I always love Elder David A. Bednar’s talks. He has a way of putting things that makes them easily digestable, and simple to understand. He speaks plainly and simply, so that even the tired and weary can hear his words and act on them. I never feel overwhelmed when I hear his talks – even though he very often takes on some very big topics.
In his talk about the Spirit of Revelation, Elder Bednar gave two experiences we have all had with light.
The first was the experience of entering a dark room and turning on the light. The second was of the gradually increasing light offered by the sun as it rises. Because I love his analogies so much I am going to organize my thoughts based on the two.
Turning on the Light
The first analogy Elder Bednar gave was turning on a light in a dark room. I made a little video to visually illustrate his example.
Elder Bednar said that these kinds of revelations are received “immediately and intensely” but also reminded us that “this pattern of revelation tends to be more rare than common.”
He gave several examples from Church history and from the scriptures that show that revelation is indeed given in this way. However, he also cautioned that “We as members of the Church tend to emphasize marvelous and dramatic spiritual manifestations so much that we may fail to appreciate and may even overlook the customary pattern by which the Holy Ghost accomplishes His work.” When we only focus on getting the “light switch” revelations, we often miss the fact that revelation doesn’t only come this way.
The Rising Sun
The second analogy Elder Bednar gave was of the light we receive when the sun rises – this light is received gradually, almost imperceptibly. I found this really neat video and thought I would share it with you. I think it does a great job of showing all the different circumstances in which the sun rises, which Elder Bednar talked a little bit about in his talk.
“The gradual increase of light radiating from the rising sun is like receiving a message from God ‘line upon line, precept upon precept’. Most frequently, revelation comes in small increments over time and is granted according to our desire, worthiness, and preparation. Such communications from Heavenly Father gradually and gently ‘distil upon [our souls] as the dews from heaven’”
I think that Elder Bednar is exceptionally qualified to speak about the patterns of revelation – especially this line upon line one. When I was in college I took a class called Teachings of the Living Prophets in which we read biographies of all of the Apostles and Prophets. In Elder Bednar’s biography, he talked about how he knew that he should marry his wife. He said that he did not receive some strong impression that she was the one he should marry, but rather over the time he spent with her he gradually came to the conclusion that she was the woman he should marry. I loved this because as Elder Bednar said, “This pattern of revelation tends to be more common than rare” and I think that many of us saints discredit the line upon line version of revelation. We think that it is somehow less important or less accurate or less valuable than the immediate, intense version.
In order to really hit this point home, Elder Bednar quoted President Joseph F. Smith who said, “Show me Latter-day Saints who have to feed upon miracles, signs and visions in order to keep them steadfast in the Church, and I will show you members … who are not in good standing before God, and who are walking in slippery paths. It is not by marvelous manifestations unto us that we shall be established in the truth, but it is by humility and faithful obedience to the commandments and laws of God.” Those are strong – but very true – words by a prophet of God. We should be comfortable with the line upon line version of revelation, as it the most common in our lives.
I have struggled with this principle throughout my life. I have never sought out signs, but I have discredited all of the line upon line revelation because I have never received a big huge visitation of throngs of angels.
But Elder Bednar even mentioned that Joseph Smith, who was visited by the Father and the Son, did not receive all light and knowledge all at once. Sure, he saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ – but the gospel was not all made known to that 14 year old boy all at once (and probably good thing, too – the missionaries sometimes overwhelm people with just one visit, or visitors to our three hour block can sometimes be put into a stupor from all the new information). Joseph received the gospel line upon line.
Since Elder Bednar’s talk I have been realizing more and more when I do receive the gradual inspiration. I know that I am being blessed daily as I study and pray and plead with the Lord for inspiration – I am being blessed with the inspiration that I need to be a good wife and a good mother. But Heavenly Father doesn’t usually say to me “Rebecca, do this.” “Rebecca, do that.” During and after my frequent prayers to the Father to help me know what to do in raising my children and developing an eternal relationship with my husband, I frequently feel quiet impressions in my heart and my mind – and most of the time is something I read in the scriptures, in another good book, or something I heard in General Conference or a talk or lesson in Church. But the Lord brings those thoughts to my mind by the power of the Holy Ghost.
I have been learning what Joseph and Oliver learned as they received inspiration and revelation gradually, piece by piece, “the spirit of revelation typically functions as thoughts and feelings that come into our minds and hearts by the power of the Holy Ghost.”
The spirit of revelation “belongs to and should be operative in the life of every man, woman, and child who reaches the age of accountability and enters into sacred covenants.” It is not limited only to the General Authorities of the Church. It is not even only limited to those who have leadership callings – Primary presidents, Bishops, Stake Presidents, etc. The spirit of revelation is available and waiting for each and every member of the Church to receive it. When we are given the gift of the Holy Ghost after baptism, we are commanded to “receive the Holy Ghost” – the blessing does not say that “Okay, now you have the Holy Ghost and it will always be with you.” We have to receive it. Even – no, especially – when it speaks in quiet whispers to our hearts and minds. Especially when it brings us knowledge as the sun rises over the horizon.
May we accept revelation as it comes to us – line upon line, precept upon precept – and may we receive the Holy Ghost so that we can gain a sure knowledge of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
How does the Spirit speak to you? Do you receive inspiration like a light switch, or do you find that it comes more like the sunrise? Do you sometimes find yourself discrediting the “smaller” pieces of revelation, and find yourself waiting for the more immediate and intense revelation?