July 11, 2007

Do Church leaders still receive specific revelations for the Church?

Brigham Young
Feb. 14, 1853

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes God continues to reveal His will to us through personal revelation as well as to modern prophets. The Lord told the saints in 1831:

Yea, blessed art they whose feet stand upon the land of Zion, who have obeyed my gospel; for they shall…be crowned with blessings from above, yea, and with commandments not a few, and with revelations in their time--they that are faithful and diligent before me (D&C 59:3-4).
We are promised revelations in our time, and sometimes the question is asked: “Where are the new revelations today? Why aren’t there more sections added to the Doctrine and Covenants? Does President Hinckley [now Monson] still receive direction from God?”

These questions aren’t new; similar questions have been asked since the time Joseph Smith walked out of the sacred grove in 1820. At one point Joseph instructed the brethren that they had not been careful enough with the revelations of God, and unless they kept better records they would reach a point when they needed an answer God had already revealed, and would be at a loss. This is one of the reasons Wilford Woodruff became such a prodigious journal keeper. In essence, Joseph told the brethren they should not expect God to keep revealing something he had already revealed.[1]

In 1853 Brigham Young addressed the saints on the Temple block where the Salt Lake temple was yet to be built. He had been hounded a little by members who wondered why they hadn’t received a written revelation about building the Salt Lake temple from their prophet, Brigham Young:
If the inquiry is in the hearts of the people-"Does the Lord require the building of a temple at our hands?" I can say that He requires it just as much as ever He required one to be built elsewhere.

If you should ask, "Brother Brigham, have you any knowledge concerning this?
Have you ever had a revelation from heaven upon it?" I can answer truly, it is before me all the time… if the people and the Lord required it, I would give a written revelation, but let the people do the things they know to be right…
Brigham said Joseph Smith followed the same principle:
Concerning revelations pertaining to building temples, I will give you the words of our beloved Prophet [Joseph Smith] while he was yet living upon the earth...

He was frequently speaking upon the building of temples in Kirtland, Missouri, and Illinois. When the people refused in Kirtland to build a temple, unless by a special revelation, it grieved his heart that they should be so penurious in their feelings as to require the Lord to command them to build a house to His name. It was not only grievous to him, but to the Holy Spirit also. He frequently said that if it were not for the covetousness of the people, the Lord would not give revelations concerning the building of temples, for we already knew all about them; the revelations giving us the order of the Priesthood make known to us what is wanting in that respect at our hands…

But I trust this people do not require commanding, every day of their lives, to pray, to do unto others as they would that others should do unto them: I trust they do not want a special command for this; if not, upon the same principle, they will not want any commandment upon the subject of building a temple, more than what is before them...

The Prophet's feelings were often wounded because he was under the necessity of giving commandments concerning duties that were already before the people,
until the temple was completed; but had he not done so, the temple would not have been built; had he waited until the minds of the people were opened, and they were led to see and do their duty, without commandment, he would have been slain before the keys of the Priesthood could have been committed to others, but the Lord put it into his heart to give this power to his brethren before his martyrdom...
The Lord had told Joseph and the early saints that it wasn’t “meet” for him to command us in all things, and that those who must be compelled in all things are not wise, but slothful (D&C 58:26). Indeed, the Church is still receiving revelations, though not all revelations are published in the Doctrine and Covenants.[2]

Brigham assured the Saints revelations were still "pouring" down from heaven:

We can only enjoy the kingdom we have labored to make. If you say that you want mysteries, commandments, and revelations, I reply that scarcely a Sabbath passes over your heads, those of you who come here, without your having the revelations of Jesus Christ poured upon you like water on the ground.

"Why do you not write them, brother Brigham?"

I will tell you one reason why: I expect that they will be one of these days, but I expect that you will have them written when God and His faithful servants have suffered enough from the ignorance, foolishness, wickedness, and slothfulness of the people, from their slowness of heart to believe, and from their unrighteous dealing one with another...

