|"For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light..."|
Personal Revelationby L. Lionel Kendrick
I feel very humble being in your presence this morning. I'm deeply grateful for our association with Elder and Sister Bateman and for the wonderful leadership they are providing for this great institution. I would like to speak a few minutes this morning reviewing some of the sacred principles that apply to receiving personal revelations. I will rely very heavily on the scriptures and the words of the prophets, seers, and revelators.
After we experienced our spiritual birth, Heavenly Father counseled and corrected us, and we were instructed, enlightened, and edified in his holy presence. Now that we have experienced our physical birth in mortality, he desires to continue to communicate with us and to give us counsel and direction. He does this through prayer and personal revelation. This is one of the greatest gifts and blessings that we have received.
When we speak to Heavenly Father, we do so by means of prayer. When he speaks to us, he does so by means of personal revelation. This two-way divine communication is critically important to our success, to our sense of well-being, to our feelings of security, and to our spiritual salvation. It is imperative that we understand the process of receiving personal revelation. We always pray to our Father in Heaven, and to him alone. Our prayers are rendered in the name of the Son and communicated by the power of the Holy Ghost. We do not pray to the Savior or to anyone else. To do so would be disrespectful of Heavenly Father and an indication that we do not properly understand the relationship of the members of the Godhead. The Savior and the Holy Ghost have important roles to play in the process of personal revelation.
Role of the Savior
We pray in the name and by the authority of the Savior. Elder Bruce R. McConkie gave instruction about the role of the Savior in personal revelation: "We pray to the Father, not the Son; but according to the laws of intercession, advocacy, and mediation, our answers come from the Son" (The Promised Messiah: The First Coming of Christ [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1978], p. 335).
It is the Savior who pleads our cause with the Father. It is he who intercedes and is our advocate with the Father (see D&C 29:5 and D&C 45:3). (See Teachings About Jesus Christ home page)
Role of the Holy Ghost
The Holy Ghost is involved not only in the process of petitioning Heavenly Father through prayer but also in the process of receiving answers from God by means of personal revelation.
Prayer. The Holy Ghost will prompt us to pray. Nephi counseled, "For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray ye would know that ye must pray" (2 Nephi 32:8).
Heavenly Father knows the things we need even before we ask him (see 3 Nephi 13:8). If we follow the promptings of the Spirit, we will then know what to ask for. The Savior promised, "He that asketh in the Spirit asketh according to the will of God" (D&C 46:30). The Holy Ghost notonly prompts us to pray but also to pray for the proper things.
The Spirit communicates our prayers to Heavenly Father. Paul taught the Romans this principle when he said, "The Spirit also helpeth . . . : for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered" (Romans 8:26).
Personal revelation. It is by means of the Holy Ghost that personal revelations are received. It is the Spirit that communicates with our spirit in receiving revelation. The Savior promised, "God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit" (D&C 121:26).
The Holy Ghost will reveal the will of the Lord to us. In answer to our prayers the Holy Ghost will (1) comfort us (see Moroni 8:26); (2) enlighten us (see D&C 6:15); (3) inspire us (see D&C 68:34); (4) lead us (see D&C 20:45); and (5) teach us (see D&C 28:1, D&C 36:2, D&C 75:10). (See Teachings About the Holy Ghost home page)
Receiving personal revelation is not a passive process. As we seek such revelations, we must prepare for these sacred experiences. President Spencer W. Kimball told us that "God reveals himself to men who are prepared for such manifestations" (CR, April 1964, p. 97).
The Savior spoke of this principle of preparing to receive personal revelation. He shed light on the things that we must do to properly prepare:
To properly prepare to receive personal revelations, we must repent, be obedient, search the scriptures, fast, think pure thoughts, and develop a spirit of reverence.
Mormon gave wise counsel to his son Moroni concerning this matter. He explained the fruits of repentance in receiving revelation: "And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost" (Moroni 8:26).
The Savior taught the need to repent to receive revelation when he promised, "And if ye are purified and cleansed from all sin, ye shall ask whatsoever you will in the name of Jesus and it shall be done" (D&C 50:29).
Obedience is essential in preparing to receive personal revelation. The Savior gave counsel on this principle when he said, "When we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated" (D&C 130:21). He promised, "But unto him that keepeth my commandments I will give the mysteries of my kingdom" (D&C 63:23).
Search the Scriptures
We must make scripture study a part of our daily schedule. We must not just read but must search them diligently as did the sons of Mosiah (see Alma 17:2). Nephi gave a marvelous promise to all who searched the scriptures: "Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do" (2 Nephi 32:3).
