Good morning, everyone. For those of you who don't know me, my name is Athena Nibley. I've been asked to speak about personal revelation, which is what I was asked to speak about the last time I gave a talk, too. I find that a little strange, because I think of myself as kind of the opposite of an expert on personal revelation, but I guess it's just because the Lord has something for me to learn about the topic.
Now, I tend to think of myself as being not very good at receiving personal revelation. This is most likely because I keep hearing stories in church about how someone heard a voice telling them to do such and such and they saved a baby that fell out of a window or something. I haven't had any experiences like that. And that's why I tend to think that maybe I should save the revelations for people who are better at listening to the Spirit. But that's just taking the easy way out. The reality is, just because I can't think of a time when I was absolutely sure that the Holy Ghost was giving me a clear message, that doesn't mean that I haven't been guided by the Holy Ghost.
Elder Richard G. Scott gave talk at the last General Conference that pretty much covers this topic perfectly, but since I didn't think I'd get away with just reading his talk and sitting down, you'll have to settle for brief excerpts. He said, “The Holy Ghost communicates important information that we need to guide us in our mortal journey. When it is crisp and clear and essential, it warrants the title of revelation. When it is a series of promptings we often have to guide us step by step to a worthy objective...it is inspiration.” So inspiration is kind of like a more subtle version of revelation. It's a way in which the Holy Ghost guides us, even if it's not so obvious to us. In April 2011, Elder Bednar compared the different forms of revelation to the different ways light reaches us. The more obvious revelations are like when someone turns on a light switch and the room is immediatley brighter. The more subtle inspiration is like when the sun comes up: it happens gradually, but eventually we are surrounded by light.
So let's talk about personal revelation. The Bible Dictinary has this to say about revelation: “Divine revelation is one of the grandest concepts and principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for without it, man could not know of the things of God and could not be saved with any degree of salvation in the eternities. Continuous revelation from God to his saints, through the Holy Ghost or by other means, such as vision, dreams, or visitations, makes possible daily guidance along true paths and leads the faithful soul to complete and eternal salvation in the celestial kingdom. The principle of gaining knowledge by revelation is the principle of salvation. It is the making known of divine truth by communication with the heavens, and consists not only of revelation of the plan of salvation to the Lord’s prophets, but also a confirmation in the hearts of the believers that the revelation to the prophets is true. It also consists of individual guidance for every person who seeks for it and follows the prescribed course of faith, repentance, and obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. “The Holy Ghost is a revelator,” said Joseph Smith, and “no man can receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelations.” Without revelation, all would be guesswork, darkness, and confusion.
Eliza R. Snow, second Relief Society General President, said, “[the Holy Ghost] satisfies and fills up every longing of the human heart, and fills up every vacuum. When I am filled with that Spirit, my soul is satisfied, and I can say in good earnest, that the trifling things of the day do not stand in my way at all. But just let me lose my hold of that spirit and power of the Gospel, and partake of the spirit of the world, in the slightest degree, and trouble comes; there is something wrong, I am tried, and what will comfort me? You cannot impart comfort to me that will satisfy the the immortal mind, but that which comes from the Fountain above. And is it not our privilege to so live that we can have this constantly flowing into our souls?”
I'm going to rephrase that last sentence. It is our *privilege* to live so that we can have the influence of the Holy Ghost--the source of all light, truth, and comfort--flowing into our souls at all times. And that's the key. We have to live right. So how do we do that? By keeping God's commandments.
I read over my talk from last year and found something that actually sounded pretty smart. It went like this: We are told over and over again to read our scriptures, to pray, to listen to the counsel of the Lord's prophets, to keep the commandments. We'll add to the list keeping covenants, attending church meetings, and service. This advice is repeated so often that we might sometimes take it for granted. Maybe we tune it out, thinking, “Yeah, yeah, I know all that. Tell me something new to help me get through life.” But the reason we keep getting the same answers and the same advice is that, even though it's not anything new, it's still what works. By doing these things, we keep the covenant that we made at baptism to remember Christ, thus qualifying for the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.
