Editor’s note: This post is part of a collaborative effort of Mormon bloggers who are reading and writing about General Conference talks. We call it the General Conference Odyssey. We’ve started with talks from 1971. The goal is to read and write weekly until we have read of the talks from prophets and apostles. If we keep up the pace we have started, we will have caught up by July 2029 with the April 2029 Conference! The other posts from this week’s reading, which focused on the Sunday Afternoon Session of the April 1971 General Conference, are at the bottom of the post.
I recently read a friend’s blog post that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind. She was quoting her missionary son about how missionary work works. Essentially, he noted that his companion often tells people that anyone can lie to them — a pastor, a parent, a friend, a missionary. But God doesn’t lie. He then teaches them that one of the things that is so central to our message is that people can get answers from God. People don’t have to rely on anything a Mormon says. They can get answers from God directly through the Holy Ghost.
For example, Mormon missionaries invite people to ask God about the Book of Mormon, whether Joseph Smith was called as a prophet, whether the Church is true.
This personal connection with God also extends beyond asking Him what is True in terms of Mormon teachings, but can reach into every facet of our lives. God cares about us. God knows each of us personally. God wants to help us and give us guidance, direction, and assurance about His love through the channel of personal revelation.
This seeking for personal revelation, personal answers, personal connection with God really is central to Mormon faith and doctrine.
Bruce R. McConkie and Loren C. Dunn both spoke about the importance of personal revelation and experiences with the Holy Ghost in their 1971 General Conference talks.
In his talk, “The Lord’s People Receive Revelation,” Elder McConkie said:
Joseph Smith said that a man could learn more about the things of God by looking into heaven for five minutes than by reading all the books ever written upon the subject of religion. Religion is something which must be experienced.
I know people who can talk endlessly about religion but who have never had a religious experience. I know people who have written books about religion but who have about as much spirituality as a cedar post. Their interest in gospel doctrine is to defend their own speculative views rather than to find out what the Lord thinks about whatever is involved. Their conversations and their writings are in the realm of reason and the intellect; the Spirit of God has not touched their souls; they have not been born again and become new creatures of the Holy Ghost; they have not received revelation….
Religion comes from God by revelation and deals with spiritual things; and unless and until a man has received revelation, he has not received religion, and he is not on the path leading to salvation in our Father’s kingdom.
In Loren C. Dunn’s talk, “Drink of the Pure Water,” he shares a powerful quote from Brigham Young about what experiences with the Holy Ghost (the vehicle for personal revelation, sometimes called the Holy Spirit, the Spirit, the Lord’s Spirit) can be like:
“There is no other experience known to mortal man that can be compared with the testimony or witness of the Holy Ghost. It is as powerful as a two-edged sword and burns in the breast of man like a consuming fire. It destroys fear and doubt, leaving in their stead absolute unqualified, and incontrovertible knowledge that a principle or thing is true. …
“This same testimony has sustained faithful saints to the present day and will be a lamp to their path forever. The effect of this testimony reaches above and beyond all physical or earthly things and makes relationship with God the Father a literal, pulsing fact. Every fiber of both body and spirit respond to the witness of that testimony and the soul knows and lives the truth.”
I’m reminded of a quote from Elder Richard G. Scott:
I witness that as you gain experience and success in being guided by the Spirit, your confidence in the impressions you feel can become more certain than your dependence on what you see or hear.
I love this reminder that personal connection with God is central to religion. It seems so obvious, and yet how often is the spiritual crowded out in our busy lives, even sometimes by busyness in religious service?
As we start a new year, I desire to keep this principle about personal revelation front and center in my mind and make sure to make room for spiritual connection with God every day…not in some checklisty way, but to give God space in my heart to speak to me and let me know of His love and His truths — both the general ones that are given for the world, and the personal ones that are just for me.
I’m so grateful to know God is real and that personal revelation really can and does happen.
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Following are my friends’ posts from this week’s readings:
Comforting the Afflicted and Afflicting the Comfortable – Nathaniel Givens
A Rebuke from President Harold B. Lee and Debunking the Iron Rod vs Liahona Taxonomy – J. Max Wilson
The Eternally Durable Iron Rod – John Hancock
Harold B. Lee on The Millstone of “Liberal” Religion – Ralph Hancock
“And If It Be In You It Shall Abound” – Walker Wright