Teachings of Presidents
Chapter 20: The Still, Small Voice of Revelation

“Chapter 20: The Still, Small Voice of Revelation,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant (2011), 180–87

“Chapter 20,” Teachings: Heber J. Grant, 180–87

Chapter 20

The Still, Small Voice of Revelation

As we live the gospel, we receive the light, inspiration, and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

From the Life of Heber J. Grant

President Heber J. Grant declared, “I value all things as nothing in comparison with having the spirit of God to guide me.”1 He made this statement toward the end of a long life in which he had been blessed with the companionship of the Holy Ghost. “I know as I know that I live,” he once said, “that [God] has directed me from boyhood, that he has heard and answered my prayers, that I have had revelations … from the Lord, and have endeavored to carry them out.”2

In addition to receiving guidance in his personal life, President Grant received revelations as President of the Church to guide the Church as a whole. One such revelation came just after he was set apart as President of the Church, when he sought the will of the Lord in appointing a new member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. As he pondered this responsibility, his thoughts turned repeatedly to his lifelong friend Richard W. Young, a faithful Latter-day Saint and a proven leader. President Grant discussed this possibility with his counselors, who supported his decision. When he finally felt confident with this course of action, he wrote his friend’s name on a piece of paper and took the paper with him to the weekly temple meeting with the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve. However, when he was about to present the name for the approval of his Brethren, he was unable to do so. Instead of presenting the name of Richard W. Young, he presented the name of Melvin J. Ballard, a man whom he hardly knew.3 President Grant later told of the impact this experience had on him:

“I have felt the inspiration of the living God directing me in my labors. From the day that I chose a comparative stranger to be one of the apostles, instead of my lifelong and dearest living friend, I have known as I know that I live, that I am entitled to the light and the inspiration and the guidance of God in directing His work here upon this earth.”4

Teachings of Heber J. Grant

As we keep the commandments and serve the Lord, the Holy Spirit will be our constant companion and guide.

The Lord gives to many of us the still, small voice of revelation. It comes as vividly and strongly as though it were with a great sound. It comes to each man, according to his needs and faithfulness, for guidance in matters that pertain to his own life.

For the Church as a whole it comes to those who have been ordained to speak for the Church as a whole. This certain knowledge which we have that the guiding influence of the Lord may be felt in all the ways of life, according to our needs and faithfulness, is among the greatest blessings God grants unto men.5

I rejoice … that every Latter-day Saint, every humble son and daughter of God that has embraced the gospel and become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has received the witness of the Holy Spirit; that the gift of tongues, the gift of prophecy, of healing, and other gifts and blessings, are found in the Church, and are not confined to men that hold responsible positions in the Church. I have listened to some of the most spirited and able, and some of the finest sermons of my life from men who held no official position. …

It is not position, it is not education that gives the Spirit of God; but it is keeping the commandments of Almighty God and being lowly in heart and desiring to fulfill the commandments of God in our daily walk and conversation.6

I beseech you, my friends, I beseech you, my brethren and sisters, one and all, to so live that the light of the holy spirit of God may be your constant companion, enlightening your mind, quickening your understanding, inspiring within you a desire to labor with all the power, with all the ability that God has given you for the accomplishment of His purposes.7

Seek the Lord and He will be with you. If we fail to seek the Lord there is no security for any of us. No man or woman who seeks God’s Spirit and follows its promptings can fail.8

The disposition of too many men is to practice all those things that are gratifying to the appetites and to the passions; but the requirements of the gospel are such that we are not permitted to gratify our appetites; that it is necessary for us to be self-sacrificing, to overcome and subdue these appetites. When we come to examine the requirements, such as the Word of Wisdom, we find that by obeying these we grow in strength of mind and strength of body, and our tabernacles are fit dwelling places for the Holy Spirit of God. We expand and become more godlike when we subdue and put under our feet these passions and appetites which are contrary to the mind and will of our Heavenly Father.9

If any man lacks the Spirit of God, let him go to work and labor for the advancement of the kingdom of God, and he will have the Spirit of God.10

Just in proportion as you and I labor and keep the commandments of God will we be blessed by the light and the inspiration of the Spirit of Almighty God.11

I have discovered that when men serve Him and keep His commandments, that they grow in the knowledge of the truth, that they grow stronger and brighter through the rich outpouring of His Holy Spirit.12

If we neglect our duties, the Holy Ghost will withdraw from us, regardless of how we have been blessed in the past.

Just as surely as failing to eat will cause our physical frames to shrink and die, just so sure neglect to supply our spiritual natures will bring death to them.13

As men become careless, become indifferent, as they break the Word of Wisdom, as they neglect their meetings, as they fail to teach their children by precept and example the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, that they turn away from the faith, the Spirit of God is withdrawn from them, and they are left in darkness.14

As Latter-day Saints, having received the testimony of the Gospel, it devolves upon us to improve upon this testimony by keeping the commandments of God; and, I say to you that the man that grows each day of his life is the man that fills the plain, simple, every-day duties which devolve upon Him. It is not the testimonies that we have had, it is not the many visions that have come to us. Why, the men above all men who were abundantly blessed by seeing angels, by even seeing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, as did Sidney Rigdon and Oliver Cowdery—these men were not kept firm and steadfast in the Church by these great blessings and manifestations. But the men who kept the commandments of God, the men who were faithful in their prayers, the men who sustained and upheld the Priesthood of God at all times and under all circumstances, the men who obeyed the Word of Wisdom, the men who paid their tithing, have always been true and faithful, and have never lost the Spirit of God. Those, however, who have got in a corner, fault-finding, drinking, and having a “good” time, and associating together and having secret meetings, thinking they are not treated right and are not respected enough—this class of men lose the Spirit of God.15

There is no class of Elders that have occupied the public stand to whom I have listened with as much interest, none who have warmed up my heart so much as the returning missionary. They come home full of the spirit of their mission, filled with the Spirit of God and love for their fellowmen. … But it seems that in too many cases, in a very short time after their return home, they lose their interest and settle down, confining their labors to their own immediate affairs.

