Chapter 6: The Communication between God and Man

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, (1997), 41–47


President Brigham Young taught that our “first and foremost duty [is] to seek the Lord until we open the path of communication from God to our own soul.” Shortly after the Prophet Joseph Smith’s death, Brigham Young told of a dream in which Joseph visited and instructed him: “Joseph stepped toward us, and looking very earnestly, yet pleasantly, said: ‘Tell the people to be humble and faithful, and be sure to keep the spirit of the Lord and it will lead them right. Be careful and not turn away the small still voice; it will teach them what to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the Kingdom. … Tell the brethren that if they will follow the spirit of the Lord, they will go right’” (JH). All God’s children have the privilege of being enlightened by the Spirit of Christ and receiving personal revelation through the Holy Ghost as they earnestly seek the Lord.

Teachings of Brigham Young

The Spirit of Christ is given to all God’s children to enlighten them and help them know good from evil.

The Spirit of the Lord enlightens every man that comes into the world. There is no one that lives upon the earth but what is, more or less, enlightened by the Spirit of the Lord Jesus. It is said of him, that he is the light of the world. He lighteth every man that comes into the world and every person, at times, has the light of the spirit of truth upon him [see John 1:9; 8:12; Moroni 7:16; D&C 84:46] (DBY, 32).

I do not believe for one moment that there has been a man or woman upon the face of the earth, from the days of Adam to this day, who has not been enlightened, instructed, and taught by the revelations of Jesus Christ. “What! the ignorant heathen?” Yes, every human being who has possessed a sane mind. I am far from believing that the children of men have been deprived of the privilege of receiving the Spirit of the Lord to teach them right from wrong (DBY, 32).

I … believe positively that there is nothing known except by the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ, whether in theology, science, or art (DBY, 38).

There are men of talent, of thought, of reflection, and knowledge in all cunning mechanism; they are expert in that, though they do not know from whence they receive their intelligence. The Spirit of the Lord has not yet entirely [finished] striving with the people, offering them knowledge and intelligence; consequently, it reveals unto them, instructs them, teaches them, and guides them (DBY, 33).

God is here: his influence fills immensity. He has his messengers throughout all the works of his hands. He watches every one of his creatures; their acts, their affections, and thoughts are all known to him; for his intelligence and power fill immensity [see D&C 88:6–13]. Not that his person does, but his Spirit does; and he is here teaching, guiding and directing the nations of the earth (DBY, 32).

God speaks to His children through revelation.

This people believe in revelation. This people did believe and do believe that the Lord has spoken from the heavens. They did believe and do believe that God has sent angels to proclaim the everlasting Gospel, according to the testimony of John [see Revelation 14:6–7] (DBY, 38).

We often hear it said that the living oracles must be in the Church, in order that the Kingdom of God may be established and prosper on the earth. I will give another version of this sentiment. I say that the living oracles of God, or the Spirit of revelation must be in each and every individual, to know the plan of salvation and keep in the path that leads them to the presence of God (DBY, 38).

The Lord is not everywhere in person; but he has his agents speaking and acting for him. His angels, his messengers, his apostles and servants are appointed and authorized to act in his name. And his servants are authorized to counsel and dictate in the greatest and what might be deemed the most trifling matters, to instruct, direct and guide his Saints (DBY, 41).

No man can gain influence in this Kingdom, and maintain himself in it, magnify his calling without the power of God being with him. Persons must so live that they can enjoy the light of the Holy Spirit, or they will have no confidence in themselves, in their religion, or in their God, and will sooner or later turn from the faith (DBY, 33).

It was asked me by a gentleman how I guided the people by revelation. I teach them to live so that the Spirit of revelation may make plain to them their duty day by day that they are able to guide themselves. To get this revelation it is necessary that the people live so that their spirits are as pure and clean as a piece of blank paper that lies on the desk before the [writer], ready to receive any mark the writer may make upon it (DBY, 41).

No earthly argument, no earthly reasoning can open the minds of intelligent beings and show them heavenly things; that can only be done by the Spirit of revelation [see 1 Corinthians 2:9–14] (DBY, 37).

The revelations of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit of truth will detect everything, and enable all who possess it to understand truth from error, light from darkness, the things of God from the things not of God. It is the only thing that will enable us to understand the Gospel of the Son of God, the will of God, and how we can be saved. Follow it, and it will lead to God, the Fountain of light, where the gate will be open, and the mind will be enlightened so that we shall see, know and understand things as they are (DBY, 34).

No man can know Jesus the Christ except it be revealed from heaven to him [see 1 Corinthians 12:3] (DBY, 37).

Without revelation direct from heaven, it is impossible for any person to understand fully the plan of salvation (DBY, 38).

