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 6 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, here to read article 4, and here to read article 5.
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 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.
Since the Priesthood is the power to act for God, it stands to reason that acting within our Priesthood offices and seeking Family Revelation via the Priesthood (which marriage partners share in their home) are strong and effective ways to receive the guidance we need directly from the source of that inspiration and the power of that Priesthood.
Priesthood blessings in our homes are the very voice of Family Revelation, and many of us avail ourselves of that beautiful and direct help far too infrequently. When the Priesthood exists in our homes and we don’t use it, it is a little like having a home that is wired for electricity but never plugging anything in.
What is more important than holding and using the very power of God, and in that context, what could be a more powerful magnet to Family Revelation?
One of my (Richard’s) earliest spiritual memories is one day when I was just seven or eight years old and had a terrible ear ache. The infection was serious, because the whole side of my face was swollen. Someone, one of my parents I’m sure, had told me about Priesthood blessings so I asked for one. My grandfather came over to our house, and he and my father placed their hands on my head and blessed me with a speedy recovery.
As nearly as I can remember, I never doubted that God would now help or cure me. I had no doubt but I did have a question. I remember looking up into my mom’s eyes after that blessing and asking “how long will this take?” Who is speaking here???
The faith of a child is a marvelous thing, and that same faith, in more mature form, can allow us to obtain direct revelation through giving or receiving Priesthood Blessings. And there is no reason that we, as parents, can’t ask for a parenting blessing through which we receive family revelation.
Can the Priesthood be used too often to give blessings in the home? Perhaps, but it would be hard to find such a case. Much more often, we use the Priesthood too little.
Is a child who is worried about returning for a new year of school worthy of a Priesthood Blessing in her home? Is a mom who has become overly stressed about the peaking demands of her Church calling and her children a candidate for a blessing? Is each birthday of a child an opportunity for a Priesthood blessing? The answer to these and dozens of other questions like them is Yes, and with each yes comes an additional opportunity for Family Revelation.
Mothers too, in prayers with our children, can feel the same kind of power and inspiration.
(Saydi) For years now as I put my kids to bed on their birthday I’ve said a special birthday prayer with them. These prayers have been some of my most spiritual, revelatory experiences as a mother. I kneel by their bedside, sort of enclosing them in my arms, and pour my heart out to God for them. Many times, I’ve felt the heavens open up to me as I’ve felt a different kind of love for them, and seen a clearer vision of who they are. My worries for the little details of their lives and personalities melt away as I see and feel this grand vision of their eternal souls. I believe the love I feel during these prayers is not my love, it is God’s love flowing through me. These experiences have given me a little glimpse into what it must feel like for my husband to lay His hands on their heads for a priesthood blessing. By virtue of my covenants with God and the familial priesthood power in our home I believe that these prayers do harness the power of God and put me and the birthday child more in tune to hear Gods voice in our lives and understand his eternal vision and love.
We mentioned in the previous article that these once-in-a lifetime blessings have been called personal scripture, that they can be a key to unlocking our foreordinations, and they are essentially a lasting form of personal or family revelation that come through the mouth of a called and specially ordained Priesthood Leader.
Getting a patriarchal blessing can help us see things spiritually, not just for the moment, but for our whole lives. Getting them for our children gives them that personal revelation and also becomes a source of inspiration for the whole family. And reading back over their blessings, and our blessings often reveals family revelation that is already received but not yet fully used or fulfilled.
No matter when the blessings were given, reading over them prayerfully can be a way of seeking Family Revelation for today. These blessings contain clues to many of the family revelation questions we ask, and they can also prompt us to ask additional questions we might not have otherwise thought of.
Our personal testimony of patriarchal blessings have grown stronger and stronger over the years starting with my (Richard’s) own blessing as a 16 year old. My 90-year-old great grandfather was our stake patriarch, and I thought, given his lifelong knowledge of me, that I would get a special blessing indeed. But just weeks before I was scheduled for my blessing, he died. Disappointed, I went to the re-scheduled appointment with his replacement, a much younger man who I had never met and who had never met me or my family, with much lower expectations.
In the years since, I have become so grateful that it happened the way it did. My blessing reveals so many things about me and makes reference to so many things that this stranger could only have known by personal revelation, which in turn helped me to know that the blessing came from God. This stranger, drawing solely on the spirit of revelation, gave me a deep and personal blessing, filled with specific insights that, had it come from my great grandfather, I would have assumed were due to having known me all of my life.
Much more recently, we have a close friend who is now a patriarch, and as we watch him fasting and praying before each blessing, and having serious, private talks with each person before their appointment, we admire his dedication, and when he tells us that what he says are as new and revealing to him as they are to the blessing recipient, we believe him.
