Lessons 5 and 6 share the same chapters in the Doctrines and Covenants. Both lessons are about personal revelation. This week’s lesson is about the importance of revelation and how to prepare for it, and next week’s lesson is about how to recognize revelation when it comes. The spirit of revelation is key to surviving in this dispensation.
Need for revelation
One of the grand differences between our current dispensation and all others is that the Lord expects each and every one of his children to be worthy of receiving revelation, personal revelation. The power to receive revelation isn’t meant, as in previous dispensations, to come only through a patriarch or a prophet. This time we are, as the New Testament calls us, a generation of High Priests.
Why is it so important for each of us to be able to receive revelation? What actually constitutes revelation? What makes it possible for each of us to receive our own communications from the Holy Ghost? What difference will it make in the long run whether we just listen to the prophet or if we also are receiving our own guidance from day to day from the Spirit? Why is this direct link (think gift of the Holy Ghost) to the heavens so important today if it wasn’t also given to everyone in every other generation of man since the beginning?
Let’s dive in and start answering some of these questions. What is revelation? Revelation describes the act of having the things related to God taught to us by the Spirit, the Holy Ghost. It may be suddenly being able to comprehend a spiritual principle, or having an idea come into our mind that directs us to do something, or it may be a confirmation, an answer if you will that something we have prayed about is true or false (we get both flavors of answers). Anything coming from God to mankind through the Spirit is revelation. It is the making known something that could not be known any other way through our natural senses. Call it our Sixth sense if you will.
Revelation can come in the form of impressions, feelings, dreams, visions, comprehension, all manner of understanding. How that understanding comes will change based on the circumstances and the need of the individual. The only qualification needed for it to be revelation is that it came from God through the Holy Ghost. One way or another the Holy Ghost will always be involved. That is his calling and his role in the Godhead. He is always there to bear witness and to teach. Here is what the Bible Dictionary says about Revelation.
“Divine revelation is one of the grandest concepts and principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for without it, man could not know of the things of God. … Continuous revelation from God to his saints … makes possible daily guidance along true paths and leads the faithful soul to complete and eternal salvation in the celestial kingdom. … Without revelation, all would be guesswork, darkness, and confusion” (Bible Dictionary, “Revelation,” 762).
Requirements for revelation
First of all revelation cannot come to us without the Holy Ghost. The gift of the Holy Ghost is what enables each of us to have revelation. It is a function of the Melchizedek priesthood. If we only had the Aaronic priesthood we would not be able to have the gift of the Holy Ghost. The highest ordinance performed by the Aaronic priesthood is baptism. When we think of the word ordinances in this dispensation, we are usually referring to ordinances that require the higher priesthood. Only the most basic of the necessary ordinances of salvation is given through the Aaronic priesthood, and that is baptism.
This very fact is what sets us apart from all other dispensations. Every member of the church receives the blessings of the higher priesthood, allowing them to have their own personal companionship with the Holy Ghost. This makes each of us as responsible for living worthy of revelation as any prophet from any past dispensation of time. With the gift of the Holy Ghost comes the responsibility of learning to listen to this member of the Godhead. He is the testator, our teacher, and our guide back to the presence of Christ and our Father. Through the Holy Ghost we will be taught to think, feel, and act like Christ. This is His purpose. This is the purpose of the gift of the Holy Ghost.
What is to come?
I don’t know, but here is a quote from the manual from Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve. He said, “No one of us can survive in the world of today, much less in what it soon will become, without personal inspiration” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1991, 29; or Ensign, Nov. 1991, 23).
Did he say we will not have prophets to lead us? No. Did he say we will not have to listen to them because we also have the Holy Ghost? No. Our need to listen to and follow the counsel of living prophets is a given. It is a basic assumption of this dispensation. Until the Lord himself comes to lead us in the Millennium we have been given prophets to lead us and guide us. So what is the difference between what the prophet does with the gift of the Holy Ghost and what we do with the gift of the Holy Ghost?
