As I prepare to participate in general conference this weekend, I’ve been thinking about how different forms of revelation interact with one another and support one another. By revelation, I mean messages from God. Here are some forms of revelation that I have been thinking about:
- Dreams and visions
- Face to face conversations with angels
- Hearing or reading the words of prophets
- Promptings (thoughts and feelings) from the Holy Ghost
The Book of Mormon opens with a spiritual experience involving multiple forms of revelation. As Lehi prays on behalf of his people, he sees a pillar of fire. He returns home filled with the Spirit of the Lord, sees a vision, and as part of the vision, reads the words of a book (1 Nephi 1:5-13).
What an experience! Multiple forms of revelation gave him a strong conviction that he had received a message from God.
Lehi’s experience is miraculous and unusual. But it is not unusual to receive revelation from multiple sources. For example, Mormon described a pattern in which God communicates to us through multiple channels:
[Angels] are subject unto him, to minister according to the word of his command, showing themselves unto them of strong faith and a firm mind in every form of godliness.
And the office of their ministry is…to prepare the way among the children of men, by declaring the word of Christ unto the chosen vessels of the Lord, that they may bear testimony of him.
And by so doing, the Lord God prepareth the way that the residue of men may have faith in Christ, that the Holy Ghost may have place in their hearts, according to the power thereof; and after this manner bringeth to pass the Father, the covenants which he hath made unto the children of men (Moroni 7:30-32).
Angels appear to prophets (“the chosen vessels of the Lord”), who then deliver messages to everyone else (“the residue of men”). But the goal isn’t for everyone else to simply believe the chosen few. The goal is for everyone to receive the Holy Ghost and receive revelation for themselves.
When Lehi shared with his family the things he had learned by visions and dreams, one of his sons, Nephi, prayed to the Lord for confirmation. In response, “He did visit me,” Nephi wrote, “and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father” (1 Nephi 2:16).
Nephi didn’t just receive a confirmation of his father’s words. He also learned additional information as he continued to pray to God (1 Nephi 2:18-24). His father had told him that the Lord had commanded them to “depart into the wilderness” (1 Nephi 2:2), but God explained to Nephi that they were traveling to a “land of promise” (1 Nephi 2:20).
Similarly, when Nephi and his brothers had failed twice to retrieve the brass plates in Jerusalem, and his brothers wanted to give up, an angel appeared, commanding them to try one more time (1 Nephi 3:29). The angel told them what to do but not how to do it. Nephi learned the “how” from the Holy Ghost as he obeyed the words of the angel (1 Nephi 4:5-6).
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf has explained that we can receive personal revelation while we listen to inspired messages from church leaders:
Answers to your specific prayers may come directly from a particular talk or from a specific phrase. At other times answers may come in a seemingly unrelated word, phrase, or song. A heart filled with gratitude for the blessings of life and an earnest desire to hear and follow the words of counsel will prepare the way for personal revelation (“General Conference—No Ordinary Blessing,” Ensign, September 2011).
Today and tomorrow, I will prepare to receive personal revelation as I listen to the words of the Lord’s prophets. I will listen carefully to their words, knowing that their talks provide an opportunity not only to hear inspired messages but also to draw closer to God and receive personal revelation from Him.