Question: The official revelations to the Church apparently ended with the 1890 Manifesto issued by President Wilford Woodruff. What is the position of the Church on continuous revelation?
Official revelations to the Church did not end with those relating to the 1890 Manifesto. Revelations have come constantly and often to the leaders of the Church before and since that day. In all ages when the recognized Church of the Lord has been on the earth, God has communicated with it and given it direction.
One outstanding example of revelation was the spectacular vision of the redemption of the dead received by President Joseph F. Smith in 1918, shortly before his death. At the semiannual general conference in October 1918, he said that during the previous five months he had “dwelt in the presence of the Spirit of the Lord. … I have not lived alone these five months. … I have had my communications with the Spirit of the Lord continuously. …” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Life of Joseph F. Smith [Deseret News Press, 1938], p. 466.)
This vision revealed to us some new light in relation to the visitation of our Lord to the spirits of the dead.
President Smith had been pondering upon the scriptures and the important work for the dead. He said: “… the eyes of my understanding were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me, and I saw the hosts of the dead. …” (Ibid., p. 467.)
There followed a recital of numerous spiritual experiences relating to the other world. At its close he bore testimony: “Thus was the vision of the redemption of the dead revealed to me, and, I bear record, and I know that this record is true. …” (Ibid., p. 471.)
President Heber J. Grant related an example of the revelations of the Lord to him. For twenty-two years he had felt the inspiration of the living God directing him in his labors. He wrote: “From the day that I chose a comparative stranger [Melvin J. Ballard] to be one of the apostles, instead of my lifelong and dearest living friend, I have known as I know that I live, that I am entitled to the light and the inspiration and the guidance of God in directing His work here upon the earth. …” (Gospel Standards [Improvement Era, 1941], pp. 196–97.)
In ancient days the Lord commanded Moses to build an edifice that could be transported in the wilderness by the children of Israel. In 1841 he again commanded his Saints in Nauvoo to build a house unto him. He revealed to them the place, the materials, and the time. After indicating that washings and anointings and certain baptisms and memorials, solemn assemblies, and other holy ordinances should be done in his holy structure only, he concluded with these words: “… which my people are always commanded to build unto my holy name.” (D&C 124:39.)
Brigham Young was told four days after the Saints reached the Salt Lake Valley to build the Salt Lake Temple on a certain spot. St. George, Logan, and Manti temple sites were revealed later. The same kind of revelations came to the sixth prophet of this dispensation, Joseph F. Smith, to build holy houses in Hawaii and Canada. The seventh prophet, Heber J. Grant, was directed by the Lord to build temples in Arizona, Idaho Falls, and Los Angeles. Revelations came to the ninth prophet, David O. McKay, to build holy houses in Switzerland, New Zealand, England, Provo, Ogden, Oakland, and Washington, D.C.
“Surely the Lord God will do nothing but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7.)
The Lord gave us the organization of the Church and he calls the people to give it leadership. In our own day, he has revealed the expansion of the organization to meet the needs of a fast-growing world organization. And he has provided for officers of the Church, other than the Twelve and the First Council of the Seventy, to hold high and responsible offices. (See D&C 107:98.)
More than a score of men have been called by revelation to fill those posts as Assistants to the Twelve and recently almost a hundred Regional Representatives of the Twelve have been called.
When Judas’s fall created a vacancy in the twelve apostles, Peter, James, and John and their associate apostles gathered for prayer and revelation under their presiding leader, Peter. “And they prayed, and said, Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men, shew whether of these two thou hast chosen.” (Acts 1:24.)
This procedure has taken place some fifty or more times since that notable day, and fifty or more apostles have been called “by prophecy and by the laying on of hands”—the same Lord, the same procedure, the same position, but new leaders as the older ones passed to their reward. Other General Authorities are replaced in the same manner.
Almost every Sabbath two or three new stake presidents are called in that same manner by apostles of the Lord. Every week dozens of new bishops are installed in the Lord’s church, all having been called by prophecy and approved by the prophet of the Lord and his apostolic associates.
Policies and programs needed for the expanding Church come forth from the top leaders after much prayer and consideration.
No, revelation has not ceased and will not cease. This kingdom of God has been set up for the rest of time, never to be torn down nor given to another people. It is a continuous program and will grow instead of diminish. Its doctrines are well established, but because of growth and expansion, improved ways are afforded to teach the gospel all over the world. Additional servants are called to the increasing work for a bigger world. Revelation and other miracles will never cease unless faith ceases. Where there is adequate faith, these things will continue.
The prophet Mormon warned: “Yea, wo unto him that shall deny the revelations of the Lord, and that shall say the Lord no longer worketh by revelation, or by prophecy, or by gifts, or by tongues, or by healings, or by the power of the Holy Ghost!” (3 Ne. 29:6.)