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 3 in a multi-part weekly series which will run here in Meridian every Tuesday. (Click here to read article 1 and here to read article 2)
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.
It is not the same for everyone
Revelation or direct spiritual guidance or inspiration, for ourselves and for our family comes from God and His messengers in a wide variety of ways. Knowing of this variety is important, lest we have too limited a view of revelation, or think it can come in only one certain way, and begin to doubt ourselves because we have not received it in that particular way.
If we think that answers or revelation only come through a voice or a vision or a “burning in the bosom,” we may miss or overlook the more common and varied methods or ways in which the Spirit communicates with our spirits.
President Kimball warned, “Expecting the spectacular, one may not be fully alerted to the constant flow of revealed communication”. [Spencer W. Kimball, “To His Servants the Prophets” Instructor, August 1960, p. 257]
And Elder Oaks said, I have met persons who told me they have never had a witness from the Holy Ghost because they have never felt their bosom “burn within” them. What does a “burning in the bosom” mean? Does it need to be a feeling of caloric heat, like the burning produced by combustion? If that is the meaning, I have never had a burning in the bosom. Surely, the word “burning” in this scripture signifies a feeling of comfort and serenity. That is the witness many receive. That is the way revelation works. Truly, the still, small voice is just that, “still” and “small.” Oaks, “Teaching and Learning by the Spirit,”
(Saydi) It’s particularly important that we don’t put our own limits on the ways in which God will communicate to us in our callings as parents. God is infinite and vast and can speak to us in a myriad of ways if we are open to them. I love what Elder Bednar says about different ways we can receive revelation: “God uses a variety of patterns to convey His revelations to His sons and daughters, such as thoughts to the mind and feelings to the heart, dreams, visions, conversations with heavenly messengers, and inspiration,” Elder Bednar also said, “Some revelations are received immediately and intensely; some are recognized gradually and subtly.”
He goes on to say something that to me seems even more important:“ I have talked with many individuals who question the strength of their personal testimony and underestimate their spiritual capacity because they do not receive frequent, miraculous, or strong impressions. Perhaps as we consider the experiences of Joseph in the Sacred Grove, of Saul on the road to Damascus, and of Alma the Younger, we come to believe something is wrong with or lacking in us if we fall short in our lives of these well-known and spiritually striking examples. If you have had similar thoughts or doubts, please know that you are quite normal. Just keep pressing forward obediently and with faith in the Savior. As you do so, you “cannot go amiss” (D&C 80:3).
When we open our eyes and minds to look for and recognize revelation we start to see and hear God’s voice and guidance in sometimes the most unlikely of places. The more I’ve thought about and sought revelation the longer and more extensive this list becomes in my own life.
As we wrote this article, we asked friends and focus groups the simple question, “How do you Receive Personal Revelation for your Family? Here are some of the leading answers:
(Most will be further developed in the chapters to come.)
During “Wrestling, Listening Prayer.”
Through peaceful Meditation.
Via “Nudges” or “Promptings”
Through Spiritual Discernment
At the Temple
During Family Councils
Through Sudden bursts of unexpected inspiration
Via my Patriarchal Blessing
As I think about my own Resolutions and goals.
Through Exercise and Physical Activity.
Through deep discussions with those I trust and love.”
Through regular Interviews with my kids.
Through Advice from Mentors or Church Leaders or Grandparents
From the Notes I make during prayer
Directly or indirectly through the Scriptures.
Through reflecting on an “asking journal” where I keep track of what I have asked God for
Through spiritual warnings or forebodings I feel.
While testifying or teaching.
Through the General Conference messages.
From a simple clarity that suddenly comes into my mind.
Through a feeling or a message conveyed by a departed ancestor.
By seeing patterns or answers in what has already happened.
In the quiet house when I rise early to think.
