Mormonism and prophets/Revelation after Joseph Smith

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PERSPECTIVES MEDIA QUESTIONS RESOURCES 2014 CONFERENCE

    Why have so few revelations after Joseph Smith been added to the Doctrine and Covenants?

QUESTIONS


  • If every President of the Church is a prophet, seer, and revelator, why have so few revelations after Joseph Smith been added to the Doctrine and Covenants?
  • Revelations used to be printed in Church periodicals such as the Times and Seasons and the Evening and Morning Star. Why are revelations no longer published on an ongoing basis?


To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here

CONCLUSION


Prophets continue to receive revelation this days, so we can be successful in this life. They are like a bishop, but for the entire world. They are men that are capable of making mistakes, but Latter-Day Saints believe that if they follow the modern day prophet, they will be blessed. The teachings of the prophets are based on the scriptures, and when God decides to reveal new doctrine, he will do it by his prophets. When prophets receive revelation, it does not always necessarily mean that we are going to hear the prophets teach us new doctrine.

SUBTOPICS


Revelation after Joseph Smith

If every President of the Church is a prophet, seer, and revelator, why have so few revelations after Joseph Smith been added to the Doctrine and Covenants? Revelations used to be printed in Church periodicals such as the Times and Seasons and the Evening and Morning Star. Why are revelations no longer published on an ongoing basis? (Click here for full article)


DETAILED QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

I bear witness that the Lord lives, that Jesus is the Christ. This I know. I know that He lives. I know that He directs this Church. Sometimes I wish that there were the authorization to say more, say it plainer, but that is the way we say it—the same as a Primary child would say it, that He lives, that we know.

— Boyd K. Packer, Address at Ricks College Faculty and Staff Dinner, 24 August 1988;
cited in Boyd K. Packer, "I Have That Witness," in  Mine Errand from the Lord (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Co., 2008).

The Doctrine and Covenants contains foundations revelations establishing core doctrines, the organization of the Church and the priesthood, and the manner of ordinances. Prophets after Joseph Smith have and continue to receive revelation, but only in a few circumstances have these revelations been foundational enough to necessitate them being added to the LDS canon.

This pattern is reflected in the Bible as well. Moses, the founding prophet of that dispensation, produced five books of scripture, which were the basis of religious instruction for the next several centuries. The books that followed Moses for the next couple centuries were mostly historical accounts (Joshua, Judges, Ruth), with only occasional revelations recorded by subsequent prophets.

Joseph himself stopped receiving so many revelations as the government of the church was established. At this point in his life he said that the Lord should not be petitioned for every little thing, especially if revelations on the same subject had already been given or information "about the things the knowledge of which men ought to obtain in all sincerity before God for themselves." After the 12 apostles were organized the number of revelations that Joseph received decreased dramatically. Around 1835 Joseph stopped receiving revelations as people remember him to have done, nine years before his martyrdom.[1]

Revelation continues in the Church

Elder John A. Widtsoe explained that we still have revelation in the Church, even if it is not being added to the Doctrine and Covenants:

There is...need of continuous revelation. However, we must understand that there are two classes of revelation given by God to man. The first deals with the structure and content of the plan of salvation. Once given it does not need to be given again. Adam received it. *** Christ gave the same revelation to man in His dispensation. So did Joseph Smith in his dispensation. The foundation, or platform, once given does not need to be given again unless men forget the truth.
Then there are revelations that fit the changes in our lives, meet our new needs, help us overcome unforeseen conditions—revelations for our daily guidance.
This great country, the United States of America, has found itself in a great depression. We have the Gospel. What did the Lord do? He spoke to his Prophet, and we have what is known as the Welfare Program. It is the application of the eternal principles of the Gospel to present day needs. It is as revelation. We have that type of revelation continuously.
So, when people say: "We ought to have revelation now as we did in the day of Joseph," we must answer, "Open your eyes; we do have revelation every day; such as we need from day to day."
Revelations have been given to Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow, Joseph F. Smith and President Heber J. Grant. Every one of them has had revelation whereby the Church has been guided.[2]

