On Sunday, January 29, 2017, Elder Gerald N. Lund gave a fireside at my YSA Stake in Orem. In it, he said, “Is it the Spirit? Or just me?” is one of the most asked questions to General Authorities of the church.
He told us, it is vital that we learn how to receive, recognize, and respond to personal revelation. He told us that revelation is communication from God through The Spirit to our spirit. Often it is through feelings to our hearts and minds that we receive personal revelation. If we want to receive a greater measure of the Spirit in our lives we must make room for it.
“The Spirit does not get our attention by shouting or shaking us with a heavy hand. Rather it whispers. It caresses so gently that if we are preoccupied we may not feel it at all.”
Boyd K. Packer
Elder Lund then taught us the 7 principles that govern personal revelation and hearing the voice of the Lord. He told us these were so important that he would actually give us a hand out with them on it, it is from this handout and my notes that the following in comprised.
7 Principles That Govern Personal Revelation.
1. God decides all aspects of revelation: Who, How, When, Where, What.
D&C 88:68; Jacob 4:10.
When it comes to personal revelation we must acknowledge it is completely in God’s control. We cannot force the Spirit or spiritual experiences. God in his all-wise and all-knowing status decides and dictates the who, how, when, where, and what of revelation.
“You cannot force spiritual things. Such words as compel, coerce, constrain, pressure, demand, do not describe our privileges with the Spirit.”
Boyd K. Packer
2. There is ‘counterfeit’ revelation.
D&C 28:11; Revelations 12:9.
Satan knows we are seeking the Lord’s direction. He knows we can not survive without it, therefore Satan seeks to sabotage us with counterfeit revelation. With revelation we should refer to the litmus test of D&C 50:23 “And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness.”
Ask yourself if this revelation is coming from God or Satan? Remember, God’s revelation will never conflict with the commandments and it always brings the Spirit. Satan’s revelations bring doubt and distrust. It is also possible to confuse emotion with spiritual promptings.
“The spiritual part of us and the emotional part of us are so closely linked that is possible to mistake an emotional impulse for something spiritual.”
Boyd K. Packer
3. Receiving revelation is not a passive experience.
D&C 9:7-8; 104:79-80, 82.
Revelation is a principle of action! Offering a prayer without real regard or effort will rarely be rewarded with revelation. Personal revelation comes as a byproduct of discipleship. We must be actively engaged in pursuing the life of a disciple.
Elder Lund pointed out “spiritual tacting” as an example of being passive. Spiritual tracting is when missionaries go to a street and walk down it without knocking on the doors. They ask God to prompt them to knock on the door if someone is ready. He denounced this common practice as being passive. You can’t expect to walk down a street and have God tell you to stop and knock on someone’s door! You must be actively engaged to receive revelation!
“If prayer is only a spasmodic cry at the time of crisis, then it is utterly selfish, and we come to think of God as a repairman or a service agency to help us only in our emergencies.”
Howard W. Hunter
4. The Lord often gives direction without explanation.
1 Nephi 4:6-7; D&C 98:12; Ether 12:6.
One of the favorite questions kids ask parents is, “Why?” Often with revelations, God does not explain the why when He gives personal revelation. When He does, it is not until after we have obeyed that we can look back and understand the why. We are expected to walk by faith like Nephi when he was “led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand” what he should do (1 Nephi 4:6).
When we are not told the why behind revelation it is very dangerous to speculate. Think about how many members have speculated on why Tea and Coffee are prohibited in the word of wisdom. When God does not give the “why” behind the revelation, rarely does any good come from our speculating on the matter. Instead, let us focus on what we know, we know what He wants us to do!
“You don’t know everything, but you know enough—enough to keep the commandments and to do what is right.”
Neil L. Andersen
5. The Lord expects us to develop spiritual self-reliance.
D&C 58:26-27; 38:37; 41:8; 48:3; 58:38, 51; 60:5; 61:22, 35; 62:5; 63:40 and D&C 64:28.
One of the most repeated themes in the Doctrine and Covenants is the Lord turning the decision back to the Saints to do “as seemeth them good.” D&C 38:37. The Lord wants us to learn how to become like Him! Therefore we must learn how to choose the right and become self-reliant! He can’t teach us how to become like Him unless we have the chance to act for ourselves. Continuously asking for his direction is the attribute of a “slothful servant” D&C 58:26.
“We believe in continuing revelation, not continuous revelation.”
Neal A. Maxwell (MTC Devotional 2/27/2001).
6. We do not receive revelation for others outside of our priesthood stewardship.
This principle is one of the least understood. We can only receive revelation for those we hold stewardship over. Three examples of stewardship include individual, family, and church.
Individual. Boyfriends will never receive revelation that their girlfriend should marry them. Elder Lund referred to this as, “hormonal revelation.” Whereas we can ask if it would be right if we pursued marriage, we can not receive revelation on what they should do. (For more on this topic see Elder Oak’s Ensign Article)
Family. Husbands and wives jointly hold priesthood stewardship over their family, even though the husband presides. Parents may receive revelation for their children. Elder Lund said somewhere a fictitious doctrine entered into the culture of the church, that when the husband is not present, that the oldest priesthood holding son presides. He declared this false and said, “when the father is not present, the mother presides.”
Church. Any leader or teacher in the church can and should seek revelation on how to conduct their callings. It is important to remember, one will never receive a revelation from God to correct his or her leaders.
“If worthy, we are entitled to receive revelations for ourselves, parents for their children, and members of the Church in their callings. But the right of revelation for others does not extend beyond our own stewardship.”
James E. Faust
7. God’s house is a house of order
D&C 132:8; 88:65.
Churchwide revelation is only given to the Prophet and President of the Church. When the Prophet receives revelation the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gather in the Salt Lake Temple and pray together for a confirmation from the Lord. Once a unanimous confirmation is received then the revelation is presented to the Church as official church doctrine. This Is the Lord’s way to established doctrine. Examples of this pattern include The Living Christ, The Family a Proclamation to the World, and Official Declaration #2.
The grand litmus test of our personal revelation is simple, is it consistent with declared Church doctrines? If not, the revelation is not of God.
“In secular as well as spiritual affairs, Saints may receive Divine guidance and revelation affecting themselves, but this does not convey authority to direct others, and is not to be accepted when contrary to Church covenants, doctrine or discipline, or to known facts, demonstrated truths, or good common sense.”
Harold B. Lee
Stop worrying about it!
When I was in the MTC I remember being worried about how to recognize personal revelation. My first Sunday there I watched a devotional given the year before by Elder Bednar. In this devotional, he addresses the question, “How can I tell if it is me or the spirit?” His reply was simple and profound! He told the Elders and Sisters:
“Quit worrying about it. Quit fussing with it. Quit analyzing it. You be a good boy, you be a good girl, you honor your covenants, you keep the commandments; and I promise you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ that as you press forward with faith in Christ, your footsteps will be guided. As you open your mouth, it will be filled, and you will be where you need to be, and most of the time, you will not even have any idea how you got there.”
David A. Bednar (MTC Devotional, bold added)
This applies to every member of the church. Just stop worrying about it. Keep your covenants and understand that all good things come from God and lead us back to Him. When we understand this and the governing principles of personal revelation, we receive the needed revelation for our daily lives. We will truly understand that revelation is a byproduct of discipleship.
PS If you would like a copy of the handout given to us you can download it here.