Editor’s Note: New York Times #1 Bestselling Authors Richard and Linda Eyre join forces with their daughter Saydi (an “in the trenches” mother of four young children) to produce this series on the why-tos and the how-tos of receiving the Direct-Stewardship inspiration, guidance, and revelation we need to create strong and righteous families in this difficult world. This is article 5 in a multi-part weekly series which will run here in Meridian every Tuesday. (Click here to read article 1, here to read article 2, here to read article 3, and here to read article 4.
In today’s turbulent world, and with the challenge of home centered Gospel teaching, parents and grandparents need personal family revelation more than ever before. And since every home situation is unique, this is not a series on what to do generally—it is on how to get divine answers for your family specifically. The series continues today in the midst of the current Pandemic, with the thought that we may all have more need for Family Revelation now than ever before. YOU ARE INVITED TO ADD YOUR THOUGHTS OR QUESTIONS BY COMMENTING ON THIS ARTICLE—BECAUSE FAMILY REVELATION IS A SUBJECT ON WHICH WE CAN ALL LEARN FROM EACH OTHER.
During our Mission Presidency in London, we liked to occasionally take missionaries to visit St. Paul’s Cathedral, one of the great religious edifices in the world, designed by the brilliant Victorian architect Sir Christopher Wren. Below the magnificent dome, as an altarpiece in the Cathedral’s Middlesex Chapel, hangs the painting “The Light of the World” (this series’ Cover art) by William Holman-Hunt, a pre-Raphaelite painter who paid remarkable attention to detail and who said “I painted the picture with what I thought, unworthy though I was, to be by Divine command, and not simply as a good Subject.”
Often called a “sermon in a frame” this painting is filled with symbols, the most important of which is the latchless door which can only be opened from the inside and the underlying message that the Savior of the World is alive and will dwell in the hearts of those who admit him. Under the painting are the words from Revelation 3: ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock. If any man hear my voice and open the door I will come in to him and will sup with him and he with me.’ Also quoted is John 8:12 “I am the light of the World; he who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of Life.” When the painting was installed at St. Paul’s, the choir sang Psalm 119 which includes the verse: “Thy word is a lantern unto my feet and a light unto my path”. tpauls.co.uk
To us, and to the missionaries in our care, the underlying message of the painting is the powerful principle of agency, and the truth that the Lord will not violate our agency by opening the door Himself—yet He waits, He knocks, and in various ways He asks us to ask Him in; and He is always there. He entreats us, “If you love me, keep my Commandments” but He does not force or coerce, so the best definition of “commandments” is “loving council from a wise Father.”
We open the door by asking, and the first several articles in this series have been about how and where and when to ask. But God’s desire to inspire us on things relative to our families is so great, and the Spirit World and its influence is so all around us, that sometimes all it takes to receive Family Revelation is to be in tune and to raise our conscious level of Awareness and Perspective. We need to be aware of the “door” and aware that Christ and His light and His Spirit are there on the doorstep—always there, always available, always willing to answer and to inspire if we simply open the door.
To do this, we need to be “fully present” and have a part of our minds, even when we are busy on other things, remain attuned to the Spirit and to any spiritual impulses or insights that may occur. These include nudges, promptings, sudden clarity, discernment, and warnings. All of these can come to us via spiritual feelings that we have to tune in to receive. And remember that the door to family revelation swings more easily on its hinges when we are in holy places—and the holiest place can ge our own homes.
Though there are hundreds of ways to receive revelation, the following is a list of potential “awareness-oriented” ways to do so. As you read through you will be prompted to think of many more.
“Nudges” or “Promptings.”
