It is not wise to continually talk of unusual spiritual experiences. They are to be guarded with care and shared only when the Spirit itself prompts you to use them to the blessing of others. I am ever mindful of Alma ‘s words:
It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.
I heard President Marion G. Romney once counsel mission presidents and their wives in Geneva, “I do not tell all I know; I have never told my wife all I know, for I found out that if I talked too lightly of sacred things, thereafter the Lord would not trust me.” (82-04, p. 53)
I have learned that strong, impressive spiritual experiences do not come to us very frequently. And when they do, they are generally for our own edification, instruction, or correction. Unless we are called by proper authority to do so, they do not position us to counsel or to correct others. (82-04, p. 53)
Personal spiritual experiences should be treated with care. Dreams and visions and visitations are not uncommon in the Church and are a part of all that the Lord has revealed in this dispensation. Thus a worthy Church member may be the recipient of a marvelous spiritual experience. I have come to know that these experiences are personal and are to be kept private. Recipients should ponder them in their heart and not talk lightly about them.
Those personal spiritual experiences do not convey any authority to direct the lives of others unless the recipient is the father or the mother or one who has been properly called and set apart. (93-07, pp. 56-57)
Spiritual experiences should be spoken of with care. We may be prompted on occasion to tell of our spiritual experiences, but generally we should regard them as sacred. It is not out of order, however, to present some experiences from those who have lived in years past.
The fact that sacred spiritual experiences are not discussed widely – for instance, by the General Authorities – should not be taken as an indication that the Saints do not receive them. Such spiritual gifts are with the Church today as they were in years past.
Experiences which involve dreams or visions or visitations might be recorded and put away in family records to serve as a testimony and an inspiration to our descendants in the generations ahead. (THT, p. 243)
Use caution when sharing spiritual experiences. I made a rule for myself a number of years ago with reference to this subject. When someone relates a spiritual experience to me, personally or in a small, intimate group, I make it a rigid rule not to talk about it thereafter. I assume that it was told to me in a moment of trust and confidence, and therefore I never talk about it.
If, however, on some future occasion I hear that individual talk about it in public in a large gathering, or where a number of people are present, then I know that it has been stated publicly and I can feel free under the right circumstances to relate it. But I know many, many sacred and important things that have been related to me by others that I will not discuss unless I am privileged to do so under the rule stated above. (TYD, p. 326)
There are some questions too sacred to discuss. There are some questions that we could not in propriety ask.
One question of this type I am asked occasionally, usually by someone who is curious, is, “Have you seen Him?” That is a question that I have never asked of another. I have not asked that question of my Brethren in the Council of the Twelve, thinking that it would be so sacred and so personal that one would have to have some special inspiration – indeed, some authorization – even to ask it.
Though I have not asked that question of others, I have heard them answer it – but not when they were asked. I have heard one of my Brethren declare, “I know, from experiences too sacred to relate, that Jesus is the Christ.” I have heard another testify, “I know that God lives, I know that the Lord lives, and more than that, I know the Lord.” I repeat: they have answered this question not when they were asked, but under the prompting of the Spirit, on sacred occasions, when “the Spirit beareth record.”
There are some things just too sacred to discuss: not secret, but sacred; not to be discussed, but to be harbored and protected and regarded with the deepest of reverence. (TYD, pp. 86-87)Continuing Revelation
The Church moves forward with constant revelation. This Church couldn’t move forward one day without a constancy of revelation, not just to the President of the Church or to the Twelve, but to the membership of the Church across the world. (97-01)
Changes in organization or procedures are a testimony that revelation is ongoing. While doctrines remain fixed, the methods or procedures do not. (89-04, p. 15)
Revelation continues in the Church. Revelation continues in the Church: the prophet receiving it for the Church; the president for his stake, his mission, or his quorum; the bishop for his ward; the father for his family; the individual for himself.
