If you have read a few of my past essays, you may have noted that one of my favorite subjects is revelation, and specifically personal revelation. It is only within the last few years since I started blogging that I have come to realize revelation is a controversial subject even among members of the church. To me, it is a foundational doctrine, much like faith, and the basis for a testimony.
Sharing sacred experiences
I have shared a couple of examples of personal revelation from my own life in previous essays. I know we have been counseled to keep sacred experiences private, but I felt impressed to share them as evidence that the Lord does give revelation to common members of the church like me. I like to think that my experiences are typical, or at least I thought so until I started sharing them.
Elder Oaks said, “Although we are generally counseled not to speak of sacred things … there are times when the Spirit prompts us to share these experiences, sometimes even in a setting where our account will be published.” Brigham Young said he would rather hear the people tell of their own powerful sacred experiences with the Holy Ghost than to hear any other kind of preaching.
Leaving a Record for Others
So I’d like to add another one of those experiences to my online record. A fellow blogger shared with me that one of his primary motivations for writing and posting essays was so that his sons would have a record of his faith, experiences and testimony. I feel the same way and hope that someday what I disclose here will help to strengthen the testimonies of others who may read this.
In the Young Single Adult ward where I serve as ward clerk, Carol and I recently shared the story of how we met and married. My part of the story involves a sacred revelatory experience. In order to get the full story, you might want to review Carol’s side of the tale as found on her blog. She provides much more of the background leading up to the experience I address here.
No Date before Proposal
Carol and I did not date before I proposed marriage to her. I had been off my mission for a few years and had graduated with a degree as a professional computer nerd. I had started my career in tech support and was working in Hollywood when she came home from her mission. I happened to be dating her best friend who invited Carol along on our date to Mormon Night at Disneyland.
It was a fun date – for Carol and me. We hit it off immediately. Carol was happy to be home and was talkative. Of course, what she talked about was her mission and the young lady I was dating just couldn’t relate. I could. I loved Carol’s enthusiasm and found myself commiserating with her sadness at having to leave and go back to the real world. We talked almost all night.
Doing my Homework
For the next three months I continued to pursue Carol’s friend through dating and other social activities such as church firesides. Occasionally Carol would be part of a group of young adults going to the movies, to the San Diego Zoo or some other activity. It was Carol that came over to keep me company several nights while I was recovering from having a wisdom tooth pulled.
Yet I was infatuated with this other girl and kept petitioning the Lord in prayer to soften her heart towards me. I fasted often, went to the temple and did all I could to show the Lord that I was serious about getting married. I sent this young lady a dozen red roses with a note confessing my love for her. I simply could not understand why she didn’t seem to respond with enthusiasm.
The Dodger Game
One day Carol invited me to meet her at Dodger Stadium, which I did after work. So I told her about sending flowers to our mutual friend and asked her advice how I could get her to like me. I noticed that Carol got real quiet. I looked over to see her drawing a picture of a little broken heart on her Dodger program. She then quietly excused herself, left the game and drove home.
I thought about that all that evening and the next morning. I decided that it was inappropriate to have shared with her my efforts to win her best friend’s heart. So I stopped by Carol’s house after softball practice to apologize for hurting her feelings. She brushed off my apology but I dug deeper and asked her about how she felt about important things like family and marriage.
Revelation to Heart and Mind
It was then that the most amazing thing happened to me. The Spirit of the Lord came over me in a way I have rarely felt. While Carol was talking, the Lord communicated to my heart and my mind a vision of us living together many years down the road. It was pure intelligence flowing into my being. It was an answer to prayer more powerful than anything I had ever expected.
I can count on one hand these kinds of powerful revelatory experiences up to that point in my life. In addition to what I saw in my mind’s eye, I heard a voice, just as distinctly and clearly as if someone had spoken, say to me that Carol and I could be very happy together. It was not an audible voice but it registered in the same manner as if I heard it and that was astonishing to me.