Many are pleading for revelations; do you suppose that Saints lack revelations? They have plenty of them, and they are stored in the archives of those who have understanding of the principles of the Priesthood, ready to be brought forth as the people need (JD 3:337).
Likewise, President Spencer W. Kimball said those revelations are still recorded today (at least, they were when he was prophet; I am assuming the same occurs today.)

A year before the last revelation published in the Doctrine and Covenants was received he said:
There are those who would assume that with the printing and binding of these sacred records, that would be the "end of the prophets." But again we testify to the world that revelation continues and that the vaults and files of the church contain these revelations which come month to month and day to day.

We testify also that there is, since 1830...and will continue to be, so long as the time shall last, a prophet, recognized of God and his people, who will continue to interpret the mind and will of the Lord. Expecting the spectacular, one may not be fully alerted to the constant flow of revealed communication. I say, in the deepest of humility, but also by the power and force of a burning testimony in my soul, that from the prophet of the Restoration to the prophet of our own year, the communication line is unbroken, the authority is continuous, a light, brilliant and penetrating, continues to shine. The sound of the voice of the Lord is a continuous melody and a thunderous appeal. For nearly a century and a half there has been no interruption.” (Ensign, May 1977, p. 78, emphasis added.)[3]
As has been pointed out by notable authorities such as President Benson, Elder Oaks and Elder Scott, God usually inspires us and the church with the overall objectives, and expects us to study it out and work out methods and details.[4]

Likewise, Brigham had seen a vision of the Temple, but also knew other inspired men could help improve it:
Concerning this house, I wish to say, if we are prospered we will soon show you the likeness of it, at least upon paper, and then if any man can make any improvement in it, or if he has faith enough to bring one of the old Nephites along, or an angel from heaven, and he can introduce improvements, he is at liberty so to do.

But wait until I dictate, and construct it to the best of my ability, and according to the knowledge I possess, with the wisdom God shall give me, and with the assistance of my brethren; when these are exhausted, if any improvement can be made, all good men upon the earth are at liberty to introduce their improvements.
Some critics accuse Latter-day Saints of blindly following their church leaders. In reality, we have been instructed to seek knowledge for ourselves, that we can know by direct revelation from God if his prophets are inspired.[5] So if all the new revelations aren't added to the Doctrine and Covenants, where can we turn? Do we have more than the Standard Works to guide us?

At least twice, President Harold B. Lee said we can turn to the most recent Conference Report:
As the Latter-day Saints go home, it would be well if they consider seriously the importance of taking with them the report of this conference and let it be the guide to their walk and talk during the next six months. These are the important matters the Lord sees fit to reveal to this people in this day ... (Harold B. Lee, April 1946, emphasis added).
If you want to know what the Lord has for this people at the present time, I would admonish you to get and read the discourses that have been delivered at this conference, for what these brethren have spoken by the power of the Holy Ghost is the mind of the Lord, the will of the Lord, the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto Salvation (Harold B. Lee, April 8, 1973).
While we shouldn’t seek to be guided in all things, Brother Brigham told the Saints our duty is to obey God, keeping in mind that further revelation may occur, and that we ought to receive it cheerfully:
It is for us to do those things which the Lord requires at our hands, and leave the result with Him. It is for us to labor with a cheerful goodwill; and if we build a temple that is worth a million of money, and it requires all our time and means, we should leave it with cheerful hearts, if the Lord in His providence tells us so to do. If the Lord permits our enemies to drive us from it, why we should abandon it with as much cheerfulness of heart as we ever enjoy a blessing. It is no matter to us what the Lord does, or how He disposes of the labor of His servants. But when He commands, it is for His people to obey (Brigham Young, JD 1:277-280, all emphasis added).
In a later sermon, he summed up the principle of revelation as follows:
It is only where experience fails, that revelation is needed," (JD 2:1).
We should seek to be led by God by following His appointed prophets, as well as our own personal revelation. Prophets, like us, may not “know the meaning of all things,” but we can live by faith knowing that the Lord “loveth His children,” (see 1 Nephi 11:17). Typically, Latter-day Saints today don't expect earth-shattering new revelations. As Elder M. Russell Ballard recently explained in an interview regarding presidential candidate Mitt Romney:

In a rare interview with Elder Russell Ballard, an Apostle of the church and one its 15 top leaders, Ballard said that faithful Mormons are obliged to follow the tenets of any revelation. But major revelations are "infrequent today because the foundation of the Church is solidly in place."[6]
As we seek, one final warning is proper: Brigham warned the Saints not to ask for more than they were willing to follow, nor should they expect more when they haven't lived up to what they had already been given:

There is one principle that I do wish the people would observe, that is, do not ask God to give you knowledge, when you are confident that you will not keep and rightly improve upon that knowledge. It is a mercy in God that many are as ignorant as they are, for were it not so they would not be borne with as they are. Do not ask for revelations to dictate you in this, that, or the other, unless you are sure that you can obey them.

Do not suffer yourselves to falter in your faith, and to say that the door of revelation is closed, for I tell you that there are now too many for your good, unless you hearken more diligently than you have hitherto, unless you apply more closely in your lives what is revealed and live your religion more faithfully (JD 3:337-338).


The importance of keeping records:
See Opening the Heavens, page forthcoming.

B. H. Roberts:
“President Woodruff rendered a most important service to the church. His Journals, regularly and methodically and neatly kept and strongly bound, . . . constitute an original documentary historical treasure which is priceless. The church is indebted to these Journals for a reliable record of discourses and sayings of the Prophet of the New Dispensation—Joseph Smith—which but for him would have been lost forever.

The same is true as to the discourses and sayings of Brigham Young, and other leading elders of the church; [and] for minutes of important council meetings, decisions, judgments, policies, and many official actions of a private nature, without which the writer of history may not be able to get right viewpoints on many things—in all these respects these Journals of President Woodruff are invaluable.”
(Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church, 6:354–55.)

The church still receives revelation on a regular basis:
Elder John A. Widstoe of the Council of the Twelve once told of a discussion he had with a group of stake officers. In the course of the discussion someone said to him, “Brother Widstoe, how long has it been since the Church received a revelation?” Brother Widstoe rubbed his chin thoroughly and said in reply, “Oh, probably since last Thursday." (Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye in Holy Places, pp. 132-33.)

Orson Hyde on continuing revelation in the Church:
"The words contained in this Bible are merely a history of what is gone by; it was never given to guide the servant of God in the course he should pursue, any more than the words and commandments of God, given to a generation under one set of circumstances, would serve for another generation under another set of circumstances. There must be something to suggest or to draw forth the command to answer the circumstance under which we are placed at the time.
It is so with the servants of God.

There is a Spirit that is ever ready, and points out, under varied and conflicting circumstances, the very course which the servants of God should pursue. The Bible is not a sufficient guide; it is only the history of the people who lived 1800 years ago. The history of our Church in this day, presents the scenes and transactions of this people-the revelations and words of God to them; but if an individual living an hundred, or eighteen hundred, years hence, under different circumstances, were to adopt the history of this people for his guide in all things, he would not find it sufficient to answer the circumstances surrounding him," (JD 2:75).