Many revelations have been received and are found in evidence in the on-rolling work of the Lord. Perhaps one day other revelations which have been received and recorded will be published; and we stand in expectation that “He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God .” (74-03, p. 95)
Revelation is a continuous principle in the Church. In one sense the Church is still being organized. As light and knowledge are given, as prophecies are fulfilled and more intelligence is received, another step forward can be taken. (THT, p. 137)
Revelation has not ceased. The very beginning of this Church was initiated by the veil parting and visitations from beyond the veil. That has not ceased. That process, if anything, has been intensified in our generation, and I bear witness to that. (99-08)
We live in a period of intense revelation. When I was a young seminary teacher, I thought, “I missed the days of the great revelation in the Church when the Prophet Joseph Smith and those who followed him were receptive to constant revelation and instruction from the Almighty.”
In due time (and it takes time), I came to realize that we now live in a more intense period of revelation than it was then. The Lord is close to us and is revealing Himself to us as the great work of the Restoration moves forward. (07-07)
Not all revelation is printed in the scriptures. There are revelations which are not printed in the scriptures, nor in the handbooks. They are found in the Church. You might call them our tradition, but they are more than that; they are revelation. You find them in sentences and paragraphs scattered here and there in books and sermons of the Brethren.
The best source for these truths is found when we will listen to some who were there, who participated and watched and became students of the past like Brother Lee, Brother Kimball, Brother Romney, who are gone … Men whose minds and experiences stretch back to the past. (92-01)
Revelation in the Church comes through proper channels. The Lord has set up some precise channels in the Church, and He invariably extends inspiration through these channels. However, we are often guilty of an “end run” to someone in higher authority than those who are immediately available. While we do not always follow the proper channels of authority and while we sometimes preempt responsibility that belongs to the parent or to a bishop, the Lord invariably stays in channel. He will not yield revelation and inspiration to us when we are out of those channels. (TYD, pp. 229-30)
Revelation in the Church is vertical. It generally confines itself to the administrative or geographic boundaries or limitations assigned to the one who is called. For instance, a bishop who is trying to solve a problem will not get revelation from a bishop in another ward or stake to whom he is related or with whom he might work at the office.
My experience has taught me that revelation comes from above, not from the side. However more experienced or older or however more spiritual someone to the side may appear to be, it is better to go up through proper channels. (96-07)
Revelation is the essence of priesthood government. An ordinary young elders quorum president knows what revelation is and how to receive it. An ordinary young man knows how to approach the Lord through the veil and get revealed instruction.
That is the essence, the very essence, of priesthood government. That is a principle of the gospel. It is a law of God that He will reveal His will to His servants. Not just to the prophets and Apostles, but to His servants across the world. It is a precious principle that must be guarded and nurtured, but when we are overprogrammed it sometimes gets smothered. (84-03, p. 68)
The Language of the Spirit
Several years ago I was assigned to go to Germany to take care of some important Church business. As I looked forward to that assignment, I worried a great deal. I knew there would be some very important interviews and that I do not speak German. I knew that most of those with whom I would conduct the Church business did not speak English.
I felt helpless. After taking care of some work in England for about two weeks, I was finally on the plane to Germany. As I sat there pondering and praying, the voice of the Lord came into my mind and gave me some instructions. You know the Lord does not speak in either English or German and that He can speak pure intelligence into our minds without passage of time.
The message was something like this: “What are you worried about? There is another language, the language of the Spirit. Those brethren will know that language. You know that language. There will be no problem.” I was greatly comforted, and I had a great experience on that occasion.
I witness that there is that universal language, the language of the Spirit; since then I have never been very anxious when I have had to go into other countries. Sometimes we will visit among people of seven or eight languages on one trip, but always there is that language of the Spirit. (76-09, p. 79)Patriarchal Blessings
Patriarchal blessings are blessings from the Lord. A number of years ago, I ordained a patriarch in a distant stake. Three months later he came to my office and told this experience.
