(A beautiful painting of Joseph Smith praying)
How can you know if your answer to prayer, your personal revelation, is true?
How can you know if your answer to prayer – your personal revelation is true? This is not like political advertising, calculated to convince us of half truths. This is not about competing narratives where only one can be really true, while the rest must be false. If you want to know the truth of your own personal revelation, then you must test it. If you feel the promptings of the spirit to do something, then do it, and see what happens. Alma, in the Book of Mormon, suggests that we treat it like a seed, and make an experiment out of it. But debating its validity in a sort of theoretical way, won’t ever provide you with that answer.
Joseph Smith talks of “pure intelligence” flowing into you:
A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God,will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.
However, as Boyd K. Packer points out, revelation does not “flow without effort” on the part of the person desiring it.
To one who thought that revelation would flow without effort, the Lord said:
“You have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.
“But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.”
This burning in the bosom is not purely a physical sensation. It is more like a warm light shining within your being.
Describing the promptings from the Holy Ghost to one who has not had them is very difficult. Such promptings are personal and strictly private!
Each individual’s personal revelation is different
Latter-day Saints don’t believe that differences in personal revelation between different individuals means that those others who pray and receive different messages than we do are wrong and not really receiving answers to their prayers. What it means is that they are receiving personal answers to their prayers from a loving Heavenly Father, and we are receiving personal answers to ours. Personal revelation is this wonderful thing precisely because it creates these differences. Some may have “spectacular” experiences, while others may experience revelation only through a still, small voice.
Boyd K. Packer:
We do not seek for spectacular experiences. President Spencer W. Kimball spoke of the many who “have no ear for spiritual messages … when they come in common dress. … Expecting the spectacular, one may not be fully alerted to the constant flow of revealed communication.”
A revelation given to the whole Church is limited by the whole Church
A revelation given to the whole Church is limited by the whole Church. Joseph Smith said that “It is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church, or any one, to receive instruction for those in authority, higher than themselves.
On the other hand, the revelation we receive comes to us individually, personally, and from our unique perspective helps us to refocus on that distant absolute truth that are slowly working towards. It isn’t about “getting it right now” so much as it is about making it more right so that we become better people. And in the end, it is the light that God gives us (individually and collectively) that becomes the ruler that we are measured with. And this of course gives us great hope that we (individually) can be saved despite all the strange notions and ideas we have both believed and sometimes abandoned over the years.
Just because someone else receives a different message than you did doesn’t mean that either you or they are wrong
And of course, just because someone else receives a different message doesn’t mean that you (or they) are wrong. We are all working towards that perfection even if the roads we take start from different places and have different turns and twists. The idea that revelation to all individuals about a specific topic should always be the same really stems more from a Protestant view of religion, with its inerrant view of texts.