~by Patricia Katopol
In many belief systems, only certain people are allowed to interact with God. For example, only some may say special prayers or conduct certain rituals. Many religions believe that the Bible contains all that God is going to say – that the heavens are closed. However, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints believe that the heavens are still open. The Lord still communicates with us. His words are not frozen in time and His words are for everyone.
What is Revelation?
We hear the Lord speak to us through revelation, which is the “communication from God to His children on earth. Revelation may come through the Light of Christ and the Holy Ghost by way of inspiration, visions, dreams, or visits by angels. Revelation provides guidance that can lead the faithful to eternal salvation in the celestial kingdom.”1 All members of the Church [and all children of God!] are entitled to receive revelation.
How Revelation Guides the Church of Jesus Christ
Revelation guides leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ in terms of administration and policy. For example, the Sunday meeting schedule was reduced from three hours to two to support the new focus on home-centered gospel study, and members were encouraged to use the full name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as it was the name revealed to Joseph Smith.2 Guided by revelation, rather than denounce social media, the leadership instructs members on how to use it for outreach (such as this site) and instruction, such as Scripture reading. The Prophets have also received revelation about ‘provident living,’ including storing food (where legally allowed) for an uncertain future and avoiding debt.
Revelations are “the foundation of the Church in these last days, and a benefit to the world, showing that the keys of the mysteries of the kingdom of our Savior are again entrusted to man; and the riches of eternity [are] within the compass of those who are willing to live by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” 3
We need revelation to understand God and His heavenly kingdom. The revelation received by the prophets helps Church members [and other willing listeners] to understand these things. In the early days of the Church, Brigham Young said that even Scripture does not convey to us the word of God as do prophets in our time because they speak to us through revelation. This is the truest example of the heavens not being closed – the Church is blessed with prophets who receive communication from the Lord in our time, for our needs both physical and spiritual. 4
What Does Revelation Look Like?
You may know the story of Saul, who, while on the road to Damascus, saw a flash of light from heaven and heard the voice of Jesus. This spectacular event led him to accept Jesus and become a new person, Paul. In the Book of Mormon, Alma the Younger, a wicked man, was struck dumb by an angel who urged repentance. Elder Bednar has said that Saul and Alma were so spiritually bereft, that they needed lights and voices to get their attention before coming to the Lord.
Most people are not so lacking in spirituality that they will need these experiences before the Lord gets their attention, but that doesn’t mean they cannot have revelation. We are cautioned not to doubt our testimony or connection with God simply because we have not seen burning bushes or heard voices. “The great volume of revelation … comes to today’s prophet in the less spectacular way—that of deep impressions, without spectacle or glamour or dramatic events. Always expecting the spectacular, many will miss entirely the constant flow of revealed communication”5
What to Expect from Revelation
Revelation may enlighten us, helping us to understand spiritual matters. It may come as instant recall of lessons we once learned and now realize they are applicable to our present situation. Revelation may come from the counsel of Church leaders, for example, the revelation to store food. “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken … whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same”6 And, though we should not expect it, revelation may even come as visions or dreams.
Principles of Revelation
Ronald D. Anderson, a professor at Brigham Young University – Idaho, provided guidance on principles that govern revelation, some of which are:
“The Lord decides where, how, and when Revelation is to come“ – The Lord will answer in His time and in His way. Relax and do not become anxious about when and how you receive an answer.
“Revelation is Stewardship Bound“ – Revelation is received only for those over whom you have authority. For example, the President Nelson may receive revelation for the Church, the Bishop may receive it for the ward, and priesthood holders may receive revelation for their family. But perhaps the best thing about revelation is that you can receive it for yourself. All members of the Church may receive revelation and no member of the Church is more entitled than you are to receive it.
Search the Scriptures – Often the Scriptures will tell us what we should do. But we must read them with diligence, keeping our questions in mind, and searching for God’s answers therein, and not just hope that they will magically appear to us.