The Spirit is always present in the sense that Family Inspiration is always available, and sometimes there are little taps or promptings that come, seemingly from nowhere that can move us in the right direction. If we ignore these, they grow gradually fainter and harder to hear, but if we notice them, value them, pray about them, and act on them, we tune in and over time they become more distinct and easier to recognize. Closely related are the Feelings that sometimes come over us when we are with or thinking about our families. They can be feelings of joy or of longing or of anxiety or even of guilt. If we brush these aside or just try to get past them, they are usually fleeting, but if we learn to respect them and plumb their depths, they often reveal Family Revelation to us. Ask yourself why you are feeling something. Think about it, pray about it, see if you can develop it into some kind of recognized Family Revelation. And if you can’t, try again next time the feeling comes.
Elder Boyd K. Packer explained, “This guidance comes as thoughts, as feelings, through impressions and promptings” (“Revelation in a Changing World,” Ensign, November 1989, p. 14)
Slowing Down and Being Present
(Saydi) Family life can be a torrent of noise and activity, so fast paced and loud that it can be hard to “tune in” and hear Him. I love the analogy of President McConkie makes, comparing revelation to radio waves. If we can’t quiet our minds and our homes at least for a few minutes it’s hard to tune into God’s frequency.
“The minute in which we tune a radio to the proper wave band — we begin to hear and see and experience what otherwise remains completely unknown to us.
The revelations and visions of eternity (are) are around us all the time. This Tabernacle is full of the same things which are recorded in the scriptures and much more. The vision of the degrees of glory is being broadcast before us, but we do not hear or see or experience because we have not tuned our souls to the wave band on which the Holy Ghost is broadcasting.
The Comforter knoweth all things; —and he is broadcasting all the truths of salvation, and all the knowledge and wisdom of God, out into all immensity all of the time.
How this is done we do not know. We cannot comprehend God or the laws by which he governs the universe. But that it does happen we know because here in the valley below, when we attune our souls to the Infinite, we hear and see and experience the things of God.”
– Bruce R. McConkie from “The Lord’s People Receive Revelation” April, 1971
I believe that God is not only broadcasting the Truths of salvation, but also the little truths for our own lives and those of our children and our loved ones. Sometimes all it takes is the discipline and effort of carving out some time to be still and quiet and tune in to God’s frequency.
Depending on the stage of family life that you’re in, this effort and discipline might feel impossible. And if it does, take heart. There have been times in my life when I’m really burning the candle at both ends, up all night, staggering through the day with only the ability at the end of the day to breath out a silent (and sometimes desperate) prayer as I race to get in a few hours of sleep. I’ve come to find that the magic of God and of revelation is that when you have a willing and seeking heart it finds its way to you through whatever cracks it can. If you grasp the opportunities you do have to tune in, you’re soul is ready and able to hear Him even in the noisiest times. In fact, I believe that often the acts of sacrifices we make as parents are the very means through which our souls are tuning into God. Yes, quiet and stillness help us draw close to God, but so does service and sacrifice.
If you are in the stage of family life where you can carve out a little more time to be still and quiet, meditative prayer can be an amazing way to tune into God’s frequency. Social scientists are finding more and more evidence to suggest that our brains become clearer and more centered the more time we spend focusing on our breath and quieting our thoughts and emotions. Following a guided meditation or sitting in stillness can be a powerful pre-curser to our prayers, aligning us with God’s frequency and arming us with peace and light to carry with us through the day.
President Hinckley said: “We live in a very mad world when all is said and done. The pressures are tremendous. We fy at high speeds. We drive at high speeds…But there is hardly time to reflect and think and pause and mediate. I daresay that most of those in this room today have not taken an hour in the last year to just sit down quietly…reflecting upon his/her place in this world, upon his/her destiny, upon his/her capacity to do good, upon his/her mission to make some changes for good. We need to. I recall so vividly President McKay in his old age in a meeting with his counselors and the Twelve saying, ‘Brethren, we do not spend enough time meditating.’”
I have found if I take just 10 min at the beginning or the end of the day to simply try to connect to my breath and to God in stillness my mind is primed and I am more able to tune in and hear Him.
