President Nelson has plainly stated that it is an essential skill to be able to receive personal revelation. Our spiritual survival will depend on it. 

 I renew my plea for you to do whatever it takes to increase your spiritual capacity to receive personal revelation.”1

“But in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.2

When we think about personal revelation many questions come to mind. How do we hear Him?  How do we know if God is putting these thoughts and feelings into our mind or are these my own creations? Why don’t I hear Him?  And the big one—what can I do to get better at receiving personal revelation? 

As an engineer I am most comfortable with formulas and numbered steps to achieve a desired result.  Spiritual goals don’t lend themselves to such precision and reproducibility which can be really frustrating.  Enough with the metaphors and subjective nuances.  Lay it out for me.  What do I need to do?  What follows are three easy to understand (harder to do) ideas that help those like me who need more of a step-by-step approach to learning to hear Him. 

  1. Our conscience is a major source of personal revelation.

Wait a minute!  Our conscience is a form of revelation?  I know what my conscience feels like.  Maybe I am further along in this process than I realized.   This is great news!  All mankind is blessed with the Light of Christ. From the Bible Dictionary we learn:

The light of Christ is just what the words imply: enlightenment, knowledge, and an uplifting, ennobling, persevering influence that comes upon mankind because of Jesus Christ. For instance, Christ is “the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (D&C 93:2; John 1:9). . . . The light of Christ is related to man’s conscience and tells him right from wrong (see Moro. 7:12–19).  The light of Christ should not be confused with the personage of the Holy Ghost, for the light of Christ is not a personage at all. Its influence is preliminary to and preparatory to one’s receiving the Holy Ghost. The light of Christ will lead the honest soul who “hearkeneth to the voice” to find the true gospel and the true Church and thereby receive the Holy Ghost (see D&C 84:46–48).3

The most important step in learning to receive personal revelation is recognizing our conscience as a major source of God’s communication to us.  It is important because this is often the first experience we have with revelation and if we don’t heed our conscience, our experience with more direct and personalized revelation will probably never happen. 

Our conscience while subtle can be very powerful. C.S. Lewis writes that our conscience is the most import proof there is for the very existence of God.  “Conscience reveals to us a moral law whose source cannot be found in the natural world, thus pointing to a supernatural Lawgiver.”4 Further, our conscience is the most wide spread and accessible form of revelation. “It is…the most pervasive form of revelation. It is given to everyone; it permeates everything; it strives with every person to help him or her do good and live better lives.”5 Conscience is “law written in our hearts.” (Rom. 2:15).

Our conscience is independent of faith, culture, race or background and points us to do what is right.  It is responsible for motivating great humanitarian movements that change history. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught that “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”6

Elder Bruce R. McConkie explains the relationship between the Light of Christ and our conscience.  “The Light of Christ has an edifying, enlightening, and uplifting influence on men [and women]. One of its manifestations is called conscience, through which all men [and women] know right from wrong.” [The Light of Christ] is the means by which the Lord invites and entices all . . . to improve their lot and to come unto him and receive his gospel.”7   President David O. McKay taught that “for those in the Church in the line of their duty, the Holy Ghost normally speaks through the conscience.”8 

Stephen R. Covey and his wife, Sandra shared this illuminating insight on our conscience: 

Once after I spoke on listening prayer at a Ricks College devotional, a coed approached me and asked, “How do I really know God is answering my prayer?”  I asked her if she had felt anything in her heart when we all paused during the speech to listen to our own consciences in response to the questions, “What do I need to do to draw closer to the Lord? to be a better family member? a better student?”  She answered, “Oh, yes. I know so many things I should do.”  Well then, sister, I suggest you forget your question for now and just do those things. As you do, you’ll become more acquainted with his voice and that will be the answer to your question.  Some time later this young women approached me again after a speaking engagement and testified that “to listen to and obey my conscience was the most practical religious lesson I have ever learned. It has changed my life.”

