How to Minister – Nephi and Lehi

Helaman 5:12, 35-47 – prison

As always in the Church, we are encouraged to serve. It is a service Church. Every person is called to the work in some capacity or another. Without the efforts of diligent saints who try to serve others then the work of the Lord would not got very far to have an effect in the lives of God’s children. We know this. However, it is very often something that is not done well. One only needs to look at the number of home teaching visits done by brethren of the Church as just an example. We are always asking this question: how can we encourage more to minister? However, I think there is another question we should be asking as well: how can we get more to minister more effectively?

To consider this I want to look briefly at an experience related in Helaman, focusing on Nephi and Lehi. First, we need to ensure we are firm on a foundation built on Christ as they were. The well-known verse reads “And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.” (Helaman 5:12) As we continue through our mortal lives, we do not know the challenges we will face but if we build our lives on Christ He will guide us through. If we can do this, then we will be in a much better position to support others and minister to them.

We can then learn about the importance of ministering when we look at an experience found after this important verse. Moving on, after this wise counsel, Nephi and Lehi found themselves imprisoned for their beliefs and sentenced to death. However, the Lamanite who were going to carry out the sentence came across a life-changing scene. The Nephite prisoners were indeed there but encircled, seemingly, by fire and unharmed. Whilst they were trying to take in this inexplicable scene, the Lamanites then experienced more bewilderment as they were covered by an impenetrable mist which they could not see beyond.

As the situation grew ever more bleak, one member of their group, an ex-Nephite called Aminadab remembered what he had been taught:

“35 Now there was one among them who was a Nephite by birth, who had once belonged to the church of God but had dissented from them.

36 And it came to pass that he turned him about, and behold, he saw through the cloud of darkness the faces of Nephi and Lehi; and behold, they did shine exceedingly, even as the faces of angels. And he beheld that they did lift their eyes to heaven; and they were in the attitude as if talking or lifting their voices to some being whom they beheld.” (Helaman 5:35-36)

This previous member of the Church saw examples shining through the darkness of ministers who had their focus heavenward. As we consider how to reach out to those around us, we should never underestimate the Spirit which emanates from those who live the Gospel and try to be the best they can be – aiming towards their Heavenly Father. What will happen, if we do this well to those who are ready to change their lives, is that they will remember feelings and promises (covenants) they have made in the past which would enable them to feel the security and comfort they see from those who are living those covenants. Aminadab felt this as the experience continues:

“37 And it came to pass that this man did cry unto the multitude, that they might turn and look. And behold, there was power given unto them that they did turn and look; and they did behold the faces of Nephi and Lehi.” (Helaman 5:37)

He, the lost soul, then reached out to others around him and encouraged others to look toward the ministers. They then used their agency to turn and look. We must remember as we minister to encourage all to ‘turn and look’. We can’t hope to inspire others to change if we do not invite them to do so. The experience continues:

“38 And they said unto the man: Behold, what do all these things mean, and who is it with whom these men do converse?

39 Now the man’s name was Aminadab. And Aminadab said unto them: They do converse with the angels of God.” (Helaman 5:38-39)

Naturally, questions came – as we support, teach and minister we must equip those we teach to be ready to answer questions about their faith. We can teach them and help them to feel the Spirit all we want but they must be taught how the Gospel is relevant to their lives and that people will also want to find out more. In this experience, Aminadab knew the answer but we must prepare those we teach to know that sometimes they may not know the answer – and that’s ok.

“40 And it came to pass that the Lamanites said unto him: What shall we do, that this cloud of darkness may be removed from overshadowing us?

41 And Aminadab said unto them: You must repent, and cry unto the voice, even until ye shall have faith in Christ, who was taught unto you by Alma, and Amulek, and Zeezrom; and when ye shall do this, the cloud of darkness shall be removed from overshadowing you.

42 And it came to pass that they all did begin to cry unto the voice of him who had shaken the earth; yea, they did cry even until the cloud of darkness was dispersed.

43 And it came to pass that when they cast their eyes about, and saw that the cloud of darkness was dispersed from overshadowing them, behold, they saw that they were encircled about, yea every soul, by a pillar of fire.

