Elder David A. Bednar: Living in Revelation
In April 2011, Elder David A. Bednar made an analogy in general conference of light switches and sunrises to personal revelation and receiving the Lord’s guidance in our lives. This landmark talk inspired Latter-day Saints everywhere in how they seek and recognize Heavenly Father’s presence in their lives. In the years since that address, Elder Bednar has spoken around the world about personal revelation. As he’s done so, he’s heard one question from Church members more than any other: “How do I know if it’s me or the Spirit?” In this week’s episode, we hear Elder Bednar’s answer to this question and discuss other thoughts related to the principles of revelation.
You don’t have to do it all in one day—a little bit every day with God’s help.
Elder Bednar’s talk: “The Spirit of Revelation,” April 2011
Face to Face event for Young Adults: “Face to Face with Elder and Sister Bednar: Ask, Seek, Knock”
1:42- Academic Learning Vs. Seeing Things as They Really Are
5:33- When There Are No Words
8:25- Defending Doctrine Vs. Teaching Doctrine
11:54- Agents Who Act
19:12- How Do I Know If It’s Me or the Spirit?
28:48- Daily Improvement
34:14- A Virtuous Cycle
38:34- Sensationalizing Revelation
43:24- Communication in Marriage
50:31- Cherishing Spiritually Sensitive Information
53:01- "Sequence Is Instructive”
56:15- What Does It Mean To Be All In the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Morgan Jones 0:00
Elder David A. Bednar once said, "In many of the uncertainties and challenges we encounter in our lives, and in this great latter-day work, God requires us to do our best to trust in Him, to be anxiously engaged and act and not simply wait to be acted upon. We may not see angels, hear heavenly voices or receive overwhelming spiritual impressions. We frequently may press forward hoping and praying–but without absolute assurance–that we are acting in accordance with God's will. But as we honor our covenants and keep the commandments, we can walk with confidence that God will guide our steps." On today's episode, we have the blessing of discussing all of these things with Elder Bednar.
Elder David A Bednar is originally from California's Bay Area. He is a graduate of Brigham Young University where he received both his bachelor's and master's degrees. He also received a doctoral degree in organizational behavior from Purdue University. Elder Bednar was previously a Professor of Business Management at Texas Tech University and at the University of Arkansas. Prior to his call as a member of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles in October 2004, he served as president of Brigham Young University Idaho. He and his wife, Sister Susan Bednar, are the parents of three sons.
This is All In, an LDS Living podcast where we ask the question, what does it really mean to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ? I'm Morgan Jones, and I am so honored to have Elder David A. Bednar with me today. Elder Bednar, welcome.
Elder David A. Bednar 1:37
Thank you, Morgan, very much.
Morgan Jones 1:38
Well, this is such a treat for me and I've been looking forward to it for weeks. I wondered if we could start with your background. You received a doctoral degree from Purdue University in organizational behavior, and for me, this is fascinating. I wondered how this has informed your approach to teaching, and even how you carry out your responsibilities as a special witness of Jesus Christ?
Elder David A. Bednar 2:02
Let me answer the second question first. I hope–and I pray often–that it will have no influence on the way I carry out my responsibilities as a special witness of the name of Jesus Christ and all the world.
Now I'll answer the first part, and that will explain the second part.
Morgan Jones 2:21
Elder David A. Bednar 2:23
I attended school for a lot of years. Eight years of university education, and I found many aspects of university education to be very ineffective. And by that, I simply mean that it didn't make a lot of sense to me to have people lecturing and carrying on in a classroom over things that you had read and studied and had become acquainted with and maybe had questions about. But you could never get a word in edgewise because many times it was just this focused lecture.
Morgan Jones 3:00
Elder David A. Bednar 3:01
And as a consequence of that, I've really tried very hard in my entire life to never let academic learning stand in the way of seeing things as they really are. In the Book of Mormon it talks about the fact that, "To be learned, is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God." But it also condemns those who are learned, who begin to think that in and of themselves–they're smarter than God.
So a part of what has always motivated me is to not let my academic training become the lens through which I see the world. So that's why I say it hasn't informed me in any way shape or form about the spiritual magnitude of the responsibility to bear witness of the divinity and reality of Christ.
For many people, that kind of academic training becomes a stumbling block in recognizing His divinity. I'm not accusing, I'm not trying to overgeneralize, I'm just saying that in my life I didn't want that to be the case. So it's had no impact on what I do as a member the Quorum of the 12. And I've tried to not let that be the lens through which I view everything that occurs in my life.
Morgan Jones 4:30
That makes complete sense. And I appreciate you saying that. As you've traveled around the world in your ministry as an apostle, you almost always seem to open it up for questions. And I'm thinking that it has something to do with what you were just talking about, but I wondered, why is that practice of allowing people the opportunity–no matter where they live in the world–to ask you a question, so important to you?
Elder David A. Bednar 4:54
So I think the answer to that is embedded in what I just said.
