The Doctrine and Covenants is an invitation to all people everywhere to come unto Christ. In the revelations of this book “one hears the tender but firm voice of the Lord Jesus Christ,” inviting all to come unto Him “preparatory to his second coming.” [1]

In this lesson the Lord Jesus Christ invites us to come unto Him, to be “encircled in the arms of his love” (D&C 6:20). I would like to testify to you that I have some small sense of what it feels like to be encircled in the arms of His love – it is the sweetest, warmest, most peaceful of feelings. It is like a “light that shineth in darkness,” white light in the darkness of our mortal lives; it is the greatest witness that can come to us – the witness that comes directly from God.

The Spirit of Revelation

“Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation” (D&C 8.3). It is an unmistakable witness from God, a burning in the bosom and a light to the mind (D&C 8:2, 9:8). I have been surprised over the years when people say they cannot tell if they are experiencing the spirit of revelation or not. It is marked by a feeling of peace and clarity of mind: “Cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things,” the Lord said to a vacillating Oliver Cowdery. “Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?” (D&C 6:22-23).

Joseph Smith said, “A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas … by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.” [2] Along with many others, I have experienced this flow of inspiration in a very small way when teaching the Gospel, for example. For some of us, it is a trickle – but it it’s enough!

The lack of the spirit of revelation is equally unmistakable: “stupor of thought” (D&C 9:9). According to the dictionary, “stupor” is “a state of reduced sensibility, a lethargy or torpor.  Personally, I believe such a stupor is sometimes a trial induced by the Adversary, as in the case of Joseph Smith’s experience in the woods (JS-H 1:15). Darkness gathers around; a feeling of despair ensues. Perhaps more often, such a stupor is simply the result of a lack of preparation on our part to receive the revelation we desire, or the arrival at a false conclusion that is a dead end, where truth or light cannot be found.  Such a stupor sometimes results from putting our trust in the arm of flesh, rather than in the loving arm of our Lord.

In a sense, to receive revelation is to come at least tentatively into the presence of the Lord. The veil is opened a little, and pure light and knowledge come streaming out. The English word “revelation” actually derives from a Latin word that means “opening of the veil.”  If we pay the price, we are entitled to an opening of the veil that will inspire us, guide us on our way, give us hope as we keep our eyes fixed on the eternal light at the end of the mortal tunnel.

Serious Reflection

Who doesn’t need revelation? We all do, and the Lord stands ready to reveal to us his mind and will when he sees fit and when we are prepared for it. Some people rely too much on purported revelations, as Elder Dallin H. Oaks observes:

“The Spirit of the Lord is not likely to give us revelations on matters that are trivial. I once heard a young woman in a testimony meeting praise the spirituality of her husband, indicating that he submitted every question to the Lord. She told how he accompanied her shopping and would not even choose between different brands of canned vegetables without making his selection a matter of prayer. That strikes me as improper. I believe the Lord expects us to use the intelligence and experience he has given us to make these kinds of choices.” [3]

Revelation, as Joseph said, is a matter of “serious reflection” (JS-H 1:8). The true purpose of revelation is not to help us make shopping decisions, but to help us along the path into the presence of God, toward the full “opening of the veil” that constitutes knowledge of our Father and of His Son Jesus Christ. Revelation from God is a sobering matter: “It is a great thing to inquire at the hands of God, or to come into His presence: and we feel fearful to approach Him on subjects that are of little or no consequence” [4]

If we desire to come into His presence, “to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent,” [5] we must do as Joseph Smith did. When Joseph wanted guidance on that great question “What is to be done?” he followed a divine formula to obtain the revelatory answer.

Study It Out in Your Mind

Like the young Joseph Smith, every single one of us struggles to make our way back to Father in a world filled with confusion and strife, a “war of words and tumult of opinions” that has only intensified since his time. Men could offer Joseph only “reason and sophistry,” the primary tools mortals use in getting through the mortal world. Reason has an important place, and we are expected to use it (in deciding which canned vegetables to buy, for example), but it cannot bring us to God; sophistry is reasoning that looks plausible but is untrustworthy. Neither is a good guide to our Father’s presence.

Joseph Smith faced the dilemma of every honest soul who wants to know the real answers to the great questions of life: “What is to be done? Who is right? … If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?” (JS-H 1:10). Everyone who is honest about it has asked these questions in his heart of hearts. “How to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know, for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently  as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible” (JS-H 1:12).

