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On the morning of our daughter’s wedding, a few days ago, my husband, Scot and I awoke early at 4:00 a.m. We were still jet-lagged from leading a tour in China, a 14-hour time difference, and so, though we needed the sleep for a big day ahead, sleep would not come. There in the dark, as we lay in bed, I began mentally going over the many details of the day, fixed on not forgetting the tasks that go into any wedding. Don’t forget to bring something to dry off the bouquet, which will be standing in water while we are at the temple. Did I remember to put in the pens for the book to sign in at the reception? Such tiny things to fixate on when the day ahead was so momentous for us and our daughter.
Just then, Scot rolled over in our bed, and said, “I think we would be surprised if we realized how many things in our life were simply gifts from God.” Immediately my mind changed direction, and I went from my dedication to details, to this stab of gratitude. “Oh yes, and Michaela has been one of those gifts,” I said. “We didn’t earn her or deserve her; we couldn’t have done enough to receive such a gift, the Lord just gave her to us to bless our lives.” We were simply swimming in gratitude as scenes from her life and her deep goodness filled our hearts like a slow-motion montage from a movie.
I could see her as a toddler, in the funny way she used to climb on my back and cling on during family prayer. I could see her in a blue and gold soccer uniform running through the tunnel made of the opposite team’s upstretched arms. There she was in memory for me, getting ready for the Daddy-daughter Girl Scout dance, where Scot held her up high and her feet dangled while they twirled to the notes of “Butterfly Kisses.”
I find that no matter how hard I try to hold on to precious moments, life is a swift river and the current flows through my fingers. Holding on to any beauty is impossible; you can only appreciate it with all your soul while it is there. Life is impermanence.
So nothing could have been sweeter for me than those memories, and they were all a divine gift. “Oh thank thee, thank thee, thank thee!” we exclaimed in the dark in whispers to this Lord who had thought to give us so much in bringing this daughter to us. And in that moment, we both seemed to taste the Lord’s goodness and our hearts expanded with love of Him. Who is this Father in Heaven who is so good to us?
We knew again in that moment that even the hardest times in life are gifts from this Lord of such loving kindness. Our hearts were swelling in love for Him, and we sensed that even this wedding day was His gift to us, when our youngest child was leaving home, and in some ways was so poignantly hard for us.
Such thankfulness and joy were growing in our hearts as we talked in the dark, and then another amazing thing happened. We had recently been praying about something else, and, though that had not been our topic in this early morning prayer of gratitude, the answer to this other thing came suddenly and clearly to our minds as well. It came seemingly out of the blue, but there it was.
In that moment, we knew that God was not only hearing our early morning prayer of gratitude, but that he had also heard every beseeching prayer we had asked on this other matter as well. We were expanded and enlightened. Solutions began to pour in on something completely different than our expression of gratitude for the wedding day ahead and for the gift our daughter had been in our lives. These were answers we needed.
Learning More about Receiving Revelation
I value revelation in my life as an incomparable treasure. I am grateful if I can simply feel the Lord say, “I am here,” and, since last General Conference, with President Russell M. Nelson’s conference talk in mind, I have wondered, what do I need to learn to be more sensitive to revelation? How can I receive more of this lovely gift?
Our morning’s experience seemed to suggest a path. It is this: We need to put our mind and heart in a place to receive revelation.
If when Scot had mentioned that everything about our lives was a gift, I had chosen instead to continue down my mental and demanding checklist of duties for the day, we wouldn’t have had that revelatory experience that followed.
President Russell M. Nelson told us, “Does God really want to speak to you? Yes!…You don’t have to wonder what is true.”
He said, “I urge you to stretch beyond your current spiritual ability to receive personal revelation, for the Lord has promised that “if thou shalt [seek], thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal” (Doctrine and Covenants 42:61).
He also added this very solemn warning. “In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.”
This sounds urgent, and, most have to admit that there are sacred times we receive revelation from the heavens and other times when we feel dry as an autumn leaf blowing in the gutter. Is there a way to receive more of what the Lord seems so willing to give us?
Heaven knows how much we need this revelation. Life presents problems whose solutions are not readily available to us. Some issues for us seem impenetrable. “I don’t know what to do,” I have told the Lord. “I don’t know what to think. Help me. My own powers are simply not enough.”
Then I remember what the scriptures teach, “Believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend” (Mosiah 4:9) He has said, “I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all” (Abraham 3:19).