Through the Priesthood and in Priesthood Blessings
During the Sacrament as I ponder
While listening to Sacrament Meeting talks
As I make notes in my gratitude journal
During a Sunday School or Relief Society or Priesthood discussion
Through Fasting and the more humble petitions that result from it
The fact is that there are an almost unlimited number of ways in which to receive revelation, depending on how and where the Lord chooses to answer and on how our own unique individual spirits feel The Spirit. These range from intense burning to total calm, and from some kind of a miracle or sign to a still small voice that is sometimes so still and small that we just feel rather than hear it, deep within our own spirit.
Elder Boyd K Packer spoke often of the still small voice and said “I have come to know that inspiration comes more as a feeling than as a sound.” October, 1994 Personal Revelation:The Gift, the Test, and the Promise
Be assured that you can find for yourself the best way for your own unique spirit to receive revelation
Seeking and Receiving
The responses above were to the question “How to you Receive Family Revelation?”
What about the other key “How” question?
“How do you Seek Family Revelation?”
There is a fascinating interplay between how we seek family revelation and how we receive family revelation. How we seek it is up to us, and how we receive it (or how it is given to us) is up to God. But the seeking and the receiving are always interconnected, and sometimes intersect directly. The very vehicle through which we seek guidance often become the channel through which we receive it. Other times we may seek it in one way and receive it in another completely different way. The channel going up and the channel coming down may be the same or may be separate. They may be simultaneous or in different timeframes. Perhaps this mix-and-match is one of the beauties of Family Revelation.
From this article’s list of how Family Revelation is received, let’s take a closer look at the “ways of receiving” that can also be “ways of seeking.” Let’s dig deeper and try to understand more fully how we can seek or open the door using many of the same channels through which we receive. To do this, we will divide the seeking into six categories: In this article: 1. Seeking through prayer, And in coming articles: 2. Seeking through the precursors and aftermaths of prayer, 3. Seeking through the enhancements and extensions of prayer, 4. Seeking through our own Awareness and Perspective, 5. Seeking through Holy Places and Holy Sources, and 6. Seeking through Priesthood and Blessings.
We begin with prayer, because as mentioned, all Family Revelation is triggered and released by some form of asking.
Seeking Family Revelation Through Prayer
Of course, the first and prime way of Opening the Door to Family Revelation is prayer. But there is much to think about when we say this, and many different aspects of or kinds or prayer to consider.
Wrestling, Listening Prayer
The Book of Mormon speaks of “wrestling” for answers from the Lord, suggesting real energy and emotion in asking for and almost but not quite demanding inspiration from God on personal matters of great importance. Nothing is more important to us and to our happiness and to our stewardship and to our exaltation than the well-being of our family members and of our relationships with them. If an answer doesn’t come quickly, persist, go deeper, ask harder. Think it through and try again. Follow the pattern of D&C 9—humbly study it out, and come to your own decision and then take that decision to the Lord for confirmation. Get in the habit of having a pen and a notebook by yourself as you pray, and take “prayer notes” on the guidance that comes or the ideas that spring up.
(Saydi) I remember once at the conclusion of a general conference session President Hinckley said a prayer that stopped me in my tracks. As he prayed I could feel that he really knew God. That he was truly having a conversation with someone he knew intimately, the kind of conversation I’d have with my husband or a dear friend. There have been times in my life when I’ve prayed mostly just to check it off my list, a way to feel good about myself before drifting off to sleep. These prayers are such a contrast to a true connection with God. I’ve found that if I just tweak a few things then instantly prayers can become a real source of divine connection and revelation.
Feel the wonder expressed by Elder Richard G. Scott concerning the reality of actually speaking with our Heavenly Father, “Prayer is a supernal gift of our Father in Heaven to every soul. Think of it: the absolute Supreme Being, the most all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful personage, encourages you and me, as insignificant as we are, to converse with Him as our Father. . . .It matters not our circumstance, be we humble or arrogant, poor or rich, free or enslaved, learned or ignorant, loved or forsaken, we can address Him. We need no appointment. Our supplication can be brief or can occupy all the time needed. It can be an extended expression of love and gratitude or an urgent plea for help. He has created numberless cosmos and populated them with worlds, yet you and I can talk with Him personally, and He will ever answer. “Using the Supernal Gift of Prayer,” Liahona and Ensign, May 2007, p. 8 Richard G, Scott
Former Member of the Relief Society Presidency Sheri Dew asks “Are you willing to engage in the wrestle? In an ongoing spiritual wrestle? If we want to grow spiritually, the Lord expects us to ask questions and seek answers.
