From the Life of Spencer W. Kimball
President Spencer W. Kimball once spoke at a press conference held at the Arizona Temple Visitors’ Center. A news reporter asked him: “You were introduced as the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and also as a prophet. My question is: Does God speak to you? And if so, how?” President Kimball responded: “Yes. God speaks to his prophets today, just as he spoke to his prophets yesterday and just as he will speak to them tomorrow. You will remember that Amos wrote, ‘Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.’ (Amos 3:7.) Sometimes he speaks with an audible voice. Sometimes he sends his angels, as he did to Joseph, the stepfather of Jesus. Usually it is by the still small voice of God to the spirit within. Yes. Have I answered your question, young man?”1
President Kimball trusted in the principle of continuing revelation, declaring that it was “the very lifeblood of the gospel of the living Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”2 This trust, said Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “was clearly a part of the makeup of this very special man.”3 President Kimball took his responsibility as President of the Church seriously, knowing that he was the only person on the earth who was authorized to receive revelation for the Church. He testified: “I know that the Lord called me to this position. I know that there are greater prophets, perhaps, than I, but I wish to do all I can to carry forward the work of the Lord as he wants it done. Every night and morning I kneel and pray with deep sincerity that the Lord will inspire me and reveal to me the direction I should go and what I should tell the people of this Church.”4
Throughout his service as President of the Church, he received revelations to guide the Saints. The most well known of all these revelations came in June 1978, when the Lord revealed to him and also to his brethren in the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles that the blessings of the priesthood, which had been restricted to some, could now be available to all worthy members of the Church (see Doctrine and Covenants, Official Declaration 2). This revelation came after a period of years in which other Presidents of the Church had pondered and prayed about the matter.
Publicly, President Kimball did not speak at length about this revelation. But he did provide glimpses of his personal preparation to receive it, and he occasionally shared his feelings about it:
“I knew that something was before us that was extremely important to many of the children of God. I knew that we could receive the revelations of the Lord only by being worthy and ready for them and ready to accept them and put them into place. Day after day I went alone and with great solemnity and seriousness in the upper rooms of the temple, and there I offered my soul and offered my efforts to go forward with the program. I wanted to do what he wanted. I talked about it to him and said, ‘Lord, I want only what is right. We are not making any plans to be spectacularly moving. We want only the thing that thou dost want, and we want it when you want it and not until.’”5
“Those of us today who are sustained by you as prophets, seers, and revelators came to feel in the spring of 1978 much as the early brethren did when the revelation came to the effect ‘that the Gentiles should be fellowheirs … and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel’ (Eph. 3:6). This was a thing, Paul said, ‘which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto the holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit’ (Eph. 3:5).
“We had the glorious experience of having the Lord indicate clearly that the time had come when all worthy men and women everywhere can be fellowheirs and partakers of the full blessings of the gospel. I want you to know, as a special witness of the Savior, how close I have felt to him and to our Heavenly Father as I have made numerous visits to the upper rooms in the temple, going on some days several times by myself. The Lord made it very clear to me what was to be done. We do not expect the people of the world to understand such things, for they will always be quick to assign their own reasons or to discount the divine process of revelation.”6
In addition to testifying that revelation guides the decisions of Church leaders, President Kimball taught that we can all receive revelation to guide our lives and strengthen us in our responsibilities. He said, “The blessing of revelation is one that all should seek for.”7
Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball
God the Father and Jesus Christ are eager to communicate with mankind.
Someone has said that we live in a day in which God, if there be a God, chooses to be silent, but The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims to the world that neither the Father nor the Son is silent. They are vocal and commune as proper and necessary, and constantly express a willingness, indeed an eagerness, to maintain communication with men.8
One theologian indicated it was impossible for man to find God or know God. This is like saying: “I have never climbed Mt. Ararat—no one can climb Ararat; or, I have never bathed in the clear warm waters of the Adriatic—there is no Adriatic Sea; or, I have never seen the wild life in Kruger Park—there is no Kruger Park; or, I have always had health—therefore, the pain which people claim, must be a figment of their imaginations. I have never astronauted into space; therefore, no one can speed through space.”