And then I quoted Elder Bednar's talk “Praying, studying, gathering, worshipping, serving, and obeying are not isolated and independent items on a lengthy gospel checklist of things to do. Rather, each of these righteous practices is an important element in an overarching spiritual quest to fulfill the mandate to receive the Holy Ghost. The commandments from God we obey and the inspired counsel from Church leaders we follow principally focus upon obtaining the companionship of the Spirit. Fundamentally, all gospel teachings and activities are centered on coming unto Christ by receiving the Holy Ghost in our lives.”
The things we do in the church, the commandments we are given, aren't just a good idea. They're designed to make us better at receiving personal revelation. So by doing those things, we can't help but get closer to the Spirit. On the other hand, if we get lazy about those things--we're too tired to read a verse of scripture before bed, we skip our morning prayers because we're running late, we figure she has friends; she won't mind if I don't visit teach her this month--we're putting ourselves in the devil's power. President George Albert Smith would often repeat his grandfather's advice, “There is a line of demarcation well defined between the Lord’s territory and the devil’s territory. If you will stay on the Lord’s side of the line you will be under his influence and will have no desire to do wrong; but if you cross to the devil’s side of that line one inch you are in the tempter’s power and if he is successful, you will not be able to think or even reason properly because you will have lost the Spirit of the Lord.”
So you can see how important it is that we do our best to follow the Lord at all times. I should mention here that no one's perfect and we all make mistakes--it's part of the mortal experience. We've all made bad choices at one point or another. But the important thing is that we make sure to fix our mistakes. And the guidance of the Holy Ghost can help us do that.
And as we do our best to keep the commandments and receive divine inspiration, we will notice that that inspiration leads to more keeping the commandments, serving others, reading our scriptures, prayer, and all those other things that we do to help us receive inspiration. In the Doctrine & Covenants, there is more than one place where the Lord tells someone basically, “Since you asked me what you should do, I'll tell you: keep my commandments.”
Nephi put it this way, “If ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray.” And Mormon said this: “That which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God ... The Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.”
From these scriptures, we can see that any advice we get from the Lord is going to tell us to do good, and we know that that means keeping the commandments. As I was writing this talk, I started thinking to myself, “So wait. You're saying that I need to keep the commandments so I can get revelation that will tell me to keep the commandments? Then what exactly is the point?”
Well, let me tell you. The spirit of revelation does tell us to keep the commandments, which usually we're already doing or we wouldn't be getting inspiration. But it's more than just that. It's like Alma's analogy of the seed, or like Jesus says in John: “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” If we try the experiment of doing what we've been taught is right, the Holy Ghost will confirm to us that what we're doing is right. With help of the Holy Ghost, we'll also come to know for ourselves that the Gospel is true. And as we come to our own knowledge of the truthfulness of the Gospel, as we taste of its goodness, we will want to taste more of its goodness. We will start to want to keep the commandments--not because we're afraid of our parents looking down on us or because we're afraid people will talk about us or because we're afraid God will punish us. We'll want to keep the commandments because we love God and because we know that those commandments are given to us to help us find peace and happiness in this world and the next. That peace and happiness comes to us through revelation and inspiration from the Holy Ghost, telling us that what we are doing is right, and that it will lead us to exaltation.
If we are doing our best to live the Gospel, we will be blessed with the spirit of revelation. That doesn't mean that life will always be easy or that we'll always know exactly how to handle every situation, but we will know that whatever happens, our Heavenly Father is in charge. We'll know that He loves us, and that He won't let us fall. I know that as we put our trust in the Lord, we can feel safe and secure in whatever circumstances we may be in, and that feeling comes from the spirit of revelation.
May we all work hard to have that spirit with us always. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Today I'm thankful for having plans to go see Mirror Mirror tonight, fun chapters with Fate, the super yummy ice cream we had last night, making decent progress on Negima! despite all the talking and talking and talking and talking, and having filled a gap in our Disney/Pixar education.