I have crossed over the Missouri River hundreds of times in my life. I crossed over it again with a tour bus of Meridian travel participants and as we were crossing this enormous bridge I told them all to look up the river and down. I told them that not far from where we were crossing, two of the revelations of the Doctrine and Covenants were received (Sections 61 and 62). I then said to them in a loud voice over the intercom (this is all while we were still crossing the Missouri): “What power shall stay the heavens? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm [I love that] to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints” (D&C 121: 33). Could there be any promise more wonderful? And this promise was given on day 111 of Joseph’s imprisonment in the Liberty Jail! What a great type for the last days, that in the midst of the darkness of this world and the most difficult of times, the Almighty will not forget His people. He will continue to pour out knowledge and revelation upon them.
President Harold B. Lee
Let us not fall into a pattern of thinking that unless the Prophet or Apostles say, “Thus saith the Lord,” that what they give us is not revelation. President Harold B. Lee said it this way:
“If you want to know what the Lord has for this people at the present time, I would admonish you to get and read the discourses that have been delivered at this conference, for what these brethren have spoken by the power of the Holy Ghost is the mind of the Lord, the will of the Lord, the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto Salvation.” (President Harold B. Lee, April 8, 1973)
President Lee also said:
“As the Latter-day Saints go home, it would be well if they consider seriously the importance of taking with them the report of this conference and let it be the guide to their walk and talk during the next six months. These are the important matters the Lord sees fit to reveal to this people in this day...” (President Harold B. Lee, April 1946, emphasis added).
As if President Lee was giving us a theme, let us emphasize his counsel here:
“This is what has been said, in effect, in this conference: Unless every member of this Church gains for himself an unshakable testimony of the divinity of this Church, he will be among those who will be deceived in this day when the ‘elect according to the covenant’ are going to be tried and tested. Only those will survive who have gained for themselves that testimony.” (President Harold B. Lee, October 1950)
Shall we not give heed to the words of the prophets. Shall we not be more attentive to these “important matters the Lord sees fit to reveal to this people in this day“?
President Joseph Fielding Smith added this wise advice and counsel:
“It is my humble opinion that we are receiving counsel by inspiration, or revelation, at every general conference of the Church. Would it not be wise for the members of the Church to pay more heed to these counsels and prepare ourselves for more to come?” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol. 2, p. 205).
Believe What We Believe
Some years ago I was leading another tour with a busload of people. We had the opportunity at one point to visit another church and meet with and ask questions of some of the leaders of that church. The more we asked questions, the more we could see they had strayed far from the gospel of Jesus Christ as we understood it. As we left our meeting, my stake president, who was with us, said, “Never have I seen so clearly the need for continuing revelation as what we have just experienced.”
“We believe all that God has revealed,” the Prophet Joseph wrote to Mr. John Wentworth in 1842, “all that he does now reveal, and we believe that he will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (see 9th Articles of Faith). It has been 159 years since Joseph wrote those words. Continuing revelation is the lifeblood of the Church. President Lee once shared this story:
“Elder John A. Widstoe of the Council of the Twelve once told of a discussion he had with a group of stake officers. In the course of the discussion someone said to him, ‘Brother Widstoe, how long has it been since the Church received a revelation?’ Brother Widstoe rubbed his chin thoroughly and said in reply, ‘Oh, probably since last Thursday.” (Lee, Harold B. Stand Ye in Holy Places. Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City: 1974, pp. 132-33.)
Remember a few weeks ago in lesson 37, Brother Robert Norman here in Meridian quoted President Ezra Taft Benson’s “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet.” Some of those points underline the importance of continuing revelation in the Church through the living prophet of God: Point 2: “The living prophet is more vital to us that the standard works. Point 3: “The living prophet is more important to us than a dead prophet.” Point 9: “The prophet can receive revelation on any matter, temporal or spiritual.” (Ezra Taft Benson, “Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet,” Liahona,June 1981, pp. 1-8.)
President Spencer W. Kimball testified that the Church continually receives revelation:
“We testify to the world that revelation continues and that the vaults and files of the Church contain those 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.
“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. For nearly a century and a half there has been no interruption.” (Ensign,May 1977, p. 78, emphasis added.)
Let us believe the things that we believe. Let us come to know that the Lord makes His will known to the Prophet and the leaders of the Church and the kingdom rolls forth accordingly.
Revelation a Part of the Kingdom of God
The process of the Lord communicating regularly with His Church is called continuing revelation. Elder Bruce R. McConkie made this clear as he wrote:
“This brings us to the great and eternal principle of revelation. Either God speaks and we hear his voice, or the damning curtain of ignorance, unbelief, and disobedience will forever shut us out from his presence. In this sense revelation is the beginning and the end; it is the first great requisite leading to salvation, the one principle upon which all others rest, the rock foundation upon which the whole house of salvation is built. Without revelation there is no witness; with it there is light and truth and knowledge and a hope of eternal life. Revelation is essential to salvation.”
Elder McConkie continues:
“Whenever the Lord has had a people on earth, they have received revelation from appointed prophets, apostles, and seers. If at any time they ceased to receive revelation, they ceased to be the Lord’s people. This has been the unvarying course from Adam to the present moment. The receipt of revelation is one of the chief identifying characteristics of the true saints; where there are saints there is revelation, and where there is no revelation the saints of the Most High cease to exist among men.”
