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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : When Is Revelation… Revelation? » When Is Revelation… Revelation?

When Is Revelation… Revelation?

Don - July 19, 2005

Geoff’s post at Cool Thang and Jeffrey’s comments got me thinking about revelation.  My simple question is "When is revelation revelation?"

It seems that there may be a question about the prophet either receiving revelations, or if he does then his sharing those with the members of the church.

I’m not sure I can determine which "advice" the prophet gives at conference etc. as being revelation, or just good advice….or his own opinion.  Yeah, I know go and pray about it, get a confirmation that what he’s say is true and then I’ll know.  Just because I get a confirmation doesn’t make my point.  The confirmation can just as well be confirming that it is good advice and I should be following it.  But it still might not be revelation…or is it?

How do we tell?


  1. I resolve this question by assuming that it doesn’t matter whether the counsel is revelation or merely good advice. Truth is truth, whether it comes in the form of good advice or by direct revelation. So the question that I ask is whether or not it is true. In the case of prophetic advice, even if it is just the “personal opinion” of the prophet, the fact remains that 1)a prophet’s opinions are informed by much revelation and the scriptures, and 2)the Lord holds us responsible for how we respond to the counsel of prophets regardless of whether the counsel is based upon a specific revelation or is merely wisdom nurtured in the soil of continuing revelation.

    Now, if a prophet offers counsel that I suspect of being bad advice or advice that is based upon falsehood, then I will take the matter to the Lord for his confirmation or rejection. Otherwise, I already have his confirmation that I am to follow the leadership of his prophets.

    When is the last time you heard bad prophetic advice from the pulpit in General Conference? I am not sure I ever have. When a prophet counsels husbands to love their wives, or counsels youth to exercise care in choosing their companions, how can anyone take issue with that? And is that not the kind of wise counsel that makes up the vast majority of prophetic teachings? I think it is the picking of nits to unnecessarily discriminate between wise counsel and revelation.

    Comment by John W. Redelfs — July 19, 2005 @ 9:57 pm

  2. This might be the favorite question of the bloggernacle.

    John, your method seems pretty good, especially for our contemporary prophets. It would be much more difficult to follow your method with many statements of past prophets.

    Comment by Rusty — July 20, 2005 @ 10:22 am

  3. John,

    You are begging the question on so many issues:

    “Truth is truth”

    How do we know it is truth if not by revelation? We are back at square one.

    “a prophet’s opinions are informed by much revelation and the scriptures”

    How do we know that his opinions are informed by revelation? This is the question we are trying to answer.

    Do you really believe that God will hold us fully responsible for not doing things He didn’t tell us to do? This borders on blind obedience.

    “I will take the matter to the Lord for his confirmation or rejection.”

    How do you know if what you receive is revelation or not? This too is what Don is asking.

    “Otherwise, I already have his confirmation…”

    What confirmation? If we don’t know if it is revelation or not then what confirmation can we really lay claim to?

    “I think it is the picking of nits to unnecessarily discriminate between wise counsel and revelation.”

    It’s only wise if its true. We will only consider it true if it is revelation. Thus we can ask “Is it nit picking to unnecessarily discriminate between council which may not be true and revelation?” I don’t think so. (I know this is not what Don said in his post, but lets be honest shall we?)

    All in all your comment sounds an awful lot like “Stop asking hard and not-faith-promoting questions.”

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 20, 2005 @ 11:50 am

  4. The issue is actually more complicated than Don says. There are issues involved other than “is this from God?” We can also ask “how much of this is from God and how much is from myself?” “Am I interpreting this right?” and so on.

    My Sunstone presentation dealt with this topic at greater length:


    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 20, 2005 @ 12:01 pm

  5. An interesting thing that John points out is that pretty much all that the prophets say nowadays is pretty easy to agree with. There’s no new doctrine, no new commandments (unless you consider stuff like the no-two-earrings thing commandments), it’s mostly wise counsil from wise, older men. Of course we should be more forgiving, loving, charitable and should avoid gambling, debt, p0rnography, etc.

    Something that clouds the issue is when people use the Prophet’s responses from a Larry King interview as a script of modern-day revelation. When he says that he doesn’t know that we teach that God was once a man, was that revelation (that would cancel out past revelations) or was it his wise opinion that we should follow (cancelling out past revelations/opinions)?

    Comment by Rusty — July 20, 2005 @ 1:34 pm

  6. Rusty,

    Pres Hinckley’s response to Larry King was neither of those. It was demurring for PR purposes. I believe he’s like to have a redo on that one if he had a chance.

    Comment by Geoff J — July 20, 2005 @ 1:41 pm

  7. What about his interview where he said that we don’t need that much revelation any more? Isn’t that a little worrisome? Doesn’t it at least imply that they really don’t receive that much after all?

    I can also think of quite a few issues which I consider the counsel to be not very wise at all, where revelation would be dearly appreciated:

    Same sex marriage
    BoM historicity
    Spirit birth/self-existent intelligences
    Mother in Heaven
    interpretation of the endowment
    Word of wisdom interpretations
    and so on.

    Of course it isn’t meet that the Lord command in all things, but surely He should command in SOME things. In all of these issues we could really use some more revelation and a little less tradition.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 20, 2005 @ 1:43 pm

  8. Jeff’s point is well taken. The prophet(s) seems to dance around a lot of issues that they could be more direct about. It seems they are afraid they may offend someone.

    The lack of “revelation” coming from the prophet in the case of new or clearly defining existing doctrine puts us more in line with mainstream christian churches. I get the feeling that we don’t want to be too different.

