In which our Heroine talks in Church.I know it seems like I’ve slacked off on my blogging/writing, but I have actually been writing quite a bit. Two weeks ago I was asked to prepare a church talk. And so, just to prove that I’m still working hard, I am going to put said church talk up on my blog as seen below: If you are not the kind of person that doesn’t want to read an extra sermon or two in your spare time—and I don’t blame you—then skip it and come back another day for other blogging delights.
Talk for Huffman Ward, May 22, 2011
Using as sources:
Personal Revelation: The Teachings and Examples of the Prophets; Elder Robert D. Hales
The Spirit of Revelation; David A. Bednar
Personal Revelation: The Gift, the Test, and the Promise; President Boyd K. Packer
Pamphlet from Liberty Jail
I’ve been asked to speak on Personal Revelation. Upon being asked, my first thought was, “Yes, I’d love to share my testimony about this subject!” I don’t have a fear of public speaking, and the topic is pretty easy—as far as subject matter goes. However, after reading the first couple of conference talks on personal revelation, it soon became clear to me that this would be valuable learning experience for me. As I read about the ways to recognize the Spirit, I was humbled to realize how many times I have ignored such promptings. Specific times were brought to my remembrance when I could have, and should have done better. On the other hand, I also learned of times when my Heavenly Father has given me unfailing support through personal revelation. I am truly grateful for the inspired priesthood leaders in our Ward who somehow knew that I needed to study this topic.
I have a strong testimony of what an amazing gift personal revelation is for each of us. I am convinced that our Father in Heaven loves us and because of this, he would not cut us off from the heavens. Daily, members of the church receive instruction, comfort, and direct communication from a merciful and loving Heavenly Father. Ever since the Restoration—which as we know, began with a moment of personal revelation—we as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have been blessed with continuous church-wide revelation through our beloved prophets. Since that time, we have been given the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price, in addition to receiving inspired words from General Conference and from our beloved local church leaders on the Stake and Ward level. I testify that these thoughtful Priesthood leaders are indeed linked in with the heavens and receive constant spiritual guidance on behalf of all of us. We feel the fruits of this every time we experience the comfort and peace of the Holy Ghost in a church meeting, as well as in many other ways and venues.
We have been promised that the gift of revelation will never again be removed from the earth. Because we know this to be true, and because we know of Heavenly Father’s love for us, we can be sure that the ways for personal revelation are open to us individually. Each and every one of us are indeed blessed.
Elder Hales has described personal revelation as “the way we know for ourselves the most important truths of our existence: the living reality of God, our Eternal Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ; the truthfulness of the restored gospel; and God’s purpose and direction for us.”
Elder Bednar described it thus, “Revelation is communication from God to His children on the earth and one of the great blessings associated with the gift and constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “The Holy Ghost is a revelator,” and “no man can receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelations” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 132). Elder Bednar continues: “The spirit of revelation is available to every person who receives by proper priesthood authority the saving ordinances of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost—and who is acting in faith to fulfill the priesthood injunction to “receive the Holy Ghost.”
That means that every Sunday as we take the Sacrament, we are reminded about this great gift. Indeed, the words “that they may always have his Spirit to be with Them” tell us that we should be striving toward having the Holy Ghost as a constant companion in our lives and be in a position to receive personal revelation regularly.
Recognizing and Receiving Promptings
So, how to we get ourselves in that critical position where we can recognize and receive promptings from the Holy Ghost?
If we are seeking for personal revelation from God, then one of the first things we should consider is prayer. It is simply said, “Ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you.” Remember that we receive revelation only for ourselves or those under our direct stewardship.
We must also be living as the Lord directs, working to be obedient to the commandments and the council of our church leaders as much as we possibly can. We should be obedient in repenting of our sins and taking the sacrament on a regular basis.
Revelation takes an element of faith. After all, how can we ask for answers to our questions if we don’t believe that we’ll get them? The answers to our prayers are revealed according to the Lord’s manner and according to His own schedule. Sometimes the answers are really not what we expect, and it takes it element of faith to go and do whatever. Additionally, waiting on revelation can take what is known as a “trial of our faith,” wherein we are tested before sacred truths are imparted. The Lord must be sure that we are ready to listen. He gives us experiences that will help us grow to understand his will.
We must be prepared to listen to the gentle stirrings of the Spirit. This often takes a quiet moment of reflection, or even a piece of action as we strive to fulfill the parts of the Lord’s will that we already understand, whether that be reading the scriptures, serving our neighbors, or listening to church hymns.
Personal revelation can come to us in many ways. It can come in the form of testimony, through the mouth of a prophet, by comfort, by feelings of restraint or confirmation, or as pure thought when ideas come into the mind, or in dreams or visions. Sometimes we are impelled into action by the Spirit. We can experience any of these, though some will undoubtedly be familiar than others to certain people. At other times the Lord may wish us to make decisions according to our own judgment, such as those day-to-day more non-consequential things of life.
Regardless of the means by which the Lord communicates, we have been taught that “Assuredly as the Lord liveth, who is your God and your Redeemer, even so surely shall you receive a knowledge of whatsoever things you shall ask in faith, with an honest heart, believing that you shall receive. …
“Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.
“Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation. …” (D&C 8:1–3.)
Revelation at Liberty Jail:
There are numerous accounts of personal revelation in the scriptures, but my ultimate favorite is when Joseph Smith received comfort from the Father while in Liberty Jail. A few months ago, I had the opportunity to visit Liberty Jail for the first time. I thought it a little odd that church members would want to memorialize this site. I also thought it odd to learn that it had the nickname of “the temple prison.” The conditions in the jail were harsh, and the charges of treason fabricated. They had been there for months during the cold winter. Joseph Smith and his companions were freezing, and sickness was ever at hand. They were in perpetual gloom as there was little light to see by. Even worse was the knowledge that their families were being forced from Missouri at the time.
