Although we have been promised that we may come to “know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5), much of this knowledge will be given after we cross the veil. Now, we must live by faith. We all have unanswered questions whose replies will just have to wait.
One day, after returning home from ministering to a sister who was questioning her testimony, I received a phone call from one of my sons. I had been teaching this sister that we must live by faith in regard to some questions whose answers will come in the Lord’s due time. Interestingly, my son called to ask about one of those yet unanswered, but never uttered, questions in my own life.
The sweet answer from the Spirit came at that very moment that my son made his concern known. So it was that the Holy Ghost answered both of our questions. Upon hearing the response, my son confided that this was precisely the same reply he had received from his BYU professor.
Living by faith does not mean that we live alone. God is near us.
In the first article, “Prayers that Part the Veil,” we saw how every single prayer may be answered. That is, if we do not insist that the definition of an answered prayer means having God grant us what we think we want—but rather, we ask God to confirm through the Spirit that He has heard our prayer. There we dwelt on the foundational bricks of the most powerful prayers, those that help us receive “yes” or “no” responses from the Holy Ghost.
Remember what the prophet Joseph Smith taught, that “we all have the same privilege” when it comes to receiving personal revelation and direction for our lives. I am a normal individual, of “the weak things of the world” (D&C 35:13), with the failings of any person. Perhaps what I do possess, is the gift of gratefully seeing the hand of the Lord in my life. That divine hand that is in all of our lives, even when we do not recognize it.
Hearing the Voice of the Spirit
President Russell M. Nelson intreated: “My beloved brothers and sisters, I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation. Let this … be a defining moment in your life. Choose to do the spiritual work required to enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost and hear the voice of the Spirit more frequently and more clearly.” (in April 2018 Conference)
The Prophet Brigham Young taught: “I do not believe for one moment that there has been a man or woman upon the face of the earth, from the days of Adam to this day, who has not been enlightened, instructed, and taught by the revelations of Jesus Christ.”
Furthermore, the Prophet Brigham Young urged that it is our duty to receive revelation: “Were I to draw a distinction in all the duties that are required of the children of men, from first to last, I would place first and foremost the duty of seeking unto the Lord our God until we open the path of communication from heaven to earth—from God to our own souls” (JD 8:339).
The Prophet Joseph Smith declared: “It is the privilege of the children of God to come to God and get revelation…” He also stated: “It is a great thing to inquire at the hands of God, or to come into His presence” [HC 1:338–339; also see, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith (1976)].
The context of this last quote is that we must learn how to receive our own revelations directly from the source. Sometimes we reach out to a priesthood leader for direction. That leader will listen to us with empathy and this will help us to better understand our options; and in the process of being heard, begin to comprehend that which we truly desire. Most often, priesthood leaders will direct us to find answers to our questions through prayer.
Last year I asked for a blessing of wisdom from one of my beloved priesthood leaders. (Ever since I had finished my book on Isaiah months before, I was anxious to know how the Father wished for me to spend my free time, not related to my Church calling.) In the blessing, this inspired leader told me that I would find the answer to my query as I kneeled before the Father in profound prayer. I was surprised when he added that I would receive the answer within the day—all of which was fulfilled.
His good example led me to do something similar for a person who recently approached me about a life-changing decision. I listened with empathy but suggested that she pray for an answer. She did precisely that and received from the Spirit the comfort which she was seeking. When we instead take that privilege away from others—that opportunity of receiving their own revelation—we may be engaging in a form of priestcraft.
Light and Truth
In Doctrine and Covenants we read: “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth” (D&C 93:36). The Prophet Joseph Smith instructed: “A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus” (HC 3:381).
This is why we generally receive—and there are important exceptions—inspiration through light and truth and we are then left to translate that inspiration into words.
While I was engaged in writing Isaiah Testifies of Christ, I collected numerous books and ancient translations of the writings of the Prophet, like the Targum, Aramaic, Syriac, Greek and Latin. I was missing a reference that was frequently quoted by the scholars: the Chaldee.
I prayed to the Father that I might find a translation of this ancient manuscript. A year later, I was in a used bookstore when I felt the spirit of revelation. The Lord explained, “The Chaldee that you are looking for, is the same as the Targum.” While I was reflecting on what I had just perceived, the Spirit gave me a second message: “Do you see that multi-volume Biblical dictionary on the other side of the room? Look up the word ‘Chaldee.’” It was the Hastings dictionary which I was acquainted with (A Dictionary of the Bible). I picked up the corresponding volume and opened it to the entry, “Chaldee versions,” where I found this note: “See Targums.”
I have attempted to analyze this beautiful experience. The Father is interested in that which we are interested in, as insignificant as it may appear. While the answer to my request took a long time, one can easily comprehend the reason. I was in a bookstore that had a book which contained the answer that I was searching for, and a book which I was familiar with, to act as a second witness to the inspiration I had received.
It is notable that there is a pause in the whisperings of the spirit in some personal revelations. It is as if these breathings of the Spirit come in waves—as separate witnesses. The Spirit reveals something and after a pause returns, as if to say, “So you know it is I who speaks, consider this also.”