Escape the Noise and the Tumult – Leave the social media and the electronics alone for a while. Invite the spirt by taking time alone, perhaps listening to conference talks or uplifting music. Said Joseph Smith, “when angels have come, or God has revealed Himself, it has been to individuals in private, in their chamber; in the wilderness or fields, and that generally without noise or tumult.”7
Though we are urged to seek revelation, we should not ask the Lord about everything we do in life. What we should do is to ask for the Holy Spirit to be with us always so that we can feel the promptings of the Spirit in our daily lives without asking the Lord about every decision.
The Intellect and the Spirit in Revelation
Some may think that revelation is unnecessary and that we can learn all we need to know ny using our intellect. I struggled with this myself when investigating the Church. I live in a college town and attend a ward full of academics, physicians, and scientists. A faculty member myself, as much as I enjoyed church, I thought that getting baptized meant I would have to leave my intellect behind and blindly follow the dictates of the Church. In my lessons, I constantly sought rational explanations for the spiritual. I know I was a trial for my poor missionaries (they told me).
It seems silly now, but I was blind to what was around me every week – intellectually curious people from a variety of fields, who were happy, thoughtful, members of the Church. President Nelson himself holds both a PhD and an MD and is a renowned pioneer in heart surgery. We are certainly encouraged to use our minds.
But here is the difference. The intellect can help us discover many truths; however, “The things of God cannot be learned solely by study and reason. The religious view… includes reason as well as revelation, and it embraces the truths determined by both. In contrast, the rational view excludes what is spiritually revealed.” 8
That is, we can study Scripture, we can use our intellect to ponder the word of God, but it is through faith and the Spirit that we receive revelation. We cannot expect to become spiritual beings purely through reason.
The Blessings of Revelation
As an investigator, I once sat with others and watched a video about Wilford Woodruff, who, like Joseph Smith searched for the true church. In it, a missionary said to the assembled crowd, “Perhaps while reading the scriptures, you have wondered where are the prophets? The Apostles? The angels? The visions? The revelation and the voice of God today. Some will tell you that these manifestations are unnecessary in our day and age of the world, but I am thankful and rejoice that the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored and that there is a prophet again on the earth with revelation and the voice of God heard once more by men today.”9
For the first time, the concept that the heavens are not closed came home to me. I knew immediately that God still spoke to us; that He could speak to me. I knew that the revelatory experiences had by people in the past were not left in the past but could be had today. Even the actor was so moved, his voice trembled as he spoke. I was dumbstruck and had to stop myself from crying in public. I believe that day I was moved by the Spirit for the first time.
Having personal revelation from Heavenly Father is a great blessing. Not only does revelation give us answers to challenges in life, but it also provides peace of mind. “If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things – that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.”10
- Weaver, S. (2018). “Mormon” Is Out: Church Releases Statement on How to Refer to the Organization. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/church/news/mormon-is-out-church-releases-statement-on-how-to-refer-to-the-organization?lang=eng
- Revelation and the Living Prophet – https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/teachings-joseph-smith/chapter-16?lang=eng
- LDS Living (September 28, 2021). Why Elder Bednar Says You Can Learn to Stop Worrying Whether or Not You’re Receiving Revelation. https://www.ldsliving.com/the-precious-whisperings-of-the-spirit/s/10054?fbclid=IwAR1J3jUTp1Ho7MZt1K9gSQyevwAEnAHyYfNtuC0J09v4z0qJ4CQcg_bIkhk Citing Conference Report, Munich Germany Area Conference, 1973.
- Doctrine & Covenants 1:38 https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/1.38?lang=eng#p38
- Anderson, R. (2003). Principles that Govern Revelation. https://www2.byui.edu/Presentations/Transcripts/Devotionals/2003_11_25_Anderson.htm
- Vinson, Terence (2018). The Essential Role of Revelation. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2019/08/the-essential-role-of-revelation?lang=eng
- The Search for the Truth: Wilford Woodruff https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZcDr3JUSOs&t=7s
- Doctrine & Covenants 42:61 https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/42?lang=eng