Sacrament Meeting Talk: Personal Revelation

This talk was originally given in Sacrament Meeting in Memphis, TN on July 31st, 2022.

In 1970, my mom was a sophomore at the University of Oregon in Eugene – where my family just moved from a few weeks ago.

That year my mom spent her spring break in Portland taking care of a friend from high school who had undergone surgery on a brain tumor. My mom wasn’t a member of the church, but that friend was. As my mom spent the week at the bedside of her friend, they talked about the gospel. At the end of the week, my mom’s friend asked my mom to look up the missionaries when she got back to school and to take the missionary lessons.

My mom said that she would.

My mom was true to her word, but completely embarrassed by the thought of having to hang out with those nerdy boys who wore white shirts and ties around campus. She asked several of her friends to go with her to the first lesson. Though several friends agreed, when the day came to go to the lesson, each of them had a legitimate excuse for why they couldn’t go. One was sick, another had a school project come up, etc.

My mom couldn’t stand the thought of having to go alone so she called up her cousin Dana who was a first year student – also at the U of O – and begged her to come along. They sat down with their bare feet and long flowery dresses and listened to the nerdy missionaries in white shirts and ties tell the story of Joseph Smith seeing God and Jesus Christ and being told to restore Christ’s church on the earth. In that first lesson, the missionaries said “If you pray about this and find out from God it is true, will you get baptized on May 8th?” My mom said “yes” holding onto that “if” statement in her heart – she wasn’t committing unless God told her to. My mom’s cousin Dana told me she thought my mom was nuts for agreeing so rapidly to something.

Over the course of the next three weeks, my mom gained that feeling in her heart that the story of God restoring His church through the prophet Joseph Smith was true, so as promised, she ended up getting baptized on May 8th. However, Dana still wasn’t so sure.

My mom had the idea that they needed to be able to see a temple. At the time, the closest temple was in Oakland, California – over 500 miles away.

They had no money, or really any plans but they packed their bags and hitch-hiked south to the temple.  They showed up at a single’s ward where someone offered to let them stay at their house and they spent a few days in the area and seeing the temple from outside. For both of them, seeing the temple from the outside helped them feel God’s love. Dana ended up getting baptized at the end of the month.

As a kid, this was my pioneer ancestor story that I grew up hearing. And what did I learn from it?

To hitchhike long distances and be leery of anyone wearing a white shirt and tie.

Just kidding.

The thing that I learned the most from this story was the importance of personal revelation. My mom’s high school friend shared with my mom the things that had brought her joy. My mom joined the church because she felt prompted from God. My mom and Dana felt God’s love when they saw the temple. Dana joined the church when she felt prompted from God. Looking back, they both feel it’s a blessing all my mom’s friends bailed on them so they could learn about the church together. My mom and her cousin were strengths to each other – and have continued to be through the past 52 years.

But the personal revelation aspect of the story is what I’d like to focus my talk on today. Brother Coons gave me the topic “Establishing the Gospel as the Foundation of Family Life: A Practical Guide” – and the truth is that, for me, I think that the only way to really do that is to see personal revelation for how that’ll work in your own family – and family can be used broadly (whether it be your immediate family, your extended family, your ward family, your neighborhood family, whatever the case may be). For my mom as a 19 year old, it meant hitch-hiking with her cousin to the temple. But God speaks to us in different ways at different stages of our lives and depending on our own family circumstances.

As a kid in a part member family, I remember hearing other kids at church talking about their dads waking them up early to hold morning devotionals and sometimes I worried because the way I was being taught the gospel didn’t look like that.

But as an adult, I now realize that what works for one family doesn’t work for all families – and that is not only okay, that is exactly how God intends it. That’s why we have personal revelation – so that we can all grow close to God in a way that works for us and our circumstances.