Not all inspiration comes this way. But I will share another illustration of this double wave (for more on my conversion story, see “I was gathered by the Book of Mormon”). When I was around thirteen, our religion teacher—in the Catholic school that I attended in Chile—spoke to us about the Trinity. She explained that it would be easier to empty the Pacific Ocean by dumping the water in the beach than to comprehend the great mystery of the Trinity.
On my way home from school I received a priceless revelation on the nature of the Godhead. The Spirit was saying something like: “Your teacher is just a little confused.” The tone was one of tenderness and love toward my teacher. “But it is very simple. There is God the Father; God the Son, or Jesus Christ; and God the Holy Ghost. They are three distinct beings but one in purpose.”
As I was trying to comprehend what I had perceived, after a pause came the second revelation. This came in the way of a vision. I saw myself at home knocking on my father’s study. When he opened the door, I saw myself asking him permission to travel to the farm, as was my custom to go there when we had a long weekend. My father said, “Not this weekend, for this, this and this reason… but if you wish—he saw the sadness in my face—you can go and ask your mother.”
Grateful for the second chance to get what I wanted, I turned around to go and find my mother. Then I remembered that I had just come from speaking to her. My mother had essentially said the same thing, “This weekend, no, for this, this, and this reason (the same reasons offered by my father) … but you can ask your father if you wish.”
I understood the lesson from the Spirit perfectly well: “Just as your parents are two different beings—in fact, one of them is a man; the other a woman—yet they are one in purpose.” I came to understand that the Godhead is composed of three distinct beings who are one in purpose and love. This knowledge would lead me to the Lord’s restored Church.
Some dreams are revelatory or prophetic in the sense that they are messages from the Lord. They have a specific motive that will come clear in time.
A sister had a dream in which she saw herself involved in a car accident during a Church camping activity. Its fulfillment was precise but gladly without major negative consequences.
May I suggest that the Lord wanted to teach something to this faithful sister. If something of the sort happened again, she could pray and ask if the Lord would remove such a setback—if it was His will to do so. While the Lord will not always eliminate the obstacles from our path, when He does consent to do so, we can then proceed without fear.
In contrast to dreams, we perceive visions with our spiritual eyes—while we are awake. Such as in the revelation about the Godhead which I recounted above.
One day I was feeling particularly despondent because of my weaknesses. And then I read an article about someone who had been dishonest. “At least,” I thought to myself in a false sense of relief, “this is one good quality I have, I am honest.”
After undergoing these thoughts, I had an open vision in which I saw the many times in my life when I had been less than honest—from both before and after my baptism. It was by no means a short list of scenes. For years, I did not understand the purpose of what I had seen. Now I know that God was trying to teach me something about grace. Even in those areas where I thought I may have been “doing well” I would need the grace offered to us through Christ’s atonement. (I will write more about this life review in a future article, “Justification, Sanctification, and Grace.”)
The angels or messengers that God sends may come from either side of the veil. They could be members of our family, neighbors, ministering servants of the Lord, or leaders who felt inspired to call us or visit just when we needed them.
At several points in my life, I have felt that the Lord was sending me a message through others. On one such occasion, I was with my boys at an Aaronic Priesthood Commemoration camping activity. I was about to cross a fence into a beautiful pasture and take my boys on a hike when a man warned me that there were dangerous bulls there. I am grateful to the Lord for that warning.
On occasion, we may receive revelation purely for our own edification. I had one such experience in 1998. I feel that since the event has transpired, I may share it here. Elder Travis Tuttle and Elder Andrew Propst were taken hostage for a ransom, when they were serving as missionaries for the Church in Samara, Russia, in March 1998. I wrote in my journal:
“Two Elders were abducted in Russia last Wednesday. It came out in the local paper Friday morning. When I read the information to Linda [my wife] she was quite shaken and filled with empathy for the missionaries and for their families. There was much prayer on their behalf around the world. Saturday night, as I was ready to go to bed, after having said my prayers, I discerned the whisperings of the Spirit: ‘The missionaries will be released tomorrow.’ Sunday morning, Linda came in all excited to tell me the Elders had been freed. Later that day, Linda came in crying as she saw an interview of the parents of one of the missionaries. The mother, according to Linda, kept asking her son if he was Okay. ‘I don’t have to wait ‘till Mother’s Day to talk to you?’ the mother had asked in grateful disbelief.”
President Nelson is particularly keen on having our youth live close to the Spirit. One innocent thirteen-year-old girl refused to heed the insistent invitations from an older boy who was inviting her to enter his home—apparently when his parents were not there. She explained that she strongly felt the warning from the Spirit and refused to enter his house.
My most cherished tender mercies are those associated with the Spirit leading me, through several important revelations, to recognize The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the Lord’s true Church upon the earth.
I want to again testify that God is near, that He loves His children, and that His hands are ever stretched towards us to bless and comfort us. We are not alone. When we are willing to accept President Nelson’s invitation to “do the spiritual work required to enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost” we will indeed “hear the voice of the Spirit more frequently and more clearly.” Truly, “Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer“—Isaiah 58:9a.