And she goes on to say, We live in a sound-bite world where “tweets,” “likes,” “posts,” and “shares” have become the way we keep informed and share ideas. We are accustomed to expecting instant answers. But the most compelling questions in our lives rarely have quick, easy, Google answers. That is because receiving revelation and gaining knowledge, particularly divine knowledge, takes time. It takes a wrestle.” ― Sheri Dew, Worth the Wrestle
(Saydi) Stay on your knees for just 60 seconds and listen. When I do this I rarely get a big puzzle solving answer to a big question, but I ALWAYS feel the spirit, the reality of a God awake and aware. It takes just 60 seconds of the day to feel that divine power in my life and when I do I notice that I am more able to tune in throughout the chaos of the day.
When we pour out our hearts to God on behalf of our children and our family, we are engaged in a wonderfully unique form of communication—that of an earthly parent seeking help and guidance from a Heavenly Parent. Nothing could be more natural and more effectual. Sometimes the Heavenly Parent will answer by revealing to the earthly parent what he or she needs to know or to do about the child. And other times the Heavenly Parent will intervene, based on the faith of the earthly parent, and solve the problem or give the blessing directly.
Asking what to pray for and Seeking His Agenda
Sometimes we know exactly what to pray for. A need is so clear in our family or the crisis so real with a child that we simply beg for help and guidance and intervention. Other times we know we need help but are not sure we know enough about a situation or a need to know exactly what to ask for. At times like this, the first thing we should ask for is to know what to ask for. If we let Him, Heavenly Father can structure our prayers and guide us into the specifics of what the real needs are and how to pray about them.
The Holy Ghost will prompt us in our prayers. Nephi counseled, “For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray ye would know that ye must pray” (2 Nephi 32:8).
“The Spirit also helpeth . . . : for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26).
“God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit” (D&C 121:26).
“Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do” (2 Nephi 32:3).
Guidance comes when we rely on God and give up our own visions of how we think things should be or how we think the answers to prayer should unfold. When the objective of our prayers is to know and do His will and understand His agenda rather than ours, we enter into the true spirit of prayer and put ourselves in position to truly begin to receive Family Revelation
President Henry B. Eyring says he has learned that “answers [to my prayers] were most clear when what I wanted was silenced by an overpowering need to know what God wanted.” (“Write upon My Heart,” Ensign, Nov. 2000, 86).
Elder Maxwell explained, “When you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!” Ensign, May 201013 Neal A. Maxwell, “Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father
And Elder Scott added:
Your agency, the right to make choices, is not given so that you can get what you want. This divine gift is provided so that you will choose what your Father in Heaven wants for you. That way He can lead you to become all that He intends you to be.5 That path leads to glorious joy and happiness. (RICHARD G. SCOTT from a speech called Finding Joy in Life)
Sometimes answers to our prayers helps us feel directly connected to heaven. As King Benjamin, describes in Mosiah 4:11, we cannot just know and feel, but “taste” of his love.
An interesting and true conclusion that can be drawn might be said like this: “Just start praying, and keep praying and asking to know God’s will, and your prayer will, sometimes gradually and sometimes abruptly, come around to what He wants you to ask for in your family. You will then be well on our way to receiving Family Revelation.
Prayers for Confirmation.
A very powerful and infinitely valuable form of Family Revelation lies in the sure confirmation we can ask for and receive on important choices or decisions that we have carefully and prayerfully made, but for which we need affirmation from God. Particularly for the big decisions of marriage, additional children, career decisions, and so on, it is vital that we study it out and come to our own tentative choice and then take our decision to the Lord and receive a “second-guess proofing” confirmation.