Bonnie H. Cordon (YW General President) said in a BYU address, “recently as I uttered the familiar words to address my Heavenly Father in prayer, I was overcome with a sense of awe. I paused and thought, ‘Who am I to address God?’ But almost instantly, an innate knowledge was rekindled—He is my Father, and I am His daughter.” How amazing it is that we have an all powerful being that actually is our father and wants us to talk to Him? He wants to guide us!

So for my “practical guide” to “establishing the gospel as the foundation of family life” I’m going to hone in on how to seek personal revelation for our own families – with the understanding that the outcomes will look different depending on the family and the stage of life the family is in.

While I know that how your family works toward establishing the gospel as your foundation looks different than mine – as it should – I’d like to share a few broad principles that personally, I’ve learned, can help set up this foundation. Perhaps, as I’m talking, you may feel personally whether and how you can apply these principles in your own familial foundations and I hope the Spirit can testify to you of what that might look like. The three principles I’d like to discuss are charity, unity, and understanding.

Charity

Let’s start with charity – as Moroni 7:47 declares charity “the pure love of Christ [which]… endureth forever.” I figure to build a foundation on the gospel, let’s start with Christ’s love – that lasts forever.

It’s the love that Christ has for us that allows us to individually heal and grow closer to God. In other words, this love is the very foundation of the gospel – and the reason why I hope to make it the foundation of how we live the gospel at our house.

Sister Amy A. Wright, Second Counselor in the Primary General Presidency spoke of Christ’s love this way:

“While the Savior was teaching in the temple, a woman was brought to Him by the scribes and Pharisees. We do not know her full story, just that she was “taken in adultery.” Often the scriptures give only a small portion of someone’s life, and based on that portion, we sometimes tend to exalt or condemn. No one’s life can be understood by one magnificent moment or one regrettable public disappointment. The purpose of these scriptural accounts is to help us see that Jesus Christ was the answer then, and He is the answer now. He knows our complete story and exactly what we suffer, as well as our capabilities and vulnerabilities.

“Christ’s response to this precious daughter of God was “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” Another way to say “go, and sin no more” could be “go forth and change.” The Savior was inviting her to repent: to change her behavior, her associations, the way she felt about herself, her heart.

“Because of Christ, our decision to “go forth and change” can also allow us to “go forth and heal,” for He is the source of healing all that is broken in our lives. As the great Mediator and Advocate with the Father, Christ sanctifies and restores broken relationships—most important, our relationship with God.”

It’s that charity from the Savior that I seek to feel in my own family. I often think that when my kids are grown they may choose a variety of paths for their lives – and that’s completely up to them. However, I hope that no matter what path they choose, that they can feel that love from God in their hearts. So, when it comes to building our family’s foundation in the gospel, I hope to provide the most opportunities that I can to help them feel that charity from the Savior and come to believe that He loves them and knows them perfectly.

The Savior’s perfect example of charity shows that (as written in Moroni 7:45) “charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” How glorious it is that we can establish a relationship with the Lord who has this perfect and beautiful charity?!

Not only do I want to teach my kids to feel that love from God, I hope to work toward exhibiting that charity within our family. Of course, I have to take it step by step as I slowly and imperfectly seek to follow the Savior day by day. I believe that the next two items I wanted to discuss – unity and understanding – are both aspects of being more charitable within our families and these principles help me to follow the Savior’s example.

Unity

Let’s discuss unity first. In a Church News article reporting on a devotional given at BYU education week by the General Relief Society Presidency, the importance of unity is described this way, “The Savior used the image of a hen gathering her chicks under her wings to describe His relationship with His disciples, Sister Aburto said. “A hen takes care of her chickens all day and all night. She nourishes them, and is constantly calling them. … In the same way, the Savior gathers us with His care and love. Like the chicks, we are vulnerable, and we depend on His grace. As disciples of Christ, we too can help gather His people. This brings us joy.” Sister Aburto testified that as individuals seek revelation, the Spirit will guide them to know what to do and say to help others feel they belong.”