How different then is it to say I have never heard nor seen God—therefore, no man has ever seen nor heard God nor walked with Him. How presumptuous and arrogant for any man to say God is unapproachable, unknowable, unseeable, unhearable because that one himself has not prepared himself for the experience.9
It should be kept in mind that God cannot be found through research alone, nor his gospel understood and appreciated by study only, for no one may know the Father or the Son but “he to whom the Son will reveal him.” (Luke 10:22.) The skeptic will some day either in time or eternity learn to his sorrow that his egotism has robbed him of much joy and growth.10
We are happy in our knowledge that the God of this universe is a God of revelation. Our Lord communicates his mind and will to his children on earth. If we seek it, he will reveal himself more and more and in greater and greater fulness, and we shall comprehend him as well as it is possible for mortal man to comprehend God. We cannot worship a being of our own creation or of the imaginations of our minds. We worship a being who lives, who has created, who communicates to us his character and his attributes and the greatness of his being.11
Neither the Father Elohim nor the Son Jehovah would alienate himself from the children of men. It is they, the men, who cut themselves off if there be estrangement. Both the Father and the Son would gladly commune and associate with men. …
… In spite of all the gods which men make for themselves and the confusion incident thereto, the Living and True God is in his heaven and is available to his children.12
While some revelations are spectacular, most come as deep impressions to the mind and heart.
In our day, as in times past, many people expect that if there be revelation it will come with awe-inspiring, earth-shaking display. For many it is hard to accept as revelation those numerous ones in Moses’ time, in Joseph’s time, and in our own year—those revelations which come to prophets as deep, unassailable impressions settling down on the prophet’s mind and heart as dew from heaven or as the dawn dissipates the darkness of night.
Expecting the spectacular, one may not be fully alerted to the constant flow of revealed communication. I say, in the deepest of humility, but also by the power and force of a burning testimony in my soul, that from the prophet of the Restoration to the prophet of our own year, the communication line is unbroken, the authority is continuous, a light, brilliant and penetrating, continues to shine. The sound of the voice of the Lord is a continuous melody and a thunderous appeal.13
Revelation does not always mean “walking with God,” nor “face-to-face,” nor “lips-to-ear.” There are many kinds of revelation—some more and some less spectacular.14
Some revelations come by dreams. Most of our dreams are flighty and have no meaning, but the Lord does use dreams for enlightening his people. … Nebuchadnezzar had a dream. (See Daniel 2.) It was a powerful one which he forgot, but Daniel came along and recalled to the king his dream and gave the interpretation. The Lord made it known to Daniel for a specific reason.
There was Peter’s dream in which he saw a sheet come down from heaven filled with all kinds of animals and beasts, and it had a very specific meaning. (See Acts 10:9–35.) …
Paul in his great experience had the same kind of a revelation through a dream. “And a vision appeared to Paul in the night.” And he received instructions that were necessary for him and for the kingdom. (Acts 16:9.) …
There are other spectacular revelations mentioned. There was the coming of Moroni, an individual, a resurrected being, to bring back the great record of the ancients of America and the restoration of the gospel. …
Then came John the Baptist who had been beheaded by the king in a moment of weakness … [then] Peter, James and John. … So there came, step by step, a restoration of everything, and it all came by revelation, by vision, by dreams, or by deep impression.
Now, all of the revelations in the holy scriptures did not come by spectacular manifestations. As you read the Old Testament, you will find the Lord speaks. He spoke to Isaiah, to Jeremiah, and others, but those were not always personal appearances. It was much like Enos’s experience, for as you read in the book of Enos in the Book of Mormon, he had been fasting and praying and was reaching and asking for information and for a forgiveness of his sins particularly: “And while I was thus struggling in the spirit, behold, the voice of the Lord came into my mind again, saying: …” (Enos 1:10.) In that manner, many, many of the revelations have come.
