Relief Society Lesson 10: Prayer and Personal Revelation
Because I am a book lover, I would begin with an object lesson about books that will tie into the JS quotation from the lesson.
I would set out a variety of my most favorite books on the table, including some of my very oldest books from the early 19th century. I would begin with a casual discussion about books, describing some of the books on the table, asking if anyone else has read them, asking what some of the sisters most prized books are, etc. I would then move to a discussion about the importance of books in our lives–the significance of literacy, the centrality of the scriptures, etc. Leading the discussion to the point where I felt that it was clearly established how seminal books are to our lives, our culture, our religion.
Then I would shift to reading the quotation from Joseph Smith that says:
“I have an old edition of the New Testament in the Latin, Hebrew, German and Greek languages. … I thank God that I have got this old book; but I thank him more for the gift of the Holy Ghost. I have [not] got the oldest book in the world; but I have got the oldest book in my heart, even the gift of the Holy Ghost. … The Holy Ghost … is within me, and comprehends more than all the world; and I will associate myself with him.”
While reading, I would stress, even repeat, the portion in bold. I would then say:
“We’ve just spent 5 (10?) minutes talking about how important books are, yet Joseph is saying that the Holy Ghost is far more important, that is more significant than even the oldest, most rare scriptural text and he suggests that it is far more comprehensive than any of our written texts. What does this mean to you? How might it impact the way you teach others, such as your children, about personal revelation?”
To segue into the lesson I would state that we are going to discuss both the importance of personal revelation and also the means by which we can access revelation through prayer.
God will hear our prayers and speak to us today, just as He spoke to the ancient Saints.
The lesson goes into great detail about the need for each generation of people to have God’s inspired wisdom for their time and for them individually. I would summarize the details of that part of the lesson and then emphasize this section, having an articulate sister stand and read:
“… I may believe that Enoch walked with God. I may believe that Abraham communed with God and conversed with angels. I may believe that Isaac obtained a renewal of the covenant made to Abraham by the direct voice of the Lord. I may believe that Jacob conversed with holy angels and heard the word of his Maker, that he wrestled with the angel until he prevailed and obtained a blessing. I may believe that Elijah was taken to heaven in a chariot of fire with fiery horses. I may believe that the saints saw the Lord and conversed with him face to face after his resurrection. I may believe that the Hebrew church came to Mount Zion and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels. I may believe that they looked into eternity and saw the Judge of all, and Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant.
“But will all this purchase an assurance for me, or waft me to the regions of eternal day with my garments spotless, pure, and white? Or, must I not rather obtain for myself, by my own faith and diligence in keeping the commandments of the Lord, an assurance of salvation for myself? And have I not an equal privilege with the ancient saints? And will not the Lord hear my prayers and listen to my cries as soon as he ever did to theirs if I come to him in the manner they did?”
Before the lesson I would have asked one or two sisters who are relatively new converts to share their conversion stories–specifically to discuss the role of personal revelation in helping them to know that they were to be baptized.
We can make everything we undertake a subject of prayer.
If I am running short on time, I might condense this section along with the section below, just restating the main ideas. If time allows, I would have a sister read the full quotation from Sarah Granger Kimball as she is speaking at a regional Relief Society Meeting in 1892(found in The Woman’s Exponent, August 15, 1892):
“In the School of the Prophets in Nauvoo, when Joseph Smith was giving instruction to the brethren, he told them to make everything they undertook the subject of prayer. If we had the faith we ought this house would be filled, we are not required to do anything impossible; it is true we have many duties to perform, but let us do those that are most important, and meet our responsibilities in a proper manner.”
Sarah’s quotation, particularly in the context that’s missing from the manual, offers a pattern for women to follow for personal revelation. We need to make everything the subject of prayer, have faith, and recognize that we are all very busy and that the Lord understands this and will aid us in all that they do as we prioritize what’s most important. You can open this to the sisters to share their ideas about how to balance time for prayer with all of their competing obligations/duties.
When we pray in faith and simplicity, we receive the blessings God sees fit to bestow upon us.
Henry Bigler remembers Joseph Smith saying of prayer:
“I once heard Joseph Smith remark, ‘Be plain and simple and ask for what you want, just like you would go to a neighbor and say, I want to borrow your horse to go to [the] mill.’”
At this point I would probably point out that some of our most fervent prayers are the very simplest. They may be a simple word, like “Help!” or an abundant feeling of gratitude in which we silently give thanks to God for the goodness of our lives. Have the women turn to their neighbors and share an incident where they offered a simple prayer and felt its effectiveness. After a few moments for them to do this, ask if anyone would be willing to share their story with the entire group.
We can receive personal revelation through the Holy Ghost.
We began the lesson by quoting from this section, so we’ll end it by returning to that same quotation. Read it again aloud and bear your own testimony about having the book of the Holy Ghost in your heart, sharing some experiences where you have experienced the power of personal revelation through prayer. You might also talk about what it means to collect a “library” of experiences with personal revelation, and how these become resources to draw on in time of need.
If you like to make lesson handouts, a bookmark with the JS quotation from the beginning of the lesson would be particularly apropos.
And if you do use the suggestions in this lesson, please drop us a line in the Comments below and let us know how it went. 🙂
*Photo by Lin Pernille, shared on flickr with a Creative Commons license