Sacrament Meeting Talk August 2014
I was asked to speak on obtaining revelation and inspiration for our personal lives, based on a talk by Elder Richard G Scott
What is the difference between revelation and inspiration? Both come by and through the Holy Ghost, when it is crisp and clear and essential, it is revelation. When it is a series of promptings that guide us step by step it is inspiration.
Personal revelation comes as a testimony of truth and as guidance in spiritual and temporal matters. Members of the church know that the promptings of the spirit may be received upon all facts of life, including daily, ongoing decisions. 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? And how will I live? Without seeking the inspiration of God.
How do we receive inspiration and revelation?
I was not raised in a house of prayer, it was not a common occurrence, so it was not my daily habit. Although I always knew that my Father in Heaven was there I did not have a personal relationship with him, we were more like distant relatives that spoke occasionally. I sought his comfort in times of need or distress and in his mercy he still answered my prayers and helped me to learn. He knew of my weaknesses and my desire to do what was right even though I rarely communicated with him and he blessed me. It took me a long time to learn what was needed and how to foster the relationship I wanted with my Father. In my humanness I still struggle sometimes, but I learned as we all have to, that he is always there, standing at the door and knocking. If we aren’t getting communication from him, it’s because we aren’t answering the door. He doesn’t leave us, we leave him. However a personal relationship with him and daily communication really makes things so much easier!
Elder Scott teaches us that revelation can also be given in a dream when there is an almost imperceptible transition from sleep to wakefulness. We can tell it is inspired communication because the feeling is generally accompanied by a sacred feeling for the entire experience. The Lord uses individuals for whom we have great respect to teach us truths in a dream because we trust them and will listen to their counsel. It is the Lord doing the teaching through the Holy Ghost, but in a dream it may make it easier to understand and more likely to touch our heart by teaching us through someone we love and respect.
The keys to receiving these communications are what they always have been, prayer, scripture study, fasting, obeying the commandments, being humble and teachable, keeping our minds and bodies clean and pure. Because answers are communicated through the spirit we must be worthy of having the spirit with us. There are no shortcuts! Although I know my prayers were answered far beyond what I was capable of understanding, I also know that if I had gone about it the right way and had a personal relationship with him, life would have been easier and the blessings and comfort more numerous.
In D&C 43:16 it says, And ye are to be taught from on high. Sanctify yourselves and ye shall be endowed with power that ye may give even as I have spoken. President Harold B Lee tells us to replace the words sanctify yourselves with keep my commandments, then we will understand the scripture better and know what is expected of us.
Along with obedience must come humility, we must be humble so that we may be teachable. Often when we are looking for inspiration we are merely telling Father in Heaven what we want him to do. What we need to remember is that we have a very limited vision of what our wants, desires and even our needs truly are. He has the eternal vision, he knows the beginning from the end and if we are teachable he will bless us in ways that are far greater than we can imagine. We must be willing to learn and grow, and this is hard because the human side of us fights against this and we feel uncomfortable. We don’t like walking in the dark; we want to know it all now. This is why you must have a personal relationship with your Father, you have to know that he loves you and you can trust him to do what is best for you. You won’t always see that right away, hindsight is 20-20.
Elder Scott tells us that we were not put here on earth to fail but to succeed gloriously! And strangely enough that is sometimes what makes it difficult for us to recognize answers to our prayers.
Sometimes we try to face life on our own, depending on our own experiences and wisdom. It is much wiser for us to seek through prayer, divine inspiration, to know what to do, and our obedience assures that when required we can qualify for that inspiration. He also tells us that we will be prompted to know what to do when we meet the conditions for such guidance, which are; obedience to the commandments of the Lord, trust in His divine plan of happiness, and the avoidance of anything that is contrary to it.
They sound like simple things, but to some of us they are not.
Another thing to keep in mind is that inspiration often is much more clear when we are in the service of someone else rather than thinking only of ourselves.
How do you know that your prayers have been answered?
Elder Scott tell us the story of Olive Cowdery – like many of us he did not recognize the evidence of answers to prayers already given by the Lord. To open his and our eyes, this revelation was given through Joseph Smith:
Blessed art thou for what thou hast done; for thou hast inquired of me and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time.