Elsewhere, President Kimball said:
"Follow the living prophet.
I had a young man recently about forty years of age who got into the cultist program. He studied the Journal of Discourses until he nearly knew them by heart. I confess that he knew them infinitely better than I did. However, he was depending wholly upon himself and his own interpretation of the program and was moving farther and farther away from the truth. He said, "I know more about the sermons of the brethren in the days of Joseph and Brigham and Heber C. than does the President of the Church, or any of the apostles, or any of the stake presidents or the bishops. Why should I go to them?" And, I tried to point out to him that we have revelation these days as well as in the days of Joseph and Brigham and Heber C., and that the present-day leaders have exactly the same communication system and that it operates and is in effect. He would not go to his pastors, apostles, and prophets but depended upon himself. This young man became bold enough to say that President McKay may be a good man but that he was a false prophet. (11/2/62)

He is a prophet. He does not just occupy a prophet's chair; he does not just have a title of prophet, he is a real prophet and he is responsible for... more revelations in his fifteen years of leadership than are in all the Doctrine and Covenants. They are not in the Doctrine and Covenants. We do not print them anymore like that. We put them out in handbooks and by directives and by letters, and our files and vaults are full of them.... I could take time to tell you of these revelations -- temples that have been appointed, people who have been called, apostles who have been chosen, great new movements that have been established, great new eras, great new challenges as we have here today. They came by revelation. I want you to know he is a prophet. Don't you question it. I do not know who will be his successor, but whoever it is will be a great prophet, and you need not ever worry. I had a man of great promise the other day in my office and he said, "I wonder who would lead the Church when President McKay dies?" I said, "I do not know. I do not even care to know. It does not matter." But, I said to him, "Whoever it is, he will be a real prophet of God." (66-12)" (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, Pg.446-447).

We should not seek to be “commanded in all things”:
Ezra Taft Benson:
Usually the Lord gives us the overall objectives to be accomplished and some guidelines to follow, but he expects us to work out most of the details and methods. The methods and procedures are usually developed through study and prayer and by living so that we can obtain and follow the promptings of the Spirit. Less spiritually advanced people, such as those in the days of Moses, had to be commanded in many things. Today those spiritually alert look at the objectives, check the guidelines laid down by the Lord and his prophets, and then prayerfully act— without having to be commanded “in all things.” This attitude prepares men for godhood (“Not Commanded In All Things,” Conference Report, April 1965, p. 121).

Elder Dallin H. Oaks:
Revelations from God - the teachings and directions of the Spirit - are not constant. We believe in continuing revelation, not continuous revelation. We are often left to work our problems without the dictation or specific direction of the Spirit. That is part of the experience we must have in morality. Fortunately, we are never out of our Savior's sight, and if our judgment leads us to actions beyond the limits of what is permissible and if we are listening to the still, small voice, the Lord will restrain us by the promptings of His Spirit
("Teaching and Learning by the Spirit," Ensign, March 1997, 14).

Richard G. Scott:
Most often what we have chosen to do is right. He will confirm the correctness of our choices His way. That confirmation generally comes through packets of help found along the way. We discover them by being spiritually sensitive. They are like notes from a loving Father as evidence of His approval. If, in trust, we begin something which is not right, He will let us know before we have gone too far. We sense that help by recognizing troubled or uneasy feelings
(“Recognizing Answers to Prayer,” Conference Report, Sept.–Oct. 1989, 38–41).

Personal revelation verifies revelation of our leaders:

President Henry D. Moyle:
We can tell when the speakers are moved by the Holy Ghost only when we ourselves are moved upon by the Holy Ghost. Therefore, it is essential that the membership of the Church be just as diligent in their faith as their leaders
(“Revelation: Yesterday and Today,” Improvement Era, June 1962, 407).

Brigham Young:
What a pity it would be if we were led by one man to utter destruction! Are you afraid of this? I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self security. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not (Brigham Young, JD 9:150).

Harold B. Lee:
This is what has been said, in effect, in this conference: Unless every member of this Church gains for himself an unshakable testimony of the divinity of this Church, he will be among those who will be deceived in this day when the “elect according to the covenant” are going to be tried and tested. Only those will survive who have gained for themselves that testimony (Conference Report, October, 1950).

CNNPolitics.com article To understand Romney, you must understand his mission, by Gary Tuchman. Accessed 01-28-2008

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