19th Century

Brigham Young

I have flattered myself, if I am as faithful as I know how to be to my God, and my brethren, and to all my covenants, and faithful in the discharge of my duty, when I have lived to be as old as was Moses when the Lord appeared to him, that perhaps I then may hold communion with the Lord, as did Moses. I am not now in that position, though I know much more than I did twenty, ten, or five years ago. But have I yet lived to the state of perfection that I can commune in person with the Father and the Son at my will and pleasure? No, though I hold myself in readiness that he can wield me at his will and pleasure. If I am faithful until I am eighty years of age, perhaps the Lord will appear to me and personally dictate me in the management of his Church and people. A little over twenty years, and if I am faithful, perhaps I will obtain that favour with my Father and God.
I am not to obtain this privilege at once or in a moment. True, Joseph Smith in his youth had revelations from God. He saw and understood for himself. Are you acquainted with his life? You can read the history of it. I was acquainted with him during many years. He had heavenly visions; angels administered to him. The vision of his mind was opened to see and understand heavenly things. He revealed the will of the Lord to the people, and yet but few were really acquainted with brother Joseph. He had all the weaknesses a man could have when the vision was not upon him, when he was left to himself. He was constituted like other men, and would have required years and years longer in the flesh to become a Moses in all things. For the length of time he lived, he was as good a man as ever lived in the flesh, Jesus excepted. It was so ordered that a man has to live and gain by his experience that knowledge and wisdom, and that degree of stability in his character that will present him favourably to the heavenly hosts at all times and under all circumstances. Let us, then, resolve and act upon the principle of constant improvement.[3]

Wilford Woodruff

The Apostles, in their labors, had to work on the same principle that the Saints in both former and latter days have had to work upon—namely the principle of faith. Joseph Smith had to work by faith. It is true that he had a knowledge of a great many things, as the Saints in former days had, but in many things he had to exercise faith . . . When the members of Zion's Camp were called, many of us had never beheld each others' faces; we were strangers to each other and many had never seen the prophet. We had been scattered abroad, like corn sifted in a sieve, throughout the nation. We were young men, and were called upon in that early day to go up and redeem Zion, and what we had to do we had to do by faith. We assembled together from the various States at Kirtland and went up to redeem Zion, in fulfilment of the commandment of God unto us. God accepted our works as He did the works of Abraham. We accomplished a great deal, though apostates and unbelievers many times asked the question, "What have you done?" We gained an experience that we never could have gained in any other way. We had the privilege of beholding the face of the prophet, and we had the privilege of travelling a thousand miles with him, and seeing the workings of the Spirit of God with him, and the revelations of Jesus Christ unto him and the fulfilment of those revelations. And he gathered some two hundred Elders from throughout the nation in that early day and sent us broadcast into the world to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Had I not gone up with Zion's Camp I should not have been here to-day, and I presume that would have been the case with many others in this Territory. By going there we were thrust into the vineyard to preach the Gospel, and the Lord accepted our labors. And in all our labors and persecutions, with lives often at stake, we have had to work and live by faith.[4]

Heber C. Kimball

I know this. I know it by revelation by the Spirit of God, for in this way my Heavenly Father communes with me, and maketh known unto me his mind and will. I have never seen him in person, but when I see my brethren I see his image, and I discover the attributes of God in them.[5]

Orson Pratt

I have thought the reason why we have not enjoyed these gifts more fully is, because we have not sought for them as diligently as we ought. I speak for one, I have not sought as diligently as I might have done. More than forty years have passed away since these promises were made. I have been blessed with some revelations and prophecies, and with dreams of things that have come to pass; but as to seeing things as a seer, and beholding heavenly things in open vision, I have not attained to these things. And who is to blame for this? Not the Lord; not brother Joseph—they are not to blame. And so it is with the promises made to you in your confirmations and endowments, and by the patriarchs, in your patriarchal blessings; we do not live up to our privileges as saints of God and elders of Israel; for though we receive many blessings that are promised to us, we do not receive them in their fullness, because we do not seek for them as diligently and faithfully as we should.[6]
Where is there a servant of God in all the Church of Latter-day Saints that has enjoyed the same privileges that many of the first of the servants of God did 1,800 years ago on the Eastern continent? There are scarcely any. Have we beheld Jesus face to face? Have we conversed with him as Peter, James, and John, and the others of the Twelve did in that day and age of the world? No, we have not. There may have been some few exceptions. Have we attained even to the blessings of the lesser Priesthood, to say nothing about the higher blessings of the greater Priesthood? What are the blessings promised to the lesser Priesthood? They are not only to hold authority and administer in the name of the Lord in temporal things, and administer in certain outward ordinances; but there are privileges that the lesser Priesthood enjoy far exceeding those temporal administrations. They were to have the privilege of conversing with angels. Did you ever reflect or realize how great a privilege this is?
Is it not a great privilege to go before the Lord and receive the ministration of angels, and instructions from their mouths with regard to what should be spoken to the people? But very few of the lesser Priesthood who sit under the sound of my voice, or who are to be found upon the whole earth, have attained to this privilege. If the lesser Priesthood have not attained to it, let us inquire concerning those that hold still higher authority, concerning the Elders, Seventies, High Priests, the Twelve, the various Bishops, and the various authorities and presiding Elders over different Branches and settlements. Have they even attained to the blessings of the lesser Priesthood? No. With the exception of a very few individuals who may have come up to their privileges, who may have had the visions of eternity opened to them, and may have conversed with angels, and received instructions with regard to their callings and duties, and what they shall say to the people; but, with the exception of these few individuals, the others are away in the back grounds. And when we come to speak of the higher privileges, beyond that of receiving the administration of angels, you can scarcely find a man in all the Latter-day Kingdom that has come up to them. I have not. I speak it to my shame, and I speak it, as brother Gates spoke concerning himself, with shame, that I have not attained to the privileges that pertain to the higher Priesthood. What are these privileges? They are plainly laid down in the word of God. Those holding that Priesthood have the privilege not only of receiving the ministration of angels, but to have the heavens opened to them, and to behold the face of God . . . How many of us have gone forth and received our errand from the Lord by the voice of the Spirit of revelation, before we have ventured before the people to teach the things of the kingdom of God? Although I have often prayed and sought earnestly and humbly that I might be assisted to preach to the people, and to say something to benefit them, yet I have not, by my earnestness and diligence and faith, been able to obtain those revelations and visions that belong to the High Priesthood and to the Apostleship, that I might know what to preach to the people to the extent of our privileges for their edification. Yet I do know the Lord has blessed me and my brethren, and given us a portion of his Spirit; and our hearts have been dictated, as I believe, by the spirit of wisdom and counsel; and the things of the kingdom of God have been made known to us in the very moment; and we have been able to speak to them, but not in that power and demonstration that belongs to the Priesthood of the living God.[7]