Though Sister Aburto was talking about helping others feel they belong within Relief Society, I firmly believe that it’s important to do this within our own families as well. For example, I have one kid who regularly questions the material we study during family scripture time. I could dismiss her concerns if I wanted to and move along with what we’re doing. But like the hen gathering her chicks – I feel I need to be aware of her vulnerabilities and strive to help her. My daughter’s concerns are completely valid and I really can’t dismiss them – rather I try to discuss them in ways that bring us together and closer to God. I seek the Spirit to guide me to help me know how to help my daughter feel as though the gospel is for her and that God does care about her as an individual. As I do this, I also notice that sometimes it feels that she is the hen gathering me – as she teaches me new things or helps me think about things in deeper and more meaningful ways. In that way, I think our family is able to become more united.

This unity – which at times is admittedly more unified than others in our house – is related to the next aspect of charity I wanted to discuss – that of showing understanding.

Understanding

It is necessary that we are willing to show understanding within our families. We all have doubts about various things and those doubts may manifest themselves in different ways. However, we need to create an environment in our homes where we can be understanding when we express doubts and be able to work together to help each other through these doubts.

As Reverend Dr Jacqui Lewis said on her blog, “Come and bring your heart — broken, but healing; your dreams — deferred but vivid; and your faith — which likely sits alongside some doubt. Be comforted, loves, that doubt actually makes our faith stronger. The wrestling, the struggling, the doubting grows our faith muscle. Don’t be afraid to express the doubt, to dig into it, to be, as my therapist would say, on its side. The truth of that all will set you free for more love! These are hot-mess times, the kinds of times that can inspire doubt. I have doubts, but I am absolutely confident that good people all over the globe are putting love in the world, love that is stronger than hate.”

I’ve noticed at times that when I express doubts, it makes people in the church really nervous and clam up and have the urge to shut the conversation down. But I don’t think that’s the way for us to be able to work through these things. Instead, I think creating an environment where we can talk about these doubts and can work toward understanding each other’s struggles can serve to strengthen our faith.

Personally, I hope to create in my home a place where we can openly wrestle with doubts so that we can work together to strengthen our faith. Just as I mentioned earlier, that when my daughter expresses her concerns and we work through them together it creates more unity within our family, it also creates an environment where we can show more understanding toward each other.

Conclusion

In closing, I’d like to express my belief that as we seek God’s counsel, He will help us to know how to create a familial culture that is founded on Christ’s love for us. That may mean hitch-hiking 500 miles, or (more likely) it may be something more simple than that. But as Sister Maurine Jensen Proctor said in a BYU Women’s Conference: 

The Lord offers us his solutions to all our questions, and he tells us, “I am more intelligent than they all” (Abraham 3:19). There is not a problem we can pose to him or a challenge so perplexing that he does not already have the answer. How can some of that light be shed into our own minds?

The scriptures reveal a pattern for receiving enlightenment—and it is not one we usually talk about: Serious reflection precedes revelation.

I believe Christ wants you to be able to come unto Him as a family and that He will reveal to you how to do that and how to feel His love within the walls of your home. In his name I leave this testimony, Amen.

Photo by Jed Villejo on Unsplash

Miriam

Miriam is a professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Memphis where she studies children impacted by incarceration and children at risk of future incarceration. She lives with her husband and three daughters.

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6 Responses

  1. Alma Frances Pellett says:

    Wow. All that and only women quoted.
    I do wish we could get away from the idea that if someone didn’t get the same answer we did means they must be wrong. I’d like to think those cousins would have remained just as close if the second never got inspired to join the Church. Just because people have different paths doesn’t mean they can’t still walk together.
    Thank you

  2. Katie Ludlow Rich says:

    “To hitchhike long distances and be leery of anyone wearing a white shirt and tie.” This made me laugh. Thank you for this beautiful sermon!

  3. nicolesbitani says:

    Thank you for sharing this. ❤️

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