As a love-struck young 24 year old, I (Richard) recall an earlier time during my mission when I had picked up Elder Harold B. Lee at JFK airport and driven him to his appointment in New York City. During the drive he mentioned that I should come and see him if there was anything he could do to help me after I returned home. I’m sure it was something he said routinely to many missionaries that he met, but to me at that moment, in my love-and-fear paralysis of trying to know whether to ask Linda to marry me, I took his invitation literally and drove to Salt Lake early one morning and made my way to Elder Lee’s secretary in the Church Administration Building.
He was awaiting an appointment that was late in coming, so he had a moment and I found myself seated opposite the Prophet in his office, nervous and tongue-tied, but desperately needing his help. “What can I do for you Elder Eyre?” (his secretary had apparently given him my name, but in my confused state I believed that he remembered me).
“Well, I need to know if I should get married” I blurted.
Amused, he said “Well, that’s easy, you SHOULD!”
“No”, I stammered, “I mean, I need to know if I should marry this one particular girl.”
Really enjoying himself now (he had met other love-struck young men) he said “Well, can she bake a cherry pie?”
Too earnest and confused to get the humor, I said I didn’t know but I knew her mother was a good cook.
Then he became serious. “Have you inquired of the Lord?”
I found my voice a little bit and told him that I had been asking for days—weeks—and that God had failed to tell me what to do.
He turned the scriptures on his desk around to face me and had me read aloud from the 9th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants … Study it out in your mind… I’ve done that, I said, in fact I think of nothing else all day every day.
Read the next part he said, …If it be right, I shall cause…. “If what is right?” he said
“If Linda is right?” I answered.
“No, if your decision is right” he corrected. “God won’t make this decision for you—you have to make it for yourself and then take it to Him for His Confirmation.”
His appointment had come and was waiting. We stood and he came around the desk and put his arm around me and I remember what I believe where his exact words, “You look to me like someone who is deeply in love and has already made your decision. We usually don’t advise fasting for more than a day, but you are a strapping lad—fast for one day and part of the next and take your decision to the Lord and ask for his confirmation and I promise you that you will have a wonderful spiritual experience.”
I did, and I received a confirmation witness so sure and so clear and so strong that I have never doubted or questioned or second-guessed it in what is now 50 years of marriage.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stressed our responsibility to do all that we can before we seek a revelation: “We’re expected to use the gifts and talents and abilities, the sense and judgment and agency with which we are endowed. … We’re expected to do everything in our power that we can, and then to seek an answer from the Lord, a confirming seal that we’ve reached the right conclusion.”
Elder McConkie went on to explain that the absence of a confirmation is also a form of revelation. “When we petition the Lord in prayer, there are times in which he answers us with the distinct impression that we have not made the proper proposal to him. The answer will come not as one of peace but as a feeling of darkness. He has counseled that when you ask about something, “If it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong” (D&C 9:9).”
Could it be that you may be asking the wrong question…i.e. instead of asking what Heavenly Father can do to help me, perhaps we should be asking “what I can do to help myself?”
Confirmation comes in Different ways to Different Souls
It’s important to note here that not all decisions for our lives or for our families are going to get a burning confirmation from God. In fact, many won’t, and that doesn’t mean that we are not receiving or action on revelation.
(Saydi) Growing up my parents did a great job of teaching us about decision making, detailing for us the typical pattern that God outlines in D&C 9: study it out, decide, pray for a confirmation, receive either a burning or a stupor. I used this formula to decide where to go to college, what post college job to take, if I should serve a mission, who I should room with, where I should live.
Then one day I found myself in love with Jeff and, having heard this story many times about President Lee from my dad, I once again put this pattern to the test to decide if he was the one I wanted to marry. This decision was huge and complicated and suddenly the system felt busted. Like I was back in second grade facing the Wrangler vs. 501 Jeans all by myself.
