Personal Revelation and the Scriptures
Posted by Matthew on January 11, 2009
It is fairly widely argued that, as a people, we should spend more time studying the scriptures. That’s a big part of the motivation behind this blog and it’s sister wiki. We all know of the condemnation spoken of in D&C 84:58 and made famous by President Benson.
Naturally, much of what goes on here on the blog, at the wiki, and in Sunday School classes, is–on a good day:)–to look closely at what the scriptures say and listen to what authorities say about them. That’s wonderful but study alone, without personal revelation, doesn’t amount to much.
Consider Nephi’s reaction to hearing his father’s vision…was it to carefully parse his father’s words, ask questions about them and debate with others the meaning? No. We know that’s much more similar to his elder brother’s reaction. (See 1 Ne 15:1-11.) Nephi’s reaction was to seek revelation (1 Ne 11:1). Which he then received.
What I’d like to do in this post is to lay out what role personal revelation should have in scriptures study, and especially what role that personal revelation should have in discussions about the scriptures with others. I dont think I’ll get that far. But I will attempt to make a start of it. I’d love your help and comments in figuring this out.
The word revelation seems a bit heavy in most contexts. It is infrequent one hears in a Sunday School class a member cite personal revelation in answering any question. Is it because personal revelation is meant to stay personal? It seems Nephi didn’t think so. He is willing to answer his brother’s questions (even if he does rebuke them first for not seeking their own answers directly). Nephi is even willing to draw upon his own personal revelation to explain where his father hadn’t understood the revelation he received. See 1 Ne 15:26-27: “And they [Laman and Lemuel] said unto me [Nephi]: What meaneth the river of water which our father saw? 27 And I [Nephi] said unto them [Laman and Lemuel] that the water which my father saw was filthiness; and so much was his mind swallowed up in other things that he beheld not the filthiness of the water.”
Nevertheless, we do see people in our Church cite personal revelation related to the scriptures, even if they don’t always use the heavy revelation word. I think I see personal revelation cited mainly when revelation is (1) about application of scripture, or (2) affirming scripture.
An example of (1) would be if someone read the parable of the prodigal son, received revelation that their own actions toward another person mirrors that of the jealous older brother, repented and shared their experience with others.
An example of (2) is when someone affirms specific events testified to by the scriptures, or principles of the gospel spoken of by the scriptures. Surely no one would raise an eye brow if someone stood up in fast and testimony meeting and said that while reading the accounts of Jesus’s resurrection they had felt a renewed testimony from the spirit that Christ was literally resurrected and that we will be too.
(1) & (2) are both wonderful, but should we be seeking for something more? Though I don’t know if I can put my finger on it exactly, I feel like there is a significant difference though between these two types of personal revelation and Nephi’s.
As a group are we suffering from a lack of Nephi-like personal revelation? When we ask a question, should more of us receive the Nephi-rebuke…”Have you inquired of the Lord?…How is it that ye will perish because of the hardness of your hearts? Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.” (1 Ne 15:8-11)
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