“Since we believe in modern revelation, is it ever written down and published and given to the Saints?”
, Director of Correlation Review.
Your question indicates that you believe what the scriptures and the ninth Article of Faith [A of F 1:9] teach regarding continuous revelation.
Of the standard works of the Church, the Doctrine and Covenants contains the bulk of the revelations received during the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith. However, not all of the written revelations received by the Prophet are included in the Doctrine and Covenants.
One consideration is the distinction between the formal revelation (written, as in the Doctrine and Covenants) and the informal (given by inspiration, a form of revelation in the spoken word that is sometimes published).
Only the president of the Church receives revelation for the entire Church and only under his direction may other prophets, seers, and revelators receive the right, the power, and the authority to declare the mind and will of God to his people. When moved upon by the Holy Ghost, their words become scripture. (See D&C 68:4.) But how does the hearer or reader know that they have been moved upon by the Holy Spirit? By that same power which gave the revelation. (See D&C 50:21–24.)
The inspired instructions from the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles become scripture. Each Thursday they meet in the Salt Lake Temple, where decisions are made to further the kingdom of God. The experience of Elder John A. Widtsoe, a member of the Council of the Twelve, illustrates an important point. When asked when the last revelation was received by the Church, he replied that it was probably last Thursday.
Another time when inspiration is received is at the general conferences that are convened twice each year. One acquainted with the proceedings of general conferences knows that Latter-day Saints who take the counsel given there find solutions that bring successful living.
President Harold B. Lee stated the following in a general conference of the Church:
“Now, you Latter-day Saints, I think you have never attended a conference where in these three days you have heard more inspired declarations on most every subject and problem about which you have been worrying. If you want to know what the Lord would have the Saints know and to have his guidance and direction for the next six months, get a copy of the proceedings of this conference, and you will have the latest word of the Lord as far as the Saints are concerned. And also all others who are not of us, but who believe what has been said has been the mind of the Lord, the will of the Lord, and the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation. (See D&C 68:4.) (Conference Report, October 1973, p. 168.)
One of the distinctions to be made in answering your question is the application of the law of common consent in adding a book of scripture. In October 1880, for example, the Pearl of Great Price and the Doctrine and Covenants were presented to the general conference of the Church for acceptance of the membership of the Church. Again in the general conference of the Church held in April 1976, two important revelations were approved to be added to the Pearl of Great Price. This procedure is to receive concurrence on adding material to a standard work and to commit the Church to live the principles included in the addition. The revelation is valid regardless of what action might be taken.
In the informal kind of revelation, inspiration or revelation is given in the general conferences and also in the official documents issued from the First Presidency of the Church. Remember, revelation does not have to be written or published to be revelation. Latter-day Saints have come to understand that real security in life comes through obedience to the counsel of the living oracles regardless of the medium of communication.
Is it necessary for revelation to begin with “Thus saith the Lord,” (see D&C 36:1) or “A revelation,” (D&C 84:1) or “Hearken and listen to the voice of the Lord” (D&C 72:1) as so many of the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants? No, but one test of revelation is the Lord’s instruction to seek for confirmation by the Holy Ghost. The same Spirit that gave the revelation may certify to the faithful member of the Church of its truth.