We can learn a lot about prophetic and personal revelation from Moses. When Israel came to Moses for help, murmuring that they had only manna to eat, Moses cried unto the Lord, saying: “I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me” (Numbers 11:14).
In response, the Lord called seventy elders of Israel to help bear this burden, saying to Moses: “I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone” (Numbers 11:17).
But Moses wanted something more; he wished that “all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!” (Numbers 11:29). In other words, Moses desired that the people would be worthy to receive the Holy Ghost to direct them.
Today our leaders frequently encourage us to seek personal revelation, in addition to what we learn from the prophets. As President Russell M. Nelson explained, “It will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.”1 We have to know how to follow the prophet’s counsel while also seeking counsel for our own lives.
Some Church members struggle with distinguishing between prophetic and personal revelation. But the Lord has made it very clear who is and is not allowed to receive revelation for the whole Church, as illustrated in Numbers 12.
Aaron and Miriam began doubting Moses’s role as the prophet, asking: “Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us?” (Numbers 12:2).
The Lord replied:
“My servant Moses … is faithful in all mine house.
“With him will I speak mouth to mouth” (Numbers 12:7–8).
The Lord clarified this principle many years later in Doctrine and Covenants 28, teaching that Churchwide revelation comes only to the appointed prophet: “But, behold, verily, verily, I say unto thee, no one shall be appointed to receive commandments and revelations in this church excepting my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., for he receiveth them even as Moses” (verse 2).
So where does personal revelation fit into all of this? President Dallin H. Oaks, First Counselor in the First Presidency, explained:
“[The] personal line of communication with our Heavenly Father through His Holy Spirit is the source of our testimony of truth, of our knowledge, and of our personal guidance from a loving Heavenly Father. …
“… In its fulness the personal line does not function independent[ly].”2
Prophetic revelation given to the Church is applicable to all, while personal revelation helps us know how to apply those teachings in our lives. Personal revelation from the Lord can confirm what the prophet teaches; it will not contradict revelation He gives to His prophets.
Here are a few examples of prophetic counsel that invite personal revelation:
Changes made to home and visiting teaching. Our prophets and apostles have counseled us about the ultimate goals of ministering, which was instituted in place of home and visiting teaching in 2018, but the format leaves room for members to decide how to best minister to specific individuals and families.
Come, Follow Me study. Introduced Churchwide by the First Presidency in 2018, the manual gives us an outline and a suggested line of study, but each individual and family determine how to structure their study to fit their specific needs.
Revelation is a gift, and by seeking personal revelation, we can learn how to apply prophetic counsel in our lives.
Modern revelation is beautiful. Its existence means that Heavenly Father wants to communicate with us, and He has provided us with multiple ways to receive revelation from Him. But it can take practice to learn how the Spirit speaks to us and what Heavenly Father wants to reveal to us.
The best thing we can do, in President Nelson’s words, is to ask and be willing to receive: “What wisdom do you lack? What do you feel an urgent need to know or understand? … Find a quiet place where you can regularly go. Humble yourself before God. Pour out your heart to your Heavenly Father. Turn to Him for answers and for comfort.”3
The Lord truly wants to speak to us—both personally to our minds and hearts and to the Church as a whole through His prophet. As we seek the blessing of personal revelation, we will be guided throughout our lives.