While I was studying for the Young Women’s lesson this week, I had the opportunity to be reminded again of something that seems pretty difficult but is probably a lot simpler than most people might think. The topic of the lesson was “How do I receive personal revelation?” A lot of us probably think “I have no idea what the Spirit feels like. How am I supposed to know when my prayers are being answered, or if I’m being warned, or if there’s something important I have to do?” One of the more prominent questions is “How do I know if it’s the Spirit or just me thinking something?” I think these are all valid questions and ones we should all think about at some point in our lives in order to know how to recognize the how the Spirit of the Lord communicates with us specifically – it’s different for everyone. But more importantly, once we’ve learned to recognize the Spirit, we need to REMEMBER when we’ve felt it so we can recognize it when it comes again and also so that we can cast away our doubts and our burdens.
Elder Bednar has a three part video that talks about receiving revelation. In the first video called Patterns of Light: The Light of Christ, Elder Bednar discusses what light is – essentially, what is the Spirit? Why do we need it? I love that we are all born with the Light of Christ. We all have within us the ability to discern right from wrong, good from bad, light from darkness. It is given to us so that we can have some sort of direction that brings us closer and, eventually, back to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. The only thing that’s keeping us from recognizing it is ourselves, when we give in to the enticings of the adversary.
The second video, Patterns of Light: Discerning Light talks about that question of knowing the difference between the Spirit and your own thoughts. He gave a simple example of how one day, we might remember our mother reminding us to say our prayers when we were children. If the Spirit can help us remember something like that, why would he send some miraculous angel or other messenger to give us that message? During a Face to Face Interview with him and his sweet wife this past week he also said something along the lines of “If it’s a good thought and leads you to do something good, why does it matter if it’s your own thought or not? If it’s good, it’s from God.” I think that says a lot. Sometimes, though it is important, we get so caught up in WHERE the message is from or HOW it gets to us that we completely forget about WHAT the message actually says! We make it a lot more complicated than it needs to be.
Finally, Patterns of Light: Spirit of Revelation discusses a few different ways that answers might come. Often, we are the ones telling God how to answer our prayers, or at least, we imagine the way our answer will come. In reality, though, we need to be open to it coming in any way the Lord might see fit because the answer will ALWAYS come, though not in the time frame or the delivery we had in mind. On occasion, our stiffneckedness and small-mindedness will compromise our faith and cause us to question whether or not God is even listening to us. We must NEVER allow that to happen because prayers ARE answered. Always. The Lord is completely aware of our needs and He knows those things that will make us happiest. So when the answers don’t come when you want them to or if it may not be the answer we hoped for, we have to trust Him and move forward with faith.
Another thing we need to remember when it comes to receiving revelation is that, as was previously mentioned, all good things come from God. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles once gave a talk called “Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence”. It is a fantastic talk that taught me one very simple principle. Elder Holland said: “…Opposition turns up almost any place something good has happened. It can happen when you are trying to get an education. It can hit you after your first month in your new mission field. It certainly happens in matters of love and marriage. It can occur in situations related to your family, Church callings, or career. With any major decision there are cautions and considerations to make, but once there has been illumination, beware the temptation to retreat from a good thing. If it was right when you prayed about it and trusted it and lived for it, it is right now. Don’t give up when the pressure mounts. Certainly don’t give in to that being who is bent on the destruction of your happiness. Face your doubts. Master your fears. “Cast not away therefore your confidence.” Stay the course and see the beauty of life unfold for you.”
There is opposition in all things. If God wants something done, Satan is going to do everything he can to put a stop to it. If God wants you to be happy, Satan is going to try his hardest to make you miserable. And I’ve learned that, unfortunately, Satan is good at what he does. He knows our weaknesses and he will go to every nook and cranny he can find to bring you down to his level. He’ll disguise the truth and change just the tiniest thing about it to make it still seem like the truth, to blur the lines, when really, it’s not truth but a mockery. He’ll put doubts in your mind of answers you’ve received so you second guess yourself and end up not doing what the Lord needs you to do, or not doing what will bless you the most. You can’t let Satan have power over you – you’ve got the Lord on your side and He is a lot more powerful than the adversary. No matter how far down you think you’ve sunk, it’s never out of reach for the Savior. The key is to REMEMBER the good. Remember what it felt like when you knew you’d received an answer to a question or when a thought popped into your mind that would better your or someone else’s life. Remember that all good things come from God, and if He told you something, He’ll make a way for it to happen, so trust Him!
The reason that passage from Elder Holland really hit me this week is because I’ve been doing exactly what he counsels NOT to do – doubting an answer I’ve received, second-guessing what I’ve explained away as my own thoughts and telling myself “it’s just something I’m really hoping for”. But each time I start to think that, something (AKA the Spirit) tells me to have faith. The Spirit helps me remember again and again of how I felt when I received the answer – and I’ve received it multiple times! What I felt was peace and happiness. I know that my answer was from God – it’s definitely not a bad thought at all. I’m also reminded of another similar situation I was in where I received an answer that was completely the opposite of what I’ve gotten now. Remembering times where I’ve felt the Spirit before when I’ve received answers helps me to recognize when I’m feeling the Spirit now.
It’s sometimes easy to falter when there are so many things pointing to the reason why something shouldn’t be true and only one or two things leading you to believe it really is truth. But if you put faith and trust in your Heavenly Father, I promise you that you will know what to do. There will always be times when opposition comes, times when you start to doubt and wonder, but if you keep looking towards God and trusting in Him, He will not lead you astray.
One of my favorite scriptures is in Doctrine and Covenants 6:33-36. I love it because it’s the Savior speaking. He says: “Fear not to do good, my sons, for whatsoever ye sow, that shall ye also reap; therefore, if ye sow good ye shall also reap good for your reward. Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail. Behold, I do not condemn you; go your ways and sin no more; perform with soberness the work which I have commanded you. Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.”
I testify that that is completely true. If we do good and do our best to accomplish what the Lord would have us do – give what we have, no more and no less – then He will lift us up higher than we could ever go on our own. The blessings and miracles will rain down on us more than we can comprehend. I know it’s true because I’ve seen it and felt it in my own life and in the lives of others. I’m not perfect – I have my moments of doubt and fear and sin and weakness, but because I have faith in my Savior Jesus Christ and in my Heavenly Father, I know that I have the strength to improve my weaknesses and the strength to cast away my sins, doubts and fears when they come and do my best to trust again in my Redeemer.