Being able to discern and recognize truth is a very real and valuable form of Family Revelation and a gift of the Spirit that we can ask for and cultivate. Recognizing something quickly as good or useful or personally applicable (or not so) is a very useful kind of spiritual guidance. If you are reading a scripture or listening to a conference talk or even reading through a list of parenting ideas or marriage tips, a form of Family Revelation called discernment can help you to recognize what would work in your family and what wouldn’t. When you see something or hear an idea and your spirit discerns that it something you need or something of potential value for your family, this is a form of Personal Family Revelation.
We hope that you, the reader, will use this form of Family Revelation throughout the time you spend reading this series. Pray for and develop this spiritual gift and use it on every page and you will know, often instantly, whether or not a particular idea or approach would work in your family with your kids.
Sudden bursts of unexpected insight and inspiration
Just holding a hope or a need in our minds about something we have prayed about or asked for can be a way of further seeking, and can lead to flashes of simple insight about our children or our homes or our marriages.
President Harold B. Lee counseled, “All of us should try to … give heed to the sudden ideas that come to us, and if we’ll give heed to them and cultivate an ear to hear these promptings we too—each of us—can grow in the spirit of revelation” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee , 51).
To illustrate, last year our quite incredible daughter-in-law Julie lived in a five-story walk-up on the upper west side of Manhattan with our son Eli and their three young children. She had been reading late at night and early in the mornings to meet the Read-the-Book-of-Mormon-by-the-end-of-the-year Challenge that President Nelson had given in the Women’s meeting at Conference. She had just returned home from a family wedding and she recorded this wonderful story in her journal:
I struggled this week getting back into the flow and not totally getting mad at little Zara and Dean for adding so much chaos (and sass and disobedience) to my life that already often feels out of control. I decided to repent and get up with a fresh start this morning. It was a pretty good day where we were all very positive. But at dinner Zara started to complain about the food, again, like every day. We normally play this game where we go to “Monkey Land” and we go on an animal adventure to the jungle or ocean and with each bite, I tell more of the story. All to entice them to just eat.
So tonight, I was about to the start the same thing, but I had the sudden thought to do “Imaginary Story; Sunday edition.” I decided to pretend we had just landed on the Jaredite Barge. I opened the scriptures and started reading and paraphrasing the story. Zara just loved the description of the boats and she and Dean helped figure out what the three problems are with boats that are “tight like unto a dish.” We had the best 15-minute conversation about what happened but also the way God answers our questions. Honestly, nothing like that has ever happened in our home and it was magical. I consider that a small miracle as a result of reading the scripture these last several months. I had so many stories in my mind I could tell, but also, I realized I had forgotten a lot and want to start reading again so I could share more scriptural stories with the kids
Sudden bursts of insights or ideas are a form of Family Revelation that may come in the form of an instant recall of things the Spirit once taught us that may apply to our present situation. The Savior counseled:
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. [John 14:26]
When we are in tune, the Spirit can warn us of physical and spiritual dangers, and these warnings are another form of revelation. Sometimes these warnings can be pretty dramatic. Right after such an experience may be a wonderful time to seek additional Family Revelation and ponder why you were warned and what the warning may mean.
Sometimes these warnings come to us as we contemplate a present or future action, and if we heed them, we can save ourselves from paths that lead in the wrong direction.
President Boyd K. Packer touched a tender chord within me when he taught, “We cannot set off on a wrong course without first overruling a warning.” Kenneth Johnson, Yielding to the Enticings of the Holy Spirit Kenneth Johnson
Other times the warnings can come very suddenly and miraculously.
While we were in London with the missionaries, we often had meetings and conferences at the Hyde Park Chapel on Exhibition Road in the West End of London. One day, hurrying from the Tube stop (subway) to the Chapel, I was waiting impatiently for the stoplight at an intersection just down the street from the Church. I saw the light change and was stepping off of the curb when I felt a hand grab the back collar of my overcoat and jerk me back up on the curb. Just then the red blur of a London double-decker bus flashed past my vision, inches away. I looked back over my shoulder to thank whomever had saved me, and there was no one there.
