I have been pondering the subject of increasing my ability to receive personal revelation. I have read President Nelson’s recent address several times. I have read other materials on the subject. I have written my thoughts in a letter to my missionary daughter. I still have much to learn, but I have decided that I need to put the thoughts I have had out there on my blog.
Every member of the church has the right, no, the responsibility to receive revelation. This is because we were given that gift, the gift of the Holy Ghost, at confirmation. At the confirmation, a priesthood holder gave the command, “receive the Holy Ghost.” I looked up the word “receive” in the dictionary. I understood the first definition lists… to be given. However, the second definition listed gave me greater insight into what it means to “receive the Holy Ghost.” To receive means to suffer, experience, or be subjected to as well as being given a gift. To receive the Holy Ghost means that we accept His guidance. We experience His influence and His presence in our lives. To receive the Holy Ghost means that we become subject to His guidance, promptings and direction. The prophet Joseph Smith taught, “No man can receive the Holy Ghost and not receive revelations. The Holy Ghost is a revelatory.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 328). Seriously! God must want to tell us things because He gave us all this great gift!
President Nelson gave the example of a young Joseph Smith in teaching how to receive revelation. He got a “big” answer. Most of us don’t get visitations from heaven in answers to our prayers. I think most of us gain our revelation in quiet ways. Thus, we worry that we aren’t getting answers. We begin to wonder how we can recognize revelation when it comes. We wonder how we can actually receive revelation.
The Lord taught Oliver Cowdery about receiving personal revelation in the D&C . Oliver was just like me… young and inexperienced in matters of the spirit, yet hungry and desirous to understand more. As Oliver served as a scribe to Joseph Smith as he translated the Book of Mormon, he began to wonder about his own spiritual gifts. The Lord told him that he had the gift of revelation and that he could “assist” the Prophet. In section 7 and 8 the Lord gives Oliver the opportunity to to use the Urim and Thummin and explains to him how the spirit of revelation comes through thoughts and feelings. The Lord then invited Oliver to translate.
I learned in seminary that Oliver was not successful in his efforts to translate. Then it occurred to me that there was evidence that he was not a complete failure. The Lord explains that Oliver “did not continue as [he]commenced, when [he]began to translate” (D&C 9:5). This indicates that Oliver may have translated even a couple of words before he failed. Dude! That is still a miracle! It reminds me of Peter walking on water. He did take a few steps toward the Savior before losing his focus and sinking into the water. Maybe, like Peter, a lack of focus, a fear, kept Oliver from continuing. If you ask me. He was a success.
I think I am often like Oliver, like Peter, when it comes to receiving the revelations God is giving me and trying to help me to understand better. I think I let fear get in the way. What if it’s right? I may need to make changes. What if I am just making it up and these are my thought and not the inspiration of the Holy Ghost? What if people will think I’m nuts for understanding this principle in this way? What if I don’t really want to know or to change? Seriously. Fear is one of the biggest obstacles we face in receiving personal revelation. We need to increase our faith and trust in God as well as in ourselves!
While struggling with what he did wrong, the Lord gave Oliver the next important lesson on receiving revelation. God said, “Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save to ask me: (D&C 9:7). I think this is the next lesson in faith and in trust. Faith mean, or includes, work. Faith is more that just asking. “But behold, I say unto you, that you must study it in your mind; then you must ask me” (D&C 9:8).
Revelation takes work. Think about the work Jospeh Smith did before he officially ask a question. He went to churches and checked them out. He talked to pastors and teachers and people who knew the Bible. He chatted with family members, especially his parents. He read the scriptures himself. As he read, he got his first revelation. His first answer to his first question was found in the scriptures. Then, he ACTED on the little answer he got. He picked a quiet spot. He prepared a specific question. He prepared to act on the next answer he got. Revelation takes work. There is a price to be paid with our own diligent efforts to know what it is we are seeking.
President Harold B Lee said, “If you want to get revelation, do your homework.” Faith is a principle of action. Elder David A. Bednar said that to ask in faith means “the necessity to not only express but to do, the duel obligation to both plead and perform, the requirement to communicate and to act. (Bednar, Ensign May 2008). We must work if we want answers.
The whole instruction is “study it out in your mind… then you must ask me it be right.” Dude! This implies that you came to some conclusion before you went to the Lord.
God wants us to study it out; make a choices; ask if it is a good choice. That is acting in faith.
We are not asking God to tell us what to do. That would take away the gift of agency. We are asking Him to give a “red light” or a “green light” to the choices we are making. God then can “counsel” us. God gave us a brain and expects us to use it. We are created to act, not to be acted upon (2 Nephi 2:14).
Clearly, we don’t all get loud, obvious answers each time we are seeking the Lord’s council. The Lord taught Oliver how revelation comes… “if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right”(D&C 9:8). We aren’t talking actual heat here. President Dallin H. Oaks explained that it is “a feeling of peace and warmth and serenity and goodness” (Oaks, Ensign August 2013). It is best to focus on the second part “feel that it is right.” God speaks with feelings. We need to get used to that (and not fear feelings).
God can also say something is not a good idea. “… if it is not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought” (D&C 9:9). Basically, it won’t “feel” right. You will feel uncertain and uncomfortable and dark.
Then there is the third way God answers, “not yet.” Sometimes, God wants us to do a little more before He answers.
Yet another answer might be no answer because either way is a good thing. President Oaks explained that “this is likely to occur in those numerous circumstances in which choices are trivial and either choice is acceptable… If we do not receive guidance, we should act upon our best judgement” (Oaks, Ensign Oct. 1994).
The thing is, receiving revelation requires us to increase our desire to know, our own elbow grease, and our own willingness to act. It takes seeking. It takes practice. I love how President Nelson urged us to grow this gift… “….stretch beyond your current spiritual ability to receive personal revelation, for the Lord has promised that ‘if thou shalt [seek], thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou majesty know the mysteries and peaceable things – that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.'”
I know that as we act on the impressions we get, as we show gratitude for wisdom gained, as we record (like Jospeh) what the Spirit teaches we will receive the next revelation… line upon line.
“Oh, there is so much more that your Father in Heaven wants you to know (President Nelson, Ensign May 2018).
Will I open my eyes? Will I open my ears and listen?
Revelation requires pure hearts. Revelation requires obedience with exactness. Revelation requires seeking. Revelation requires hitting the scriptures to feast, not lick… especially the Book of Mormon. Revelation requires preparation. Revelation requires desire. Revelation requires work. Revelation requires faith. Revelation requires temple attendance. Revelation requires service. Revelation requires an open heart and a contrite spirit. Revelation requires willingness.
I HAVE GOT TO FIGURE THIS OUT.
President Nelson, “If we are to have any hope of sifting through the myriad of voices and the philosophies of men that attack through, we MUST learn to receive revelation… in the coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.”
I need to do some more pondering.