Many people have a problem with our church’s belief, and practice, of modern day revelation through a prophet of God. The problems are about its existence, doubt that God speaks to prophets, confusion of when and if the prophets speak from God. Yet revelation is part of the very foundation of our church. Our church’s founder, Joseph Smith, had a great many things revealed to him throughout his lifetime, and this revelation has followed the prophets through today. This is explained in Article of Faith 9, which states “we believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.” Our church would not exist without modern revelation, yet many today do not believe it is still happening or have problems with its legitimacy.
Many of the revelations given to us, through God’s prophets, are simply not as earth-shattering as in the past, but they are still present. When many think of revelation, they think of the large revelations made early in the church. But we already know of the blessings of the temple. We already have the Book of Mormon. And we do not need to flee across the country to escape persecution. We do not need, or receive, the earth-shattering revelation of days past, but that does not mean it doesn’t exist. If we are to believe that God does not give us modern day revelation, which is to believe that he has never given revelation, for all revelation is modern to those it is given. To say God does not speak now means that he has never spoken. That is simply not true. How could anything in The Bible or The Book of Mormon be true if God does not speak? How could this church be true if God does not speak? And really, why would He not speak to us? He is our father and He loves us. It stands to reason that he speaks to us today, through both the Holy Ghost and his prophets. He has given us revelation as a gift to help us learn and grow.
Our leaders today rarely make the claim of speaking with God’s authority; it comes off as council or strong advice, but this does not mean it is not revelation from God. President Ezra Taft Benson has told us that “the prophet does not have to say ‘Thus sayeth the Lord’ to give us scripture.” The prophet, by simply speaking as the prophet, is speaking the word of the Lord. His word is revelation and law, same as any scripture. Brigham Young speaks of this same truth, stating “I have never yet preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of the men that they may not call scripture.” And so, as you see, our prophets are receiving revelation for us, they just do not need to present it as such. When you think of the most current revelation from our prophets, what do you think of? Can you think of a time when the prophet has said “Thus sayeth the Lord?” I cannot. But what about the Proclamation to the Family? Or the Proclamation to the World? Are they not examples of modern day revelation? I think they’re revelation, as well as recent conference talks. We have another General Conference coming up soon. I encourage you to listen for revelation from the prophet and general authorities.
The same thing goes for when we ask for and receive personal revelation. It, too, does not have to be earth-shattering. It is important to remember that the spirit reveals to us with the still small voice, it does not always even speak with words. President Ezra Taft Benson tells us: “The scriptures record remarkable accounts of men whose lives changed dramatically, in an instant, as it were: Alma the Younger, Paul on the road to Damascus, Enos praying far into the night, King Lamoni. Such astonishing examples of the power to change even those steeped in sin can give confidence that the Atonement can reach even those deepest in despair. But we must be cautious as we discuss these remarkable examples. Though they are real and powerful, they are the exception more than the rule. For every Paul, for every Enos, and for every king Lamoni, there are hundreds and thousands of people who find the process of repentance much more subtle, much more imperceptible. Day by day they move closer to the Lord, little realizing that they are building a godlike life. They live quiet lives of goodness, service and commitment. They are like the Lamanites, who the Lord said, ‘were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost and they knew it not’.” I would reckon that many of you have had experiences like these. It often has felt to me in my life more a confirmation by the Holy Ghost than a revelation. But this is simply another way that God reveals things unto us, and we rarely recognize it as such. I hope that all of you will realize that just because you haven’t had an earth shattering revelation or conversion story does not mean your testimony is not as true and as valid. It has been confirmed by the Holy Ghost just as surely as if an angel came to you at your bedpost.
Many also feel that a problem with modern day revelation is that it is not new; we are continually receiving the same council. However, we will continue to receive this same council until we heed it. We must be worthy to receive, and understand, the new revelation. Why would God give us new information if we will not listen, as our track record says? Elder J. Golden Kimball agrees with me in this, saying that members will hear the same talks at conference so long as they are living the same sins.
Occasionally when new council is given, especially in the earlier days of the church but today as well, it can seem, or actually be, contrary to laws we have been living before. This was likewise the case when Jesus fulfilled the Law of Moses. Another example of this is with Official Declaration 2, which opened the priesthood to all worthy men that they may be extended “all of the privileges and blessings which the gospel affords.” Some folks had problems with Official Declaration 2, especially given prior statements from prophets and general authorities which were laced with prejudice. Yet those days were to come to an end. Bruce R McConkie counseled the saints to “forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that has now come into the world. . . . We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have now added a new flood of intelligence and light on this particular subject, and it erases all the darkness and all the views and all the thoughts of the past. They don’t matter any more . . . it doesn’t make a particle of difference what anybody ever said” prior to current revelation. This likewise applies to us now. Should President Monson receive and release revelation that is contrary, or even seems contrary, to what we think or what we have previously heard, we are to know that he is speaking as God’s mouthpiece. If we have followed the Lord’s commands and gained a testimony of the current prophet, if we have sustained him, then we know that he speaks from the Lord, and we should not doubt. That being said, it is okay to doubt and to pray for reassurance or our own testimony, if we need it. But we should also remember that “the Lord will never permit . . . any . . . man who stands as President of this church to lead you astray. It is not in the programme. It is not in the mind of God,” as Wilford Woodruff stated. We can trust our prophets, and we can trust their revelations.
God still gives us revelation today, and it is a gift from Him. He has spoken to his people since the beginning of the earth and will continue to speak for the duration of this existence. He speaks through his prophets and through the Holy Ghost. He can give earth-shattering revelation or speak with the still small voice of the spirit. But He does speak, and when the prophets speak, it is through him.