Drawing from personal experiences, scriptures and teachings from past and present Church leaders, Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles shared 14 principles on personal revelation in a Thursday, May 27, online devotional — principles that can help missionaries to feel and recognize the Spirit.
“Revelation is a life skill, not just a temporary way to be an effective missionary,” Elder Renlund said. “As we use the gift of the Holy Ghost in this way, we will find that the Holy Ghost becomes a companion who can be relied upon, trusted and depended on more. You can receive revelation.
“As you learn those skills to use the gift of the Holy Ghost that you’ve received, God will change your future for good. He will bless you, He will protect you, He will help you. I know this to be true.”
Elder Benjamin M.Z. Tai, a General Authority Seventy and assistant executive director in the Missionary Department, conducted the devotional, available worldwide via the missionaries’ online portal.
1. Revelation is needed to hear God’s voice
“As we learn from the sacrament prayers, if we are willing to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ, always remember Him and keep His commandments, we can lay claim to having the Holy Ghost with us every day and every hour. Revelation can be constant and ongoing, said Elder Renlund, who then quoted President Russell M. Nelson:
“If we are to have any hope of sifting through the myriad of voices and the philosophies of men that attack truth, we must learn to receive revelation. … [I]n coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.”
2. Learning to receive revelation takes work
Simply having the gift of the Holy Ghost does not entitle one to receive revelation on demand. Rather, receiving revelation requires work. Prayer is necessary but not always sufficient by itself, said Elder Renlund, mentioning fasting and patience as additional efforts to receive revelation.
“Waiting on the Lord and trusting that He will answer when He knows it is best is a very important work. I have learned that it is arrogant and unhelpful to demand revelation or put a deadline on the Lord.”
3. Worthiness is needed to receive revelation
One should be trying his or her best to keep God’s commandments and not excusing sinful behavior, he said, emphasizing the need to turn to God through daily prayer, scripture study and repentance and weekly partaking of the sacrament. “We are unlikely to receive any revelation other than, ‘You need to repent!’ until we take care of that which is obstructing our forward progress on the covenant path.”
4. Preparation is needed to receive revelation
Preparation to receive personal revelation includes studying, pondering and praying. “The Holy Ghost cannot bring something to your remembrance that you have not put there in the first place,” Elder Renlund said. “That is why the admonition to ‘treasure up in your minds continually the words of life’ comes before the promise of having it given you in the very hour that which should be meted to every man.”
5. Recognizing the Spirit’s voice is critical to understanding personal revelation
Elder Renlund summarized scriptural descriptions in the various ways the Holy Ghost communicates. His voice is mild, still and quiet; can be piercing and burning; affects both mind and heart; brings peace, joy and hope, not fear, anxiety and worry; will invite one to do good and not evil; and is enlightening, not mystifying.
“We need to be able to recognize how the Spirit communicates with us. Anyone can recognize their own mother’s or father’s voice because it is a voice that has always been a part of their life. We need to be similarly familiar with what the voice of the Spirit sounds like.”
6. Receiving revelation requires the elimination of distractions
“To receive personal revelation, we need to walk away from contention and temptations and the noise of the world,” Elder Renlund said. “We do not receive revelation when we are angry, agitated or occupied.”
7. Receiving revelation requires proximity
Sometimes revelation does not come unless one is close to the object or issue — engaged in the task before the revelation comes.
“Missionaries are not going to be prompted about whom to share a gospel message with when they are casually lounging in their apartment and not prepared to speak,” said the Apostle, adding they are “more likely to receive that nudge” when actively involved in contacting and interacting with others.
8. Revelation builds on itself as prior revelation is relied upon
Revelation is usually sequential and iterative, becoming clearer over time, said Elder Renlund, adding that sometimes one recognizes a prompting after having acted and having a positive outcome. “When we rely on earlier revelation, it can serve as a springboard for new revelation.”
9. Faith in the ability to receive revelation is key
He cited Doctrine and Covenants 8:10 — “Remember that without faith you can do nothing; therefore ask in faith … ” — adding, “Faith is enhanced when we know that what we are asking for is in accordance with God’s will, when we know that we are asking for that which we should, and we are asking for that which is right.”
10. Act in faith, even when unsure if revelation has been received
Sometimes individuals may question how to move forward, feel that the heavens are closed or be unsure how to tell the difference between one’s own thoughts and the whisperings of the Holy Ghost, Elder Renlund said.
He pointed to the teachings of the late Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve — that when one prays to God, explaining a problem to Him and proposing a thoughtful solution, God’s answer may come in one of three ways:
- Feeling the peace, comfort and assurance that a decision is right
- Sensing an unsettled feeling, indicating that the choice is wrong. “When God answers no, … it is to prevent error,” Elder Scott said.
- Feeling no response. “Elder Scott taught that when that happens, we may ‘want to express thanks’ for it is ‘evidence of His trust’ in us,” Elder Renlund said. “We do the best we can, and clarity will come.”
11. In personal revelation, be open to the unexpected
One needs to open to the entire scope of what God wishes to reveal — however unexpected it may be — and not set up limits that preclude further inspiration.
“Someone who says, ‘I will only teach those I think are prepared to hear the message of the gospel’ is not open to God’s grand scope and vision,” Elder Renlund said. “You cannot judge something as not coming from the Holy Ghost simply because it was not what you expected or wanted.”
12. Revelation comes within the limits God has directed
The scope of personal revelation is proscribed by one’s personal situations and callings — for instance, only the Prophet and President of the Church can receive revelation for the Church, Elder Renlund said.
“Joseph Smith said, ‘It is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church, or any one, to receive instruction for those in authority, higher than themselves.’ But he promised, ‘It is also the privilege of any officer in this Church to obtain revelations, so far as relates to his particular calling and duty in the Church.’ ”
13. Revelation will not be contrary to revealed word
The Spirit operates within the framework of scriptures, living prophets, handbooks and file leaders, Elder Renlund said. “The Spirit will not prompt us to violate God’s commandments or our covenants.”
Revelation will always be in harmony with the teachings of the scriptures, the prophets and the order of the Church, and one will never be prompted to violate God’s revealed commandments and direction. “Remember, reason can lead to revelation but cannot replace revelation,” he added.
14. When personal revelation is confirmed by unity, revelation is more certain
When several individuals in a presidency, quorum, group or companionship sense the same inspiration, the likelihood of it being direction from God is increased, Elder Renlund said. “Unity brings power in calling down revelation from heaven.”