Relief Society Lesson 22: Revelation: “A Continuous Melody and a Thunderous Appeal”
This lesson from the Spencer W. Kimball manual beautifully describes our yearning to commune with God and God’s yearning to commune with us. At the core of this lesson is the question: How do we connect with God?
In any given room, I imagine a good number of lesson participants will feel some level of disconnect with the spirit – stemming from frustration over trials, uncertainty over whether/how God answers personal prayers, the frantic pace of life, the sleep-deprivation of motherhood, etc. When I read this lesson, after my own frantic day at work, I found myself thinking about past conversations with friends; about meditation insights I experienced at the ExII retreat; about moments when I felt at peace. I would encourage those teaching this lesson to provide time for reflection on how we can make room for personal revelation.
Because the lesson places such an emphasis on the diversity of the ways God speaks to us, consider pre-inviting two or three sisters, from different walks of life, to share their answer to this question: How does God “speak” in your life – and how did you figure this out?
In answer to the question “What language does the Lord use?” President Kimball highlights the following possibilities on pages 240 – 243:
3. “deep impressions”
4. “deep feelings”
5. “an impressive consciousness of direction from above”
6. A subtle feeling, after prayer and study,that “we ought to go this particular direction.”
Can you add to this list, from your experience or from the scriptures? Why such a diversity of sources of revelation?
We use many words to describe our interactions with the divine: inspiration, impressions, communion, guidance, promptings, personal revelation. Are these all synonyms? Is an “impression” to reach out to a friend a form of personal revelation? Can broadening the definition of “revelation” help us see the hand of God in our life? (from the lesson: “While some revelations are spectacular, most come as deep impressions to the mind and heart.”)
What is the difference between the Lord speaking to our “mind” vs. our “heart”? How did you learn to recognize your personal sources of inspiration?
What do we do with silence? Especially silence that follows fasting, prayer, pleading, study? (This is a richer question than I’m giving space to here, one with no easy answers.)
Kimball wrote, “We must seek to qualify for such revelation by setting our lives in order and by becoming acquainted with the Lord through frequent and regular conversations with him.” President Kimball uses the terms of familiarity. In what way is prayer a “conversation”? What does it mean to become “acquainted with the Lord”?
Kimball wrote, “The Lord is eager to see their first awakening desires and their beginning efforts to penetrate the darkness. Having granted freedom of decision, he must permit man to grope his way until he reaches for the light . . . .If one rises from his knees having merely said words, he should fall back on his knees and remain there until he has established communication with the Lord who is very anxious to bless, but having given man his free agency, will not force himself upon that man.” Why the emphasis on free agency in this context? Does God ever “force himself” into our consciousness? The scriptures are full of examples of both long-sought-after revelation and unexpected revelation . . . .
Finally, this passage from the lesson talks about the role of courage in personal prayer. In what ways is prayer an act of courage? In what ways does fear interfere with personal revelation?
“Do you want guidance? Have you prayed to the Lord for inspiration? Do you want to do right or do you want to do what you want to do whether or not it is right? Do you want to do what is best for you in the long run or what seems more desirable for the moment? Have you prayed? How much have you prayed? How did you pray? Have you prayed as did the Savior of the world in Gethsemane or did you ask for what you want regardless of its being proper? Do you say in your prayers: “Thy will be done”? Did you say, “Heavenly Father, if you will inspire and impress me with the right, I will do that right”? Or, did you pray, “Give me what I want or I will take it anyway”? Did you say: “Father in Heaven, I love you, I believe in you, I know you are omniscient. I am honest. I am sincerely desirous of doing right. I know you can see the end from the beginning. You can see the future. You can discern if under this situation I present, I will have peace or turmoil, happiness or sorrow, success or failure. Tell me, please, loved Heavenly Father, and I promise to do what you tell me to do.” Have you prayed that way? Don’t you think it might be wise? Are you courageous enough to pray that prayer?