What Are the Mysteries of God?

A knowledge of the mysteries of God was important to Nephi.

  • He knew that he was “highly favored of the Lord” because he “had a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God” (1 Nephi 1:1).
  • His first recorded spiritual experience came because he had “great desires to know of the mysteries of God” (1 Nephi 2:16).
  • After hearing his father’s dream and his father’s prophecies, Nephi wanted to see, hear, and know the same things for himself. He was confident in approaching God in prayer, because he knew that God would “unfold” His mysteries to the diligent seeker of truth (1 Nephi 10:19).

According to the Guide to the Scriptures, “Mysteries of God are spiritual truths known only by revelation.” As Nephi’s brother Jacob taught:

Great and marvelous are the works of the Lord. How unsearchable are the depths of the mysteries of him; and it is impossible that man should find out all his ways. And no man knoweth of his ways save it be revealed unto him (Jacob 4:8).

Our ability to understand God’s mysteries depends largely on our own receptiveness. When King Benjamin called his people together for his final sermon, he implored them to prepare themselves to be taught:

Open your ears that ye may hear, and your hearts that ye may understand, and your minds that the mysteries of God may be unfolded to your view (Mosiah 2:9).

As Amulek later admitted, those mysteries may be right in front of our eyes, but we may miss them or fail to grasp their significance if we are not paying attention:

I never have known much of the ways of the Lord, and his mysteries and marvelous power. I said I never had known much of these things; but behold, I mistake, for I have seen much of his mysteries and his marvelous power; yea, even in the preservation of the lives of this people.
Nevertheless, I did harden my heart, for I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know (Alma 10:5-6).

As Amulek’s missionary companion, Alma, taught Zeezrom shortly after, this is a universal truth: The hardness of your heart is what prevents you from learning God’s mysteries:

It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.
And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.
And they that will harden their hearts, to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell (Alma 12:9-11).

It’s interesting to me how, in this passage, knowing the mysteries of God is equated with salvation, while failing to understand His mysteries is equated with captivity and destruction.

Alma’s friend Ammon taught that we will know the mysteries of God if we take the following actions:

  1. Repent
  2. Exercise faith
  3. Bring forth good works
  4. Pray continually without ceasing

(Alma 26:22)

And Alma made it clear that understanding the mysteries is a process that happens gradually over time, not all at once. As he taught his son Helaman about the importance of the brass plates, he indicated that he had reached the frontier of his knowledge by saying:

Now these mysteries are not yet fully made known unto me; therefore I shall forbear (Alma 37:11).

And to his son Corianton, he said:

Now, I unfold unto you a mystery; nevertheless, there are many mysteries which are kept, that no one knoweth them save God himself. But I show unto you one thing which I have inquired diligently of God that I might know (Alma 40:3).

No wonder President Russell M. Nelson has urged us all to seek for personal revelation. In his talk “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for our Lives” (General Conference, April 2018), he quoted the following promise received by the prophet Joseph Smith in February, 1831:

If thou shalt [seek], thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal (Doctrine & Covenants 42:61).

Then, he quoted the following statement by Elder Neal A. Maxwell:

To those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, it is clear that the Father and the Son are giving away the secrets of the universe! (“Meek and Lowly,” BYU Devotional Address, 21 October 1986).

Today, I will remember the importance of learning directly from God through personal revelation. I will intentionally open my mind and heart to receive the knowledge He is willing to give me. I will be patient as this knowledge comes gradually over time, and I will remember that this knowledge will help me obtain joy and eternal life.

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