That was beautiful. Thank you, choir, Brother Decker. That was wonderful.
Students have been asking me all week long: “How are you doing? Are you nervous?”
What can I say? I’ve never been better. I am grateful for this opportunity because it has helped me to stretch and understand. Today, our goal is to understand a little bit better this idea of receiving revelation
Interesting. Sister Julie Beck gave a very interesting description of the importance of receiving revelation when she said, “The ability to qualify for, receive, and act on personal revelation is the single most important skill that can be acquired in this life.” We had better understand it. If that statement is true, we had better understand how to do that.
By the end of our time together, we are going to achieve a few small things in this quest to understand. First of all, we will identify many of the ways that revelation comes to the children of God. We will give spiritual and personal examples of these types of revelation, but we will not be able to answer all of the questions about revelation. You must make that journey on your own.
What is revelation? How does it work? We’re going to use a guide that Elder Gerald Lund gave us. It’s been modified a little bit, but it’s going to help us understand the process and the different kinds of revelation that come, from the less direct to the more direct. And we will look at different aspects along that continuum, starting with the Light of Christ, and going all the way to a theophany.
First of all, let’s understand what the Light of Christ is. In Doctrine and Covenants 88:6-11, there is a great description of the Light of Christ. However, we are going to start in verse 11 and read a few verses:
“And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;
“The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the claw by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things.”
It’s such a fascinating concept. The light of Christ fills all things, and yet, it just prompts us and guides us in a very less-direct revelatory manner. A more direct way is a theophany. What is a theophany? A theophany is literally, as you can see, a Latin word which means a visual manifestation of God to mankind. Both ends. The more direct, interestingly—or I should say, the less direct, the more frequently revelation comes. The more direct the revelation, the less frequently it comes. It seems to involve our senses in a different sort of a way. What I mean is, in a more direct, less frequent revelation, we find our physical senses involved—our sight, the sound, the touch, the feel—all of those kinds of things seem to be involved. Perhaps this is why this revelation seems to be more dramatic.
I like the way that President Spencer W. Kimball describes this idea of more direct and less direct. He said: “Many people expect that if there be revelation it will come with awe-inspiring, earth shaking display.” The burning bushes, the smoking mountains, the sheet of four-footed beasts. The Cumorahs and the Kirtlands were realities, but they were exceptions. The great volume of revelation that came to Moses and to Joseph and comes to prophets today in a less spectacular way—that of deep impressions, without spectacle, without glamour or dramatic events. Always “expecting the spectacular,” many will miss entirely “the constant flow of revealed communication.”
So interesting. We miss because we expect something big.
In Doctrine and Covenants 8:2, we learn an interesting truth about this idea of the still, small voice. I want to fill in, if you will, the rest of our revelatory pattern. We talk about the still, small voice. We talk about the administration of the sick, father’s blessings, ordinances. There are patriarchal blessings—and you’ll notice that each one builds in the idea of revelation and gets to be more direct but less frequent. We get dreams, there are audible voices, visions, and angelic visitations.
To help us understand this, let’s go back and talk about the still, small voice. I love what happens in Doctrine and Covenants 8:2-3, because it really does define how revelation works.
“Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation.”
When our mind and our heart are in harmony, that is a great way to check revelation, to see if revelation is really working.
One of the responsibilities of a bishop is to hold disciplinary councils when a member’s sin has caused their membership to be in jeopardy. During one such experience, we had dismissed a member to go and sit in another room while the bishopric would counsel together. Something wasn’t sitting right. It wasn’t feeling right. My heart wasn’t in harmony with my mind.
Then came a thought into my mind that I didn’t have the whole story. I excused myself, walked down the hall to where this member was, and probed a little deeper. A lot more came out.
The council was dismissed, and we started meeting again. Even though I had met with the person over a long period of time before the council, we began meeting again, preparing this person for the rest of it. But again, my mind and heart were not in harmony. And remember, when that is not in harmony, pay attention. Revelation.
Doctrine and Covenants 9:3-9, you’ll recall, Oliver Cowdery wanted to translate. The Prophet Joseph Smith inquired of the Lord. The Lord said yes. [Oliver] began the translation process, translated a little bit, but then lost the ability. Confused, he didn’t understand why. The Lord then explained how revelation works—and remember, our heart and our mind are involved in this process.
“But behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
“But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought”—mind and heart, right? — “that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong.”
Here is a powerful way to detect the idea of revelation. Make a decision. Take it to the Lord, and move forward. Because of this scripture, many people say, “I have never received revelation. I’ve never had a burning in my bosom, so I haven’t ever had revelation.”