As mentioned earlier, the objective or the reason for seeking Family Revelation is to know what God wants us to be, what He wants our children to be, what He wants our marriages and families to be. Many of us have found that our patriarchal blessings are the best roadmap for that pursuit; and if not a roadmap, at least a compass which can point us in the right directions in our search for what God wants us to be.
As I (Linda) recently read through the Patriarchal Blessings of our children, I was flooded with insights into their souls. There were multitudes of “aha” moments when I realized why they were the way they were, as well as giving me hope that some things in their lives would still come to pass. What a beautiful opportunity it gave me to see them as God sees them. It was Family Revelation at its finest. Not only did I feel the significance of the promises and blessings of their lives but I also felt the enormous joy of being their Mother.
(Saydi) A few weeks ago, as I was floundering to figure out who I was in this new pandemic normal and what work was mine to do, I got a long email from my mom. She had been cleaning out some drawers and files and had happened upon a copy of my patriarchal blessing. She had been touched by some things she read in it and took the time to remind me of some important blessings awaiting me and some timely insights into who I am and what work is mine to do. The email made me feel not only connected to and understood by my mom, but also recharged my connection to my Heavenly Parents. It reminded me of who I am eternally and put me on a path to better understand who I need to be for my own children.
In no way was this email judgmental or passive aggressive or pushy. It was full of love and a little reminding nudge of the love and vision God has for me. It felt like a perfect team effort between my earthly parent and my heavenly parent to get me to wake up to my potential.
I’ve felt a similar team effort when I’ve asked for Father’s blessings. This combined effort of my earthly father and Heavenly Father reminding me of their love and of who I am eternally. This extends of course to blessings I’ve asked for and received from my husband. I’ve felt instantly tuned into Gods frequency when hands have been placed on my head. In my life these blessings have been one of the most pure forms of personal revelation.
We hold family councils to teach our children and to organize and lead our families, but they can also be a powerful means of seeking and receiving Family Revelation.
One way to put in the thought required for effectual asking on behalf of our children is to discuss the child in depth in a married couple’s council. President Ballard spoke of this kind of family council, composed just of a husband and wife, thinking together and then praying together. In our own family, we have called this a “five facet review” and it consists of a husband and wife going out together once a month and confining their discussion agenda to their children. With notebook in hand, they ask each other five questions about each of their children: How is she doing physically, how is she doing socially, how is she doing emotionally, how is she doing mentally, and how is she doing spiritually. As each question is discussed and brainstormed questions and needs are refined for use in prayer, and the path to specific Family Revelation opens up.
Sister Linda Burton explained, “Faithful parents are entitled to know how to best teach to meet the needs of their children. As parents seek and act on personal revelation, counsel together, minister and teach the simple principles of the gospel, they will have power to strengthen and protect their families.” Linda K. Burton, Relief Society General President “The Power, Joy, and Love of Covenant Keeping,” October 2013 General Conference
“ Family Councils provide a much needed time to exchange feelings and to allow the “doors of communication [to] swing open.” Communicating means more than just resolving differences or deciding on family rules. It also means expressing love and appreciation to one another. And family councils can provide the right atmosphere to do just that.” Marvin Gardner
President Ballard has taught us that Family Councils are different from traditional Family Home Evenings. They are times to communicate, commiserate, console and cajole, laugh and love, and have a vital part in making family decisions, helps them feel the empowerment of striving for revelation and ownership about helping make family decisions. When the family is counseling together about family rules, parents should encourage children to help develop the consequences of breaking those rules. Family Councils are the perfect place to talk about the use of social media and what the parameters will be. When those kinds of decisions come about in a Family Council, prayer can bring revelations and empowerment to both parents and children.
In our Family Councils we can also discuss our Church callings or priesthood functions or missionary or service opportunities, which each require and benefit from inspiration. And when we think of them in connection with our families and our marriages, we can often find ways to do them together or at least discuss them together, which becomes yet another opportunity to receive Family Revelation.
Deepening, Lengthening and Fine-Tuning our Prayers
Sometimes we may ask, but without sufficient energy and effort to know if we are asking exactly the right question or to be able to visualize the answer.
In the district where I presided in London, When I was serving as a mission president in Londan, a humble, faithful older widow named Sister Brackpool called me one night in hysterics. “Pray for me President Eyre,” she whaled, “I’ve fallen and cut my leg.”
My response was more practical than spiritual, “How bad is it? How much are you bleeding? Have you called the Doctor?” Everything I said seemed to make it worse. “It’s gushing—pray for me—please!” I told her I would call her back and then I called the Ambulance, and then the phone rang again. “President, PLEASE pray for me.”
