If you were asked to list the history-changing revelations in the Church, you might think of the First Vision, the vision of the degrees of glory, heavenly messengers at the Kirtland Temple, or any number of glorious manifestations from heaven. In each of these cases, God sent extraordinary messengers with history-changing messages.
When we think of other exemplary revelations, we might think of Thomas S. Monson getting the impression to immediately go see a friend who—unbeknownst to him—was preparing to end his own life.
I’m afraid that we are so aware of the dramatic revelations that some people experience that we neglect the common ones—the foot soldiers in the army of heavenly participation. For example, today a teenage granddaughter asked if someone would help her with her homework. I have wanted to find ways to connect with this sweet and kind girl who is approaching the landmines of adolescence. I jumped at the invitation: “I would love to help you!” It felt like a heavenly gift. It was the perfect blessing for today.
But was it a revelation? I think it was. God was answering the desires of my heart with a perfect opportunity. God was revealing His tender mercy, thereby blessing both me and a beloved granddaughter. I think this is the most common—and maybe the most important—kind of revelation.
Let’s take a moment to consider what revelation is. Many of us are familiar with the definition that revelation is direction from God. If we pray and receive an impression to do something, we deem it revelation. And that is certainly a form of revelation. But what if we broadened the definition of revelation? The root of revelation is the word ‘reveal.’ Perhaps as well as revealing direction for our lives, Father also reveals His perfect love for us through seemingly small things, like beautiful sunsets, conversations with neighbors who love us, sweet opportunities to serve our family members, or feelings of peace. Would we begin to feel closer to God if we broadened our definition of revelation?
Every day, God makes unnumbered arrangements to bless us and all those we’re willing to serve. My dear wife is an expert at this kind of revelation. We can be driving home and Nancy observes, “It looks like the Olsons have not had the chance to rake their leaves.” I recognize the message. This is a call to serve that is just as clear as a letter from the Office of the First Presidency. The next morning, we will be at the Olsons’ house with rakes and bags.
The Prophet Joseph observed that “a man filled with the love of God is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.”
Maybe the richest form of revelation is experienced when we are in synchrony with God—when each understands the other and their hearts are in tune. When I think of letting God guide our lives, I think of Him as the rider and me as a horse. A balky horse may require the rider to poke and jerk to get him going at all or in the right direction. I would like to be the kind of horse that responds to the lightest touch. When God merely leans in the saddle, I want to turn to follow His will. I’m afraid that I am often a distracted horse running toward the barn—but I aspire to be the kind of horse who is one with the heavenly rider. I would like to let God prevail in my life.
We have all had those experiences where we improbably run into someone at just the right time to give or receive needed counsel and encouragement. I do not believe this is chance. I believe that God arranges our experiences far more than we know. He puts the right people and right circumstances in just the right places so that dozens of times every day we have the opportunity to be blessed and to bless.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell quoted Malcolm Muggeridge:
I feel so strongly at the end of my life that nothing can happen to us in any circumstance that is not a part of God’s purpose for us. Therefore we have nothing to fear, nothing to worry about except that we should rebel against His purpose and that we should fail to detect His purpose in things and fail to establish a relationship with Him. . . . All the happenings in this world including the most terrible disasters and suffering will be seen in eternity as in some mysterious way a blessing, as a part of God’s love.
Every day the key question for us is whether we will detect God’s ordinary revelations. Will we see His hand in all things? Will we welcome the blessings He sends?
John Gottman, the famous relationship researcher, found that people reach out to us far more often than we realize. Dozens of times every day, people reach out to connect, and only occasionally do we notice and respond. I suspect that the same is true in our relationship with God. How often does He reach out to encourage us, love us, and teach us, but we don’t notice? A few times every day? Maybe a dozen times? Maybe hundreds?
That is why it is so important to keep some kind of gratitude journal. God is present in the workings of our lives. When we record the blessings of each day, it makes us more aware of God’s loving participation in our lives.
But this is more than a gratitude exercise. Noticing God’s participation in our lives is essential to build our connection with God.
For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift. (D&C 88:33)
God is constantly offering the gift of guidance in our lives. We can receive His gift gladly as we act on the impressions He gives.
We have a good friend who used to drive truck for a living. He once told me that anytime he sees someone broken down on the side of the road, he stops to help. He feels that he has no choice. God expects him to help any of His children who are in His path. He hears and responds to God’s message to help His children.
Hundreds of people who live in our neighborhood pass the same man every day. He wears a long coat and looks disheveled. He seems to always be walking the same street. But one of our neighbors sees God in him. He stops and talks to him. He takes him to breakfast. He follows him to the chapel to hear him play the piano. That man sees God where most of us see danger. For him, ordinary people on the street are a great revelation of God.
Some people look into the eyes of cashiers and see real and interesting people. Some look at neighbors and see beyond their quirks. Some look at clouds and see messages from God. Some look at challenges and see invitations for growth. We can come to see the hand and revelations of God much more in our lives as we come to learn the many ways He reveals Himself to His children.
God’s most common revelations are some of His most important ones.
Invitation to Gratitude!
This season consider a holiday gift that will help you build the spirit of gratitude in your family and among the people you love. God’s Trophies is a heartwarming children’s tale about Rupert learning gratitude for all of God’s creations. Rupert’s whimsical adventure also teaches children that they are each God’s most beloved creation. Wonderful illustrations accompany the joyful story. This book would make an excellent holiday gift for any special people in your life. For the holiday season, I am offering five copies of God’s Trophies—a $65 value—for $25 with free shipping in the US.
To get this special offer, go to: https://ldsgreats.com/products/five-copies-of-gods-trophies-by-wally-goddard-picture-book
Thanks to Annie Foster for her insightful contributions to this article.