Can I tell you? That’s not the way the Lord communicates with me. It has occurred one time in my life. I remember it well. It was an answer to a prayer, and I felt like it was emanating heat. I don’t know any other way to explain it. But it happened one time in my life. So, if you are waiting for the spectacular to occur that President Kimball talked about, relax. When your mind and your heart are involved, revelation is taking place.
The Holy Ghost speaks with a voice that you feel more than you hear. Listen to what President [Boyd K.] Packer says:
“The Holy Ghost speaks with a voice that you feel more than you hear. It is described as a ‘still small voice.’ And while we speak of ‘listening’ to the whisperings of the Spirit, most often, one describes a spiritual prompting by saying, ‘I had a feeling...’” Revelation comes as words we feel more than we hear.
I love that idea.
Going on to the next portion of our idea of receiving revelation—administration of the sick, father’s blessings, ordinances—oftentimes, peace comes. In John 14:27, the Lord says, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
Some of the greatest peace that has come in my life has been during these blessings, these ordinances—especially when I have the opportunity to give a blessing to my wife.
Now, patriarchal blessings. I think there is a confusion in lineage and all of those kinds of things. I love how President Dallin H. Oaks has helped us understand what patriarchal blessings are all about, in receiving this idea of revelation. Listen to what he says:
“When a patriarch declares lineage, he is identifying ‘the tribe of Israel through which the person will receive his or her blessings,’ … not the nature of the blood or composition of the genes of the person being blessed.” I love the clarification. It helps immensely in understanding our patriarchal blessings.
Another form is that of dreams. Yes, dreams come. Remember what Lehi said in 1 Nephi 8? “I have dreamed a dream,” and then he tells us this great information about the Tree of Life.
Another powerful understanding is audible voices. In Matthew 3:17, the Lord says, “And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Audible voice? Absolutely.
While we were living in Texas, I borrowed a heavy-duty trailer to go and get some sod grass to plant in my yard. It was a double-axle, heavy-duty, and I was pulling it with my minivan. You can already see a problem coming. But nonetheless, as I went—no problem, I gathered sod all day long. It was heavy. And as I started back, there was a hill that I came to that was a long, long, steep grade. As I approached the top of the hill, I knew I had to go slow. So, I just barely crept over the top with that heavy load. The trailer had no brakes, all right? And I started over the top of the hill down the other side.
As I was going down the other side, everything seemed to be going fine, and all of a sudden, I felt the van being pulled from side to side. I looked in the rearview mirror, and I could see the cars behind me stopping. I am thinking, “They know what’s going to happen.” And I knew what was going to happen. I could see the trailer sliding from side to side outside the van, and I thought, “No.” I knew what was going to happen. I could feel it. It was a very strange sensation. The trailer would flip over, the van would flip over, and I would hit my head on the concrete outside on the ground, on the road. I could feel it. I knew that’s what was going to happen.
All of a sudden, a voice came to me. “Speed up; it’s trying to pass you.” So, I hit the gas. And instantly, the trailer which was sliding around, pulled right in behind me and we went flying down the hill—me, the van, and the trailer about 90 miles an hour by the time I got to the bottom. But that wasn’t nearly as fast as my heart was pounding. We made it safely down the hill. So interesting that the Lord does speak to us on occasion. But not very often.
Another way is through that of visions. Visions come. Remember, Doctrine and Covenants section 76 was received by Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon in the upper room of the Johnson home. They even called it “the vision of the degrees of glory.”
Another way that they come is angelic visitations. In Joseph Smith—History, we learn that he starts receiving revelation after revelation from an Angel Moroni. Twenty-two different accounts we have, of his visit to Joseph Smith. It does come. It does happen. But again, that’s not the way He communicates with me.
Interestingly, obtaining revelation is not a passive experience. You’ll remember that the counsel is to ask, seek, and knock. I love the idea that you ask. It’s a verbal action; I am speaking. And then seeking denotes a higher level of involvement, when we begin to do something where our mind and our heart become in harmony.
Knocking has a tendency to help us understand there are physical things that have to be involved as well. I love the way Elder Richard G. Scott helps us understand this idea when he said, “When you are living worthily and your choice is consistent with the Savior’s teachings, and you need to act, proceed with trust.” Act, and then proceed with trust. “God will not let you proceed too far without a warning impression if you have made the wrong decision.”
That is significant. It reminds me of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s experience when he and his son drove to the Grand Canyon. You will remember this story, right? They go to the Grand Canyon; they have a great day. In the evening, they turn around to come back and as they turn around to come back, they come to a fork in the road and they don’t know which way to go. It is unfamiliar. So they pray. The Lord says go to the left, so they go to the left. Just a very short distance later they come to a dead end. They turn around and come back and they get on the right road and they go back.