So I finally did. I prayed hard and I focused on the question of what, specifically, I should ask for; and I began to see her situation in my mind and asked with all the faith I could muster, that her blood would clot and that peace would come to her mind. The phone rang again, and now the voice was calm. “Thank you, President, thank you for praying.” The bleeding had slowed and she was able to wrap it and stabilize until the ambulance arrived, just as I had seen it in my mind.
Asking is hard spiritual work. Finding the right questions takes spiritual effort. Joseph Smith said “When a man works by faith, he works by mental effort rather than physical force.” The Book of Mormon seldom uses the word “pray” and instead says “cry unto the Lord” or even “wrestle with God.” And Moroni tells us “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart” (Moroni 7:48). And when we do it—when we really ask, we pull that big, heavy door open, and find the light we need, and the revelation we crave awaiting us on the doorstep.
And when that door is open, and when He sends in answers and faith and hope, we find that the guilt and fear and comparing and feelings of inadequacy that we had been holding inside—go rushing right out of that open door.
(Saydi) There is a balance here that I’ve had to work out in my busy life as a mother. Yes, prayer can feel like a cry, and there are times in our lives when we absolutely need to exert tremendous effort to ask the right questions and engage in the wrestle. But I also firmly believe that God understands our circumstances, our Heavenly Parents see into the inner chambers of our hearts and lives. When we are doing our best to tune in to God, to move through the chaos of family life on a divine frequency, then, instead of being another burden on our to do list, prayer and revelation naturally come to our aid. Our God, who knows our hearts and efforts and limits will shine light through even during those inevitable seasons when our prayers are a desperate breath as we drift off to sleep. I’ve found that during these chaotic seasons one of the best things I can do is just carve out a few extra moments of silence and connection and stillness and the answers and light and questions come to me as I wrestle through the day.
Prayer as an Offense and a Defense
All of us seem to find it easier to pray “fervently and with a sincere heart” when we face a crisis or deep need of some kind. This is true of everyone and leads to clichés like “there are no atheists in foxholes.” But it is particularly true of parents. When one of our children is ill, or in trouble, or rebellious, or having a faith crisis, our prayers quickly become urgent and earnest.
We could think of this as praying on the defense…trying to defend and to react to an urgent need or crisis.
But what about an offense? What about the thought that “The best defense is a good offense”? What about the idea that we should pray just as hard about building a lasting marriage and a strong family and raising responsible, righteous children when things are going reasonably well as in times of crisis or trouble? What if praying before the storm is what makes us strong enough to get through the storm (and sometimes even to know enough to go around or avoid the storm)?
Asking the right question is important both in prayers of defense and in prayers of offense. When we are in the storm, on the defense, facing some kind of family crisis or trouble, we need to ask what to ask for and avoid just asking for a miraculous way out instead of for insight on what is really happening and what to do about it. And when we are in the sun, on the offense, trying to find ways to build more strength and unity, we need to express more gratitude and then seek ways to sure-up our families and make both our marriages and our children more faith-filled and resilient for the unknown challenges that lie ahead.
One kind of question is how to solve (defense) and the other is how to build (offense) and often the latter can become preventative medicine for the former.
Keeping the Door Open
We don’t want to put time limits on God for when he can reveal insight and answers. One goal of praying for revelation is to keep the door open all the time and to look for answers and guidance and insight in all things and to have asked the questions clearly and deeply enough that we recognize the answers when they come.
There is no redundancy in asking the same question or praying for the guidance on the same matter over and over. Often our prayers become more defined the more we ask them. And even though we may conclude each prayer in Christ’s name and with the word Amen, it doesn’t mean that that prayer or that question or that door has been closed—we can leave it open all day and all night and always, holding our minds and our spirits ready to watch for and receive nudges, prompts, insights, feelings, and answers.
We must follow the counsel to “pray unto him continually by day, and give thanks unto his holy name by night” (2 Nephi 9:52).
Two-Way Knocking and Answers that Come before Their Questions
It is interesting that the Lord admonishes us to “knock and it shall be opened unto you,” but that he also says “I stand at the door and knock.” So, who is the knocker, and who is the opener?
That question leads to a wonderfully comforting and encouraging answer. It is Christ who holds the light and stands at our door and knocks, patiently waiting for us to exercise our agency and open ourselves to Him and to His guidance and revelation. But He also wants us to knock at His door—to visit Him where He is, to seek His presence, to come out of our own house and seek to enter His and to ask for the answers and the revelation that comes from where He is and who He is.
We knew that to write this series on family revelation, we would need a lot of revelation! So, we began asking for it each writing day, but it was hard sometimes to know just what specific questions to ask and exactly what kind of guidance to ask for. So, we often just asked to be led where He wanted us to go, and in the process, we learned an important lesson—that if we want and need them bad enough, and if we consciously open our door, sometimes the answers can come before we know enough to ask the questions. Some mornings we would wake up with answers or directions already formed—in full sentences in our minds and have to grab the notebook by our bed and capture them before they slipped away.