Orson F. Whitney

“One night I dreamed … that I was in the Garden of Gethsemane, a witness of the Savior’s agony. … I stood behind a tree in the foreground. … Jesus, with Peter, James, and John, came through a little wicket gate at my right. Leaving the three Apostles there, after telling them to kneel and pray, He passed over to the other side, where He also knelt and prayed … : ‘Oh my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will but as Thou wilt.’
“As He prayed the tears streamed down His face, which was [turned] toward me. I was so moved at the sight that I wept also, out of pure sympathy with His great sorrow. My whole heart went out to Him. I loved Him with all my soul and longed to be with Him as I longed for nothing else.
“Presently He arose and walked to where those Apostles were kneeling—fast asleep! He shook them gently, awoke them, and in a tone of tender reproach, untinctured by the least show of anger or scolding, asked them if they could not watch with Him one hour. …
“Returning to His place, He prayed again and then went back and found them again sleeping. Again He awoke them, admonished them, and returned and prayed as before. Three times this happened, until I was perfectly familiar with His appearance—face, form, and movements. He was of noble stature and of majestic mien … the very God that He was and is, yet as meek and lowly as a little child.
“All at once the circumstance seemed to change. … Instead of before, it was after the Crucifixion, and the Savior, with those three Apostles, now stood together in a group at my left. They were about to depart and ascend into heaven. I could endure it no longer. I ran from behind the tree, fell at His feet, clasped Him around the knees, and begged Him to take me with Him.
“I shall never forget the kind and gentle manner in which He stooped and raised me up and embraced me. It was so vivid, so real that I felt the very warmth of His bosom against which I rested. Then He said: ‘No, my son; these have finished their work, and they may go with me; but you must stay and finish yours.’ Still I clung to Him. Gazing up into His face—for He was taller than I—I besought Him most earnestly: ‘Well, promise me that I will come to You at the last.’ He smiled sweetly and tenderly and replied: ‘That will depend entirely upon yourself.’ I awoke with a sob in my throat, and it was morning.”[8]

George Q. Cannon

"Elder George Q. Cannon, who was in the presidency of the Church at one time, said this: `I know that God lives. I know that Jesus lives; for I have seen him.' " - Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign (May 1974): 119; George Q. Cannon talk given on 6 October 1896, published in Deseret News Semi–Weekly (27 October 1896), Deseret News Weekly (31 October 1896), and later in Gospel Truth (vol. 1, iv, 1st edition, 1957, compiled by Jerreld L. Newquist).

Lorenzo Snow

An Experience of My Father’s

By LeRoi C. Snow

FOR some time President Woodruff’s health had been failing. Nearly every evening President Lorenzo Snow visited him at his home. This particular evening the doctors said that President Wood ruff could not live much longer, that he was becoming weaker every day. President Snow was greatly worried. We cannot realize today what a terrible financial condition the Church was in at that time—owing millions of dollars and not being able to pay even the interest on its indebtedness.

