As I was saying the other day, we were talking at the Little Town Book Club about whether or not we have ever felt God speaking to us or directing our lives in specific ways. Most of the women were saying, “No, not really. No, I haven’t,” and my eyes, I believe, started bugging out of my head.
“You have felt God speaking to you I take it?” the Little Town Book Club leader asked me.
My answer, of course, it yes, yes I have. Many times, for many reasons, and in many ways.
I have felt God speaking to me as thoughts have come into my head, seemingly out of nowhere, to check up on someone or provide a service for someone. I have felt God speaking to me as solutions to problems have suddenly become clear in my mind, sometimes randomly and sometimes because the ideas have been presented to me through scriptures or through the words of another person. I have felt God speaking to me as I have prayed, and thoughts and ideas and answers have come to me so forcefully it has taken my breath away. I have felt God speaking to me as I have chosen a course of action and felt at peace with it, letting me know I was doing the right thing. Similarly, I have felt God speaking to me as I have felt uncomfortable with a course of action, letting me know it was not the right thing. I have felt God speaking to me many times through dreams.
I hesitate to share that I experience revelation through dreams for fear that people will think I take every random dream as some form of divine communication. So, just for the sake of clarity let me say this: most of my dreams are just typical, random, subconscious garbage. Very, very few are something more. I can tell the difference. I know there are those who would argue that even my meaningful dreams are just my subconscious mind working through my problems and challenges to come up with answers, but I can tell you unequivocally that, though I also have dreams like that, I am speaking of something completely different. My subconscious mind does not have the ability to teach me about experiences I have not yet had. My subconscious mind does not have the ability to tell me about events that will happen in the future and what I will need to do to help those adversely affected by the events. My subconscious mind, on its own, could not tell me the genders of my biological children before any of them were ever conceived. God, however, can, could, and does do all of that. There is not a shred of doubt in my mind about that.
Our knowledge of our ability, even our right, to receive personal revelation from God is probably one of the hallmarks of our religion. I can not imagine going through life believing that the windows of Heaven have been closed to us in that way, that prophecy and revelation were privileges reserved only for those in Biblical times. Not that I am claiming to be some kind of prophet, because, obviously, I’m not; but there is a prophet on the earth today, and I am entitled to revelation for myself and for those within my stewardship.
Here is a quote, longer than I usually pull, but it speaks so well about this topic. It is from a talk by President James E. Faust, former counselor in the First Presidency (this means he was a counselor to the prophet at the time — he is now deceased, as is the prophet under whom he served). Also, by way of explanation, he quotes some prophets of old from the Book of Mormon, so when you wonder who these people are he’s talking about that you’ve never heard of? That’s who they are. Now for the quote:
The Right of Personal Revelation
Latter-day Saints, having received the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, are entitled to personal inspiration in the small events of life as well as when they are confronted with the giant Goliaths of life. 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.
David, the youngest son of Jesse, a mere shepherd boy, volunteered to fight the giant Goliath. David and all of the army of Israel were insulted by the humiliating taunts of this formidable giant, but David knew that inspiration had brought him to save Israel. King Saul was so impressed with the faith and determination of this young boy that he appointed him to fight Goliath. Goliath made sport of David’s youth and lack of armament. David responded that he came in the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, and that the whole assembly would learn that the Lord does not save by the sword and the spear, “for the battle is the Lord’s” (1 Sam. 17:47). Then David threw a rock from his sling with such force and accuracy that the stone sank deep into the forehead of Goliath. Goliath fell to the earth a dying man, and the Philistines fled in fear.
What has happened to David’s living God? It is the greatest insult to reason to suggest that God, who spoke so freely to the prophets of the Old Testament, now stands mute, uncommunicative, and silent.
We may well ask, “Does God love us less than those led by the ancient prophets? Do we need His guidance and instruction less? Reason suggests that this cannot be. Does He not care? Has He lost His voice? Has He gone on a permanent vacation? Does He sleep?” The unreasonableness of each of these proposals is self-evident.
When the Savior taught in the synagogue at Capernaum, He proclaimed His divinity in no uncertain terms. The Apostle John states:
“From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
“Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?
“Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
“And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:66–69).
We acknowledge and testify that the same witness of Christ’s divinity as received by Peter is also our sacred knowledge.
Personal revelation comes as a testimony of truth and as guidance in spiritual and temporal matters. Latter-day Saints know that the promptings of the Spirit may be received upon all facets of life, including daily, ongoing decisions. Without seeking the inspiration of the Almighty God, how could anyone think of making an important decision such as “Who is to be my companion?” “What is my work to be?” “Where will I live?” “How will I live?”
How Is Personal Revelation Received?
Some guidelines and rules are necessary if one is to be the recipient of revelation and inspiration. They include (1) to try honestly and sincerely to keep God’s commandments, (2) to be spiritually attuned as a receiver of a divine message, (3) to ask God in humble, fervent prayer, and (4) to seek answers with unwavering faith.
I testify that inspiration can be the spring for every person’s hope, guidance, and strength. It is one of the magnified treasures of life. It involves coming to the infinite knowledge of God.
How do revelation and inspiration operate? Each person has a built-in “receiving set” which, when fine-tuned, can be a receiver of divine communication. Said Job, “There is a spirit in man: and … the Almighty giveth them understanding” (Job 32:8). If needed, it is possible, like Nephi, to be led completely by the Spirit, “not knowing beforehand” what should be done (see 1 Ne. 4:6).
How is inspiration received? Enos stated, “While I was thus struggling in the spirit, behold, the voice of the Lord came into my mind” (Enos 1:10). One does not necessarily hear an audible voice. The spirit of revelation comes by divine confirmation. “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,” says the Lord (D&C 8:2).
How was the voice of the Lord heard by Elijah the Tishbite? It was not the “strong wind [which] rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks,” nor “after the wind an earthquake,” nor “after the earthquake a fire.” It was “a still small voice” (see 1 Kgs. 19:11–12).
The inner voice of the Spirit has the capacity to whisper through and pierce all things (see D&C 85:6). The scriptures teach, “It was not a voice of thunder, neither was it a voice of a great tumultuous noise, but behold, it was a still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper, and it did pierce even to the very soul” (Hel. 5:30).
Thus the Lord, by revelation, brings inspiration into one’s mind as though a voice were speaking.
And George, if you’re out there, Tewt the Newt says hello.