We are all at different places when it comes to personal revelation. Some know just how they tend to get direction from the Spirit, while others of us flounder about in uncertainty and doubt. Here are some things to consider to become more comfortable with the idea that you too can become confident in receiving your own personal revelation.
This article is based on week 12 of the 2021 Come, Follow Me lessons for Doctrine and Covenants 27-28.
One of the pervasive warnings in the Church that has lasted since the beginning of the Restoration, is of those who purport to have received revelation for others. The fear is not so much that someone else might feel they have received revelation for the Church as a whole, but we often have a fear of receiving our own revelations. We doubt ourselves. Fortunately, in this week’s lessons there is a discussion about how the Lord has appointed one, and only one, person at a time to receive revelation for the whole earth. We are each urged to receive our own personal revelation, but we are warned that anyone who claims to have received revelation for the world at large, and who isn’t the current prophet called of God, is a false prophet. Shun their counsel.
We also find in this week’s lessons that there is order in the kingdom of God. That order aids us in determining who can, and should, receive revelation in particular situations. We need never fear when we hear the voice of the Spirit. Our main concern is that we remember to check to ensure that the voice we list to obey is right and falls within the jurisdiction of who is telling us to do something directed by the Spirit. For example, you can receive revelation for your own affairs. That is expected of you. You have the right to be inspired to receive revelation to help those over whom you have been given stewardship, such as your family or for the benefit of people to whom you have been called to minister.
Bishops have the right of revelation for those in his congregation, and Stake Presidents have the right of revelation for those in their stake. But without a priesthood assignment for the welfare of your family, I have no authority to receive revelation for you or your loved ones. And none of us have authority to receive revelation for those who preside over us in the priesthood hierarchy. This means that if someone comes to you and tells you they were inspired to tell you that you need to do such and such, you can determine easily if they have the spiritual right to receive revelation for you and your loved ones. If they don’t, you can refuse their counsel without guilt. But if your Bishop comes to you and gives you counsel, be careful about rejecting his inspiration for you, for he has the priesthood right to receive direction from the lord for you and your loved ones.
I should note here that we also receive counsel from the Lord through the blessings we receive from those we ask to administer to us. Personal priesthood blessings and administrations to the sick are other ways in which the Lord can give us direction. Hopefully, those giving those blessings are listening to the Spirit when they lay their hands on your head so they speak the mind and will of the Lord to you.
No matter who receives revelation and tells you that you need to do something, their counsel for you still has to pass muster, or inspection. Does their counsel go against the teachings in the scriptures? Does their counsel hold up to inspection against the programs and practices of the Church currently? Do the prophets teach the doctrine or also echo the counsel you are being given? If you can answer no to any of these things then you might want to do some pondering, praying, and counseling with someone higher up in the priesthood chain than the one who gave you that counsel. I refer you back to Doctrine and Covenants 28 where Hyrum Page received revelations for the Church, and even Oliver Cowdery, the second Elder of the Church was deceived.
It is important to always remember that the Lord’s mouthpiece, the prophet, is the final word on all things that come, or seem to come, from the Lord. If the prophets don’t teach it, and the scriptures don’t back it up then question its authenticity. Go and dive into the teachings of the living prophet. Search for answers from God’s living oracle.
There is a pervasive and grave misperception in the Church as a whole that we, as individuals, cannot receive personal revelation. I need to define this statement before continuing. When I say personal revelation, I mean revelation that is written, recorded, as something by which I live my life. The idea is that only the prophets write revelations. Only the prophets have books of scripture. While this is true for the scripture that goes to all the world, this is certainly not true for the revelations we are supposed to receive for ourselves.
Here is an example from just this week’s Come, Follow Me lesson. Open your manual to page 49. Look at the painting on the left page called “Emma’s Hymns.” What is she doing? She is recording the hymns that are coming into her head, and adding them to the list of hymns the Lord has instructed her to compile for the Church to use. She is researching and seeking to feel right about her selection of hymns. This is a specific example of someone called to do a work and their efforts to record their efforts to be shared with others. But what about the revelations that shouldn’t necessarily be shared with others?
