Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Three C's of Preparing to Receive Personal Revelation

God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what he will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them...” --Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 150-151. 

The Prophet Joseph Smith taught us from the previous statement that there is no limit to the amount or depth of personal revelation that we can receive in this life. However, he states that we can receive this revelation only “as fast as [we] are able to.”

Lorenzo Snow, 5th president of the Church added “We should try to learn the nature of [the spirit of revelation]. ... This is the grand means that the Lord has provided for us, that we may know the light, and not be groveling continually in the dark.”

How then are we to prepare so that we might understand and utilize this grand means the Lord has provided for us? How can we prepare for the light so we can stop groveling continually in the dark?

As I have studied this, I believe that the answer is threefold. We prepare our minds to receive light and truth through Christ, through Community, and through Covenant. 

Christ

King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon wisely taught: 
12 I say unto you, I would that ye should remember to retain the name [of Christ] written always in your hearts, that ye are not found on the left hand of God, but that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called, and also, the name by which he shall call you.
13 For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart? (Mosiah 5:12-13)

We cannot and will not know the things of God unless we come to personally know Him. Developing a personal and intimate relationship with the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ allows us to, as King Benjamin said, “hear and know” the voice by which we are called.

Two essential components of an intimate relationship with Christ are daily prayers of faith, and daily scripture study. 

My mom always used to quote an old song “Prayer is the key to heaven, but faith unlocks the door.” The prayer of faith, submitting our wills and our desires to Christ, and acting in accordance with our prayers, is a key part of developing an intimate relationship with Christ. Daily prayer allows us to keep our minds and wills aligned with the Almighty. 

Elder Richard G. Scott gave us encouragement in this regard: “Sometimes we unwisely try to face life by depending on our own experience and capacity. It is much wiser for us to seek through prayer and divine inspiration to know what to do. Our obedience assures that when required, we can qualify for divine power to accomplish an inspired objective.”

But Robert D. Hales gave us further clarification: “For when we want to speak to God, we pray. And when we want Him to speak to us, we search the scriptures.”

Some of the most sacred experiences of my life come from the times where I have spent time immersed in the words of God as found in the Bible and the Book of Mormon. My mind has been enlightened, my questions have been answered, my faith has been strengthened, and my power and resolve to resist the powers of Satan have increased exponentially. 

I testify that as we incorporate daily prayer and daily scripture study, we will begin to enjoy a sacred, deep intimate relationship with the Savior. We will hear and know his voice, and we will have taken one step in preparing to receive personal revelation. Coming to recognize the Lord's pattern of revelation to you individually through prayer and scripture study will help you know how he will respond when there are serious questions and concerns that you need answered. 

Community

We are stupid if we try and do it alone. Christ could have just taught his gospel and walked alone, but he chose 12 companions. Addicts will tell you they did not make progress until they began attending support groups. No amount of online education can replace the value that comes from a live professor face to face. 

From the very beginning, God has taught that it is not good for man to be alone. 

Sooner or later, we all will come to realize that we need each other. While our church is founded on the events of divine visitation to a fourteen year old boy in upstate New York, and while divine visitation is possible, infinitely more often then not our prayers will be answered through the actions and ministry of others. As we trust each other and share experiences, we receive insight and answers in to our own journey in life. I cannot count the number of times that a question or concern of mine has been answered through the inspired actions of friends, family, and co-workers, or through the heaven-sent comments of a fellow ward member. 

Attending church, participating in church, and becoming one with the body of Saints prepares us to receive revelation. We are stronger together then we are separately and always will be so.

Covenant

Our progression through life and our progression in the Gospel is mirrored in our experience in the temple. In our temples we participate in a ceremony called the endowment. The entire endowment experience is based on preparing to receive personal revelation, or as Adam and Eve put it, seeking further light and knowledge, as we symbolically officiate in the ordinances of the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods, the two priesthoods in our Church. 

The ordinances that we symbolically refer to are defined in Doctrine and Covenants 13 and Doctrine and Covenants 84:19. The two ordinances of the Aaronic priesthood are defined as the gospel of repentance, and baptism. The two ordinances of the Melchizedek priesthood are the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, and the key of the knowledge of God, or put more simply, the reception of the Holy Ghost, and coming to personally know God and see Him in the flesh. 

