When Sister Tracy Browning’s mother was investigating The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she reached a pivotal junction in her study of the restored gospel—a desire to know if the Book of Mormon was the true word of God.
She offered a fervent prayer, and God’s voice was revealed to her in an unexpected and deeply sacred way, but the content of His message did not directly answer her question.
“My mother was now presented with a choice,” Sister Browning said in her address at BYU Women’s Conference. “She would either put aside all the experiences that she had while reading the Book of Mormon and studying with the missionaries . . . or she could act in faith on the doctrine that she was being taught and demonstrate her trust in God.”
Ultimately, her mother decided to be baptized. Two years later, when she presented herself to receive the gift of the Lord’s endowment, the familiar voice of the Lord returned once again.
“She was astounded that it was now, a considerable time following those early faithful steps, that the confirmation she was seeking came. . . . I believe that the Lord wanted to demonstrate to her that His preparations for her future discipleship expanded well beyond what she was capable of understanding at that time—that if she was willing to act, even within the limits of her understanding, He would reward her faith,” Sister Browning said.
In her talk at BYU Women’s Conference, Sister Tracy Browning, a member of the Relief Society Advisory Council, spoke on “Increasing Our Capacity to Recognize and Receive Revelation,” explaining the process of takes practice and time. Below are five takeaways from her remarks. The full address is available on the BYU Women’s Conference website.
1. Receiving revelation requires action.
When Sister Browning was 16 years old, the missionaries invited her to be baptized and taught her that after her baptism she would be confirmed which would enable her to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
“In my limited understanding at the time, I anticipated that the moment hands were laid upon my head to pronounce me to receive the Holy Ghost, I would experience a sort of physical or recognizable sensation as the Spirit of the Lord dwelt within me,” Sister Browning said. “I simply expected that from that point forward, that the Holy Ghost and I would settle into a comfortable companionship, one which was easy to discern and always clear and effortless. But on that day, there was no grand manifestation, no outwardly discernible difference in my sensitivities other than feelings of peace, happiness, and reverence, that came with making my first covenant with my Father in Heaven.”
Sister Browning explained that she came to realize that her relationship with the Holy Ghost required the exercise of her tuning her ears to hear the voice of the Lord as well as a constant and consistent striving to keep her covenants.
“President Russell M. Nelson’s 2018 plea to the Church to increase our spiritual capacity to receive revelation and to choose to do the spiritual work required to enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost and hear the voice of the Spirit more frequently and more clearly has created an opportunity for me to examine what that spiritual work is that I could do to enlarge, to make more room, and to expand my spiritual capacity to recognize and receive the maximum amount of divine guidance possible in my life,” Sister Browning said.
2. Practice brings perspective.
“Another way to help discern God’s voice is to employ a modified version of the phrase, ‘practice makes perfect,’ that I call ‘practice brings perspective.’ Choosing to consistently practice, acting in faith on those good thoughts and feelings that you may be questioning the origin [of] can invite an ability to understand the voice of the Spirit in its true relation to other voices,” Sister Browning said.
She employed an example of a banker who works with currency every day. That banker would be more likely to identify counterfeit bills than someone who does not handle money that often. Features like those found on US currency, like the paper being made of a blend of linen and cotton as well as raised printing, would be identified by someone who regularly handles this material.
The same can be true with revelation. As we practice receiving revelation, we can identify characteristics of the Spirit.
Sister Browning explained some of the perspectives she has learned by practicing acting her faith:
- • “When the Spirit speaks, He testifies of Jesus Christ.
- • “He builds my faith on principles of the gospel.
- • “He confirms truth and my righteous choices.
- • “He calms and removes my fears.
- • “He encourages me to repent, and this is important, without condemnation.
- • “He sometimes prompts me to do things that are contrary to my own personal preference, rather than consistently confirming an action aligned to my strong desires.
- • “He speaks confidence about my spiritual talents, and he provides warnings that help me navigate unsafe territory.”
3. If revelation persuades one to do good, it is of the Spirit of God.
Sister Browning shared an experience from when her only daughter was 11 years old. Sister Browning started to have feelings that she wanted to grow her family.
“As the thought increased in potency, I would at times wrestle to understand if this was guidance from the Spirit or if I was just manifesting unresolved feelings of guilt that my daughter was advancing in age, and so was I, and that some perceived window was closing on this opportunity to expand our family,” Sister Browning said.
She started to have conversations with her husband about her thoughts and feelings and became settled with the idea of preparing to act on her senses. Then, an unexpected trial occurred in her family which resulted in Sister Browning and her husband accepting legal care for a 4-year-old son of a close family member.
“Those earlier thoughts of growing our family were quickly dispatched to the background as my husband and I focused our combined energy and faith on seeking earnest and pleading direction on how to help this very precious and beloved young boy who was in our care,” Sister Browning said. “During this difficult time, there were, however, beautifully poignant moments in our home life. We all felt an increase of joy, bonding, and completeness within our family that provided glimpses of a new, but unclear future.”
Eventually, the child was sealed to Sister Browning and her husband, and in that moment she realized that the Lord had spoken early words of preparation to her mind and heart with her desires to grow her family.
“President Gordon B. Hinckley taught powerfully . . . that knowing the difference between the voice of the Lord and our own is ultimately to ask ourselves, ‘Does it persuade one to do good, to rise, to stand tall, to do the right thing, to be kind, to be generous? Then it is of the Spirit of God,’” Sister Browning shared.
4. Pondering three questions can help us as we pursue divine guidance.
Sister Browning invited listeners to consistently ponder three questions:
- • How is God inviting me to get to know Him?
- • How is He seeking to build my trust and confidence in Him?
- • How is God trying to bless me through my obedience to His promptings and counsels?
“Each of these questions can help you understand, give shape to, and provide greater influence on God’s words in your life,” Sister Browning said.
She explained that revelation is the way we get to know God and that God wants to help us get to know Him through revelation, that the Lord wants us to exercise our faith in Him, and that repentance is a critical step in hearing the voice of the Lord.
“Ask the Lord to illuminate any areas in your life that may be creating stumbling blocks to hear and receive His words,” Sister Browning said. “You need not be perfect to come before the Lord to ask for His help. As you commit yourself to prepare to receive more of his counsel into your life and allow Him to prevail, He will instruct you in all the things what you should do. God’s process of instruction is in line upon line, precept upon precept, and for those who hearken unto His precepts, they will be given more.”
5. There is no expiration date for revelation.
Sister Browning shared that she once received a spiritual prompting that informed her that changes were coming in her life that would include some stretching, growing, and spiritual refinement. She started to create a checklist of every experience she was having and assumed at the end of each experience that it was the fulfillment of that personal revelation. After several years of ever-increasing spiritual experiences and some uncomfortable stretching experiences, she returned to the Lord and asked Him when she would be able to cross off this revelation as finished.
“The returned reply that I received from the Lord was simple. There is no expiration date for revelation,” Sister Browning said. “God’s messages can continue to unfold over time giving fuller and richer expression to each proceeding message just like the preparatory prompting about the growth of my family or my mother’s narrowed answer to her prayer. This new message from God about my personal discipleship took shape over a long time through small, faithful steps that allowed for more of the path to be illuminated ahead.”
Sister Browning concluded her remarks with her testimony that “if we accept our prophet’s earnest plea to increase our spiritual capacity to receive revelation, we will be able to obtain the inspiration and divine guidance that is necessary for us to navigate life’s challenges and opportunities.”
Sister Browning’s full address is available now through September 30, 2021, through the digital BYU Women’s Conference. A digital registration package costs $59 and offers access to 35 addresses in English. Find more information at the BYU Women’s Conference Website.