The word revelation comes from the Latin revelare (reveal, uncover, disclose, literally “draw back a veil, unveil”) and from Latin velum (“a veil”). “To be saved you must know God. God will speak to each of us about what is important in our lives. All things past, present, and future are continually before the Lord. God’s revelations have depth and layers beyond the human mind because they originate from a higher source. The most important thing to know is the Lord’s will for you. The pattern is to study scripture, ask God to help you understand, then listen to God’s answer. God would like to talk directly to you. The scriptures have a message from God for you.”1 “The greatest help given to us to solve the contradiction between praying to God and the answer being exactly what we wanted, exactly what we expected, and exactly what makes us right and everyone else wrong; the greatest guide is the scriptures. They provide us a lifeline for measuring any inspiration we think we obtain from God. But that’s not enough if it’s not coupled together with prayerful, ponderous thought, and time and experience. Compare these statements from Joseph Smith about this topic: ‘The spirit of revelation is in connection with these blessings [having your calling and election made sure and the privilege of receiving the other Comforter, etc.]. A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus’ (DHC 3:381, June 1839; TPJS,151; WJS, 5-6).That seems to suggest that answers can come suddenly, quickly, perhaps even easily. But Joseph also said this: A fanciful and flowery and heated imagination beware of; because the things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity—thou must commune with God (T&C 138:18; TPJS, 137, March 1839). That second quote is taken from a letter that Joseph Smith composed while he was in Liberty Jail in which he had plenty of time to fashion the language. The first quote, sadly, is taken from a source which may not be reliable or accurate. The source for that first quote is Willard Richard’s Pocket Companion in which he quoted something which, if Joseph Smith said it, Joseph said it while Willard Richards was in England on a mission and he could not possibly have heard it. He doesn’t even attribute it to Joseph Smith. But when the Documentary History was being compiled they used the Willard Richards Companion to take that language and attribute it to a talk given by Joseph in 1839 because most of the stuff in the Pocket Companion can be tracked to Joseph, and therefore they conclude this one likewise fit that same category. The second one is clearly, unambiguously from Joseph Smith and describes the process. It’s almost poetry, the way Joseph describes what he went through there. But it is poetry describing the actual bona fides of Joseph receiving answers from God. God’s most important inspiration for the most challenging subjects is often not hasty, quick and without effort at our end. Consider the advice to Oliver Cowdery that he must study it out in [his] own mind first before asking God to tell him the answer. Many people want a quick, perfunctory response from God with no forethought. What they receive in turn is a quick, perfunctory answer. God is almost always, for the most difficult challenges, not a ‘short order cook’ although there are certainly false spirits who are willing to be just that…. It requires humility to approach God and ask Him for His answer and yet more humility to know it is from Him and not [one’s] own ego, presumptions, hopes, desires, wants and conceit.”2 “A man is saved no faster than he gets knowledge, for if he does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world, as evil spirits will have more knowledge, and consequently more power, than many men who are on the earth. Hence it needs revelation to assist us, and give us knowledge of the things of God.”3 The scriptures are designed to reveal and conceal. They are able to reveal even very hidden and mysterious things to the understanding of mankind when one understands what is being discussed. Until the reader has been prepared for this understanding, reading the messages will not necessarily result in greater insight. It is almost as if one has to know the answer first or have it revealed to him. Then, while in possession of the truth, he can see that prophets and seers have been speaking about these matters since the beginning of time.4 “You must understand doctrine. You must study the scriptures. But more important than anything else, you must seek to gain further light and knowledge by conversing with the Lord directly. Harmony of the whole is dependent upon His direct guidance and blessings. You simply cannot move forward a piece here and a bit there, while neglecting the whole composite picture of the Gospel. He will open it to your view. He will show you how one part is related to another, and that to another still, so that it all moves forward together. It is not to all be comprehended at once. It is to be gained a little bit of the whole here, a further harmony of things there, until the whole moves forward together. Always moving in balance, in harmony, and as a complete magisterial revelation of God’s will.”5 The riches of eternity are offered by the Lord to all and to each one directly. It does not come from learning “secrets” from someone else. It comes by following the path. “You do not need anything more than a description of the path. Follow it. Until you follow it, the Heavens will remain shut against you. As soon as you follow it, you will have the results you would like to have. Curiosity about sacred details that the scriptures repeatedly warn are not lawful to put into writing here in this fallen world reveals an immaturity that should be overcome. If you want the details, learn them from the Lord. Directly. Without an intermediary. Teachers are commissioned by the Lord to reiterate the path by which they are to be obtained. He does not send someone to do the work for you. Indeed, you either do the work for yourself or it remains undone — for ever.”6 Revelation from Heaven is also a revelation of oneself. For as one sees Him, he sees most clearly how very limited and dependent he is upon Him. One cannot be prideful after seeing himself alongside Him (see T&C 159:6).7 Joseph Smith said, “All things whatsoever God in his infinite wisdom has seen fit and proper to reveal to us, while we are dwelling in mortality, in regard to our mortal bodies, are revealed to us in the abstract, and independent of affinity of this mortal tabernacle, but are revealed to our spirits, precisely as though we had no bodies at all.”8
1 Preserving the Restoration, 10.
2 “That We Might Become One,” Jan. 14, 2018, Clinton, UT, transcript, 2–4.
3 TPJS, 217; WJS, 113–114; WWJ, 2:170.
4 “The importance of personal revelation,” March 22, 2010, blog post.
5 “Philosophies of men,” May 6, 2010, blog post.
6 “Be still and know that I am God,” June 2, 2010, blog post.
7 Second Comforter, 416.
8 TPJS, 355; JSP, Journals Vol. 3:220, the original states “as though we were destitute of bodies”; WJS, 341–342, 346, 352, 360; WWJ, 2:386.