My father went to his room in the Salt Lake Temple, dressed in his robes of the Priesthood, knelt at the sacred altar in the Holy of Holies in the House of the Lord and there plead to the Lord to spare President Woodruff’s life, that President Woodruff might outlive him and that the great responsibility of Church leadership would not fall upon his shoulders. Yet he promised the Lord that he would devotedly perform any duty required at his hands. At this time he was in his eighty-sixth year.

Soon after this President Woodruff was taken to California where he died Friday morning at 6:40 o’clock September 2nd, 1898. President George Q. Cannon at once wired the information to the President’s office in Salt Lake City. Word was forwarded to President Snow who was in Brigham City. The telegram was delivered to him on the street in Brigham. He read it to President Rudger Clawson, then President of Boxelder Stake, who was with him, went to the telegraph office and replied that he would leave on the train about 5:30 that evening. He reached Salt Lake City about 7:15, proceeded to the President’s office, gave some instructions and then went to his private room in the Salt Lake Temple.

President Snow put on his holy temple robes, repaired again to the same sacred altar, offered up the signs of the Priesthood and poured out his heart to the Lord. He reminded the Lord how he plead for President Woodruff’s life to be spared, that President Woodruff’s days would be lengthened beyond his own; that he might never be called upon to bear the heavy burdens and responsibilities of the Church. “Nevertheless,” he said, “Thy will be done. I have not sought this responsibility but if it be Thy will, I now present myself before Thee for Thy guidance and instruction. I ask that Thou show me what Thou wouldst have me do.”

After finishing his prayer he expected a reply, some special manifestation from the Lord. So he waited,—and waited—and waited. There was no reply, no voice, no visitation, no manifestation. He left the altar and the room in great disappointment. Passing through the Celestial room and out into the large corridor a glorious manifestation was given President Snow which I relate in the words of his grand-daughter, Allie Young Pond, now the wife of Elder Noah S. Pond, recently president of the Northern States Mission:

“One evening while I was visiting grandpa Snow in his room in the Salt Lake Temple, I remained until the door keepers had gone and the night-watchmen had not yet come in, so grand-pa said he would take me to the main front entrance and let me out that way. He got his bunch of keys from his dresser. After we left his room and while we were still in the large corridor leading into the celestial room, I was walking several steps ahead of grand-pa when he stopped me and said: ‘Wait a moment, Allie, I want to tell you something. It was right here that the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to me at the time of the death of President Woodruff. He instructed me to go right ahead and reorganize the First Presidency of the Church at once and not wait as had been done after the death of the previous presidents, and that I was to succeed President Woodruff.’

“Then grand-pa came a step nearer and held out his left hand and said: ‘He stood right here, about three feet above the floor. It looked as though He stood on a plate of solid gold.’

“Grand-pa told me what a glorious personage the Savior is and described His hands, feet, countenance and beautiful white robes, all of which were of such a glory of whiteness and brightness that he could hardly gaze upon Him.

“Then he came another step nearer and put his right hand on my head and said: ‘Now, grand-daughter, I want you to remember that this is the testimony of your grand-father, that he told you with his own lips that he actually saw the Savior, here in the Temple, and talked with Him face to face.’”

During the June conference in 1919 at an M. I. A. officers’ meeting in the Assembly Hall I related the above testimony. President Heber J. Grant immediately arose and said:

In confirmation of the testimony given by Brother LeRoi C. Snow quoting the grand-daughter of Lorenzo Snow, I want to call attention to the fact that several years elapsed after the death of the Prophet Joseph before President Young was sustained as the president of the Church; after the death of President Young, several years elapsed again before President Taylor was sustained, and again when he died several years elapsed before President Woodruff was sustained.

After the funeral of President Wilford Woodruff, the apostles met in the office of the First Presidency and brother Francis M. Lyman said: “I feel impressed, although one of the younger members of the quorum, to say that I believe it would be pleasing in the sight of the Lord if the First Presidency of the Church was reorganized right here and right now. If I am in error regarding this impression, President Snow and the senior members of the council can correct me.”

President Snow said that he would be pleased to hear from all the brethren upon this question, and each and all of us expressed ourselves as believing it would be pleasing to the Lord and that it would be the proper thing to have the Presidency organized at once.

When we had finished, then and not till then, did Brother Snow tell us that he was instructed of the Lord in the temple the night after President Woodruff died, to organize the Presidency of the Church at once. President Anthon H. Lund and myself are the only men now living who were present at that meeting.

May the Lord bless and guide us by his spirit continually and may the testimony that we possess of the divinity of the work ever abide with us and our faithfulness be an inspiration to lead others to a knowledge of the gospel, is my prayer and I ask it in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

A few days after the M. I. A. conference, in an interview with President Lund in his office, he retold the incident to me as given by President Grant regarding the meeting in the office of the First Presidency on Tuesday morning, September 13th, 1898, at which Lorenzo Snow was chosen President of the Church. He also said that he heard father tell a number of times of the Savior’s appearance to him after he had dressed in his temple robes, presented himself before the Lord and offered up the signs of the Priesthood.