The prophet is the mouthpiece of God to all the people of the earth. The Brethren of the Church, the General Authorities, operate under the direction of the Lord’s mouthpiece, the prophet. They carry out their assignments based on his direction and the distribution of priesthood keys authorized by the prophet.
We, on the other hand, are to rely on our own inspiration through the Holy Ghost to learn how to obey the teachings of the prophets in our daily lives. Our revelations through the Holy Ghost don’t extend beyond the jurisdiction we have been given through the priesthood keys delegated by the prophet. For example, if I don’t have a leadership position in my ward or stake I can, and am supposed to receive revelation for myself and my family, if I have one. I cannot receive revelation for anyone else.
My Elder’s Quorum President or High Priest Group Leader can receive revelation for how to lead their quorum or group, but not for the ward or stake. All revelation is based on the priesthood keys held by the person who has been called to lead. Being a parent entitles either parent to be able to receive revelation for their family members. Yes, because of the blessings of the Melchizedek priesthood women are authorized by the Lord to receive revelations for their family. This is especially helpful if there is no priesthood holder in the home to lead in spiritual things. This empowers every woman to learn to receive personal revelation and to help teach that skill to her children, hopefully in concert with her worthy spouse.
It is important here to point out that every child of God has the right and ability to be influenced by the Holy Ghost. This happens all the time. This lesson is dealing only with the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, a gift that is only given when one is baptized by a duly authorized servant of God. The difference between the two conditions could be a whole other lesson or article, so we won’t say any more about it here.
Preparing to receive revelation
Receiving revelation is not something that just happens because we think it should. It takes work and preparation. In the reading assignment for this week Oliver Cowdery was given the gift of translation, but failed when he tried to translate because he didn’t understand the rules of receiving revelation. He thought that all he had to do was to sit there and the Lord would automatically open his mind and pour into him the information he hoped for. It doesn’t work that way, which he found out.
Revelation requires preparation, pondering, studying, and sometimes both physical and spiritual preparation before it can happen. Some of the Lord’s apostles came back to the Lord and told him they couldn’t cast out certain devils and the Lord told them those kind could only be cast out with fasting and prayer. And I will add, and the priesthood which they already held. This tells us that revelation is not a casual thing. It needs to be taken seriously and approached thoughtfully.
Reread Joseph Smith’s account of the first vision. Pay careful attention to how much thought, feeling, and deliberation went into his decision to pray out loud about which church to join. Now, he didn’t already have the gift of the Holy Ghost, but can you see how the Holy Ghost influenced him when he read the passage in James about asking God? Look at the words he uses to describe how he felt. This is hallmark influence of the Holy ghost. This is the same kind of influence investigators feel when they read the Book of Mormon and pray about the truthfulness of what the missionaries are teaching them.
This influence is temporary and will dispel if not acted upon. But when acted upon people are led to great spiritual blessings. Those of us who are already baptized and have the gift of the Holy Ghost should take a reminder from this passage from Joseph Smith’s account. But that is for next week’s lesson. The point for now is that there was a lot that went into the preparation for that one prayer. Do we also think, plan, feel, study, and exercise faith in our preparation for asking for revelation?
The point about needing to take revelation seriously is this: knowledge is power, and with it comes responsibility and accountability. When the Lord reveals something to us through the Holy Ghost we become accountable in the final judgment for what we had revealed to us. It is a personal change in how we are to be judged. And it changes (forever) what is expected of us from the Lord. So don’t take seeking revelation lightly.
We seek revelation so we can become like Christ. This means we have to take the little bits of impressions, feelings, insights, and knowledge we receive and work with them, use them, and practice living by them. When we do this the Lord will see we are ready for more. I encourage you to go to lds.org and look up this lesson. Read it for yourself and answer the questions yourself. In this way you will come to be more convinced that we are each in charge of our own spiritual progress, and it all comes through revelation.