    Some of the changes in the endowment seem to me to have the same effect…trying not offend someone. Are we that afraid of persecution? Or are we just interested in getting more members and things will straighten out later.

    Comment by don — July 20, 2005 @ 2:00 pm

  9. Now I wasn’t really talking about the CHANGES in the endowment (though I’m not sure I disagree with your analysis). I’m only talking about our understanding it. Clearly Joseph and his associates knew a lot about what the endowment actually meant and were willing to share their knowledge about it with others.

    Now we ask the temple president what it mean and he whips out his binder of “official” response which usually amount to “we don’t know.”

    This isn’t all that unusual. Take ever instance in the church were the answer is “we don’t have an official position” or “we don’t know yet” (and there are lots of such instances), and there is where we need revelation. Thus we won’t have to finish ever blog-thread with agreeing to disagree. We won’t have to act like there is far more unity in sunday school classes than there actually is. The fact that we all disagree so much (and I disagree with Mormons an awful lot) shows that more information is clearly needed.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 20, 2005 @ 2:09 pm

  10. 1. I have not found anywhere in the current correlated material of the church where the church actively promulgates or teaches that God was once a man.

    Yes. We _believe_ it based on past utterances of past prophets. Many of us _talk_ about it in private and amongst ourselves. And we have to logically _deduce_ it based on the things the church does teach. But the _church_ does not currently _teach_ or promulgate (in any current official material) that God was once a man.

    I haven’t found it in any of the Sunday School manuals, and I can’t remember it in the Institute manuals, though I have not done an exhaustive search of those.

    2. Jeff, recent prophets and apostles have made statements on all the points you wanted revelation about. Prophets don’t have to say “Thus saith the Lord…..” They just say it in their own words.

    I remember GBH saying “We urge parents in the strongest terms possible to keep Monday night sacred.” He didn’t say “command” or “the Lord commands you.” But when a prophet, speaking as THE Prophet” at Gen Conf say “We urge … in the strongest terms possible” what more do we need?

    What can be stronger than a prophet’s “strongest terms possible” ?

    3. Brigham Young is quoted in a recent Priesthood/RS manual “Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young”. “Blessed are they who obey a direct commandent. But more blessed are they who obey without a direct commandment.” (I’m going from memory, that may be a paraphrase.)

    4. The church has finally issued an official statement on a Heavenly Mother. (Though one might conclude the “correlated” hymn “Oh My Father” was a semi-official statement.) The proclamation on the family uses “heavenly parents” – plural. That’s the first official statement on the issue that I’ve seen.

    Comment by GreenEggz — July 20, 2005 @ 2:40 pm

  11. 1) GreenEggz has a point. We do teach that man can become like God officially, but one will be hard pressed to find a recent official source say that God was once a man.

    2) “Prophets don’t have to say “Thus saith the Lord…..”"

    They do if they want us to know that what they are saying comes from God. I don’t think anybody should be willing to say that everything they say is revelation. Such makes God look very stupid. This is only begging Don’s original question.

    3) I’m not sure what that has to do with revelation at all. Are you saying that we should do everything that we might possibly interpret GA’s to be saying. Again, this makes a lot of people look very stupid.

    4) Great, she exists. But that isn’t what I meant be more revelation being needed. Who is she? Is she the only wife? Why can’t we pray to her? and so on. There issues are very important to a number of people. Declaring her mere existence brings up more questions than it answers.

    Comment by Jeffrey Giliam — July 20, 2005 @ 4:49 pm

  12. GreenEggz,
    I don’t think Jeffrey is suggesting that the prophets haven’t ever talked about those issues. I think he’s saying that they haven’t clarified them.

    Sure the Proclamation mentions “heavenly parents” but that’s not very clear about MIH, and not even close to offering us any real information about Her. I think Jeff wants to know things like if she has the priesthood, if she makes creative decisions like the Father does, etc.

    I don’t know if I buy that Brigham Young quote (if you could find the real quote, that would be great). I don’t like the idea of reading into the prophets’ words (more than what they have said). Here’s what happens: prophets are agianst abortion; Republicans are against abortion; George Bush is a Republican; the prophets want us to vote for George Bush; if you don’t vote for Bush you aren’t following the prophets.

    Comment by Rusty — July 20, 2005 @ 4:58 pm

  13. I have one quibble with apostle/prophetic “advice” in the form of violent video games and movies. I think it is good advice on the whole and that most everyone should try not to become desensitized to violence by using those materials…unless they can play them without becoming desensitized to real violence. I fell I fit this category. I’ve grown up playing very violent video games and seen a good share of violent movies (including a bunch of classic horror flicks that I find quite hilariously entertaining) but I am one of the least violent people I know. I’ve never been in a physical fight in my life and, as I watch the news and educate myself in world history, I find myself in ways becoming more sensitive to the real stuff, yet this goes against the advice of the prophets.

    Comment by Bret — July 20, 2005 @ 6:29 pm

  14. With regards to the church’s teaching the God was once a man, the teaching is found in the opening paragraph of Chapter 4 in the Brigham Young manual, which was published the same year that President Hinckley made his comments to the press.

    Comment by will — July 21, 2005 @ 1:44 pm

  15. GreenEggz,

    The “God-was-once-a-man” doctrine is taught clearly and explicitly in the current New Testament manual for Institute classes. This manual is used in Institutes throughout the USA and has also been translated into Spanish; it is taught in most stakes throughout Latin America.

    You can see the relevant chapter here: http://www.ldsces.org/inst_manuals/NTInstStdnt_32474000/Chapters/NTInstStdnt32474000_12.pdf

    Comment by RoastedTomatoes — July 21, 2005 @ 5:45 pm

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