I related this experience in the Eighteenth ward sacramental service. After the meeting Elder Arthur Winter told me he also had heard my father tell of the Savior’s appearance to him in the Temple instructing him not only to reorganize the First Presidency at once but also to select the same counselors that President Woodrutt had, Presidents George Q. Cannon and Joseph F. Smith.[9]

20th Century

Hugh B. Brown reported an event that his nephew, Harold B. Lee, recorded in his journal and later shared:

‘He [Elder Brown] said it was not a vision, but the Lord appeared to him, very informal, the same as I was sitting talking to him. The Lord said, ‘You have had some difficult times in your life.’ Uncle Hugh responded, ‘Yes, and your life was more difficult than any of us have had.’ In the conversation Uncle Hugh asked when he would be finished here, and the Lord said, ‘I don’t know and I wouldn’t tell you if I did.’ Then He said, ‘Remain faithful to the end, and everything will be all right.’[10]

Henry B. Eyring

I am grateful that I know as surely as did the Apostles Peter, James, and John that Jesus is the Christ, our risen Lord, and that he is our advocate with the Father. I know that the Father bore direct witness of His Beloved Son by introducing the resurrected Lord to the boy Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, translated by the Prophet Joseph through the power of God. I know that the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood were restored by those who received them from the Savior and that President Gordon B. Hinckley is now the only person on earth authorized to direct the use of all those keys. I bear solemn testimony that this is the true Church of Jesus Christ, in which the ordinances and the covenants are offered, which if accepted and honored produce peace in this life and assure us eternal life in the world to come. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.[11]

James E. Faust

Mine is the certain knowledge that Jesus is our divine Savior, Redeemer, and the son of God the Father. I know of his reality by a sure perception so sacred I cannot give utterance to it. I know and testify with an absolute awareness that Joseph Smith restored the keys of the fulness of times and that every President of the Church has held those keys, as does President Gordon B. Hinckley today.[12]

David B. Haight

  • Elder Haight recounted a lengthy vision granted to him during a serious illness in Ensign (November 1989): 59-60.
  • See below for Elder Haight on the 1978 revelation.

Harold B. Lee

With all my soul and conviction, and knowing the seriousness and import of that testimony, I tell you that I know that he lives. I am conscious of his presence much of the time when I have needed him most; I have known it out of the whisperings of the night, the impressions of the daytime when there were things for which I was responsible and on which I could receive guidance. So I testify to you and tell you that he is closer to the leaders of this Church than you have any idea. Listen to the leaders of this Church and follow their footsteps in righteousness, if you would learn not only by study but also by faith, which testimony I bear most humbly and sincerely in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.[13]
[I will tell you of] an experience I had when I first came into the Council of the Twelve. I had wondered what it took to be a special witness of the Lord and Master. How frightening it was now that I was named to be a special witness! So that I could say without any hesitance and with all the declaration of my soul that I knew He lived, I had to have an experience. When the reality of the story of His life, ministry, His crucifixion, and His resurrection were as real as though I had been there, this is what I was saying. I didn't have to go stand on those places in the Holy Land to know, because it was as though I had seen them before.[14]
May I bear my own testimony. Some years ago two missionaries came to me with what seemed to them to be a very difficult question. A young minister had laughed at them when they had said that Apostles were necessary today in order for the true Church to be upon the earth. They said that the minister said, "Do you realize that when the Apostles met to choose one to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Judas, they said it had to be one who companied with them and had been a witness of all things pertaining to the mission and resurrection of the Lord? How can you say you have Apostles, if that be the measure of an Apostle?"
And so these young men said, "What shall we answer?"
I said to them, "Go back and ask your minister friend two questions. First, how did the Apostle Paul gain what was necessary to be called an Apostle? He didn't know the Lord, had no personal acquaintance. He hadn't accompanied the Apostles. He hadn't been a witness of the ministry nor of the resurrection of the Lord. How did he gain his testimony sufficient to be an Apostle? And the second question you ask him is, How does he know that all who are today Apostles have not likewise received that witness?"
I bear witness to you that those who hold the apostolic calling may, and do, know of the reality of the mission of the Lord.[15]
I bear my witness to you this morning. There are some witnesses I cannot give now, perhaps sometime later. Many things are too sacred to share at this time. I have received a witness that I cannot or dare not deny. When I see Jesus, I cannot mistake His identity. I know that He lives![16]