After he was ordained, he was overwhelmed. He brooded over the awesome responsibility of giving blessings which must include a declaration of lineage and prophetic insights personal to each individual. He was weighed down with a feeling of inadequacy and could not get himself to attempt to give his first patriarchal blessing.
The stake president would ask if he was ready to give the blessings. Each time he would say he did not feel up to the great responsibility. Finally he realized that he must prepare himself. He talked to a revered Church leader in the community and asked, “Could I write out two or three brief paragraphs that could be an appropriate introduction to any patriarchal blessing? I could memorize these paragraphs as a beginning with the expectation that the Spirit would then provide the inspiration that I needed.”
It was agreed that it would be all right. So he prepared a short introduction. He wrote and rewrote the paragraphs until he was satisfied that it was worthy of an introduction to a patriarchal blessing. Then he informed the stake president he was ready.
Soon the first young person came with his recommend to receive a blessing. Confident that his memorized introduction would get him started, he placed his hands on the young person’s head and did not use a word of it!
“That day,” he said, “I found out whose blessings they are. They are not my blessings; they are the blessings of the Lord, and He will, through His Spirit, dictate what should be said.” Thereafter he never lost confidence in either his own ability or that the Spirit would be there to give him words. (05-01)
A patriarchal blessing comes by revelation. President Harold B. Lee told of calling a patriarch . After the morning session of conference, where the man had borne a remarkable testimony, they went to a basement office.
The stake president’s wife was present and wrote to President Lee:
As you walked over to put your hands on [his] head, I thought to myself, he is a man with whom we socialize. We have gone on trips with him, to dances … Now part of his responsibility is to declare the lineage from which each one has come in these blessings. He hasn’t been a student of ancient languages – how is he going to know?
You walked over and put your hands on his head, and a light came from behind you and went right through you and into him. And I thought to myself, Isn’t that a strange coincidence that the sunlight has come in just at that moment. And then I realized that there was [no window,] no sunlight. I was witnessing the answer to my question … That light came from somewhere beyond Brother Lee and went through Brother Lee into this patriarch. Then I knew where he was going to get that information – by the revelations of Almighty God.
And so it must be. Whenever a patriarch is ordained or pronounces a blessing, that same light, though it may be unseen, is present. It empowers a patriarch to declare lineage and to give a prophetic blessing, notwithstanding that he himself may be a man of very ordinary capacity.
Do not let the office of stake patriarch be neglected or ignored. It is essential to the spiritual power of a stake. (02-09, p. 45)
Counsel on Seeking Patriarchal Blessings
Patriarchs do not advertise for blessings. Members should seek blessings as they feel inspired to do so. There is no fixed age at which one may receive a patriarchal blessing. The bishop ensures that the member is of sufficient age and maturity to understand the meaning and significance of the blessing. (02-09, p. 43)
Patriarchal blessings should be kept personal. Except for members of the immediate family, we should not permit others to read our blessing nor should we ask others to interpret it. Neither the patriarch nor the bishop can or should interpret it. (02-09, p. 43)
Strength can come by re-reading our blessings. The patriarch, who had never seen me before, made a promise that applies to every one of us. He told me to “face toward the sunlight of truth so that the shadow of error, disbelief, doubt and discouragement shall be cast behind you.” Many times I have gained strength from reading that patriarchal blessing given by an inspired servant of the Lord. (02-09, p. 45)
Patriarchal blessings apply beyond the veil. Sometimes someone will worry because a promise made in a patriarchal blessing is not yet fulfilled. For instance, a blessing may indicate that a member will be married, and they do not find a companion. That does not mean that the blessing will go unfulfilled. It is well to know that things happen in the Lord’s due time, not always in ours. Things of an eternal nature have no boundaries. From the premortal existence to our existence beyond the veils of death, our life is an eternal life. (02-09, p. 45)
The Work of the Patriarch
The work of the patriarch draws near to the very central purpose of the Lord’s work. It is in performing his duties that a patriarch will learn the language of the Spirit. It is a humbling and marvelous privilege and a great responsibility to be ordained a patriarch.