Awareness of Patriarchal Blessings and of Waiting on the Lord
One day during this long season of the Pandemic and isolation, I (Linda) decided to tackle organizing a file that had been stashed away for years. In the process, I found a folder which contained the Patriarchal Blessings of each of our nine children. As I picked it up, I realized that folder was literally bursting with revelation for our family! I was embarrassed to say I had not read those revelations carefully for years. Of course, we had pulled one out here and there when one of our children was making a big decision or was troubled about something, but I hadn’t read them all thoroughly, one after the other, for years.
I was astonished as I took several hours each day to read one blessing at a time (perhaps something I may never “have time” to do again). As I did, I created a commentary in a separate document of “aha moments” and clear thoughts that came to me about that child. I was completely overwhelmed as I read the promises, challenges and blessings that had come to pass in their lives, even though those blessings were given to our children as teenagers. As the years had passed, things that hadn’t been understood at the time the blessing was given, were perfectly clear now, and often breathtaking in their scope. I emailed my findings along with my love to each child as I finished.
That process took me back to the variety of living rooms of those three dear Patriarchs who pronounced the blessings on our children’s heads, and where the spirit was thick and love abounded. And I also remembered how often the Patriarch stopped, paused, and waited for the inspiration that finally came to reveal incredible information about the life of the soul whose head was under his hands.
Those moments reminded me of the myriads of blessings that have since been given through Richard’s hands, who also listened intently and “waited on the Lord” for revelation for our own children as inspired words flowed through their bodies. Notes were almost always taken and given to the child after a blessing. From “back to school” blessings to “starting a new job” blessings to “leaving for missions” and “on to marriage” blessings, each was pure revelation from our Heavenly Parents through the hands and hearts of those who love them.
Whether blessings are given through an enlightened Patriarch…or by a listening Father to faithful children of God, all of our children are the recipients of Pure Family Revelation!
Our son Noah’s experience illustrates how important our awareness of our ancestors and of their interest in us can be in receiving Family Revelation:
Kristi and I were anticipating the birth of Mila and our minds were swimming with all of the emotions surrounding her birth because she had a complicated heart issue that would require immediate operation after birth. As we knelt down to pray one night Kristi said “I think we should invite our ancestors to be a part of this.” As we prayed that night and connected with God about our hope that our ancestors could be involved with this experience the Spirit filled the room with emotion and a surety that they were indeed involved and had been all along. Who better to be involved with the family revelation we seek than our own family who have passed on! I asked Kristi what prompted her to bring that up and she talked about various experiences leading up to that day where she clearly felt our ancestors (especially the women in this case) were connecting with her and our unborn daughter. I am so grateful for revelation that can widen our perspective and help us see our deep family connections working beyond the veil.
Through Feelings, not words
It is so important to remember that most Family Revelation is usually neither loud nor dramatic. It comes as quiet, subtle feelings when we are thinking or praying about our children or our marriages or our families.
As the Lord says, “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost…Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation.” (D&C 8:2–3).
Elder Packer reminded us “The Spirit does not get our attention by shouting or shaking us with a heavy hand. Rather it whispers. It caresses so gently that if we are preoccupied we may not feel it at all. …”
“Occasionally it will press just firmly enough for us to pay heed. But most of the time, if we do not heed the gentle feeling, the Spirit will withdraw and wait until we come seeking and listening.”—President Boyd K. Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “The Candle of the Lord,” Ensign, Jan. 1983, 53.
That last part of Elder Packer’s quote is particularly relevant and applicable to Family Revelation. Usually we must initiate and activate guidance by asking for it, but occasionally, when God wants us to know something about our child or our spouse that we don’t know enough to ask about, he will “press just firmly enough for us to pay heed” or to notice, but it is then up to us to continue to “come seeking and listening.” This is a comforting thought. When there is something we have not thought to ask for or to ask about, and when we are aware and perceptive enough to be watching for the specific answers to our more general prayers, God will nudge us in the right direction and toward the correct insight, but we still need to be spiritually aware enough to notice and have enough spiritual perspective to grasp it and pursue it and ask for more about it.
