When the Lord returned from the grave, the first witness He showed Himself to was not one of His apostles. It was Mary. (John 20: 11-16.) He appeared to several others throughout the day (which I discuss in detail in Come, Let Us Adore Him) before finally appearing to some of His apostles in the evening of the first day of His return to life. When He met with the apostles, He rebuked them for not believing the reports of those with whom He visited earlier in the day. (Mark 16: 14.)
It is interesting the first witness was a woman. It is interesting the Lord spent hours walking and talking with two disciples, Cleopas and an unnamed second companion, on a journey to Emmaus. [In Come, Let Us Adore Him, I explain why I believe the companion was Luke.] As He walked with them, He spent the time expounding the scriptures and prophets, showing how they testified of His death. He “opened the scriptures unto them.” (See Luke 24: 13-32.) This is how the risen Lord chose to spend the afternoon of the first day of His return to life. (The talk I gave on this walk appears as an appendix to Eighteen Verses.)
Again, it is interesting that, after first showing Himself to a woman, He then spent hours walking and talking with two disciples, neither of whom were apostles, expounding doctrine and the scriptures to them.
I’ve searched the scriptures diligently to try and discover where the Lord ever commanded that we follow a man. I’ve not found it. Instead, I’ve found Him warning us to “Follow [Him]” (see Matt. 4: 19; John 10: 27; 21: 22; Luke 5: 27; 9: 59; Mark 2: 14; among many others.) The phrase “follow the prophet” does not appear anywhere in scripture. It does not appear there because it is an institutional invention designed to reduce resistance to centralized church decision-making. It was implemented deliberately during the administration of David O. McKay in the fourth phase of Mormon history. It is an idea which is altogether alien to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Instead, what appears in the scriptures is a curse pronounced on those who follow man or put their trust in man’s arm. (See 2 Ne. 4: 34; 2 Ne. 28: 31; D&C 1: 19.) Nephi’s final address warns the gentiles how vulnerable they are to this mistake, and how they will be cursed as a consequence. He offers hope, however, conditioned on repentance and return to following the Lord. (See 2 Ne. 28: 31-32.)
I am grateful for all who serve in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. From my own Home Teacher to the President. They all have my gratitude, my prayers, my support. I do not challenge the right of any who preside in the church to conduct and to manage the church’s affairs.I do not envy them in assuming the burdens they bear. It is an almost impossible responsibility for any man. I am confident they do a better job than I would.
Despite my gratitude to them, I trust my salvation to no man or set of men. For that I rely entirely on my understanding of, acquaintance with, covenants and promises from the Lord. If I can encourage anyone else to pursue the path to know Him, I want to do so. The difference between truth which can save and error which will damn is so fine a line it is sometimes compared to a two-edged sword, cutting both ways. Encouraging people to find that edge and to rightly divide between truth and error oftentimes will offend. It is still the truth. We really ought to fear God and not man. (D&C 3: 7.) The One who keeps the gate of salvation is not a man or men, for He alone will open or shut that gate. There is “no servant” employed there. (2 Ne. 9: 41.) If you arrive at that gate having been misled regarding your obligation to Him, having “followed the prophets” you will be among those whose eternal opportunities have been curtailed, no better off than liars and whoremongers. (D&C 76: 98-105.) [If you read those verses from Section 76, you should ponder the difference between “following” and “receiving” a prophet. If you “follow” him, what are you substituting? If you “receive” him, what are you doing? Therein lies a distinction worth pondering.]