Revelation and Emotional Response


If you have read a few of my past essays, you may have noted that one of my favorite subjects is revelation, and specifically personal revelation.  It is only within the last few years since I started blogging that I have come to realize revelation is a controversial subject even among members of the church.  To me, it is a foundational doctrine, much like faith, and the basis for a testimony.

Sharing sacred experiences

I have shared a couple of examples of personal revelation from my own life in previous essays.  I know we have been counseled to keep sacred experiences private, but I felt impressed to share them as evidence that the Lord does give revelation to common members of the church like me.  I like to think that my experiences are typical, or at least I thought so until I started sharing them.

Elder Oaks said, “Although we are generally counseled not to speak of sacred things … there are times when the Spirit prompts us to share these experiences, sometimes even in a setting where our account will be published.”  Brigham Young said he would rather hear the people tell of their own powerful sacred experiences with the Holy Ghost than to hear any other kind of preaching.

Leaving a Record for Others

So I’d like to add another one of those experiences to my online record.  A fellow blogger shared with me that one of his primary motivations for writing and posting essays was so that his sons would have a record of his faith, experiences and testimony.  I feel the same way and hope that someday what I disclose here will help to strengthen the testimonies of others who may read this.

In the Young Single Adult ward where I serve as ward clerk, Carol and I recently shared the story of how we met and married.  My part of the story involves a sacred revelatory experience.  In order to get the full story, you might want to review Carol’s side of the tale as found on her blog.  She provides much more of the background leading up to the experience I address here.

No Date before Proposal

Carol and I did not date before I proposed marriage to her.  I had been off my mission for a few years and had graduated with a degree as a professional computer nerd. I had started my career in tech support and was working in Hollywood when she came home from her mission.  I happened to be dating her best friend who invited Carol along on our date to Mormon Night at Disneyland.

It was a fun date – for Carol and me.  We hit it off immediately.  Carol was happy to be home and was talkative.  Of course, what she talked about was her mission and the young lady I was dating just couldn’t relate.  I could.  I loved Carol’s enthusiasm and found myself commiserating with her sadness at having to leave and go back to the real world.  We talked almost all night.

Doing my Homework

For the next three months I continued to pursue Carol’s friend through dating and other social activities such as church firesides.  Occasionally Carol would be part of a group of young adults going to the movies, to the San Diego Zoo or some other activity.  It was Carol that came over to keep me company several nights while I was recovering from having a wisdom tooth pulled.

Yet I was infatuated with this other girl and kept petitioning the Lord in prayer to soften her heart towards me.  I fasted often, went to the temple and did all I could to show the Lord that I was serious about getting married.  I sent this young lady a dozen red roses with a note confessing my love for her.  I simply could not understand why she didn’t seem to respond with enthusiasm.

The Dodger Game

One day Carol invited me to meet her at Dodger Stadium, which I did after work.  So I told her about sending flowers to our mutual friend and asked her advice how I could get her to like me.  I noticed that Carol got real quiet.  I looked over to see her drawing a picture of a little broken heart on her Dodger program.  She then quietly excused herself, left the game and drove home.

I thought about that all that evening and the next morning.  I decided that it was inappropriate to have shared with her my efforts to win her best friend’s heart.  So I stopped by Carol’s house after softball practice to apologize for hurting her feelings.  She brushed off my apology but I dug deeper and asked her about how she felt about important things like family and marriage.

Revelation to Heart and Mind

It was then that the most amazing thing happened to me.  The Spirit of the Lord came over me in a way I have rarely felt.  While Carol was talking, the Lord communicated to my heart and my mind a vision of us living together many years down the road.  It was pure intelligence flowing into my being.  It was an answer to prayer more powerful than anything I had ever expected.

I can count on one hand these kinds of powerful revelatory experiences up to that point in my life.  In addition to what I saw in my mind’s eye, I heard a voice, just as distinctly and clearly as if someone had spoken, say to me that Carol and I could be very happy together.  It was not an audible voice but it registered in the same manner as if I heard it and that was astonishing to me.

Feelings and Revelation

But along with what I saw and heard, I began to feel a most powerful feeling. The scripture says that the Lord will tell us in our mind and in our heart when something is correct.  He also tells us that we must study it out first.  I had done my homework.  I had done my part.  I had asked for revelation and had studied it out.  I knew what I wanted and was living worthily of that answer.

We have been promised by apostles and prophets that the Lord will not leave us alone to make the most important decisions of our life.  Who we decide to marry has eternal consequences.  Acting on behalf of the Lord, these prophets have promised us that we can receive revelation to know for a certainty that the path we are pursuing is the right one and will lead to happiness.

