If you prefer to listen over reading an article, keep an eye on A Balanced Saint of Mind on YouTube. I post video versions of my blog posts on my channel. The video versions are often posted a little later than the written blog posts.
Back in Section 4, Joseph Smith Sr. came to his son and asked for a revelation from the Lord. I respect Joseph Sr. and his humility in learning from the prophet who was his son. Now, in Section 11 from this week, Hyrum has followed the example of his righteous father. Despite being older than Joseph, Hyrum sought out the Lord through the prophet. Hyrum was humble and kind and supported his brother, and he followed the example of his father. I wonder if Hyrum listened intently when his father returned with his own revelation, and I wonder if this influenced Hyrum to seek out the same opportunity.
Either way, Hyrum did seek out Joseph for his own revelation from the Lord and Section 11 was given. Imagine having such a close relationship to the prophet that you could go to him for a revelation. Joseph Smith Sr. and Hyrum were family members to the prophet, and so it was easy to go to Joseph and receive the Lord’s word written out so clearly for them. Imagine being able to call up President Nelson and asking him, “What does the Lord want me to be doing right now?” This is precisely what Hyrum did, and what answer did Hyrum receive? There are a couple answers to that.
Ironically, one of the things I love about Hyrum’s section is the fact that so much of it has already been said. There are thirty verses in Hyrum’s section, and the first nine of them are direct quotes from Section 6 which was given a month ago to Joseph and Oliver. Nearly one-third of Hyrum’s section has already been said directly, and there are other huge chunks of his section that teach similar concepts that the Lord teaches all throughout scripture, things like the fact that the Lord is the light of the world.
Why did the Lord repeat Himself and what does it teach us about revelation? There are probably a million answers to this, but let’s talk about a couple.
Repetition may come because when it really comes down to it, many of us are having similar human experiences. Christ teaches Hyrum that He is the light of the world. Though our experiences differ, all of us have felt darkness at one point or another. It may be to varying degrees or from different sources, but we recognize that temporal feeling of darkness. The answer to this feeling of darkness is the fact that Christ is the light. That fact can bless Hyrum, me, and you, and so the Lord repeats Himself.
Let’s say that Hyrum really needed to hear that Christ is the light of the world at that particular time. The Lord could have given Hyrum this answer in a couple of different ways. If Hyrum had chosen to open a bible, he could have found that answer because it’s been repeated multiple times. However, Hyrum chose to turn to Joseph, and the Lord gave Hyrum the same answer.
Other times, repetition occurs because we, as the Lord’s people, need the same lesson over again. Let’s face it; I’ve felt darkness in my life multiple times and yet somehow, I often forget the lesson that Christ is the light.
So. Sometimes repetition happens for simple reasons. However, sometimes repetition occurs because it forces us to seek more deeply…which leads me to a new section.
Seeking revelation out for ourselves
I sometimes imagine the frustration that could accompany receiving a repeated revelation. I don’t believe Hyrum felt this way about his revelation because of what we know about his character. However, I can imagine a theoretical prideful person getting frustrated. They go to Joseph, expecting some grand secrets or signs that the Lord truly is speaking and not just Joseph pretending. They expect Joseph to reveal some innermost desire of their heart that only the Lord would know. When they receive a revelation that is mostly just repetition of other verses of scripture, they’re annoyed.
“I already knew that…if Joseph was really a prophet, surely he could have done more than quote scripture…why isn’t the Lord being more personal with me…I’ve already read those verses a million times…”
If this person were to pause and humble themselves, they would learn that the Lord is yearning for a personal relationship with them. The only way we can build a personal relationship with the Lord is to go to Him personally.
I picture twins going off to college. One twin sibling is really good about calling home and checking in, but the other twin simply says, “Tell mom hi” or “Ask mom if she thinks it’s a good idea to take more credits next semester.” Who would feel closer to mom? Who would have a personal, beneficial relationship with mom? Who would receive more good advice from mom?
More than anything, Heavenly Father wants you to remember Him and your relationship to Him. He misses you while you’ve been gone, and He misses being able to connect with you since you came to earth. He can still feel His relationship with you; He knows how strong it was. One of the hard parts for Him is the fact that we don’t often remember it. He wants to be able to talk like you used to.
Many of us have had experiences where we’ve read our patriarchal blessings at certain times in our lives, and it’s almost as if we’ve never read it before. Many of us have had experiences where we’ve read the same verse we’ve read a million times, but all of a sudden, a light goes on and we understand that verse. Other times, a verse that didn’t mean much to us previously may be exactly what we need in a specific moment.