“We are trying to teach our children [applies to everyone] when they pray to run their actions and attitudes and plans by their consciences to see if they square up. We are trying to teach them to ask basic questions and listen to their consciences for the answers, such as, “What do I need to do to be closer to God?” “How can I be a better member of the Church?” “How can I better prepare for my mission?” “How can I do better in school?9

A major advantage that comes with our conscience is that it has a much lower worthiness bar than promptings from the Holy Ghost. In fact, one of the most useful aspects of our conscience is that it is triggered precisely when we have done something wrong.  We are all familiar with what it feels like to have a “guilty conscience.”  However, our conscience is not bullet proof.  Repeatedly ignoring its direction gradually dims its voice until it is hardly heard at all. 

Our conscience is not only there to remind us when we sin.  It also “suggests” what is right to do.  We feel we should help our spouse put the children to bed, pray before retiring for the night, put on our exercise clothes, read the scriptures, avoid that second helping of dessert, call our ministering family, turn off the TV and help with a child’s homework assignment, apologize for an unkind outburst, or better yet avoid the unkindness in the first place and the list goes on.  These are commandments individually tailored for us. 

Following the dictates of our conscience leads us to baptism and confirmation where hands are placed on our head by one having the proper authority and we hear the words, “Receive the Holy Ghost.” This gives us the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is the right, (not the guarantee) to the constant companionship of that member of the Godhead, based on our faithfulness

For those who have received the Gift of the Holy Ghost promptings can come through the medium of the Light of Christ as stated by President McKay above.  Elder Charles W. Penrose taught that a person who receives the gift of the Holy Ghost receives “a greater and higher endowment of the same spirit [Light of Christ or our conscience] which enlightens every man that comes into the world.”10  If we are unsure how to recognize when the Holy Ghost speaks to us, just imagine our conscience on steroids. 

2.  The key to increased personal revelation is to heed the revelation we already have received.

Obeying direction from our conscience grows our faith and makes us worthy to receive the more direct and personalized revelation available through the gift of the Holy Ghost. Nephi tells us,

I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, we have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have. (2 Nephi 28:30, emphasis added). 

A virtuous cycle is established when we obey a feeling to do right.  The Lord then blesses us with more promptings which if we obey results in further spiritual blessings.  This creates a cycle that leads us closer and closer to Him.  This process is described in D&C 50:24,

That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day. 

The key to more revelation is to be obedient to the light and knowledge we have already been given.  Obedience is what drives this virtuous cycle.  For a perspective on how to make obedience a welcome friend and ally see my previous Meridian article HERE.

President Eyring provides valuable insight on how this virtuous cycle is applied as we progress from the intermittent influences of the Spirit to feeling its constant presence.

…for many reasons, we need the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. We desire it, yet we know from experience that it is not easy to maintain. We each think, say, and do things in our daily lives that can offend the Spirit. The Lord taught us that the Holy Ghost will be our constant companion when our hearts are full of charity and when virtue garnishes our thoughts unceasingly (see D&C 121:45).

For those who are struggling with the high standard needed to qualify for the gift of the Spirit’s companionship, I offer this encouragement. You have had times when you have felt the influence of the Holy Ghost. It may have happened for you today [during conference].

You can treat those moments of inspiration like the seed of faith that Alma described (see Alma 32:28). Plant each one. You can do that by acting on the prompting you felt. The most valuable inspiration will be for you to know what God would have you do. If it is to pay tithing or to visit a grieving friend, you should do it. Whatever it is, do it. When you demonstrate your willingness to obey, the Spirit will send you more impressions of what God would have you do for Him.

As you obey, the impressions from the Spirit will come more frequently, becoming closer and closer to constant companionship. Your power to choose the right will increase.11

We are not left alone on this path of using the virtuous cycle to move from conscience to constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. One of the roles of the Holy Ghost is “Sanctifier”-making us more holy. President Ezra Taft Benson shared this about the sanctifying powers of the Holy Ghost: 

The Holy Ghost causes our feelings to be more tender.  We feel more charitable and compassionate. We are calmer. We have a greater capacity to love. People want to be around us because our very countenances radiate the influence of the Spirit.  We are more godly in character.  As a result, we are more sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and thus able to comprehend spiritual things.12

3.  Discerning between the three voices in our mind. 

The healthy mind normally has three voices.  The first voice is our own mind.