Without the revelations of God we know not who we are, whence we came, nor who formed the earth on which we live, move and have our being (DBY, 37).

When the Spirit of revelation from God inspires a man, his mind is opened to behold the beauty, order, and glory of the creation of this earth and its inhabitants, the object of its creation, and the purpose of its Creator in peopling it with his children. He can then clearly understand that our existence here is for the sole purpose of exaltation and restoration to the presence of our Father and God (DBY, 37).

In every part and portion of the revelations of God as given to the children of men, or to any individual in heaven or on earth, to understand them properly, a man needs the Spirit by which they were given—the Spirit that reveals such matters to the understanding, and makes them familiar to the mind (DBY, 39).

But we should all live so that the Spirit of revelation could dictate and write on the heart and tell us what we should do instead of the traditions of our parents and teachers. But to do this we must become like little children; and Jesus says if we do not we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. How simple it is! Live free from envy, malice, wrath, strife, bitter feelings, and evil speaking in our families and about our neighbors and friends and all the inhabitants of the earth, wherever we meet them. Live so that our consciences are free, clean and clear (DBY, 36).

Should you receive a vision or revelation from the Almighty, one that the Lord gave you concerning yourselves, or this people, but which you are not to reveal on account of your not being the proper person, or because it ought not to be known by the people at present, you should shut it up and seal it as close, and lock it as tight as heaven is to you, and make it as secret as the grave. The Lord has no confidence in those who reveal secrets, for he cannot safely reveal himself to such persons (DBY, 40–41).

How do we know that prophets wrote the word of the Lord? By revelation. How do we know that Joseph Smith was called of God to establish his Kingdom upon the earth? By revelation. How do we know that the leaders of this people teach the truth? By revelation (DBY, 38).

How can you know the Latter-day work to be true? You can know it only by the spirit of revelation direct from heaven. What proved this work true to you … ? Was it not the spirit of revelation that rested upon you? … You should add to it day by day; you should add as the Lord gives—a little here and a little there, and treasure up truth in your faith and understanding, until you become perfect before the Lord and are prepared to receive the further things of the Kingdom of God (DBY, 36).

When you have labored faithfully for years, you will learn this simple fact—that if your hearts are aright, and you still continue to be obedient, continue to serve God, continue to pray, the Spirit of revelation will be in you like a well of water springing up to everlasting life [see D&C 19:38; 63:23]. Let no person give up prayer because he has not the spirit of prayer, neither let any earthly circumstance hurry you while in the performance of this important duty. By bowing down before the Lord to ask him to bless you, you will simply find this result—God will multiply blessings on you temporally and spiritually (DBY, 46).

One of our most important duties is to seek God’s will in daily prayer.

Were I to draw a distinction in all the duties that are required of the children of men, from first to last, I would place first and foremost the duty of seeking unto the Lord our God until we open the path of communication from heaven to earth—from God to our own souls. Keep every avenue of your hearts clean and pure before him (DBY, 41).

If we draw near to him, he will draw near to us; if we seek him early, we shall find him; if we apply our minds faithfully and diligently day by day, to know and understand the mind and will of God, it is as easy as, yes, I will say easier than it is to know the minds of each other (DBY, 42).

Let us be humble, fervent, submissive, yielding ourselves to the will of the Lord, and there is no danger but that we shall have his Spirit to guide us. If we will open our lips and call upon our Heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus, we will have the spirit of prayer (DBY, 44).

The Lord says, I will be sought unto by my people for the blessings that they need. And instead of our classing prayer among the duties devolving upon us as Latter-day Saints, we should live so as to deem it one of the greatest privileges accorded to us; for were it not for the efficacy of prayer what would have become of us both as a people and as individuals? (DBY, 43).

The duty of the Latter-day Saints is to pray without ceasing, and in everything to give thanks, to acknowledge the hand of the Lord in all things, and to be subject to his requirements (DBY, 42).

Let every man and every woman call upon the name of the Lord, and that, too, from a pure heart, while they are at work as well as in their closet; while they are in public as well as while they are in private, asking the Father in the name of Jesus, to bless them, and to preserve and guide in, and to teach them, the way of life and salvation and to enable them so to live that they will obtain this eternal salvation that we are after (DBY, 43).

It matters not whether you or I feel like praying, when the time comes to pray, pray. If we do not feel like it, we should pray till we do (DBY, 44).

