The Best & Worst of Personal Revelation

By: shenpa warrior
August 30, 2011

For every “I knew then that I should marry him, and we’ve had a great marriage” there is a “I married him because the Spirit told me to, but we have nothing in common and argue all the time.”

Personal revelation can take many forms. For example:

  • WORST: “I was prompted to buy the VW van instead of the Toyota, but the VW broke down 9 times.”
  • BEST: “I was suddenly warned to hit the brakes, which prevented a major accident.”
  • WORST: “I received an answer to my prayer that I was to be a plural wife of the mission president.”
  • BEST: “I was prompted to call Brother Smith and tell him what a great job he did on the lesson.”

Despite the fact that many report personal revelation on some of these mundane matters (some, of course, not so mundane!) Elder Lionel L. Kendrick taught:

It is a misconception to believe that we should consult Heavenly Father on every matter in life. He expects us to solve a portion of our problems without petitioning Him for potential solutions. It is through this process that we grow, develop, and become more perfect. He is not always concerned about mundane matters unless they are not in keeping with sacred principles. We should daily petition for the companionship of the Holy Ghost. With this presence of the Spirit, we will feel the promptings without petitioning Heavenly Father on every personal matter.

What do you think qualifies as something worthy of personal revelation? Finding your wallet? Finding your dog? Healing from an illness?

The purpose of this discussion is not to debate the reality or rationality of the personal revelation of others. For the sake of the discussion, let’s take it at face value, based in the experiences of those who are doing the reporting.

What are some of the WORST examples of personal revelation that you or someone you know has experienced? What are some of the BEST examples of personal revelation? As we’ve done in the past, remember to try to include both in your comments!

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22 Responses to The Best & Worst of Personal Revelation

  1. Jon on August 30, 2011 at 5:54 PM

    What do you think qualifies as something worthy of personal revelation? Finding your wallet? Finding your dog? Healing from an illness?

    Finding your shoes, if you’re a child and it helps you to have a greater faith in God. Otherwise, it’s not a big deal.

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  2. hm on August 30, 2011 at 6:08 PM

    it seems like its just so hit and miss.

    the folks in “under the banner of heaven” felt they had revelation to murder a family.

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  3. shenpa warrior on August 30, 2011 at 6:13 PM

    Jon – I like that, thanks. I think that fits well with God speaking to our own level of understanding.

    hm – Agreed! That is partly one of my points here. UTBH definitely portrays one of the “Worst” examples. I had forgot about that one, thanks.

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  4. Jayme on August 30, 2011 at 9:22 PM

    I have always heard what the Kendrick quote teaches. I have come to think of revelation as more of a confirmation that what I am doing is right or an insight that it is wrong.

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  5. Jared on August 30, 2011 at 10:00 PM

    My experience has taught me that if we’re sincere in our prayers Heavenly Father will intervene in our lives. This includes some things that we may consider mundane. If it is important to us, it is important to Him.

    With that said, He will also help us understand that we need to be diligent in pursuing whatever it is we are asking Him to help us with.

    I’ve found that asking Him question about how prayer and revelation work is one way to receive guidance. He will teach us if we are sincere and willing to be patient. I have also found out how important fasting and prayer are to gaining access to the Spirit.

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  6. Paul on August 31, 2011 at 6:20 AM

    SW: “For every ‘I knew then that I should marry him, and we’ve had a great marriage’ there is a ‘I married him because the Spirit told me to, but we have nothing in common and argue all the time.’”

    Really? One for one? I doubt it, but have no statistics to back up my view.

    Jared: “If it is important to us, it is important to Him.”

    I don’t know about this. This is not the same as Jon’s shoe example. I guess it depends who decides what is important to us. If God does, then I suppose you may be right.

    Elder Scott also spoke on this subject not too long ago and suggested that sometimes when we don’t get answers we should proceed as we think best, trusting that inspiration will come when it is needed the most.

    My own view: we can take anything we want to the Lord. My own experience is that if I’m ready to accept His view about what’s important for me, then I will feel more peace.

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  7. jmb275 on August 31, 2011 at 7:35 AM

    I struggle a lot with this topic. I feel like generally the tendency is to quickly assign “revelation” and/or “God’s will” status to things that seem to work out, and ignore or otherwise downgrade impressions that lead to bad results. I would absolutely LOVE to see some sort of statistics on whether or not most impressions turn out to be good.

