Bruce R. McConkie, “How to Get Personal Revelation,” Tambuli, Apr 1981, 4
I would like to speak about some spiritual realities and about some of the basic things that we need to do to “… work out our own salvation with fear and trembling …” (Philip. 2:12) and to be worthy members of God’s kingdom here in this life and to qualify for our eternal reward in the life after this one. I would like to speak about receiving personal revelation, how each individual member of the Church can come to know of the divinity of the work, can have the whisperings of the Spirit in his heart and soul, and in addition, can see visions, speak with angels, behold the face of the Lord, and receive all the knowledge and wisdom that has been poured out upon faithful people in any age.
As a people, we are in the habit of saying that we believe in latter-day revelation. We announce that the heavens have been opened, that God has spoken in our day, that angels have ministered to men, that there have been visions and revelations, and that no gift possessed by the ancients has been withheld.
But usually, when we talk in this way, we are thinking of the examples of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, or Spencer W. Kimball. We are thinking of apostles and prophets. We are thinking of them and of the Church itself operating on the principle of revelation.
Now there is no question at all about this: The organization that we belong to is literally the Lord’s kingdom, it is designed to prepare and qualify us to go to the celestial kingdom, and this Church is guided by revelation. I have sat in meetings with the apostles on several occasions when the prophet of God on earth has said in humility and with fervent testimony that the veil is thin, that the Lord is guiding and directing the affairs of the Church, and that it is his Church and he is making his will known to us.
There is inspiration at the head of this Church, and the Church is fulfilling its purpose. It is progressing in the way that the Lord wants it to progress so that, as rapidly as our strength permits, his message can go to his other children in the world, and so that we, as members of the kingdom, can cleanse and perfect our lives and be worthy of the choicest blessings now and hereafter.
But revelation is not restricted to the prophet of God on earth. The visions of eternity are not reserved for General Authorities. Revelation is something that should be received by every individual. For the Lord said in D&C 1:35 “… I am no respecter of persons …” and every soul is just as precious to him as the souls of those who are called to positions of leadership. Because he operates on principles of eternal, universal law, any individual who obeys the law that entitles him to get revelation can know exactly what President Kimball knows, can speak with angels just as well as Joseph Smith spoke with them, and can be in tune with all things spiritual.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said:
“Reading the experiences of others, or the revelation given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation to God. Knowledge of these things can only be obtained by experiences through the ordinances of God set forth for that purpose. Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section 6, Subheading 59, paragraph 1, p. 324.)
I think our concern is to get personal revelation, to know for ourselves what the “mind and the will of the Lord who ruleth over all Flesh …” (D&C 133:61) is pertaining to us in our individual concerns and to receive confirmation of his mind and will as pertaining to his church.
There are two kinds of knowledge, intellectual and spiritual. While we are in school we seek knowledge primarily in the intellectual area, which knowledge probably comes by reason and through the senses.
This is a tremendously vital and important thing—we encourage all people who desire to progress and have enlightenment and advancement in their lives to improve their intellect.
But, I suggest that we need to devote an increasingly large portion of our time in the pursuit of spiritual knowledge. When we deal with spiritual realities, we are not talking about gaining something merely by reason or through the senses. But we are talking about revelation—about learning how to come to a knowledge of the things of God by tuning the spirit that we have to the eternal Spirit of God. This is the channel and the way that revelation comes to an individual.
It does not concern me very much that somebody evaluates either a doctrinal or a Church problem of any sort when he does it from the standpoint of intellect alone. Everything spiritual is in total and complete accord with the intellectual realities that we arrive at through reason. But when the two are compared as to their relative merits, the things that are important are spiritual things and not intellectual things. The things of God are known only by the Spirit of God.
It is true that you can reason about doctrinal matters, but you do not get religion into your life until you feel something in your soul, until there has been a change made in your heart, until you become a “new creature of the Holy Ghost (2 Cor. 5:17). Thanks to God, every member of the Church has the opportunity to do this because, after baptism, every member of the Church obtains “the gift of the Holy Ghost” (D&C 33:15), which means that he then has the right to constant companionship of this member of the Godhead, based upon his personal righteousness and faithfulness.
Now I say that we are entitled to revelation. Every member of the Church is entitled to get revelation from the Holy Ghost; he is entitled to have angels visit; he is entitled to view the visions of eternity; and he is entitled to see God the same way that any prophet in reality has seen him.
We think in terms of prophets who tell the future destiny of the Church and the world. But, the fact is that every person should be a prophet for himself and in his own affairs. It was Moses who said, “Would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them” (Num. 11:29).
It was Paul who said, “Covet to prophesy” (1 Cor. 14:39).
They counsel that, with all our heart and with all our strength, as individuals, for our private and personal concerns, we should seek the gift of prophecy.