His son says, “I don’t understand. Why did this happen?”
Elder Scott helps us understand it beautifully. God will not let you proceed too far without a warning impression if you have made the wrong decision.
Let’s put this into application that perhaps we can understand a little bit—a real life situation. Let’s look at a topic that I feel is rather sensitive here at LDS Business College: Who should I marry? Let’s talk about receiving revelation on that all-important topic.
Too often, we let our hearts drive the decision. But remember what Doctrine and Covenants 9:8 says: “Study it out in your mind.” Don’t rush the courtship. The longer you know the person, obviously, the greater you will come to understand who they are. Use the time of the courtship to get to know the person. Spend time with their family. Do their values harmonize with your values? How do they treat their parents and their siblings? Work together. Volunteer to babysit together. That is revealing. Do they sit in front of the TV all day long watching or playing video games?
What is this process that we’ve been describing? Section 9, verse 8. You are studying it out in your mind. Keep the physical expression of your love in tight control. Don’t rob yourself of the Spirit by going there. You’ve heard the phrase, “Rules of Engagement”? The rules of engagement are usually used when we talk about military kinds of things. Rules of engagement also apply when you become engaged, because you are in a battle to obtain the temple.
As a Young Single Adult Ward bishop, I had an opportunity to meet with couples. And I started the minute they became engaged. We sat down, and every week from then until they made it to the temple, we would visit. And each time we would sit down to meet, the very first time I pulled out a sheet of paper, and on that piece of paper said, “Rules of Engagement.” Underneath there was a list of things that I committed them to live by until they obtained the temple. Gratefully, not one did they have to wait or postpone their going to the temple.
When you become engaged, come see me and I will give you that paper, so that you can be better prepared for your battle to get to the temple. As you are considering the person that you are dating, as you are considering them and thinking to yourself, is this person really the one I am supposed to marry, pray that the Lord will open your spiritual eyes so that you can look upon their heart and not just upon their countenance. Make the decision and then seek the Lord’s confirmation.
You guys, this is your decision, who to marry. He stands ready to confirm your decision, but it is your decision.
President Boyd K. Packer made this great statement when he said you must do the choosing: “You must do the choosing, rather than to seek for some one-and-only so-called soul mate, chosen for you by someone else and waiting for you. You are to do the choosing. You must be wise beyond your years and humbly prayerful lest you choose amiss.”
So, stop waiting for the great displays and earth-shattering things that President Kimball talked about. Move forward. Make a decision, and then take that person’s name to the Lord. It would sound something like this: “Heavenly Father, I have chosen to marry—in my case, Lisa Batters. Is that Thy will?” And then listen for the still, small voice to speak peace to your soul. And pay attention to what is happening in your mind and in your heart. Over a period of time, if that feels right, move forward. If it doesn’t feel right, then as the other question: “Heavenly Father, I have decided not to marry this person. Is that Thy will?” And then, pay attention. He will let you know.
If you are looking for a soul mate, remember that your soul mate is the person that you are sealed to after you marry them. Sisters, if some guy comes to you and says, “I have received revelation that you are the one,” remember what President Oaks said. “I have heard of cases where a young man told a young woman she should marry him because he had received a revelation that she was to be his eternal companion. If this is true revelation, it will be confirmed directly to the woman if she seeks to know.” I love that phrase. What if she doesn’t want to know? She doesn’t have to pray about it. I think it’s fabulous. “In the meantime, she is under no obligation to heed it. She should seek her own guidance and make up her own mind. The man can receive revelation to guide his own actions, but he cannot properly receive revelation to direct hers. She is outside his stewardship.” In other words, sisters, you are entitled to receive your own revelation on that matter.
While teaching a class here at LDS Business College, we had just gone through this quote. A young sister in the back of the room from Scotland said, “Really?”
I said, “Oh. What’s going on?”
She said, “This guy, he just keeps bothering me that he’s received revelation and I’m the one that he’s supposed to marry.”
I said, “Run. Or pray about it, either way.” Right? This is your choice.
This is a wonderful story that helps us understand this idea of receiving revelation. In the New Era of 2000, this story was published. The person who is speaking is a young man named Ken Merrell:
“When I was 18 years old, as I was preparing to serve a mission, my bishop called me to be the Sunbeam teacher in our ward….
“One day I invited [my friend] Mike to come to church and to sit [with me] in class. Mike was my age, but had stopped attending church completely by the time he was 12. We had remained friends over the years…and once in a while, Mike would accept my invitation to come to an activity. It always surprised me when he did so, so I kept inviting him.