    As a result of this, and the fact I place a lot of importance on reliability, I find personal revelation to be exceedingly unreliable for me personally. I have definitely had impressions or answers turn out to be absolutely dead wrong, and I’ve had impressions that were right. I am sure there are people out there so in tune they can distinguish between the two, but I cannot.

    OTOH, I’ll point out something else. Throughout most of my life things work out. I do what I think is best after careful thought and analysis, taking into account my feelings as well, and generally things work for me. I get good job offers that come at the “right” times. I get scholarships, run into money, or otherwise get blessings at opportune moments. Is this all personal revelation? I have no idea.

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  8. Jeff Spector on August 31, 2011 at 8:07 AM

    ” I feel like generally the tendency is to quickly assign “revelation” and/or “God’s will” status to things that seem to work out, and ignore or otherwise downgrade impressions that lead to bad results.”

    I particular pet peeve of mine from way back in High School when all my friends were being “saved.”

    Everything good that happened was “of God” and everything bad was “of the devil.”

    I love the idea of personal revelation and receiving answers to our earnest prayers.

    But if it is not “good to be commanded in all things” and we are here to be tested, somewhere along the way we have to make our own choices. Receiving conformation is wonderful, but acting on faith that we know the right way to go is also a blessing.

    We always make the “right” decision at the time we make it, even it it turns out wrong. How many of us would consciously decide to make the ‘wrong’ decision?

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  9. hawkgrrrl on August 31, 2011 at 8:30 AM

    jmb275 – I think that’s having a good attitude! Not sure it’s personal revelation.

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  10. Jon on August 31, 2011 at 8:37 AM

    By definition, if it turns our right, it is of God. That’s what the scriptures say at least. If it points to Christ or bears good fruit it is of God.

    Joseph Smith said that we get inspired by God, self, or the devil. Like when he tried to sell the copyright to the BoM for printing in Canada so it would be printed up there, it didn’t work out so he said it was revelation from himself and not of God.

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  11. Jon on August 31, 2011 at 8:49 AM

    @jmb275, This isn’t the right place for this but just thought I would tell you that I enjoyed listening to the last Mormon Stories podcast with you and your mom in it. It definitely helps me to understand people’s different circumstances and it helps to recognize from what viewpoint you take on these different issues/ideas.

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  12. Jared on August 31, 2011 at 10:24 AM

    I’ve learned that we grow in our ability to receive revelation. It is like anything else in this life, it takes time and experience to improve our skills in whatever undertaking we’re involved with. We need to be patient and ask God with real intent for help to grow in our ability to discern His Spirit from all others.

    God wants to make us His friends. I’ve been reading the D&C for the last 9 months and this idea of being friends with the Savior is clearly taught.

    We have agency. If we choose to follow Christ then we can become not only His friends, but Sons and Daughter; joint heirs with Him.

    My experience in receiving revelation (guidance) in answer to prayer has taught me that He answers prayers in many different ways.

    Over the years, I’ve made a few mistakes, but it allowed me to better understand the workings of His Spirit. He teaches us through our mistakes as well as our successes. In a few instances, when I’ve needed to have more than a subtle answer, I heard a voice speak to me, I didn’t see anyone. This kind of communication is done my ministering angels.

    I’ve fasted and prayed for many years with the purpose of learning how to increase and understand the workings of the Spirit. I have not been disappointed.

    The Lord clearly teaches that if we will let virtue garnish our thoughts unceasingly our confidence will grow strong in our ability to draw near to Him and we will be rewarded with the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.

    I believe much of what is written and discussed in the Bloggernacle doesn’t qualify as virtue. I’m not saying this to be critical. I am pointing out what I think it takes to draw nearer to the Lord.

    The scriptures and the prophets gives us all the teachings and tools we need to draw near to the Lord, be His friends, and gain greater access to things of the Spirit. We have a choice.

    There is a Book of Mormon scripture that says it well:

    4 And there are many among us who have many revelations, for they are not all stiffnecked. And as many as are not stiffnecked and have faith, have communion with the Holy Spirit, which maketh manifest unto the children of men, according to their faith.

    (Book of Mormon | Jarom 1:4)

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  13. Jared on August 31, 2011 at 10:50 AM

    #6 Paul–

    I think you make an important point about not expecting God to answer prayers over things we are perfectly capable of deciding ourselves.

    I like the following scripture for its use of the word “expedient”.

