In my previous Blog, I mentioned that the mysteries of Godliness become clearer “as (we) draw nearer to our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.” I’d like to write a little more about that. What does it really mean to draw closer to God? How do mysteries become clearer as we do? Or in other words, how do we receive inspiration/revelation. There are certain patterns and behaviors that we can learn that can answer these questions, as well as all other urgent matters. Think of these steps as “homework” for qualifying to receive personal revelation.
A desire to Know:
Before we begin the process, we must have a personal desire to know of God the Father and the Son, Jesus Christ. “Desire motivates us to action. In this case, we act because we want to know more about the Father and the Son. As our knowledge grows, and we seek and pray for spiritual confirmation of the truth of what we’ve learned, we will begin to know them and naturally draw closer to them. (This is written about in more detail in a previous Blog, “Faith and Charity.”)
Rely on the Holy Spirit:
But as a practical matter, there are several “steps” you can follow to receive personal revelation, whether it be concerning knowledge of Christ or knowledge of any other important issue. If we are seeking divine revelation, we need to understand that revelation comes from the Holy Ghost (or Holy Spirit). The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead, and He is called by many titles: the Holy Ghost, the Holy Spirit, and the Comforter (to mention just a few). But, he’s also called “the Revelator.” In his role as “the Revelator,” his primary mission is to bare (reveal) and confirm testimony of the truthfulness of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. As the Book of Mormon Prophet Nephi taught, “he that diligently seeketh shalt find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost.” (1 Nephi 10:19). And also consider the words of the Prophet Moroni in his final testimony recorded in the Book of Mormon, “And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” (Moroni 10:5)
Be Worthy of Spiritual Influence:
That said, we must also be living a life worthy of the influence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can guide anyone to know of Christ, but of necessity, He must withdraw if that person becomes unholy or unworthy of His presence. If you’ve been baptized and received the gift of the Holy Ghost (by one who is authorized), you are promised that you may have the constant influence of the Holy Spirit; but here too, only if you remain worthy. In all cases, if you are unworthy of His influence (e.g., because of unworthiness or sin), He will necessarily withdraw His influence from you until the problem has been resolved through repentance.
Follow Examples in the Scriptures:
So now, having a desire to know more of God and Christ through revelation, and being worthy to receive inspiration from the Holy Ghost, one is ready to seek and receive inspiration from God. In the Holy Scriptures, there are three wonderful and specific examples of how revelation was received: first, Nephi sees the Spirit of the Lord and is shown in vision the tree of life (1 Nephi 11:1-5); next, the First Vision of the Prophet Joseph Smith (JSH 1:7-18); and lastly, a vision given to President Joseph F. Smith concerning the redemption of the dead (D&C 138:1-11).
In these instances, these men had been pondering on matters of great importance and reflecting on the issues again and again. In the case of the Prophet Nephi, he wanted to know the interpretation of his father’s dream. For young Joseph Smith, he was searching to know which of all the churches he should join. President Joseph F. Smith had been searching for answers about the hereafter and about associations with loved ones who had passed away. These matters weighed heavily upon their minds.
According to Nephi, he “desired to know the things (his) father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto (him).” He reported that he “sat pondering in (his) heart.” Here, we must assume that in addition to pondering and believing, Nephi reflected greatly upon his father’s dream and prayed mightily to God. As to his reading from the scriptures, we know he was studying the Holy Scriptures (the Plates of Brass) and making his own scriptural record (1 Nephi 9). In this process, Nephi “was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord” and saw many marvelous visions of the world including the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus we see that he had an urgent matter, he pondered on it, he searched the Holy Scriptures, he reflected on it, and he prayed to the Father.
Reading Joseph Smiths account leading up to the First Visions, he recorded that in 1820 he was “called up to serious reflection” concerning which church he should join and his “mind at times was greatly excited.” He then reported that he read from the scriptures (James 1:5); and, he “reflected again and again.” At length, he “determined to “ask of God.” And, he adds that he “knelt down and began to offer up the desires of (his) heart to God” to know which church he should join. And then, this great vision opened up to him. As was the case with Nephi, he had an urgent matter, he pondered on it, he searched the Holy Scriptures, he reflected on it, and he prayed to the Father.
In the case of President Joseph F. Smith, in 1918 he was suffering greatly from the loss of loved ones, and he was concerned about their condition. He reported that one evening he was sitting in his room “pondering over the scriptures; and reflecting upon the great atoning sacrifice that was made by the Son of God, for the redemption of the world.” He reported that his mind reverted to the writings of the Apostle Peter (1 Peter). Then, he opened the Holy Scriptures and read from 1 Peter 3:18-20 and 4:6. He added that he was impressed and continued to ponder (prayerfully) over these things when “the eyes of (his) understanding were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon (him), and (he) saw the hosts of the dead, both small and great.” So, similar to the visions of both the Prophet Nephi and the Prophet Joseph Smith, this great vision opened up to President Joseph F. Smith. And, we see a similar pattern. We see that he had an urgent matter, he pondered on it, he searched the Holy Scriptures, he continued to ponder and reflected on it, and then this great vision opened up to him.
Divine Revelation came to these brethren as they each followed several common steps:
- They each had an urgent desire to know the truth;
- They were worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost;
- They pondered upon the matter;
- They read and search the Holy Scriptures for answers;
- They continued to ponder and reflect on the matter;
- They knelt in humble prayer and spoke with the Father; and,
- They quietly waited and listened for answers.
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