President Marion G. Romney said, “This is a very common means of revelation. It comes into one’s mind speaking words and sentences.” [Marion G. Romney, address to seminary and institute faculty, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 8 July 1960, p. 10]
If You are a Grandparent
The stewardship word applies better to parenting than to grandparenting. Parents have the direct calling, the mantle, the awesome stewardship to raise their children, just as their parents (now grandparents) had and still have the parental stewardship for them. Generation one always has stewardship for generation two. But what is generation one to generation three? What is the responsibility of Grandparents, and what is their access to Family Revelation for their grandchildren?
For what it is worth, we think grandparents should think of themselves as “consultants” to their children regarding their grandchildren, remembering that consultants don’t set the goals or the agenda, but respond and try to help with the goals and agendas of the clients (the parents).
Remember though, that your stewardship (and your access to direct Family Revelation) for your children, though they are grown and may be parents themselves, continues uninterrupted. In some ways, we feel even more need for inspiration for our grown-and-gone kids—simply because they are gone and now, so much less under our care and personal supervision. We became so interesting in how different our stewardship of our children becomes when they leave home, that we wrote a whole book about it, called Empty Nest Parenting.
And even though you are not the steward over your grandchildren, you can still be what we call “proactive grandparents”. As I (Richard) said in my recent book Being a Proactive Grandfather:
When we ask “Who is going to teach this generation of children the values, the character, the family narrative, even the street smarts that they will need?” most would say that the ideal answer is “the parents.” But in today’s world, where most parents work full time, and where life’s options and challenges seem to be increasing exponentially, who is to say that parents will find the time or the means….So who else can possibly do it? Who will give kids the confidence, the identity, and maybe help them with the resources they need to become all they can be? Grandparents! There can be an incredible connection, even a symbiosis, between generations one and three.1 and 3. It is a connection that can preserve traditions, that can build character, and that can bring joy to both sides. Being a Proactive Grandfather, Familius Publishers, 2018
And as I (Linda) said in my recent book called Grandmothering: GRANDmothering
It is said that “Parenting is an investment and grandparenting is the return on the investment.” Taking that one step farther, how much time and thought and effort we invest in grandmothering can eventually produce substantial returns. Maybe we don’t start out thinking about leaving a legacy to these beautiful little people who bring so much light to our lives. As time goes on though, we realize that the legacy that we leave to our grandchildren probably won’t end with a monument built of brick or stone or even a bronze plaque dedicated in our honor. What we leave will be invisible. It will be a monument of love and understanding and integrity and courage inside their minds and hearts that will stand forever. Grandmothering, Familius Publishers, 2018
Next Week’s Column
For these first six articles in this Family Revelation series, we have been dealing with the question, “How can I seek and receive Family Revelation?” In next Next Tuesday we move to a second question, “What Obstacles can Block me from Receiving Revelation for my Family?”
Because we must remember that even as Christ “stands at the door and knocks,” the adversary is proactive in doing everything he can to keep the door closed.
In order to hone our skills at receiving Family Revelation, we need to be aware of the barricades, the obstacles, and the temptations that can cut off or short circuit our reception of revelation, and beginning next Tuesday we will discuss these dangers, and how to avoid and overcome them—how to keep our door open despite the forces that try to close—how to stay in tune with God’s frequency, even with all the static inherent in our lives.
Before we finish with the first question, however, let’s just do a quick review and pose a few questions that you might want to discuss with your family and friends.
Conclusions about seeking
Family Revelation is remarkable in that it is available to all, yet tailored specifically to each individual family’s needs and situations. We all have the power to tap into it, yet how we seek and how we receive will be personal and in accord with our own natures and our own channels.
Because God wants to give us all He has, he stands at the door and knocks, but because of His commitment to our agency, He waits for us to unlock and unlatch and open.
Our objective in seeking Family Revelation is that we and our children become what our Heavenly Parents want us to be, and that we find what they have foreordained us to do.
Questions for Reflection from the first Six articles in this Series:
- Does the title of this series, “Opening the Door to Family Revelation” mean more to you now than when you first started reading? What do you like about the scriptural metaphor of “opening the door?”
- What do you think of the William Holman-Hunt painting “The Light of the World” and can its image have a positive effect on our “remembering to ask”
- Did you relate to the “5 W’s” of Family Revelation and did they serve as a good run up to the key question of How?
- Which of all of the methods or portals of receiving Family Revelation spoke most personally and forcefully to you and reflected your own particular ways of seeking and receiving Family Revelation?
- Did you think of other ways that can family revelation come—beyond those that were listed here?
- What examples or illustrations do you know of relating that would relate to actual case studies of seeking and obtaining Family Revelation?