    18 Ask the Father in my name, in faith believing that you shall receive, and you shall have the Holy Ghost, which manifesteth all things which are expedient unto the children of men.

    (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 18:18)

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  14. Course Correction on August 31, 2011 at 12:04 PM

    I think the most reasonable request we can make of God is asking for help in opening our minds and using our own resources to solve problems and make decisions.

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  15. Heber13 on August 31, 2011 at 12:23 PM

    I think personal revelation is the same as scriptures.

    You make draw whatever conclusions what you from it, and have it mean what you want, but somewhere in there is some truth and peace and comfort.

    It just isn’t the same for everyone, and there is no scientific formula to make it work.

    God moves in mysterious ways. I like the comments above about experience, because it takes faith and effort over time to figure it out. And when you think you’re getting close, it all changes and there is more to learn.

    In my younger years, I thought it was cut and dry, and relied on personal revelation for everything.

    My experience has led me to accept it is not cut and dry, and I’m still trying to figure out what that means to me now.

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  16. BethSmash on August 31, 2011 at 1:06 PM

    I am definitely not the most “in tune” and yes, we have one of those braking stories in my family, except for it was a merge right, RIGHT NOW story – and then the gravel truck ahead of her on the freeway lost it’s load. And I find one of the hardest things is awaiting the answer. When I was picking out a school for my MA I prayed SO HARD about it, because it was the first time I was moving away from home. And I absolutely had to move out of state to get my degree. And nothing, nothing, nothing. Until one day I was waiting for the train and I had this absolute moment of grace, when I knew that it’d be okay to go where I wanted to go. And it came to me while I was waiting on a noisy platform on my way to work during a busy afternoon, when I hadn’t even really been THINKING about it. So… yeah, that’s my one absolute story of feeling the spirit – and it totally didn’t happen on my time line or when I wanted it to.

    So… that’s my best story, now I don’t actually have any of the ‘bad’ stories. When I was little, I used to pray all the time for inspiration in finding things lost in my room (I was an incredibly messy child) not sure I actually ever got an answer though. But I THOUGHT I would.

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  17. GBSmith on August 31, 2011 at 1:45 PM

    The worst for me was praying and fasting for help at a critical point in my life and not receiving any recognizable answer.

    The best was finally realizing that there wasn’t any answer coming, not then, not ever.

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  18. jmb275 on August 31, 2011 at 2:12 PM

    Re Jon

    @jmb275, This isn’t the right place for this but just thought I would tell you that I enjoyed listening to the last Mormon Stories podcast with you and your mom in it. It definitely helps me to understand people’s different circumstances and it helps to recognize from what viewpoint you take on these different issues/ideas.

    Hey thanks! I appreciate it. I’m only hoping I didn’t make a fool of myself. I alluded to some of my issues with my faith but since it wasn’t the point of the podcast I didn’t go into much detail. I tried to make it clear though that I’m a TR holding, church going Mormon through and through.

    By definition, if it turns our right, it is of God. That’s what the scriptures say at least. If it points to Christ or bears good fruit it is of God.

    I guess so. I mean it’s a completely vacuous, self-reinforcing statement that provides no value other than to retrospectively make ourselves feel better (or encumber us with guilt). I mean it may be true, but so what?

    Joseph Smith said that we get inspired by God, self, or the devil. Like when he tried to sell the copyright to the BoM for printing in Canada so it would be printed up there, it didn’t work out so he said it was revelation from himself and not of God.

    And ultimately, I think this is the problem. It may be true but how does one know a priori? Apparently Joseph didn’t really know either.

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  19. Jon on August 31, 2011 at 3:46 PM

    @jmb275,

    I guess so. I mean it’s a completely vacuous, self-reinforcing statement that provides no value other than to retrospectively make ourselves feel better (or encumber us with guilt). I mean it may be true, but so what?

    Yes, I agree. It really just comes down to, do you believe in God or not. If you do, then how much do you believe he interacts with us? Only the individual can answer that question, since they are personal beliefs. I guess we try and group them ourselves together when we share these common beliefs. Points to ponder.

    I think some people are more spiritually inclined and so are able to find those answers more easily, for us that are not though, it is more difficult. I think it is a gift to look at the principles and understand those, that’s what I try and do at least. Maybe, one day, I’ll do better at the spiritual side, it’s work. Like you said, Eastern religions can help with that I think, that’s what’s nice about Mormonism, it encompasses all thought, as long as it leads to Christ it is considered good.