Morgan Jones 4:58
Elder David A. Bednar 4:58
About listening to lectures for so long. If you're really trying to teach to the needs of people, how do you know what to say until you know where they are? And questions become one of the fundamental ways you find out where people are. So, I don't do that because I think I can answer the questions, I do that to find out what people hope to learn, then you can hopefully be a little more effective in at least addressing the things that are most salient to them.
Morgan Jones 5:31
Absolutely. Recently, you participated in a Face to Face event where a lot was talked about related to revelation. And there was one young man who–I think I was not the only one that was touched by his question–who told you that his wife had recently passed away. And through tears, he asked you a question about whether it was God's will that his wife had died, and what he was supposed to do without her.
And you were very careful in your response to say that you didn't want to give a trite answer to such a sincere question. What have you learned about how to teach truth to someone who is in pain or emotionally exhausted?
Elder David A. Bednar 6:14
My answer to this will be very simple–don't fake it. Just within the last several days, I spoke with a woman whose husband had passed away earlier in the day. And there's nothing you can say.
And so I spoke with her and I simply said, "I wanted to call as an expression of my love and concern. But I don't know the words to say." I think we say with the best of intentions–I don't want this to sound at all critical, but we say phrases, and we say kind of predictable things. And there's nothing wrong with that.
But in an era where everyone is concerned about authenticity, it can just be hard to know what to say. So I just don't want to fake it. I don't want to just say what sounds acceptable in a particular circumstance. And you have to do what you can to try to ascertain, to discern, to perceive where people are.
And when he asked that question, I just thought–this, this good man is really hurting. And it took such courage to pose that question. And I didn't want to treat it casually. I didn't want to just give a flippant, off the top of your head, kind of a predictable response. So I needed a moment to try to kind of gather myself and make sure I was understanding the intensity of his question, so I could hopefully be guided by the spirit and try to be responsive to what he was asking.
Morgan Jones 7:56
Right. What you just said reminded me, a few years ago I read a book by a lady who's a professor at Duke Divinity School, and it's called, Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I've Loved and she had cancer, and she talks about how there are these things that you always hear people say, but when it really comes down to it, it's people just showing up to be with you in those moments. And I've thought about that a lot in the years since and I love what you just said.
In that same Face to Face event you were asked about how we can defend the doctrine of the family. And I thought your response was really interesting. You said something to the effect of–we teach the doctrine, we don't need to defend it because it stands for itself. What is the difference do you think between teaching and defending?
Elder David A. Bednar 8:46
Well, in my mind, a part of the defending is a bit of debating. And I don't–I don't want to engage in a debate with someone on these issues. What I want to do is articulate the truths of the restored gospel and what we know about Heavenly Father's plan for His children, and it is eminently reasonable, and I find it to be extraordinarily compelling.
So I lived in a part of the United States for a long time, where a lot of people wanted to attack the beliefs that we hold as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And what I found over time was how absolutely compelling the doctrine is.
Now, I don't want to go into a lengthy recitation of all these episodes, but you know, you have someone who would say, "Well, what you people do in your Church in terms of baptizing the dead is ridiculous." And I would say, "Well, let me just tell you something that I think is ridiculous. If Jesus Christ is the Savior of all mankind, what happens to those who have never heard of him? Of all the people who've lived on the face of the earth, only a relative handful have heard His name, have had access to His teachings–if He is the Savior of all humankind, what happens to all of those who've never heard?"
And they couldn't answer the question. And I would simply say, "Any eight-year-old child in our Church can answer that question if they have been taught in their home about the Father's plan of happiness, and if they've attended primary."
So I never want to be in a debate where it can become contentious. And it's not a tit for tat, back and forth, in terms of you make a point, and then I make a counterpoint. We just lay out the doctrine. It's simple. And it's absolutely compelling.
People say, "Well, all the revelation that was needed was received in the meridian of time." Excuse me, why would He stop talking? Why would He not in the complexity of the world that we have today? Is that all just contained in records that were written centuries ago? He's the same yesterday, today, and forever. He hasn't changed. He hasn't indicated that He's changed. So I just think that's–you don't have to defend that, you just lay it out.
Morgan Jones 11:41
That is–I think–spot on. And it's interesting to me, I think when you avoid having that defensive mentality, how much more open those conversations can be.
You've talked a lot about how we are agents who act, rather than objects that are acted upon. How do you think that we help others feel empowered to act and to embrace their agency rather than just simply being objects that are acted upon?
Elder David A. Bednar 12:14
The simplest answer to that is–I'm not trying to catch you in your question.
Morgan Jones 12:20
Elder David A. Bednar 12:21
But your question even indicates, "How do we help them feel empowered," you don't help them feel empowered, you invite them to act. Oftentimes in the vocabulary, for example of the Church, you say, "Well, we're going to help strengthen their faith." No, we're not. An individual has to strengthen his or her own faith. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is a principle of action, and of power. We learned that from the Lectures on Faith, that sequence is incredibly instructive.