Looking back, I realize that maybe it was me that was busted.
I was paralyzed by the scale and consequence of this choice. There were so many unknowns down the road and so many emotions jumbled up inside me that coming to my own decision to seek confirmation on was harder than it ever had been with other choices.
Stuck in indecision, I found myself sort of faking a decision and going to the Lord in prayer. “God, I love Jeff and I have decided I want to marry him.” And then waiting. No burning, no stupor, just more confusion. So I’d try the other decision: “I love Jeff but I guess he’s not the one for me.” Still no burning, no stupor.
Finally I realized (likely through revelation) that God really was expecting me to make this choice, and to prove that I was the one choosing, on my own, I needed to take a leap of faith.
I needed to choose for myself, exercising my brain and heart to really weigh things out in my mind and make a real, hard, scary choice. It was only after I mustered up the courage to tell Jeff, with my own certainty, “yes, I want to marry you. I love you. I think we are right for each other. I want this.” that the confirmation from God came.
Our Heavenly Parent’s plan for us involves real choice, it’s not just a guessing game to try to stay on one narrow, windy predetermined path. When we are seeking God’s guidance in the big and small decisions for our families, (the comma here is important) revelation and direction will sometimes come in a way that feels sure and bright, like the “lightbulb” revelation Elder Bednar talks about. But many other times it will come “line upon line” gradually and slowly as we live lives close to the spirit.
Seeking family revelation does not mean that we wait for a green light before we make any decisions or guide our family in a certain direction. If this was God’s formula we’d spend a lot of time stalled or immobilized. And we wouldn’t learn the important lessons with agency that we were sent here to learn.
It’s taken me awhile to gain the confidence it takes to act in faith when there isn’t an obvious sign from heaven telling me which path to choose. But this quote from Brigham Young helps:
“If I do not know the will of my Father, and what He requires of me in a certain transaction, if I ask Him to give me wisdom concerning any requirement in my life, or in regard to my own course, or that of my friends, my family, my children, or those that I preside over, and get no answer from Him, and then do the very best that my judgement will teach me, He is bound to own and honor that transaction, and He will do so to all intents and purposes.” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses)
Similarly, Elder Bednar says: In many of the uncertainties and challenges we encounter in our lives and in this great latter-day work, God requires us to do our best, to trust in Him, to be anxiously engaged and act and not simply wait to be acted upon…We may not see angels, hear heavenly voices, or receive overwhelming spiritual impressions. We frequently may press forward hoping and praying—but without absolute assurance—that we are acting in accordance with God’s will. But as we honor our covenants and keep the commandments, we can walk with confidence that God will guide our steps.
The Profound Difference the Insights of the Restoration can make in our Families and in our Prayers
Most parents have prayed for their children, and most husbands and wives have prayed for their spouse and for their marriage. But because of the Restoration and our knowledge of God’s Plan of Salvation and Exaltation, our prayers for and about our families within the Church are capable of reaching a whole separate level of specificity and insight.
Any parent of any faith, anywhere in the world, prays “Bless my child” and “Help me know how to bless my child” and the power and effect of that kind of simple prayer is manifest. But in the Church we have the additional revealed understanding of who our children are and where they came from, of who God is and how He is our parent, and of how we can act within this divine stewardship and with His Priesthood Power.
To illustrate, consider a couple of “prototype prayers” that could be offered by a believing member of the Church and notice how far they go beyond the level of a more typical prayer from someone who does not know of or understand the pre-mortal life or the Plan of Salvation. First consider the beginning of a parental prayer that could only be uttered a mother who knows and has faith in the Eternal Plan. Then ponder the possible first sentences of a second prayer, of a husband for his wife in the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage.
We don’t usually write out prayers in the Church, but just imagine an example of what a parent’s prayer can contain because of our knowledge of The Plan:
“Heavenly Father, I thank Thee for my opportunity to live here in mortality and for all that I learned from Thee before coming here, for though that knowledge is veiled, I feel it at times and know its sweetness.