There are times when it is needful to fast so that we can receive personal revelation. Alma had a great desire to know the truthfulness of the doctrines. To know with a surety, he prepared himself through fasting and prayer:
The sons of Mosiah prepared themselves by the same means: "They had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the . . . spirit of revelation" (Alma 17:3).
Think Pure Thoughts
If we are to have the channels of communication open, we must clear our minds of worldly and impure thoughts. We must follow the counsel of the Savior when he said:
Develop a Spirit of Reverence
So that we can receive revelation, we must develop a spirit of reverence. Elder Boyd K. Packer counseled, "Inspiration comes more easily in peaceful settings" ("Reverence Invites Revelation," Ensign, November 1991, p. 21). He added, "Irreverence suits the purposes of the adversary by obstructing the delicate channels of revelation in both mind and spirit" and "Reverence invites revelation" (p. 22).
Irreverence is not only an act of disrespect to deity, but it makes it impossible for the Spirit to teach us the things we need to know. The Savior said, "And your minds in times past have been darkened because . . . you have treated lightly the things you have received" (D&C 84:54). He counseled, "Trifle not with sacred things" (D&C 6:12). The process of receiving revelations is sacred. It is a divine discussion with deity and must be reverenced if it is to work.
To pray is to have a conversation with deity. This sacred and supernal communication with Heavenly Father is a divine and delicate process. This crucial communication should be conducted with great care and in compliance with sacred counsel.
Pray often. To receive personal revelation requires a constant concentrated effort in which we continue to petition the Lord about our concerns. We cannot become casual in our communications with the Lord. To do so is to ignore the counsel to "trifle not with sacred things" (D&C 6:12). We must follow the counsel to "pray unto him continually by day, and give thanks unto his holy name by night" (2 Nephi 9:52).
It is not the duration of our prayers but the depth of our desire that results in revelation.
Ponder before you pray. The Savior counseled, "Study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right" (D&C 9:8). The Prophet Joseph Smith was pondering the meaning of John 5:29 concerning the Resurrection. He said, "And while we meditated upon these things, the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings and they were opened" (D&C 76:19).
We must ponder before we pray. We must study, meditate, and seek meaning concerning the matters for which we seek personal revelation.
Ask for the right things. We must be careful that we ask for that which is right. The Savior counsels that we should "not ask for that which you ought not" (D&C 8:10). He warns, "And if ye ask anything that is not expedient for you, it shall turn unto your condemnation" (D&C 88:65).
Avoid vain repetitions. The Savior has counseled that "when ye pray, use not vain repetitions" (3 Nephi 13:7; see also 3 Nephi 19:24). Our prayers should not be rote recitations. Prayers should be personal in nature and not be preset presentations. We should express our thoughts and feelings in a heartfelt way. In a seminary devotional in 1972, President Harold B. Lee counseled:
Ask in faith. Prayers of faith are heard and answered. The Savior gave a powerful promise concerning the power of faith in our prayers: "And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you" (3 Nephi 18:20).
Ask in humility. Our communications with Heavenly Father must be done with great humility. This is a form of reverence and respect for deity. It is submitting our will to his will. The Savior said, "Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers" (D&C 112:10).
Speaking to the Lord with great humility is essential if our prayers are to be heard and answered. The Savior has given a warning to all who forget the importance of the principle of humility:
Ask in sincerity. If we are to receive personal revelations, we must petition the Lord with the sincerity of our soul. If we are not serious about the things we ask the Lord, he will not bless us with answers to our prayers. Mormon cautioned, "And likewise also is it counted evil unto a man, if he shall pray and not with real intent of heart; yea, and it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such" (Moroni 7:9).
Ask with intensity. Enos is a great example of one who prayed with great intensity. He wanted more than anything else to be forgiven of his sins. He described his desire and the level of intensity of his prayer: "And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul" (Enos 1:4).
Mormon counseled, "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart" (Moroni 7:48).
To pray intently with energy involves focusing with faith on your conversation with the Lord. It involves closing out the world as if only you and the Lord are present during this divine discussion.
Wait for answers. In a world of instantaneity, we are prone to become impatient and want instant answers to our prayers. The Lord always answers prayers, but he does it in his own way and in his own time. Perhaps it is wise to remember this counsel: "Be still and know that I am God" (D&C 101:16).
One of the most crucial parts of our communications with Heavenly Father is the ability to recognize the means by which he speaks to us through the promptings of the Spirit. If we have properly prepared, we will become sensitive to these promptings.
