I am a little behind in my Come, Follow Me studies and am still studying Doctrine and Covenants 6-9 about receiving revelation. In Section 9, we learn that Oliver Cowdery attempted to translate the Book of Mormon plates by the gift and power of God, but he hesitated and lost the privilege. In another revelation, now known as Section 9, the Lord tells Oliver that he will have other opportunities, but he should continue serving as scribe for Joseph Smith for now.
5 And, behold, it is because that you did not continue as you commenced, when you began to translate, that I have taken away this privilege from you.
6 Do not murmur, my son, for it is wisdom in me that I have dealt with you after this manner.
7 Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.
8 But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
9 But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.
10 Now, if you had known this you could have translated; nevertheless, it is not expedient that you should translate now. (Doctrine and Covenants 9:5-10)
The verses above are a lesson for every person who wishes to receive revelation from God. He wants us to study the matter for ourselves and decide what we think is right. Then, we ask God if we made the right decision. If we did, we will receive a warm feeling. If not, we will have a stupor of thought.
We should remember that the Lord reveals information to us according to His own will and timing. We can prepare ourselves for receiving revelation by gaining a righteous desire, asking in faith, obeying the commandments, and then waiting on the Lord. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explained why Oliver need to combine study and faith to receive revelation.
The correct relationship between study and faith in the receipt of sacred knowledge is illustrated in Oliver Cowdery’s attempt to translate ancient records. He failed because he “took no thought,” but only asked God. (D&C 9:7.) The Lord told him he should have “stud[ied] it out in [his] mind” and then asked if it was right. (D&C 9:8.) Only then would the Lord reveal whether the translation was correct or not. And only on receiving that revelation could the text be written, because “you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.” (D&C 9:9.) In the acquisition of sacred knowledge, scholarship and reason are not alternatives to revelation. They are a means to an end, and the end is revelation from God” (“Alternate Voices,” Ensign, May 1989, 30).
Learning to receive personal revelation is a process that must be learned. It often requires effort and struggle on our part before the Lord parts the veil and reveals knowledge to us. Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught that the reason why we should do more than simply ask for answers:
I am convinced that there is no simple formula or technique that would immediately allow you to master the ability to be guided by the voice of the Spirit. Our Father expects you to learn how to obtain that divine help by exercising faith in Him and His Holy Son, Jesus Christ. Were you to receive inspired guidance just for the asking, you would become weak and ever more dependent on Them. They know that essential personal growth will come as you struggle to learn how to be led by the Spirit (“To Acquire Spiritual Guidance,” Ensign, Nov. 2009, 6-7).
We can understand from the statement by Elder Scott that the Lord has reasons for withholding information that we seek. One reason is that He wants us to grow and develop our personal capacity to receive revelation. He wants us to work for what we get. Once we have put in the effort, He will open the heavens for us if it is His will to do so.