There is a respect accorded to the patriarch. He knows the gospel, he knows the scriptures, and he lives in harmony with the Spirit. In all of his own personal affairs, he is above reproach. His duties are completely spiritual. He is called to give blessings. He has no administrative responsibilities. He is not responsible to counsel the people. He is to give blessings. (05-01)
The Calling of a Patriarch
The calling of a patriarch is the calling of revelation. The patriarch in a sense is a prophet to give blessings which really in effect are a prophecy for each individual. (95-11)
Counsel to Patriarchs
Speaking to the patriarchs, you have been chosen as few other men are chosen. You must live in such a way that through spiritual inspiration, you can give prophetic and inspired blessings. Be an exemplary patriarch in your own family. Live to be worthy of the Spirit. And experience the joy of your calling. (02-09, p. 45)
There are three kinds of patriarchs. The scriptures speak of three kinds of patriarchs: fathers of families; the prophet leaders of ancient times; and the stake patriarch, an ordained office in the Melchizedek Priesthood.
The father is a patriarch to his family and can and should give father’s blessings to his children. (02-09, p. 42)Discerning False Revelation
There are two sources of revelation. There are two sources of revelation – the one consistent with the great plan of happiness, the other growing from the “cunning plan of the evil one.” So that we will not be deceived, there is order in the Church and there are established channels through which revelation is given to the Church and to us, its members, as individuals. (93-07, p. 54)
No message is repeated more times in scripture than the simple thought: “Ask, and ye shall receive.”
I often ask the Lord for direction from Him. I will not, however, willingly accept promptings from any unworthy source. I refuse them. I do not want them, and I say so. (79-10, p. 21)
Inspiration versus Sinspiration: the choice is yours. You are the focus of two conflicting patterns trying to influence you in your life, trying to have you go this way or that way. You are the one who makes the decision.
As the old man a generation ago said, “The Lord’s votin’ for me, and the devil’s votin’ against me, but it’s my vote that counts!” And that is good, solid doctrine.
You will have just what you want. On one hand, you have inspiration from the Holy Ghost, and, on the other hand, you have what President Ezra Taft Benson called “sinspiration” from the angels of the devil. They are with you all of the time. (03-04, p. 171)
Revelation comes in an orderly way in the Church. Revelation comes in an orderly way in the Church. We are entitled to personal revelation. However, unless we are set apart to some presiding office, we will not receive revelations concerning what others should do.
Revelation in the Church comes to those who have been properly called, sustained, ordained, or set apart. A bishop, for instance, will not receive any revelation concerning a neighboring ward, because that is out of his jurisdiction. (89-04, pp. 14-15)
You will not receive revelation for anyone else’s jurisdiction. Now, if you start receiving revelations for anyone else’s jurisdiction, you know immediately that you’re out of order, that they come from the wrong source. You will not receive revelation to counsel your bishop or to correct the leaders of the Church. (75-01, p. 89)
An unusual spiritual experience is not a call to direct others. An unusual spiritual experience should not be regarded as a personal call to direct others. It is my conviction that experiences of a special, sacred nature are individual and should be kept to oneself.
Few things disturb the channels of revelation quite so effectively as those people who are misled and think themselves to be chosen to instruct others when they are not chosen. (89-04, p. 15)
There can be counterfeit revelation. All inspiration does not come from God. The evil one has the power to tap into those channels of revelation and send conflicting signals which can mislead and confuse us. There are promptings from evil sources which are so carefully counterfeited as to deceive even the very elect.
Nevertheless, we can learn to discern these spirits. Even with every member having the right to revelation, the Church can be maintained as a house of order. (89-04, p. 14)
Be ever on guard lest you be deceived by inspiration from an unworthy source. You can be given false spiritual messages. There are counterfeit spirits, just as there are counterfeit angels. Be careful lest you be deceived, for the devil may come disguised as an angel of light.