Spencer W. Kimball

“I know that God lives. I know that Jesus Christ lives,” said John Taylor, my predecessor, “for I have seen him.” I bear this testimony to you brethren in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen."[17]

Dallin H. Oaks

Why don't our talks in general conference and local meetings say more about the miracles we have seen? Most of the miracles we experience are not to be shared. Consistent with the teachings of the scriptures, we hold them sacred and share them only when the Spirit prompts us to do so…In bearing testimonies and in our public addresses we rarely mention our most miraculous experiences, and we rarely rely on signs that the gospel is true. We usually just affirm our testimony of the truthfulness of the restored gospel and give few details on how we obtained it. Why is this? Signs _follow_ those that believe. Seeking a miracle to convert someone is improper sign seeking. By the same token, it is usually inappropriate to recite miraculous circumstances to a general audience that includes people with very different levels of spiritual maturity. To a general audience, miracles will be faith-reinforcing for some but an inappropriate sign for others.[18]
Visions do happen. Voices are heard from beyond the veil. I know this. But these experiences are exceptional. And those who have these great and exceptional experiences rarely speak of them publicly because we are instructed not to do so (see D&C 63:64) and because we understand that the channels of revelation will be closed if we show these things before the world.[19]

Boyd K. Packer

  • There has come, these last several years, a succession of announcements that show our day to be a day of intense revelation, equaled, perhaps, only in those days of beginning, 150 years ago But then, as now, the world did not believe. They say that ordinary men are not inspired; that there are no prophets, no apostles; that angels do not minister unto men—not to ordinary men. That doubt and disbelief have not changed. But now, as then, their disbelief cannot change the truth. We lay no claim to being Apostles of the world—but of the Lord Jesus Christ. The test is not whether men will believe, but whether the Lord has called us—and of that there is no doubt. We do not talk of those sacred interviews that qualify the servants of the Lord to bear a special witness of Him, for we have been commanded not to do so. But we are free, indeed, we are obliged, to bear that special witness…Like all of my Brethren, I too come from among the ordinary people of the Church. I am the seventy–eighth man to be accepted by ordination into the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in this dispensation. Compared to the others who have been called, I am nowhere near their equal, save it be, perhaps, in the certainty of the witness we share. I feel compelled, on this 150th anniversary of the Church, to certify to you that I know that the day of miracles has not ceased. I know that angels minister unto men. I am a witness to the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Only Begotten of the Father; that He has a body of flesh and bone; that He knows those who are His servants here and that He is known of them. I know that He directs this Church now, as He established it then, through a prophet of God. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.[20]
  • Dreams and visions and visitations are not uncommon in the Church and are a part of all that the Lord has revealed in this dispensation. Thus a worthy Church member may be the recipient of a marvelous spiritual experience. I have come to know that these experiences are personal and are to be kept private. Recipients should ponder them in their heart and not talk lightly about them.[21]
  • I did not accept it [my spiritual witness] as a commission or a setting apart. It was a testimony, a witness, the witness. From that time to this, my challenge has not been with obedience, nor with resolution or diligence; it has been with restraint! The challenge has been to temper myself and bridle my impulsive Danish personality. It has been to keep sacred and keep private that which each of us must learn for one's own self. Such an experience is at once a light to follow and a burden to carry.[22]
  • Revelation continues with us today. The promptings of the Spirit, the dreams, and the visions and the visitations, and the ministering of angels all are with us now. And the still, small voice of the Holy Ghost “is a lamp unto [our] feet, and a light unto [our] path.” (Ps. 119:105.) Of that I bear witness, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.[23]
  • All teachers are, of course, themselves students. While as teachers there are some difficult questions that we can hardly attempt to answer, likewise as students there are some questions that we could not in propriety ask.
One question of this type I am asked occasionally, usually by someone who is curious, is, "Have you seen Him?" That is a question that I have never asked of another. I have not asked that question of my Brethren in the Council of the Twelve, thinking that it would be so sacred and so personal that one would have to have some special inspiration—indeed, some authorization—even to ask it.
Though I have not asked that question of others, I have heard them answer it—but not when they were asked. I have heard one of my Brethren declare, "I know, from experiences too sacred to relate, that Jesus is the Christ." I have heard another testify, "I know that God lives, I know that the Lord lives, and more than that, I know the Lord." I repeat: they have answered this question not when they were asked, but under the prompting of the Spirit, on sacred occasions, when "the Spirit beareth record." (D&C 1:39.)
There are some things just too sacred to discuss: not secret, but sacred; not to be discussed, but to be harbored and protected and regarded with the deepest of reverence.[24]
  • "Have you seen Him?' That is a question that I have never asked of another. I have not asked that question of my brethren in the Quorum, thinking that it would be so sacred and so personal that one would have to have some special inspiration, indeed, some authorization, even to ask it.… I have come to know what the Prophet Alma meant:
"It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.
"And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full." (Alma 12:9-10.)
There are those who hear testimonies borne in the Church, by those in high station and by members in the wards and branches, all using the same words-"I know that God lives; I know that Jesus is the Christ," and come to question, "Why cannot it be said in plainer words? Why aren't they more explicit and more descriptive. Cannot the Apostles say more?"
Some seek for a witness to be given in some new and dramatic and different way.… To one who is honestly seeking, the testimony borne in these simple phrases is enough; for it is the Spirit that beareth record, not the words.[25]
  • “I want our family to know that they have heard grandpa bear his testimony. I know that Jesus is the Christ, that He lives, that the gospel is true, and that I know Him when I see Him, and I know His voice when I hear Him. I want you little ones to remember that you heard your grandfather bear a special witness of the Lord Jesus Christ.”[26]