President Lee also sought to teach us about how feelings are the preferred method of Family Revelation, “When your heart begins to tell you things that your mind does not, then you are getting the Spirit of the Lord” (“When Your Heart Tells You Things Your Mind Does Not Know,” New Era, February 1971, p. 3).
It is interesting that we have old sayings like “seeing is believing” or “I won’t believe it until I see it with my own eyes or hear it with my own ears.” Yet in fact, of all our senses or ways of learning or knowing, it is our eyes and our ears that are most easily tricked and most often wrong. How many times have you “thought you saw something” or heard something, but there was nothing there. The receptor that is the hardest to fool, and the hardest to forget, is a deep, clear feeling, or a thought that enters directly into your mind, so it is no wonder that this is
the a preferred method of Family Revelation.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said it this way, When you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.) those things that were presented unto your mind by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus. [Joseph Smith, Teachings, p. 151]
And President Lee said, When there come to you things that your mind does not know, when you have a sudden thought that comes to your mind, if you will learn to give heed to these things that come from the Lord, you will learn to walk by the spirit of revelation. [Harold B. Lee, Conference Report of the First Mexico and Central America Area General Conference, 1972, p. 49]
Brigham Young quoted the Prophet Joseph Smith when he said, “They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits—it will whisper peace and joy to their souls” (Joseph Smith, stated by Brigham Young, “History of the Church,” Juvenile Instructor 8 [19 July 1873], p. 114).
How wonderful it is that Family Revelation is often accompanied by, and even recognized by feelings of Joy. And why shouldn’t it be? After all, it is the most joyful kind of communication (God to man) about the most joyful thing (our children and our marriages) and He is happy that we asked, and we are happy to receive.
Holy Places and Holy Sources
Since the Family Revelation we need and the Spiritual Truth we are seeking already exists in the spiritual reality around us, sometimes all we need do is be in the right places and with the right people to perceive and receive it.
Spending more time in holy places and with holy or spiritual people, and being “with” the spiritual sources of scripture and with the messages of God’s chosen servants can be a huge part of “opening our door” and finding the guidance we need.
We go to the Temple to get away from the world, but also to seek the answers we need within the real world. If we go into the Temple with clear, well thought out Family questions, we are likely to come out with clear Family answers—or perhaps with better questions. Sometimes our Temple petitions yield direct, revealed answers, and sometimes they prompt us about things we can do to answer the issue ourselves. Still other times, usually when we have exhausted all other means, God may answer by some form of direct intervention.
“Let us enjoy the spiritual strength and the revelation we receive as we attend the temple regularly.” Dallin Oaks “Holy Temples, Sacred Covenants,” Liahona and Ensign, Nov. 2008, 113, 114.
We have a condo in Salt Lake City that looks directly out on the magnificent and historic Salt Lake Temple, and just its presence is sometimes enough to cause us to drop everything and go. We have developed a deep love and personal affection for this quiet sanctuary from the busy commercial world that surrounds it. And we can unhesitatingly say that we have never been inside that majestic building without receiving inspiration or Family Revelation of some kind.
The Holy Writ, of course, is a prime source of Family guidance. When we are concerned about a problem with a family member, the answers are almost univariably somewhere in the scriptures. And often just reading or studying any scripture acts as a trigger that allows some seemingly unrelated thought or answer to come spiritually into our minds. This is true particularly when we read the scriptures with that concern in mind.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks put it this way, “Just as continuing revelation enlarges and illuminates the scriptures, so also a study of the scriptures enables men and women to receive revelations. . . . This happens because scripture reading puts us in tune with the Spirit of the Lord. . . . We do not overstate the point when we say that the scriptures can be a Urim and Thummim to assist each of us to receive personal revelation”. “Scripture Reading and Revelation,” Ensign, January 1995, 7–8.