44 And Nephi and Lehi were in the midst of them; yea, they were encircled about; yea, they were as if in the midst of a flaming fire, yet it did harm them not, neither did it take hold upon the walls of the prison; and they were filled with that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory.

45 And behold, the Holy Spirit of God did come down from heaven, and did enter into their hearts, and they were filled as if with fire, and they could speak forth marvelous words.” (Helaman 5:40-45)

As the Lamanites followed the advice of the convert-turned lost sheep-turned minister, they also felt the converting power of the Lord’s embrace.

The Temple: The University

I have recently begun teaching a few lessons of the Temple Preparation Course for a couple of people preparing to enter the sacred Temple. It has been a great opportunity for a number of reasons: I have had the chance to reconsider my commitment to covenants made in the House of the Lord, I have been able to share my testimony of the important ordinances that we engage in at the Temple and discussing the scriptures and quotes from General Authorities linked to this holy place.

I was aware of this quote by Elder David A Bednar which says “There are pre-requisites in many forms of life. You cannot take advanced courses in chemistry until you have mastered the basics. And the same thing is true of the Lord’s university. You have to meet the pre-requisites. Anyone can come if they are willing to abide by those commitments.” As we were discussing the importance of the ordinances and covenants in the Temple, we were beginning to discuss how the Temple provides an opportunity for higher learning, further education and greater blessings. As we went down this train of thought, the understanding of the Temple being the Lord’s University rang ever more true to me.

In our educational lives as children we begin in settings where we are almost led by the hand in our learning. Yes, of course, we are encouraged to search certain things out for ourselves but we are given a lot of models for learning – for example, teachers model how to read, how to count, how to write and so on. We can compare this to when we take our first steps towards baptism and then those first few steps as a new convert.

As we progress in the educational world, we advance until we reach a higher level of schooling – secondary school in the UK, maybe middle and high school in the USA and other equivalents across the world. In these settings, we are still expected to attend. We are taught a curriculum. However, we are expected to progress ourselves and identify areas where we are to improve. The equivalent in a Gospel sense is when we progress through from being a new convert towards to the time when we are preparing to enter the Temple. We are still supported and led by caring leaders towards our next destination – the Temple but we are expected to take on more – such as home/visiting teaching, callings and other duties.

After this, in the education system, you then make the step to higher education – university. At this level of learning, you are given some input but suddenly you are expected to be even more self-sufficient. You could not turn up to lectures, do little study and still get some sort of result. However, the level of your achievement will likely correlate with the amount you put in whether you attend sessions, whether you engage in wider reading and so on. And so is the same with the Temple. Once you have received your endowments and other covenants from the Temple, you could make it through the rest of your life without ever attending again, not fully engaging in your covenants and do ok. However, if you attend the Temple more, live your promises fully and so on – we receive more light and inspiration. The Temple is the Lord’s university because, yes we receive great knowledge, but also it is down to us to engage and learn as much as we can.

I was grateful for this discussion – it helped me open my eyes more to the importance of the Temple and the blessings in store as we enter those holy doors more.

It’s Never Too Early or Too Late

Where are you on your journey?

In Europe we have had an Area Plan: this simple, yet inspired Area Plan focuses on three key areas. This plan is to bring a friend, become self-reliant temporally and spiritually and find an ancestor. In Alma 34:32 we find a well-known verse which reads –  “For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.” We have all been blessed to be on this Earth, we need to use our time effectively. If we have not moved off in our journey this year yet and left the shore to get to the Promised Land, it’s not too late to start TODAY!

The Daily Battle of Direction

In fact, this principle of it never being too late (or indeed too early) is exactly the message I want to think about. This is based on a talk that was given by Elder Bradley D. Foster of the Seventy. In his talk he applies the approach of it never being too early or late to raising children in the Gospel but I want to apply this wider to anything in our own or our family’s spiritual progression and then discuss the impact on children in Zion.

He begins by making this statement:

“Brothers and sisters, we are engaged in a battle with the world. In the past, the world competed for our children’s energy and time. Today, it fights for their identity and mind.”