First, we act in accordance with the teachings of Christ, then we are blessed with power. Most of the time, we want it to be just the opposite. "Please give me the power so I can act." And that doesn't work that way. So faith comes by hearing the Word of God. We hear the teachings of Christ and then we apply them. We live them, we do them. That's called faith in Jesus Christ. It's not mystical. It's not abstract. I find that to be incredibly practical. And as we do the things that Jesus taught, than we are magnified and blessed with His power–is this making any sense?
Morgan Jones 13:42
That makes complete sense. And I think . . . I think that that is something that you do such a good job of when I've heard you speak, especially in these Q&A type settings where you invite people to do things. And I think that it is–it's only by acting that we start to have the kind of experiences that we can then draw upon that develop our testimonies.
Elder David A. Bednar 14:05
Well, stop and think about the, you know, the nature of this question, how do you help people feel empowered? Well, you don't help them feel that way, you invite them to act. They're agents, they can say, "I don't want to do that." Or, "Yes, I do choose to do that." They have to decide that.
Morgan Jones 14:24
Elder David A. Bednar 14:24
But the faith can only be increased if they are acting in accordance with the teachings of the Savior. And so our responsibility is to invite. To entice, to encourage them to act. I think sometimes we talk way too much, and we invite way too little. We think, "Well, if there's a problem in the ward, let's have someone give a talk about it."
Or you know, "Let's have a special lesson." That's fine and that has a place, but to me, the greater question is, “What would we need to do, in order to learn the lesson that we hope is learned?” And if I'm a teacher, the focus is not on–"What should I say?" The question is, "What invitations will help the people who are learning, learn what they need to learn?"
To me, one of the most powerful lines in all of scripture is Joseph Smith, when he returns to his home after he's seen the Father and the Son. Now, I'm going to add a little bit to the scenario, but obviously, he walks in the house and his mom is there. And she recognizes that something has happened.
And she–in essence, says, "Joseph, are you okay?" And his response is, "Mother, I am well enough off. All is well. I have learned for myself." I just think that speaks volumes. You can't . . . you can't give to someone what they're not willing to act and earn and get for themselves, especially when they need the assistance of the Holy Ghost to be able to do that.
So I think the objective is to help people learn for themselves, not to have them feel empowered, but to do the things whereby they will have some incentive to act and learn for themselves.
Morgan Jones 16:27
What you just said reminded me–and I think, I think this principle is so important in a church setting, but I think it's also super important in the home. And there was a family on my mission, a single mom raising several children, and we heard that the son had had a really cool experience with fasting to be able to find his dog. And so we asked him if he would come to a lesson with us and we were teaching about tithes and offerings and fasting and asked him if he would share this experience. And he looked at me and he said, "Which experience? I have lots." And I have thought about that so many times about that sweet single mom, inviting her son to have experiences with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and how much that can change things. And so I think you're absolutely right.
Elder David A. Bednar 17:18
So let me give one more illustration. When I was the president of BYU Idaho, I had a matter that I needed to discuss with President Boyd K. Packer. I was not a General Authority and so I came to Salt Lake and met with him. And I kind of laid out the issue, and I said, "Now, President, I'm not here to try to have you tell me what to do. Let me define what I think the steps are, and then any feedback that you would give, I would love to receive."
So I laid it out. And when I got all done, he just looked at me and he said, "Why?" And so I responded to his question of why. And when I got all done, he looked at me and he said, "Why?" And I think this is accurate–12 times he asked me the question of, "Why?"
After I had responded the 12th time to the question of why, he said, "Do you have your answer?" And I said, "Yes, sir. I do." Now, if you don't look beneath the hood on that one, that could look pretty superficial. That is the ultimate in teaching. Teaching is not talking. Teaching is not telling. Teaching is listening and observing. Eyes to see, ears to hear, so you can discern where someone is at. Only then do you know what to say.
So he was guiding me through that process of helping me discover things that either I already knew or had forgotten, or that I could discover for myself with his help to the questions he was asking.
Morgan Jones 19:03
He probably should have considered a career in journalism. That's what they teach us to do.
Elder David A. Bednar 19:08
Morgan Jones 19:09
You have talked a lot about how there's a question that's frequently asked when you do these question-and-answer sessions. And the question is, "How do I know if it's me or if it's the spirit?" I wonder if you ever think about what it's going to take for us to get past that question, and how you remain patient when teaching these principles? Sometimes over and over and over again?
Elder David A. Bednar 19:35
The answer is, I find it energizing. No, it's not–patience is not an issue. That is the journey of mortality. We are spiritual beings having a mortal experience. We're not mortal beings searching for spiritual experiences. But it takes a while to come to understand who we are and what we're about.
So no, that's–it's not frustrating, and it doesn't require patience. And no, I don't worry about, "Well, how long is it going to take for everybody to get this?" Every person on that journey has to make that discovery himself or herself and being able to assist in that process is a remarkably edifying experience.
The–I'm about to go for a second here, you okay?
Morgan Jones 20:29
Elder David A. Bednar 20:31
I've always found it strange that we talk about the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, and we seem to have little recognition that that's real. We say it–but do we believe it? If in fact, now–you know, we're mortals, we make mistakes. So I'm not talking about every nanosecond of every moment of every minute of every day. Obviously, the spirit is stronger on some occasions than it is on other occasions.
