Monday, March 8, 2010

Honoring God's Living Prophets

John Bernhisel lived at the Prophet’s home in Nauvoo, and whenever the Prophet entered, he would stand. When Joseph insisted ceremony was unnecessary "and asked why he did so," Bernhisel replied: “Because I love to honor the man whom God honors” (see The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine 3 [1912]:174).

Skip ahead half a century, and you will see that same sentiment (taken from Esther 6:9 and usually reserved for leaders in the body politic) emblazoned on a banner displayed in the chapel of the Salt Lake Temple at a special event honoring another Prophet, Lorenzo Snow: We delight to honor the man whom God hath honored (see Elder Joseph W. McMurrin, Conference Report, Oct. 1918; Elder McMurrin also discusses the Bernhisel story).

A Century later:

Sunday, October 1, 2006

"In attendance at the afternoon session of Conference. A beautiful thing happened. As the congregation sang a verse from We Thank Thee, O God, for a Prophet, two young ladies in the center plaza section stood up, and instantly thousands of us were on our feet. I looked up and saw all the members of the Twelve and President Monson standing (President Faust was in a wheelchair), and then President Hinckley struggled to his feet. I weep now as I write these words. And we all remained standing together through the closing prayer, an event surely unique in the history of these conferences.

We also had the wonderful opportunity of waving at President Hinckley. I felt he stood to salute us, to salute the Prophet Joseph, to salute the sacred office he now holds."

Honoring two Prophets:

March 1, 2007

"200th anniversary of the birth of President Wilford Woodruff, held in the Assembly Hall. Beautiful presentation of 97 white roses by children [dressed in white] to President Gordon B. Hinckley in honor of both President Woodruff and President Hinckley. Elder and Sister Holland, both of whom spoke wonderfully, received the roses and will deliver them to President Hinckley's office in the morning. Beautiful, peaceful meeting. The Hollands just beamed like children."

And today's Prophet, Thomas S. Monson, again returning the favor, often reminds hearers that the Lord will "delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and truth unto the end. Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory" (Doctrine and Covenants 76:5).

Honor redounds to those who honor God and His prophets.

Doctor John Bernhisel was the epitome of an honorable man: "He was at Washington intimately associated with the Hon. Simon Cameron, Wm. H. Seward, Daniel Webster and President Abraham Lincoln. Much correspondence passed between them, a considerable amount of which is still preserved and in our collection," The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine 3:176. Indeed: "At Washington he was held in universal esteem and respect. But this was the same in every circle in which he moved," says his son, David M. Bernhisel, 176.

Long before he joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Bernhisel, who belonged to the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 1827, was cultivating friendships that would bless the Church forever: "This class included among its members such eminent persons as [Thaddeus Stevens], Simon Cameron, Col. Thomas Kane and his brother Dr. Kane, the Arctic explorer," 173.

I return to the story about Bernhisel and the Prophet and give it in full because I have never seen it in print anywhere else--and because it bears repeating: "The Doctor became intimately associated with the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the two men became devoted friends. The Prophet insisting, my father took up his residence at the 'Mansion House' and became a member of his private family. Here the two sat at the same table and discoursed familiarly together. It is related of the Doctor that he invariably arose when Joseph Smith entered the room. On one occasion when he was gently reproved by Joseph Smith, and asked why he did so, he gracefully replied: 'Because I love to honor the man whom God honors,'" 174.

Notes: David M. Bernhisel, son of John M. Bernhisel, wrote the article, "Dr. John Milton Bernhisel: Utah's First Delegate to the National Congress," The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine 3: 173-177.

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