And Relief Society President Julie Beck said in 2010, Many answers to difficult questions are found by reading the scriptures because the scriptures are an aid to revelation. Insight found in scripture accumulates over time, so it is important to spend some time in the scriptures every day.
Of course, “scripture” is not limited to ancient texts. Church leaders today, particularly our prophets, extend to us the Family Revelation of modern scripture through their speaking and writing and particularly through their General Conference addresses. We should approach Conference every six months with the anticipation of Family Revelation, and as we look and listen for it, we will receive it.
Stillness and Nature.
For many of us, being alone, out in nature, creates an atmosphere of revelation. And nature, small and large, is everywhere. If we live where we can take a walk in the woods or mountains or on a beach, we are very lucky, but if not, sometimes just standing by a tree or pondering a flower or looking up at the clouds provides the same restful, revelatory response.
(Saydi)I have to be honest, a push for simplification and quiet always make me start to feel a little anxious. How can we be still with all the demands of parenting, relationships, work, living, supporting a family, serving in the church, obeying the commandments, being perfect. Can we live a life of stillness?
I don’t think that God means for us all to retreat to the mountains and take vows of silence (though I really do want to do that one of these days).
But he does want us to find moments of stillness. It is one of the paradoxes of the gospel, that in stillness comes movement, movement in the right direction. Without stillness we are running and exhausted, but we’re going in aimless circles, like chickens with our heads cut off.
Angels, Ancestors and Children
And now, he imparteth his word by angels unto men, yea, not only men but women also. Now this is not all; little children do have words given unto them many times, which confound the wise and the learned. [Alma 32:23]
We believe in Angels, and we know that our ancestors “are not far from us” and that their spirits can sometimes communicate with ours. It is up to the Lord and not to us whether we will see or hear from our ancestors or from angels in response to our requests for Family Revelation, but just knowing that they are there can be a motivation and an assurance as we seek and ask for insight and light with regard to our families.
In addition, all of us have been confounded by the wisdom of our children. From the heavenly spirit we feel around newborns to our little children who so often surprise us with their thoughtful, often unexpected insights.
When I was holding the delightful little child of a friend, I asked her how old she was. She replied, “Four.”
“Oh I love four-year-olds,” I replied enthusiastically. But she answered back with a far-away look in her eye and a sigh, “But I miss my threes!”
Having mentors or grandparents or wise Church leaders, and asking them the questions of our hearts is sometimes the most personal and direct path to the answers we need.
And while you are the prime recipient of Family Revelation for your family, others, particularly when asked for advice by you, can also receive inspiration on your behalf and in response to your requests. Our own parents and siblings (our children’s aunts and uncles) may have insights about our children and our families that are more objective than the way we see things, and being asked to give advice is a complement to them
–which is so much more pleasant, for them and for us, than when advice is given unsolicited.
Mentors, Church leaders and respected friends often have thoughts and ideas that can be enormously helpful, and all we have to do to avail ourselves of their perspectives is to ask.
Even respected peers, and good discussions with them can be mutually helpful. As President Kimball said, “We pray to God but He answers through others”
We often don’t think of music as a “holy place” but we should never underestimate the inspiration-drawing effect that sacred or classical music can have. Sometimes just replacing the clamor and chaos of a normal day’s soundtrack with something beautiful in our ears is enough to trigger insight and inspiration. With the right mind-set, this is another way of seeking and of receiving Family Revelation.
(Saydi) Of course revelation cannot be constrained to a short list of times and places. When we structure our lives in a way that enables us to be close to the spirit, to be aware of God and be seeking, then God can and will reveal things to us in sometimes the most unexpected ways and places. It is often more about attuning our ears to hear him then putting ourselves in the right place, although one can certainly help with the other.
Join us here in this same space next Tuesday when we will discuss receiving Family Revelation through Priesthood Blessings (which we have mentioned today but will go deeper into next week) and through a new, deeper kind of prayer. And please share your thoughts or questions by commenting on this article.