But as long as we are doing our best and pressing forward on the covenant path, and repenting as we go, then indeed, we are influenced by the Holy Ghost, all the time. And I think we fundamentally divert ourselves by wondering, "Well, is that me? Or is that the Holy Ghost?" The more time we spend worrying about that, the more we get in our own way in recognizing the consequences of having the companionship of the Holy Ghost.
I love the 80th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, and it's one of the most obscure sections. It's a mission call to a man by the name of Stephen Burnett. And in there, the Lord says, "Go to the north, go to the south, go to the east, go to the west, it mattereth not unto me."
Now, some might read that and say, "Well, the Lord doesn't care." That isn't what He said. What the Lord knows is he's going to get Stephen Burnett to wherever he's supposed to be, what Steve Burnett has to do is move his feet, "Now, Stephen, just start moving."
So it's not that the Lord didn't care. It's that Stephen isn't in charge. He's going to be where he needs to be. He'll be influenced, guided, directed. Sometimes we have expectations and if it doesn't come when we want, the way we want, we think that the Lord didn't hear us. And we have to be careful not to charge God foolishly.
We don't frequently get real, big, fast answers. They're not big and dramatic, they come line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little. And we have to wait on the Lord, not impose deadlines on Him. But if we just will follow that path and believe. Not just say, not just accept, but believe in my life, I can have the companionship of the Holy Ghost, then the most fascinating line in Section 80 is when it says, "He cannot go amiss. You'll never be led astray."
It doesn't mean everything goes the way you think or the way you want. But you will never go amiss because we're constantly being guided. Nephi goes to Jerusalem three times to get the brass plates, right. Was he messed up the first time? I don't think so.
Morgan Jones 23:50
Elder David A. Bednar 23:52
He didn't succeed the second time. Only the third time does he go, going the Lord's way, not knowing beforehand the things that he should do. Why do we miss the lesson in that story? It's at the very beginning of the Book of Mormon. I think it's there for a reason. We read it a million times. We come to the Isaiah chapters and stop and then go back and read it again and again and again.
Because Nephi, who we all look to as the ultimate example of faithfulness, had no idea how that was going to work. He just went to Jerusalem. Well, that's what it takes for us. That's why I use the analogy of swimming. You know, when you first swim, you're terrified. You've never been in the water; you don't know what to expect. But the longer you practice and the more acclimated you become to the water, the less you consciously have to focus on the mechanics of the strokes and you're just in the water swimming.
I think that analogy has some merit for–not that we take it for granted, not that it becomes easy or casual, but we quit worrying about the mechanics and we just go, and you begin to recognize the Lord's hand getting you to the places where you need to be.
Morgan Jones 25:15
I love that so much. Thank you so much for sharing all of that. And I feel like I need to go reread section 80. You mentioned this analogy about swimming. And I just want to quote something that you said, you said, "Just as we can learn to quit worrying about how to swim, we can come to a point where we stop worrying about whether or not we are receiving personal revelation."
And I'll say this Elder Bednar, I feel like the reason that I wanted to ask that question is because I am one of those people that I'll think that I've learned how the Lord speaks to me and how I hear Him, but then a little bit of time will pass. And I'll be right back–it feels like–at square one. So I feel like this is something that we learn and relearn over and over and over again.
Elder David A. Bednar 26:01
Absolutely. And why would it have a predictable, consistent pattern all the time? There are many different patterns of how revelation comes to people. I've had lots of occasions to be in Africa, and so many of these faithful people in Africa have phenomenal dreams.
It is not uncommon for missionaries to meet someone on the street, and the person will say, "I saw you in a dream that I had last night. And I know you have a message from God for me. I'm ready to listen."
Now, I served my mission in Germany. And I never encountered anybody who had a dream like that when I was banging on the door. I don't know why that particular mode may be more frequent in Africa than in other parts of the world, but it's just not always the same. Sometimes people will have dreams, sometimes there can be a really sudden stroke of inspiration that's quite recognizable. And many times, it's just–we're trying to be good and we're going and we're being influenced and guided in the moment, just like Nephi and we have no idea that it's happening.
You gottta consider that Nephi, when he wrote those words that we have in the Book of Mormon was reflecting back on the experience that he had. And as he looked back, in essence, I believe he's saying, "I had no idea how this was going to work." Faith is a principle of action. So he starts on his way to Jerusalem. And as he's on his way, things begin to happen and doors open, and he obtains the plates of brass. Was he under the influence of the spirit when he's walking back to Jerusalem? Yes. Is he consciously aware? I don't think so. That's the way it is for most of us, all the time.
Morgan Jones 28:07
I think you call that at one point, "Living in revelation"?
Elder David A. Bednar 28:12
Yeah. I think we focus so much on, "I have to recognize it when it comes." Excuse me, you're living in it. It's not like it just comes every once in a while. The covenant promise that we renew in the ordinance of the sacrament, is that we may always have His Spirit to be with us, not just periodically. If we really believe that covenant promise, then why do we only gear up occasionally to try to recognize and respond to an impression from the Spirit?
