May 1978

“Revelation,” Ensign, May 1978, 38


I want to say to the brethren in the choir, thanks very much for thrilling us with the wonderful musical numbers you rendered tonight.

At one time the First Presidency made this significant statement: “This Church owes its origin, its existence, and its hope for the future to the principle of continuous revelation.” (“Policy Statement of Presidency,” Church News, 10 Jan. 1970, p. 12.)

Revelation in its broadest sense is defined as “communication from God to man.” Revelation comes from the Lord in many different ways.

The first prophet of this dispensation, Joseph Smith, received revelation in almost every way that the Lord communicates his mind and will to man. The first revelation that he received was an actual visitation of our Heavenly Father and His resurrected Son, the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

This first revelation, often referred to as “the First Vision,” had a far-reaching effect. First, it was a flat contradiction of the assumption that revelation had ceased and that God no longer communicated with man. Second, it reaffirmed the truth that man indeed was created in the image and after the likeness of God. Third, it left no doubt and verified that the Father and the Son are two separate and distinct persons, being one only in unity of purpose and of will.

The Prophet received communications from heavenly beings. Such is the case of Moroni who revealed to him the existence of the gold plates which were translated into the Book of Mormon. Later came John the Baptist, who restored the Aaronic Priesthood; and Peter, James, and John, who restored the Melchizedek Priesthood; also the beings mentioned in what is usually called the Kirtland Temple vision. (See D&C 13; D&C 27; D&C 110.)

As we read the Doctrine and Covenants, we become aware that many of the revelations recorded there were received by the Prophet through the use of the Urim and Thummim. This was the instrument employed by the Prophet in translating the Book of Mormon.

The Prophet received divine intelligence by open visions. Such is section 76. [D&C 76] He also received revelation through the inspiration of God operating upon his mind. Indeed, the larger number of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants were received in this manner.

As we study the scriptures, we learn of the other different ways in which the Lord communicates with His children here upon the earth. Stephen, who was stoned to death, became filled with the Holy Ghost. He looked up steadfastly into heaven and beheld “Jesus standing on the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55.) Saul, who was present at the stoning, was active in persecuting Stephen and other followers of Jesus. Later, while on the road to Damascus, he beheld “a light from heaven.

“… he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

“And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” (Acts 9:3–5.)

Saul was converted, and changed his ways, and became known as Paul. Later, he was chosen as an apostle and was a faithful follower and disciple of the Savior.

Ofttimes messages are conveyed by dreams. Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, had several dreams. He called in his wise men and others to interpret those dreams, but they were unable to do so.

Pharaoh had dreamed that he was near a river and that seven head of cattle came up out of the river and fed in the meadow. They were fat, beautiful animals and well fed. Then seven more head came up. They were lean, scrawny, and undernourished; and, falling upon the fat cattle, they devoured them. (See Gen. 41:1–4.)

Pharaoh learned that there was a young man who had been unjustly cast into prison. He had been able to interpret the dreams of Pharaoh’s butler and baker. This young man’s name was Joseph. He was one of the twelve sons of Israel. Joseph had been sold by his brothers to the Ishmaelites, who were on their way to Egypt. Joseph was taken from prison; and when Pharaoh related his dreams, Joseph was able to interpret those dreams. He saw that there would be seven years of plenty. They would be followed by seven years of famine. Joseph suggested that, during the abundant years, a surplus be stored to provide for the time of famine that was to follow. Pharaoh was deeply impressed and, having complete confidence in Joseph, appointed him to be in charge of the storing project. Joseph was granted unlimited powers and authority and was second only to Pharaoh in all of Egypt. (See Gen. 41:9–40; Gen. 37:28.)

One of the best examples of the voice of the Lord coming into one’s mind is Enos. Enos was taught well by his father, but being young and immature, he was somewhat rebellious and committed some minor errors. Later he became aware of his misdeeds and the truth of his father’s teachings. He had a great desire to repent, to put his life in order, and to live righteously. Enos enjoyed hunting very much. One day as he went into the forest to hunt, the teachings of his father were strong in his mind. He had an intense desire to be forgiven of his past misdeeds. Kneeling down, he made earnest supplication to the Lord to forgive him. All day he pled in sincere prayer for forgiveness and continued his prayers into the night. Finally, a voice came unto him saying, “Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee.” Also, having concern for his brethren, he prayed for them. While he was thus struggling in the spirit, the voice of the Lord came into his mind, giving him certain assurances. (See Enos 1:1–17.)

While we know that designated leaders of the Church are sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators, and receive revelation in connection with their callings, we might ask, who else can receive revelation? President Brigham Young taught that every individual can receive revelation for himself. (See Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1941, p. 35.) Parents can receive revelation in connection with rearing their families.

It is my firm belief that the bishop of every ward and the president of every stake have the right to receive revelation as to what is best for their ward and stake members. Also, that every person who accepts a calling from the Lord has the right to receive revelation in connection with that calling if he is living righteously so that he is in tune with the Spirit of the Lord.

But there is one thing that we must remember and keep clearly in mind. This doctrine was expressed by President J. Reuben Clark, Jr., many years ago in these words: The Lord has declared that “the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator for the Church … alone has the right to receive revelations for the Church, … or change in any way the existing doctrines of the Church.” No other member has any such right or authority. (“When Are Church Leaders’ Words Entitled to Claim of Scripture?” Church News, 31 July 1954, p. 2.)

The person that we look to today for revelation is President Spencer W. Kimball. I testify that he does receive revelation from the Lord for the guidance of this Church. May we hearken unto his counsel and have the wisdom and good judgment to follow that counsel, for which I pray in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.