Behold, thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten they mind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the spirit of truth.
If you feel that God has not answered your prayers, ponder these scriptures, and then carefully look for evidence in your own life that He may have already answered you.
Two indicators that a feeling or prompting comes from God are that it produces peace in your heart and a quiet, warm feeling. And again as we are worthy and work at having a personal relationship with our Father then we will be prepared to recognize inspiration and revelation at those critical time in our live.
Elder Scott goes on to say: the more closely you follow divine guidance, the greater will be your happiness here and for eternity – moreover, the more abundant your progress and capacity to serve. I do not fully understand how it is done, but that guidance in your life does not take away your agency. You can make the decisions you choose to make. But remember, the disposition to do right brings peace of mind and happiness.
I asked Adam to tell me of an experience with answers to prayer and he said that he didn’t have a real specific thing come to mind, but that daily we pray for things like, loved ones to travel safely, for peace of mind, for health and strength, for the truck to start, for lived ones to heal, we pray for help in correcting little Johnny’s behavior, help in preparing a lesson or a talk, help in deciding who to marry, which school to go to , when to go on a mission and aren’t those prayers answered? Then I began to think, we always pray for these simple almost routine things, but do we recognize that these prayers have been answered and are we then thankful? Do we acknowledge those blessings from our Father in Heaven or do we just go on with our lives and suppose that it would have happened that way anyway?
It has been my experience that there are 4 kind of answers to prayer.
- Not now, be patient, trust me, maybe learn something new
- Try for yourself, use the brain I gave you, practice and strengthen your faith
An example of both yes and revelation would be the answer President Spencer W Kimball received after his long and continued prayers regarding, providing the priesthood to all worthy men in the church instead of just some of them.
When I prayed to know if I should be with Adam I received personal revelation. Until I learned the definitions provided by Elder Scott I never thought of it like that, but now I know that it could not have been clearer. It was a clear, strong, decisive answer and Adam was doomed from that moment on.
An example of a no answer comes from an experience of Wilford Woodruff, he says;
When I got back to winter quarters from the pioneer journey, President Young said to me, Brother Woodruff, I want you to take your wife and children and go to Boston and stay there until you can gather every Saint of God in New England and Canada and send them up to Zion.
I did as he told me. It took me two years to gather up everybody, and I brought up the rear with a company (there were about 100 of them). We arrived at Pittsburgh one day at sundown. We did not want to stay there, so I went to the first steamboat that was going to leave. I saw the captain and engaged passage for us on that steamer. I had only just done so when the spirit said to me, and that, too very strongly, Don’t go aboard that steamer, nor our company. Of course, I went and spoke to the captain, and told him I had made up my mind to wait.
Well that ship started, and had only got five miles down the river when it took fire, and 300 persons were burned to death or drowned. If I had not obeyed that spirit, and had gone on that steamer with the rest of the company, you can see what the result would have been.
The not now answer.
There was a 12-year-old girl named Jami Palmer. She was diagnosed with cancer, surgery was required, treatment would be many and the time of recovery long. Her father brought her to an apostle and asked for help in giving her a priesthood blessing, they hoped for a miracle. But after having the blessing it was clear that there were to be no miracles of instant recovery, hers would be a long journey. Her hopes, plans and dreams would be placed on hold while she fought for her life.
While early in her treatment the youth in her ward planned a hike to Timpanogos Cave. If you’ve made that hike you know how steep it is and it seems to take forever to reach the top. Jami said to her friend, I won’t be able to hike with you, they told her they would carry her, and they did, all the way up and down. How much faith and learning do you suppose was had that day?
Jami lived, she became a spokesman for the make a wish foundation and through it has rendered service to countless others, she attended BYU, she is healthy.
The things she learned from the answers to her prayers weren’t easy, but she is thankful for them.
When we were first married we went through some years of infertility, I didn’t understand the not yet answers. I cried and pleaded and wondered if God was listening, but hindsight is truly 20-20. In looking back I can tell you that he knew exactly what he was doing when he withheld children and when he blessed us with children, we just hadn’t learned to trust him yet.
Then we have the give it a try answer.
