I wake to the sound of rain on the roof. My husband pulls me close, wraps his arm around my waist, and we stay there for a moment, linked in the stillness. I look at my alarm clock, ready to blare, and anticipate the rush. Shower, get the girls moving, make breakfast, pack a lunch, find raincoats. The list is already forming, raking my bones into motion, but under the routine of combing hair and pouring milk, flows a current of instability – an uncertainty that gnaws deep in my belly. So deep I can hide it most of the time. But the longer it stays, the more it seems to move in permanently, smother my peace. I don’t know where or when we will buy a place of our own, a place I can fully unpack, plant a garden, sink roots like we’re going to stay.
I stand in front of the mirror and examine my face. I look tired, feel tired, and as I wash my hands, I remember Eliza’s eyes the night before. The conversation we had about her seven-year old life, her desire to read two verses of scripture instead of one.
Her face replaces mine in the mirror and I see her lips, her hazels, alert and furtive, as she tells me she wants to illustrate children’s books, oh! and be a mother, and “isn’t it sad, Mom, that you’re the only one who’s read my first book?”
I sat on the edge of her bed, amused at her innocence, listening and wondering what kind of joys and challenges will find her, who her friends will be, how she will remember her childhood home.
I watch her eyes. His light is there. He abides in her, and I remind myself again, it doesn’t matter what we possess, only what we become.
But the stuff of mortality is always with us. Decisions must be made, and I can’t help but think of where we will move, my husband’s career, schools, professional pursuits, what kind of a mother I want to be, and as I do, my desire to hear God’s voice swells.
So I revisit the notes I took while listening to Tina Peterson speak at an event sponsored by the Mormon Women Project last June. You may remember Tina from this post – a topic that sparked such a buzz she was asked to present a second session. Tina graciously allowed the audience to select the topic of discussion, and it became apparent after several questions, we were going to talk about personal revelation. How we receive it, and why.
I thought you might be interested in what I learned during Tina’s presentation.
- God is always talking. You cannot stop the flow of revelation except by your own choice not to listen.
- Consider any dead time you have in a day. How are you spending it? Are you spending it learning to walk with the Lord? Your time with God, particularly in the scriptures, is like your personal urim and thummim. Content is important, but even more important are the impressions you receive regarding your personal life while reading or listening.
- Pray before reading that God will tell you what you need to know.
- Write down impressions, stop and pray about them, then ask, “Is there more?”
- The catch to personal revelation is being willing before you ask, to do whatever it is the Lord tells you.
- When we don’t follow God’s instructions for us, we must earn back our ability to commit to him. If we don’t act, we miss out. And over time God has nothing more to say to us. He won’t talk if we refuse to follow.
- Can the scriptures be addictive? Considering the previous post you might think yes. But the answer is actually, no. God will never infringe on our agency or compel us. Nothing from God is addictive. We can make scripture study a habit, so much that it becomes a natural part of our day – something we long for – but truth and light will never overload us as addiction does. Instead, God’s words increase our peace.
- Our multi-tasking and list-making (natural coping mechanisms to function in today’s world) must be subdued so we can slow down and hear. Unless we train our brains to listen, when we try to be quiet, our brain will say, “what next?” Sometimes we may think Satan is trying to distract us, but it is likely our own lack of practice that prevents us from hearing. If you can point your finger at Satan, it is probably not him. He is too subtle. But if he can override our sensibilities by bombarding us with a deluge of images and quick information, he can impair our moral judgment, diminish our agency.
Tina then explained that the difference between Nephi and his brothers was that Nephi desired. He wanted to see what his father had seen. So he asked. And he received (1 Nephi 11: 1-3). Desire, Tina said, affects the synapses in the brain, clears the way for new information, and can actually change neurological patterns.
So the question is, “What do you want to know?”
In ancient texts, when an individual received a tree of life vision, three things were shared. Something about their posterity, something about their personality, and finally, what God wanted them to do.
“So what about you?” Tina asked. “Have you asked for your own tree of life vision?”
There was a rhetorical silence. “And why not?” Tina queried, as if she already knew the answer.
“God talks to all of his children, according to their level of knowledge. He doesn’t give us revelation solely to get us back to him. He gives us revelation to show us the greatest path of joy.”
After reading this, I stepped out into the rain, kissed my girls goodbye, and looked up at the clouded mountain with new faith. I felt as Peter when the Lord asked him, “Will ye also go away?” And Peter responded, “Lord, to whom shall [I] go? Thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
There is only Christ, and I am going to trust Him, believe He can give me my own vision, my own tree of life.
Does fear ever inhibit your asking, because you are afraid of what you might have to do? What have you learned about personal revelation? And what about desire? How do you think it affects our ability to hear and learn spiritually?
Artwork: Lehi’s Vision of the Tree of Life by Jill Spurlock