The pamphlet I saved from my visit there reads “The Historic Jail is a sacred place to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints… Liberty Jail was a place of painful refining for Joseph Smith and his companions. As Joseph tried to pen words of consolation to the suffering saints, revelation and comfort were received.”
This revelatory occurrence is recorded in D & C 121: 1-3; 7-8:
“O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?
2How long shall thy hand be stayed, and thine eye, yea thy pure eye, behold from the eternal heavens the wrongs of thy people and of thy servants, and thine ear be penetrated with their cries?
3Yea, O Lord, how long shall they suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions, before thine heart shall be softened toward them, and thy bowels be moved with compassion toward them?
7And then the answer: My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;
8And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.
The Lord stands ready to give us revelation. All we have to do is put ourselves in a position to receive it. Sometimes, He will even give us difficult experiences that will help to place us in these receptive places, as when Joseph Smith learned comfort from the Holy Ghost in Liberty Jail. Elder Neal A. Maxwell wrote, “It wasn’t until the prophet was physically confined that his mind was fully liberated… The double walls, four feet thick, kept Joseph and his companions in, but they could not keep the spirit and revelation out.”
This inward Spiritual positioning often, but not always, requires a “trial of our faith.” Certainly, the awful conditions of Liberty Jail provided this trial. But in that moment of great physical darkness came truths of brilliance and clarity, enough that we now name that site as “the temple prison.”
My Own Temple-Prison, Big and Small Moments:
This last Fall, while recovering from a serious surgery, I spent hours confined in bed, unable to move and in great pain. I was on heavy medications that prevented me from thinking clearly as well. From that and other recent problems, my physical and spiritual foundations had been rocked in every way and desperately I yearned for comfort and specific answers to my prayers. I needed to know what Heavenly Father’s will was for me, and I needed the strength to do it. After weeks of physical confinement and mental darkness, and what I can easily describe as a serious “trial of my faith,” I finally received answers to my spiritual dilemma. In one great moment of personal revelation, I had whole sentences from my patriarchal blessing appear in mind. From that day forward I was able to move on and I healed at a rapid pace. Despite my drug-induced mental state, I will never forget that moment of clarity and comfort. At the time, it was the greatest of all the gifts my Heavenly Father could bestow.
This experience was flanked by other, less impressive, but no less profound bits of inspiration. One Sunday Priesthood holders brought the sacrament to my home. I experienced significant feelings of comfort and light for hours afterward, and inexpressible gratitude. It is one of my favorite Sabbath day memories.
When listening to Mormon Tabernacle Choir CDs over and over again while endlessly lying in bed, I heard the song All Things Bright and Beautiful, and learned that the Lord truly knew every cell in my body and had dominion over them all. The song How Firm a Foundation taught me that the Lord would succor me “in every condition, in sickness and in health” even “as my days would demand.” The song I Stand All Amazed reminded me that Jesus Christ had suffered everything I was going through and that he would give me grace through the enabling power of the atonement to get through my most difficult struggles. I would lean on the revelatory knowledge of my Savior’s love for me for months as I regained my balance and the use of my whole body, struggled with exhaustion, discovered new memory problems, and as my clumsy hands relearned how to change my child’s diapers.
Later in D$C section 121, verses 26-28 it says, “God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, that has not been revealed since the world was until now;
27Which our forefathers have awaited with anxious expectation to be revealed in the last times, which their minds were pointed to by the angels, as held in reserve for the fulness of their glory;
28A time to come in the which nothing shall be withheld…”
Obviously, not all moments of spiritual revelation are the big Aha! moments. Sometimes, it is easy to forget that revelation can come in a quiet, understated way. We often hear stories of the big, flashy moments of insight, but most personal revelation is the quiet and simple kind. It is the spiritual prompting received by a mother, reminding her to go pick up her kid from school, or for a father as he yearns to spend time with his family. It’s the nudge telling you to call a friend, or the urgent feeling to get up and bear your testimony in church. It can be the quiet comfort received after a prayer. After Eva was born, I found myself sadly unprepared for motherhood in all ways but one: for a short time after her birth I was blessed with a listening stillness in my soul that allowed me to discern from the Spirit the ways to take care of my small baby. Certainly the Father showed his love for me and my newly born child. Those were moments of grace as I learned how to hold her from the best tutor imaginable.
One of the most important functions of personal revelation, and a reason why we MUST have it, is that it is the way by which we come to know of the truthfulness of Jesus Christ. We gain our testimonies of his atonement. From this crucial bit of knowledge we then come to understand the ways by which we and our loved ones can return home to our Heavenly Father.
For Mika, who is leaving on his mission soon, just one paragraph: Thank you for being a dedicated home teacher to our family. Because of your faithfulness and obedience in doing such a simple task, I have faith that the Lord will bless you with the important gift of personal revelation. As you continue to practice your faith and bear your testimony as a missionary, you will come to learn Spiritual truths that will carry you through life. It will be wonderful. If you can dedicate yourself fully to this mission, then even your times of hardship will become temple-like moments when you can come to really know and love your Savior.
My testimony is that revelation is real. Personal revelation can sustain us through any trial, lead us in courage to do what is right, and greatly help us to understand the Lord’s will for us. I’ve had a primary song running through my head the last few days. It says: “When Jesus Christ was baptized / Down in the river Jordan / The Holy Ghost descended as gentle as a dove.” I am grateful that we have the example of Jesus Christ, that we could be baptized and experience the gift of the Holy Ghost. We are truly blessed. Amen.