In the endowment is a key lesson that is repeated multiple times, that we need to understand in order to prepare for personal revelation. Only after a covenant is made, and only after an ordinance is symbolically performed is further light and knowledge given. The following examples demonstrate this truth.

Only after making covenants of obedience and sacrifice, can we then officiate in the ordinances of the Aaronic Priesthood, namely the gospel of repentance and baptism. After we make these covenants are we prepared to receive sacred key words, signs, and tokens pertaining to the Aaronic Priesthood. 

Likewise, the first ordinance we officiate in pertaining to the Melchizedek priesthood is the reception of the first comforter, the Holy Ghost. the companionship of the Holy Ghost is one of the key ways we will receive revelation, so we should pay particular attention to what occurs during this part of the ceremony and the associated covenant we make. 

In the endowment, before we symbolically officiate in the first ordnance of the Melchizedek priesthood or the reception of the Holy Ghost, we make a covenant of chastity. 

Sexual impurity and infidelity in any form, even pornography and lust, can cloud our mind and impair our ability to hear the Lord's word. Compare that to the promise made to Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail. 

...and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.

46 The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.
D&C 121:45-46 

To unlock the full power of the Holy Ghost, we need to strive for sexual purity and let virtue garnish our minds unceasingly. 

Framing the endowment in this way, helps us make valuable connections to doctrines and principles that will bless our lives. By making covenants of obedience and sacrifice, we show our faith and repentance, and we can, as King Benjamin taught know not only the voice which will call us, but know the names by which we will be called. By covenanting to live the law of the Gospel, we prepare to enter the waters of baptism officiating in the ordinances of the Aaronic Priesthood and we are clothed with power and glory, and our garments are made white through the blood of the lamb. 

By making covenants of chastity and sanctifying ourselves we prepare to receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost, the first comforter and the first ordinance done by the power of the Melchisedek priesthood this enables us to, as stated in verse 19 understand the mysteries of the kingdom. Through this gift we come to know the Son and feel His presence in our lives.  Then as we consecrate our lives to the cause of Zion, we prepare to endure to the end, and are brought before God to receive the second comforter, even the manifestation of Jesus Christ in the flesh, the "key of the knowledge of God."

In the endowment, as in life, we prepare to receive personal revelation by living our covenants. The covenant is essential to and a prerequisite for receiving the revelation, but it is not because God keeps score of what we do wrong and right. God doesn't give us commandments for His benefit. He will always be God and his power and glory are not dependent on our individual or collective obedience to the covenants we make. Rather He gives us covenants for our own good, that we may prepare our minds and our hearts to receive all knowledge, all wisdom, and quite literally all things. 

So what's the point of all of this? Why should we prepare for revelation? Why should we develop an intimate relationship with the Savior, forge a community of service and trust, and stay true to our covenants?

The simple fact is, there will come a time in life, sooner or later, when crisis will strike. If we learn how to prepare for revelation, understand how to access, and identify the ways the Lord speaks to us, now rather than in the future, we will be adequately prepared and educated on how to overcome. 

My individual crisis occurred earlier this year. Six months ago, my life was a mess. I doubt many of you know this, but I was ready to leave the Church and literally felt no hope. Looking back I am scared at where I was and what I was contemplating doing. I felt alone, and I was completely and utterly broken. But God speaks to me in a very specific way and due to the bravery and love of a few friends both old and new, I recognized that the Lord was trying to reveal some precious truths to me. I was only able to recognize His voice and his ministry through the actions of others because of my previous experiences with personal revelation. Life since then has not been easy and I am still a broken man who needs the Savior daily, even hour by hour, minute by minute. But it has been revealed to me that I, and all of you, are 100% worth it.

Through Christ, Community, and Covenant, I have found deep peace and meaning, even a sense of my divine potential, despite all of the unpleasant experiences that are part of this journey we call life. During the past six months, I have been extremely blessed as I have prepared for personal revelation, received it and followed it.

Brothers and sisters, I testify that we can prepare for any and all knowledge to be revealed to us through Christ, community, and covenant. The Lord eagerly wants to reveal the mysteries of eternity to us, as fast as we are able to bear them. I pray that we all can have the determination to develop a personal relationship with Christ through prayer and study, establish a community of support and Christlike service, and live according to our covenants to prepare for the further light and knowledge that is sure to come. This is only the beginning of the beginning of God’s glorious unfolding of light and truth in each of our lives.

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