The personal and individual experience of “following the prophet” can only happen through having an active testimony in Jesus Christ. When a testimony of Jesus Christ suffers and a personal and individual relationship of continued revelation with God is decreased, the ability of the individual to follow the prophet is gone. Mere physical compliance to prophetic counsel is not enough to obey the command to “follow the prophet”; an active testimony and relationship with Jesus Christ is imperative. Otherwise, the relationship of the individual to the prophet becomes idolatrous. Faith can only exist in Jesus Christ, which in turn lends to trusting the words of his prophet. Without faith in Jesus Christ, the individual’s placement of faith solely in a man’s word becomes idolatrous.
In a previous article I wrote concerning the nature, order, and power of a true testimony. A testimony is an account given by a witness who has firsthand knowledge, and whose testimony is made true through sure evidence. As the world classifies and substantiates various forms of evidence, the Holy Ghost is the sure witness of a true and eternal testimony. It is through the evidence of the Holy Ghost that knowledge becomes truth. Once truth is established, there is a fundamental process through which the possessor of truth will follow.
In what is often called “Alma’s soliloquy,” an ancient prophet of God once spoke of his desire to express his testimony:
O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!
Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth. (Alma 29:1-2).
What good is a testimony?
As with all gospel principles, a testimony is an entirely individualistic witness gained from personally obtained evidence, yet it is necessarily communal in its bearing and witness. In other words, as we learn in the parable of the ten virgins (Matt 25:1-13), we must obtain our own spiritual and testimonial oil to light our symbolic fires, yet our testimony — to be a real testimony — is gained in its witness to others. It is interesting this dualistic nature of the gospel, that while we are to wear out our lives in good causes individually, we necessarily need our brothers and sisters to accomplish our individual growth.