Repeated scripture might seem silly to those who don’t understand how the Spirit functions in their life or why it functions in their life. You can be listening to any talk or reading any scripture or simply living your life, and the Lord can speak to you through the Spirit. It doesn’t actually matter what the words say. The most important thing is that these words hold power that invite the Spirit, and then the Spirit can tell you something personal. You can learn that the Lord does understand your innermost desires by approaching Him yourself.
Repetition, if we’re studying correctly, forces us to dig deeper to find words from the Spirit rather than just words on a page. If we really want to learn the answers we need for our lives, then we’re going to have to go directly to the Lord. The repeated, simple (but also poignant) concepts in the scripture sure sound nice, but it is the Spirit that helps us turn those beautiful platitudes into practical advice.
The Lord repeated scripture to Hyrum, but He also attempted to teach Hyrum to seek Him out personally in Section 11.
v. 2 give heed to my word
v. 5 if you will ask of me you shall receive
v. 7 seek wisdom…and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto you
v. 12 put your trust in the Spirit
v. 13 I will impart unto you of my Spirit which shall enlighten your mind
v. 14 by this shall you know all things whatsoever you desire of me
v. 18 appeal unto my Spirit
v. 21 seek to obtain my word, you shall have my Spirit and my word
v. 22 study my word which hath gone forth among the children of men
v. 25 deny not the spirit of revelation
When you read verses like “obtain my word,” we may think that Hyrum did exactly what he was supposed to by inquiring of the Lord through Joseph. But when you read very closely, you can see invitations from the Lord for Hyrum to seek the Lord out personally rather than through Joseph.
Hyrum had a personal enough relationship with the prophet of God that he could go directly to Joseph and receive a revelation from him. But. Joseph does not necessarily have more Spirit than anyone else. Being able to receive revelation from the Spirit comes from a combination of personal righteousness and practice. Joseph was righteous and he had practice, but Hyrum had the same capacity to receive revelation for his life that Joseph had. Joseph was allowed to receive revelation for Hyrum because Hyrum was under his stewardship as a prophet, but Hyrum had the same capacity for revelation. All Hyrum needed was righteousness and practice. Personal righteousness is something you can achieve with each choice in every moment; practice is more long-term. But when it really comes down to it, there’s no way around it. We have to practice.
It may have been convenient that Joseph had significant amounts of practice receiving revelation. It might seem nice to be able to go to a prophet and say, “Joseph, could you receive some direct words from the Lord for me?” It might seem like it would be pretty cool to go to President Nelson and ask for a revelation but it’s only cool if we don’t understand the Lord’s purposes. President Nelson might be more righteous than you (emphasis on might!), and he might have more practice receiving revelation. But. When we look at the purpose of the Plan of Salvation, we learn how much more beneficial it is to practice the principle of revelation ourselves.
Doctrine and Covenants 68:4 And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.
When President Nelson speaks in conference when moved upon by the Holy Ghost, it is scripture. When Sister So-and-So speaks in church and is moved upon by the Holy Ghost, it is scripture. When you sit down and study your scriptures and write revelation down in your journal, you are writing scripture for your life (Please know you’re not writing scripture for everyone, just your life). You might not be as talented as President Nelson at writing scripture, but Heavenly Father would prefer you to come directly to Him and practice receiving revelation in comparison to going to President Nelson and receiving more words.
When Hyrum went to Joseph, he received a lot of repetition. However, when Hyrum takes those repeated scriptures directly to the Lord on his own, Hyrum will receive different promptings than Joseph or Oliver do when they read those same words in revelations directed towards them.
Now sometimes the Lord does speak directly. Hyrum’s counsel was to wait and obtain his word before going out to preach the word. That was specific to Hyrum at that time. There are times when the Lord does work through priesthood authority. Can you imagine if they let missionaries pray about where they’re supposed to serve? There are moments that call for people with more experience, but in a majority of cases, the Lord prefers you to practice speaking to Him yourself.
We may not have a personal relationship with President Nelson, but we have received words from prophets. There are a lot of words from the prophets available to us. And even more importantly, we have access to the Spirit. Many of us would think it would be awesome if we could receive a revelation directly from a prophet of God, or better yet, an angel. And yet, we take for granted the fact that we can receive revelation from the third member of the Godhead. President Nelson isn’t perfect; he’s wonderful, and I love and sustain him, but he’s not perfect. We can receive revelation directly from the Spirit who will speak exactly what the Lord would have you know and will speak directly to you through any righteous medium.
As Joseph Smith put it, we can “grow into the principle of revelation.” If we practice and choose the right, we will be able to receive revelations for our lives and our stewardships to the same degree that Joseph could.