When we wake up tomorrow, will we remember that we are on a spiritual battlefield? Bearing in mind that it used to be a battle in itself to get our son, Joshua, out of bed for Nursery in the morning (despite him only being 3 years old at the time, not 13) it can be easy to see in our hectic day-to-day lives why we might forget this. In the confusion and hardships of the day, we might sometimes slip our focus away from the things that matter most. I want to look at an event from the scriptures which links well to this – the Brother and Jared and the Jaredites. As we know, they were blessed to come away from a sinful nation and were given the promise that if they followed the Lord, they would be lead to a blessed land where they would prosper. They obeyed and travelled and it says in Ether 2:13: “… it came to pass that the Lord did bring Jared and his brethren forth even to that great sea which divideth the lands. And as they came to the sea they pitched their tents; and they called the name of the place Moriancumer; and they dwelt in tents, and dwelt in tents upon the seashore for the space of four years.”

Surely, if they were content to dwell there on the seashore for four years, it must have been a pleasant enough place? Just picture where you were 4 years ago – that is a long time! If we’re talking about it never being too late to act then this is a good group of people to study(!) – because for four long years they settled. They did not progress. Are we sometimes not like the Jaredites, settling for what we have right now? If we think for one moment that we are good as we are and all is well in Zion then we need to repent – because none of us are where our Heavenly Father would have us yet – although I am sure He is pleased with the progress we have made so far!

 

All is Well?

This attitude of all being well as it is right now, today, is not only a sign of a lack of motivation to improve but it is a cunning tool of Satan to have us never reach our full potential – to be stunted in our spiritual growth. In 2 Nephi 28:21 we read:

“And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.”

Not only is Satan craftily making us stop our own progress if we feel content where we are, but he is carefully leading us back away from the Lord. To quote from Elder Neil L. Andersen in his talk at the same Conference, he said:

“How we live our lives increases or diminishes our faith.”

We are either moving forward in our journey, or slipping away from our eternal goal.

Never Too Early or Too Late

To return to the account of the Jaredites, the Lord clearly wanted to make this point to the spiritual leader of the group, the Brother of Jared, as we read:

“And it came to pass at the end of four years that the Lord came again unto the brother of Jared, and stood in a cloud and talked with him. And for the space of three hours did the Lord talk with the brother of Jared, and chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord.” (Ether 2:14)

To me, we can learn a lot from this. Yes, what the Jaredites did in being content was wrong, that is made clear. Also, the Lord is always there for us when we are ready to return back to Him. However, we also read here that the Lord ‘came’ to the Brother of Jared. Our loving Saviour is not just always there but he will seek us out if we are lost. This is a great lesson for us as members of His true Church – whilst we should always be ready to receive those of our number who are lost with open arms, it is NEVER too late for us to go out and find them, and it can’t be done early enough. In the New Testament, our Saviour taught us our role when he gave the parable of the Lost Sheep:

“What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.” (Luke 15:4-5)

Obviously we are not encouraged to literally lay investigators on our shoulders – but how amazing is it that we have the opportunity to play our part and not only be ready to receive, but also to go out and find – it is NEVER too late for them! As we know, it wasn’t too late for the Jaredites either and they made it to the land which the Lord had prepared for them.

Children in the Gospel

As we know it is our mandate to bring people to the Lord, what do we need to do to help them become spiritually self-reliant so they can become tools in the Lord’s hand? This can apply to our children, as Elder Foster goes on to teach, but also children in the gospel (investigators, our friends, even our HT/VT families as we are all meant to be teachable).

Elder Foster taught us a very valuable principle when he said:

“On this occasion, Jesus told a story about planting seeds—the parable of the sower. In explaining this to His disciples, and ultimately to us, He said, “When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart.” The message for parents is clear: there is a difference between hearing and understanding. If our children merely hear but do not understand the gospel, then the door is left open for Satan to remove these truths from their hearts.”