“At that time, Mike had long black hair and a dark beard. His complexion was dark and pleasant. I don’t remember when I invited him to my Primary class, but one day he showed up.
‘Class, I would like to introduce to you my friend Mike,’ is how I began my lesson. ‘He is visiting with us today.’
“Mike sat next to me in front [of the class]. The children…in a semicircle with their eyes fixed on him. They were much quieter than usual. I was about five or six minutes into the lesson when one little boy got up from his chair and walked across the room and stood directly in front of my friend. The boy paused for a moment and then climbed onto his lap. I continued with the lesson as I watched the two of them from the corner of my eye.
“The boy sat looking into Mike’s face. Mike was quite uncomfortable but did not interrupt the lesson or turn the boy away. The other children watched the two of them for a few minutes.
“Then one of the [little] girls climbed off her seat and approached Mike. I was intently interested in seeing how Mike would react and did not want to instruct the two children to return to their seats. The girl stood with her hand on Mike’s knee looking into his face.
“Then it happened. The boy on Mike’s lap reached up with both hands and turned Mike’s face directly to his. I stopped my lesson to see what was about to unfold.
“With the innocence of a child, he said to Mike, ‘Are you Jesus?’
“The look on Mike’s face was total surprise. It seemed, as I glanced at the children’s faces, they all had the same question on their minds.
“Mike looked at me as if to say, Help, what do I say?
“I stepped in.” But I would say, the Spirit stepped in. “‘No, this is not Jesus. This is His brother.’
“Mike looked at me as if in shock.
“Then without hesitation the boy in Mike’s lap reached up and wrapped his arms around Mike’s neck. ‘I can tell,’ the boy said as he hugged Mike.
“The rest of the children smiled and nodded in agreement as their simple question was answered. Mike blinked back the tears in response to the love he felt from this small Sunbeam. The lesson went on, but that day the teacher who taught the most was a three-year-old child.”
Mike served a mission.
I know that revelation comes in many different ways. And with patience and listening and engaging your mind and your heart, you will know, for we are brothers and sisters of that same Jesus, who was crucified for our sins, redeems us from the fall, and enables us to return to God’s presence, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 “And upon the Handmaids in Those Days Will I Pour Out My Spirit,” April 2010 General Conference, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2010/04/and-upon-the-handmaids-in-those-days-will-i-pour-out-my-spirit?lang=eng.
 Doctrine and Covenants 88:11-13.
 From “Revelation: A Continuous Melody and a Thunderous Appeal,” Chapter 22, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/teachings-spencer-w-kimball/chapter-22?lang=eng.
 Doctrine and Covenants 9:8-9.
 “Personal Revelation: The Gift, the Test, and the Promise,” October 1994 General Conference, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1994/10/personal-revelation-the-gift-the-test-and-the-promise?lang=eng.
 January 2005 Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, quoted in YSA Living Faith, December 2015, http://ysalivingfaith.org/2015/12/26/patriarchal-blessings/.
 1 Nephi 8:2.
 “Using the Supernal Gift of Prayer,” April 2007 General Conference, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2007/04/using-the-supernal-gift-of-prayer?lang=eng.
 See Matthew Holland, “Wrong Roads and Revelation,” New Era, July 2005, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/new-era/2005/07/wrong-roads-and-revelation?lang=eng.
 “Eternal Love,” BYU Devotional, November 3, 1963, https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/boyd-k-packer/eternal-love/. Quoted in Yvonne Liu, “What Prophets and Apostles Have Said About Soul Mates, LDS Living, May 18, 2018, http://www.ldsliving.com/What-Prophets-and-Apostles-Have-Said-About-Soul-Mates/s/88441.
 “Revelation,” BYU Devotional, September 29, 1981, https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/dallin-h-oaks/revelation/.
 “The Visitor,” May 2000 New Era, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/new-era/2000/05/the-visitor.html?lang=eng.
“The most important thing on earth to me is my wife Lisa and our family.” Brother Garner and his wife Lisa were married in the Los Angeles Temple. They are the parents of three daughters and one son; all of which are married to wonderful spouses. They have “five perfect grandchildren!”
Brother Garner earned a bachelor’s degree in art with an emphasis in education and photography, from Weber State University. A master’s degree from Lesley College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in curriculum development in education. Graduate work was performed at the University of Arizona in Near Eastern studies with an emphasis in archaeology.
He is employed by the Church Education System, teaching Seminary and Institute for the past 33 years. Because of his career with the Church, he has taught in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and currently at LDS Business College.
The Garners' passion is travel, having led many tours to the Holy Land and Church History sites throughout the United States.