Some of the brethren come to me and say, “Brother Brigham, is it my duty to pray when I have not one particle of the spirit of prayer in me?” True, at times, men are perplexed and full of care and trouble, their ploughs and other implements are out of order, their animals have strayed and a thousand things perplex them; yet our judgment teaches us that it is our duty to pray, whether we are particularly in the spirit of praying or not. My doctrine is, it is your duty to pray; and when the time for prayer comes, John should say, “This is the place and this is the time to pray; knees bend down upon the floor, and do so at once.” But John said, “I do not want to pray; I do not feel like it.” Knees get down, I say; and down bend the knees, and he begins to think and reflect. Can you say anything? Can you not say, God have mercy on me a sinner? Yes, he can do this, if he can rise up and curse his neighbor for some ill deeds. Now, John, open your mouth and say, Lord, have mercy upon me. “But I do not feel the spirit of prayer.” That does not excuse you, for you know what your duty is (DBY, 45).

If the Devil says you cannot pray when you are angry, tell him it is none of his business, and pray until that species of insanity is dispelled and serenity is restored to the mind (DBY, 45).

When you get up in the morning, before you suffer yourselves to eat one mouthful of food, call your wife and children together, bow down before the Lord, ask him to forgive your sins, and protect you through the day, to preserve you from temptation and all evil, to guide your steps aright, that you may do something that day that shall be beneficial to the Kingdom of God on the earth. Have you time to do this? Elders, sisters, have you time to pray? (DBY, 44).

Say your prayers always before going to work. Never forget that. A father—the head of the family—should never miss calling his family together and dedicating himself and them to the Lord of Hosts, asking the guidance and direction of his Holy Spirit to lead them through the day—that very day. Lead us this day, guide us this day, preserve us this day, save us from sinning against thee or any being in heaven or on earth this day! If we do this every day, the last day we live we will be prepared to enjoy a higher glory (DBY, 44).

You know that it is one peculiarity of our faith and religion never to ask the Lord to do a thing without being willing to help him all that we are able; and then the Lord will do the rest (DBY, 43).

I shall not ask the Lord to do what I am not willing to do (DBY, 43).

If I ask him to give me wisdom concerning any requirement in life, or in regard to my own course, or that of my friends, my family, my children, or those that I preside over, and get no answer from him, and then do the very best that my judgment will teach me, he is bound to own and honor that transaction, and he will do so to all intents and purposes (DBY, 43).

Let every Saint, when he prays, ask God for the things he needs to enable him to promote righteousness on the earth. If you do not know what to ask for, let me tell you how to pray. When you pray in secret with your families, if you do not know anything to ask for, submit yourselves to your Father in Heaven and beseech him to guide you by the inspirations of the Holy Ghost, and to guide this people, and dictate the affairs of his Kingdom on the earth, and there leave it. Ask him to put you just where he wants you, and to tell you what he wants you to do, and feel that you are on hand to do it (DBY, 45–46).

Let all persons be fervent in prayer, until they know the things of God for themselves and become certain that they are walking in the path that leads to everlasting life; then will envy, the child of ignorance, vanish and there will be no disposition in any man to place himself above another; for such a feeling meets no countenance in the order of heaven. Jesus Christ never wanted to be different from his Father. They were and are one. If a people are led by the revelations of Jesus Christ, and they are cognizant of the fact through their faithfulness, there is no fear but they will be one in Jesus Christ, and see eye to eye (DBY, 42).

Suggestions for Study

The Spirit of Christ is given to all God’s children to enlighten them and help them know good from evil.

  • Think about the workings of the Light of Christ or Spirit of the Lord. (See also Bible Dictionary, “Light of Christ,” 725; D&C 88:6–13; Moroni 7:12–19.) What does it mean to be “enlightened by the Spirit of the Lord Jesus”?

  • How can we know eternal standards of “right from wrong”?

  • According to President Young, in what ways is the Spirit of the Lord still “striving with the people”?

  • By what power that “fills immensity” does the Lord influence His children? In what sense is God not far from every one of us? (See also Acts 17:27.) What evidence do you see that God influences events throughout the world?

God speaks to His children through revelation.

  • Who is authorized by the Lord to receive revelation for the entire Church? (See also D&C 21:4–5; 28:2; 43:3–4; 90:3–5.) Who are the “living oracles”? What is our responsibility in relation to the living oracles?

  • President Young said that the teachings of salvation can be known only by revelation. What revelations will the Lord grant to us as individuals? (See also 2 Nephi 32:5; Numbers 11:29.)

  • According to President Young, how may we know that we are being led in accordance with the will of God? On what conditions may we receive guiding revelation “day by day” in our lives?

  • What promise is made to those who labor “faithfully for years” in prayer, obedience, and service? What experiences have you had with prayer that have helped draw the Spirit into your life?

One of our most important duties is to seek God’s will in daily prayer.

  • According to President Young, what is our “first and foremost” duty as members of the Church?

  • On what conditions are we likely to have the “Spirit to guide us”? (See also 3 Nephi 19:9, 24.)

  • What specific counsel did President Young give concerning prayer?

  • What is President Young’s strong admonition to those who don’t feel like praying?