Elder McConkie concludes with this point:
“Revelation is as eternal as God himself; he is the Eternal Revelator. When he speaks, his words are revelation; they set forth what is in his heart and mind, and he cannot exist without speaking. Should revelation cease, God would cease to be God, the purposes of creation would come to naught, and all things would vanish away-all of which is beyond the realm of possibility…Revelations came in days past; revelations come now; and revelations will continue as long as the earth shall stand. Those saints whose souls are attuned to the Infinite believe all that God has revealed; they need only be taught than any particular truth came by revelation, and they automatically believe it…those who are enlightened by the power of the Spirit know by spiritual instinct, without argument, without persuasion, without debate, that any authoritatively announced revelation came from the Divine Source.” (McConkie, Bruce R. A New Witness for the Articles of Faith. Deseret Book, Salt Lake City, 1985, pp. 475-77; 481.)
Revelation to President Kimball on the Priesthood
From the biography of President Boyd K. Packer by Sister Lucille Tate, we get some insight into the process of revelation, specifically in relation to President Kimball’s receiving the revelation of the priesthood being extended to all worthy males in the Church:
“At the same time the LDS edition of the scriptures was being prepared for publication another matter was weighing heavily upon the soul of one of the Lord’s great watchmen, President Spencer W. Kimball. Other latter-day prophets had wrestled with the same dilemma: that of obeying the divine command to preach the gospel to every kindred, tongue, and people, while being keenly aware that, because of race, some of those people were denied the full blessings of the gospel-that is, denied the priesthood and the temple ordinances. Thus these prophets had pleaded mightily with the Lord for answers to the problem, and none of them more intensely than President Kimball. Yet always the Spirit had indicated that the time had not yet come.
“Now this prophet, small in physical stature but a spiritual giant, wrestled again, seeking and pleading in behalf of the faithful among all priesthood-denied people. Not only did he struggle, seek, and plead, but his brethren in the highest councils of the Church did so as well.
“One day, during the Thursday temple meeting with his Counselors and the Twelve, President Kimball, who was pondering that matter, discussed it with his brethren. When it was Elder Packer’s turn to speak, he read a scripture: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that when I give a commandment to any of the sons of men to do a work unto my name, and those sons of men go with all their might and with all they have to perform that work, and cease not their diligence, and their enemies come upon them and hinder them from performing that work, behold, it behooveth me to require that work no more at the hands of those sons of men, but to accept of their offerings” (D&C 124: 49).
“A few days later President Kimball asked Brother Packer where he would be the next Saturday. Elder Packer told him he would be speaking Friday evening at the Dixie College baccalaureate but would return by plane early on Saturday.
“Will you come to my office?” the President asked.
“Of course,” Elder Packer responded.
“Upon his return about one o’clock on Saturday, Brother Packer went directly to the Church Office Building. The security officer on duty said that the President was at home and wished Elder Packer to call as soon as he came into the building.
“Reaching President Kimball by phone, Elder Packer offered, “I’ll come right up.”
“No, I’ll come down and meet you.”
“Arriving shortly after this, the President entered his office. Elder Packer recalls his saying that he had “this thing” on his mind and wanted to talk about it. “There was no need to explain what this thing was,” Elder Packer recalled. “We both knew how it was weighing upon him.
“He handed me his scriptures and said he’d like me to read to him from the revelations. So we started with the one from D&C 124: 49 that I had read in the temple. For a couple of hours we just moved back and forth through the Doctrine and Covenants, the Book of Mormon, and the Pearl of Great Price, and then talked about what we read.
“The spirit of revelation seemed to be brooding upon the prophet that day. He asked me, assuming that the revelation was to come, how it might best be announced to the Church, and asked that I put something in writing. This I did and handed it to him a day or two later. He had asked one or two of the others to do the same.”
“On Thursday, 8 June 1978, in the Salt Lake Temple, the revelation was reaffirmed when the First Presidency and the Twelve approved the announcement that was to go out to the world. It was further reaffirmed in the temple on 9 June 1978 by all of the General Authorities available. They too unanimously approved the announcement.
“The long-sought pronouncement that “all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color” had become official.” (Tate, Lucille C. Boyd K. Packer, A Watchman on the Tower. Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, 1995, pp. 225-26).
In a telling question from tough newsman Mike Wallace to President Gordon B.
Hinckley on December 18, 1995, much insight can be gained into the process of revelation to the Prophet and President of the Church.
“Q. The Mormons, Mr. President, call you a ‘living Moses,’ a prophet who literally communicates with Jesus. How do you do that?
“A. I do it in prayer. Let me say first that there is a tremendous history behind this church, a history of prophecy, a history of revelation, and a backlog of decisions, which set the pattern of the Church so that there aren’t constant recurring problems that require any special dispensation. But there are occasionally things that arise where the will of the Lord is sought, and in those circumstances I think the best way I could describe the process is to liken it to the experience of Elijah as set forth in First Kings. Elijah spoke to the Lord and there was a wind. And there was a tempest, or an earthquake, and the Lord was not in the earthquake. And there was a fire, and the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire a still, small voice, which I describe as the whisperings of the Spirit. Now let me just say, categorically, that the things of God are understood by the Spirit of God, and one must have and seek and cultivate that Spirit, and there comes understanding that is real. I can give testimony of that.” (Dew, Sheri L. Go Forward with Faith, The Biography of Gordon B. Hinckley. Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, 1996, pp. 585-86).
Let us remember and be grateful for the fact that we live in an age when we have living prophets among us who receive the word and will of the Lord for us in these tumultuous and troubled times.