What do we do when we think we've received revelation that is different from Church leaders? Here is what our prophets and apostles have counseled us on the matter.
What ought we to do if we believe we have received revelation that differs with the united voice of the First Presidency and Twelve apostles?
One of the great strengths–and arguably one of the defining features–of LDS doctrine as a belief in on-going revelation, both to Church leaders and individuals members. Members understand that the revelation they receive is only for their areas of stewardship and responsibility.
What should we do, then, in the case where we sincerely believe we have received revelation that tells us that the highest councils of united Church leaders are mistaken?
I here suggest five important principles drawn from apostles and prophets about such situations, which have blessed my life.
We should be patient
Brigham Young talked about the first time Joseph Smith taught something that he didn’t and couldn’t believe. It happened when Joseph taught about 3 degrees of glory in heaven. Said Brigham:
I was not prepared to say that I believed it [3 degrees of glory], and I had to wait. What did I do? I handed this over to the Lord in my feelings, and said I, ‘I will wait until the Spirit of God manifests to me, for or against.’ I did not judge the matter, I did not argue against it, not in the least. I never argued the least against anything Joseph proposed, but if I could not see or understand it, I handed it over to the Lord.
Note that Brigham does not “blindly follow” Joseph. He does not start believing the doctrine simply because Joseph preached it. Brigham insisted that he have his own witness prior to believing.
Yet, Brigham did not go too far the other way either. He did not engage in learned debate, or publish an “alternative” newspaper (today such folks would probably start a blog or post on Facebook!) detailing all the reasons why he did not believe what Joseph was teaching. He conformed his outward behavior in accordance with his covenants, but he did not abdicate his inner responsibility for his sincere doubt and uncertainty. He waited for revelation, but he did not let that which he did not know destroy that which he did know.
If he had not taken this approach, he would never have gotten a revelation. Faith precedes the miracle, and this can include the faith to simply wait.