George F. Richards

The Lord has revealed to men by dreams something more than I [President Kimball] ever understood or felt before. I heard this more than once in quorum meetings of the Council of the Twelve when George F. Richards was president. He was the venerable father of Brother LeGrand Richards who has just spoken to us. He said,
“I believe in dreams, brethren. The Lord has given me dreams which to me are just as real and as much from God as was the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar, which was the means of saving a nation from starvation, or the dream of Lehi who through a dream led his colony out of the old country across the mighty deep to this promised land, or any other dreams that we might read in the scriptures.
“It is not out of place for us to have important dreams,” he said. “And then more than 40 years ago I had a dream which I am sure was from the Lord. In this dream I was in the presence of my Savior as he stood mid-air. He spoke no word to me, but my love for him was such that I have not words to explain. I know that no mortal man can love the Lord as I experienced that love for the Savior unless God reveals it to him. I would have remained in his presence, but there was a power drawing me away from him.
“As a result of that dream, I had this feeling that no matter what might be required of my hands, what the gospel might entail unto me, I would do what I should be asked to do even to the laying down of my life.
“And so when we read in the scriptures what the Savior said to his disciples, ‘In my Father’s house are many mansions: … I go to prepare a place for you … that where I am, there ye may be also.’ (John 14:2–3.) I think that is where I want to be.
“If only I can be with my Savior and have that same sense of love that I had in that dream, it will be the goal of my existence, the desire of my life.”[27]

Marion G. Romney

[In his journal, Marion G. Romney wrote:] I don't know just how to answer people when they ask the question, "Have you seen the Lord?" I think that the witness that I have and the witness that each of us has, and the details of how it came, are too sacred to tell. I have never told anybody some of the experiences I have had, not even my wife. I know that God lives. I not only know that he lives, but I know him.[28]

1978 Revelation

Many witnesses described the 1978 revelation on the priesthood. Wrote the past LDS Church Historian:

As a historian I sought to learn the particulars and record them in my private diary. The following account is based on dozens of interviews with persons who talked with church officials after the revelation was announced. Although members of the Twelve and the First Presidency with whom I sought interviews felt they should not elaborate on what happened, I learned details from family members and friends to whom they had made comments. . . .
Those in attendance said that as [President Kimball] began his earnest prayer, they suddenly realized that it was not Kimball's prayer, but the Lord speaking through him. A revelation was being declared. Kimball himself realized that the words were not his but the Lord's. During that prayer some of the Twelve -- at least two who have said so publicly -- were transported into a celestial atmosphere, saw a divine presence and the figures of former presidents of the church (portraits of whom were hanging on the walls around them) smiling to indicate their approval and sanction. . . .
At the end of the heavenly manifestation Kimball, weeping for joy, confronted the church members, many of them also sobbing, and asked if they sustained this heavenly instruction. Embracing, all nodded vigorously and jubilantly their sanction. There had been a startling and commanding revelation from God -- an ineffable experience.
Two of the apostles present described the experience as a "day of Pentecost" similar to the one in the Kirtland Temple on April 6, 1836, the day of its dedication. They saw a heavenly personage and heard heavenly music. To the temple-clothed members, the gathering, incredible and without compare, was the greatest single event of their lives. Those I talked with wept as they spoke of it. All were certain they had witnessed a revelation from God.[29]

Elder David B. Haight said of the same experience:

