Personal Revelation {Ward Sacrament Talk 7/31/11}

Personal revelation. Take a minute and think back to the last time when you experienced a personal revelation. {pause} Now, jump into the time machine with me and let’s go back to the year 1829. Can you imagine what life was like? America boasted a population of approximately 13,000,000 people across 25 states. Michigan was still a territory and although Ann Arbor had been established 4 years earlier, Saline wouldn’t be a village until 1832. Andrew Jackson “the Great Commoner” was the 7th President of the United States. The revolution that created the country had ended only 46 years earlier. So if today – 2011 – was 1829 the revolutionary war would have ended in 1965. Not really that long ago. America was truly a new country filled with the optimism of youth.

Economically,1829 was a time of expansion and growth. The Erie Canal – the liquid pathway to the West – was open for business. The first locomotive made a successful run. Railroads were being built. Roads to the west were paved with gold.

Socially, married women did not have the right to retain her own property in 1829, nor did she have any rights to acquire property, make contracts, keep or control wages or bring about a lawsuit. The United States had the highest illiteracy rate in the western world. The opportunity to attend school was very limited. Few textbooks were available and instructors changed often, usually each season. And by season, I mean Fall, Winter, Spring. The 1-room schoolhouse typically lacked windows and was generally overcrowded with 60 to 80 pupils aged 4 to 20. The majority of young people were either educated at home or not educated at all.

Culturally in 1829, Romanticism was a key global social and cultural movement. It emphasized intuition, imagination, feeling, and nature. Stylistically, The Hudson River School emerged with artists that were shifting their focus from indoor classical portraiture to going outside and painting the natural beauty of the US. In literature, Romanticism was energized by American authors such as: William Wordsworth, Walt Whitman, Edgar Allen Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Their poetry and literature as well as the artistry and music of the time elevated intuition and imagination, rather than reason, as the supreme faculty of the mind.

And so, in 1829, we know Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were hard at work in Harmony PA translating the Book of Mormon. Hyrum Smith had been managing affairs as the oldest surviving son in the Smith home in Manchester, NY, near Palmyra. In early April 1829, his brother Samuel returned from his journey—having taken Oliver Cowdery to Harmony to meet Joseph.

By the latter part of May, Samuel returned feeling much improved in health, and overjoyed at the progress made by Joseph. While with Joseph, Samuel had obtained a testimony of the truth of Joseph’s work and had been baptized.

Samuel’s story about his conversion and baptism left no question in Hyrum’s mind about the importance of baptism; but when Samuel shared the visit of John the Baptist, appearing in his resurrected state to confer the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood, Hyrum wondered. However, he thought, such an occurrence was quite reasonable. If the divine authority of the gospel had been taken from the earth, then at some time God would surely restore it.

Samuel explained the details of the restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood. Samuel’s story so greatly impressed Hyrum that plans were made immediately for Hyrum to depart for Harmony. Samuel agreed to take Hyrum’s place in looking after things at home. Hyrum needed to have a serious visit with his prophet brother, for there were several questions to be answered; and he felt a great concern over what his own work was to be.

The roads had dried out, the countryside had donned its spring attire, and the air was warm and balmy…. When he arrived, the brothers hugged each other affectionately; it had been months since they last had seen each other. And then they talked and talked.

They discussed baptism. Had not the Savior told Nicodemus, ‘Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God’? (John 3:5.) They talked about authority. Hyrum knew that Joseph had not acted of his own volition but had been called as had Moses and Aaron. And John the Baptist had been sent under the direction of Peter, James, and John, who in turn had been ordained by Jesus Christ. Thus Joseph’s authority could be traced directly to the Savior himself.

Hyrum’s one remaining question concerned his place in the great work of restoration.

D&C 11 tells us about this time and teaches us about personal revelation. Hyrum was told through the prophet Joseph, Put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good.” (D&C 11:12.) We know by this that promptings to do good are manifestations of the Spirit. Have you ever learned of someone in need and felt strongly impressed to help? That is a personal revelation from the Lord. Have you ever talked with someone and been led to say the right thing, even when you might later wonder where did that come from? Revelation. Have you ever suddenly felt a need to fix something in the house or to weed the garden or to check the sump pump is still working in the basement? This is how the Spirit can work—he leads us to do good.

Hyrum Smith also learned in this verse that the Spirit leads us “to do justly.” (D&C 11:12.) In checking the Webster 1828 dictionary, I learned there were several contemporary meanings for the word just, but I think the one most pertinent is: acting in conformity with what is morally upright, correct, or good. Satan can lead us to lie, or cheat, or take advantage of others. The Spirit, though, prompts a different behavior from us. Have you ever felt that you should forgive someone? Have you ever been prompted to pay tithing before you pay certain bills, even the late ones that arrive with large threatening red letters? Have you ever seen a child learn to share her toys? These are a few times in which the Spirit can prompt a person, even a small child, to do justly.

Hyrum Smith further learned that the Spirit leads us “to walk humbly.” (D&C 11:12.) A proud walk or demeanor, by which people draw attention to themselves through arrogant speech or conduct, is the antithesis of the way in which the Spirit leads. Have you felt at times that, though you may be a teacher or a leader, you are really learning more than those you lead? Have you sometimes felt during a disagreement that your point should not be pressed any further and you bite your tongue or just walk away? When several people, including you, have worked on a project, have you given them the credit? These are some of the ways in which the Spirit can lead us to walk humbly.