Nature of Promptings
Revelation is spiritual in nature rather than physical. We can only understand the things of the Spirit by communication with our spirit. The Prophet Joseph Smith explained:
Capacity to Communicate
Our spirits carry with them a spiritual capacity to comprehend and to communicate the things of the Spirit. This was given to us with our spiritual birth in premortal life. President Marion G. Romney spoke of this capacity when he said:
The Spirit Cannot Be Compelled
The Spirit is sensitive and cannot be subjected to constraint, control, and compulsion. It is independent and responds only to invitations and not to impositions. Elder Boyd K. Packer explains, "While we may invite this communication, it can never be forced! If we try to force it, we may be deceived" ("Reverence Invites Revelation," Ensign, November 1991, p. 21; emphasis in original). Elder John A. Widtsoe counseled, "Revelation always comes; it is not imposed upon a person; it must be drawn to us by faith, seeking and working" ("Temple Worship," The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, April 1921, p. 63).
Line upon Line
The Lord gave great insight into the nature of receiving revelation when he said, "I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little" (2 Nephi 28:30; see also D&C 98:12).
This pattern for receiving the promptings follows the principle by which the Savior was taught and tutored during the meridian of time. John bore witness that "he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness" (D&C 93:13). The Prophet Joseph Smith counseled, "It is not wisdom that we should have all knowledge at once presented before us; but that we should have a little at a time" (Teachings, p. 297).
Frequency of Revelation
It is a misconception to believe that we should consult the Lord on every matter in life. He expects us to solve a portion of our problems without petitioning him for potential solutions. It is through this process that we grow, develop, and become more perfect. He is not always concerned about mundane matters unless they are not in keeping with sacred principles. We should daily petition for the companionship of the Holy Ghost. With this presence of the Spirit we will feel the promptings without petitioning the Lord on every personal matter.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained this principle when he said:
We have the initial responsibility to seek solutions for our own problems. This will always involve effort on our part. Elder Bruce R. McConkie expressed it this way: "We are to solve our own problems and then to counsel with the Lord in prayer and receive a spiritual confirmation that our decisions are correct" ("Why the Lord Ordained Prayer," Ensign, January 1976, p. 11).
Responses to Revelation
In the economy of heaven the Lord never uses a floodlight when a flashlight is sufficient--and so it is in receiving personal revelations. This principle is true even with revelation that comes to prophets.
President Kimball once said:
Personal revelation comes with different forms of answers. Elder Richard G. Scott explains these different answers:
The Lord gave instruction to Oliver Cowdery concerning the means by which he reveals his will to man by the manifestations of the Holy Spirit:
Personal revelations are received in both the mind and in the heart. These impressions come to the mind as thoughts and to the heart as feelings. Elder Boyd K. Packer explained, "This guidance comes as thoughts, as feelings, through impressions and promptings" ("Revelation in a Changing World," Ensign, November 1989, p. 14). At times the Spirit will impress both the mind and the heart at the same time. Usually when your head and your heart are receiving the same impression, you know that you are receiving a personal revelation. The Savior instructed Hyrum Smith, "I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy" (D&C 11:13).
On other occasions the impressions will come only to the mind or to the heart independent of the other. President Harold B. Lee once counseled, "When your heart begins to tell you things that your mind does not, then you are getting the Spirit of the Lord" ("When Your Heart Tells You Things Your Mind Does Not Know," New Era, February 1971, p. 3).
There are specific ways in which the mind and the heart are touched as we receive personal revelation.
The means by which the Spirit speaks to both the mind and to the heart is through the still small voice spoken of in the scriptures. This voice is often called the "voice of the Spirit" (1 Nephi 4:18). Sometimes that voice is heard, but more often it is felt. It may prompt us with both a thought and a feeling concerning a matter.
Elder Boyd K. Packer described the still small voice with these words:
"The scriptures teach us that we may 'feel' the words of spiritual communication more than hear them, and see with spiritual rather than with mortal eyes" (Boyd K. Packer, "Revelation in a Changing World," Ensign, November 1989, p. 14).
The manner in which the still small voice works in the process of receiving personal revelations is also described by Elder Packer:
The scriptures indicate that manifestations of the Spirit come to the mind in a variety of ways. They come as an enlightenment, just as scriptures seem to be illuminated with understanding. They may come in the form of instant recall of things or as a clear audible voice. Sometimes they come by way of counsel from leaders. They come in dreams, visions, and visitations.
Enlightenment of the mind. This enlightenment comes as an increase in light, knowledge, and understanding. The Savior instructed Oliver Cowdery: "I did enlighten thy mind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the Spirit of truth" (D&C 6:15).
Light leads to understanding. Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon spoke of the vision given to them with these words: "By the power of the Spirit our eyes were opened and our understandings were enlightened, so as to see and understand the things of God" (D&C 76:12). "And while we meditated upon these things, the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings and they were opened" (D&C 76:19).