Our FHE’s, investigator lessons, HT/VT visits etc. are not simply places where we are to preach and they are to listen to our words. If we attempt this, then we are not teaching in the Lord’s way. Why is this? Because we are not to be the teachers. If we set ourselves up as the teacher then the learner will only hear the words we say. However, if we recognise the Holy Ghost is the teacher, then understanding will implant deeper into the listener’s heart.

Teaching By the Spirit

Before mentioning a few things to remember about teaching by the Spirit, I would echo Elder Foster’s plea again – It Is Never Too Early or Too Late. Our daughter, Elaina, is 2 years old. If we do not begin now to offer a spiritual feast each and every day in our home then she will look for a feast elsewhere as she grows up and it will be more difficult to provide that feast later as we have not got into the habit of providing that feast. Similarly, it still is never too late if we have not been providing that feast. Begin today.

Can I dispel some myths about teaching and learning by the Spirit? Supposedly, you can tell children, or even adults, have been taught by the Spirit if:

  • They sit quietly through the whole lesson (again, adults as well as children!) – quite honestly if this were true then I would start thinking it’s never too late to give up
  • They cry with tears. Whilst crying can be a response to the fruits of the Spirit we can feel (Galatians 5:22-23 like love, peace, joy and goodness) it does not mean you have to cry to indicate you have been taught by the Spirit. Again, to apply this to our FHE setting, I think I would be concerned if my 4 year old began sobbing at what we were saying – in fact, the only time he has cried during a FHE is when he was struck by his sister with a toy.
  • The teacher does not prepare the lesson and so decides they have to ‘teach by Spirit’. Teaching by the spirit is not the same as ‘winging it’. As a primary school teacher, I know what it is to have to ‘wing it’ for a lesson sometimes – and often it can pay off. However, the Spirit will be the strongest if we are prepared. It is never too early or too late to prepare a spiritual lesson or experience with our children. If we spend hours on preparing a lesson for Church and then sit swiftly with our children and make up a lesson for FHE or some other experience on the spot, something is wrong.
  • Everyone is happy and the lesson went great. There will be times that you feel that a lesson did not go the way you wanted it to (again, this applies to parents, member missionaries, HTs, whoever) – however, it may well be those lessons that the Spirit has touched the heart of one of the listeners and that teaching moment by the Spirit will change their life forever.

Build a Better Tomorrow, Today

Building eternal bonds, loving ties and spiritual foundations has to be on the mind of all parents in Zion. To quote the scripture which always makes me feel terrified as a parent but willing to do better in D&C 68:25

“And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents.”

It is never too early or late to build lasting relationships with our children, our parents, our siblings, our friends, our ancestors, with our HT/VT families – it needs to begin NOW otherwise we will not move on in our spiritual journey and miss out on potential future promised land blessings.

Seek Learning by Faith

This entry is based on a talk given by Elder David A. Bednar given in February 2006, and it also has links with a Mission Conference given by Elder Bednar in the Leeds Mission in September 2009.

When we study the word of God – we need to allow the Spirit to be there. Like with any investigator, it’s the Spirit that truly teaches us. It opens the pathway into our heart. “…the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men…” (2 Nephi 33:1). We must invite the Holy Ghost, then we can be taught and allow the Spirit to work within our heart.

In my last entry (Enos’s Pattern of Faith), the cycle of ‘assurance->action->evidence’ was discussed. The same needs to happen in our study if we desire a more effective, revelatory experience as we study. There are a couple of great examples of this in the scriptures. Nephi, when asked to retrieve the plates from Laban, had the assurance being spoken about. He says “I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do. Nevertheless I went forth…” (1 Nephi 4:6-7). He was led by the Spirit, thus he knew with a powerful assurance, that he would be led right.

Elder Bednar wonderfully explains the relationship between these three elements of faith. He says “These three elements of faith…are not separate and discrete; rather, they are interrelated and continuous and cycle upward. And the faith that fuels this ongoing process develops and evolves and changes.” As we practise this cycle – like a muscle, it’ll get stronger with more and more use.