So revelation came: sometimes with actual personal appearance of heavenly beings. … But most of the revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith in this holy record, the Doctrine and Covenants, did not come in that manner. They came as deep impressions.15
Most recorded revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants and in the Bible were deep feelings and an impressive consciousness of direction from above. This is the sort of revelation individuals often have for their own needs.16
Sometimes we don’t recognize [revelations] when they come. We pray and pray and pray for wisdom and judgment and then we feel somewhat like we ought to go this particular direction. There was revelation there. The Lord answers these questions that you propose.17
What will be the language the Lord will use? Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord counseled Oliver Cowdery, who wondered about an answer to his prayers:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things.
Through living prophets, the Lord reveals His will for the Church.
Of all things, that for which we should be most grateful today is that the heavens are indeed open and that the restored church of Jesus Christ is founded upon the rock of revelation. Continuous revelation is indeed the very lifeblood of the gospel of the living Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.19
Vital and priceless records of ancient America, with teachings of Christ, another testimony of his divinity, form the Book of Mormon, which we declare to be divine scripture, contemporary with and sustaining the Bible.
Since [Joseph Smith’s First Vision] in 1820, additional scripture has continued to come, including the numerous and vital revelations flowing in a never-ending stream from God to his prophets on the earth. Many of these revelations are recorded in another scripture called the Doctrine and Covenants. Completing our Latter-day Saint scriptures is the Pearl of Great Price, another record of revelation and translated writings of both ancient and modern prophets.
There are those who would assume that with the printing and binding of these sacred records, that would be the “end of the prophets.” But again we testify to the world that revelation continues and that the vaults and files of the Church contain these revelations which come month to month and day to day. We testify also that there is, since 1830 when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized, and will continue to be, so long as time shall last, a prophet, recognized of God and his people, who will continue to interpret the mind and will of the Lord.20
When … , after prayer and fasting, important decisions are made [by Church leaders], new missions and new stakes are created, new patterns and policies initiated, the news is taken for granted and possibly thought of as mere human calculations. But to those who sit in the intimate circles and hear the prayers of the prophet and the testimony of the man of God; to those who see the astuteness of his deliberations and the sagacity of his decisions and pronouncements, to them he is verily a prophet. To hear him conclude important new developments with such solemn expressions as “the Lord is pleased”; “that move is right”; “our Heavenly Father has spoken,” is to know positively.21
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.)22
I bear witness that the Church moves on through the revelations of God to its divinely called leaders. The Almighty is with this people.23
When we keep the commandments, exercise faith, and pray sincerely, we qualify ourselves to receive personal revelation.
The blessing of revelation is one that all should seek for. Righteous men and women find that they have the spirit of revelation to direct their families and to aid them in their other responsibilities. But … we must seek to qualify for such revelation by setting our lives in order and by becoming acquainted with the Lord through frequent and regular conversations with him.24
The Lord will not force himself upon people; and if they do not believe, they will receive no visitation. If they are content to depend upon their own limited calculations and interpretations, then, of course, the Lord will leave them to their chosen fate. …
… The same revelations, visions, healings, and tongues are all available today as in any other day, providing there is the necessary faith.25
The Almighty is with this people. We shall have all the revelations that we shall need if we will do our duty and keep the commandments of God. …
If there be eyes to see, there will be visions to inspire.
If there be ears to hear, there will be revelations to experience.