Feelings and Revelation
But along with what I saw and heard, I began to feel a most powerful feeling. The scripture says that the Lord will tell us in our mind and in our heart when something is correct. He also tells us that we must study it out first. I had done my homework. I had done my part. I had asked for revelation and had studied it out. I knew what I wanted and was living worthily of that answer.
We have been promised by apostles and prophets that the Lord will not leave us alone to make the most important decisions of our life. Who we decide to marry has eternal consequences. Acting on behalf of the Lord, these prophets have promised us that we can receive revelation to know for a certainty that the path we are pursuing is the right one and will lead to happiness.
Revelation is Personal
This is no idle promise. It is real. I am a living witness of the reality of such assurances. A prophet had promised me that if I went on a mission, got an education and then sought earnestly for a companion with whom I could be happy, that the Lord would provide one. That answer came in a powerful way to me on that day. It was unmistakable revelation to me from the Lord.
Note carefully that when the revelation came to me, it was not intended for Carol. The voice did not say, “Carol needs to marry you” or even that Carol would marry me. It simply said that we could be very happy together. It was an answer to my prayer and was intended for me. It was what I needed to cause me to take action with confidence and to then ask Carol to marry me.
The Marriage Proposal
I wasted no time. I told her what I was feeling. She could see that something was affecting me. I also told her that I felt impressed to ask her to marry me. She was shocked. I said, “I’d like to be sure so I’m going to fast and pray about it today and tomorrow. Will you do the same?” She said yes and invited me to come for Sunday dinner after church. We then parted for the day.
After fasting and praying, I still felt the same way, so I formally proposed to Carol over roast beef dinner at her mom’s house. She said yes. Carol’s journal says that I didn’t even sit with her in church that morning. We were both stake missionaries and had an investigator at church and so I sat with him instead. I had not yet gotten used to the idea of thinking for two instead of one.
We can Receive Revelation
This sacred revelatory experience ranks high on my list of incidents that have influenced me in a powerful and enduring way in my life. I had been taught by church leaders growing up that I could receive revelation. I believed it. I expected it. So I was not surprised when it came. But I was not expecting it to be so intense and dramatic. Perhaps that was because it was so important.
Along with what I saw in my mind’s eye and heard in my thoughts, the Lord impressed upon me a feeling in my heart so comforting and unmistakable that I simply could not doubt that what I had received came from God. It felt as familiar then as it has felt every time I have experienced it since that time. I am confident that I knew and understood this feeling from before this life.
The Burning of the Bosom
I don’t always trust my feelings but I have learned to trust this one. I know from many years of experience that some feelings are temporary and fleeting. The feeling I get when the Spirit is trying to communicate to me is one that has an underlying sense of eternity. It’s hard to explain to one who hasn’t experienced it. I have come to learn it can be interpreted many different ways.
For me, the burning of the bosom that accompanies personal revelation has become very real. It is a strong, powerful and very comforting feeling. I can feel it when I am listening to particularly inspiring and motivational speakers in General Conference or any church meeting. I have felt it in prayer. I have felt it in giving priesthood blessings. I always feel it when I speak in church.
Revelation and emotional response
But the personal revelation I receive is not in the comforting feeling by itself. That is just the spirit of the Lord bearing witness to me that what I am learning or participating in is important. The feeling also comes in warning me away from danger or in preparing me for bad news. It is an amazing thing to have the gift of the Holy Ghost but it can take a lifetime to understand it.
Receiving revelation is not the same as experiencing the burning of the bosom. However, some, including me, almost always feel this comforting sensation when receiving revelation. It is up to each of us to learn how to distinguish between the comforting influence of the Holy Ghost that often or usually accompanies the receipt of revelation and an emotional response to something.
For a great discussion of this see Gerald N Lund. “Our Own Emotions as a Form of Counterfeit Revelation.” Hearing the Voice of the Lord. Salt Lake: Deseret Book, 2007: 243.