The spiritual part of us and the emotional part of us are so closely linked that it is possible to mistake an emotional impulse for something spiritual. We occasionally find people who receive what they assume to be spiritual promptings from God, when those promptings are either centered in the emotions or are from the adversary. (82-04, pp. 55-56)
We can be given false spiritual messages. How are we protected? By obedience. By following the true servants of the Lord. By standing firm in His Church. (82-05)
Avoid counterfeit revelations. “There are many spirits which are false spirits.” There can be counterfeit revelations, promptings from the devil, temptations! As long as you live, in one way or another, the adversary will try to lead you astray. “For after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him.”
The Prophet Joseph Smith said that “nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they have the Spirit of God.” The seventh chapter of Moroni in the Book of Mormon tells you how to test spiritual promptings. Read it carefully – over and over. By trial, and some error, you will learn to heed these promptings. If ever you receive a prompting to do something that makes you feel uneasy, something you know in your mind to be wrong and contrary to the principles of righteousness, do not respond to it! (94-05, p. 61)
There are potentially destructive effects of false revelation. Occasionally we will find someone who claims to receive spiritual revelations. One of the evidences of false revelation that you had better be careful of is that individuals begin to include others as though they are receiving spiritual instruction for them. They seem to think somehow that the inspiration they receive supersedes that which the bishops or stake presidents might receive and comes from some higher source than these brethren are privileged to have.
Some are deceived, and endless mischief occurs and sorrow results. The destructive result of these who are misled is twofold. One of the problems is that thereafter many become afraid, themselves thinking that they might be misled or go too far. And then they hold back and submerge the spiritual part of their lives. Then, for fear of going too far, they avoid the very spiritual feelings that can lead them and make them worthy to receive these gifts. (87-01, p. 103)
Beware of false promptings that “quench” the Spirit. The spiritual communications from the Holy Ghost can be interrupted by the promptings and influence of the evil one. You will learn to recognize that.
To further our understanding of this principle, Nephi taught: “If ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray. But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray.”
So when we speak of angels communicating by the power of the Holy Ghost and we are told by the prophets that we can speak with the tongue of angels, then we must know that there is an opposing influence. We must be able to detect it.
There is one word in the book of Jacob that should alert us: “Behold, will ye reject these words? Will ye reject the words of the prophets; and will ye reject all the words which have been spoken concerning Christ, after so many have spoken concerning him; and deny the good word of Christ, and the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, and quench the Holy Spirit, and make a mock of the great plan of redemption?”
So the Spirit can be quenched! (03-08, p. 51)
One can learn to recognize counterfeit signals. You should know also that, in addition to static and interference which jam the circuits, there are counterfeit signals.
Some have received revelations and heard voices that are put there deliberately by wicked sources to lead astray. You can learn to recognize those and tune them out, if you will.
Now, how do you tell the difference? How can you know if a prompting is an inspiration or a temptation?
My answer to that must surely expose my great confidence in young people. I believe young people, when properly taught, are basically sensible.
In the Church we are not exempt from common sense. You can know to begin with that you won’t be prompted from any righteous source to steal, to lie, to cheat, to join anyone in any kind of moral transgression.
You have a conscience even as a little boy and girl. It will prompt you to know the things that are wrong. Don’t smother it . Read Moroni, chapter 7 … It tells of a way to judge such things. If ever you are confused and feel that you are being misled, go for counsel to your parents, and to your leaders. (79-10, pp. 20-21)
Avoid chattering about evil spirits. Spiritual gifts carry great responsibility and we are not to talk about them lightly. I see no purpose, for instance, of chattering endlessly about evil spirits. Missionaries somehow are wont to do that. And returned missionaries are not exempt from that. There is no purpose in that. I would not do it. And I wouldn’t stay where it is done. Do not sit around and talk about the so-called experiences of those who have confronted evil spirits. (87-01, p. 108)