In my early twenties, I admitted to a friend and mentor that I could feel the presence of the Spirit but couldn’t discern specific answers. He asked me if I had asked the Lord to teach me His language—meaning, what it felt and sounded like when He was speaking to me. I hadn’t, but that night I began to ask the Lord to teach me the language of revelation.
Among other things, through the years it has become apparent that seekers have certain habits that are key to learning to communicate with God. For starters, they engage in the wrestle, meaning they work at it. They immerse themselves regularly in the scriptures, which are the textbook for the Lord’s language. And seekers listen. One of my former institute students periodically turns everything electronic off. TV off. Music off. Phone off. Computer and iPad off. She says, “I like to let the Lord know I’m listening.”
Seekers also work to be increasingly pure—pure in their heart, thoughts, and motives; pure in what they say, watch, read, and listen to; even pure in what they wear—meaning avoiding suggestive or provocative attire. Purity invites the Spirit, and it increases light. And “he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light growth brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (D&C 50:24). Light is a powerful antidote to anything evil because darkness cannot persist in the presence of light (see D&C 50:25).
Our own sins can keep us from receiving the light we seek. Even seemingly small transgressions can be dangerous. As C. S. Lewis said, “It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick” (The Screwtape Letters [San Francisco: Harper, 1996], 57.)
I have lived alone for most of my adult life, and I don’t recommend it. BYU President Kevin J Worthen stated that “no one can flourish in isolation,” and I can vouch for that (“‘It Is Not Good That . . . Man Should Be Alone,’” BYU Devotional, 5 January 2016). I learned long ago that to hold loneliness at bay, I had to create an environment at home where the Spirit and angels would be willing to come. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland counseled us to “cultivate and be where the Spirit of the Lord is. Make sure that includes your home” (“Place No More for the Enemy of My Soul,” Ensign, May 2010). His counsel has been a lifeline for me.
Two Questions That Help Open the Heavens
As you create a spiritual environment at home, cultivate spiritual habits, and seek to recognize the Lord’s hand in your life, there are two questions that will help open the heavens. First, ask the Lord to teach you what it feels and sounds like for you when He is speaking to you via the Holy Ghost. Then watch how He tutors you—including the scriptures you’re drawn to, the emphases in general conference messages you may have missed the first time around, and so on.
Second, if you’ve never asked the Lord how He feels about you, that is a great question to ask. Over time, He will tell you, and, as He does, you’ll learn more about discerning revelation through the Spirit.
Cultivating the capacity to feel the presence and hear the whisperings of the Spirit is central to living a life based intentionally upon the Spirit. When the Lord sees that we want to communicate with Him, He will teach us how. Imagine what would happen if we were as intent on trying to connect with heaven as we are with monitoring everyone’s latest post on our social media feeds. Imagine what could happen if those people who search for things to criticize in the Church were to apply the same energy to learning how God works. . . .
There were things the Savior did not and could not teach His own people in the meridian of time. There were things the Nephites did not know. But the only limitations on us are those we place upon ourselves through our disobedience or failure to seek, our laziness or apathy.
The Lord told Joseph Smith there were sweeping spiritual privileges available for those living in our dispensation, describing them with this imagery: “As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints” (D&C 121:33). Imagine the implications! No spiritual privileges are withheld today from the faithful who seek them repeatedly and diligently.
Piercing the Veil and Gaining Heaven’s Help
Learning how to pierce the veil and gain the help of heaven, how to have greater access to the power of God and the sweeping array of spiritual privileges available to us, and how to receive revelation requires us to learn what the gospel of Jesus Christ actually entails. It means learning the “peaceable things of the kingdom” (D&C 36:2), which tend to be truths we won’t find in a Sunday School manual but are doctrinal insights that come largely through the tutoring of the Spirit.
Nephi admonishes us to feast upon the words of Christ, and he warns that if we cannot receive revelation, it is “because [we] ask not, neither do [we] knock; wherefore, [we] are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.” Nephi then laments that far too many will “not search knowledge, nor understand great knowledge, when it is given unto [us] in plainness, even as plain as word can be” (2 Nephi 32:4, 7).
Nephi’s brother Jacob no doubt learned from his older brother the kinds of spiritual privileges available to the faithful. In his youth he beheld the Savior’s glory (see 2 Nephi 2:4). He saw the Savior’s Crucifixion (see 2 Nephi 6:9). He had the faith to work miracles. If we knew nothing else about Jacob, the following statement would tell us everything we need to know: “Wherefore, we search the prophets, and we have many revelations and the spirit of prophecy; and having all these witnesses we obtain a hope, and our faith becometh unshaken, insomuch that we truly can command in the name of Jesus and the very trees obey us, or the mountains, or the waves of the sea” (Jacob 4:6).
Searching the prophets suggests more than reading or even studying. It implies spiritually wrestling. When we are willing to work, the Lord will teach us, open our eyes to things we haven’t seen before, and lead us along as we grow in our understanding about the truths of the gospel.
Dealing with Our Imperfections
There is, of course, a fundamental challenge: We are imperfect people trying to understand and communicate a perfect message. Therein lies the source of many challenges. As one example, being offended by how others fulfill their callings or express their feelings about the gospel is a fruitless exercise. We are all mortals, and we all make mistakes, offend each other, “undersell” or misrepresent truths, and at times even teach (usually unknowingly) false doctrine. Imagine how much false doctrine is taught around the world on any given Sunday simply because the Lord has entrusted that teaching to millions of imperfect people whose knowledge and ability to impart that knowledge are insufficient (meaning, all of us). He is apparently not terribly worried about that, though. The greater concern is when we stop seeking to understand how much the Lord will make available to those who love and follow Him. . . .
Receiving revelation is key to receiving answers to our questions. Revelation may not come quickly, easily, or clearly. And the Lord may choose to answer a different question from the one you’ve asked. But revelation always comes.
One of the profound privileges of membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that none of us have to take anyone else’s word for what is true. Personal revelation is a powerful, persuasive antidote to uncertainty and confusion.
Those who have the Holy Ghost and who diligently seek will find. Period.
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Get more incredible insights from Sheri Dew with her book, Worth the Wrestle.
Why can’t I seem to conquer weaknesses that plague me?” “How do I know if I’m receiving revelation?” “Will the Lord forgive me after what I’ve done?” “Why can’t we seem to get ahead financially even though we faithfully pay our tithing?” “What if the Church’s position on gay marriage bothers me?”
Those are just a handful of the countless questions Sheri Dew has heard people ask over the years. “May I answer these questions,” she writes, “and any questions you may have, by posing a different question: Are you willing to engage in the wrestle? In an ongoing spiritual wrestle?”