How can I tell when I’m receiving revelation?
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“How can I tell when I’m receiving revelation?” New Era, Mar. 1984, 12–13

“How can I tell when I’m receiving revelation?”

Answer/Lindsay R. Curtis, M.D.

I have a dear friend with whom I went fishing. He seemed uneasy during the trip and shortly confided to me that he had just returned from a visit with his son-in-law in another state. During this visit he had a strong feeling that he should give his son-in-law a father’s blessing but felt somewhat constrained because he was not his father.

As we discussed his uneasy feelings, it was decided that he should phone his son-in-law immediately upon our return from the fishing trip. During the phone call my friend’s son-in-law, with considerable emotion and tears, confided the great need and desire he had felt for a father’s blessing. He had earnestly prayed that his father-in-law, to whom he felt very close, would know of his desires and give him such a blessing.

When we pray to our Father in Heaven for help, he often answers us by inspiring one of his other children here on earth to provide that help. Generally speaking, the Lord does not speak with a clap of thunder but through the whisperings of a still, small voice as he inspires one of his children to help another in need.

The keystone to our Church is revelation. Beginning with revelation through our prophets for the Church as a whole, it continues through the General Authorities, each in his specific calling, and through the various other authorities—regional representatives, stake presidents, bishops, organizational heads, quorum presidents, home teachers, heads of families, and individuals. Each of these is entitled to revelation concerning his own responsibility.

When we were each baptized and confirmed members of this Church, we were promised that we would have the Holy Ghost as a constant companion as long as we were worthy of it. In this special way every member of the Church is entitled to revelation for himself. But how can we know when the Lord is truly revealing his will to us? In general, there are three different tests that confirm to us that it is revelation from God.

  1. He will enlighten our minds so that we will know of a surety that these things are true, because the Lord said, “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart” (D&C 8:2). Also, “Thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind; and … thou hast been enlightened by the Spirit of truth” (D&C 6:15).

  2. Christ is the Prince of Peace. He will cause us to have a feeling of peace in our hearts and in our minds, and that feeling will bring comfort, reassurance, confidence, certainty, and conviction to our souls. As the Lord said to Oliver Cowdery: “Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?” (D&C 6:23).

    By contrast, Satan is the author of confusion, doubts, misgivings, qualms, negativism. His influence causes uneasiness and misery. Satan’s influence is so different from Christ’s that we can easily recognize the difference.

    Yes, we can know when the answer comes from the Lord by the way we feel peace in our hearts and in our minds, the second way in which we can recognize revelation from the Lord.

  3. After we study our problem out in our minds, we are counseled to ponder and pray about it and ask his help. We are promised, just as Oliver Cowdery was taught, that if the course chosen is correct, the Spirit will “cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.”

If, on the other hand, the decision is wrong, “you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought,” a third test for validity of the inspiration or revelation we receive. (See D&C 9:8–9.)

On three successive visits to Brigham Young after the Prophet’s martyrdom, Joseph Smith instructed him that “they can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other Spirits; it will whisper peace and joy to their souls; it will take malice, hatred, strife and all evil from their hearts.” How well that describes the influence of the Prince of Peace upon men’s hearts and minds.

Elder Boyd K. Packer tells of experiments conducted with audiospectographs in which the songs of birds were recorded on graphs. Through this means it was discovered that there are many, many songs of birds that are not audible to the human ear simply because our hearing apparatus is not attuned to those particular wavelengths. Is it not possible that we are missing many messages from our Father in Heaven, messages in which he would like to instruct us through revelation regarding our lives, our decisions, and our destinies? Is it not possible that we are receiving far more answers to our prayers and supplications than we think, but we are not hearing them because we are not attuned to the proper wavelength to hear these sacred and important communications? Perhaps we are simply too busy or too preoccupied to listen attentively for that particular revelation that the Lord wants to give us.

A revelation for me? Yes, if I desire one badly enough to tune in and listen attentively. Yes, I can have a revelation from God, a revelation just for me, one through which my life and the lives of others may be blessed.

  • Former Bishop and Mission President