Prophets, seers, and revelators have described this process of receiving personal revelation through the enlightenment of the mind:
Scriptures. There are times while searching, studying, and pondering the scriptures when we receive personal revelations. Joseph Smith had this experience as he pondered James 1:5. He said, "Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart" (JS--H 1:12).
In our scriptural search certain passages of scripture may impact us. They may appear almost in illumination as we read them. Answers to our prayers may come as the Lord speaks to us in the scriptures. Once again, as Nephi promised, "Feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do" (2 Nephi 32:3).
Instant recall. Personal revelation may come in the form of an instant recall of things the Spirit once taught us that may apply to our present situation. The Savior counseled:
Audible voice. Although not a common means of communication, it is possible to receive a revelation by means of a clear audible voice. A revelation was given to Nephi and Lehi and was recorded as follows:
Leaders counsel. The Lord speaks to us through his chosen leaders. The Savior taught this principle when he said, "What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, . . . whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same" (D&C 1:38).
Dreams or visions. The Lord has given personal revelations in dreams or visions. These are the same means of communication from the Lord. Lehi explained, "Behold, I have dreamed a dream; or, in other words, I have seen a vision" (1 Nephi 8:2).
Visitations. Alma taught the principle that the Lord communicates with man by means of visitations of angels. He said:
An angel was sent to reprove Laman and Lemuel (see 1 Nephi 3:29). It was an angel who showed Nephi a vision (see 1 Nephi 11:14). An angel made known to King Benjamin the things he was to say to the people in his sermon from the tower (see Mosiah 3:2). Angels also appeared to Alma (see Alma 8:14) and also to Amulek (see Alma 10:7).
The Spirit reveals the will of the Lord through the feelings of the heart. We must be in tune with the Spirit and in touch with these feelings. Nephi spoke of the need to have a receptive heart to receive revelations. When he spoke to Laman and Lemuel, he reminded them that an angel had spoken to them: "He hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words" (1 Nephi 17:45).
These feelings may be characterized as peaceful, warm, compelling, or dark in nature. They will always come in response to sincere heartfelt prayer if we are prepared to receive them.
Peaceful feelings. The most frequent confirmation of the Spirit comes to us as peaceful feelings. The Spirit indeed "showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things" (D&C 39:6; see also D&C 36:2, D&C 42:61, and D&C 111:8).
Brigham Young quoted the Prophet Joseph Smith when he said, "They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits--it will whisper peace and joy to their souls" (Joseph Smith, stated by Brigham Young, "History of the Church," Juvenile Instructor 8 [19 July 1873], p. 114).
Feelings of peace are promptings and proof that the Spirit is bearing witness to us in response to our petitions to the Lord. The Lord said to Oliver Cowdery through the Prophet Joseph Smith, "Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?" (D&C 6:23).
Warm, spiritual feelings. The Lord has given us specific instruction that if you ask if something is right and it is right, he will "cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right" (D&C 9:8).
Mormon described this feeling that came to the Nephites when a small voice spoke to them. He said, "It did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn" (3 Nephi 11:3).
Compelling feeling. A compelling feeling is a pressing feeling. It is characterized by a sense of urgency, a sense of restlessness, and a sense of surety. It was the feeling that Nephi experienced when he was commanded to slay Laban (see 1 Nephi 4:10).
The Prophet Joseph Smith described this feeling when he spoke concerning the principle of baptism for the dead: "That subject seems to occupy my mind, and press itself upon my feelings the strongest" (D&C 128:1).
Dark feeling. When we petition the Lord in prayer, there are times in which he answers us with the distinct impression that we have not made the proper proposal to him. The answer will come not as one of peace but as a feeling of darkness. He has counseled that when you ask about something, "If it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong" (D&C 9:9).
The Lord has given us powerful promises concerning personal revelation. These promises are given based upon certain conditions: "If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things" (D&C 42:61). "And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you" (3 Nephi 18:20; see also 1 Nephi 10:19, Enos 1:15, Mormon 9:21, Moroni 7:26, D&C 29:6, D&C 88:64, and Matthew 21:22).
It is a tender experience to petition our Heavenly Father in sincere heartfelt prayer and know that he will respond with personal revelations. His promises are sure, but we must properly prepare to be receptive to the promptings of the Spirit in receiving these revelations. To this I bear witness in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Devotional address given on 20 May 1997 by Elder L. Lionel Kendrick of the Seventy in the de Jong Concert Hall.
©1997 by Brigham Young University. All rights reserved.