The perfect example of this comes from the Brother of Jared. It starts at the tower of Babel. Wickedness abounds and the Lord has had just about enough and decides to confound the language of all the people so that not one could speak to another. Jared and his brother plead that their language and those of their family and a few friends not be confounded so that they will be able to communicate. The Lord grants them this petition because of their faithfulness, then leads them out of Babel to send them to the promised land. From here I’m going to read the story in the words of Bruce R McConkie, because I love the way he tells it:
They got to the waters that they were going to cross, and the Lord said to him, “build some barges.” But interestingly, the Lord didn’t tell him how to build the barges. The brother of Jared had done it on a previous occasion, he didn’t need instruction, he didn’t need revelation to guide him. So he built the barges.
But this time they were going to be used under some peculiar and difficult circumstances, and he needed something more than was no present in them: he needed some air. And this was a problem that was beyond him. So he took that matter up with the Lord, and because it was totally beyond his capacity to solve, the Lord solved it for him and said, “Do thus and so and you’ll have air”
But then the brother of Jared – having confidence because he was talking to the Lord, because he was communing and getting answers – asked another question: he asked for a solution to a problem that he should have figured out by himself and not taken up with the Lord. He said, “What will we do for light in the vessels?”
And the Lord talked to him about it a little and then he said this: “What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels?” in effect, “What are you asking me for? This is something you should have solved.” And he talked a little more, and he repeated in essence the question: “What will ye that I should prepare for you that ye may have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea?” In other words, “Moriancumer, this is your problem. Why are you troubling me? I’ve given you your agency; you are endowed with capacity and ability. Get out and solve the problem.”
Well, the brother of Jared go the message. He went up into a mount called Shelem, and the record says he “did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones; and they were white and clear, even as transparent glass.”
Well, the brother of Jared took sixteen little crystals of some sort (he could hold all of them in his hands) up on the mount. The record says, “He did carry them in his hands upon the top of the mount” and then he said in effect to the Lord, “Now this is what I hope you will do.” You really don’t tell the Lord what to do, but you get some inspiration, and you use your judgment, and then you talk the matter over with him. And so Moriancumer said to the Lord: “Touch these stones, O Lord, with they finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall sine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea.”
And the Lord did what the brother of Jared asked, and this is the occasion when he then saw the finger of the Lord; and, while he was in tune, he received revelation that exceeded anything that any prophet had ever gained up to that moment. The Lord revealed more to him about his nature and personality than ever theretofore had come forth, and it all came about because he’d done everything that he could do and because he counseled with the Lord.
Wasn’t that the best explanation of that story you’ve ever heard?
Some time ago when I was a primary teacher I was going through a rough time. I was so stirred up in my emotions that I couldn’t calm myself enough to feel inspiration and I wondered if Father in Heaven was listening.
I was sitting with my class in sharing time and Sister Nelsen had called 2 kids up to the front to help her in leading the next song,
A Childs Prayer.
First it asks the questions:
Heavenly Father, are you really there?
And do you hear and answer every child’s prayer?
Some say that heaven is far away,
But I feel it close around me as I pray.
Heavenly Father, I remember now, something that Jesus told disciples long ago
Suffer the children to come to me
Father, in prayer I’m coming now to thee.
And then you receive the answers
Pray, he is there.
Speak, he is listening.
You are his child
His love now surrounds you
He hears your prayers
He loves the children
Of such is the Kingdom, the Kingdom of heaven
I was not capable of singing with the children. Tears flooded down my face and I was enveloped in warmth and the spirit testified to me that God hears and answers our prayers, that he was never far away, that he had been trying to reach me.
It was such a strong experience that every time I am in need of comfort or peace or wondering if my prayers have just hit the ceiling, I am instantly transported back to that room. I see those kids and I hear the music and the words fill my heart yet again.
President Monson said
Communication with our Father in Heaven, including our prayers to him and his inspiration to us is NECESSARY in order for us to weather the storms and trials of life. The Lord invites us to – Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me. – As we do so, we will feel his spirit in our lives, providing us the desire and the courage to stand strong and firm in righteousness, to stand in holy places and be not moved.
I testify that we are his children, he loves us and he answers our prayers. We need to be worthy to receive those answers and in tune enough to know what those answers are. May we all learn to do so is my prayer……..