It is clearly necessary for you and me, if we expect to reap the reward of faithful service, to labor diligently whether at home or abroad proclaiming the principles of the Gospel. There is no person who can hope to be active and strong physically unless he gets proper exercise; and the same principle holds good with regard to the health of our spiritual organization. The man that goes to college and takes a course of study in law, must not only apply himself diligently while there in order to graduate in his chosen profession, but he must continue to closely apply himself after graduating, or he will amount to little or nothing as a lawyer. So it is with the man who goes out to preach the Gospel and makes a successful missionary; if he does not continue to exercise himself and interest himself in the spiritual welfare of his fellow beings after he returns home, he will sooner or later lose the Spirit he had while in the missionary field.16

When I realize how many of those who have been wonderfully blessed of the Lord have fallen by the wayside, it fills me with humility. It fills me with the spirit of meekness and with an earnest desire that I may ever seek to know the mind and the will of God and to keep His commandments rather than to follow out my own desires.17

When we learn God’s will through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we have a duty to carry it out in our lives.

The keeping of the commandments of God will bring to us the light and inspiration of His Spirit. Then the desire of our hearts will be to know the mind and will of the Lord, and we will pray for strength and ability to carry it out, thereby following in the footsteps of our Lord and Master Jesus Christ.18

I realize that we all have our weaknesses, and that we do and say many things that are not pleasing in the sight of our Heavenly Father; but if we desire above all other things upon this earth to know the mind and will of God, and if we desire the strength of character, after we shall learn the mind and will of our Heavenly Father, to carry it out in our lives, I do know that God will help us, and that as we grow in years and in knowledge and in understanding that we will grow also in the power and the ability to accomplish His will.19

Without the light and the guidance of the Spirit of God the work of God on the earth could not succeed; it would crumble and go to pieces. But there is in the hearts of the people that abiding knowledge which unites and cements them together. When they hear the voice of the true shepherd, they recognize it, and they are ready and willing to follow it.20

There is nothing else that will bring the same joy to anybody as will doing those things that devolve upon them and that are pleasing in the sight of God. We come upon this earth to do the mind and will of the Lord, and it behooves each and all of us to so live that we will be entitled to the revelations of His Spirit, and that when we receive them we will have the courage and the determination to carry them out.21

It behooves every Latter-day Saint to seek for the light and inspiration of the Spirit of God, and after receiving that, to use all the ability that he possesses in laboring for the onward advancement of God’s work. Never be found among the number that try to see how little they can do; but always be found among the number that try to see how much they can do. Have your aim high.22

May the light and inspiration of God be our constant guide and companion. May we grow and increase in the Spirit of God and in the testimony of the Gospel, and in power and ability to accomplish the purposes of our Heavenly Father here on the earth; and may we grow in the desire to do so, is my prayer and desire.23

Suggestions for Study and Discussion

  • Why is it important to understand that revelation comes to individuals according to their own needs? In what ways can revelation guide parents, teachers, and Church leaders in their specific responsibilities? What can result when people claim to receive revelation beyond their own areas of responsibility?

  • Why is obedience to the commandments a requirement for us to enjoy the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost? Why do we receive the influence of the Spirit when we “go to work and labor for the advancement of the kingdom of God”?

  • How can we recognize “the still, small voice of revelation” and distinguish it from other influences? (See D&C 6:15, 22–23; 8:2–3; 11:13–14.)

  • What are some experiences you can share in which you have followed the promptings of the Spirit? How has following the promptings of the Holy Ghost brought you peace and direction in your personal life? in your family life? in your Church assignments? in your work?


  1. In Conference Report, Oct. 1944, 13.

  2. In Conference Report, Oct. 1938, 142.

  3. See Francis M. Gibbons, Heber J. Grant: Man of Steel, Prophet of God (1979), 174–75; see also Bryant S. Hinckley, Sermons and Missionary Services of Melvin Joseph Ballard (1949), 75–76.

  4. Gospel Standards, comp. G. Homer Durham (1941), 196–97.

  5. Gospel Standards, 30; paragraphing altered.

  6. Gospel Standards, 43–44.

  7. In Brian H. Stuy, comp., Collected Discourses Delivered by President Wilford Woodruff, His Two Counselors, the Twelve Apostles, and Others, 5 vols. (1987–92), 1:81.

  8. Address given 22 Nov. 1924; quoted in an unpublished manuscript by Truman G. Madsen, a grandson of President Grant.

  9. “On Overcoming Appetites,” Improvement Era, Apr. 1945, 179.

  10. “How to Be ‘Saved,’” Improvement Era, Mar. 1945, 123.

  11. In Collected Discourses, 5:256.

  12. In Conference Report, Apr. 1912, 107.

  13. Gospel Standards, 98.

  14. In Conference Report, Apr. 1912, 107.

  15. In Collected Discourses, 4:356–57.

  16. In Collected Discourses, 1:335–36.

  17. Gospel Standards, 36.

  18. In Conference Report, Oct. 1899, 18.

  19. In Conference Report, Oct. 1898, 34–35.

  20. Gospel Standards, 375.

  21. “Laid to Rest: The Remains of President John Taylor Consigned to the Grave,” Millennial Star, 5 Sept. 1887, 561–62.

  22. In Collected Discourses, 3:189.

  23. In Collected Discourses, 4:358.