I would hope someday that our great-grandson Mark and others of our posterity would have similar spiritual experiences and that they would feel the spiritual power and influence of this gospel. I hope that Mark and others will have opportunities such as I had when I was in the temple when President Spencer W. Kimball received the revelation regarding the priesthood. I was the junior member of the Quorum of the Twelve. I was there. I was there with the outpouring of the Spirit in that room so strong that none of us could speak afterwards. We just left quietly to go back to the office. No one could say anything because of the powerful outpouring of the heavenly spiritual experience.
But just a few hours after the announcement was made to the press, I was assigned to attend a stake conference in Detroit, Michigan. When my plane landed in Chicago, I noticed an edition of the Chicago Tribune on the newsstand. The headline in the paper said, "Mormons Give Blacks Priesthood." And the subheading said, "President Kimball Claims to Have Received a Revelation." I bought a copy of the newspaper. I stared at one word in that subheading: claims. It stood out to me just like it was in red neon. As I walked along the hallway to make my plane connection, I thought, Here I am now in Chicago walking through this busy airport, yet I was a witness to this revelation. I was there. I witnessed it. I felt that heavenly influence. I was part of it. Little did the editor of that newspaper realize the truth of that revelation when he wrote, "Claims to Have Received a Revelation." Little did he know, or the printer, or the man who put the ink on the press, or the one who delivered the newspaper -- little did any of them know that it was truly a revelation from God. Little did they know what I knew because I was a witness to it.[30]

Endnotes

  1. [note]  Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Knopf, 2005), 257.
  2. [note]  John A. Widtsoe, "Modern Revelation and Modern Questions," The Deseret News, Church Section (28 January 1939): 6.
  3. [note]  Brigham Young, (September 1, 1859) Journal of Discourses 7:243-244.
  4. [note]  Wilford Woodruff, (December 12, 1869) Journal of Discourses 13:158.
  5. [note]  Heber C. Kimball, (19 February 1865) Journal of Discourses 11:82.
  6. [note]  Orson Pratt, (May 11, 1878) Journal of Discourses 25:146-147.
  7. [note]  Orson Pratt, (18 Sept 1859) Journal of Discourses 7:309-310, 312.
  8. [note]  Orson F. Whitney, "The Divinity of Jesus Christ," Improvement Era (Jan. 1926), 224–25. off-site; see also Liahona (Dec 2003): 16; punctuation, capitalization, and spelling standardized.
  9. [note]  LeRoi C. Snow, "An Experience of My Father’s," Improvement Era (September 1933).
  10. [note]  Cited in G. Homer Durham, N. Eldon Tanner: His Life and Service (Salt Lake: Deseret Book, 1982), 254-256.
  11. [note]  Henry B. Eyring, "Witnesses for God," Ensign (November 1996), 30. off-site
  12. [note]  James E. Faust, Conference Report (April 1995), 83. See also James E. Faust, "Heirs of the Kingdom of God," Ensign (May 1995), 61. off-site
  13. [note]  Harold B. Lee, Conference Report (April 1968), 131–132.
  14. [note]  Harold B. Lee, Teachings of Harold B. Lee (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1996), 13. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  15. [note]  Harold B. Lee, Teachings of Harold B. Lee (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1996), 456–457. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  16. [note]  Harold B. Lee, Teachings of Harold B. Lee (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1996), 636. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)
  17. [note]  Spencer W. Kimball, "Strengthening the Family—the Basic Unit of the Church," Ensign (May 1978), 45. off-site
  18. [note] Dallin H. Oaks, "Miracles," CES Fireside in Calgary, Canada, 7 May 2000, 3.
  19. [note]  Dallin H. Oaks, "Teaching and Learning by the Spirit," Ensign (March 1997), 14. off-site
  20. [note]  Boyd K. Packer, "A Tribute to the Rank and File of the Church," Ensign (May 1980), 65. off-site
  21. [note]  Boyd K. Packer, The Things of the Soul (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997), 56 [Address given at Young Adults Church Education System broadcast 7 November 1993.]
  22. [note]  Boyd K. Packer, cited in Lucile C. Tate, Boyd K. Packer: A Watchman on the Tower (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1995), 60.
  23. [note]  Boyd K. Packer, "Revelation in a Changing World," Ensign (November 1989), 16. off-site
  24. [note]  Boyd K. Packer, Teach Ye Diligently (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1975), 86–87.
  25. [note]  Boyd K. Packer, "'The Spirit Beareth Record," Ensign (June 1971), 87–88. off-site
  26. [note]  “Jesus is the Christ,” Church News (25 December 2010): 3.
  27. [note]  Spencer W. Kimball, "The Cause Is Just and Worthy," General Conference (April 1974).
  28. [note]  Marion G. Romney, cited in F. Burton Howard, Marion G. Romney: His Life and Faith (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1988), 222.
  29. [note]  Leonard J. Arrington, Adventures of a Church Historian (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1998), 176-177
  30. [note]  David B. Haight, "This Work Is True," Ensign (May 1996), 22. off-site


Further reading and additional sources responding to these claims

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