This is a continuation of last week’s lesson. The chapters to study are the same as last week. This week our focus is on personal revelation. How does it happen, and what is expected of us in regards to receiving revelation?
The How of revelation
We’ve all heard of someone, be it a prophet or a person in your ward, who read the Book of Mormon and had a miraculous experience that converted them on the spot. I am not one of those people. I would like to share a personal experience I had just prior to going on my mission that has to do with this type of all-at-once conversion.
I was very nervous about sending in my papers to Salt Lake City. I went to my mother and confessed that I didn’t know if I could look a complete stranger in the eye and tell them I KNEW the Book of Mormon was true. I had never had that transcendent experience where the Holy Ghost filled my body from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet with a witness of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. I was a failure. Try as I might, I couldn’t get that kind of experience.
Bless my mother’s soul. She paused for just a brief moment then asked me if she could ever convince me that the Book of Mormon was not true. I immediately said, “Absolutely not!” She said, “How do you know?” She had me there. If I hadn’t had THE experience with the Book of Mormon then how could I possibly know it was true?
That was the first time I got the lesson on how the Holy Ghost normally works. She explained to me that all the emotional, intellectual, circumstantial, social, etc. confirmations that the Book of Mormon was true was how I had received my witness of its truthfulness. Over the course of years of exposure and experience with the Book of Mormon I had had countless little confirmations that this teaching was true or that that teaching was true. How many hundreds of times had I heard the Joseph Smith story and my heart swelled within me? These were my confirmations.
The problem is not that we haven’t had the spiritual witnesses from the Holy Ghost, it is that so often we are looking for one kind of witness and receiving something completely different. Elder Boyd K. Packer once said this about the Holy Ghost.
“These delicate, refined spiritual communications are not seen with our eyes nor heard with our ears. And even though it is described as a voice, it is a voice that one feels more than one hears” (That All May Be Edified , 335).
So often we are actually expecting a voice or something we can see either with our eyes or in our mind’s eye, like a vision or a dream to tell us the truth about something. But the whole time the Spirit has been communicating with us Spirit to spirit trying to help us understand principles of the gospel and the truthfulness of what we have been taught.
Most communication comes through feelings, not the grander displays we all secretly envy (or fear might happen to us). Remember that conversion is not an event so much as it is a process of becoming what we are not currently. The purpose of the Holy Ghost is to teach us one idea at a time and lead us back to God.
How does it work?
I have long believed personally that there are almost an infinite number of ways for the Spirit to “speak” to us. His “voice” is usually “heard” in our thoughts. Something happens and suddenly a thought flashes through your mind to call someone. You weren’t thinking of them, and you don’t know why you would want to call them, but the thought comes again to call that person. That is how He works. He knows what that person needs, and He knows you can help, so He tells you to call them.
Sometimes you are reading the scriptures and your mind wanders and you start to think about a topic that has been moving quietly in the back of your mind for some time. Suddenly that old thought connects with this passage you are reading and you see the principle in a whole new light. It may have nothing to do with the actual words on the page, but you have just been enlightened by the Spirit. That is revelation. Revelation is receiving an understanding of spiritual things or even physical things received through the Spirit. It is basically any communication from the Holy Ghost.
That is why we call the Holy Ghost a revelator. That is his position in the Godhead. His responsibility is to bear witness of truth, to reveal truth, to prompt us to do good, to teach us, to school us in spiritual things, and to bring to our remembrance the words of Christ as found in the Holy Scriptures, and as delivered by His servants. His words come to us as impressions and urges to do good things. Since we learn in the scriptures that anything that is good comes from Christ then all good urges come from God. It’s all revelation, schooling in how to be a celestial person.
Being a celestial person doesn’t mean that you sit in a sacred posture all day and stare into eternity comprehending all things. Being a celestial person means that you learn to feel like God and Christ feel. You love others, desire to serve them and uplift them. When we have celestial moments they are those times when we have seen the best in others and comprehend the goodness in their souls, whether or not they see it in themselves. This is revelation.
This is my point. Revelation comes in all shapes and sizes. Once we are baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and He becomes your companion, don’t expect that revelation is going to be something that happens only on formal or special occasions. Once he moves into your life expect daily feelings to do more and be more. Expect to think higher thoughts and expect to be able to comprehend more and more gospel principles. Once you have the Spirit as your guide your life will never be the same. I hope you wouldn’t want it to be.
The Spirit “whispers” to us far more than we realize He does. The more we seek his guidance and support, the more often we will see life more clearly and not be so easily duped by the crafty wiles of Satan. The more experience we gain through study, prayer, and practicing righteous living, the easier it will become to judge between truth and falsehood, light and dark, and we will find that we rejoice in the good we see in others more readily than we did before. We will be happier.
As you reread this week’s Sunday School chapters, recognizing they are the same as last week’s chapters, look for the results of seeking the things of the Spirit, the things of eternity. Joseph sought revelation in an obvious way because that was his gift as the prophet. That was his calling. But we too receive revelation. Maybe not in such an obvious manner as visions and voices, but we do receive answers. And the Lord expects us to seek for those answers. That is the whole point of the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Thanks for taking the time. Well written. And thanks to your mother. She taught you well.
A couple of thoughts from me on this topic. I wondered for a while why the Holy Ghost must be a personage of spirit, unlike God the Father and Jesus Christ. I’ve realized that it is because God respects our agency, and that a physical presence would prejudice our choices. The Holy Ghost is able to teach us so quietly that it leaves us free to still choose for ourselves.
A second thought you reminded me of is this little quote from Sterling W. Sill. “But when in my reading I come to some little nugget of an idea that sends a chill up and down my backbone and gives me an ambition to do something important, I take that out and put it in my idea bank, and then when I have time I memorize it.” This is from his great talk “Bottles and Books”. https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/sterling-w-sill_bottles-books/. I think he has described an aspect of revelation that is sometimes overlooked, or simply called inspiration. The way he does it is very enjoyable.
Thanks again for your work here.
Thanks for the review, and for being kind to my mother. I actually ran that lesson past her to make sure she couldn’t find anything wrong with my thoughts. In her words, “Oh, there is never anything wrong with your thoughts. Your doctrine maybe, but not your thoughts.” Love my mom. LOL
Great quote from Sterling W. Sill.