Let me read a few statements from the revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith that outline the formula by which we as individuals can come to know the things of God by the power of the Spirit.
The Lord said: “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you which shall dwell in your heart.
“Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation (D&C 8:2–3.)
This revelation speaks of Spirit speaking to spirit—the Holy Spirit speaking to the spirit within me and in a way incomprehensible to the mind. But it is plain and clear to spiritual understanding—conveying knowledge, giving intelligence, giving truth, and giving sure knowledge of the things of God. This applies to everyone.
“God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, that has not been revealed since the world was until now;
“Which our forefathers have awaited with anxious expectation to be revealed in the last times.” (D&C 121:26–27.)
This is a glorious passage. This is directed to every person in the Church. In other words, it is a personal revelation to you.
“For thus saith the Lord—I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end.
“And to them [everyone in God’s kingdom] will I reveal all the mysteries, yea, all the hidden mysteries of my kingdom from days of old, and for ages to come, will I make known unto them the good pleasure of my will concerning all things pertaining to my kingdom.
“For by my Spirit will I enlighten them, and by my power will I make known unto them the secrets of my will—yea, even those things which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor yet entered into the heart of man.” (D&C 76:5, 7, 10.)
Now, I said we can speak with angels, we can have dreams, we can have visions, we can see the face of the Lord. Here is one promise in that area:
“Verily, thus saith the Lord: It shall come to pass that every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am” (D&C 93:1).
The Prophet said that the veil might possibly be removed today or any day, if we come together as the elders of the kingdom in faith and in righteousness and qualify to have the visions of eternity. Here is a statement from Joseph Smith:
“Salvation cannot come without revelation [and I am not now speaking about the revelation that brought the dispensation in which we live—I am speaking of personal revelation to individuals]; it is vain for anyone to minister without it. No man is a minister of Jesus Christ without being a prophet. No man can be a minister of Jesus Christ except he has a testimony of Jesus; and this is the spirit of prophecy. Whenever salvation has been administered, it has been by testimony. Men of the present time testify of heaven and hell, and have never seen either; and I will say that no man knows these things without this.” (Teachings, section 4, Subheading 13; p. 160.)
We are entitled to revelation. Personal revelation is essential to our salvation. The scriptures have many illustrations of what has happened. Here is one of the things Nephi recorded:
“If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you” (1 Ne. 15:11).
There is a Book of Mormon statement about some tremendously successful missionaries, the sons of Mosiah:
“They were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.
“But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting; therefore they had the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and when they taught, they taught with power and authority of God.” (Alma 17:2–3.)
I will give one more quotation. This is the Prophet Joseph Smith:
“A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas. So that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus”(Teaching, section 3; second to the last subheading: p. 151).
The scriptures have many references to revelation. The prophets have said much about it. What it means to us is that we need religious experience we need to become personally involved with God. We need to do what the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “gaze five minutes into heaven.”
Religion is a matter of getting the Holy Ghost into the life of an individual. We study, and we need to evaluate. Through studying we come up with some foundations that get us into a spiritual frame of mind. In the end, the result is we get our souls touched by the Spirit of God.
Would you like a formula on how to get personal revelation? It might be written in many ways. My formula is simply this:
1. Search the scriptures.
2. Keep the commandments.
3. Ask in faith.
Any person who will do this will get his heart so in tune with the Lord that there will come into his being, from the “… still small voice which whispereth through and pierceth all things …” (D&C 85:6) the eternal principles of religion. And as he progresses and comes nearer to God, there will be a day when he will speak with angels, when he will see visions, and finally view the face of God.
Religion is a thing of the spirit. Use all your intellectuality to help you, but in the final analysis, you have to get in tune with the Lord.
The first great revelation that a person needs to get is to know of the divinity of the Church. We call that a testimony. When a person gets a testimony, he has thereby learned how to get in tune with the Spirit and get revelation. By getting in tune he can get knowledge to direct him in his personal affairs. Then ultimately enjoying and progressing in this gift, he can get all revelations of eternity that the Prophet or all the prophets have had in all the ages.
To some extent I, along with you, have received revelation. I have received revelation that tells me that this work is true. And as a consequence, I know it. And I know it independent of any study and any research, and I know it because the Holy Spirit has spoken to the spirit that is within me and given me a testimony. As a consequence, I can stand as a legal administrator and say in truth that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that Joseph Smith is his prophet, that Spencer W. Kimball is a prophet today, that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true and living Church upon the face of the whole earth.
And further, in connection with the matter we are here considering, I can certify and testify that every living soul who will obey God’s laws, search the scriptures, keep the commandments, and ask in faith, can have personal revelation from God to the great glory and satisfaction of his soul here and to his ultimate salvation in the many mansions (see John 14:2) on high.^ Back to top