I had the opportunity to give a talk on this topic to a congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ in Provo, UT. The following is the transcript.
Good morning! My name is Matt Swensen. Today I will be talking about how personal revelation helps us prepare for eternal life. (Personal revelation is a process by which God communicates with us directly, leading and guiding our lives.)
I will start by sharing with you a weakness that I am working through. I tend to rely upon my own capacities more than I rely on the Lord, especially when it comes to solving problems or dealing with trials. What I have learned while preparing for this talk is that while our efforts to move forward and learn from our own experiences are an important part of our purpose—I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try to solve our own problems—learning how to rely on the Lord and follow personal revelation is even more important.
This is what then-Elder Packer (now President Packer) said about it in an October 1994 General Conference address:
Physically you can see with eyes and hear with ears and touch and feel and learn. Through your intellect, you learn most of what you know about the world in which we live…
But if you learn by reason only, you will never understand the Spirit and how it works—regardless of how much you learn about other things…
Your spirit learns in a different way than does your intellect.
Our Heavenly Father did not put us on earth to fail but to succeed gloriously… Sometimes we unwisely try to face life by depending on our own experience and capacity. It is much wiser for us to seek through prayer and divine inspiration to know what to do.
Brothers and sisters, I know that we will be better off if we rely more on the Lord than on our own intellect. We can do this by seeking personal revelation from the Lord.
Personal revelation helps us prepare for eternal life because we learn how to follow the will of God, and therefore become one with Him. The Savior outlined this type of unity in His great Intercessory Prayer in the 17th chapter of John. Keep in mind that when He refers to “these” or “they,” He is referring to us—recipients of personal revelation. He said:
Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
Put another way, eternal life is being one with God. Personal revelation helps us achieve that.
When we communicate with others, we get to know them better. The same is true with our communication with God. Personal revelation helps us know His will, His wisdom, and His personality. The concept of knowing God is an important part of our faith, as outlined in verse three of the same chapter of John:
And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
In other words, personal revelation helps us prepare for eternal life because it helps us know God.
I have divided the rest of my talk into three short topics: (1) how to receive personal revelation, (2) the blessings of receiving personal revelation, and (3) the importance of recording personal revelation when we receive it.
How to Receive Personal Revelation
In the aforementioned talk, Elder Packer outlines the process by which we can elicit personal revelation. He breaks it down clearly into two basic steps.
The first is prayer. We must use our agency (freedom of choice) to pray and ask. Elder Packer points out in his talk that the invitation to “ask and ye shall receive” (John 16:24) is one of the most common commandments in the scriptures. We need to humbly go before the Father in prayer and lay out our questions, asking for His divine help.
After we pray, we must study the issue. The Lord expects us to put forth effort before He will give us the answer. Sometimes He answers by directing our study to find what we need. Usually, this means turning to the scriptures or to the words of the modern-day prophets.
Receiving the Revelation
The Lord will then communicate with us, according to His will and timeline. Elder Packer points out that when we feel the answers come, it is primarily a spiritual feeling. Occasionally the spiritual light is accompanied by physical sensations and emotional feelings (like warmth and peace).
A Personal Experience
One of the most distinct personal revelations I have received in my life was when I knew I was to marry Christine. We had been dating and communicating long-distance for a few months, and I had come to know that she embodied everything that was important to me in an eternal companion. I knelt in prayer, asking Heavenly Father if it was in line with His will that we be married. My mind and spirit filled with light and some specific words from my patriarchal blessing came to my mind—as if I had been looking at them on the page—affirming to me that I should move forward.
The Blessings of Receiving Personal Revelation
In addition to the blessing of preparing for eternal life, there are many other blessings that come with personal revelation.
Increased Confidence in God’s Love For Us and in His Caring For Us
For example, when Heavenly Father hears and answers our prayers, we gain an increase in our confidence that God loves us and is actively watching over us. We feel His love and we feel closer to Him. Our testimony that he is indeed our Father is strengthened. In the 14th chapter of 3rd Nephi, the Savior echoed to the Nephites the words he once gave to his disciples in His Sermon on the Mount:
Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.
Or what man is there of you, who, if his son ask bread, will give him a stone?
Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
Strength to Move Forward
When we act upon the revelation we receive, we have more strength to move forward even when the way is difficult. This is because we know that we are in line with God’s will and we trust in His power to do all things. We are not aimlessly wandering, hoping that we made the right choice or are following the right path; we are progressing with confidence toward achieving eternal goals and becoming more like our Heavenly Father.
The Importance of Recording Personal Revelation When We Receive It
This strength and confidence relates directly to my last topic: the importance of recording personal revelation when we receive it. Christine and I have experienced this first-hand. As many of you have discovered or will discover, growing your family with children is a singular blessing that brings its own unique challenges. During those challenges, Christine and I have often looked back to the specific experiences when we received direction from the Lord regarding our family. Being able to read our own words about those sacred experiences has given us great strength.
I invite all of us to make a habit of always writing down our spiritual impressions. We will be so glad we did.
Not only will our journals give us strength in the days ahead, but they can benefit our future generations. When I gave a talk in this ward last year I shared a journal entry from one of my ancestors and how it strengthened my testimony. I have had several more of similar experiences since because of the diligence of my ancestors in writing in their journals.
Brothers and sisters, I know that Heavenly Father is there. I think that He is closer to us than we realize. He wants to communicate with us and has given us the pattern by which we can ask Him for help. I know that He loves us. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.