Now look on page 49 again. This time look at the red text under the title.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson said that as you study the scriptures and record impressions, “you will be giving place in your heart for the word of God, and He will be speaking to you” (“When Thou Art Converted,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2004, 11).
Every lesson in the Come, Follow Me manual has a blurb like the one above at the beginning of that lesson. Almost every time it encourages us to record the impressions we receive from the Spirit. Go ahead and look for yourself if you don’t believe me. Almost every single week, in both years worth of lessons, the encouragement in each lesson is to RECORD your thoughts and feelings from the Spirit.
To record doesn’t mean to think about, ponder, pray, or talk about. To record means to write down on paper or to type on a computer. It means to make a permanent record. Think in your mind of the habit of Nephi, Alma, Mosiah, Mormon, and Moroni, and many other prophets who recorded what they received from the Lord. This is your own personal, and private record of your impressions, thoughts, feelings, and attitudes. What you write is not meant for anyone but you. This is private. But private doesn’t mean worthless. Private just means it is not for public consumption.
We are constantly being urged by the Apostles to record our experiences with the Spirit. Now you get to do some thinking on your own as to why you think they might feel that is such an important thing to do. My first reservation when I contemplate writing my impressions from the Spirit is that what I write today will not be what I will feel five years from now. That’s fine. Our spiritual growth is supposed to be deliberate and intentional. We should be pleased to be able to read what we wrote five years earlier and see what we have learned in the interim. It will be our own testimony to ourselves that we are still growing in the gospel, and maturing in our spirituality. And reading our own record should spark even more new thoughts and feelings we might not have had otherwise.
Some of us may feel we are not worthy or capable of writing “revelation.” That implies that revelation is something that is beyond us little people or those of us who recognize that we sin and fall short of the glory of God. We cheat ourselves when we choose to believe such things, for they are truths that are used as lies to prevent us from growing spiritually. Yes, we all sin. Yes, we all fall short of the glory of God. And Yes, we will not be writing revelation that is expected to go to all the world or even be read by our spouse or best friend.
We have been baptized by the authorized representatives of God, those bearing His priesthood. We have received the gift of the Holy Ghost. With those covenants made, and our efforts to be worthy of having Christ’s Spirit to be with us each week as we partake of the sacrament, we are all worthy of having the Spirit prompt us, urge us, open our minds to things, and bring things to our remembrance. ALL of us are worthy of this. And the more we keep the commandments and make efforts to live good lives, the more of His influence we will feel in our lives. All the Lord is telling us to do is start putting pen to paper and record these feelings and thoughts.
Writing is scary for most people. It takes effort, physical and mental effort to try to express yourself on paper. Most of us flounder and stumble when we try to say what we really feel. But putting our feelings on paper is a way of solidifying those feelings. We are forced to choose the words we feel best describes our feelings and perceptions. As we struggle with choosing our words you may find that certain words present themselves in your mind. These words are being given to you by the Spirit. Write them down.
For example, when I started writing this article, I had no idea what I was going to write, nor how it was going to be organized. Yet as soon as the first thought presented itself in my head, and I wrote it, other thoughts came to mind, and I wrote them. I got to the end of the introduction, and the words “fear 1” presented itself. My first thought was “What fears? I’m not writing about fears.” That is when the thought pushed itself forward once again, so that is what I wrote. Everything I have written up to this point has been presented to my mind one thought at a time. I am just writing what I “feel” as it comes to me. For me, this is how it works. It won’t work this way for everyone. We are all different, and we all have different ways of feeling the Spirit and recording our experiences with Him.
This we need
We all need to write what we are given by the Spirit. It needs to be recorded in some fashion. What you choose is between you and God. But if you look at the Come, Follow Me lessons, especially this week’s lesson, you will see that this is an important need for each member of the Church. God wants us to keep a personal record. That can be in the form of a journal, diary, articles, letters, etc. There is wisdom here that goes beyond my understanding. All I know is that this message for us to record our experiences with the Spirit is consistent and persistent, and we need to heed the call.
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