For my Come, Follow Me lesson this week, I studied Doctrine and Covenants 85-87. The revelation that is now known as Section 85 was given through the Prophet Joseph Smith on November 27, 1832, at Kirtland, Ohio. It is an extract from a letter from the Prophet to William W. Phelps who was living in Independence, Missouri.
By November 1832, approximately 800 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had gathered to the land of Zion in Jackson County, Missouri. Members who moved to Missouri were expected to live according to the Lord’s law of consecration. Under this law, a member would consecrate or dedicate property and resources to the Lord through a legal deed that was signed by both the member and the bishop.
In return, the bishop would give the member property and resources, through another legal deed. The property and resources were called an “inheritance” or “stewardship” and would be given according to the needs and wants of the member and his family. The Church members who settled in Jackson County, Missouri, and who were obedient to the law of consecration received an inheritance of land that had been purchased by agents for the Church of Jesus Christ.
The Prophet received letters from Church leaders in Missouri, including William W. Phelps, in October and November 1832. Joseph Smith wrote to Phelps on November 27, 1832, to answer questions asked by Phelps. At the time of writing, the Prophet was aware that there were some members of the Church living in Missouri who were not living the law of consecration. His letter addressed the issue of whether those members should receive land inheritances.
The revelation that is now Doctrine and Covenants 85 says that the Lord’s clerk should keep a history and general church record containing all the things that transpire in Zion. A list of the names of “all those who consecrate properties, and receive inheritances legally from the bishop” were to be included in that record. (See verse 1.) However, the record should not include the names or the genealogy of those who did not live the law of consecration – including the names of their children.
Verse 6 explains that the above instructions were spoken by “the still small voice, which whispereth through and pierceth all things, and often times it maketh my bones to quake….” Previous revelations taught about the Holy Spirit. Doctrine and Covenants 6:23 tells us that the Holy Ghost “speak[s] peace to [our] mind” about the matters that concern us. Doctrine and Covenants 8:2 tells us that the Spirit will speak “in your mind and in your heart.”
Doctrine and Covenants 9:7-9 tells us that the Spirit will not freely speak to us, but that we must “study it out in [our] mind” and ask God if it is the right decision. If it is the right decision, the Spirit will “cause that your bosom shall burn within you,” and you will “feel that it is right.” However, if it is incorrect, “you shall have a stupor of thought that will cause you to forget the thing which is wrong.”
Doctrine and Covenants 11:12-13 tells us that we should put our trust in the Holy Ghost because the Spirit “shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy.” A later revelation found in Doctrine and Covenants 128:1 tells us that the Holy Ghost will “occupy [our] mind, and press itself upon [our] feelings when the Lord is ready to teach us.
Sister Vicki F. Matsumori, a former counselor in the Primary General Presidency gave the following counsel about listening for the Holy Ghost:
Because the Spirit is often described as a still, small voice, it is … important to have a time of quiet in our lives as well. The Lord has counseled us to “be still, and know that I am God” [Psalm 46:10]. If we provide a still and quiet time each day when we are not bombarded by television, computer, video games, or personal electronic devices, we allow that still, small voice an opportunity to provide personal revelation and to whisper sweet guidance, reassurance, and comfort to us” (“Helping Others Recognize the Whisperings of the Spirit,” Ensign, Nov. 2009, 11).
I have learned that the Holy Ghost speaks to me when I am quiet and relaxed. For numerous years, He spoke to me through dreams. I knew of pending deaths of each my parents through messages received in dreams, and I saw events happening in my older son’s life as he served his mission. The message was always accurate, but surrounding details were different. The dreams do not come as frequent as they once did, probably because I am listening better during my awake hours.
Another time that the Spirit speaks to me is in the early hours of the morning when I am just beginning to awaken. Still another time is when I am working in my yard, without any noisy distractions and feeling at peace with the world. Sometimes, the promptings come while I am in sacrament meeting, in the temple, or even driving the car. One of the most frequent times that I hear the still, small voice is during scripture study. I invite you to find some quiet time on a regular basis where you can hear the voice of the Spirit.