“You hear your self think. You talk with yourself, discuss things with yourself, argue with yourself, berate, praise, and jabber with yourself all day long. This voice is distinguishable because it is unsure, or in other words, it questions things, and is seldom definite or decisive. It almost always asks questions. What was that? Who said that? Why did you say that? What does it mean? Do you suppose? What would happen if? I wonder?”13

The second voice is the influence of the adversary. Elder Faust explained some of the forms this voice takes:

The adversary tries to smother this voice [voice of the Holy Spirit] with a multitude of loud, persistent, persuasive, and appealing voices: murmuring voices that conjure up perceived injustices, whining voices that abhor challenge and work, seductive voices offering sensual enticements, soothing voices that lull us into carnal security, intellectual voices that profess sophistication and superiority, proud voices that rely on the arm of the flesh, flattering voices that puff us up with pride, cynical voices that destroy hope, entertaining voices that promote pleasure seeking, commercial voices that tempt us to “spend money for that which is of no worth” and our “labor for that which cannot satisfy” (2 Ne. 9:51)…”14

“The third source of information in our minds is the voice of the Lord through the Holy Spirit. It begins as the conscience, the light of Christ, and is a free gift. In its most rudimentary stages it is a quiet urging to choose right, to abandon wrong choices, and to seek greater truth.15

How do we know if promptings are from heaven, our own thoughts or the adversary?  Consider the words of Moroni:

For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night. For behold, the Spirit of Christ [the conscience] is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge [which promptings come from the Lord or from the other two voices]; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. (Moroni 7:15–16).

In other words, “if it’s good it comes from God.” This has become a useful mantra when thoughts and feelings come into my head and heart.  I don’t need to worry about which voice is speaking because if it’s good it come from God.

Any prompting to do good, to fast, to pray, to help, to bless, to be kind, to express love, to obey a commandment, to worship, to serve; all these, and a million more like them, come from God. You can know with an absolute knowledge, nothing doubting, that these promptings are revelation. They can no longer be ignored with impunity.

Good promptings comes from God. Evil comes from the adversary. Questions and analysis come from within. It really is just that simple. 

Recognizing the three voices [our own voice, evil temptations, conscience and/or the Holy Spirit] helps in deciphering the complex conversations we hear in our minds. When you understand who is saying what, you need not be confused any longer about what to do.16

This is the three-step path to greater revelation.  It begins with recognizing that our conscience is revelation.  The Light of Christ manifesting as our conscience will continue to be a significant source of revelation throughout our lives even after we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.  This is especially true when our actions separate us from the influence of this member of the Godhead.  As we obey promptings to do good we trigger a virtuous cycle that increases our ability to receive more specific and personalized revelation.  There is no need to get distracted worrying about which voice is speaking in our head when we remember, “if it’s good it comes from God.”  As we qualify to receive the Holy Ghost, His sanctifying powers accelerate the growth of our spirituality. 

By implementing these three steps we will be following President Nelson’s prophetic counsel.  We will increase our capacity to receive personal revelation and enjoy greater peace and blessings in our lives.

1.  Russell M. Nelson, “Hear Him”, Ensign May 2020

2.  Russell M. Nelson, “Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” Ensign  May 2018

3.  LDS Bible Dictionary, “Light of Christ,” 681

4.  CS Lewis, Mere Christianity, 8

5.  Gerald N. Lund, Hearing the Voice of the Lord, 20

6.  Martin Luther King Jr., “A Proper Sense of Priorities,” Feb. 6, 1968”

7.  Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith (1985), 259

8.  Stephen R. and Sandra Covey, “Teaching Our Children to Pray,” Ensign

Jan. 1976

9.  Ibid.

10. Journal of Discourses 23:350

11. President Henry B. Eyring, “The Holy Ghost as Your Companion,” Ensign, November 2015

12.  Ezra Taft Benson, Come Unto Christ, Deseret Book 1983, 20

13.  John Pontius, Following The Light of Christ Into His Presence, 30

14.  James E. Faust, “The Voice of the Spirit,” Ensign April 1994, 7

15.  John Pontius, Following The Light of Christ Into His Presence, 33

16.  Ibid., 809