The LDS.org (or Ensign, if you still subscribe to the paper version) 1st Presidency Message this month retells the familiar story of then-Elder Harold B. Lee (with whom brother Monson had a relationship due to the former having previously been his Stake President) counseling then-bisophric counselor Monson to reject an offered naval commission and also request discharge from the military.
The ending paragraph says,
"If you want to see the light of heaven, if you want to feel the inspiration of Almighty God, if you want to have that feeling within your bosom that your Heavenly Father is guiding you, then follow the prophets of God. When you follow the prophets, you will be in safe territory." (President Thomas Monson, 1st Presidency Message Jan 2015)
I wholeheartedly agree with this message: the words of God are always what we should heed if we choose to be led by God.
If we understand a prophet to be someone to whom God speaks who, in turn, shares his word with others, then I have to conclude that disagreeing with President Monson's last paragraph would be like disagreeing with Jesus when he said to love your neighbor. Seems pretty simple to me. Of course, the details (and difficulty) of following Jesus' command was made explicit in the audience's follow-up: but who is my neighbor? Is not the same true here? Exactly who is a prophet?
I am very glad to see that President Monson used this particular story. Elder Lee was not his stake president, or his bishop for that matter. He was a friend who happened to be an apostle. It would seem that President Monson didn't first go to his bishop or to his current stake president. [Maybe he did. Surely, today anyone calling on an apostle's office will be immediately asked to leave by the guard at the front door. If they sent a letter, that letter would be sent to their stake president or perhaps their bishop.] Regardless, I think it is demonstrative that instead he went to a friend who he regarded as having a close relationship with God (much like Jared did when he repeatedly leaned on his brother for counsel from God).
I think it is worth pointing out that President Monson used prophets, with an "s." You see, we have no a priori way of knowing who is in possession of God's word, and who is not. Revelation does not come as an automatic function of church office. There is no way to automatically know someone's current advice or counsel is from God---except through the discernment of the Holy Ghost. You see, it was through the Holy Ghost---not a man---that God said that ALL truth could be known. A man can be a messenger of that word. But so can an angel, or a little child, or a homeless man, or a recovering heroin addict. It is our job to ask of ALL messages (including both those purported to be from God and those which are not): is this wisdom from God, or is it the teaching of a man (or a woman, or a child, or or or)?
I wrote a book about the importance of obtaining GOD'S word, and distinguishing it from MAN'S word. You should read it if you have not already. You can download it for free from the right side of this blog, or purchase it at print cost from Amazon. It is called "Commanded in All Things."