Morgan Jones 28:47
Can I ask you a question that's not on our list of questions as a follow up?
Elder David A. Bednar 28:50
Of course you can!
Morgan Jones 28:51
So I think one thing, at least for me, is I feel like I want to hold myself to such a high standard that I feel like if I'm not doing everything just right, that I'm not as worthy to receive those blessings of–that blessing of having the spirit always to be with me. So I feel like sometimes that's what–at least in my case–gets in my way of feeling like I can live in revelation, because if I'm not, you know, doing all the things that I should be doing. . . then I feel not good enough.
Elder David A. Bednar 29:26
May I ask a Boyd K. Packer Packer question?
Morgan Jones 29:28
Elder David A. Bednar 29:29
Morgan Jones 29:30
Well, I think in my mind, it's a covenant, right? I made a covenant with Heavenly Father to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort and to keep the commandments and so I need to be doing all of those things and I feel like so often, in my efforts to do my best, I fall short in that.
Elder David A. Bednar 29:55
Well, again, this is where I don't want to sound trite, but we all fall short.
Morgan Jones 30:01
Elder David A. Bednar 30:01
I hope I don't oversimplify this. If we're a little bit better today than we were yesterday with God's help–this is not a personal improvement program, this is a transformation of the natural man and woman into a man or woman of Christ. But if we're on that pathway, and we're a little bit better today than we were yesterday, and a little bit better tomorrow than today–always with God's help–that's enough.
Morgan Jones 30:34
Thank you for that.
Elder David A. Bednar 30:35
Oh, I didn't do anything.
Morgan Jones 30:36
No, I really–
Elder David A. Bednar 30:38
Hold on, we're not done with this one, don't move on so fast.
Morgan Jones 30:41
Elder David A. Bednar 30:41
Because you don't have to do it all in one day. A little bit every day with God's help. When I was the president in Rexburg, Susan, and I would have 200-250 students come every Monday for Family Home Evening. And we just let them ask questions. And they were all memorable, but I will–there was one young woman. And this is when President Hinckley was the president of the Church.
And she says, "Oh, Brother Bednar, I'm just not like Sister Hinckley, what should I do?" And I said, "May I ask you a couple of questions?" And she said, "Sure." I said, "How old are you?" And she said that, "I'm 20." And I said, "Well, Sister Hinckley is about 85." I said, "Why in the world, would you at 20, think you ought to be like Sister Hinckley at 85?"
That, to me, seems like a most unreasonable point of comparison. If we could get Sister Hinckley, and we could get Back to the Future DeLorean, and bring her to the point where she was 20 and have her stand next to you–I bet she was a lot like you. And what I don't think you're paying enough attention to is that for 65 years longer than you've been doing it, she's been trying with God's help to get a little better every day.
And then I just looked at this young woman, I said, "Why don't you lighten up? Why don't you just chill out a little bit." And the issue is, can you string those days together? Too many of us will go two or three days, and then we just fall off for a week or two, and then we're back on. So we spurt periodically, line upon line, precept upon precept. Here a little, there a little, always with God's help. That's enough.
Morgan Jones 32:44
I appreciate that. Lately, I've been thinking a lot about Heavenly Father's plan versus the adversaries plan and about how–I think just like, Satan knows exactly how to tempt us and he's so good at what he does, our Heavenly Father is so good at giving us the experiences that help us become what we're meant to become.
And if we can trust in that–I was listening to a talk last week, and I wish I could remember who gave it but they said something to the effect of, "You would never ask for the things that Heavenly Father knows would be best for you." And so learning to trust in that, I think is something that I need to be better at and better at believing in the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Elder David A. Bednar 33:31
I probably need to modify it when I say, "Just a little bit every day with God's help is enough"–it's enough for that day.
Morgan Jones 33:38
Elder David A. Bednar 33:39
But the issue is making sure we're doing our best to try to string lots of those days together. That's the difference between that girl at 20 and Sister Hinckley at 85.
Morgan Jones 33:50
Get a good streak.
Elder David A. Bednar 33:51
But we expect at 20 to be like Sister Hinckley at 85. And that's a–that's an invalid comparison.
Morgan Jones 33:59
Well, it's funny that you said that, in particular, because I've read some things recently about President and Sister Hinckley's marriage. And as I've been preparing to get married, I've been like, "I need to be more like her." So I appreciate you saying that.
Elder David A. Bednar 34:13
Morgan Jones 34:13
Elder Bednar, you have also said, "The task is not so much to persuade the Spirit to guide us, as it is to recognize that He is and has been guiding us all along." I love the way that you put that, but it feels like it can be easier said than done sometimes to recognize the spirits presence in our lives.
So how would you say that we can be–I know that you mentioned you know, we don't want to become so focused on, "Am I feeling the spirit? Am I not?" But how would you suggest that we become more in tune and have greater recognition of the spirits constant presence in our lives?
Elder David A. Bednar 34:49
Let me reiterate something I taught a long time ago in general conference.