What a mind-boggling and glorious concept is this that I would have access to this kind of help for my life and conundrums—which are many. How do I access this power through revelation? Could it really be that I have connection to the most intelligent of them all for help when I need it (which is daily)?
The Place of Revelation
The good news is that we can learn how to put our spirit and mind in the place to receive revelation. We can learn how to open our spirit to the light. One way was clearly demonstrated to me the morning of our daughter’s wedding. Gratitude for God opens your heart for revelation. By this, of course, I mean that thankfulness that swells your heart and mind. The awe that you feel when in a moment you stop to realize who God is and that He cares for you. He not only knows your name, He gives you breath. Any good feeling that washes over you is His gift of light that radiates from His being. Any love that swells your heart for another human being or any idea that expands your mind is His gift.
We see other scriptural examples of the process that leads to revelation. President Joseph F. Smith told us what led to the bursting upon his mind of the vision of the spirit world recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 138. He said that, “I sat in my room, pondering over the scriptures, and reflecting upon the great atoning sacrifice that was made by the Son of God, for the redemption of the world. And the great and wonderful love made manifest by the Father and the Son in the coming of the Redeemer into the world.”
He too was swelling with gratitude for this wonderful love, and, just as noteworthy, he was reading his scriptures. This wasn’t a casual reading, or a hurry-and-get-it-done reading, but a feast where he was deeply engaged in pondering and seeking to understand the meaning of things.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “I sometimes think that one of the best-kept secrets of the kingdom is that the scriptures open the door to the receipt of revelation. He added, “There is no limit to the revelations [we] may receive.”
Joseph F. Smith continued, “While I was thus engaged, my mind reverted to the writings of the apostle Peter…I opened the Bible and read the third and fourth chapters of the first epistle of Peter, and as I read I was greatly impressed, more than I had ever been before with the following passages.”
That he was “greatly impressed” says how potently the Spirit was already moving upon him. Some scriptures were jumping out at him as a compelling message from the Spirit made possible only because he was reading them.
Then, he tells us, “As I pondered over these things which are written, the eyes of my understanding were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me, and I saw the hosts of the dead, both small and great” (Doctrine and Covenants 138: 1,2,6,11).
This does not sound extremely different than the experience Joseph Smith had that led to the First Vision. He said, “I was one day reading the Epistle of James…which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God…Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart”
Here it is again. The scripture passage fairly leaps off the page for Joseph. It is reading scripture and heartfelt prayer that leads him to revelation.
Like Joseph F. Smith, Joseph is compelled to ponder. He said, “I reflected on it again and again” (Joseph Smith History 11,12).
Nephi shows a similar pattern. His father, Lehi, tells him about his vision of the tree of life, which is an experience similar to reading scripture, and, Nephi “desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart, I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceedingly high mountain, which I never had before seen, and upon which I never had before set my foot (1 Nephi 11:1).
Nephi was pondering the words of the Lord. Joseph Smith was pondering the words of the Lord. Joseph F. Smith was pondering the words of the Lord. Each was deeply engaged in the words of the Lord—and then revelation followed. The scriptures had become like a urim and thummim to them, opening the door to assist them in receiving personal revelation.
They had each put their minds and heart in a place to receive revelation. What also strikes me about their having put themselves in the place to receive revelation is their confidence that they would.
Nephi was certain that the Lord would answer him. He said, “For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost” (1 Nephi 10: 19).
Joseph Smith said of his prayer the night that Moroni came to him, “I had full confidence in obtaining a divine manifestation, as I previously had one” (Joseph Smith History 29).
We have more power to receive revelation than we sometimes realize, and with practice, we become even better in recognizing it when it is given. It is something we can learn, because we have a Father who is eager to give us these glimmers of light, this cascade of knowledge that transforms our days.
Gratitude. Prayer. Scripture. Pondering. Faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ. These all put us in a place to receive revelation, so if you were the Adversary, what would you do to block it? You would do everything to make a person’s life trivial, urgent and demanding so that these things had no place in it. You’d rock their world with too much to do, disbelief, and endless lists. You’d tell them they had no time to ponder. If they read scriptures, you’d suggest that one verse was enough. You’d tell them that reading last thing at night when they were too tired to hold their eyes open was sufficient. You’d fill their life with noise so that there was time neither for real study or prayer. You’d block that path of revelation in every way possible.
But we can choose better. We can choose a path of gratitude, prayer, scripture, pondering and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. One morning last week when my daughter was getting married, I put aside my mental list and just reveled in the dark in the Lord’s goodness. He responded with revelation.