“And I thank Thee for this small daughter entrusted to me—who I know in fact is my Spiritual Sister, who arrived here thirty years after me so that, in Thy wisdom, I could be her mother and strive to teach her Thy Gospel and Covenant Path, even as I learn from her and from the God-like privilege of being a parent.
“Father, thou knowest this child better than I ever will, just as Thou knowest me better than I will ever know myself. Thou knowest why she was sent to me, and because of that I have faith that I can, with thy help and insight and guidance, raise her to be a noble and righteous woman and to find and fulfill her foreordinations.
“Dear God, I ask Thee for insight into her soul. I ask that I might discover and sense her gifts and talents and aptitudes, all of which Thou knowest perfectly, so that I can try to uncover and magnify them; and also her challenges and vulnerabilities and weaknesses so that I can help her understand them and overcome them and perhaps even turn some of them into strengths. I ask that I can to come to know her and seek to help her become her best self rather than some extension of myself or my ego.
“I thank Thee Father for the Priesthood Power that I share with my husband—the power of Thee and of Thy Son, which can be used here in our home to bless her and comfort her and empower her to meet life’s opportunities as well as its challenges.
“Help me now, this day and always, to prioritize her and to be aware of her needs and inspired as to how to meet them; and to make her feel loved and cherished by Thee as well as by me. …
Second, imagine the same kind of possibilities within a Spouse’s prayer:
“Heavenly Father, I approach Thee now in a prayer for my wife and for our marriage. I thank Thee for this love of my life and for bringing us together and for our shared faith that took us to Thy Holy House to be sealed together for time and for all eternity. I thank thee for the power of this absolute commitment we have made Father, and for how it prevents second-guessing and allows us to view disagreements or difficulties as a kind of growth with an eye only to solving them and learning from them and never as threats to the forever-ness of our union.
“I thank Thee that I am beginning to understand that I alone, or she alone, is not a perfectible entity or an individual candidate for exaltation, which can be reached only by the two of us acting together and becoming one and folding our family into thy eternal family in thy Celestial Kingdom, and for the unspeakable privilege and stewardship of bringing our spirit siblings into mortality as our mortal children and striving to raise them, with Thy Personal Family Revelation as our guide, into what Thou wants them to become.
“I ask Thee to help me prioritize and cherish my wife above all else in life and to support her and encourage her in all her good dreams and desires. Please give me divine insight into who she really is and what she really needs and please help us together to build our partnership into a joy-exchanging bond wherein we complement each other and have a total “us” that is greater than the sum of “me” and “her.”
“Please Father, help me to exercise the powers of Thy Priesthood as inseparably connected to righteousness and help us to learn to share this Eternal Familial Power in the way that will magnify our family stewardships and help us return to Thee…”
It is because of the kind of restored clarity and divine understanding reflected in these prayers that we can knowledgably contemplate and seek the blessings of Family Revelation.
And while prayers are normally not written in the Church and these two parenting and marriage prayers were included only to illustrate the Restoration’s insights, Saydi picked up on it and made the following point:
(Saydi) Some of my post powerful prayers have been written. Although a little unconventional, it’s such an interesting exercise to write a prayer, almost like a letter to God. It makes you think hard about what you are praying for, why, what questions you’re asking, what you’re thankful for.
I’ve been trying to start my prayers with praise, not just gratitude, but real praise. Thinking through the wonders of the atonement, the beauty of Jesus, the blessings God has bestowed. This puts me in a different place and sets a totally different tone for my prayers. I’m not sure exactly why it works, but starting with praise and gratitude helps me to see more clearly as I pray and feel more immediately connected to God.
Thank you for reading, and for joining us this day. Your comments are welcome. Next Tuesday we will explore Seeking Family Revelation through Preparation, Contemplation, and other Enhancements of Prayer