PROVO, Utah — Receiving, recognizing and responding to revelations from God are spiritual gifts for which Latter-day Saints should yearn and appropriately seek, said Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during the 2018 Mission Leadership Seminar on June 26.
“The spirit of revelation is real and operates in our individual lives and in the Savior’s restored Church,” said Elder Bednar, focusing on Doctrine and Covenants 8:2-3 and addressing the topic “The Spirit of Revelation in the Work.”
Defined most simply, revelation is communication from God to His children on the earth and is one of the great blessings associated with the gift and constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, he taught.
“God uses a variety of patterns to convey His revelations to His sons and daughters, such as thoughts to the mind and feelings to the heart, dreams, visions, conversations with heavenly messengers and inspiration,” he said. “Some revelations are received immediately and intensely; some are recognized gradually and subtly.”
Elder Bednar described five interrelated lessons he has learned about how the spirit of revelation operates in the work of the Lord.
Not knowing beforehand
Revelation frequently comes in small increments over time and is granted according to desire, worthiness and preparation, he said.
“Such communications from God gradually and gently “distil upon [our souls] as the dews from heaven” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:45).
This pattern of revelation tends to be more common than rare.
The lesson: “We do not have to recognize in the moment we are receiving revelation that we are receiving revelation,” said Elder Bednar. “Simply be good. Remember and honor your ordinances and covenants. Just go and do your best, and you will be guided, blessed and become an instrument in the hands of the Lord to accomplish His purposes.”
Nephi went to Jerusalem to obtain the plates of brass and “was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which [he] should do” (1 Nephi 4:6), said Elder Bednar. “Nephi did not recognize in the moment he was receiving revelation that he was receiving revelation.”
Elder Bednar explained that perhaps this experience is highlighted so early in the Book of Mormon precisely because it is an example of such an important pattern of revelation.
“In many of the uncertainties and challenges we encounter in our lives and in this great latter-day work, God requires us to do our best, to trust in Him, to be anxiously engaged and act and not simply wait to be acted upon,” he said. “We may not see angels, hear heavenly voices, or receive overwhelming spiritual impressions. We frequently may press forward hoping and praying — but without absolute assurance — that we are acting in accordance with God’s will. But as we honor our covenants and keep the commandments, we can walk with confidence that God will guide our steps.”
Repetition as a pattern for receiving revelation
During the night of Sept. 21, 1823, the angel Moroni visited Joseph Smith three times and conveyed eternally important messages to him, said Elder Bednar. Moroni also returned a fourth time the next morning.
“And in describing this series of events, many of us commonly state that Moroni appeared to Joseph and delivered the identical message four times. That statement is accurate but it is incomplete.”
Indeed, the same core message was presented on all four occasions. But in visitations two, three and four, additional information and instruction were given to Joseph “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little” (see 2 Nephi 28:30).
“All of the messages were the same and all the messages were different in a pattern of repetitious revelation and learning,” he said.
Elder Bednar said a “hallmark characteristic” in the ministries of Church leaders is repetitious teaching.
For example, Elder Bednar said he frequently and repeatedly has opportunities to teach and testify of the divinity and living reality of our Heavenly Father and His Only Begotten Son; of our resurrected Redeemer; of the basic doctrine of the Savior’s restored gospel. Many times each day he is blessed to declare the truthfulness of these eternal verities. Interestingly, the messages always are the same and always are different.
“We have learned to treasure the spiritual gems that are revealed through repetition,” he explained. “The distinctive nuggets of inspiration and spiritual knowledge that flow into our minds and hearts as we repeatedly teach and testify of gospel truths are the product of a line upon line and precept upon precept pattern of revelation. Repetition is a vehicle through which the Holy Ghost can enlighten our minds, influence our hearts and enlarge our understanding.”
Members should more fully appreciate the value of repetition as a means of facilitating revelation, he said.
The lesson: “Repetition can invite revelation if we have eyes to see and ears to hear.”
Revelation as a conclusion and not an explanation
Typically, revelation comes as a conclusion and not an explanation, taught Elder Bednar. “We should not be surprised, for example, if impressions or promptings simply guide us to stop, to go, to open our mouths, to remain silent, to slow down, to press forward more rapidly or to consider an option or course of action that may seem unusual.”
Revelation, he said, focuses upon the “what” more than the “why.”
The lesson: “The Lord often requires that we initially go and do without knowing why.”
Latter-day Saints cannot and should not wait for an explanation before acting “because we have the sure promise of the Lord, ‘Blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more’ (2 Nephi 28:30).”
Revelation as a conclusion about timing
Often, revelatory help may focus not upon what to do, but when to do, said Elder Bednar.
The lesson: “Discerning by the power of the Holy Ghost when something should be done can be just as important, or even more important, than knowing what should be done.
“As the Savior declared, ‘And thus they all received the light of the countenance of their lord, every man in his hour, and in his time, and in his season.’ (Doctrine and Covenants 88:58).”
The importance of keeping spiritual confidences
Quoting the late President Boyd K. Packer, Elder Bednar counseled mission presidents and their companions to not speak lightly about sacred things. President Packer said, “I have come to believe also that it is not wise to continually talk of unusual spiritual experiences. They are to be guarded with care and shared only when the Spirit itself prompts you to use them to the blessing of others.”
Elder Bednar called the spiritual gift of revelation a great blessing. “As we righteously exercise and honor this sacred gift, we demonstrate to God our increasing trustworthiness and our desire to always use such gifts to bless and serve other people.”
The lesson: “We should not expect to receive additional revelation if we do not treat appropriately the revelations we already have received.”
Elder Bednar promised the mission leaders that the five lessons will be helpful in their personal lives, families and ministries in the mission field. In closing he testified, “The spirit of revelation is real and operates in our individual lives and in the Savior’s restored Church.”