Revelation is Personal

This is no idle promise.  It is real.  I am a living witness of the reality of such assurances.  A prophet had promised me that if I went on a mission, got an education and then sought earnestly for a companion with whom I could be happy, that the Lord would provide one.  That answer came in a powerful way to me on that day.  It was unmistakable revelation to me from the Lord.

Note carefully that when the revelation came to me, it was not intended for Carol.  The voice did not say, “Carol needs to marry you” or even that Carol would marry me.  It simply said that we could be very happy together.  It was an answer to my prayer and was intended for me.  It was what I needed to cause me to take action with confidence and to then ask Carol to marry me.

The Marriage Proposal

I wasted no time.  I told her what I was feeling.  She could see that something was affecting me.  I also told her that I felt impressed to ask her to marry me.  She was shocked.  I said, “I’d like to be sure so I’m going to fast and pray about it today and tomorrow.  Will you do the same?”  She said yes and invited me to come for Sunday dinner after church.  We then parted for the day.

After fasting and praying, I still felt the same way, so I formally proposed to Carol over roast beef dinner at her mom’s house.  She said yes.  Carol’s journal says that I didn’t even sit with her in church that morning.  We were both stake missionaries and had an investigator at church and so I sat with him instead.  I had not yet gotten used to the idea of thinking for two instead of one.

We can Receive Revelation

This sacred revelatory experience ranks high on my list of incidents that have influenced me in a powerful and enduring way in my life.  I had been taught by church leaders growing up that I could receive revelation.  I believed it.  I expected it.  So I was not surprised when it came.  But I was not expecting it to be so intense and dramatic.  Perhaps that was because it was so important.

Along with what I saw in my mind’s eye and heard in my thoughts, the Lord impressed upon me a feeling in my heart so comforting and unmistakable that I simply could not doubt that what I had received came from God.  It felt as familiar then as it has felt every time I have experienced it since that time.  I am confident that I knew and understood this feeling from before this life.

The Burning of the Bosom

I don’t always trust my feelings but I have learned to trust this one.  I know from many years of experience that some feelings are temporary and fleeting.  The feeling I get when the Spirit is trying to communicate to me is one that has an underlying sense of eternity.  It’s hard to explain to one who hasn’t experienced it.  I have come to learn it can be interpreted many different ways.

For me, the burning of the bosom that accompanies personal revelation has become very real.  It is a strong, powerful and very comforting feeling.  I can feel it when I am listening to particularly inspiring and motivational speakers in General Conference or any church meeting.  I have felt it in prayer.  I have felt it in giving priesthood blessings.  I always feel it when I speak in church.

Revelation and emotional response

But the personal revelation I receive is not in the comforting feeling by itself.  That is just the spirit of the Lord bearing witness to me that what I am learning or participating in is important.  The feeling also comes in warning me away from danger or in preparing me for bad news.  It is an amazing thing to have the gift of the Holy Ghost but it can take a lifetime to understand it.

Receiving revelation is not the same as experiencing the burning of the bosom.  However, some, including me, almost always feel this comforting sensation when receiving revelation.  It is up to each of us to learn how to distinguish between the comforting influence of the Holy Ghost that often or usually accompanies the receipt of revelation and an emotional response to something.

For a great discussion of this see Gerald N Lund. “Our Own Emotions as a Form of Counterfeit Revelation.”  Hearing the Voice of the Lord. Salt Lake: Deseret Book, 2007: 243.

12 Responses

  1. Tim,

    Great to hear from you. Excellent insights. Thumbs up.

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  2. Tim,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences through your blog. I really appreciate this post.
    I have truly been struggling with personal revelation. It can be such a subtle thing and my personal emmotions always seem to cloud the issue. I loved the book you referenced by Bro. Lund. I often use it as a guide post to try and help me sort things out.
    One challenge I currently face is a member of our congregation in authority. Everyone says, you know ______ is a visionary man. He often stops and looks up and away and then says, “I had a vision……”. The problem is, these experiences always leave me uncomfortable. Sometimes I feel outright creepy. If this was happening outside of church I might think this individual was schizophrenic. I have never felt so devoid of the spirit as I have durring a few interviews with him. But these sensations aren’t consistent either.
    Others have shared experiences and I feel that quiet sense of warmth fill my body. I felt that sense while reading your post. Thank You for sharing in a spirit of humility. It is a blessing to those of us still trying to sort the whole personal revelation thing out.

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  3. Hi Maritime Mum. Thanks for stopping by and especially for adding to the dialog with your great observation about the challenge you are currently facing. Hundreds of readers stop by, most for only seconds, while some take the time to read at length. And then rarely, someone like you adds a much appreciated excellent comment that inspires me.