Morgan Jones 34:54
Elder David A. Bednar 34:54
See, we focus so much on, "How do I recognize it when it's here?" Well, it's always here. If the covenant promises that we make, "Always have His Spirit to be with us," we ought to pay attention to when it leaves.
So if you think something, and you can tell when the Holy Ghost leaves, if you think something and the Holy Ghost leaves–quit thinking it. If you look at something and the Holy Ghost leaves–quit looking at it. Or if you do any other thing and you can feel the Holy Ghost leaving, stop doing it.
Now, short of that, it's always there. Again, it's never made sense to me that in so much of the culture of the Church and the language of the Church, it's this preparation for recognizing it when it comes. But the promise is–we may always have it. You don't have to be perfect. You have to be pressing forward on the covenant path. And repenting, preparing to participate in the ordinance of the sacramen,by doing that, the ordinance itself doesn't remit sins, but as we individually repent, as we're preparing to participate in that ordinance and as we do so worthily–not perfectly, but worthily–then we were promised that we may always have His Spirit to be with us.
The Holy Ghost can't be with us unless we are also always retaining a remission of our sins. So if we just look to that opportunity every week, to evaluate our lives, seek the influence of the Holy Ghost to identify things that we're doing well, things that we need to improve, sincerely and genuinely repenting and improving, then worldly partaking of the sacrament–that is the most virtuous cycle, I think in mortality, helping us to come into Christ.
Morgan Jones 37:00
I love that idea of–instead of focusing so much on, "Am I feeling the Spirit?" Paying attention to when it leaves and being focused on not thinking those thoughts or not being in those places, because I think that's–like you said, we all know when we're not feeling it. And being more focused on that I think that's profound,
Elder David A. Bednar 37:23
We have to be pretty thoughtful and careful about the environments that we're in. Because our world is fast, and our world is loud. And there's so much that can occupy us with busyness, B-U-S-Y-N-E-S-S, instead of the Lord's business, B-U-S-I-N-E-S-S.
So we can be diverted, we can be distracted. And those aren't sins, but those are some of the most powerful tools that the adversary has. For someone who's good, they're not immediately going to go out and commit a serious transgression. But if we're willing to yield our attention to so many non-worthwhile distracting things in the world, then you begin to have difficulty recognizing if the Holy Ghost leaves.
So we have to be very judicious and very wise in where we spend our time, with whom we spend our time. The things that will help us honor that covenant promise to always have His Spirit to be with us, and not become barriers or obstacles in the way.
Morgan Jones 38:34
Elder Bednar, you've made a couple of statements related to . . . kind of issuing a warning against sensationalizing revelation. And you said, "I wonder if we sometimes too easily mistake personal sentiment and spiritual sensationalism for the promptings of the Holy Ghost. If we are not careful and discerning, we may mistakenly follow a false impression that can lead us astray."
You also have said, "Always expecting the spectacular, many will miss entirely the constant flow of revealed communication." Why is this distinction about sensationalism so important for us to recognize?
Elder David A. Bednar 39:16
I won't quote this perfectly, but it will be close. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, "Nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they are not." Now, he didn't say an evil spirit, he said a false spirit.
For example, a false spirit might be my own preference, my own emotion, my own idea. And so if I'm not very discerning, I might think that my thought is the answer. That's a false spirit, if you will. So I think the Prophet Joseph was simply suggesting it takes some work to get out of the way. So you can hear Him and have it be from Him, not from us, or from some other source.
Morgan Jones 40:16
Elder David A. Bednar 40:17
Now, help me know if that made any sense.
Morgan Jones 40:18
It made sense. It made sense. I wonder if sometimes because we want to have this incredibly enlightening experience, if we kind of ignore this constant flow of revelation, and instead, we pay more attention to something that may feel like a much bigger deal or an "A-ha,"?
Elder David A. Bednar 40:41
See, I think that's the very point. I think there are just some classic examples. Everyone thinks well, Saul became an apostle because he saw a light on the road to Damascus–no he didn't. Saul was a terrible guy. Do you think he could have been responsive to the still small voice? I don't think so. And he wasn't converted by the light on the road to Damascus, that was a wakeup call. And after he was awakened, then he did the things that were necessary–line upon line, precept upon precept–to become converted unto the Lord.
Alma, the younger, we read about Alma and he sees an angel. People say, "Oh, if I could just see an angel like that I'd be converted," really? You want that? He was messed up. There's no way that Alma the Younger in his wicked state would have recognized or responded to the still small voice. So there had to be a wake up call.
Now, I don't know why Saul got the wake up call. And I don't know about Alma. But they did. And after the wake up call, they followed the necessary steps that we all go through to become fully converted.
We see those episodes in the scriptures. We read them in a few verses and say, "Wow, that happened fast." It didn't happen fast. There's a backstory there. That is described Alma–this to me is so compelling, did Alma ever in his public preaching and pronouncements use the example of the angel coming as the basis of his conversion? The answer's no.
So if that was such a powerful experience, how come he didn't refer to it more often? Because that wasn't the powerful experience. He then later said, "How do I know these things of myself? I have prayed and fasted for many days."
