Revelation is communication from God to mankind. From the very beginning of time, God has communicated with His children on earth, helping them to learn what is true and how to live. This revelation happens at many levels, from the revelations given to prophets for all mankind to the quiet communication of God to an individual child with a personal problem.
Most people think of revelation in terms of the Biblical prophets, who spoke directly to God and received great visions. Only a prophet can receive revelation for the entire church. When a prophet of God speaks, we are all accountable for what he teaches, even if we choose to ignore what is taught. A common example of this would be when Noah called the people to repent. When they did not, the flood came and they paid the price—choosing not to accept the revelation didn’t make it invalid or free them from the need to obey. This helps us to understand the importance of finding out what is true and what source provides truth. When a prophet speaks, God expects us to listen, so first, we must find out to whom He is speaking.
God gives revelation to those who have stewardship or responsibility over the subject of the revelation. This is why only the prophet can receive revelation for the entire church. He is the person with that stewardship. A leader of a religious congregation can receive revelation for his congregation, because that is his special stewardship. When he ends his service to that congregation, he is no longer entitled to revelation for that position. A parent can receive revelation concerning his children. All of us can receive revelation for our own lives, as well.
Even in Biblical times, important revelation meant for everyone was fairly rare. Most of the time, the prophets simply reminded people of what they’d already been taught and still needed to act on. Most revelations did not come through visions and visitations, but through quiet revelation. Prophets normally receive revelation in exactly the same way everyone else does.
That said, how do ordinary people receive revelation for their own lives?
To receive recelation from God, we must prepare ourselves to receive it. We need to build a relationship with Him so that we understand how His gospel works and how He interacts with us. This involves reading the scriptures to study how God has interacted with us in the past and what He expects of us today. Then we need to live the way He has asked us to live.
It means spending time in real prayer—not reciting prayers, but speaking to Him from our hearts about our worries and fears. We need to tell God how thankful we are for what we’ve already received because that helps us become more aware of our blessings and God’s role in them. Then we need to sit quietly and wait to see what happens. In time, we’ll come to recognize a peaceful, warm sensation in our hearts that tells us God is nearby and listening. Satan cannot bring peace or joy. These feelings are always from God.
Once we’ve learned to recognize these feelings and are living in a way that shows respect for God and His teachings, we can receive personal revelation. Revelation will most often come in quiet ways, so we have to be patient and listen with our hearts. We need to turn off the music, the television, and other distractions, especially when we are just learning to recognize what revelation feels like.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are sometimes called Mormons, are taught to first study an issue out in their minds. For instance, if a student wanted to know which college to attend, she would research a variety of them and select the one she feels is best for her. Then she would take her choice to God and ask Him if she’s chosen well. A warm and peaceful feeling is God’s reassurance that she has made a good choice. (It might be that several schools would meet with His approval.) A confused or negative feeling tells her she needs to start again.
Sometimes revelation comes in the form of a thought of impression. It will take practice to know which impressions are revelations and which are just thoughts. As you act on those thoughts, you will learn how to know which are from God. A thought from God might be a simple suggestion: “Lisa is lonely. Go visit her today.”
On rare occasions, a revelation will come in actual words you can hear. This is usually in the case of an emergency, where there isn’t time to analyze whether or not the thought was an impression or a mere thought. “Go to the baby. She’s in danger.”
Modern prophets, like prophets of old, receive revelation from God, most often in the same form we do. God considers revelation important, and we, as ordinary children of God, can receive personal revelation just as Moses received it in his day.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.