An excellent example of these three elements is found with Joshua, the children of Israel and the ark of the covenant. They had to cross the river Jordan to move forward. So the Lord promised “…as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the Lord…shall rest in the waters of Jordan…the waters of Jordan shall be cut off…and they shall stand upon a heap…” (Joshua 3:13). So the priests with the Ark of the Covenant went in. It is interesting to note that they had to get their feet wet before it would happen. They had the assurance from the Lord and they had to act – and of course “…the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan…” (Joshua 3:17). They received the evidence that their faith was correctly placed in the God of Israel. Please note that they had to wet their feet in the river before they received that evidence – they jumped and the Lord moved the ‘light’ with them – that is how faith grows.

The principle of learning by faith hinges heavily on the person’s agency to choose, and not being acted upon. For example, when Adam and Eve hid themselves from God in the Garden of Eden, God asked “Where art thou?” (Genesis 3:9) and “Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree…?” (Genesis 3:11). God, being omniscient, would know where Adam and Eve were and what had occurred (let’s not forget this was part of the Plan of Salvation before Adam and Eve even stepped foot in the Garden). This was a learning experience for them, rather than the Lord finding them out. Another example – Jesus walking through a crowd was touched on His garments by a woman, desiring to be made whole. Christ asked “Who touched my clothes?” (Mark 5:30) and then “…the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.” (Mark 5:33). This was the Son of God – He knew who had touched His robe, she knew this woman more than she herself did – but He allowed her to come forward and learn for herself. In both of these situations, the learner acted for themselves – coming forward to the light – and grew from the experience.

“Learning by faith requires spiritual, mental and physical exertion and not just passive reception,” stated Elder Bednar. Just like Moroni 10:4 says, we need to “ask with a sincere heart, with real intent…” – we show our sincerity by our action and then we will receive our answers. For example – Joseph Smith, as a young man, went to a grove of trees to pray. He prepared himself to “ask in faith” (James 1:6). Not only this but he went with a sincere intent to act. He said “My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join…I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong…” (JSH 1:18-19). Joseph asked, not only for the knowledge of which Church was right, but also which he should join – what he should do! If we desire to seek learning by faith, we must also be willing to act on the answer – or else, how can we expect that answer? God knows the intents of our hearts so if we are not prepared to act but wish for an answer, we need to change.

Now, as teachers – whether we are leaders, missionaries, parents – we need to relay these principles to our ‘students’. However, Elder Bednar highlighted implications it has on us:


1) –
“The Holy Ghost is the only true teacher.”
We need to remember that no matter how well planned and prepared we are, no matter how eloquent we are, if we don’t have the Spirit as we teach then our teaching won’t be effective. We are not the teachers – the Holy Ghost is. Elder Bednar uses a great analogy of a fibre-optic cable. “…you and I are much like the long, thin strands of glass used to create the fibre-optic through
which light signals are transmitted…Just as the glass in these cables must be pure to conduct the light efficiently and effectively, so we should become and remain worthy conduits through whom the Spirit of the Lord can operate…” We are not the light source, only the channel or conduit by which the light is sent and received. If we do teach without recognising where the real teaching comes from and take praise to ourselves, then it is priestcraft. 2 Nephi 26:29 gives a great definition of that. It says “priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world…” – they substitute themselves for the true ‘light’. We need to be careful of this or we become tainted with the sin of priestcraft and lose the power of the Spirit.


2) – “We are most effective as instructors when we encourage and facilitate learning by faith.”
As the teachers, it is our responsibility to not only teach, but also help others teach themselves. The old saying  goes if you teach a man to fish you feed him for a lifetime – rather than giving him a fish to feed him for a meal.
Elder Bednar points out that, in his experience, the best instructors he has had he’s had are those that don’t give him the answers – rather, helped him find answers for himself. For example, I have found the same to be true. My MTC teacher was incredible! This wasn’t because he was intelligent or gave answers to all of our questions, in fact it was quite the opposite. When a question was asked he would say ‘let’s look and see’ and then search with us. Elder Bednar then said “The most important learnings are caught – not taught.” When we guide students to seek learning by faith they act for themselves, feel the Spirit and get answers to questions they didn’t know they even had.

