I was asked to speak today about Personal Revelation. When I first received my topic I shrugged it off as something that wasn't too important. Personal Revelation wasn't something I'd given much thought to, or consciously used much in my life before a mission. But as I began to study for my talk, I began to understand the significance of revelation.
When we were born into this world, we knew nothing. We didn't know that God was our Father, or that there are three different ways to spell the word "there." We had no knowledge of spiritual or temporal things. Because this is the nature of our mortal life, all of the knowledge we have received concerning things of a spiritual nature came and come from revelation. Understanding this started to broaden my understanding of the importance of revelation.
When the prophets of old received revelation, they wrote it down. When our modern day prophets receive revelation, they share it with us at General Conference. We use this revelation to lead and direct our lives. It's immensely evident that the revelation received by prophets was not for their benefit, but for ours. So what is the purpose of the revelation we receive? Is it for us, or is it for others? You might say that the revelation received by prophets is for others because they were called for that specific reason, but that we do not obtain such a high calling. And to that I would ask, "What do you think your purpose on earth is? What have you been called to do?"
Many say our purpose on earth is to learn, and grow, and return home. I may have to slightly disagree. If our purpose is merely about ourselves, then why were we sent here with so many other people? Why do we meet together as a group to worship on Sundays? Why have we been called on missions?
Don't get me wrong, learning and growing and becoming Christ like is a huge part of what we're doing here on earth, but it is not our purpose. Changing is only a side effect of living our actual purpose: being God's servants. We will learn and grow as we allow ourselves to be tools in the hands of the Lord.
Christ did not have to think about being Christlike, he just was because he was doing the will of the Lord. He did not make it a goal to be Christlike, it just came naturally as he served. When we serve, Christlike attributes will come.
Our purpose of service is changing forms all the time. God is constantly asking us to serve different people, and in different ways. The following is a quote that explains this concept better than I am capable:
"One of the great fears, among a life of great fears—perhaps the last great fear—is the fear of being no longer useful. We find a role in life, and we do that role to the best of our ability, as long as that ability is there. But all of us will someday hit a point where we no longer are able to do that thing that we define ourselves by doing. And more than the fear of injury, more than the fear of death, this is the fear that looms: the loss of self. The self that is the self we imagined we were our whole lives. But we were never that self, not really. We were only a series of selves, living one role and then leaving it for another. And all the time convincing ourselves that there was no change, that we were always the same person, living the same life: one arc to a finish, not the stutter-stop improvisation that is our actual lives. Worry less about the person you once were, or the person you dream you someday will be. Worry about the person you are now. Or, don’t even worry: just be that person.”
Our purpose is always service, but the way we serve is constantly changing. Without revelation, we would not know what our specific purposes are and we would not know how to fulfill them.
As missionaries here in Nauvoo we must teach with the spirit. We only have about 10 minutes with the people we meet, and we can’t rely on ourselves to know what to say.
I'm a psychology major, and before my mission I simply relied on myself and my understanding of people to know how to help others. In the MTC I experienced, for the first time, the horror that is not knowing what to say to an investigator. I was always the friend that had all the answers, and suddenly I had none of them. I had previously relied so solely on myself that I did not know how to recognize and teach with the spirit.
In John 10:4 it states "And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice."
We have to know how the spirit talks to us in order to follow it's counsel, and that is something I have had to learn the hard way as I've been on a mission.
Many of us have a hard time knowing how to discern our thoughts from revelation. But to that I question, do we even really have our own thoughts? Or is it more that we either let God or Satan take control? In 1 Corinthians 6:19 it states:
"What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?"
We are not our own. God created everything, including our minds and our thought processes. He gave us everything we need to make righteous choices. When thoughts come to us, they are either from God or from Satan. We either have the Holy Ghost with us or we don’t.