Morgan Jones 42:39
Elder David A. Bednar 42:39
So that's the way you get to that outcome. But yet we have these–Joseph saw the Father and the Son, Saul on the road to Damascus, Alma and the angel, and we think that's the norm. That's not the norm.
Morgan Jones 42:53
Right. Would you say that those ways that Alma recounted about praying and fasting–that those are also the ways that we make sure that we're not heeding a false spirit?
Elder David A. Bednar 43:04
Sure. It's not complicated. They're small and simple things. I think another point I've tried to emphasize, it's not in knowing what to do, it's in the consistency of doing what we already know. The consistency is the issue.
Morgan Jones 43:22
I love that. My coworker Emily Abel, was able to sit down with your wife as part of that Face to Face event, which was really cool. It was really fun for us to see her on that. And I asked her if she had any follow-up questions for you as a result of her experience.
And she said, "It was clear to me that he and Sister Bednar had communicated with each other, clearly, the objective for the Face to Face," and she wondered, what role do strong communication skills in a relationship play in receiving revelation as a married couple? And then I would add, how do you feel like you and Sister Bednar have cultivated those communication skills? This is really selfish on my part, because I'm like, I need this.
Elder David A. Bednar 44:05
Yeah, since you're getting married soon. Well, if my wife were here she'd say, "David, what you're about to say is not very romantic." Communication doesn't just happen. You have to work at it.
Morgan Jones 44:20
Elder David A. Bednar 44:21
Now, it's not romantic to say it's work. But the work itself is romantic. There is a divinely designed difference between a male and a female. And those differences–I'm not sure we ever fully grasp. Susan and I have been married for 47 years and the only thing I know for sure is that I will never know for sure what she's thinking or how she's feeling.
When I was younger, I'm sure I thought "Oh, our hearts will beat as one. And every thought that I have will be her thoughts." Well, if that ever happened, I haven't recognized it.
Morgan Jones 45:00
Elder David A. Bednar 45:00
And so it takes a spiritually grounded patience. This is not interpersonal communication that you can learn in a class. You have to love the person that you are really trying to get a better grip on, where are you at with that? There are lots of occasions when I'll just say to Susan, or she will say to me, "David, I have no idea where you're coming from with that." And I may not either, but the fact that we can talk about it clarifies it for both of us, and vice versa.
For you on the verge of being married, okay?
Morgan Jones 45:45
Elder David A. Bednar 45:46
You have to talk about how you talk when you don't have anything to talk about. Now, let me explain that. When you take a man and a woman, they're divinely designed differences and their different backgrounds and different families, they both make assumptions and have expectations that are never made explicit.
And so people get offended, because you didn't do something that I expected you to do when you had no idea that I expected it. And you go–sometimes you start to play mind games with each other and manipulate each other. But to be able to say, "Now, wait a minute, help me understand how you think about this. Because I don't think the way you think about this is the way I think about this."
But you can't do that when you're in the middle of an issue. If you're working on your household finances and the differences are all coming to bear on how you see this financial thing, that is not the time to talk about how you talk, because it will inevitably end up in a disagreement and even an argument.
Morgan Jones 46:56
Elder David A. Bednar 46:56
Sometime when there's nothing on the table, "Sweetheart, can we just talk about how we talk? Help me understand one thing about how I talk with you, that I could do to make it better," and vice versa. And then be quiet, don't get defensive.
So Susan might say to me, "David, you live in a world of so many things coming at you so fast, that I'm not sure you're ever really taking the time that's needed to understand what I'm trying to say." Because I may jump to a conclusion, "Okay, I've heard this. I got this. I know what you're talking about." "No, Dave, actually, you don't. You might have when this episode occurred, you know, some other time. But it's different now."
Well, I don't get–I don't get defensive about that. If we're not in the middle–if we're trying to solve a problem, and we have that conversation, I'm probably not nearly as patient. So you have to talk about how you talk when you don't have anything to talk about. And you have to decide how you will decide when you don't have anything to decide.
So you have assumptions about how you decide stuff. And you learned that in your family and in your own life and your future husband does too. And those two things are never expressed. And you'll get fussy with each other. Because your expectations and his are not aligning.
So don't talk about how to decide things in the middle of how to decide something. Go sit by a pond, do whatever you want to do and say, "Let's take a little bit of time and talk about how we decide how we decide." It's amazing what an impact that makes. So if you have an episode and it doesn't go well, instead of going and sulking–don't do it immediately, but after you both calmed down a little bit, "Are we at the point now where we can talk about how we decided to decide on this one? Because I think if we talked about it, well, we could probably do it better going forward."
And it really ought to get to the point over time that those conversations are really fun. They don't become defensive. You don't feel like someone's attacking you. You're asking for someone–your companion becomes your mirror in which you see the things in yourself that you like the least. And they help you to fix them and to make them better.
But that's hard work. It is really hard work and it takes time. You don't do this in three minutes just before you say your prayers and jump in bed. You got to make the time to talk about how you talk and decide how you're going to decide
Morgan Jones 50:00
Well, I felt like I just got my money's worth out of this experience. So thank you very, very much.
