Some Thoughts on Personal Revelation

I am so grateful for the tender mercies of the Lord!  I also love gathering with the Saints on the Sabbath and feeling the inspiration and encouragement that comes from the Holy Spirit.  Yesterday in Church I had a couple of experiences that let me know that Heavenly Father, the creator and manager of the cosmos, cares enough about me to teach me a special message that I needed to hear because of some current things I have been thinking about.  I want to share two thoughts about personal revelation that I heard in Church yesterday that came together beautifully to teach me a good lesson.

A picture of the Jaredite barges

The first thought came as part of an early morning planning meeting and was shared by one of our congregational leaders.  He shared the story of the Brother of Jared from The Book of Mormon as found in Ether 2.  The Jaredites (as the people who followed the Brother of Jared were called) were led out of Babel because they were righteous and the Lord intended to bring them to a new land where they could grow and prosper in righteousness.  They had traveled as far as they could on land and were preparing to cross the ocean, and the Lord had taught the Brother of Jared how to build barges to carry these people to the new land.

And it came to pass that the brother of Jared cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, I have performed the work which thou hast commanded me, and I have made the barges according as thou hast directed me.

And behold, O Lord, in them there is no light; whither shall we steer? And also we shall perish, for in them we cannot breathe, save it is the air which is in them; therefore we shall perish (Ether 2:18-19)

The Brother of Jared had been faithful in building the barges but upon completion of this work he recognized a couple of issues with the design and was seeking the Lord’s help in addressing them.  This was  a teaching moment for the Brother of Jared and for all of us as we think about the way the Lord responded.  The second problem that the Brother of Jared mentions is that of not being able to breathe in the boats.  It is a problem that the Brother of Jared needed to solve in order to get his people safely to the new land: there was no way that they could cross the ocean without air.   The Lord’s reply was to give specific instruction on how to address this issue:

And the Lord said unto the brother of Jared: Behold, thou shalt make a hole in the top, and also in the bottom; and when thou shalt suffer for air thou shalt unstop the hole and receive air. And if it be so that the water come in upon thee, behold, ye shall stop the hole, that ye may not perish in the flood.

And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did so, according as the Lord had commanded. (Ether 2:20-21)

In our lives these are the times when there are things that the Lord wants us to get right and has clear direction for us.  Sometimes when we are counseling with God we receive specific instruction or clear guidance on a way ahead, and when we do we rejoice because we have received an answer to our prayer that is clear and understandable.  Personal revelation of this kind can come as thoughts in our head that feel right and give us answers or as clear impressions, voices, or even visions which are obviously the best way to proceed.

So what about the other issue that the Brother of Jared brought up about the light in the boats?  While the Jaredites probably could not make it across the ocean without air, there is a very good possibility that they could have made it across without light (though the journey would have been very unpleasant).  Here is the Lord’s response:

And he cried again unto the Lord saying: O Lord, behold I have done even as thou hast commanded me; and I have prepared the vessels for my people, and behold there is no light in them. Behold, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that we shall cross this great water in darkness?

And the Lord said unto the brother of Jared: What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels? For behold, ye cannot have windows, for they will be dashed in pieces; neither shall ye take fire with you, for ye shall not go by the light of fire. (Ether 2:22-23)

Rather than giving specific direction, the Lord asked the Brother of Jared to come up with a solution.  He gave some guidelines within which He expected the Brother of Jared to operate, but other than that He asked the Brother of Jared to present a solution.  This not only was an expression of the Lord’s confidence in the Brother of Jared to find a suitable solution, but also was a growth opportunity.  In our lives we see this when we don’t receive specific answers to our petitions.  Heavenly Father hears our prayers but sometimes He expects us to find answers to our problems.  He trusts us to choose the right and to operate within the parameters He has defined.  These answers can be frustrating , especially when we are looking for specific guidance on matters that are very important to us; however, ultimately they lead to greater faith and righteousness on our part.  In instances such as this one it is best for us to use our good judgment and move forward prayerfully.  When we do so Heavenly Father will send confirmation when we are on the right path and will help us along the way with reassurance, even if He didn’t provide specific counsel or direction (additionally it will become apparent to us if we are on the wrong path: see this video for example).  I am grateful for this pattern in my life and for the guidance of Heavenly Father.

The congregational leader then shared with us a scripture from 2 Nephi regarding a symbolic vineyard of the Lord that amplified this thought a little:

And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a wine-press therein; and he looked that it should bring forth grapes (2 Ne 15:2)

Each one of these items is symbolic in the way the Lord takes care of us.  The fence protects the vineyard from animals that may eat the grapes and other outside influences that may hinder the growth of the vines.  The stones are internal influences that could hinder growth and the Lord simply removes those.  Most of the things in this verse are to help the grapes to flourish, with the exception of the wine-press.  The wine-press was to make the grapes more useful, more sweet, and more valuable.  Similarly, we may receive direction or guidance that makes things seem more difficult.  Heavenly Father knows what He is doing and He knows our potential.  Sometimes revelation is unclear or we feel like we aren’t getting an answer because Heavenly Father wants us to grow and to become better, and I am grateful that He does.

An image of Noah building the Ark and preaching to the people

The other thought that I heard on Sunday to complement this lesson from the Brother of Jared came from our Sunday School class where this year we are studying the Old Testament.  The teacher thoughtfully shared some insight regarding how Noah’s experience building the Ark relates to our lives and to personal revelation.  Noah was the prophet, called to teach a people who had become very wicked and would reject his teachings.  He was also commanded to build a gigantic boat (probably bigger than a cruise ship).  This was a monumental undertaking, especially because he probably didn’t have much help (there were only 8 souls saved on the Ark, it is probably safe to assume that those 8 people helped to build the Ark) and it probably didn’t make much sense to him.  Often times the Lord gives us inspiration to do things that are hard and don’t make much sense.  The lesson that we learn from Noah is that we should trust in the Lord and the guidance that we receive.  If Noah had waited until the rain began to fall to build the Ark it would have been too late.  If we wait to act upon revelation until it makes sense to us, we may be missing out on blessings or opportunities.  We need to trust in Heavenly Father enough to follow the promptings we receive even if they don’t make sense to us or are hard.  We can have confidence that our Father is leading us to good things not because we are following blindly, but because we understand that He has never backed down on a promise and that He does see the end from the beginning, even if we cannot.  We have had experiences in the past that have bolstered our confidence in our Heavenly Father and we can move forward trusting that He will assist us, no matter how difficult the task ahead.

In any case, I am very thankful for this message that came to me yesterday at Church because it testified to me that Heavenly Father is mindful of my thoughts and concerns.  I am grateful for the gift of personal revelation, even if it comes in the form of Heavenly Father expecting me to make a choice or when He gives me direction that may seem hard to do or difficult to understand.  I know that He hears and answers our prayers and that we can trust in Him and His guidance!

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