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`BY THE DISPOSITION OF ANGELS’

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When Nephi's brothers couldn't comprehend the meaning of a vision that Lehi described to them, they went to Nephi, saying: "Behold, we cannot understand the words which our father hath spoken. . . ."

Nephi, their younger brother, wisely asked: "Have ye inquired of the Lord?"They had not. And therein lay the source of their confusion. Nephi reminded them that the Lord had said: "If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you." (1 Ne. 15:6-11.)

As we listen to messages delivered during general conference, or read the speeches published later in the Ensign or the official report of general conference, we are in much the same position as were Nephi and his brothers. Will we hear and be edified, as Nephi, or will we say, "We cannot understand the words" delivered by the Lord's apostles and prophets?

Except for periods of time such as the Great Apostasy, the Lord has raised up prophets who have gone among the people with vital - though not always popular - messages. In every age, people have criticized and ridiculed His servants and their words.

In our mind's eye, we see Stephen looking steadily at those who were about to stone him to death as he uttered a proclamation that cut them to their hearts: "Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.

"Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:

"Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it." (Acts 7:51-53.)

Samuel the Lamanite chastised the Nephites because they had rejected the prophets. Yet the Nephites claimed they would have followed the prophets "in the days of our fathers of old." Samuel declared: "Behold ye are worse than they; for as the Lord liveth, if a prophet come among you and declareth unto you the word of the Lord, which testifieth of your sins and iniquities, ye are angry with him, and cast him out and seek all manner of ways to destroy him; yea, you will say that he is a false prophet, and that he is a sinner, and of the devil, because he testifieth that your deeds are evil.

"But behold, if a man shall come among you and shall say: Do this, and there is no iniquity; do that and ye shall not suffer; yea, he will say: Walk after the pride of your own hearts; yea, walk after the pride of your eyes, and do whatsoever your heart desireth - and if a man shall come among you and say this, ye will receive him, and say that he is a prophet." (Hel. 13:26-27.)

Could Samuel say the same to us if he were to appear in our day? Do we revere the words of the prophets of old but revile the teachings of those sent specifically to us? Do we heed the teachings of a prophet only because he tells us what we want to hear, or are we willing to bend our will to the Lord's will?

We live in what some call "the Information Age." In books, libraries and computer systems, we have readily accessible to us facts and figures, data and thoughts worked out by the most knowledgeable people of all times. We have grown quite sophisticated in our learning. However, we need to be careful that our sophistication does not dim the refining influences of the Spirit as we listen to or read the messages presented by the Lord's servants. They speak with a clarity seldom achieved in any public forum. If we listen through the simplicity of the Spirit we will gain more wisdom than can be amassed merely through intellectual endeavors.

Much of what we learn in the world will some day be proven false or in error, and many of today's trends will become old-fashioned. But the messages delivered, as it were, "by the disposition of angels" through inspired servants of the Lord will last throughout eternity, never to be outdated.

Messages are delivered to the Church as a body in general conferences. Each of us has an individual responsibility to listen and follow the counsel of these messages.