My Come, Follow Me studies for this week took me to the Articles of Faith and Official Declarations 1 and 2. The Articles of Faith are thirteen statements of belief for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Official Declaration 1 ended the practice of plural marriage, and Official Declaration 2 made priesthood and temple blessings available to people of all races.
The three Church documents referenced above show that God continues to reveal His gospel to the leaders of His Church. The following information introduced this week’s studies for individuals and families.
In the 200 years since Joseph Smith’s First Vision, God has continued to give “revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge” to the leaders of His Church (Doctrine and Covenants 42:61). In some cases, that revelation directed Church leaders to make changes to the policies and practices of the Church, “according as the Lord will, suiting his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men” (Doctrine and Covenants 46:15). Official Declarations 1 and 2 represent this kind of revelation – one led to the end of the practice of plural marriage, and the other made the blessings of the priesthood, including temple blessings, available to people of all races. Changes like these are part of what it means to have a “true and living church” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:30), with a true and living prophet.
But there are also things that don’t change – foundational, eternal truths. And sometimes the purpose of revelation is to cast additional light on these truths, helping us see them more clearly. The Articles of Faith – Joseph Smith’s 13 concise statements of what Latter-day Saints believe – seem to serve this clarifying purpose. Both types of revelation guide and bless the Church, a Church that is solidly founded on eternal truth yet capable of growth and change as the Lord increases our understanding to help us meet today’s challenges. In other words, “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God” (Articles of Faith 1:9).
This essay will be about the continuing revelation that comes from God to guide The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The principle for discussion is: “The Church of Jesus Christ is guided by revelation.” The following statement is by President Gordon B. Hinckley, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles when the revelation described in Official Declaration 2 was received. He made the following statement years later.
There was a hallowed and sanctified atmosphere in the room. For me, it felt as if a conduit opened between the heavenly throne and the kneeling, pleading prophet of God who was joined by his Brethren. The Spirit of God was there. And by the power of the Holy Ghost there came to that prophet an assurance that the thing for which he prayed was right, that the time had come, and that now the wondrous blessings of the priesthood should be extended to worthy men everywhere regardless of lineage.
Every man in that circle, by the power of the Holy Ghost, knew the same thing.
It was a quiet and sublime occasion…. No voice audible to our physical ears was heard. But the voice of the Spirit whispered with certainty into our minds and our very souls. (“Priesthood Restoration,” Ensign, Oct. 1988, 70).
The prophet and Apostles had pondered and prayed about extending priesthood and temple blessings to all righteous male members of the Church. They felt that it was the right thing to do, but they awaited word from the Lord. One day it came in a way that no one present could doubt. Other prophets and Apostles have taught about the continuing revelation that guides the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Elder David B. Haight of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles made the following statement:
A distinguishing feature of the Church is the claim to continuous revelation from the Lord…. Today, the Lord’s Church is guided by the same relationship with Deity that existed in previous dispensations.
This claim is not made lightly. I know there is revelation, as I am a witness to sacred things also experienced by others who administer His work.
The principle of revelation by the Holy Ghost is a fundamental principle of the Lord’s Church. Prophets of God receive revelation by this process. Individual members of the Church may also receive revelation to confirm truth” (“A Prophet Chosen of the Lord,” Ensign, May 1986, 7-8).
Elder Haight testified that there is continuous revelation from God to the leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. President James E. Faust of the First Presidency taught that revelation comes frequently.
This process of continuous revelation comes to the Church very frequently. President Wilford Woodruff stated, “This power is in the bosom of Almighty God, and he imparts it to his servants the prophets as they stand in need of it day by day to build up Zion” (in Journal of Discourses, 14:33). This is necessary for the Church to fulfill its mission. Without it, we would fail….
We make no claim of infallibility or perfection in the prophets, seers, and revelators. Yet I humbly state that I have sat in the company of these men, and I believe their greatest desire is to know and do the will of our Heavenly Father. Those who sit in the highest councils of this church and have participated as inspiration has come and decisions have been reached know that this light and truth is beyond human intelligence and reasoning. These deep, divine impressions have come as the dews from heaven and settled upon them individually and collectively. So inspired, we can go forward in complete unity and accord (Continuous Revelation,” Ensign, Nov. 1989, 10-11).
President Faust testified that he had experienced the inspiration and revelation from heaven coming upon the leaders “as the dews from heaven.” Elder James E. Talmage wrote the following about scripture:
The canon of scripture is still open; many lines, many precepts, are yet to be added; revelation, surpassing in importance and glorious fulness any that has bene recorded, is yet to be given to the Church and declared to the world (Articles of Faith, 311).
This takes us back to Article of Faith 1:9: “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. We live in the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times. The Restoration will include everything from every dispensation from the time of Adam to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Yes, we believe that there will be many more revelations come to the Prophet and Apostles before the winding up scenes of this earth.