As one who spent thirteen years in the process of attaining a doctorate in the philosophies of men, I can testify that the “search for wisdom” is pretty much the last thing on the minds of most academics. Their primary goal is to induce a “stupor of thought” in the other guy in order to get the upper academic hand, to expand their reputations, to be admired in the marketplace of ideas, which resembles more an intellectual wrestling arena than place for the gaining of knowledge. No, most people who seek actual knowledge are hounded out of the arena: Socrates and Joseph Smith, for example.

To prepare himself to gain wisdom from God, Joseph truly paid the price. “Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me,” the Lord told Oliver Cowdery, who apparently expected an easy path to revelation (D&C 9:7). By contrast, Joseph knew what it meant to “labor under extreme difficulties” as he studied the great questions. He clearly exerted himself mentally, studying the scriptures, listening to all sides, unwilling to trust even his own conclusions or the biases of his family members: only the truth could satisfy him.

How often have we heard people say, “I prayed and nothing happened.”  For things of material value they will work themselves to death – for homes, cars, boats, and big stock portfolios. No one expects those things for free. But when it comes to things of eternal value, they expect to exert no effort. Clearly, the Lord expects us to demonstrate our own trustworthiness before opening the veil to us: “Ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” [6] For this reason, the Lord told Joseph, “You must study it out in your mind; then you must ask if me if it be right” (D&C 9:8).

Ask of God

Joseph’s assiduous study paid off: “I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that given to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him “ (JS-H 1:11, cf. James 1:5). This exhortation entered “with great force into every feeling of my heart”: a force he would later recognize as a sign of revelation in itself. He “reflected on it again and again,” persevering in his heart, determining in his soul that he could not be satisfied without “wisdom from God.”  This kind of serious reflection on the promises of God, this careful determination to do what the Lord has already asked of us appears to be necessary in the search for further light.

So, “in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt.”  President Thomas S. Monson teaches that we each have the same privilege:  “The boy prophet Joseph Smith sought heavenly help by entering a grove which then became sacred. Do we need similar strength? Does each need to seek his or her own Sacred Grove’? A place where communication between God and man can go forth unimpeded, uninterrupted, and undisturbed is such a grove.” [7]

Exert All Your Powers

Those who seek God will find that struggles will come. In Joseph Smith’s case, merely by approaching his Father in Heaven he attracted the attention of the Adversary, who surrounded him with darkness and poured despair on his head (JS-H 1:15-16). We encounter the same: as soon as we start up the path towards our God, we may expect to be “upbraided” – not by our Father in Heaven, but by the world and the Adversary. To be upbraided is, quite literally, to have something thrown at you. Discouraging obstacles, apparent failures, long and painful waiting – these are to be expected, and are intended to refine and purify us, to test our trustworthiness and to teach us patience.

In the woods, Joseph nearly “abandoned [him]self to destruction,” but at the “moment of great alarm,” he was saved. It is so often the case, that when things just can’t get any worse, the Lord says enough is enough and steps in. Why then? Possibly because He knows our breaking point and wills us to “exert all our powers” as Joseph did at that moment so that we may grow stronger ourselves. One thing we can be sure of: The Lord Jesus Christ is with us, close to us, before and behind us, to the left and to the right, and will not allow us to fall if we do what we can to serve Him.

Listen to the Lord

“Joseph, This is My Beloved; Hear Him! O, how sweet the word!

Joseph’s humble prayer was answered, and he listened to the Lord.” [8]

Joseph’s great reward was to have the veil opened and to commune with the Father and the Son. He received the light and knowledge he had been seeking, and with it certain responsibilities to carry out. By keeping sacred the trust given him in the woods, he qualified himself for more light and knowledge; from that point, his life consisted of an upward journey to the arms of his Savior.

To come to the Beloved Son, to learn to recognize His words, to learn to feel His presence, to seek Him at the veil – this is what revelation is all about. “Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation” (D&C 8:2-3).

To be clasped in the arms of Jesus Christ [9] is the ultimate revelation: it is the full opening of the veil, the invitation to come into His presence, to receive of His fullness and the warmth of His embrace. This dramatic gift will be realized in the life of each person who qualifies for exaltation and eternal life.


[1] D&C Explanatory Introduction

[2] Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 151.

[3] Oaks, Dallin H. “Revelation,” New Era , Sept. 1982, p. 38.

[4] History of the Church 1:339.

[5] John 3:17.

[6] Ether 12:6.

[7] Monson, Thomas S. “Choose You This Day,” Ensign , November 2004, p. 67.

[8] Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 26.

[9] Mormon 5:11.