3) – “An instructor’s faith is strengthened as he or she helps others seek learning by faith.”
The Apostle Paul said “Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?” (Romans 2:21). When we teach we can ultimately  be the ones who gain the most as we study for the lesson, teach it and get insights from the students as they seek learning by faith. It is actually a scientific fact! You learn more – as a percentage – if you teach something to someone else rather than studying or listening to it yourself.

Finally, Elder Bednar spoke about a recent example of seeking learning by faith. He talked of President Hinckley’s Book of Mormon reading challenge. President Gordon B. Hinckley declared that if all who listened would read the Book of Mormon before the end of 2005 then it would bring “…an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to His commandments, and a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God.” (Ensign Aug 2005). Many were given an assurance by a prophet of God. Many acted on this assurance, and received an evidence. I was one of these. My testimony of the Gospel has been miraculously strengthened by this experience.

True Conversion

When we truly desire to find truth, the truth will find it’s way to us.

In the scriptures it’s interesting to see instances of where people have been truly converted and where they haven’t been. It would be important for anyone who wanted to find out more truth, wherever they are on their spiritual journey, to consider this. Two such examples I want to look at are the sons of Mosiah and Laman and Lemuel.

As in the story with Alma the Younger, the sons of Mosiah were seeking to destroy the Church of God but were visited by an angel and repented of all they had done. They then were “desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish…” (Mosiah 28:3) . The next part is vital to our understanding of how they became this way because, as we will learn later, having an angel appear to you is not always a guarantee you will give up your old habits. It says in Mosiah 28:4 “And thus did the Spirit of the Lord work upon them, for they were the vilest of sinners…they suffered much anguish of soul because of their iniquities…” So, we find that the Spirit had worked upon them and, most importantly, they had allowed the Spirit to work in their hearts (see 2 Nephi 33:1-2). They did not want anyone to feel the pain they went through, because of the repentance process.

Then, we have the example of Laman and Lemuel. They themselves were stopped by an angel when they attacked their own brother, Nephi. They were chastened in a similar manner to the sons of Mosiah. However, after the angel left, they hadn’t experienced the same manner of change that the sons of Mosiah experienced. They murmured again that the task set before them was impossible. The Book of Mormon Study Guide pg 17 explains their condition and the role of the Spirit in conversion well. It says “To be converted is to undergo change…This change requires a contrite spirit and a broken heart, which means to humble yourself before God. Laman and Lemuel refused to do this, for as Nephi stated, they were “hard in their hearts, therefore they did not look unto the Lord as they ought,” (1 Nephi 15:3). Laman and Lemuel refused to yield their hearts…so no experience could have changed them…as Nephi later commented, they were “past feeling,” (1 Nephi 17:45).

So we see that there was one major difference between the two sets of people – one allowed the Holy Ghost to touch their hearts whereas the other hardened their hearts from the Spirit so much so they were never converted. Therefore, it is vital for people we teach but also ourselves (for even if we have been converted to the Lord, we should always be trying to change, or be converted, to be better). Only through this continual change can we become more Christ-like. Anyone who really desires to  discover whether Jesus Christ is our Saviour can find out, only if they have a sincere desire to change, to invite the Holy Ghost into their heart. 

When we truly desire to find truth, the truth will find it’s way to us.

Ministering of Angels

Since receiving the Aaronic Priesthood, I have often wondered about this phrase promised to those who receive this Priesthood when it was restored to the Earth – “…I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels…” (D&C 13:1).

After thinking for a while about what this means I was studying one day and discovered a quote by Elder Dallin H. Oakes about this very topic in the October 1998 General Conference – he taught:

“Through the Aaronic Priesthood ordinances of baptism and the sacrament, we are cleansed of our sins and promised that is we keep our covenants we will always have His Spirit to be with us. I believe that promise not only refers to the Holy Ghost but also to the ministering of angels, for ‘angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ.’ (2 Nephi 32:3)So it is that those who hold the Aaronic Priesthood open the door for all Church members who worthily partake of the sacrament to enjoy the companionship of the Spirit of the Lord and the ministering of angels.”