Elder David A. Bednar 50:06
Morgan Jones 50:06
I liked how you said sit by a pond or somewhere relaxing.
Elder David A. Bednar 50:11
On the couch, wherever it is, you just have to set aside the time to be able to make that happen. It doesn't just happen. And the busier you get–the two of you, the harder it can become, to create those kinds of time.
Morgan Jones 50:27
Right. Thank you so much. You have said, "Spiritually sensitive information should be kept in a sacred place that communicates to the Lord how you treasure it. That practice enhances the likelihood of you're receiving further light." I wondered as I read that, what does cherishing that spiritually sensitive information look like in your life?
Elder David A. Bednar 50:55
Oh, I'll give you an illustration. This will seem a little off topic, but it's not. When Susan and I were very first married, she just made passing reference to a conversation with a friend of hers. And I said, "Well, obviously this was an important conversation. And it sounds like it was a little sensitive, what were you guys talking about?"
And she goes, "I don't feel at liberty to tell you." And I said, "Susan, we're married." And she said, "David, I promised I wouldn't tell." Boy, did I learn a lot about Susan. If Susan says, "It's safe with me," I mean to tell you, there's no way in the world she will ever disclose it.
That's what it looks like to me. There are spiritual insights, spiritual messages, spiritual experiences, that are just for you or me, and how we react to them and how we treasure them is an important message back to heaven, about what we do with them.
I don't want to sound glib here, but to the degree that I want to tell everybody because then they think, "Boy, that's a really spiritual thing, this person must really have it together." That–you ought to be a little nervous about that.
So if you're using that kind of an experience to draw attention to yourself, you may not get many more of them. So it's not just that it's secret–it's sacred. And it's private. There are things for example, in the temple, that we hold sacred, and God, He's not testing us, He's just learning about us. And what we're like, in seeing how we deal with very sacred knowledge and information.
Morgan Jones 52:58
I completely agree. Elder Bednar, how would you say–and this is kind of a very broad question, but how would you say that personal revelation is evidence of God's love for His children? And why do you think that President Nelson's emphasis on "Hear Him," is evidence of a prophet's love for us?
Elder David A. Bednar 53:21
Well, I've had the great blessing of being a husband and a father. We were blessed with three magnificent sons and a whole bunch of grandkids. And I can't think of anything more cherished than talking with and learning from our kids. And communicating–that sounds so generic, but exchanging messages back and forth, to try to better understand each other.
So if that becomes one of the foundational, fundamental elements of a relationship between a husband and a wife, or between parents and children, we shouldn't be surprised that revelation–which is communication from Heaven to the sons and daughters of God here upon the earth, that's a measure of His never ending love, infinite love for His children here upon the earth.
President Nelson has said, "He's so eager to bless us with the things that we need." Keyword is need, not want. The things that we need, to learn the lessons that we need to learn in mortality that prepare us for eternity. So He sends us messages, look at how engaged we get sending text messages and so forth. Well, revelation is comprised of messages from heaven to us. And that's one of the greatest indications of His love for us.
Morgan Jones 54:57
And in your interactions with President Nelson, why do you think that that is so important to Him as a prophet right now?
Elder David A. Bednar 55:09
It was the–I always think that sequence is very important. You know, earlier I said, "Faith is a principle–faith in the Savior is a principle of action and of power and that sequence is instructive." One of the very first messages President Nelson gave as the President of the Church was about revelation to the Church and to individuals.
So I think He's trying to help people understand, you don't have to be the Prophet, or a prophet, in order to have that experience with God. It's available to all of His sons and daughters here upon the earth. And He's in the most vital position to be able to teach that lesson, that it's applicable to everyone.
Morgan Jones 55:57
Well, I speak for myself, but also, it's been so interesting in hosting this podcast, how many people will go back to things that President Nelson has taught about personal revelation and how those things have blessed their lives. So I think we all are just so grateful for that counsel.
Elder Bednar, it has been such a treat to spend this time with you and I couldn't be more grateful to you for giving of your time in this way. My last question for you is what does it mean to you, to be all in the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Elder David A. Bednar 56:29
Consecrated. Consecrated means, "Developed for and devoted to a holy purpose." Sacrifice means, "I'll give my stuff, I'll give me." Consecration is, "With God's help I'll develop myself and I'll live for the gospel." So, you know, we think of consecration and the United Order and all those kinds of things, it's a never-ending development–with God's help–of who we are. And we will put all of that on the altar. Consecrated, not give it up, but consecrated to God and His purposes. So if I only had one word to describe all in, it would be consecrated.
Morgan Jones 57:23
Thank you so much.
Elder David A. Bednar 57:25
Thank you. It's been fun to visit.
Morgan Jones 57:28
We are so grateful to Elder David A. Bednar for joining us on today's episode. As usual, we are grateful to Derek Campbell of Mix at Six studios for his help with this episode. Thank you so much for listening. We'll be with you again next week.