    Personal Revelation is something I am still learning even after a lifetime of experience. I want to make clear that the experience I related in this essay was rare, unique and sacred in my memory. As I noted, I can count on one hand the number of powerful manifestations like this that I have received. I have written about two others previously.

    Why do I share these most sacred jewels in a public forum like this when we have been repeatedly counseled and warned that personal revelation is just that – personal – and not intended for others? I have thought long and hard about this and have concluded that what I share, if done appropriately, may be of some help to someone, someday.

    In particular, I’m thinking of my own son, who isn’t currently interested in stuff like this. I’m hoping that someday he will have a change of heart. This shared experience might be just the thing that helps him realize that Heavenly Father is very interested in helping us find answers to life’s most important questions like who do I marry. He helped me.

    I’m also hoping that what I share is helpful to those who are struggling with the concept of personal revelation in general – either that it isn’t real or questioning what they thought was revelation received earlier in their lives. I wanted to go on record that yes, personal revelation is real and can be received if we ask for it and when we need it.

    Apparently what you bring up is more common than I have personally observed because it seems like the Brethren are always warning us about false revelation and reminding us that personal revelation is just that – personal. So what do you do when a man in a church leadership position creeps you out because of the way he shares his visions?

    If he is not the Bishop, you go to your Bishop. If he is your bishop, then you go to your Stake President. Unfortunately, I have read horror stories of sisters who do this and come away feeling a) like their leader did not share their concern and b) that it was somehow their fault for not being more tolerant or understanding of the visionary brother.

    Maybe we give Brother Lund’s book to this good brother as a present. I know I have enjoyed reading it and have referred to it many times over the past few years in writing my essays on the subject of revelation. It is a fine line to receive, understand and where appropriate as a leader, share revelation. Otherwise, keep your visions to yourself, right?

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  4. I enjoyed very much reading your experience, but stories like this make me feel discouraged. I served a mission, fulfill my callings, try to be consistent with prayer and scriptures study and try to be faithful, but I don’t have the kind of personal revelation that you and others seem to have. I do feel the spirit at various times, but not the revelation, answers to questions, warnings, etc that I so desire. I get discouraged because I don’t know what more I can do.

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  5. Hi Anon. Thanks so much for leaving your comment about the difficulty you are experiencing in receiving personal revelation. You are not alone in this struggle. I have had dialogs with other individuals like you on this subject several times on this blog.

    It has been one of the consuming tasks of my life to learn how to be in tune with the spirit of revelation. My relating of these experiences was not intended to demonstrate how easy it is to receive revelation. In fact, I hope they show the exact opposite.

    I want to be clear that the kind of revelation I have described in this essay is a very rare event in my life. As I have noted elsewhere, I can count these kinds of profound and dramatic experiences on one hand. They all came early in my life.

    For me, revelation usually comes in the spirit of inspiration and insight. It is only when I have really fasted and prayed often and with great struggles for a specific reason that the remarkable kinds of experiences I have described came to pass.

    I like what Elder Hales said a few years back on the subject. I wonder just how many members of the church do not realize that they have received personal revelation. Perhaps its just a matter of learning to recognize and acknowledge it. He said:

    “…we may receive personal revelation more frequently than we realize. The more we receive and acknowledge personal revelation, the more our testimonies grow.” – Elder Robert D. Hales, Ensign Nov 2007, p. 86

    The Prophet Joseph Smith was a bit more blunt. He taught that revelations are a real part of enjoying the gift of the Holy Ghost: “No man can receive the Holy Ghost without receiving revelations. The Holy Ghost is a revelator.” History of the Church, 6:58

    But my favorite quote that is the most blunt and telling comes from President Lee. It can seem a little harsh but I know he intended it to be encouraging. A rich spiritual life can be ours if we pay the price of diligent study and praying with real intent.

    “…any Latter-day Saint who has been baptized and who has had hands laid upon him from those officiating, commanding him to receive the Holy Ghost, and who has not received a revelation of the spirit of the Holy Ghost, has not received the gift of the Holy Ghost to which he is entitled.” – President Harold B. Lee, Liahona, Feb 1980, p. 38

    I share these essays not to discourage, but to encourage. I know we can receive personal revelation. I’m just a regular member of the church but I have found that the Lord does answer prayers and provides direction in our lives. He is especially willing to help us with ideas and inspiration as we fulfill callings in the church.

    One of the most comprehensive talks I have read about how to receive personal revelation is from L. Lionel Kendrick, which you can read in BYU Speeches, 20 May 1997 at http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=2860&x=67&y=11

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  6. Tim, I want you to know that it is of help. I can always feel a special Spirit as I read your experiences. Thank you for sharing them.