Here, Elder Oakes is teaching that the sacrament and the Aaronic Priesthood that governs it holds the keys of the ministering of angels. This is because, as angels speak through the power of the Holy Ghost (and the sacrament allows us to always have His Spirit to be with us), we are ministered to by angels as we partake in the ordinances provided by this Aaronic Priesthood. I had never thought about this in that way before but it is clear to see how these promises can, and are, fulfilled to bless the lives of God’s children.

Recognising Personal Revelation

Personal revelation comes as a result of many things. They are very rarely visions of angels and things of a glorious appearance. It is also rarely a distinct voice heard from beyond the veil – all circumstances we see in the scriptures. So how can we know how to discern a voice of revelation that ‘speaks’ to us? Elder Dallin H. Oakes taught in the March 1997 Ensign “Visions do happen…I know this. But these experiences are exceptional…Most of the revelation that comes to leaders and members of the Church come by the still, small voice or by a feeling…” Therefore we need to have an understanding when these  feelings are from God, when and how we will receive them and what they mean.

  1. He enlightens our mind.
    The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that revelation can come as ‘a sudden stroke of ideas’ that come into our minds as ‘pure intelligence’ or it could come as peace to our minds. In D&C 6:23, the Lord states to Oliver Cowdery “Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?” Here, Oliver Cowdery was asking for a further witness that Joseph’s calling and work were divine and the Lord tells him he’s already had peace spoken to his mind – his mind was enlightened.

2. He may come as a burning in the bosom.
This is often regarded as the only way someone can ‘feel’ the Holy Ghost teaching them or bearing witness – maybe because it is a well known scripture or a more common occurrence. However, it is certainly not the only way one can feel the Spirit. In the October 1994 General Conference, Elder Boyd K. Packer explained “This burning in the bosom in not purely a physical sensation. It is more like a warm light shining within your being.” Elder Dallin H. Oakes further emphasised the point in the March 1997 Ensign, saying “Does it need to be a feeling of caloric heat, like the burning produced by combustion? If that is the meaning, I have never had a burning in the bosom. Surely, the word ‘burning’ in this scripture signifies a feeling of comfort and serenity.” So, the feeling of the Spirit isn’t necessarily this burning and by ‘burning’ we are meant to understand the feeling is a peaceful, comforting feeling – not s literal burning sensation of fire in our heart.

3. Often, revelation is revealed ‘line upon line, precept upon precept.
We receive revelation according to how prepared we are and even then, we may well not receive a complete answer to our problems initially, rather, part of the answer. We may need to listen carefully to the Spirit’s response, act on it and then ask ‘Is that all?’ – then more light will be revealed to us.

Now, it is important that we have some cautions with talking about about personal revelation.

  1. It is the Lord’s will.
    In D&C 109:44, the inspired dedicatory prayer at the Kirtland Temple, Joseph Smith says “But thy word must be fulfilled. Help thy servants to say…Thy will be done, O Lord, and not ours…” meaning that we should be willing to act on the answer – even if it’s not the answer we desire.
  2. In the Lord’s own time and way.
    In speaking about this principle, Elder Dallin H. Oakes in the March 1997 Ensign said “Many people do not understand this principle. They believe that when they are ready and when it suits their convenience, they can call upon the Lord and He will immediately respond…We cannot force spiritual things.” Just like we cannot force a plant to grow faster or into the type of plant we desire by shouting at it, spiritual answers come in the Lord’s time and in His own way.
  3. We don’t receive revelation out of our stewardship.
    The Lord’s house is a house of order, and so, if we think we receive revelation out are our area of responsibility – we can be sure it is not of God.
  4. We should discern whether the revelation is of God or not.
    How can we know? Simply, the First Presidency stated “When…inspiration conveys something out of harmony with the accepted revelations of the Church or contrary to the decisions of it’s constituted authorities, Latter-day Saints may know it is not of God, no matter how plausible it appears…” This is the base test to see if a revelation is not of God. Any other prompting that leads to ‘good’ can be recognised as by the Spirit.

I am so grateful to know that we can indeed receive and recognise this personal revelation as it really can, and does, guide our lives. To know that God doesn’t change and still loves us by giving us guidance if we will but ask, is life-changing.