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  20. Ray on August 31, 2011 at 4:46 PM

    I think we judge Laman and Lemuel too harshly in at least one instance – when Nephi asked if they had inquired of the Lord and they said, “He maketh no such thing known unto us.” We tend to assume that is proof of their wickedness – but we also have scriptures that say some are given the gift ot know, while others are given the gift to believe. Maybe Laman and Lemuel were just being honest about the fact that they didn’t have the gift to know (to receive a Lehi- or Nephi-like vision) – and maybe part of their “rebellion” was that Lehi and Nephi didn’t understand that and kept insisting that they could receive that type of knowledge IF ONLY they weren’t so hard-hearted.

    I’ve had some flat-out amazing experiences in my life with revelation that I can only understand as purely revelatory (making unknown things known – uncovering what previously was covered). I also have had impressions or answers that seemed like failure at the time (shortly after acting on them) but look like success now, looking back at where they took me and my family. I’ve also had impressions and answers that still look like failure. I don’t know why that is – why I have had experiences that are so different; I just know that some of them simply can’t be explained logically as anything but “revelation”.

    The “best” was the baby blessing of our second son. Absolutely revelatory and prophetic, since I said some things that I had no intention of saying and that I had no reason whatsoever to think needed to be said. The heavens opened at that moment, and God spoke through me. I have NO doubt of that.

    The “worst” was a business decision that ended horribly and cost me and my family pretty much everything we had. I have come to believe that the initial impression was valid and could have worked, but the way I went about it was naive and wrong – but that is just my best interpretation at this time.

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  21. Geoff - A on September 1, 2011 at 4:29 AM

    I’m not sure ability to recieve guidance is a question of worthines, or spirituality, I think that some are more willing to believe than others. I also think heavenly parents help some more than others.

    Do you help/intervene in the lives of your younger or more mature children more?
    If I say in my family I have a feeling, inspiration etc. the response is laughter because I have no credibility having been wrong so often.
    We were asked for examples and no one has, except for the baby blessing.
    A relatively recent example I was unemployed and needed money. I prayed while in the temple and understood(was convinced/believed)that if I paid my tithing for the coming year in advance I would be successful in selling a car I owned and be liquid for as long as I needed. This was faith testing as paying the tithing in advance did not help the financial situation. I paid the tithing but the car did not sell.
    That was the clearest prompting I have ever recieved and it failed. Difficult to believe any prompting.
    My rationale to myself is that the Lord belives I will manage and be more godly by it. Do we think our heavenly parents rely on guidance from someone else or are they left to run the show on their own. At what stage do we require more support?

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  22. jmb275 on September 1, 2011 at 11:02 AM

    Re Geoff-

    A relatively recent example I was unemployed and needed money. I prayed while in the temple and understood(was convinced/believed)that if I paid my tithing for the coming year in advance I would be successful in selling a car I owned and be liquid for as long as I needed. This was faith testing as paying the tithing in advance did not help the financial situation. I paid the tithing but the car did not sell.
    That was the clearest prompting I have ever recieved and it failed. Difficult to believe any prompting.
    My rationale to myself is that the Lord belives I will manage and be more godly by it. Do we think our heavenly parents rely on guidance from someone else or are they left to run the show on their own. At what stage do we require more support?

    Thanks for sharing Geoff. It’s these kinds of things (and I have examples in my own life too) that make me seriously question the way we view revelation. Not to pick on you Geoff, but in your last paragraph you invent what seems like a rational reason that allows you to continue to believe. It makes perfect sense we do it (and we all do). At some point, at least for me, those types of reasons broke down and were no longer adequate in explaining such hiccups in the revelatory process.

    What I find interesting is how people weigh in on their experiences. For example, Ray pointed out a best and worst example of revelation. Perhaps Ray, on average, has more positive experiences than negative (most likely biased by retrospective rose-colored glasses since Ray’s a believer) so he keeps on believing (NOTE: Ray this is not an insult, just what I imagine is a true observation. You know I love ya). But I have also heard Ray talk about the experience of blessing his son. I wonder, Ray, if you don’t give more weight to your positive experience (and all the emotion it entails) and downplay the negative experience (which clearly cost your family dearly economically speaking). I’m not saying that’s wrong or anything (in fact it’s probably healthier) I just think it’s interesting to consider.

    Alternatively, I wonder if I downplay the good experiences too much and focus too much on the negative experiences.

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