Hyrum Smith also learned in this one verse that the Spirit leads us “to judge righteously.” Though we must curb the tendency to judge others, judgment is inevitable. Every decision we make requires a judgment. Have you ever helped to resolve an argument among your children and restored peace? Have you ever realized that your opinion of someone is incorrect? These are instances where the Spirit may be leading you to judge righteously.

There’s a gospel pattern in these verses where God lays the groundwork for our trial and then provides answers our questions. But we must do the asking. Joseph Smith was prepared in the pre-existence to be a prophet but it wasn’t until he prayed with sincere intent that the outpouring of revelation came to him. Joseph Smith continued to exercise the skill of revelation repeatedly as the Lord taught him.

Revelation from God comes to mankind both individually and collectively. It may come in the form of visions, dreams, angelic visitations, voices and other inspiration. In every dispensation, God has appointed his prophet to guide his people, reveal truth and His commandments to the world. Today, only Thomas S Monson, has the authority to receive revelation for the entire church, but each member who has been baptized may receive personal revelation for themselves and those for whom they are responsible.

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 Packer has taught,” This guidance comes as thoughts, as feelings, through impressions and promptings. At times, the Spirit will impress both the mind and the heart at the same time.

In talking about this subject with some of my Relief Society sisters and other members of the church online, it was interesting that many of us have questions about how to receive revelation. I know for me, the challenge I have had to overcome was not how to get revelation, but to understand the revelation I had received. What I’ve learned is simple: obey the revelation.

**Share Personal Example as Directed by the Spirit**

Having read extensively what the Apostles and other Church Authorities have written on the topic of personal revelation, I realized there were 4 core elements that I’ll call the 4 P’s: Preparation, Prayer, Promptings & Promises.

1. Prepare.

How do I prepare for revelation? Get to a clean slate which means to repent and be obedient. The Savior gave this counsel: “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).

Part of the preparation is ongoing – we must remain pure in thought and deed. The Savior counsels us: “Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven” (D&C 121:45).

Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counseled, “Inspiration comes more easily in peaceful settings.” 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.”

2. Prayer

It has been said that we talk to the Lord through prayer and He answers us through the scriptures and service of others. We must make scripture study a part of our daily schedule. We must not just read but must search diligently as did the sons of Mosiah. 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 Ne. 32:3).

To receive personal revelation requires a constant, concentrated effort in which we continue to petition Heavenly Father about our concerns. Our individual prayers should not be rote recitations; they should be personal in nature. It is the depth and intensity of our desire that results in revelation from our prayers.

I used to struggle with how to get to the depth required in praying for revelation to occur. My ‘aha!’ moment was when I read D&C 9:8: “Study it out in your mind; then you must ask me (the Savior) if it be right”. Study, meditate, and seek for enlightenment concerning the matters for which we seek personal revelation.

To record revelations during lessons, I have a moleskine journal where I jot down key thoughts and impressions as I’m being taught by the holy ghost. Journaling is a great tool for recording our prayers, notes from scripture study.

Lately I’ve been using the great tools on lds.org for personal scripture study. I like bookmarking pages and writing notes online because I type faster than I write, I can pick up where I left off quickly and I can access it from wherever in the world I may be AND from anyone’s computer. It is completely private and secure. And I actually did visit my notes on lds.org to prepare this talk and literally within a minute of searching, found the perfect example to illustrate my point about praying with intensity: Enos.

Enos 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).

To pray intently and with energy of heart involves focusing with faith on your conversation with Heavenly Father. It also involves closing out the world as if only you and He are present during this divine discussion.

I testify that 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 Ne. 18:20).

3. Promptings

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.

But we do need to be patient. I do know God always answers prayers, but He does it in His own way and in His own time. Revelation is spiritual in nature. We can only understand the things of the Spirit by communication with our spirit. Elder Marion G. Romney reminds us: “…there still persists in the spirit of every human soul a residuum from his pre-existent spiritual life which instinctively responds to the voice of the Spirit until and unless it is inhibited by the free agency of the individual.”

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. If we try to force it, we may be deceived. The Lord gave great insight into the nature of receiving revelation: “I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little” (2 Ne. 28:30; see also D&C 98:12).

This pattern for receiving promptings follows the principle by which the Savior was taught and tutored during the meridian of time. 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.

How does one receive these promptings? 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.

“When you feel pure intelligence flowing into you,” said the Prophet Joseph Smith, “it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.

President Harold B. Lee further taught, “When there come to you things that your mind does not know, when you have a sudden thought that comes to your mind, if you will learn to give heed to these things that come from the Lord, you will learn to walk by the spirit of revelation.”

4. Promises

The Lord has given us powerful promises concerning personal revelation. Think about it – we can petition our Heavenly Father in sincere, heartfelt prayer and know that He will respond with personal revelation. His promises are sure, but we must properly prepare to be receptive to the promptings of the Spirit in receiving this guidance.

Our Ninth Article of Faith states:

“We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”

Revelation will come as a result of the 4 P’s: Preparation. Prayer. Promptings. Promises. We have to earn our testimony but we are entitled to revelation about our own lives and those in our stewardship. When revelation comes, it brings peace to our souls. We should act on it promptly and with gratitude for the blessing it is.

When I kneel down to pray at night, there is no doubt in my mind to whom I am speaking. I am praying to a loving Heavenly Father who has all power to provide personal revelation and wants to do so. I feel this blessing and love through the gift of the Holy Spirit that has been bestowed upon me. Jesus Christ is my Savior and my Redeemer. I love him. I serve him, and I obey him. I’m so happy to be a member of His church. I love that there is so much truth available to me. I know my purpose here on earth. And I know it’s the truth because the Holy Ghost confirms it for me every time I go to church or visit the Temple, read the scriptures or pray. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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