I believe that when we are righteous it is not that we align our will with God's will, but that we replace our will with God's will. When we are righteous we give up our will. In one of my psychology classes that I took at BYU Idaho I was taught an analogy that I love. As God's servants we need to be empty vessels. When we are so full of our desires, and our concerns, and our fears then we deny God from using us. He has no room for His will, and for His work. God cannot work in us if we are full. As we empty ourselves, and give up our desires, God is then able to fill us with His. Sometimes I think that we assume that as we lose ourselves we will become empty, but that is a silly thought. God can only work within us if we are empty, and as we empty ourselves he will keep us full. When we give up our will we won’t ever have to question where our good thoughts are coming from, but we will always know that they are from God.
So instead of trying to discern whether or not your thoughts are from “you” or from God, question where your desires lie and how you use the gifts you’ve been given.
God did not give us talents for our benefit, and He did not give us bodies so we could stare at them in the mirror and complain about what they look like. He gave us these things so we could serve. Whether we are missionaries or not, our purpose is always outside of ourselves.
In order to obtain God's will, and understand our purpose, we must be worthy. In 2 Nephi 28:30 it states:
"For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have."
Part of being worthy to receive revelation is acting on the knowledge you have and the promptings you receive. God is not going to trust you with his other children if you do not do what He asks, He loves them too much for that. We must lose ourselves and cease to block the work of the Lord. Many of the times I don't listen to the Holy Ghost I wonder if I'm causing someone's prayer to remain unanswered. I know that my prayers are usually answered by the actions of others, and it scares me to think about the countless opportunities I've lost due to my lack of faith in God and His plan.
If we give our will to the Lord, and truly act as his servants, then He will give us work to do. We often say that we are tools in the Lord's hands, but do we truly understand the phrase? If we are literally tools in the Lord's hands, then we know that we are nothing without him. If we are a hammer, and our purpose is to beat nails into a wall, can we do it alone? Or is it the arm of God that does most of the work? We often beat nails into walls, and accomplish great things, and exclaim, "Wow! Look at me! Look at the greatness in which I have done! Look at all the work I have accomplished!" And to that I would respond, "Close your mouth and open your eyes." Alma 26 tells a story of Ammon, who had great success as a missionary. He converted and baptized many, but he understood that he was merely a tool in the Lord's hands. In verse 12 he states:
"Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself, but I will boast of my God, for in his strength I can do all things; yea, behold, many mighty miracles we have wrought in this land, for which we will praise his name forever."
We receive much more revelation than we realize. When we understand that we are receiving revelation, and when we understand the purpose of this revelation, then we can truly be God's servants.
Many times we receive revelation about personal matters, such as where to attend school, who to marry, whether or not to serve a mission, and where in this world we should live. You might wonder how this type of revelation pertains to others. I had this question myself, and after discussing it with my companion, Sister Hintze, the answer became clear. God places us in certain places at certain times in order to give us the most opportunities to serve. When he tells you that you need to go to school at BYU Provo, He is telling you that your purpose at this time is to serve the people there. When he tells you that you need to serve a mission in Nauvoo, He is telling you that your purpose during this time is to serve the people there.
Sometimes people will not respond well to the revelation we receive, especially as missionaries. But does that mean it was not revelation from God? No. Jesus Christ taught the word of God and he ultimately rejected as well. We must not measure revelation by the outcome of our actions, but just willingly continue to act.
I invite all of you to remember the purpose of revelation is not you. And when you do receive revelation, I invite you to thank your Heavenly Father for his trust in you. I know that as we give our desires, thoughts, and essentially our lives up to He who created it all that joy will find us, and the gift of eternal life will be waiting for us. I truly believe, as the scriptures state, that as we lose our life we will find it. Lose your life in the work of God, and I promise you will better understand your purpose. We are all children of God, and we are all obligated to serve and help each other. Through revelation we can know God's plan, and understand our purpose in it.
I love this gospel, and I am so grateful for the sacrifices that took place so I could know the truth. I love being here on this mission, and I am so humbled to serve with all of you.