If there be hearts which can understand, know this: that the exalting truths of Christ’s gospel will no longer be hidden and mysterious, and all earnest seekers may know God and his program.26
Having given them their free agency, their Heavenly Father persuades and directs his children, but waits for their upreaching, their prayers, their sincere approach to him. …
The Lord is eager to see their first awakening desires and their beginning efforts to penetrate the darkness. Having granted freedom of decision, he must permit man to grope his way until he reaches for the light. But when man begins to hunger, when his arms begin to reach, when his knees begin to bend and his voice becomes articulate, then and not till then does our Lord push back the horizons, draw back the veil, and make it possible for men to emerge from dim uncertain stumbling to sureness, in heavenly light.27
If one rises from his knees having merely said words, he should fall back on his knees and remain there until he has established communication with the Lord who is very anxious to bless, but having given man his free agency, will not force himself upon that man.28
Do you want guidance? Have you prayed to the Lord for inspiration? Do you want to do right or do you want to do what you want to do whether or not it is right? Do you want to do what is best for you in the long run or what seems more desirable for the moment? Have you prayed? How much have you prayed? How did you pray? Have you prayed as did the Savior of the world in Gethsemane or did you ask for what you want regardless of its being proper? Do you say in your prayers: “Thy will be done”? Did you say, “Heavenly Father, if you will inspire and impress me with the right, I will do that right”? Or, did you pray, “Give me what I want or I will take it anyway”? Did you say: “Father in Heaven, I love you, I believe in you, I know you are omniscient. I am honest. I am sincerely desirous of doing right. I know you can see the end from the beginning. You can see the future. You can discern if under this situation I present, I will have peace or turmoil, happiness or sorrow, success or failure. Tell me, please, loved Heavenly Father, and I promise to do what you tell me to do.” Have you prayed that way? Don’t you think it might be wise? Are you courageous enough to pray that prayer?29
The Lord will give you answer to your questions and to your prayers if you are listening. It doesn’t have to all come through the prophet. … But all people, if they are worthy enough and close enough to the Lord, can have revelations.30
Suggestions for Study and Teaching
Consider these ideas as you study the chapter or as you prepare to teach. For additional help, see pages v–ix.
Review the account of President Kimball receiving the 1978 revelation on the priesthood (pages 238–39). While some aspects of President Kimball’s experience were unique to that revelation, what aspects of his experience are common to all our efforts to receive revelation? How can we follow his example?
Review the section that begins on page 239. What would you say to a friend who claims that God is silent? What scriptures or experiences could you share to help your friend?
What are some ways in which revelation can come? (For some examples, see pages 240–43.) President Kimball taught that most revelations come as deep impressions rather than spectacular manifestations. How can we recognize whether a thought or feeling is from the Lord? (See page 243.)
Why do we need living prophets in addition to the scriptures? (For some examples, see pages 243–45.) How have you been blessed through revelations to the President of the Church?
What advice would you give someone who is seeking guidance from the Lord? (See pages 245–47.)
In Oscar W. McConkie, Aaronic Priesthood (1977), 13.
In Conference Report, Apr. 1977, 113; or Ensign, May 1977, 76.
“Spencer, the Beloved: Leader-Servant,” Ensign, Dec. 1985, 17.
In Conference Report, Guatemala City Guatemala Area Conference 1977, 24.
The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball (1982), 451.
“The Savior: The Center of Our Lives,” New Era, Apr. 1980, 36.
“The Example of Abraham,” Ensign, June 1975, 4.
Faith Precedes the Miracle (1972), 65–66.
Commencement address, Brigham Young University, May 27, 1966, as printed in Church News, June 4, 1966, 12.
In Conference Report, Oct. 1944, 44.
The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 7–8.
In Conference Report, Apr. 1964, 93, 94; or Improvement Era, June 1964, 496.
In Conference Report, Apr. 1977, 115; or Ensign, May 1977, 78.
In Conference Report, Oct. 1966, 23; or Improvement Era, Dec. 1966, 1106.
The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 455–56.
Faith Precedes the Miracle, 30.
The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 454.
“Pray Always,” Ensign, Oct. 1981, 5.
In Conference Report, Apr. 1977, 113; or Ensign, May 1977, 76.
In Conference Report, Apr. 1977, 115; or Ensign, May 1977, 77–78.
“… To His Servants the Prophets,” Instructor, Aug. 1960, 257.
“Gospel Forum: Continuing Revelation,” Ensign, Feb. 1971, 21.
Faith Precedes the Miracle, 46.
Ensign, June 1975, 4–5.
In Conference Report, Oct. 1966, 22, 23; or Improvement Era, Dec. 1966, 1106.
In Conference Report, Oct. 1966, 26; or Improvement Era, Dec. 1966, 1108.
In Conference Report, Munich Germany Area Conference 1973, 74–75.
The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 124.
The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 123–24.
The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 455.