    Even in the wonderful place where the Spirit of Ricks resides, it can be hard to feel guided. This helped.

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  7. Hi Tim, :)

    Thanks for sharing that! It was interesting and inspiring. Now I’m going to have to go read your wife’s part…

    I have a question about this part:
    “A prophet had promised me that if I went on a mission, got an education and then sought earnestly for a companion with whom I could be happy, that the Lord would provide one.”

    Do you have a reference for that? (I was just thinking about something similar two weeks ago.)

    Thanks,
    grego

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  8. Hi Grego,

    I was unable to find the reference. Maybe it was the spirit whispering to me as I heard President Kimball speak on “Marriage and Divorce” while I was in the MTC at BYU 7 Sep 1976. He used phrases like: “Honorable, happy, and successful marriage is surely the principal goal of every normal person.” He also said, “It is the normal thing to marry. It was arranged by God in the beginning. One is not wholly normal who does not want to be married.” At the time I said to myself, “that’s my goal after I get home from my mission.”

    Here are some similar quotes that he made a few years earlier, also at BYU:

    “As I visit with missionaries I remind them of their many specific goals: to get their marriage, their family, their education, their occupation, their training. They can, by careful planning, have all the blessings they want if they take first things first. For instance, if they marry first, their chance for a mission is greatly limited, if not locked out. If they get their schooling first, their chance for a mission is limited. Taken on a basis of priorities, practically every normal young man can have a wonderful mission, a good marriage, a satisfactory educational training, each in its turn, having all.”

    “Missionaries should begin to think marriage–when they return from their missions, to begin to get acquainted with many young women so that they will have a better basis for selection of a life’s companion. And when the time comes they should marry in the holy temple and have their families, and complete their education, and establish themselves in a profitable and rewarding occupation, and give themselves to their families, the gospel, and the Church.”

    Source: BYU Speeches, Marriage is Honorable, Sept 30, 1973

    You’ve caused me to think about my statement. I’m not sure that the Lord would make such a promise – to provide a spouse if we go on a mission and get an education. In fact, as I re-read the talks from President Kimball, it’s clear that he was emphasizing that we not let pursuing an education or a career delay getting married first.

    However, since marriage is a commandment, it seems to me that the Lord would be more than willing to help his faithful returned missionaries find a suitable marriage companion. Perhaps that’s the promise that I heard growing up. So unless someone else can find a reference, I’m going to retract or revise my statement from “provide” to “help me find.”

    I’ll do some more digging when I get some time. Thanks for getting me thinking.

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  9. I’ve heard missionaries/ returned missionaries say that type of thing, especially my best friend. We talked about it once, but it made me wonder…

    Nevertheless, your quote-sharing provided me with an excellent quote I will use when I speak with members about missions and marriage. Thank you very much!

    I don’t doubt at all that it could have been the Spirit giving you personal revelation.

    And I don’t doubt it’s a general principle, even sometimes for those not so “normal”.

    But when I hear others saying it as if it were a general promise to all, and especially when they were imagining “just going on a mission” and “being ok” was good enough, and imagining the Lord providing someone so much better than them (hot! hot! hot!) and not having things work out the way they would like (as per your story ;) ), they get frustrated that “the Lord isn’t doing his part”… :(

    grego

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  10. I really appreciate this essay. I have found that many people deny themselves the opportunity to recognize that they are receiving revelation. When we consider that ‘revelation’ means that something has been ‘made known’ (revealed), then the definition of “personal revelation” may expand to include anything from the highly sacred kinds of experiences you describe here all the way to those “ah-ha” moments we have all the time, while listening to a speaker, studying the scriptures, discussing something with a friend, or pondering a particular principle.

    I hope “anon” is able to expand their own understanding of this beautiful gift, and recognize that their Heavenly Father desires to be known by ALL of His children. I’m reminded of the scene in the Old Testament where Moses receives word that others are prophesying throughout the camp. Rather than become defensive of his role as the Lord’s annointed prophet, he humbly observes that it would be great if EVERYONE could prophesy. While prophecy and revelation are related but different from one another, I believe the principle is the same.

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  11. [...] for the average Mormon 23. Thoughtful discussion of controversial topics 24. 2012 the movie 25. Revelation and emotional response 26. Add your profile to Mormon.org 27. The attitude of mocking 28. Objections to the Book of [...]

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  12. [...] what her plans were and how she felt about family and the things of eternity. An amazing feeling of revelation then came upon me. Again, it was a revelation from God, personal and direct to. I saw us in my mind’s eye thirty [...]

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