“Lesson 4 Class Preparation Material: The Doctrine of Revelation,” Foundations of the Restoration Teacher Material (2019)
“Lesson 4 Class Preparation Material,” Foundations of the Restoration Teacher Material
In the winter of 1828–29, a 22-year-old schoolteacher named Oliver Cowdery learned of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the gold plates while boarding with Joseph’s parents in Palmyra, New York. After praying in private to know if what he had heard was true, Oliver felt a convincing assurance of peace. He traveled to Harmony, Pennsylvania, where he met the Prophet. Convinced that the message Joseph shared of the restored gospel was true, Oliver served as Joseph’s scribe in translating the Book of Mormon. Not long after Oliver began helping with the translation, the Prophet received revelations that provided instruction to Oliver and addressed his desire to help translate. The words from the Lord to Oliver found in Doctrine and Covenants 6:14–15, 22–23 help us to better understand ways He may speak to us.
When Joseph received this revelation, “Oliver was astonished. He immediately told Joseph about his [earlier] prayer and the divine witness he had received. No one could have known about it except God” (Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, vol. 1, The Standard of Truth, 1815–1846 , 62).
When Oliver desired to translate portions of the plates, the Lord taught him more about receiving revelation.
Speaking of how the Lord communicates to both our minds and hearts through the power of the Holy Ghost, Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained one way that this could happen:
A communication to the heart is a more general impression. The Lord often begins by giving impressions. Where there is a recognition of their importance and they are obeyed, one gains more capacity to receive more detailed instruction to the mind. (Richard G. Scott, “Helping Others to Be Spiritually Led” [address to CES religious educators, Aug. 11, 1998, 4], ChurchofJesusChrist.org)
Elder Craig C. Christensen of the Seventy has also taught:
We all have experiences with the Holy Ghost, even though we may not always recognize them. As inspired thoughts come into our minds, we know them to be true by the spiritual feelings that enter into our hearts. (Craig C. Christensen, “An Unspeakable Gift from God,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2012, 14)
Sometimes you may wonder if a thought or feeling is really from God. Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles discussed how we can tell the difference between the Holy Ghost and our own thoughts in the video “Patterns of Light, Part 2: Discerning Light” (2:12).
At times, you may feel frustrated when it seems that the revelation you seek does not come. When this happens, you might consider the Lord’s instruction to Oliver Cowdery when he felt frustrated at being unable to receive the revelation necessary to translate the plates (see Saints, 1:62–64).
President Dallin H. Oaks of the First Presidency explained a principle we can learn from the Lord’s teachings to Oliver Cowdery:
We will get promptings of the Spirit when we have done everything we can, when we are out in the sun working rather than sitting back in the shade praying for direction on the first step to take. …
So we do all we can. Then we wait upon the Lord for His revelation. He has his own timetable.
… Being taught by the Spirit is not a passive thing. Often the Lord’s communication does not come until we have studied matters out in our own minds. Then we receive a confirmation. (Dallin H. Oaks, “In His Own Time, in His Own Way,” Ensign, Aug. 2013, 24, 26)
Even when you have prepared yourself to receive revelation through your worthiness and faithful actions, the Lord’s answers may not come immediately.
Elder Scott counseled:
What do you do when you have prepared carefully, have prayed fervently, waited a reasonable time for a response, and still do not feel an answer? You may want to express thanks when that occurs, for it is an evidence of His trust. When you are living worthily and your choice is consistent with the Savior’s teachings and you need to act, proceed with trust. … When you are living righteously and are acting with trust, God will not let you proceed too far without a warning impression if you have made the wrong decision. (Richard G. Scott, “Using the Supernal Gift of Prayer,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 10)
Watch the video “Patterns of Light: Spirit of Revelation” (3:04), or study Elder Bednar’s statement below:
Some revelations are received immediately and intensely; some are recognized gradually and subtly. …
A light turned on in a dark room is like receiving a message from God quickly, completely, and all at once. Many of us have experienced this pattern of revelation as we have been given answers to sincere prayers or been provided with needed direction or protection, according to God’s will and timing. … However, this pattern of revelation tends to be more rare than common.
The gradual increase of light radiating from the rising sun is like receiving a message from God “line upon line, precept upon precept” (2 Nephi 28:30). Most frequently, revelation comes in small increments over time and is granted according to our desire, worthiness, and preparation. … This pattern of revelation tends to be more common than rare. …
Another common experience with light helps us learn an additional truth about the “line upon line, precept upon precept” pattern of revelation. Sometimes the sun rises on a morning that is cloudy or foggy. Because of the overcast conditions, perceiving the light is more difficult, and identifying the precise moment when the sun rises over the horizon is not possible. But on such a morning we nonetheless have sufficient light to recognize a new day and to conduct our affairs.
In a similar way, we many times receive revelation without recognizing precisely how or when we are receiving revelation. (David A. Bednar, “The Spirit of Revelation,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 88–89)