYS follow the prophet.
My teacher explained his point by using a hypothetical instance. He said that if Christ Himself came into the classroom and went up to Brother Brooks and asked him to sit down because He wanted to speak to the class Himself, no one would even dare to raise their hand and ask, "Is that a commandment or is that just counsel for Brother Brooks to sit down?" We would just all obey and understand that Christ knows best! Likewise, we should just obey the prophet because God speaks through him. He would never tell us to do something like only have one pair of earrings, or dress modestly, or serve a mission (all counsels from the prophet) unless Christ wanted him to.
I've just been thinking a lot about the prophet and Christ, and I truly know that if we just obey what the prophet says, we are promised the blessings that Doctrine and Covenants 21 promises: the gates of hell will not prevail against us, Christ will disperse the powers of darkness, and the heavens will shake in our behalf.